The co-owner of a popular Minnetonka food truck serving up fried chicken throughout the Twin Cities this week sued two sisters for defamation after they accused the business of ties to a cult and it lost business.
Soulaire Allerai, co-owner of Bad Rooster, seeks more than $200,000 in damages for the claims made this month on Facebook by Angela Marie Hummelgard of Cottage Grove and Kelly Ring Abedi, of Reisterstown, Md.
The lawsuit claims the sisters also called breweries and other establishments, which then canceled planned dates to host the food truck.
Bad Rooster opened in 2019 and has more than 5,000 followers on Facebook, where Abedi posted the cult claims, which were followed by others echoing the accusations in the business' reviews and online comments.
Allerai is the spiritual director and lead minister at Living Faith Spiritual Community, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 in Minnetonka that partnered with Bad Rooster in 2020 to collect donations for local shelters.
Allerai also founded the Soulful Journey in 2005 and a Wellness Center at a Minnetonka address shared with Living Faith. In addition, she hosts a spirituality podcast and has more than 100,000 Facebook followers.
Allerai and other Bad Rooster co-owners shared a video on Facebook addressing what they called an attack on their business and reputation.
"I sit and cry and don't understand why complete strangers jump on a bandwagon and you know nothing about what's being said," Allerai said in the July 16 video.
Bad Rooster co-owner Soulmar Allerai, who is not related to Soulaire Allerai but said he legally changed his name to match his business partner's, said in an interview that he's "not part of" Living Faith but did volunteer work with the group,
He is shown in photos on Living Faith's Facebook page and his personal Facebook page show his involvement with Soulaire Allerai tracing back to at least 2009.
Abedi and her Minneapolis attorney, William Cumming, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Abedi's post, which sparked the lawsuit and backlash against Bad Rooster, has been shared 250 times. She was asked to remove the post, but she refused, saying in the post that "we have only shared our experience and we have made no false claims."
The post said the spiritual group "functions like a cult. ... Soulaire has convinced a group of people she 'channels' the spirit of God. She charges her followers lots of money to speak to 'God' and she has actively torn families apart."
Abedi said her and Hummelgard's mother is a devout follower of Soulaire Allerai and has changed her name and worked for the food truck.
"This has been our (family's) heartbreaking journey over the course of nearly 15 years," she said. "Our goal remains to inform the public of the group behind the truck so they can make informed choices about where they spend their money."
The lengthy post says that at least four other families have come forward with similar stories of "manipulation and emotional, mental, and financial abuse at the hands of Soulaire."
Abedi made the post after Bad Rooster had posted about an unexpected death and Abedi sought to confirm it wasn't her mother.
Abedi wrote that in messages with Bad Rooster, she was told to cease and desist. She eventually discovered her mother was still alive.
Soulmar Allerai said Abedi's mother was never a Bad Rooster employee.
"The food truck has no association to these women," he said. "This has been just really unfortunate. ... It's very scary to see how much damage can be done in such a short period of time. ... I honestly don't know where these rumors came to be."
Abedi verified her mother worked at the food truck with a since-deleted Bad Rooster Facebook video that has been reviewed by the Star Tribune. There are a half dozen photos of her mother on Living Faith's Facebook page.
Soulmar Allerai said that since the "unprovoked" online attacks, Bad Rooster has lost 50% of its business. The revenue loss was why the defamation suit was filed, he said.
He said the "truth will come out in court."
Steven Liening, an Apple Valley attorney representing Soulaire Allerai and Bad Rooster, said in a phone interview Wednesday that his client faces a situation indicative of "what is going on in this country right now with online disinformation."
"People get on the internet rant they feel free to say whatever pops in their head without consequence," Liening said. "When someone posts something online that's blatantly false, other people see it and start acting on it."
Abedi also tagged local news outlets and businesses to warn them against associating with Bad Rooster because of its alleged cult connection.
The lawsuit denies that Bad Rooster is associated with or operates a cult and demands a jury trial.
In 2021, Bad Rooster was voted the best food truck in a Star Tribune Readers' Choice Award program, which is not affiliated with the newsroom.