NFL linebacker Mark Barron, a star at Alabama in the early 2010s, has sued a New York attorney and other defendants for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and related claims over Barron’s failed attempt to purchase 510,000 medical examination gloves from China.
The federal case, filed in the Southern District of New York on Sept. 10, highlights the risks of conducting international business transactions with unfamiliar parties.
The seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the 31-year-old Barron is currently a free agent, having been cut by the Denver Broncos last December. In addition to his football career, Barron is the primary financer of MSV Synergy, a Delaware-based distributor that imports and sells personal protection equipment (PPE). Barron’s complaint, as authored by attorney Gregory Skiff, stresses that MSV “has cultivated a foundation of trust” and, through timely delivery of PPE, built “lasting relationships with clients and vendors.”
Like others in the PPE industry, Barron’s company saw an opportunity through the COVID-19 pandemic to generate increased revenue. Last September, Barron was introduced to Saadia Shapiro. Shapiro allegedly relayed he could arrange, through his contacts in Guangdong, China, the sale of 510,00 powder-free, nitrile, four-millimeter-thick medical examination gloves that would meet FDA regulations. MSV then signed a contract and wired $2 million to a trust account for Shapiro’s law firm.
The $2 million would be held in escrow until the gloves arrived.
Except the gloves never arrived.
To that point, Barron says he was assured last October that the gloves were “ahead of schedule” and “on the water.” The gloves were supposed to arrive in late November or early December. Once it became clear the gloves weren’t “on the water,” Shapiro, the complaint asserts, informed Barron that an alternative manufacturing plant in Thailand could supply the gloves. Barron was asked to authorize the release of the escrow funds to facilitate the shipment.
Barron agreed on the condition there be collateral. As told by Barron’s complaint, Shapiro accepted that stipulation and conditionally transferred what he described as interests in four New York City properties to Barron.
But the gloves from Thailand, just like the gloves from China, never made it to America.
Instead, Shapiro is portrayed as offering to Barron other gloves “of extremely poor quality” that were rejected.
In January, the defendants are depicted as making additional assurances to Barron that the right type of gloves were on their way from Asia, possibly to a facility in California. Yet no such delivery occurred.
Finally, in March, a shipment of supposedly nitrile gloves arrived, but Barron says one of his clients found they were “counterfeits made of extremely poor quality.” Another client terminated its business relationship with MSV.
Barron insists that Shapiro has failed to produce an accounting for the spent escrow monies. Instead, the complaint contends, Shapiro forwarded a photograph of a Post-It note. Barron argues the note doesn’t provide relevant details and “falls woefully short of generally accepted accounting principles.” Barron believes the escrow money was “used to front the purchase of PPE and then sell said PPE to third-parties for a profit.”
Barron’s complaint is an advocacy document and not a neutral retelling of history. The defendants will have an opportunity to answer the complaint and present their side of the story in the court of Judge Edgardo Ramos, who in 2019 presided over a fraud trial involving former Adidas executives and bribes to basketball recruits.