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Legal drama in Patel family over Bollywood Oscars continues

TAMPA — The last Bollywood star left town months ago but the legal battle behind the "Bollywood Oscars" continues to roil the bay area's most prominent Indian family.

Chetan "Jason" Shah, 48, filed a fresh set of allegations in Hillsborough Circuit Court this month about his wealthy health care entrepreneur and philanthropist brother-in-law, Dr. Kiran Patel, and demanded a jury trial in the lawsuit Patel had filed against him in May.

Patel, 65, asserts that Shah fraudulently added Patel's name to documents creating a host committee for the 2014 International Indian Film Academy awards gala, which came to Tampa in April.

Patel discovered this late last year, he said, when event organizers complained that Shah was running out of money and they threatened to take the event elsewhere. The four-day event was a major one for the region — a study later found visitors spent $19.9 million, and the economic impact reached $26.4 million as businesses stocked up and visitors' money was respent.

According to a July 3 court filing, Shah asserts that Patel, a cardiologist, coerced Shah into signing a document as Shah was being rushed to the hospital late last year for heart surgery. The document allowed Patel to negotiate a new deal with IIFA organizers that cut Shah out of any profits, Shah said.

Shah's wife, who had worked for one of Patel's companies, was fired this month because of the ongoing feud, Shah said in an interview last week.

Patel declined to comment.

"Dr. Patel does not enjoy or get any great thrill out of getting into litigation with his brother-in-law, but he has to draw the line, as any of us would have done if someone usurped our name and used it fraudulently," said Lenny Englander, Patel's attorney.

The rift between Patel — married to Shah's sister, Pallavi — dates to late last year and a series of events that almost caused the cancellation of the awards show in Tampa.

In interviews earlier this year, Patel and Shah explained their differing sides.

According to Shah, he is the rightful "founder" of the awards show in Tampa — he says that he persuaded event organizers to bring IIFA's first-ever show in America here. Late last year, Shah says, officials with IIFA and Patel conspired to cut Shah out of event organizing and profits.

But according to Patel, he wanted nothing to do with bringing IIFA to Tampa at first. Patel didn't find out until months later that Shah had listed him in incorporating documents for Go Bollywood Tampa Bay Florida Convention LLC, a host committee for the show, and had told people Patel was involved.

Local tourism officials and executives with Wizcraft, the company that puts on the show, largely support Patel's version.

Shah ran out of money to bring the event here, they said, and Patel stepped in late last year by writing a large check — an undisclosed amount, but less than the $15 million Shah had agreed to pay — to ensure the Bollywood Oscars came to Tampa.

Because of his involvement with Go Bollywood, Patel found himself being sued along with Shah in Florida and New York by people who said they had been promised business by the host committee. The Florida suit was dismissed; the New York case continues.

In June, Shah, who owns a small motel in Tarpon Springs and several dry cleaning locations, said a settlement was in the works between him and Patel. That settlement is apparently out.

Earlier this month, Shah's wife, Shreya, lost her job as a pharmacy manager for Freedom Health, a company owned by Patel and run by Rupesh Shah, Chetan Shah's brother. She was told she was fired "because of the bad relationship in the family," Chetan Shah said.

Rupesh Shah, Chetan Shah's brother and Freedom Health CEO, was out of town and unavailable for comment last week.

"We'll make it through," Chetan Shah said. "We are going to see this through to justice."

Patel's attorney called the ongoing suit "awful."

"The doctor tried to do everything he could to avoid litigation," Englander said. "He was unsuccessful."

Contact Will Hobson at whobson @tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400. Follow @TheWillHobson.

Legal drama in Patel family over Bollywood Oscars continues 07/26/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 26, 2014 10:20pm]
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