Now come plaintiff Tiana Hornickel, an individual, through Charles G. Wentworth of
The Law Office of Lofgren & Wentworth, P.C., and complaint against the defendants Mario A.
Contreras, an individual, Tom Reed, an individual, and Eva Haron, an individual. In support of
this Verified Complaint, plaintiffs state:
Parties, Jurisdiction, and Venue
1. Tiana Hornickel is an individual residing in Union, Illinois. Hornickel’s maiden
name is Ng, and she occasionally goes by the name Tiana Ng-Hornickel.
2. Mario A. Contreras is an individual. On information and belief, Contreras resides
at Elgin, Illinois.
3. Eva Haron is an individual. On information and belief, Haron resides at South Lyon, Michigan.
4. Tom Reed is an individual. On information and belief, Reed resides in Groveland, Florida.
5. This Court has jurisdiction over these proceedings and venue is proper in this
matter because the Hornickel and Shapiro Bills of Sale (described below and attached here as
Exhibits B and E) identify the Kane County as the location of the respective Hornickel and
Shapiro Transactions (also described below). Those Bills of Sale also identify Illinois law as the
governing law for the Transactions, and the Transactions actually took place in substantial part in
Gilberts, Illinois, which is located in Kane County.
6. In March 2014, Hornickel owned a grey, a pure-bred Andalusian stallion named
Xiomaro BR (“Horse”).
7. In 2009, Hornickel hired Contreras to be the trainer for the Horse. During that
time, Contreras and Hornickel became good friends and colleagues.
8. Contreras has never held title to the Horse.
9. In the spring of 2014, Hornickel began discussions with Contreras regarding him
acting as Hornickel’s agent and assisting in arranging Hornickel’s sale of the Horse.
10. Hornickel and Contreras reached an agreement whereby Contreras would be
Hornickel’ s agent to locate a buyer for the Horse, and if a sale negotiated by Contreras were
consummated, Contreras would receive a 10% commission on the sale price.
11. Hornickel and Contreras agreed to advertise the Horse for sale at $130,000.
12. Also in the spring of 2014, Haron was working for Shapiro as a trainer of his
horses. Haron had known and worked for Mickey Shapiro for many years. Shapiro was
interested in purchasing an Andalusian stallion and asked Haron to be his agent to investigate
the possibility of doing so.
13. Reed also worked for Shapiro as a horse trainer, working with Shapiro’s horses in
14. Contreras and Reed are horse trainers for Medieval Times restaurants in Illinois
and Florida, respectively, and knew each other as a result of their both working for that
15. Unbeknownst to both Hornickel and Shapiro, in March 2014, Contreras, Reed,
and Baron agreed to defraud Hornickel and Shapiro by telling Hornickel that she was selling the
Horse to Baron for $80,000 (“Hornickel Transaction”), while at the same time telling Shapiro
that he was buying the Horse from Contreras for $150,000 (“Shapiro Transaction”).
16. On or about March 18, 2014, Contreras informed Hornickel that he had located a
potential buyer for the Horse, and he, therefore, had a veterinarian conduct a pre-purchase
inspection of the Horse. According to Contreras, the buyer was asking that Hornickel take down
her online advertising for the Horse.
17. On March 19, 2014, after multiple inquiries by Hornickel, Contreras told her that the buyer was
a friend of Reed. That friend turned out to be Baron. Hornickel knew Reed
through his reputation in the horse industry but had not previously met Baron.
18. ·Over the subsequent days, Contreras told Hornickel that he was negotiating with
the potential buyer, Reed’s friend, about what the purchase price would be. Contreras
represented to Hornickel that the buyer was willing to purchase the Horse for $80,000.
19. Notwithstanding that Hornickel had put the Horse on the market for $130,000,
Contreras represented to Hornickel that $80,000 was a good sale price and advised her to sell the
Horse for that amount.
20. In late March 2014, and in reliance on Contreras’s representation to Hornickel
that $80,000 was a good sale price, Hornickel verbally agreed to sell the Horse for that amount.
21. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Contreras withheld from Hornickel the following
material facts regarding the Shapiro Transaction, which are described in more detail below:
(a) that Shapiro was the real purchaser and that Haron and Reed were merely his agents in that
transaction; (b) that Shapiro was willing to buy the Horse for $150,000; (c) that on or about
March 11, 2014, Shapiro had a check issued for $10,000 for a deposit on the Horse made payable
to Reed; (d) that on or about March 21, 2014, Shapiro had a check issued for $140,000 made
payable to Contreras for the purchase of the Horse; and (e) that Contreras deposited that check
into an account at JP Morgan Chase Bank on April 1, 2014.
22. On or about April 2, 2014, Hornickel asked Contreras to send to her the contract
for the purchase of the Horse. A copy of various text messages between Hornickel and Contreras
are attached here as Group Exhibit A. Contreras responded to Hornickel’s April 2 text message
by saying, “Contract.. ?” and did not send her anything that day. (Ex. A at 1.)
23. On or about April 3, 2014, Hornickel again texted Contreras asking him for the
contract, and also asked when the purchase price would be paid. (Ex. A at 2.)
24. That day, Contreras transferred $72,000 to Hornickel’s account, which
represented the supposed $80,000 sale price, less Contreras’s 10% commission of $8,000.
25. Also on April 3, 2014, Hornickel asked Contreras to confirm who the buyer of the
Horse was going to be; although Hornickel had repeatedly requested that Contreras produce a
sale contract for her to review, he had not yet done so. In a series of text messages to Hornickel,
Contreras said that he had been dealing with Haron and “Tom Rid From Florida.” (Ex. A at 3.)
26. On or about April 4, 2014, Contreras texted Hornickel telling her to have the
Horse’s papers ready that weekend because Haron was coming to pick up the Horse. Hornickel·
responded that she would have everything ready. She then added: “That’s why [I] need [the]
contract for [the] file.” (Ex. A at 4.)
27. On or about April 5, 2014, Haron came to the Indian Hills Farm in Gilberts to
pick up the Horse. At that time, Haron and Contreras presented Hornickel with a “Bill of Sale of
Equine” that Contreras had prepared (“Hornickel Bill of Sale”) whereby Hornickel agreed to sell
the Horse to Haron for $80,000. A copy of the Hornickel Bill of Sale is attached here as
28. Hornickel signed the Bill of Sale as the Seller in the presence of Contreras and
29. Haron signed the Hornickel Bill of Sale as the Purchaser in the presence of
Hornickel and Contreras.
30. Contreras signed the Hornickel Bill of Sale as the Witness in the presence of
Hornickel and Haron.
31. Based on Contreras and Baron’s various misrepresentations and material
non-disclosures, Hornickel executed the Hornickel Bill of Sale and gave title and possession of
the Horse to Haron.
32. But for Hornickel’s reliance on Contreras and Baron’s fraudulent
misrepresentations and material nondisclosures, Hornickel would not have executed the
Hornickel Bill of Sale, nor would she have relinquished title and possession of the Horse.
33. Meanwhile (and without disclosing it to Hornickel), Contreras and Haron
conspired to sell the Horse to Shapiro for $150,000 without disclosing the Shapiro Transaction to
Hornickel, and misrepresenting to Shapiro that Contreras was the owner of the Horse and that he
had title to it.
34. Shapiro told Baron and Reed that he was interested in purchasing an Andalusian
horse, and told them to begin looking for a horse for Shapiro to purchase.
35. In early March 2014, Baron and Reed told Shapiro that they had found an
Andalusian horse that Shapiro might be interested in purchasing. They also told him that they
would be traveling to Illinois to inspect the Horse and that if Shapiro wanted to buy it, they
would need to bring a $10,000 deposit.
36. On March 11, 2014, and based on Reed and Baron’s representations, Shapiro
caused a check in the amount of $10,000 to be issued from Shapiro’s bank account and made
payable to Reed. The memo line on that check was “Ximar Br Deposit.” A copy of the check is
attached here as Exhibit C.
3 7. On information and belief, Baron and Reed in fact never traveled to Illinois to
personally inspect the Horse.
38. After the veterinary inspection on March 18, 2014, and at Contreras and Reed’s
request and actual knowledge, Haron fraudulently represented to Shapiro that Contreras (not
Hornickel) owned the Horse, had title to it, was willing to sell it to Shapiro for $150,000, and
that Shapiro needed to pay to Contreras the balance of the $150,000 sale price to secure the
purchase of the Horse.
39. In reliance on Baron’s misrepresentations that Contreras was the owner of the
Horse, on March 21, 2014, Shapiro caused a check in the amount of $140,000 to be issued from
Shapiro’s bank account and made payable to Contreras. The Memo line on that check states:
“Ximaro Br.” A copy of that check is attached here as Exhibit D.
40. That same day, Reed negotiated the $10,000 check by endorsing it and depositing
it in an account at Bank of America. (Ex. C.)
41. Based on these various misrepresentations and material nondisclosures, Contreras,
Reed, and Baron fraudulently induced Shapiro to have a check for $140,000 issued from
Shapiro’s account and made payable to Contreras.
42. But for Shapiro’s reliance on Contreras, Reed, and Baron’s fraudulent
misrepresentations and nondisclosures, Shapiro would not have caused the $10,000 and
$140,000 checks for the purchase of the Horse to be issued from Shapiro’s accounts to Reed and
43. On or about April 1, 2014, two days before sending any money to Hornickel for
the Hornickel transaction, Contreras negotiated the $140,000 check he received from Shapiro by
endorsing it and depositing it into an account at JP Morgan Chase Bank. (Ex. D.)
44. Contreras and Reed never informed Hornickel about the Shapiro Transaction, and
Contreras, Reed, and Baron never told Shapiro about the Hornickel Transaction.
45. On or about April 19, 2014, and after Contreras had Hornickel execute the
Hornickel Bill of Sale, Contreras signed as the “Seller” a document called “Bill of Sale [sic] of
Equine” (“Shapiro Bill of Sale”). The Shapiro Bill of Sale is attached here as Exhibit E.
46. The Shapiro Bill of Sale describes the terms of the Shapiro Transaction, including
that Contreras warrants that he “is the legal owner of the [Horse],” that he “has full right and
authority to sell and transfer the [Horse],” and that Shapiro is paying to Contreras $150,000 to
purchase the Horse.
47. Notwithstanding Contreras’s warranties in the Shapiro Bill of Sale, he was not the
legal owner of the Horse, nor did he ever have authority to sell or transfer the Horse.
48. Until the transfer of title from Hornickel to Baron under false pretenses,
Hornickel was always titled owner to the Horse. (Ex. F.)
49. With Contreras and Reed’s full knowledge and at their request, Baron provided
the Shapiro Bill of Sale to Shapiro.
50. On or about July 10, 2014, Baron contacted Hornickel and admitted to her that
Contreras, Reed, and Baron had not disclosed to Hornickel that Shapiro was the actual purchaser
of the Horse. Baron also admitted to Hornickel that Shapiro had, in fact, paid $150,000 to
purchase the Horse. Baron also stated that the scheme was the idea of Contreras and Reed.
51. Hornickel subsequently spoke with Alicia Baginski, an assistant to Shapiro.
Baginski confirmed that Shapiro had caused two checks totaling $150,000 to be issued for the
purchase of the Horse from Contreras. Hornickel also learned for the first time from Baginski
about the Shapiro Bill of Sale, which Baginski sent Hornickel a copy of.
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Tom Reed is dismissed with prejudice after settlement
Plaintiff wins Fraud Trial against Dressage Trainer
Former Andalusian Stallion Owner Wins Against Horse Trainer-Agent Contreras
After a three-day bench trial, an Illinois judge awarded judgment in favor of the plaintiff and former stallion owner Tiana Hornickel and against dressage trainer and horse sales agent Mario A. Contreras and a co-defendant for $63,000.
The court found punitive damages weren’t appropriate in the case since both parties have significant financial and business experience background that know horses.
Furthermore, the judge’s order solidifies why a well-written horse purchase agreement
“None of the contracts were written so the Court is required to construe the terms of the two transactions which had somewhat loose Large sums of money were paid without written agreements of even the most basic terms. This Court is aware that a court may allow punitive damages based upon fraud, but the fraud must be aggravated. Given the circumstances of this case, the oral nature of the transactions and the looseness of the terms, this Court does not find sufficient aggravation to merit punitive damages.”