Litigation Leaves $8M Estate With $200K

How does an estate worth over an estimated $8 million dwindle to approximately $200,000 in two and a half years? Prosecutors in the John Young forgery, theft and money laundering trial asked the court appointed administrator of John Sullivan’s estate that complex question Wednesday afternoon.  

The answer: attorney’s fees, IRS taxes, overseas taxes, settlements in civil suits, and missing money.  

San Angelo attorney Michael Deadman was appointed temporary administrator of Sullivan’s estate in January of 2015 and recovered $4.9 million from John Young, who was awarded the estate in June of 2014 based upon a contested will that San Angelo bail bondsman Ray Zapata was convicted of forging in May.  

In a dizzying presentation of Internal Revenue Service filings, and seemingly endless attorney’s fees, Deadman told jurors of the $1.29 million IRS fine on a $4.4 million overseas account in Liechtenstein.  

Sullivan entered into an IRS program that allowed him to pay taxes on the overseas investment over ten years and that was deducted from the estate.  

Deadman testified that he had paid out $1.1 million in attorneys fees to several firms after taking over the estate.  The estate paid $262,000 in property taxes and attorney fees for a property Sullivan owned in Spain.  Deadman also said the estate paid $1.6 million to settle sex abuse claims by two men against Sullivan.  

Testimony showed a list of attorneys and accountants who continue to bill the estate while the trial continues.  

Deadman was excused at 5 p.m. Wednesday and may be recalled to the stand later.  

San Angelo attorney Joe Hernandez finished his testimony Wednesday.  Hernandez was the first person to complain about John Sullivan’s alleged will filed by Chris Hartman on behalf of John Young in Tom Green County Court-at-Law Judge Ben Nolen’s court.  As we reported earlier, Hernandez was called by state prosecutors and testified on Monday.  

Wednesday, Hernandez laughed out loud at defense attorney’s accusations the he and Ray Zapata profited by sharing clients.  Hernandez and Zapata officed in the same building.  Zapata was a bail bondsman and Hernandez was a defense attorney.  

Zapata testified in his forgery trial that Hernandez paid him 20 percent for referrals.  Hernandez told jurors Wednesday that, “Ray’s a liar.  A thorough liar.  I didn’t pay him 20 percent of fees for referrals.”  The accusation the defense presented is a serious one. Rule 7.03(b) of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC) for attorneys forbids this practice.

Hernandez also testified that he had a confrontation with John Young at a conference in San Antonio before the will was probated.  Hernandez told jurors that on Friday, June 13, 2014 at the conference that Sullivan had a sister, Louise Williams. He said Young backed away from him.  

According to Hernandez, he and his brother Frank attended the Sullivan estate probate hearing in Judge Ben Nolen’s court.  Hernandez told jurors Wednesday that it was a, “Shocker to see someone lying through his teeth!”  

Ray Zapata was testifying at the time that John Sullivan had written the will in question leaving his estate to John Young.  Hernandez pointed at an enlarged high resolution image of the will in the courtroom and said, “That’s Ray Zapata’s handwriting.”  

Testimony Wednesday began with defense attorneys cross examining DPS handwriting expert Sarah Pryor.  Pryor examined the contested will and handwriting samples from John Sullivan, Ray Zapata and John Young.  

In complex and detailed testimony, Pryor told jurors she issued five reports in which her findings included that, “It is far from conclusive that Ray Zapata wrote the will.”  And it is, “far from conclusive that John Sullivan did not write the will.”  

The trial reconvenes Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in courtroom A on the second floor of the Tom Green County Courthouse.  

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