Michael J. Covatto, former president of now-defunct Unicredit America Inc., must pay $522,780 in civil penalties and legal fees under a judgment against him in Erie County (Pa.) Court.

The judgment penalizes Covatto and Unicredit for using the fake courtroom and other practices to intimidate debtors between April 1, 2009, and Oct. 22, 2010. Judge John A. Bozza set the amount.

The penalty includes $348,500 in fines and $174,280 in legal fees and other costs due to the state Attorney General's office, which investigated and prosecuted the case.

It's unclear whether Covatto, 51, can pay the money to the state. He filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
The judgment resulted from the consumer-protection suit the Attorney General's office brought against Unicredit and Covatto in October 2010.

The suit prompted Judge Michael E. Dunlavey to close Unicredit in November 2010. Bozza, who took over the case after Dunlavey retired in August, determined the amount of the judgment based on evidence Deputy Attorney General Leslie Grey presented at a hearing in September. She wanted fines and costs of $1.2 million.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office said none of the money will go to debtors. She said the suit dissolved Unicredit's legal claims against the debtors without erasing the underlying debts. If someone reinstates the debt, the debtor could file a new challenge, which could not have occurred had Unicredit's claims stayed intact.

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