Lawsuit alleges JP’s wife embezzled $98K

The spouse of a Tom Green County Justice of the Peace has been named in a lawsuit alleging fiduciary fraud.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 12 in the 340th District Court, accuses Margaret Markovitz Howard, 61, of embezzling $98,553.58 from the private funds of J. Willis Johnson III, a resident of Tom Green County.

Howard, who is the wife of Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Eddie Howard, worked for Johnson as a personal assistant between May 2013 and July 2015, according to court documents. She was responsible for handling Johnson’s financial affairs, including maintaining his bank, checking and credit card accounts and paying bills as well as managing Johnson’s personal affairs, among other tasks, the documents stated.

Johnson’s age is not specified in the petition, but it reads in part: “Because of age and health reasons, Johnson entrusted Howard with his estate believing that Howard would at all times act in the best interest of Johnson and his estate.”

In early summer 2015, Johnson was approached by a waitress at a local San Angelo restaurant, The Grill, according to court documents.

The waitress told Johnson she had been sent over by the general manager, who wanted to thank Johnson for paying for a funeral, according to court documents.

This news “came as a surprise to Johnson, because he did not know that he had paid for a funeral recently,” the documents stated.

The general manager, according to the petition for the lawsuit, later approached Johnson and apologized, saying, “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to say anything. I’m sorry.”

Johnson discovered irregularities after reviewing his finances and fired Howard on July 15, according to court documents. He hired a forensic accountant beginning in August to conduct an investigation into his financial affairs and the services provided by Howard, according to court documents.

The forensic accountant’s audits revealed several substantial financial misappropriation involving Howard, the documents allege.

Howard is accused of establishing a personal line of credit with Wells Fargo Bank funded by Johnson’s personal checking account. She also acquired a platinum-level credit card with Wells Fargo Bank funded by Johnson’s private account and used it for cash advances made directly to herself, according to court documents. Multiple disbursements from Johnson’s account on a Citibank MasterCard credit card also were discovered, the documents stated. The disbursements included payments to Dry Clean Super Center, PetSmart, Petco and other stores that Johnson does not do business with, the documents stated. Howard is also accused of acquiring a debit card and using it to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars from Johnson’s personal checking account, according to the documents.

Howard is accused of misappropriating about $100,000 but less than $200,000 from Johnson’s private funds without his consent or knowledge, according to court documents.

The lawsuit alleges that Howard breached her fiduciary duties as an employee of Johnson, given his advanced age and declining health conditions, the court documents stated.

Both Howard and Johnson are residents of Tom Green County, according to court documents.

A woman who answered the phone at Howard’s home telephone number declined to comment. Attempts to contact Johnson’s attorney in San Antonio were unsuccessful.

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San Angelo strip club sued by ‘internationally acclaimed’ models

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Fourteen women — among them a UFC Octagon Girl, a 2009 Miss Cuba and multiple Playboy models — are suing a San Angelo strip club, accusing the business of misappropriating their images.

A petition filed April 11 in Tom Green County by a law firm in Austin is seeking over $1 million in damages from Pgc I Entertainment Inc. and Pgc II Entertainment Inc., both doing business as Desiree’s Gentlemen’s Club San Angelo, 330 W. Washington Drive.

The lawsuit says the models’ images were published without their consent and were used on the Internet and social media in such a way that implied the women either worked as strippers at the club or promoted or endorsed Desiree’s even though none of their images were ever intended to promote sexually oriented businesses.

Desiree’s “has repeatedly misappropriate the Plaintiffs’ Images and has repeatedly published them in both print and digital formats advertising its strip club and events taking place at the strip club,” the petition stated. “The Club’s violations are rampant and ongoing. The Plaintiffs’ Images have been used for years to promote the Club.” “

The lawsuit names Jennifer N. Goana as the club’s registered agent. Goana declined to comment for this story.

The 14 plaintiffs are Brooke Banx, Arianny Celeste Lopez, Irina Voronina, Jamillette Gaxiola, Ina Schnitzer, Laurie Fetter Jacobs, Jessica Hinton, Leanna Adkins, Lina Posada, Mariana Davalos, Megan Daniels, Rosie Jones, Tiffany Toth Gray and Paola Canas.

Most of the women live in California. Others are in Austin; Las Vegas; Henderson, Nevada; New York; or London.

Court documents said the lawsuit stemmed from the strip club’s misappropriation of the models’ images and the publication of those pictures in a defamatory manner. The women are suing on allegations of invasion of privacy and misappropriation, defamation and libel and negligence.

One picture featured Arianny Celeste Lopez — a UFC Octagon Girl since 2006 who has 2.9 million Instagram followers and over 6 million Facebook likes on her page — in an American flag bikini grilling hot dogs promoting a barbecue event at Desiree’s, according to court documents.

Another image showed Jamillette Gaxiola, who was Miss Cuba in 2009, in revealing black lingerie inviting patrons to come and see her during happy hour at the strip club, according to court documents.

“The misappropriated image of (Plaintiff) was deliberately positioned on the Internet and social media posts for Desiree’s to imply that she was a stripper working at the Club or that she endorsed the Club,” the petition alleges for every plaintiff. “The image was used without the permission of (Plaintiff) and is defamatory on its face. The image was circulated via the Internet and social media on many occasions by Desiree’s.”

Court documents said that all suing parties are internationally well-known models who earn substantial amounts of money marketing their images and providing endorsements, branding and other usages associated with their images.

The models’ ability to earn money is heavily dependent upon their control of the use of their images through negotiating a rate based on the manner in which their images are going to be used and paid accordingly, stated the documents.

“The Club knew that Plaintiffs’ permission to use their Images was not given, yet The Club chose to use the Images for their own pecuniary gain,” stated the petition. “The Club used the misappropriated Images of Plaintiffs to create graphic and digital statements that injured Plaintiffs’ reputation, thereby exposing them to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or financial injuries.”

The petition said the club used professionally taken photos as well as “selfies” of the women to promote its business.

Court documents list Playboy Magazine, People Magazine, Maxim, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Guess, Old Spice, Grey Goose, Sephora Cosmetics, Skechers Shoes and numerous others agencies as the plaintiffs’ clients.

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