A Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County has ordered County Council member Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) and his wife to pay back more than $112,000 in loans on a wine and beer store in Piney Orchard.
The court on April 13 issued a Judgment by Confession against the couple for two loans on the store, each with about $50,000 in principal. Court documents list PNC Bank as the lender.
But Jamie Benoit said the whole case is a misunderstanding stemming from his wife's recent effort to sell the business.
“What happened—and I suspect it will get resolved very quickly—is that I think the bank mistakenly thought the business got sold and that the business hadn’t paid the loans,” Jamie Benoit said. “I’ve informed them that the business hasn’t been sold. All the loan payments have been made.”
Hops & Vines has been operated by Jamie Benoit’s wife, Kari, since 2006. Maulik Vyas has been operating the business under a management contract since Kari Benoit began the process of selling him the business last year.
Jamie Benoit has never had an ownership share in the business, but is a guarantor on the loans and is named in the judgment. In court documents, the store is identified as Piney Orchard Wine & Spirits LLC.
Court documents said the Benoits owe $55,823.80 in principal on one loan, plus interest of $1,779.45 and late charges of $4,714.55. They also owe $47,179.22 in principal on a second loan, plus interest of $1,529.06 and late charges of $143.54.
In an email to members of the media, Kari Benoit said she began the process of selling the business late last year, and provided PNC Bank with a copy of the purchase agreement. She said she did not notify her husband that she spoke with the bank. She also said she never stopped making payments on the loans, and only learned about the confessed judgment on Friday.
Jamie Benoit said he was hopeful the sale would be complete within the next 60 to 90 days.
He said that the terms of the loans allowed the bank to file for a confessed judgment, which does not require the debtor to be notified. Such clauses are common in commercial loan agreements, he said.
“In this case, the bank did it to protect rights they thought they were losing," Jamie Benoit said. "I think they thought they weren’t going to get paid because the store had been sold. There’s no payment that’s been skipped.”
Kari Benoit said her husband should receive no blame for the situation, and said she hoped it would be resolved quickly.
"To the extent there is fault in this matter, the fault is mine," she said. "This matter in no way reflects on my husband's judgment as he is a simply a guarantor of the debt owed by my business. I am working diligently and cooperating with PNC to quickly get this matter resolved and will alert you when I do."
A lawyer for PNC Bank did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.