In accordance with Governor Lamont's emergency declaration, employees and the public are asked to observe social distancing measures to ensure communal safety and to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). People are asked to work from home and telecommute wherever possible. Adhering to these instructions, the Department of Banking has closed its offices to the public. However, agency staff will continue to provide services to consumers and industry through telework. When contacting the Department, please use electronic communication whenever possible. Agency staff will continue to check voicemails during this time. Consumers are encouraged to use our online form for complaints. If you are unsure where to send an inquiry, you may send it to Department.Banking@ct.gov and it will be routed appropriately. Thank you for your patience during this time.

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IN THE MATTER OF:


EMPIRE WINE & LIQUOR
SUPERSTORE CT, LLC

EMPIRE WINE & LIQUOR
SUPERSTORE, LLC

BRANDON BELMONTE

JUDITH A. BELMONTE

MARC B. RAVAGE



(Collectively, "Respondents")


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CONSENT ORDER

NO. CO-18-891-B



I. PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

WHEREAS, the Banking Commissioner (“Commissioner”) is charged with the administration of Chapter 672c of the General Statutes of Connecticut, the Connecticut Business Opportunity Investment Act (“Act”);

WHEREAS, the Commissioner, through the Securities and Business Investments Division (“Division”) of the Department of Banking (“Department”), conducted an investigation pursuant to Section 36b-71(a) of the Act into the activities of Respondents to determine if Respondents have violated, are violating or are about to violate provisions of the Act and/or any rule or order adopted or issued under the Act (“Investigation”);

WHEREAS, Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC (“Empire CT”) is a Connecticut limited liability company located at 47 Trotters Way, Torrington, Connecticut 06790;

WHEREAS, Empire Wine & Liquor superstore, LLC (“Empire NY”) is a New York limited liability company located at 804 Pelham Parkway, Pelham Manor, New York 10803;

WHEREAS, Brandon Belmonte is a member and control person of Empire CT and Empire NY;

WHEREAS, Marc B. Ravage is a member and control person of Empire CT and Empire NY;

WHEREAS, Judith A. Belmonte is a member, agent and/or employee of Empire CT and Empire NY;

WHEREAS, as a result of the Investigation, the Commissioner has reason to believe that Respondents have engaged in conduct, as more fully described herein, that violated certain provisions of the Act, and that would support administrative proceedings against Respondents under Sections 36b-72(a) and 36b-72(b) of the Act;

WHEREAS, Purchaser One, a Connecticut resident, is the President and owner of a two corporations (collectively, “Purchaser Entities”), both of which are located at 8 Lansing Avenue, Trumbull, Connecticut.  The Purchaser Entities were formed in August 2015 and September 2015 to engage in retail liquor sales;

WHEREAS, as a result of the Investigation, the Division obtained evidence that:  (1) in September 2015, Empire NY offered and sold to the first Purchaser Entity products, equipment, supplies or services enabling the first Purchaser Entity to operate a liquor store in White Plains, New York; and (2) in September 2015, Empire CT offered and sold to the second Purchaser Entity products, equipment, supplies or services enabling the second Purchaser Entity to operate liquor stores in Glastonbury, Connecticut and Greenwich, Connecticut.  Purchaser One, on behalf of the Purchaser Entities, paid Respondents $375,000;

WHEREAS, in connection with the offers and sales described above, Empire NY and Empire CT made unsubstantiated claims of earnings potential, and represented to the Purchaser Entities that Respondents would provide training assistance, offer a buyback and “guarantee sales if you follow our lead”;

WHEREAS, the transactions described above constitute the offer and sale of a “business opportunity” as defined in Section 36b-61(2) of the Act.  The business opportunity was not registered under Section 36b-62(a) of the Act;

WHEREAS, on April 11, 2016, the Purchaser Entities filed in the Superior Court of Connecticut an Application for Prejudgment Remedy, Proposed Writ Summons and Complaint against the Respondents, alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and misrepresentation (Docket No. FBT-CV16-5031575-S).  On September 26, 2016, the Purchaser Entities and Respondents jointly filed with the court a Confession of Judgment, whereby Respondents agreed to be jointly and severally liable to the Purchaser Entities for a judgment in the amount of $375,000.  On May 17, 2017, the parties filed with the court an Agreement by Consent, whereby Respondents agreed to pay the Purchaser Entities the outstanding balance on the judgment in full no later than May 1, 2018 (“Court Settlement Agreement”);

WHEREAS, as of March 26, 2018, Respondents have paid the Entities $201,000 pursuant to the Court Settlement Agreement;

WHEREAS, the conduct described herein would support the initiation of administrative proceedings against Respondents under Sections 36b-72(a) and 36b-72(b) of the Act;

WHEREAS, an administrative proceeding initiated under Sections 36b-72(a) and 36b-72(b) of the Act would constitute a “contested case” within the meaning of Section 4-166(4) of the General Statutes of Connecticut;

WHEREAS, Section 4-177(c) of the General Statutes of Connecticut and Section 36a-1-55(a) of the Regulations provide that a contested case may be resolved by consent order, unless precluded by law;

WHEREAS, without holding a hearing and without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and prior to the initiation of any formal proceeding, the Commissioner and Respondents reached an agreement, the terms of which are reflected in this Consent Order, in full and final resolution of the matters described herein;

WHEREAS, Respondents expressly consent to the Commissioner’s jurisdiction under the Act and to the terms of this Consent Order;

AND WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, specifically assure the Commissioner that none of the violations alleged in this Consent Order shall occur in the future.

II. CONSENT TO WAIVER OF PROCEDURAL RIGHTS

WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, voluntarily waive the following rights:

1. To be afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing within the meaning of Sections 36b-72(a) and 36b-72(b) of the Act and Section 4-177(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut;
2. To present evidence and argument and to otherwise avail themselves Sections 36b-72(a) and 36b-72(b) of the Act and Section 4-177c(a) of the General Statutes of Connecticut;
3.
To present their position in a hearing in which each is represented by counsel;
4. To have a written record of the hearing made and a written decision issued by a hearing officer; and
5.
To seek judicial review of, or otherwise challenge or contest the matters described herein, including the validity of this Consent Order.

III.  ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE COMMISSIONER'S ALLEGATIONS

WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, acknowledge the following allegations of the Commissioner, and agree that sufficient evidence exists from which the Commissioner could find facts to substantiate the issuance of an order to cease and desist and an order imposing a maximum administrative fine of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000) per violation of the Act and/or any rule or order adopted or issued under the Act:

1.     Respondents violated Sections 36b-62(a) and 36b-67(1) of the Act by offering and selling unregistered business opportunities to at least one Connecticut purchaser-investor; and
 
2.     Respondents violated Section 36b-67(2) of the Act by failing to provide purchaser-investors  with documented data supporting Respondents’ claims of income or earnings potential.

WHEREAS, the Commissioner would have the authority to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law after granting Respondents an opportunity for a hearing;

AND WHEREAS, Respondents acknowledge the possible consequences of an administrative hearing and voluntarily agree to consent to the entry of the sanctions described below.

IV.  CONSENT TO ENTRY OF SANCTIONS

WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, consent to the Commissioner’s entry of a Consent Order imposing on them the following sanctions:

1. Respondents shall cease and desist from engaging in conduct constituting or which would constitute a violation of the Act, or any rule or order adopted or issued under the Act, either directly or through any person, organization or other device; and
 
2. No later than the date this Consent Order is issued by the Commissioner, Respondents shall jointly and severally remit to the Department, by cashier’s check, certified check or money order made payable to “Treasurer, State of Connecticut”, the sum of five thousand dollars ($5,000) as an administrative fine.

V.  CONSENT ORDER

NOW THEREFORE, the Commissioner enters the following:

1. The Sanctions set forth above be and are hereby entered;
2. Entry of this Consent Order by the Commissioner is without prejudice to the right of the Commissioner to take enforcement action against Respondents, their affiliates and/or successors in interest based upon a violation of this Consent Order or the matters underlying its entry if the Commissioner determines that compliance with the terms herein is not being observed;
3. Nothing in this Consent Order shall be construed as limiting the Commissioner’s ability to take enforcement action against Respondents based upon evidence of which the Division was unaware on the date hereof relating to a violation of the Act, or any rule or order under the Act;
4. Respondents shall not take any action or make or permit to be made any public statement, including in regulatory filings or otherwise, denying, directly or indirectly, any allegation referenced in this Consent Order or create the impression that this Consent Order is without factual basis;
5. Respondents shall not take any position in any proceeding brought by or on behalf of the Commissioner, or to which the Commissioner is a party, that is inconsistent with any part of this Consent Order.  However, nothing in this Consent Order affects Respondents’ testimonial obligations or right to take any legal or factual position in litigation, arbitration, or other legal proceedings in which the Commissioner is not a party; and
6. This Consent Order shall become final when entered.

So ordered at Hartford, Connecticut,       ____/s/___________ 
this 17 day of April 2018. Jorge L. Perez
Banking Commissioner 


CONSENT TO ENTRY OF ORDER

I, Brandon Belmonte, state on behalf of Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I am authorized to execute this Consent Order on behalf of Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC; that Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC agrees freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the terms and conditions stated herein; and that Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC consents to the issuance of this Consent Order.     

     Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC
            
By:   _____/s/____________________________
Brandon Belmonte
Member

State of:  Connecticut
County of:  Middlesex

On this the 3rd day of April 2018, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Brandon Belmonte, who acknowledged himself to be a Member of Empire Wine & Liquor Superstore CT, LLC, a limited liability company, and that he, as such Member, being authorized so to do, executed the foregoing instrument for the purposes therein contained, by signing the name of the limited liability company by himself as Member.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.


_____/s/________________________
Notary Public
Date Commission Expires:  08/31/18


CONSENT TO ENTRY OF ORDER

I, Brandon Belmonte, state on behalf of Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I am authorized to execute this Consent Order on behalf of Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC; that Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC agrees freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the terms and conditions stated herein; and that Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC consents to the issuance of this Consent Order.     

     Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC
            
By:   _____/s/__________________________
Brandon Belmonte
Member
State of:  Connecticut
County of:  Middlesex

On this the 3rd day of April 2018, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Brandon Belmonte, who acknowledged himself to be a Member of Empire Wine & Liquor Super Store, LLC, a limited liability company, and that he, as such Member, being authorized so to do, executed the foregoing instrument for the purposes therein contained, by signing the name of the limited liability company by himself as Member.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.


____/s/_________________________
Notary Public
Date Commission Expires:  08/31/18

CONSENT TO ENTRY OF ORDER

I, Brandon Belmonte, state that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I agree freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the terms and conditions stated herein; and that I consent to the entry of this Consent Order.     

_____/s/_________
Brandon Belmonte



State of:  Connecticut
County of:  Middlesex

On this the 3rd day of April 2018, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Brandon Belmonte, known to me (or satisfactorily proven) to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged that he executed the same for the purposes therein contained.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.
    

_____/s/________________________
Notary Public
Date Commission Expires:  08/31/18


CONSENT TO ENTRY OF ORDER

I, Judith A. Belmonte, state that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I agree freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the terms and conditions stated herein; and that I consent to the entry of this Consent Order.     

_____/s/_________
Judith A. Belmonte



State of:  CT
County of:  Litchfield

On this the 3rd day of April 2018, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Judith A. Belmonte, known to me (or satisfactorily proven) to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged that he executed the same for the purposes therein contained.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.
    

_____/s/_________________________
Notary Public
Date Commission Expires:  12/31/2022

CONSENT TO ENTRY OF ORDER

I, Marc B. Ravage, state that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I agree freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the terms and conditions stated herein; and that I consent to the entry of this Consent Order.     

____/s/_______
Marc B. Ravage


State of:  NY

County of:  NY

On this the 3rd day of April 2018, before me, the undersigned officer, personally appeared Marc B. Ravage, known to me (or satisfactorily proven) to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged that he executed the same for the purposes therein contained.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.

__________________________________________
Notary Public
Date Commission Expires:  Nov. 8, 2020




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