Willis Carto archive

Including information about his associates

Trial Coverage — IHR vs. Carto

October 28, 1996: IHR Court Case Postponed

The IHR’s long-awaited case in San Diego county against Willis Carto and Henry Fischer has been postponed until Thursday, October 31. The IHR is seeking the return of a $7.5 million bequest that disappeared while in the custody of Carto and Fischer.

The case was assigned to Judge Maino in Department 11. Pretrial motions and jury selection should start at 9:00 AM Thursday, October 31. It is possible that testimony could be heard as early as Monday, November 4.

October 31, 1996: The Trial Is Finally Underway

The case of IHR vs. Willis Carto and Henry Fischer got underway today (Thursday). Carto had for months told the court that he wanted a jury trial, and that the trial would take approximately 24 days to complete.

This turns out to have been just another stalling tactic on Carto’s part. (It is difficult to get 24 consecutive court days, especially with a jury, which meant the trial date had to be pushed far enough into the future that there were no conflicts with other cases.) Just before trial was to begin, Carto waived trial by jury, so the matter will be heard by Judge Maino in Department 11 of the San Diego court.

The first day of trial could hardly have gone any better for the IHR, according to Mark Weber, who was in the courtroom for the proceedings. Carto was called as one of the first witnesses, and time and again he impeached his previous testimony on virtually every substantive issue.

Carto’s current defense seems to be that Jean Farrel was such a good friend that she gave Willis the $7.5 million to do with as he liked. Every known document in this case contradicts this bizarre claim. Willis admits that he controls the money, but says he does not know who actually owes the money, a typically Talmudic example of Carto hair-splitting and selective memory.

Former IHR employee Tom Marcellus was called next, and was a strong witness for the IHR, as he has been so many times in the past.

Willis was then called again in the afternoon session, and resumed impeaching himself on numerous points.

On Friday there will be a half-day session. On Monday, attorney Mark Lane will be present, so IHR attorneys will be allowed to ask Carto questions relating to Liberty Lobby’s role in the disappearance of IHR funds.

It appears as though Carto does not intend to call many witnesses of his own, and it is possible that he may not call any at all, which could mean that all testimony could be finished by Tuesday.

November 4, 1996: Carto Defense Fails to Make Headway

After Thursday’s disastrous session, Carto’s attorneys Randy Waier and Mark Lane attempted to salvage their position by keeping Thomas Marcellus on the witness stand for the shortened Friday session, and virtually all of the Monday session.

Waier and Lane clearly aimed to impeach Marcellus as a witness, pointing out tiny and inconsequential discrepancies among testimonies given by Marcellus over the years. They also seemed to be trying to exculpate Carto by pointing out that Marcellus had acted under Carto’s orders for many years. So desperate is Carto for some shred of cover in this case that his attorneys were probing whether or not Marcellus had paid his income taxes.

The IHR remains confident of the strength of its case, and feels that none of Marcellus' testimony was in the least bit damaging - to the IHR, at least. Marcellus remains, as always, one of the strongest witnesses against Carto (with the exception of Carto himself, of course).

IHR attorneys hope to return Carto to the stand to question him about Liberty Lobby’s relationship to the embezzled funds.

November 5, 1996: No Relief for Carto in Sight

Willis Carto’s attorneys are taking the proceedings of his trial for embezzlement far afield in their search for something - anything - to excuse their client’s conduct in the disappearance of $7.5 million in IHR funds.

Today, both ex-board member Tom Kerr and current board member Mark Weber took the witness stand, but hours of questioning produced very little relevant information. As Judge Runston G. Maino stated yet again, the purpose of the trial is to determine if millions of dollars meant for the IHR were converted to other uses. The Judge seems completely uninterested in discussions about personality clashes, how the non-IHR recipients of IHR monies were good causes, Carto’s claim to have secretly bought the parent corporation of the IHR back in 1966 (which he then promptly forgot, only to remember again in 1994 after losing his role as puppet master for the IHR in a court case he brought to help hide his crimes), and other side issues.

Wednesday, IHR attorneys hope to return Carto to the stand to testify about Liberty Lobby’s receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars of IHR funds, diverted by Carto without the knowledge of the IHR or the board of directors in whose name he claimed to be acting.

After that, there may be one or two other witnesses, after which time there should be final arguments. It is hoped that the trial itself will be over by Thursday or Friday. It is not expected that the Judge will issue a ruling from the bench. It is possible, however, that the Judge will issue a tentative ruling either from the bench or within a couple of days after final arguments, giving each side a limited amount of time to come up with any reinforcing or rebuttal points, after which time a final ruling would be handed down.

November 6, 1996: IHR Concludes Presentation of Case Against Carto

A past and present member of the board of directors for the IHR’s parent corporation gave testimony today that impeaches claims by Willis Carto that he was given $7.5 million by the board of directors. According to Carto, the board of directors voted in a meeting in 1991 to refuse the money, instead giving it to Carto.

Aside from the fact that, by California law, it would have been illegal for the corporation to do this without permission from the Attorney General (which they neither asked for nor received), there are a couple of major problems with Carto’s story.

First, there are two separate sets of minutes for the alleged board meeting that took place on this day. One set of minutes does indeed record that the money was voted to Carto, but the other minutes, apparently describing the same meeting, record no such action. For that matter, there is no mention of the money whatsoever. In fact, the second set of minutes lists a different roster of directors present at the meeting than does the first set of minutes.

Regardless of these discrepancies, people listed as having participated in these meetings have sworn that they were never asked to participate in this meeting (or any other board meetings), and most certainly did not vote to give away millions of dollars meant for the IHR. Carto himself has stated under oath that these meetings never took place. Furthermore, telephone records show no trace of a conference call on that day, suggesting there was no meeting at all, let alone two.

Today’s testimony established that one of the key people shown as having voted to transfer the money to Carto was not at either meeting, never received notification of any meeting, and would not have given his assent to such a transfer even if he had been at the meeting in question.

Afterwards, there was a long session of wrangling among the attorneys over the admission of documents into evidence. Astonishingly, Carto’s attorneys attempted to block the admission of sworn statements by two of Carto’s codefendants, Lewis and LaVonne Furr. Eventually, Judge Runston Maino ruled that the Furr’s depositions would be admitted as evidence, without having to read them into the record. This means IHR attorneys will be able to refer to them during closing arguments.

IHR attorneys also tried to enter into evidence the final ruling in the case brought by Carto crony Tom Kerr and Elisabeth Carto against the IHR’s parent corporation, challenging the legitimacy of the board of directors. (The IHR prevailed in this case, as it has in virtually every other case so far.) The Judge ruled against entering this decision into evidence, which is a sign that he well understands that the issue is not the membership of the board of directors, but rather where’s the money?

Carto was not called to the stand today, but with the defense now putting on its case, the IHR attorneys will be able to cross-examine Carto when he is presented as a defense witness.

The trial seems to be drawing to a close, and the Judge is quoted in today’s San Diego newspaper as saying that it will be over by Friday.

November 7, 1996: Carto and Company Go Down the Rabbit Hole

Willis Carto’s legal team of Randy Waier and Mark Lane (ostensibly appearing as counsel for Carto’s Liberty Lobby, a co-defendant in this suit), kicked off the case for the defense with a predictably ill-fated motion for non-suit. With that out of the way, Waier began his truly tragi-comic attempts to pull Judge Runston Maino through the looking glass into Carto’s wonderland. Waier’s disjointed, confusing, patronizing, and at times just plain loud blizzard of contradictory assertions seemed more designed to antagonize the Judge rather than win freedom for his client. Lane was smoother, but with virtually no documents or law on his client’s side, he seemed no more effective than Waier.

With Carto on the stand, the defense introduced into evidence letters written by Jean Farrell, the source of the millions of dollars over which Carto took control. These letters, written to Carto, were said to show that Farrell wanted the money to go to Carto, not to the IHR. Unfortunately for Carto’s muddled crew, the first letter they presented has Farrell explicitly stating to Carto that she wants her money to go to the IHR. Carto continues to contend that this really means Farrell wanted the money to go to him, personally.

Carto also continues his absurd claim to be a permanent substitute incorporator of the IHR’s parent corporation. This novel status, unknown in law, supposedly derives from Carto’s acquaintance with the daughter of one of the original incorporators. This is somewhat akin to the Red Queen claiming the right to rule based on her having received the Sword of Damocles from the Lady of the Lake.

Carto also maintains that his association with the IHR was severed because in 1991 IHR attorney Bill Hulsy heard Carto say that Farrell had given a substantial sum of money to the IHR, and immediately went to work to get the money for himself. It is unclear in this scenario why there was a two-year delay between the time Carto confided in Hulsy, and the meeting at which board of directors (of which Hulsy was not a member) voted to kick Carto loose. It is also unclear why Hulsy is not the attorney seeking the recovery of the missing funds for the IHR, if he was so driven by an avarice fueled by these funds.

It is similarly unclear how the Hulsy theory fits in with Carto’s published articles in The Spotlight claiming that it was the CIA, the Mossad, the ADL, and others, working in concert, who caused Carto’s ouster. Or with other Carto claims that the whole matter was a plot by the Church of Scientology to gain control of the IHR.

For what it is worth, Hulsy’s legal work on behalf of the IHR has not only been borderline brilliant (he has won virtually every encounter with Carto, and was the engineer behind the IHR’s big win over Mel Mermelstein), it has also been surprisingly inexpensive. And as for the Church of Scientology’s so-called take-over, the only Scientologists who ever worked at the IHR were hired by Carto himself, and have long since left for greener pastures, leaving the IHR to do the work it has been doing for years - which is more than Carto has done. It is unnecessary to comment on allegations involving the CIA, the Mossad, the ADL, etc.

It is expected that the defense team will finish with Carto Friday morning, and will call one or two other witnesses. The IHR will then call a couple of rebuttal witnesses, which means that by Friday afternoon all testimony could be finished in this case, leaving only the final arguments.

November 8, 1996: Final arguments begin

Final arguments began today in the IHR’s case against Willis Carto, Henry Fischer, and others, regarding the disappearance of $7.5 million left to the IHR by Jean Farrell.

After a thorough, point-by-point summary of the evidence and law in the case by the IHR’s attorneys, Liberty Lobby’s attorney Mark Lane made his final arguments. With no law or facts on his side, Lane was forced to misrepresent documents and statements, and on several occasions avoided answering direct questions from Judge Runston Maino about specific defense claims. Lane implied that because the IHR wasn't a very big corporation, that it was okay for Carto to divert millions meant for the corporation. Lane also claimed that a small corporation such as the IHR couldn't be expected to operate legally, a reference to the days during which Carto was pulling the strings. Lane also told the Judge that the IHR should be grateful to have received what few dollars it did from the bequest, a tribute to Carto’s handling of the whole affair.

Tuesday, November 12 should be the last day in court, with Carto’s attorney Randy Waier making his closing arguments, capped off by final closing arguments by IHR attorneys.

November 12, 1996: IHR Attorney Paints Bleak Picture of Carto Involvement

Today saw the final closing arguments in the IHR’s legal action against Willis Carto, Henry Fischer, and others, for the conversion of millions of dollars meant for the IHR. Carto, supposedly in charge of making sure the money made it from Switzerland to the IHR, now claims through his attorney that the money was his to spent as he wished.

Among the other claims made by Carto’s desperate defense team, are suggestions that:

  1. Carto owned the IHR from the mid-60s until the present, while simultaneously having no legal connection to the IHR until 1985;
  2. Carto’s connection with the IHR did not begin until 1986, even though there is a 1985 document (on IHR letterhead, signed by Tom Marcellus) giving Carto power of attorney to secure the assets for the IHR;
  3. Carto had no idea how much money the IHR was supposed to receive from the multi-million dollar bequest until 1991, even though he swore under oath (in a 1987 legal action in North Carolina) that the amount of the bequest was $16 million - the true figure;
  4. One of Carto’s codefendants (Lewis Furr) had no legal knowledge, even though he had worked as a court clerk for 12 years;
  5. Two of Carto’s codefendants (Lewis and LaVonne Furr) were completely protected by California law in their decision to give Carto the IHR millions, leaving unsaid why these two codefendants (who were also represented by Carto’s attorney Randy Waier) failed to make any appearance on their own behalf, and were in default, leaving themselves open to a multimillion dollar judgment;
  6. The board of directors of the IHR’s parent corporation knew all about the bequest, and voted to transfer the money to Carto voluntarily based on information provided by Carto, even though Carto himself claims not to know the details of the transaction, and members of the board of directors serving at that time sworn under oath that Carto never apprised them of anything, to say nothing of allowing them to vote to give him millions;
  7. The IHR was too broke to hire an attorney to go after the money itself, which was in no way connected to Carto’s moves to drain the IHR of every last penny during the Mel Mermelstein suit, in case of an adverse judgment;
  8. The IHR didn't put up one penny of the money to recover the bequest, even though minutes of the Carto-controlled board of directors reflect that the corporation was broke because it had paid so much money to lawyers in Europe;
  9. Carto himself put up $400,000 of his own money to hire lawyers in Europe, even though he swore under oath that the money really came from Liberty Lobby;
  10. Millions of dollars went to pay Swiss taxes, even though Carto produced an accounting on his last day of testimony that shows no taxes being paid;
  11. What little remained of the money was spent on unspecified good causes, even though an internal memo from Carto employee Blaine Hutzel indicates that in 1993, over 2 million had been spent, and (at least) an additional 2 million remained to be spent.
  12. The attorneys in Europe had to be paid in advance, necessitating a huge amount of money, even though Carto wrote in a letter after the litigation was over that it was time to pay the lawyers.

There was no reason given by the defense as to why Carto continued to use the name of the IHR in attempting to get the money for many months after the board of directors supposedly voted to give it to him free and clear.

The list goes on and on, and was ably presented to the court by IHR attorneys, who also supplied mountains of other evidence and the law to back up their allegations.

It is now up to Judge Runston Maino to sort the wheat from the chaff. He has promised to issue his findings in writing as soon as his schedule permits. There is no way of knowing how long this may take, but the IHR attorneys are hoping for some kind of statement of decision by the end of next week.