Richard Berti

SBAC, Cal West, COAC and WCAC, Inc. are all largely owned and controlled by Berti. Berti is also a trustee for the Richard and Marguerite Berti Revocable Trust and is being sued in that capacity in connection with the alleged fraudulent transfer of real property shortly after the drowning death of Yoni Gottesman.

Yoni and Guitar

Richard Berti, The Club Owner’s Large Financial Contributions to the Sheriff’s Council:

The private investigator hired by the Gottesmans discovered that, soon after Yoni’s death, the owner of COAC, Richard Berti, made a very substantial contribution to the Sheriff’s Council. The Sheriff’s Council is a local charity closely aligned with the Sheriff that raises money to assist the Sheriff’s department in buying new equipment and paying its expenses. Shortly after Yoni’s death, Berti paid $15,000 for a table at the annual fund raising gala and bought over $3000 in raffle tickets – one of the largest ticket purchases.

At the 2005 dinner, Berti also mysteriously won a lottery for $25,000 and immediately donated the money back to the Sheriff’s Council.
Unlike past years, where the lottery was randomly – and publicly – conducted by pulling a ticket from a drum in full view of the gathered audience, Berti was simply announced as the winner. Berti claims he was completely surprised by this occurrence, and that donating the money back was just “an immediate reaction to the situation.”

Berti repeatedly denied news accounts in which he was accused of using his position on the Sheriff’s Council to influence the Sheriff’s department and its investigation of this drowning. However, Berti admitted in his interview with the District Attorney’s office that he contacted someone at the Sheriff’s department – possibly the Sheriff himself – allegedly to diffuse the allegations of improper influence over the investigation. Berti’s protestations, however, only highlight the unavoidable appearance of impropriety.

Highlights of the Verdict and Judgement

Phase 1:

a) Was Cal-West Group the agent for Cathedral Oaks Tennis, Swim and Athletic Club, Inc.?

Answer: YES.

b) Was Cal-West Group negligent?

Answer: YES.

c) Was Cal-West Group's negligence a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs' harm?

Answer: YES.

Phase 2 ("Punitive Damages"):

Question 1. What amount of punitive damages, if any, do you award plaintiffs against the following named defendants?

Cathedral Oaks Tennis, Swim and Athletic Club: $xxxxx

Question 5. Did the following defendants commit willful misconduct?

Cathedral Oaks Tennis, Swim & Athletic Club: YES.

Question 6. Did plaintiffs prove by clear and convincing evidence that any of the following named defendants engaged in the conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud?

Cathedral Oaks Tennis, Swim and Athletic Club: YES.

Phase 2 ("Punitive Damages"):

Question 1. What amount of punitive damages, if any, do you award plaintiffs against the following named defendants?

Cathedral Oaks Tennis, Swim and Athletic Club: $xxxxx

III. JUDGMENT ON PHASE THREE (Alter Ego and Fraudulent
Transfer Claims):

On November 25,2008, the Court severed for trial plaintiffs' claims for fraudulent transfer and alter ego (Phase Three), related to fraudulent ownership transfer by Richard Berti. The trial on Phase Three was
scheduled for October 20, 2009, and trailed from that date.

Final judgment in the case, included the fraudulent transfer and alter
ego claims against Richard Berti.  The Alter Ego and Fraudulent
Transfer claims were resolved by a settlement that included a
substantial payment by Richard Berti.

Throughout the litigation process, Berti attempted to deflect responsibility and focus attention on his managers and employees, rather than himself.  “For too long, Berti has refused to take responsibility for the death of this young boy.  When he was faced with
a trial that would show him to be the alter ego of the corporation already found liable for willful misconduct in Yoni’s death, and show him to have fraudulently transferred his assets to avoid payment of the
judgment, Berti finally realized it was time to take responsibility.  By paying this amount against the $2.3 million in punitive damages awarded by the jury, Berti finally has acknowledged his personal responsibility for Yoni’s death,” says A. Barry Cappello, managing
partner with the Santa Barbara law firm of Cappello & Noel and one of
the attorneys representing the Gottesman family.

"Shortly after Yoni died, Berti began orchestrating the fraudulent conveyance of his assets, intending to avoid having to pay personally for his misconduct,” says Cappello.  “Having judgment entered on this portion of the case finally has closed this sordid chapter surrounding the willful misconduct in the death of Yoni Gottesman, and the attempt by Berti to hide his assets after Yoni's death."

"For more than four years, Berti did everything he could to avoid taking any personal responsibility for his role in creating the situation that led to Yoni’s death," says Leila J. Noel, who co-tried the case with Cappello. "Yoni did not die as a result of some accident that no one could have prevented; he died because the club knowingly took
shortcuts, failed to properly train staff, and utterly ignored the need to implement basic safety protocols. The club also failed to obtain the necessary licenses for running a child care facility.  Richard Berti was at the center of those failures.”

Testimony Excerpt - Richard Berti 02/11/2009

Q.   And do you believe the people that should
enforce it are the officers that run the club?

A.   The -- the department heads, primarily.

Q.   And they're ultimately responsible to the
oversight manager; isn't that right?

A.   As a chain of command, yes.

Q.   And the oversight manager is ultimately
responsible to you, correct?

A.   As a director, yes.

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  All right.  Now, when you
were watching the video with -- with the staff, did you
try to blame anybody other than Mr. Shipley?

THE WITNESS:  I blamed everybody, but the one I
was most upset about was Mr. Shipley because of the
close contact.

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  Okay.  I'm going to read the
declaration of Jenny Darling.
"The debriefing was where the owner, Richard
Berti, made us all watch the video of what happened."

A.   Okay.

Q.   Did you make them watch the video?

A.   I don't recall that, but if she says, I'll go
along with that.

Q.   "I felt like Mr. Berti was trying to blame me
and kept trying to get me to tell him that Sam Shipley
or I was responsible.  I felt like he was trying to
avoid taking any kind of the responsibility at all for
what happened."
Do you agree with that?

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  Sir?  Did you --

A.   I don't recall.

Q.   Correct?
And Mr. Shipley, under penalty of perjury,
says, at that meeting, you were a weasel, and you tried
to say that you never said that he, Shipley, did
anything, and that you didn't know where he had even
heard about it.

A.   I --

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  The question is, did you say
that to him in that meeting?

THE WITNESS:  I don't believe I ever said that
he killed anybody.  I believe that I was concerned that
he might be responsible for it.

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  Mr. Berti, you've told me
that the general manager and the director of aquatics
had the responsibility.  Right?

A.   I would think mainly the -- the aquatics

Q.   And do you believe that you had no

THE WITNESS:  Do I believe that I have no

Q.   BY MR. CAPPELLO:  With regards to making sure
that the procedures of Cathedral Oaks Club were properly
carried out by the officers and their subordinates.

THE WITNESS:  Do I have a responsibility?  I
feel a moral responsibility, but individually, I have no

Q.   And what about Julie Main?  Did she have any
responsibility to make sure that the procedures of the
club were carried out by the officers and/or
subordinates --

A.   Well --

Q.   -- of those officers that were under her?
Yes or no, sir?

A.   She hired people to do that function for her.
Does she become responsible for their failures?
Morally, yes.  I can't speak to the other --  She wasn't
there.  She didn't cause it.

Q.   Well, let's see if I understand this right.
If you hired Julie Main to run Cathedral Oaks
Athletic Club, and she is such a poor manager that
somebody dies in that club, your view is that you have
no responsibility.  Is that right?

A.   As a person?  No.

Q.   As an owner.  As a board of directors member.

A.   No.

Q.   You have no responsibility.  Right?

A.   No legal responsibility.  I feel morally wrong,
but --

Richard Berti and his wife Marguerite continued their relationship as sponsors of the Santa Barbara Police, and attending its Gala.


The Next involved Person

To find out about the next person involved in Yoni's death

What COAC did after killing Yoni?

To find out what COAC did after killing Yoni...