“San Diego Ex-Mayor Confronts $1 Billion Gambling Problem.” By Jennifer Medina. New York Times. February 14, 2013. A former mayor of San Diego spent the last decade wagering more than a billion dollars at casinos across the country, eventually liquidating her savings, auctioning her belongings, selling off real estate, borrowing from friends and taking more than $2 million from a charity set up by her late husband, a fast-food tycoon. The former mayor, Maureen O’Connor, 66, blamed an addiction to gambling aggravated by a brain tumor for the gargantuan spree. Her lawyers said that while she had made well over a billion dollars in bets at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and San Diego, her actual net losses were around $13 million. Federal prosecutors said it was impossible to know precisely how much Ms. O’Connor had lost over those years, but she emerged with her fortune gone and her health shattered. She took out second and third mortgages on her La Jolla, Calif., home to pay for the gambling. The former Southern California political power broker, whose husband, Robert O. Peterson, founded the Jack-in-the-Box fast-food chain, appeared in court in San Diego on Thursday to answer to charges that she had stolen money from her late husband’s foundation to fuel her addiction. She walked unsteadily into court, leaning on a cane and appearing wobbly and distraught. She teared up as she told reporters, “Those of you who know me here would know that I never meant to hurt the city that I love.” Ms. O’Connor was not accused of taking money from the city, but the money in her husband’s trust would probably have gone to local charities. “I always intended to pay it back and I still intend to pay it back,” she said.
“San Diego ex-mayor used charity funds to cover gambling debts; Maureen O’Connor, San Diego’s first female mayor, admits in court that she took more than $2 million from her late husband’s foundation to pay casinos. She agrees to repay the money in a plea deal.” Los Angeles Times. February 15, 2013.
“New Scrutiny for a Bequest to an Order of Catholics.” By Sharon Otterman. New York Times. February 15, 2013. When Gabrielle D. Mee, a wealthy Rhode Island widow, left her $60 million fortune to a powerful Catholic order called the Legion of Christ in 2008, revelations had already begun to surface that its charismatic founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, had molested under-age seminarians and fathered several children. But a niece of Mrs. Mee, Mary Lou Dauray, came to believe that her aunt must have been kept in the dark about Father Maciel’s misdeeds, so that her fortune would go to the order. On Friday, thousands of pages of documents in a 2009 lawsuit that Mrs. Dauray filed were released to the public, shedding additional light on how the Legion managed information about its founder and came to control Mrs. Mee’s money. The documents had been sealed by the court, but several news organizations, including The New York Times, sued to have them released. A Rhode Island judge ruled on Thursday that there was no reason they should not be made public. They had not been fully reviewed by The Times by Friday night. They include depositions given by top leaders of the Legion, including the Rev. Luis Garza, the current head of the Legion’s North American operations. Widowed in 1985, Mrs. Mee pledged her life to the order at age 80, and she promised that she would eventually release her assets to the organization. The papers explain how the order came to control most aspects of her life and include a deposition, given for another lawsuit, in which she explained how happy she was living with the order. Mrs. Dauray’s lawsuit was dismissed by a Rhode Island Superior Court judge last year, after he ruled that she lacked the legal standing to dispute the terms of her aunt’s will. Bernard A. Jackvony, Mrs. Dauray’s lawyer, said on Friday that he was filing an appeal. “She was a very believing and trusting woman,” said Mrs. Dauray, 72, who lives in California. She said she wanted her aunt’s fortune to go to other Catholic charities. “I know that she wouldn’t have given this money if she had known about the founder,” she said.
“Livestrong Not Immune From Turmoil Surrounding Its Founder.” By Mary Pilon and Andrew W. Lehren. New York Times. February 15, 2013. Craig Staley could barely keep up with the demand for Livestrong merchandise at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin, Tex., in 2008, when Lance Armstrong announced that he would return to professional cycling after a brief retirement. Customers at the store, co-owned by Armstrong, stocked up on yellow bracelets, T-shirts, sunglasses, hats and water bottles bearing the name of Armstrong’s foundation, Livestrong, which had raised millions to aid cancer research and survivors. For customers, the merchandise stood for hope and victory. “Maybe you call it the Lance effect,” Staley, a general manager at Mellow Johnny’s, said when recalling the popularity of Livestrong gear. But sales of Livestrong items at Mellow Johnny’s declined after Armstrong rode in the 2009 Tour de France. “A lot of these folks aren’t flocking here to get a connection to Lance like they used to be,” he said. Armstrong has experienced an extraordinary fall from grace in recent months. The United States Anti-Doping Agency released a report saying he had participated in an elaborate doping program and bullied others to cheat with him so he could succeed. After years of adamantly denying all allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong admitted last month that some of the accusations were true. Now, in an effort to have his lifetime competition ban reduced, he is talking with antidoping officials about possibly disclosing who helped him and how he covered up his doping for nearly a decade. With Armstrong involved in one of the biggest doping scandals in sports history, will consumers continue to buy licensed Livestrong merchandise? For the Livestrong Foundation, the question is significant. Last year, it generated more than $48 million in revenue, much of which was received before Armstrong was stripped in October of his seven Tour de France titles. Of that total, about a third, $16.79 million, came from the sale of licensed Livestrong products and merchandise. Rae Bazzarre, a Livestrong spokeswoman, said the sale of Livestrong products was down about 17 percent since 2010.
“Livestrong Tattoos as Reminder of Personal Connections, Not Tarnished Brand.” New York Times. February 15, 2013.
“Hundreds sue Ky. hospital over heart procedures; The hospital and 11 cardiologists are accused of conspiring to perform unnecessary procedures to unjustly enrich themselves.” By Andrew Wolfson, USA Today/Louisville Courier-Journal. February 17, 2013. After enduring at least two-dozen heart procedures over two decades, disabled former meat cutter Edward Marshall decided in September 2010 that he’d been treated long enough by cardiologists at St. Joseph London hospital. So he saw a specialist in Lexington, who told him some disturbing news: An artery treated just months earlier was barely blocked, and there had been no need for Dr. Sandesh “Sam” Patil to enlarge it with a balloon angioplasty, then prop it open with a stent. “I would have not carried out this procedure,” the Lexington cardiologist, Dr. Michael R. Jones, told Marshall in a letter that is included in the court record. Marshall, 67, who lives in London, became the first of nearly 400 people to sue the London hospital and 11 cardiologists, including Patil, claiming they conspired to perform unnecessary, risky and often painful heart procedures to unjustly enrich themselves. The suits, which also name the hospital’s parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, allege that two patients died and that the others will be required to take dangerous blood-thinning medications for life and are at risk of other potentially fatal complications. The hospital and other physicians named as defendants deny the allegations. “These were very sick people who needed the interventions, and got them,” said the hospital’s lead lawyer, Todd Thompson, who calls the conspiracy allegations “Alice in Wonderland stuff.” But records show the plaintiffs aren’t the only ones who have Patil and the London hospital in their sights.