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Court News Ohio

Fifth District: Personal Assistant to Ex-Basket-Maker CEO Must Pay Her $93,000 From Retirement Accounts

The former personal assistant to basket heiress Tami Longaberger must give up the $93,000 held in retirement accounts to put toward the $6.5 million he owes after being convicted for embezzling and stealing from her.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals affirmed a Muskingum County Common Pleas Court decision requiring $93,000 held in dispute be turned over to Longaberger. Douglas Thompson argued he was entitled to keep a portion of the money to pay income taxes and fees he owed.

Thompson worked for Longaberger from 2004 to 2011. She was the chief executive officer of Longaberger Co., the basket making company founded by her father David Longaberger, until she resigned in May 2015. She is currently in litigation with Dallas-based CVSL, which bought the company and claims it terminated Longaberger.

In March 2013, Thompson pleaded guilty to grand theft for taking more than $2 million from Longaberger with the agreement that she could pursue more money through a civil action. Thompson was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution.

The same day as his sentencing, Thompson entered a consent judgment in the civil action and was ordered to pay Longaberger more than $6.5 million. Part of that agreement found that any money received as payment of the restitution would count toward the total of the civil action.

According to media reports, Thompson paid Longaberger $435,000 by the time of sentencing after he sold a home and auctioned off personal assets including furniture and vehicles. At sentencing, a dispute arose as to whether the assets of Thompson’s retirement accounts would count toward restitution. The trial court judge ruled that should be decided through the civil action.

Thompson argued the restitution order by the criminal court allowed him to retain sufficient funds to pay his income tax liability for 2013. Attorneys for Longaberger countered that the order allowed the retirement fund holders to deduct taxes on behalf of Thompson that he would owe on the accounts, but the rest would go to Longaberger. In June 2014, the trial court sided with Longaberger and ordered the money turned over. Thompson appealed to the Fifth District.

Writing for the appellate court, Judge John W. Wise stated Thompson did not “explain, expand or support this bare assertion” that he is being deprived funds to pay taxes and fees. He noted that Longaberger argued the liquidation of the retirement accounts is consistent with the restitution order, and that the $93,000 would not be anywhere close to satisfy what Thompson owes in taxes.

“We, as a reviewing court, are limited in our scope,” Judge Wise wrote. “We must presume that the trial court considered the evidence, applied the proper legal standard, and found sufficient evidence was presented to support the trial court’s judgment.”

Judges William B. Hoffman and Sheila G. Farmer concurred in the opinion.

Longaberger v. Thompson, 2015-Ohio-4439
http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/5/2015/2015-Ohio-4439.pdf
Civil Appeal from: Muskingum County Common Pleas Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: Oct. 26, 2015

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