A medical supply company started by a Portland man who was facing a five-count criminal indictment is now being sued in federal court over claims it failed to deliver a million antiseptic wipes and didn't return a $108,000 deposit.
Noble Partners LLC, which has been doing business as Noble Medical Supply since shortly after the coronavirus struck the United States, is headed by Sean C. Grady, a veteran of Maine's cannabis industry who was facing criminal charges of securities fraud, theft by deception and selling securities without a license when his company started taking orders for N95 masks, COVID-19 tests and other items in critically short supply in the early days of the pandemic.
Grady and Noble Partners now also face accusations that they failed to return six-figure deposits for orders never delivered to customers in Florida and California, never paid commissions to a sales representative in Texas, and even failed to pay their website provider.
Noble had its websites taken down by its provider, which replaced them with a message saying the company owes it more than $15,000 and linking to news articles about Grady's troubles.
"If you are the owner of this website, your account is seriously delinquent," the message also says. "All other attempts to communicate with you regarding this matter have failed." The site is registered to NameCheap Inc., a Los Angeles web hosting company; its CEO, Richard Kirkendall, did not respond to a reporter's inquiry.
A third company, Media Reps of San Diego is accusing Noble of keeping its $100,000 deposit after failing to deliver an order of 35 million surgical gloves. Media Reps President and CEO Mark Bauman, who shared email conversations he had with Grady and Noble's director of government relations, former Maine state legislator Diane Russell, said he intends to sue Noble for theft and breach of contract.
Grady agreed to an interview multiple times over last week but each time was unavailable or said he had to reschedule, citing a family health emergency. He stopped responding to text messages Monday. Russell referred questions to Grady.
Lezer Corp. filed a lawsuit Aug. 4 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that Noble Partners and Grady defrauded the company of its deposit on a May 10 order of 218,000 alcohol wipes, 95 percent of which it says were never delivered. Lezer, a medical distributor incorporated in Delaware with offices in Bay Harbor, Florida, claims it was "absolutely shocked" when Noble and Grady failed to deliver on May 18 as had been agreed.
"Grady was not even apologetic, and instead offered Lezer only stall tactics and false promises regarding shortly providing delivery," Lezer says in its complaint. Grady ignored the company's requests to return its deposit, leading Lezer to conclude that he was running "Noble and its affiliated business entities as mere fronts and alter-egos to advance his criminal fraud enterprise and hide his identity," the company claims.
Court documents show Noble and Grady were issued a summons in early October but have failed to respond. A clerk's default judgment against the defendants was posted Oct. 15 to the docket because of their apparent "failure to appear, answer, or otherwise plead" within the requisite time period.
"Technically they are in default, and technically the case should be over and we should be collecting," Lezer's attorney, Aharon S. Kaye of Skokie, Illinois, said in an interview. "But from a procedural standpoint they will have another opportunity to respond."
Via text message, Grady declined to speak about the suit with a reporter, instead referring questions about it to one of his attorneys, Jeffrey Bennett of Legal-Ease LLP in South Portland. In an interview, Bennett asserted that Noble and Grady "haven't received proper notice to be joined to the case" despite a summons having been issued to both Aug. 7.
"A summons is one in a series of steps for there to be proper notice," Bennett said, adding that for various technical reasons the status of the case was not as it appeared.
Bennett also provided a completely different description of events: He said Noble was acting as a broker on a deal between Lezer and a supplier, and that Lezer had lost its claim to the deposit by trying to cut out the middle man and acquire the wipes directly from Noble's source of supply. He said Noble might file its own suit against Lezer and the supplier.
Kaye, Lezer's attorney on the case, expressed surprise at this version of events but declined to comment on the details of a case in active litigation.
Separately, the Press Herald was recently contacted by Bauman, the Media Reps president, who said Noble had failed to deliver a June 10 order of 2.5 million N95 respirators and failed to return the $100,000 deposit his company had made on them.
Bauman shared a long email chain and screenshots of text messages he had exchanged with Grady and other Noble Partners employees that documented his four-month effort to get the deposit returned, during which Grady repeatedly said the refund was being processed or that it had been issued.
"They said they will refund it and didn't, and still they would claim it was issued," Bauman told the Press Herald. "They were lying to me. It's still not refunded — it's just blatant fraud with these guys."
By text message, Grady referred questions about Bauman's accusations — and those made online by the web hosting service — to another attorney, Stephean Chute of Cape Elizabeth, who did not return calls or respond to email messages.
In July, the Press Herald was contacted by one of Noble's sales representatives, Rob Close of San Antonio, who said he was owed $4,000 in unpaid commissions and that he had stopped representing Noble after it delivered faulty surgical masks to one of his customers, University Hospital of San Antonio, which was then serving a community facing a dramatic explosion in COVID-19 cases.
A spokesperson for the hospital's parent entity, Leni Kirkman of University Health System, confirmed via email that some of the masks — which were set out for visitors to wear inside the facility — "had holes in them or were falling apart." She said the hospital had not paid for the masks upfront and that Noble did not appear to be seeking payment for the faulty products.
Grady first attracted attention in March when he started taking orders from municipalities, fire departments and hospitals in Massachusetts for N95 respirators, three-ply masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other critical medical supplies that first responders and front-line health care workers were having trouble obtaining. His company, which had no experience in medical supplies, claimed to be able to secure hundreds of thousands of the coveted N95s and also offered to sell COVID-19 tests.
The Press Herald reported March 26 that Grady is facing a five-count criminal grand jury indictment in Cumberland County Superior Court on charges of securities fraud, theft by deception and selling securities without a license for incidents predating the pandemic. The indictment alleges Grady defrauded two investment clients, in one case by falsely representing that the funds would be invested in Noble Partners, and that the individual would be made chief technology officer of the company. He was originally scheduled to appear in court April 22, but the pandemic has postponed civil proceedings indefinitely.
Grady also has been permanently barred from being granted securities licenses and registration privileges in New Hampshire after he failed to respond to a November 2018 cease-and-desist order connected with one of the alleged frauds. Jeff Spills, deputy director of that state's Bureau of Securities Regulation, told the Press Herald in March that Grady owed the state $238,471 in fines and restitution imposed in its summary administrative judgment against him, part of which was to compensate the alleged victim, an elderly woman from Charlestown, New Hampshire.
In the last days of March, Noble did deliver masks and respirators as promised to several Massachusetts hospitals and municipal first responders, an effort that required Diane Russell to drive to New York in a rented van to collect them in the middle of that city's pandemic crisis.
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