Paul L. Caron

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chicago Man Who Converted $3m Home Into Church to Save $80k/Year in Property Taxes Has Sordid Past

Yesterday I blogged the story of George Michael, the Chicago banker who converted his $3 million home into a church for a handful of close friends and family to save $80,000/year in property taxes.  From today's Chicago Tribune:  Mansion's Reverend Has Skeletons in His Closet, by John Kass:

The famous minister George Michael—the Chicago banker who went online for his collar in what looks like a scam to get out of paying property taxes on his Lake Bluff mansion—sure must like ice cream.

According to court records, he'd call up a beautiful young woman of Greek ancestry who worked at his Citizens Bank and Trust. He'd call to talk about ice cream cones and his favorite flavor. He did so almost daily. The thing she didn't like was this: She was his favorite flavor.

He kept insisting he wanted to "lick [her] like an ice cream cone," according to a legal opinion issued by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the sexual harassment case brought against Michael and other bank officials by Jennifer Farfaras.

He'd also try to trap her in the bank vault, he'd drool on her desk, and he'd grunt like a pig in the presence of witnesses. She won the case, and she won the appeal, and the bank had to pay more than $700,000 in damages and attorney fees.

(Hat Tip:  Pete Wentz.)  The sordid details are in the Seventh Circuit's opinion in Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust Co., 433 F.3d 558 (7th Cir. 2006), excerpted below the fold (for those with a strong stomach):

Farfaras would answer the phone at 9:00 a.m. every day when George would call. Farfaras testified that she began these conversations, “Good morning. Citizens Bank. This is Jennifer. Can I help you?” and George would answer, “Good morning Jennifer. Why don’t you come over to my office and sit on my face[?]” In addition, Farfaras testified that George would call throughout the day, often telling Farfaras that he wanted to “lick [her] like an ice cream cone” or birthday cake and that he wanted to “fuck” her. Farfaras testified that George “just laughed” when she told him, “Please don’t talk to me like that. That’s disgusting. I don’t appreciate it.”

Farfaras stated that she was often required to visit George Michael in his office and that during these visits he would “give [her] a perverted look” and make “grunting, mumbling, sucking noises . . . put his hand on [her] butt and start laughing, or he would put his hand on [her] leg, and he would run it up to lift [her] skirt.”

Additionally, Farfaras described telephone conversations with George.

[H]e would often tell me that he wanted to see me naked and that he wanted to fuck me and that he wanted his brother Robert to join in, he wanted to videotape the session so he could view it at a later date.

He told me that if he wasn’t married that he would make me marry him whether my father wanted it or not even though he wasn’t Greek, and we would have a big Greek wedding and we would be dancing in a circle with scarves in the air. . . .

[A]fter I had told him to stop talking to me like that, he would laugh, and he said to me, “You know what, my brother Bob and I have had so many sexual harassment complaints against us already that one more is not going to make a difference.”

Farfaras related that these conversations continued throughout her employment.

Farfaras testified that in April of 2000, George cornered her in the bank’s downstairs vault, grabbed her right arm, pinned her against the wall, and tried to kiss her.

When I saw his face coming at me, I turned my head, and instead of catching my lips, he caught half my cheek and half my lips. . . .

I screamed for him to get away from me, and I told him not to ever do that again. . . . He laugh[ed].

Farfaras also testified about George’s actions on July 4, 2000, after George ordered Farfaras to come to a party at his house.

[E]verything was going okay until it was time for us to leave. . . . He had a sandwich in one hand . . . and he grabbed me with his other hand by my arm, and he pinned me up against the wall and while he had food in his mouth he kissed me. . . . I was thoroughly disgusted as usual, and I pushed him really hard, and I believe he fell, and I ran out.

Farfaras described to the jury the moaning, slobbering noises she claimed George made at her desk and told the jury that sometimes she would have to clean George’s saliva off her desk after he left. She testified that after handing Farfaras deposits, George would follow her to the teller station, then use his elbow to hit her breasts and place his hand on her backside. Farfaras further testified about her feelings after these incidents.

It was very degrading and very embarrassing. I felt humiliated. I felt that he just was controlling me, I didn’t have a right to speak up and say stop it and don’t do it. And I didn’t appreciate the fact that he was putting his hands on me when I didn’t ask him to, and I didn’t appreciate the fact that he wasn’t listening to me when I said no.

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