Lawsuit filed over Buckley family trust fund

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - November 27, 2009

The children of Aloise Buckley Heath, a West Hartford resident who died in 1967, filed a lawsuit against 95-year-old Benjamin Heath in June in Hartford Superior Court. They accuse him of transferring more than half the money out of the trust.

It's unclear how much money is in the trust, which Aloise Buckley Heath established with her share of assets from her family's oil, gas and mineral rights. Some public records indicate that millions of dollars may still be at stake, The Hartford Courant reported Friday. The children are heirs to the trust.

Messages were left Friday for Benjamin Heath's Hartford-based lawyer, John Gale.

Heath could not be reached for comment. The phone number for his home in Newport Beach, Calif., is unlisted.

Aloise Buckley Heath 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.

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.

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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