LOS ANGELES (CN) - Actor and Fox News commentator Wayne Rogers shirked his financial obligations to his ex-partner and his ailing love child, the mother claims in court.
Melinda Naud sued Wayne M. Rogers in Superior Court, alleging fraud, concealment, false promise and breach of contract.
She claims Rogers refused to have anything more to do with their son, (nonparty) Luigi Calabrese, after the boy underwent surgeries for a serious heart condition.
"Defendant Wayne Rogers is an American film and television star, best known for playing the role of 'Trapper John' on the highly successful CBS television series, 'M*A*S*H,'" the complaint states. "Rogers is also a highly successful business man, financial advisor, and commentator of Fox. Rogers is currently a regular panel member on the Fox News investment television program 'Cashin'' and has owned and managed a business management company, Wayne Rogers & Company, in Los
Angeles, California for over 40 years. Mr. Rogers has been labeled a financial genius and '[G]uru to the rich and famous.' Some of his other ventures (non-inclusive) include being an owner of various restaurants, a vineyard, a bank, and the country's largest convenience store chains, as well as leading the turnaround team that saved 'Kleinfield,' the United States' largest bridal retailer that now produces the reality show, 'Say Yes To Dress.' Rogers has also recently authored a guide to financial success entitled 'Make Your Own Rules: A Renegade Guide to Unconventional Success.' Rogers has taken this title to heart and used it as a roadmap not only in his professional, but personal life."
Naud, an actress who appeared in "Happy Days" as The Fonz's girlfriend, says in the lawsuit that she was Rogers' girlfriend from 1978 to 1985.
In the final year of their relationship, she says, she gave birth to Luigi. After the couple split, Rogers married his current wife Amy Hirsh, according to the complaint.
"Rogers hid his relationship with Naud and his son's existence from his wife Hirsh, and everyone else for that matter, and pretended as if his son did not exist," the 16-page complaint states. "In order to hide his son's existence, Rogers went so far as to demand that Naud only contact him at his office under the pseudonym 'Mrs. St. Claire.' Rogers also begged Naud to keep their son's identity a secret as Rogers explained that his wife Hirsh would go crazy if she knew he had a child, as Hirsh desperately wanted a child, but could not as Rogers had a vasectomy before his marriage with her."
Naud claims that in the early 1990s Rogers agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in child support, to pay for Luigi's undergraduate and graduate education, and to buy a decreasing term life insurance policy of at least $1 million.
But Naud says there was a catch.
To "reap an improper tax benefit," Rogers wrote checks to middlemen attorneys and to L.B.W. Inc., and pretended they were for loans, debts, and earned income, according to the lawsuit. L.B.W. and the attorneys then issued checks to Naud, she says.
Naud, "unaware as to why Rogers insisted on paying her through an intermediary, was forced to pay out of her own pocket for those intermediary services in order for her receive the benefits of the agreement" the complaint states. "Thus, not only was Rogers taking an improper tax benefit, he was also forcing Naud to pay (upwards of $25,000 or more) for these third-party entities to process the child support checks in order to further conceal the true purpose of Rogers' payments to her." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Naud's husband died in 1997. She says she asked Rogers to increase her child support payments, and he offered to set up a $1 million trust for Luigi, provide the boy with a home in the event of Rogers' death, and make up the eight years of unpaid child support, "minus the 75 thousand dollars Rogers finally paid Naud in 1993."
But Rogers abandoned Luigi after he was diagnosed with endocarditis, Naud claims. She says Rogers helped pay the bills for an initial life-saving surgery but "abruptly cut off all communication" when he found out Luigi needed a second surgery and lifetime care.
"Rogers viewed his son as damaged goods, and a financial liability, not only personally but professionally, due to his medical condition," the lawsuit states.
After Luigi graduated from Santa Monica College and UCLA, Rogers refused to pay his tuition or pay for the lifetime insurance, Naud says.
She claims Rogers "vastly understated" his income as $300,000 at the time they entered into the support agreement.
Rogers "has taken a renegade approach to his own son's care and welfare by making his own rules along the way, in the false hopes of achieving some sort of misguided 'success' in successfully avoiding not only his legal and financial but moral responsibilities," the lawsuit states.
Naud seeks compensatory, consequential and punitive damages.
She is represented by Steven Haney of the Haney Law Group.
A representative for Rogers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.