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Also on March 5, Huber petitioned the court for $333,000 to acquire a new house for the entire Crompton family, including Lee, his brothers, sisters, father, and stepmother. But guardianship money couldn't be used to buy a house for the whole family. So Huber removed $144,000 for Lee's portion of the purchase price and Peter took out a $189,000 mortgage, payable to the guardianship, for the remainder. The petition was granted, and the deal appears to have been legitimate, offers Taft.
Judge Speiser next approved a June 4 court order to withdraw $270,000 for a mortgage on some vacant land in Davie. Taft believes the deal was proper, but he notes there was a $163,000 discrepancy between the sale price Huber listed in court documents and the one noted in county records. The difference, says Taft, was used by the mortgage holder to build a commercial building on the lot. This is the only deal, he adds, in which there doesn't appear to be any tie between Huber and the mortgage holder.
Beginning in February 1999, Huber allegedly cooked up a series of forged court orders that drained $2.2 million from Crompton's account in about three months.
The first, and largest, was for $1.2 million. The money was used to purchase a single-family home in Rye, New York, valued at more than $1 million. Gunnar and Monica Huber bought the property, then signed it over to Vows Inc., a Florida corporation that lists the Hubers as its only officers. Vows took out a mortgage from the Crompton guardianship for the $1.2 million. None of the transactions was recorded as required by law, maintains Taft.
On the same day, February 16, Huber cranked out two more fake court orders, according to Taft's investigation. The first authorized the withdrawal of $215,000 from the guardianship to facilitate the sale of two properties owned by Peter Crompton. The deals were real; the properties and buyers existed but the order authorizing the withdrawal didn't. The second order authorized a $3000 withdrawal to reimburse Linda Bourdet, Lee Crompton's mother, for travel costs from England so she could visit her son.
On March 2, 1999, Huber allegedly faked another court order authorizing payment of $450,000 to Brian and Maria Bach of Briarcliff Manor, New York, to purchase a $439,000 residence. In return the Bachs took out a mortgage from the guardianship for $450,000. Maria Bach is Monica Huber's sister, asserts Taft. A month later Gunnar Huber allegedly made up another court order for $325,000. This time the money went for a mortgage on a home in Weston owned by William and Erika Diedrick. Erika Diedrick is Gunnar Huber's sister. The Diedricks' phone number is unlisted. They did not respond to a letter mailed by New Times to the house. There is no evidence the Bachs or the Diedricks knew anything about Huber's alleged scam.
The last allegedly fake order, which is undated, transfers responsibility for paying the $5600 monthly stipend (to take care of Lee Crompton) from Lehman Brothers to Hunter & Hunter, the Hollywood law firm where Gunnar Huber worked. This order took effect May 1, 1999. Taft theorizes that, with mortgage payments coming in from deals financed by the bogus documents, Huber would be able to cover the $5600 stipend, even though Crompton's principal at Lehman Brothers had been nearly wiped out.
Huber was thinking ahead, says Taft. "Clearly, if all of a sudden Lehman Brothers went to make that payment and they couldn't, chances are somebody would have gotten alarmed. It was very good."
There were seven forged court orders altogether, Taft contends. In every case it appears Judge Speiser's signature was photocopied and pasted on. The plan fell apart in September 1999, when Twomey received an anonymous phone tip suggesting a closer look into the Crompton guardianship. Twomey put part-time court investigator David Cooper on the case and later added Taft.
Cooper and Taft discovered Lehman Brothers had beaten them to the punch. The company sued Gunnar and Monica Huber and Gunnar's employer, Hunter & Hunter, in September 1999. The complaint, filed in Broward County civil court, alleges Huber "purposefully and maliciously directed the disbursement of monies from the Lehman account for use by persons and entities other than the ward of the guardianship proceeding."
Lehman Brothers asked for and received an injunction freezing the accounts of Gunnar and Monica Huber, Hunter & Hunter, and Vows Inc. until investigators were able to figure out what was going on. Taft and Cooper identified a few accounts Lehman had missed and had those frozen, too. (The amount of money involved is unclear according to court records.)
The injunction hurt Hunter & Hunter. It "essentially terminates the operation of our firm," a company attorney wrote in a petition asking the judge for relief. (The petition was granted several days later, after Hunter & Hunter was able to prove the firm had separated money possibly tainted by Huber's actions from the accounts it used for day-to-day business.) Hunter & Hunter representatives have declined to comment on the issue for this story.
Locking up the assets also brought Monica Huber out of hiding. She filed for divorce from Gunnar and started using her maiden name, Ryan. By then she had quit her job at Lehman Brothers in Miami and moved back to New York to live with her sister. When Judge Speiser granted Taft's request to freeze her personal checking account pending investigation, she penned an impassioned letter to the jurist, declaring her innocence. "I have been taken advantage of by Mr. Huber, just as others have," she wrote. "I am sure that you will discover that I am an innocent party, and I am desperately trying to put my life back together after one year of a disastrous marriage to Mr. Huber." In another letter she characterized her soon-to-be ex-husband as "awful," "abusive," and "deceitful." She wrote that she feared for her own safety if he discovered her whereabouts.