Billionaire financier Bill Gross should face five days in jail for violating a judge’s order not to play loud music, according to a lawyer for his millionaire tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq.
The pair have been involved in a petty backyard squabble since 2019 when Towfiq complained to the city about ‘unsightly’ netting Gross put up to protect a Dale Chihuly sculpture.
In response, the billionaire allegedly blasted loud music, including the Gilligan’s Island theme tune, on repeat.
Gross was called back in to an Orange County court on contempt charges, after Towfiq said he had flouted a restraining order banning the loud music which was granted by the judge in December.
Towfiq’s lawyer Chase Scolnick on Friday called for a jail term for the billionaire, saying: ‘Financial sanctions won’t have any effect on Mr. Gross’s behavior.’
‘Five days (in jail) will force him to take it seriously.’
In response, Judge Kimberly Knill asked Gross’s attorney asked Gross’ lawyer: ‘If I find your client in contempt, what’s your recommended sentence?’
Gross’s lawyer, Patricia Glaser, argued that Towfiq had failed to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt, while offering a suggestion of a fine or community service, Bloomberg News reported.
Pictured: Billionaire financier Bill Gross’s millionaire tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq asked an Orange County judge to jail him for five days amidst an ongoing row over loud music
Gross’s neighbor Towfiq (pictured) accused Gross of trying to get revenge for his complaints about the netting by playing music at extreme volumes, specifically the Gilligan’s Island theme
The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image. The two became neighbors in 2018
‘No matter how rich or poor people are, no one likes to pay monetary sanctions,’ Glaser replied.
Judge Knill said she will make a ruling on October 1.
The contempt hearing had previously heard that the squabble has gotten so bad that Gross’s wife Amy, a former professional tennis star, said she feels too scared to go into her own backyard.
Amy Gross testified in court on Monday that she is unable to enjoy her $32million Laguna Beach mansion, in California, because she’s ‘being monitored 24/7’ by her neighbor.
‘I fear going into my backyard,’ Amy said. The 52-year-old married Bill Gross in April at their home in Indian Wells, but said the ongoing feud meant she couldn’t celebrate the milestone in her own home.
Gross’s wife Amy is scared to enjoy her oceanfront Laguna Beach backyard thanks to an ongoing petty fight with her neighbor over loud music, ‘unsightly’ netting on lawn sculpture
Gross and his wife Amy, pictured, in court for a contempt hearing, after his Laguna Beach neighbor Mark Towfiq complained Gross had violated her order to keep the music down
‘I couldn’t have my wedding reception there. I couldn’t have my birthday there,’ she testified, according to Bloomberg.
In December, a judge issued a three-year restraining order against the Grosses banning them from playing loud music and ordering them to abide by all the city ordinances.
Now they are back in court after Towfiq asked a judge to find Bill Gross in contempt of the order. The billionaire founder of PIMCO could face jail if found guilty.
The judge is also weighing whether to make the temporary orders permanent.
On Monday, the Gross’ lawyer Patricia Glaser accused Towfiq of using the restraining order as a weapon to try and get his neighbors thrown in jail.
Amy added that she’s ‘frustrated’ and feels she’s ‘being monitored 24/7 inside my home’ because she has to announce each time she plans to spend time in her backyard so the neighbors don’t call the police.
Towfiq started the civil harassment trial in the summer of 2019 when he claimed Bill, 76, installed ‘unsightly netting’ outside of his $32million Laguna Beach house.
Apparently Towfiq didn’t have a problem with the 22ft-long art piece – which boasts blue glass tendrils reaching 10ft into the sky – until the netting was put up
The sculpture itself cost $1million and the protection was installed after it suffered $50,000 worth of damage
Gross put up the netting to protect his $1million lawn sculpture created by renowned blown-glass artist Chihuly from ‘vandalism’ and environmental damage. Apparently, Towfiq didn’t have a problem with the 22ft-long art piece – which boasts blue glass tendrils reaching 10ft into the sky – until then.
Towfiq described the netting as ‘unsightly’ and said it ruined his view of the ocean but Gross said he installed the net after the sculpture suffered $50,000 worth of damage.
The tech entrepreneur later accused Gross of trying to get revenge for his complaints by playing music at extreme volumes – specifically the theme to Gilligan’s Island – and has shown no signs of letting the long-burning row end.
Gross has continually denied the allegations but Amy explained in court that the song had sentimental value to the couple, because of where the opening credits were filmed.
‘I love that song,’ she said. ‘It’s a very special song.’
In 2018 Gross and his then-girlfriend Amy Schwartz purchased the property (pictured) and moved in next to Towfiq
Amy told the court that she’s ‘frustrated’ and feels she’s ‘being monitored 24/7 inside my home’
Amy said she has to announce each time she plans to spend time in her backyard (pictured) so the neighbors don’t call the police
The Laguna Beach home boasts four bedrooms and eight bathrooms spanning 10,000 square feet of space
During his testimony, Gross also addressed text messages he had sent to Towfiq, threatening to throw ‘nightly concerts’ unless there was ‘peace on all fronts’.
‘What I did was not a nightly concert, so I guess I didn’t make good on my promise,’ Gross added.
He described Towfiq as ‘strange’ and ‘dangerous to approach,’ claiming he had invaded his privacy by taking cell phone videos of the couple in their home.
Yet those videos from Towfiq’s iPhone and security camera, plus body camera footage from the police officers who responded to the noise complaint were played for the judge in court earlier this week, as reported by Bloomberg.
Thanks to the order, when the couple got married in April 2020 (pictured) they had to do it at their other property in Indian Wells
Gross told the court: ‘We called him ‘Peeping Mark’.’
The couple’s testimony came after Towfiq rejected Gross’s offer to settle the case by making donations to charity, which Gross and his lawyer dismissed as a stunt.
He went on to donate $500,000 to an organization regardless, in a bid to shame his opponent into settling the case.
Gross announced that he was giving the money to food banks and other charities supporting Covid relief efforts around his Laguna Beach home.
Mark Towfiq (pictured), a tech entrepreneur, started the civil harassment trial in summer 2019 when he claimed Gross installed ‘unsightly netting’ outside of his $32million Laguna Beach house
He also issued a press release describing the donation as ‘a reasonable, mutually beneficial, public offer to my neighbor to settle our ongoing dispute and donate what we have spent so far, and will spend, in legal fees and court costs to Orange County foodbanks and other charities providing critical assistance in this time of need’.
Gross said he had calculated his legal fees and prospective expenses, and donated the cash instead.
‘I believed, and still believe, that our mutual resources would be better spent in the midst of a global pandemic assisting those in need rather than on lawyers,’ he said.
‘I also believe the limited resources of the court should be reserved for more urgent matters instead of a dispute among neighbors.’
Towfiq’s lawyer Jennifer Keller responded on behalf of her client: ‘This is just billionaire Bill Gross trying to buy his way out of accountability for his horrible behavior.
‘He is losing the trial badly and is literally on the eve of being cross-examined about his harassment and lies, which he is desperate to avoid.’
The 76-year-old is worth an estimated $1.5billion and told his neighbor that it made more sense to spend the money on charity rather than legal fees. In 2018 Gross and his then-girlfriend Amy Schwartz purchased the property and moved in.
Oddly enough the seller of the home described Gross as the ‘angry billionaire with a short fuse’. A money manager at the investment management company Pimco, which Gross founded, also offered his ‘condolences’ to Towfiq when he told him Gross would be his new neighbor, Towfiq testified.
Thus, there was tension between the neighbors from the start.
Towfiq and his wife Carol Nakahara built their dream ocean-front home on land they had purchased in 2009 after winning a protracted legal battle with another neighbor who claimed the project would impede coastal access.
On the weekend Gross was due to move in Towfiq had rented his home out to HBO to film an episode of the series Ballers, starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, which Gross complained caused him significant inconvenience to have the television crews blocking his driveway.