NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (AP) — In the nine months since Jewell Robbins died, thousands of people have filed claims seeking a piece of her estate.
Those filing claims are seeking a return on the money — ranging from $25 to thousands of dollars — they invested with Robbins in hopes of receiving undistributed royalties from a Texas oil strike. Robbins died last Sept. 20 at age 80 after a long illness.
Jessamine Circuit Court Doug Fain counted eight boxes and wire trays stuffed with claims mailed from across the U.S. and Canada, the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/1c4GaGX) reported.
"A lot of money has gone through Jewell's fingers in this deal," investor Dan Monahan of Mason, Ohio, told Jessamine District Judge Janet Booth during a May 30 hearing in Nicholasville.
In 2003, 2006 and 2008, Robbins got in trouble with the state attorney general and state regulators for selling unregistered securities and for not being registered to sell securities.
The state Department of Financial Institutions said Robbins sold shares in baseless lawsuits that attempted to claim unpaid royalties from the 1901 Spindletop oil strike near Beaumont, Texas. Spindletop yielded billions of dollars' worth of crude oil since production began.
In 2009, Robbins was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation for violating securities laws related to the sale of shares in litigation associated with Spindletop.
Monahan would not say how much he invested with Robbins, but he claimed that there are 11,300 people who invested with her.
During its investigation some years ago, the state Department of Financial Institutions counted nearly 10,000 people who had invested with Robbins since 1985.
No one knows how much money was invested through her and her associates. However, a state investigator looking into Robbins' bank records wrote in a 2007 affidavit that she found more than $2.5 million in three accounts. All the deposits were made payable to and were endorsed by Robbins.
In addition, during six months between April and October 2005, after Robbins had voluntarily assured state authorities that neither she nor anyone associated with her would solicit or accept money for Spindletop securities, "slightly less than" $500,000 had been deposited in an account, the investigator found.
On June 16, 2006, Robbins signed a voluntary, permanent injunction that barred her from selling any securities, including partial interest in litigation or judgments.
In 2008, Robbins served about 110 days of a 120-day sentence for contempt of court after Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ruled that she had violated the 2006 injunction and a May 2007 order to refrain from selling securities. The remaining days of the Franklin County sentence were suspended when a Fayette County grand jury indicted Robbins on four felony charges.
Three of those charges were dismissed when she pleaded guilty in 2009.
Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. didn't mince words about the sale of shares when he sentenced Robbins to five years of unsupervised probation.
"I think it was a bunch of bull and I think Mrs. Robbins knows it was bull," Ishmael said.
But in an interview after that 2009 sentencing, Robbins said: "You don't put 30 years of your life into something ... if you believe it's bull."
Apparently many investors filing claims share that conviction.
Booth set a June 13 deadline for people to file claims against Robbins' estate in court.
Booth, in keeping with the wishes outlined in Robbins' last will and testament, appointed Angela Carter of Lexington, a daughter of Robbins, and Robert Mercer, a friend of Robbins, as co-administrators of the estate.
Asked whether there is money to collect, Mercer said, "I don't know. Time will tell."
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com