SIST hires attorney to act on 'outrageous attacks'

The Shawano Leader/March 19, 2009

Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology, Inc. has hired an attorney to take legal action against what SIST claims have been coordinated attacks on their businesses, according to a press release issued by SIST.

The announcement comes two days after SIST and six of its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The filing in large part blames the alleged attacks for the financial troubles facing the organization.

"Due to intentional business interference and interference with our financing relationships by certain persons and entities, primarily in the form of an intense, wide spread media smear campaign, the companies were forced to file for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy," SIST chief executive officer, Naomi Isaacson states in the press release.

Along with SIST, the six subsidiaries filing for bankruptcy protection Monday included U.S. Acquisitions and Oil, Inc., Midwest Oil of Wisconsin, LLC, Midwest Hotels & Motels, LLC, Midwest Oil of Minnesota, LLC, Midwest Oil of Shawano, LLC, and Midwest Properties of Shawano, LLC.

"Outrageous attacks in various forms have been launched against SIST and its companies based in part upon religious and other forms of discrimination over a sustained period of time," attorney Mark Lane stated in the release.

"SIST has tried to withstand these attacks and the interference with their ongoing business affairs but in the face of the current and severe national economic downturn they have been unable to function normally," Lane said.

Lane also disputed there is any FBI investigation of SIST.

"It has been alleged that SIST is under investigation by the FBI but we have no knowledge that such an investigation exists. No one from SIST or any of its business subsidiaries has ever been questioned by anyone from FBI," Lane said.

The FBI invited a number of people to a meeting at a Shawano hotel in early November and informed them they were on a list allegedly targeting them as possible victims of a crime. According to statements from the FBI at that meeting, there were 60 people on the list, which they said had originated with SIST.

The FBI has since refused to comment publicly on the investigation, but local authorities said there was a "person of interest" in the case affiliated with SIST. They also said it was believed three people on the list were targeted for physical harm.

At least one person on the list has since said publicly he did not believe there was any danger.

The transcript of a Feb. 12 court hearing in the civil suit Zien Service brought against Midwest Properties includes comments from Shawano County Circuit Court Judge James Habeck about the so-called hit list. Habeck was responding to a motion from Attorney Alan Eisenberg that Habeck recuse himself because his name was alleged to be on the list.

Habeck told Eisenberg there was no need for a recusal because he did not believe the threats were sincere.

"I got called in - you yourself told me that Midwest Properties is no threat to me as a judge and that there is no logical basis for me believing that Midwest Properties or their people are a threat to me as a judge," Habeck says in the transcript.

"You're saying you don't believe that you're the victim of any threats by SIST?" Eisenberg asked.

"I don't. You've reassured me," Habeck responded.

The press release from SIST also states Circuit Court Judge Thomas Grover openly stated he didn't believe the allegations about SIST. However, Grover was out of the office on Wednesday and unable to provide confirmation.

Shawano Mayor Lorna Marquardt, however, said she is continuing to go by what she was told by the federal authorities.

"The FBI talked to me personally and told me I was one of three people threatened with physical harm," she said. "When the FBI tells you something like that, you consider it to be very real."

Marquardt said she has been told by the FBI the investigation is continuing, though she said they have given her no details of the probe. She said she continues to be vigilant, as the FBI recommended during the November meeting.

Marquardt said she was not about to question the integrity of the FBI.

"If you can't believe what the FBI tells you, who can you believe," she said.

In the press release, Isaacson called the allegations against SIST part of a "media smear campaign," and Lane promised legal action in response. "Plans are underway to counter these outrageous attacks against SIST with legal action," Lane states in the release.

"And in the meantime they are determined to remain in business and to continue to provide the same high level of customer service in their local communities throughout the reorganization and into perpetuity."

According to the press release, SIST has been in the community for two and a half decades.

"SIST and its affiliates have done nothing but good for their local community," the release states. "SIST and its affiliates will continue to provide excellent customer service and quality goods and services at reasonable prices."

SIST and its subsidiaries own a number of Shawano area businesses, including three gas stations, the AmericInn and Kiryat Hotels, Spirit of the Northwoods, Midwest Gift and Fudge Shop, and USA International Raceway.

They also own a number of commercial properties in the city, some of which are leased to other businesses.

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