MANHATTAN (CN) - New York City's Police Commissioner falsely accused a man of kidnapping and torturing his accountant, and major news outlets published the defamatory statements, the man claims in court.
Luis Alberto Cando sued New York City and Police Commissioner Raymond Walter Kelly, in Federal Court. Also named as defendants are The Associated Press, SB New York, New York Daily News Co., Guardian News & Media, Associated Newspapers North America, Fox News, Time Warner Cable, and Univision New York.
Cando, an Ecuadorean-born resident of the Bronx, says he has no criminal history and never had any contact with police or the courts before the false accusations.
He says the trouble began when the police rescued his accountant, Pedro Portugal, who had been kidnapped in April 2013.
Portugal, the owner of a small accounting firm in Queens, was abducted and held captive for a month in an abandoned warehouse in Queens County. After police found him alive on May 20, 2013, Commissioner Kelly held a press conference about the kidnapping.
Kelly told the press and public that the suspects had held Portugal captive and had beaten and tortured him for a month, demanding a $3 million-ransom from his family. Kelly said the police had arrested three of the suspects, three others had fled to Ecuador, and one suspect was at large in the United States, according to the lawsuit.
Cando says Kelly identified him as one of the suspects, using video footage from a Chase Manhattan Bank where Cando was trying to deposit money in Portugal's account to pay for accounting fees.
Kelly gave the press a photo showing Cando at the bank, claiming that the "suspect" was trying to withdraw money from Portugal's account, and that he was involved in the kidnapping, the complaint states.
Cando says the media defendants published the photo, along with the false statements, in online and print publications.
The captions next to Cando's picture identified him as "one of the suspects that is still at large," and accused him of serious criminal activities, including trying to steal money from Portugal's account, and being involved in the accountant's kidnapping and torture, Cando says in the lawsuit.
Time Warner Cable and Univision ran news stories that made similar accusations, showing Cando's photo, according to the complaint.
Cando says the false accusations published online are still available to the public.
He claims he suffered emotional distress, loss of earnings and damage to his reputation, and legal expenses.
Cando seeks an injunction, and punitive damages for defamation and vicarious liability.
He is represented by Bryan Konoski with Treyvus & Konoski.