One of two people who established the Zen Arts traveling performance group is suing to have one of its two directors removed, alleging he has aided the co-owner in taking more than $200,000 in company funds for such personal uses as paying his rent and for botox treatments.

Susan Culini, who co-owns Zen Arts along with Douglas Miller, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Jay Shapiro, who the suit alleges aided and abetted fraud and put his interests above those of the company. Shapiro also is Zen Arts’ CFO.

The suit seeks compensatory damages of more than $200,000, punitive damages and Shapiro’s removal as a director of the company. The complaint also seeks to have him barred from running for re-election for a period to be determined by a judge.

Neither Shapiro nor Miller, who is not a defendant, could be immediately reached. The suit states that Miller and Shapiro are Zen Arts’ only two directors.

Culini, who lives in Venice, is a 49 percent owner in Zen Arts, which she and Miller established in 2008, the suit states. The group charges fees for performing acts similar to Cirque de Soleil with acrobats, aerialists, dancers, musicians, fire-breathers and others, according to the lawsuit.

Culini worked with Shapiro to prepare Zen Arts’ year-end taxes in July 2014, the suit states.

“At that point the extent and scope of Miller’s misconduct became evident,” according to the lawsuit.

Miller was using company funds to pay for his rent, the suit states. Miller also “routinely charges his personal expenses to the company, like botox, tanning and clothes,” the suit alleges.

The suit alleges Shapiro prepared the company’s accounting records and tax returns “in a manner designed to assist Miller in embezzling Zen Arts’ money,” according to the complaint.

— City News Service

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