Continued from Case Diary >>> "THE CASE OF THE ITALIAN GIGOLO"

On the date of the sale of the villa, in the attorney’s office, Raphael suggested that, to simplify the transaction, and to avoid bringing the buyer's Swiss funds into Sweden, the funds could be transferred to another Swiss bank account. Raphael helpfully flew to Zurich to effectuate the transfer and deposit, and in doing so, stated his name as owner of the account. Upon learning of this fact, Jennifer was, understandably upset and insisted that Raphael accompany her on the trip to Zurich to visit the bank. Reaching the bank at five minutes before closing, the Swiss bank officer and Raphael adamantly stated to Jennifer that having her name as signatory on the account would be equivalent to ownership. Jennifer, although not completely satisfied, signed the signature card. The account still reflected Raphael as account owner. Raphael assured Jennifer that he was experienced in international securities and banking, and that he would expertly manage her money. Jennifer, hormones flowing, was pacified, and very much in love with this man 36 years her junior. She felt young and desirable being seen with Raphael, and enjoyed the incredulous looks and comments from her friends and acquaintances. She tolerated his flaming temper and the violent fights, which usually resulted in bruises on her arms and neck. When Raphael decided she should move back to the United States, she agreed and they made plans to become established in business on Florida's Gold Coast. Six months later, Raphael and Jennifer were sitting in a plush downtown lawfirm in Palm Beach, Florida, opening the offshore corporation in the name of which Jennifer was purchasing a 3 million dollar home in Hobe Sound. However, Raphael made certain that the transfer of funds from Switzerland and payment for the residence appeared in his name. When the attorney presented the receipt for acceptance of the bearer shares for the corporation, as Jennifer reached to sign, Raphael quickly took the receipt and signed it. Jennifer, not wanting to create a scene in the attorney's office, meekly acquiesced. The shares were put in a joint safe deposit box. Jennifer opened an interior decorating service specializing in European and Provencial antique interiors. Raphael transferred $40,000.00 into her account on a monthly basis. They purchased a 90-foot sail boat, two Bentleys, and other accoutrements of an upscale lifestyle. Jennifer insisted that they marry, but Raphael became even more abusive. After violent arguments and resistance, he finally agreed. On their wedding day at their home overlooking the intercoastal waterway (with an underground pass through under the house leading to A1A with a beach cottage on the Atlantic Ocean) Raphael was openly verbally abusive to Jennifer, who reduced to tears. Disdainfully, he went through with the marriage ceremony, laughing sarcastically in front of the socially elite and wealthy guests. When all were gathered for the elaborate dinner, Raphael suddenly announced he was leaving to meet a business associate. Over Jennifer's protests and the guests consternation, Raphael stormed from the house and wasn't seen for two days. The relationship went from bad to worse. Raphael had the entire house bugged, as well as Jennifer's telephone and automobile. He would initiate screaming fights during which he would hold his hand over Jennifer's mouth or choke her until she could not breath, then throw her against the wall. During one episode, her heart stopped. As a battered wife, Jennifer sought medical attention, but begged the physician not to report the domestic violence. Raphael flagrantly conducted affairs with young models and escorts. He removed the luxurious sail boat from the dock, mooring it at a beach marina close by so that the boat would be accessible without Jennifer's notice. He opened a restaurant. When Jennifer would question him regarding her finances, Raphael would become violent and assault her. He also possessed a gun and threatened her with it. She learned an automatic reflex not to ask about the subject of her money. Finally, in order to facilitate his love life, Raphael moved from their home into a second investment home located nearby. Jennifer, by now extremely jealous, would walk to their second home and plead and cry outside of the front door, Raphael listening on the other side. He would come out, brutally strike her several times and leave, tires squealing on the driveway, Jennifer in hot pursuit in her car. During one incident, Jennifer’s screams of pain were so loud the neighbors called the police. Jennifer, her face bleeding, still in denial of the domestic violence, tried to protect Raphael, but the officers found probable cause to arrest him. Jennifer then employed an attorney to represent Raphael. During the course of the domestic violence case, Jennifer lied to the District Attorney, and lied in court, adamantly denying the existence of any ongoing abuse from her husband. Raphael's attorney was able to get the case dismissed. Raphael resumed his second lifestyle as before, and his violence towards Jennifer escalated, to the extent she believed he had tampered with the brakes in her automobile, and that he had attempted to poison her during a recent illness. Raphael, in complete control of the finances, transferred almost all of the money in the Swiss bank accounts to local Florida banks, banks in Italy, and banks in South America. Without Jennifer's knowledge, using their offshore corporation as a vehicle to obtain power giving him authorization to sell or dispose of the real property, he mortgaged their multimillion-dollar estate to its equity limit, transferring that money as well to offshore banks. Little did Jennifer know her own husband had embezzled her million-dollar "nest egg"! To Jennifer, it was the last straw when Raphael failed to transfer funds into her operating account as usual. To her utter shock, an attorney telephoned her house saying he represented Raphael and that Raphael wanted a divorce. Now, destitute and sick in mind and body, Jennifer frantically began to seek legal counsel.

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PART 2.

A flock of brown pelicans lazily wafted around the picturesque Palm Beach Courthouse. It was a humid, sleepy June morning, but the court personnel and scurrying attorneys with their clients were oblivious to the weather. Jennifer's knees were weak as she approached the judge's chamber door. She had received no positive results from the domestic violence court which, at first , was heard in a court division separate from her divorce case. There, her credibility had been destroyed because Raphael's attorney revealed a record replete with Jennifer's many vacillations in pursuing Raphael's past physical abuse. Jennifer sadly remembered how stubbornly she insisted upon dismissing two previous domestic violence cases, adamantly refusing to listen to pleas of the state prosecutor, and those of her friends, to face reality. Raphael's attorney successfully transferred the domestic violence case to the divorce case, where the judge delayed ruling on a permanent domestic violence injunction against Raphael. 

After numerous motions, three ten hour mediations, and a full blown final hearing with witnesses' sworn testimony and financial evidence, the judicial assistant telephoned, stating the judge would announce his decision today. Jennifer's well founded misgivings arose from observing that the judge, a burly and intimidating 6 foot 5 inch former professional football player, seemed to enjoy bonding with the opposing counsel. By continuously sustaining the opposing counsel's objections with no legal basis, the judge often made it difficult for Jennifer's attorney to argue the case. Recusing the judge became impossible when he left for two months' vacation, thus preventing a motion for recusal from being heard. The interim, substitute judges were reluctant to rule upon important issues. By the time the judge returned to the bench, Jennifer's finances were zero, she could no longer conduct discovery, pay her attorney, or afford an appeal. Neither could she pay a private investigator or an accountant to give an accurate financial picture. In comparison, Raphael's financial resources were unlimited, hidden in dummy corporations off shore, while he kept any visible U.S. funds at a minimum. 

With an ominous look, the judge peered over the bench at both Jennifer and Raphael, and their respective attorneys. "Madame", he said, staring at Jennifer, as tears rolled slowly down her cheeks, "you submitted no real proof regarding the amount and whereabouts of money you claim your husband still possesses that should be yours. Both local and Swiss bank accounts reflect a zero balance. Your property is mortgaged to the hilt with corporate documents that make it clear you acquiesced to the loans and use of proceeds. In fact, your husband submitted an accounting evincing the money has been spent over a period of time on an elevated, luxurious lifestyle and failing investments, and that you agreed to these expenditures until the funds were completely depleted. Undoubtedly, for many years you refused to perceive your actual financial circumstances." The judge next addressed Raphael. "Sir, while it is my belief that in all likelihood you improperly took your Wife's money and cleverly sequestered it, I have no evidence before me that legally could allow an imputation of income to you. I also believe you are a conjugal terrorist, yet your Wife has not produced sufficient proof to show she has a reasonable fear for her physical safety at your hands."

To Jennifer's dismay, the judge ruled she was the financially superior party, she was entitled to no alimony, and that Raphael was insolvent. Jennifer received title to the residence, but, with Raphael's various lines of credit and loans against the property, the home would bring little sale proceeds. Each was allowed to keep their respective personal property, some of which Raphael was ordered to return to Jennifer. Spiritually and financially wounded, Jennifer planned her return to Sweden to live with her adult children. Minutes before leaving to attend the real estate closing on her beautiful waterfront home, the telephone rang. Jennifer laughed as she listened to a familiar voice, "Jennifer, it's Peder. Of course, the children told me everything. I've sent you the airline tickets for the flight to Sweden."