May 31–The former wife of golfer Tom Watson has filed suit over the $4 million embezzlement by an employee of the company that managed her finances and those of her parents.
Linda R. Watson recently filed the lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court against Westwood-based Assured Management Co. and its directors, alleging that they failed to prevent the embezzlement and safeguard her investments.
The former employee, Thomas Hauk, is to be sentenced June 15 in federal court, where he pleaded guilty last December to several counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, forgery and money laundering.
According to allegations in the federal criminal case, Hauk stole more than $4 million over about a 10-year period while working as a bookkeeper for Assured Management.
Linda Watson’s lawsuit alleges that company officials were “asleep at the wheel” as Hauk systematically used her account and trust accounts set up for her and her parents as his “personal piggy bank.”
Hauk used much of the money to purchase expensive cars and motorcycles. Federal authorities recently auctioned off many of them.
Hauk got away with the thefts for so long because he was given “unfettered access” to signature stamps of company officers, which he used to sign checks drawn on Watson’s accounts and deposit them in accounts he set up for himself, according to the lawsuit.
At one point, when an employee of an outside financial organization became suspicious about the amount of money going to Hauk’s accounts, the organization called Assured Management, but Hauk took the call and the embezzlement continued.
Watson’s lawsuit alleges that Assured Management did not have insurance coverage for the losses despite prior assurances from company officials.
“Watson now brings this action to recover, for herself and the trusts, all that was lost by AMC’s misfeasance,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not state how much money Watson and her trusts lost, but it mentions as an example one two-month period in 2012 when Hauk transferred four checks totaling $102,400 from one of Watson’s trusts to a company Hauk controlled.
Her lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in both actual and punitive damages.
“She is anxious to make a full recovery of these funds that were stolen as soon as possible,” said her attorney, John M. Edgar.
The company issued a written statement Tuesday in which it said it was continuing to work with authorities “to ensure the individual who pleaded guilty to his crimes is held fully accountable for his actions.”
The company declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“We prefer to continue any dialogue with Ms. Watson and her counsel through the appropriate channels, rather than in the media,” the company statement said.
Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc
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