William F. Buckley's Brother-in-Law Sued By Kids

Benjamin Heath is accused of stealing from trust fund

Monday, Nov 30, 2009  |  Updated 8:15 AM EDT
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Money, money, money, money. That's what Benjamin Heath's kids say he stole from a trust fund.

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The brother-in-law of the late conservative columnist William F. Buckley is accused of stealing money from a trust fund set up using some of the Buckley family fortune.

Six children of Buckley’s sister, Aloise Buckley Heath, filed a lawsuit against Benjamin Heath, 95, in June in Hartford Superior Court.

They accuse Heath of transferring more than half the money out of the trust that their mother established with her share of assets from her family's oil, gas and mineral rights.

It's unclear how much money is in the trust but some public records indicate that millions of dollars might still be at stake, The Hartford Courant reported on Friday. The children are heirs to the trust.

The Associated Press left messages on Friday for Benjamin Heath's Hartford-based lawyer, John Gale and Heath could not be reached for comment.

The phone number for his home in Newport Beach, Calif., is unlisted.

Aloise Buckley Heath, of West Hartford, was 48 when she died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1967. In her will, she named Benjamin Heath as executor of her estate.

She gained notoriety for trying to "out" communists at her alma mater, Smith College, and she contributed frequently to Ladies Home Journal, the National Review, Reader's Digest and other magazines.

HEMBT TRUST

Six of the couple's 10 children are suing, while four have opted not to join the lawsuit. At issue is the "Hembt Trust."

William Buckley Sr. began acquiring oil rights in several countries in the 1920s in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, as well as the Caribbean, and formed the Catawba Corp.

Each of the elder Buckley's surviving children got nearly 10 percent of Catawba's assets when he died in 1958.

In 1981, Catawba paid an $800,000 fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency had filed a lawsuit alleging that companies controlled by the Buckleys defrauded shareholders of six other oil rights companies in which the family had a stake to, in effect, pad Catawba's coffers.

SUITS AGAINST HEATH

The SEC also ordered Benjamin Heath to pay a $22,500 fine for his role in that scheme, and he's now facing similar allegations lodged by his children.

His children's lawsuit accuses him of transferring more than 50 percent of their mother's trust to a private account called the Westmont Royalty Trust, in which they have no stake.

"The allegations work together in that the conduct of the various trustees was concerted and collaborative, one trust feeding the assets to another trust hence, involving the activities of the trustees," the lawsuit says.

Heath has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, and a decision is pending.

Court documents say Heath hasn't lived in Connecticut for 30 years and he hasn't had any contact with anyone in Connecticut since he left.

Heath also says in court filings that the royalty interests from Aloise Buckley Heath's trust fund are not subject to the lawsuit, because they are in property that is not in Connecticut.

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