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Ex-manager of New Mexico studio sued

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By Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — A lawsuit alleges three former managers of Albuquerque Studios, which has seen filming of such movies as “Terminator Salvation” and “Book of Eli,” were funneling business to a competitor, costing the studio more than $50,000, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday in a copyright story.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles by Pacifica Mesa Studios LLC, alleges Nick Smerigan and brothers Jeremy and Jason Hariton caused the losses but does not describe when and what business was routed to other studios.

Smerigan was Albuquerque Studios’ chief operating officer, Jeremy Hariton was executive director of studio operations and Jason Hariton was vice president for operations.

The  lawsuit alleges Smerigan told his bosses he was being paid for working for competitors the day before abruptly leaving Albuquerque Studios on Jan. 22.

The trio’s attorney, Rick Kurshner, said the lawsuit has no factual basis.

“I can tell you the facts that are alleged in the lawsuit that would constitute damage to Pacifica Mesa are untrue and that the legal theory behind the lawsuit is unfounded,” Kurshner said.

Hal Katersky, co-founder and chairman of Albuquerque Studios’ parent company, Pacifica Ventures, said the three were building their business on the company’s dime.

Smerigan and his wife Gail announced the formation of RoadTown Enterprises, a construction management, design and studio-marketing business, three months after leaving Albuquerque Studios.

Pacifica Mesa’s lawsuit also names RoadTown Enterprises as a defendant.

The lawsuit was filed two days after Workers Realty Trust II LP published a legal notice announcing the foreclosure of its loan to Pacifica Mesa, alleging it owes $21.4 million. An auction is scheduled May 14, essentially selling off Pacifica’s ownership interest in the studio.

Albuquerque Studios’ new general manager, Wayne Rauschenberger, said lawyers are dealing with the foreclosure, but the 168,000-square-foot studio is operating normally.

“It really isn’t going to change anything,” Rauschenberger said. “We’re booking clients. All this has to do with is the financing on the second mortgage.”