COLUMBUS, Ga. (CN) - A federal judge brought the children of a fugitive from justice closer to controlling the unusual trust he created to manage a lucrative portfolio of rental properties.
U.S. District Judge Clay Land minced no words in describing the court battle brewing over the assets John Gill entrusted to the Ten Talents Ministry of the Order of the International Academy of Lymphology.
"Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction," Clay wrote. "And this case confirms it."
According to the 27-page ruling, Gill built a "successful rental portfolio" then developed a strange plan to avoid aggressive property taxes. He took a vow of poverty and transferred his rental property fortune into a trust that he could manage as the minister of a "charitable society."
Gill maintained complete control over the assets until his legal problems required he report to prison in 2009. When he instead fled the country, abandoning control of the Gill Family Cornerstone Trust, his children filed suit against his brothers and former business associates to gain control of it.
"Plaintiffs maintain that they are beneficiaries of the Cornerstone Trust and that the trust is irrevocable," Clay wrote.
One of the defendants to the children's lawsuit is their uncle Loren Gill, owner of Elm Leasing, who claims that control the trusts belongs to him.
Instead of presenting "admissible evidence," however, the uncle "pointed to an unauthenticated 'Assignment' certificate which states that Loren Gill is an associate minister" of the charities connected to the Cornerstone Trust, according to the ruling.
In ruling that John Gill's two children, Lauren and the minor K.G., are the beneficiaries of the trust, and that said trust is irrevocable, Judge Land emphasized that "the Cornerstone Trust Declaration clearly manifests John Gill's intention to give a beneficial interest in the trust property to his children."
Loren Gill meanwhile had filed a cross-claim against Kevin Hartshorn and other former business associates of John Gill who "manage the rental properties and trusts and the business entities with which they are affiliated," according to the ruling.
Siding with the Hartshorn defendants, Judge Land noted that the court had already ruled that Loren Gill is not the trust protector of the Cornerstone Trust and is not a trustee on any of the real estate holding trusts.
The ruling forbids Loren Gill from pursuing cross-claims as a beneficiary of the Cornerstone trust.
Loren Gill's cross-claim alleges that the Hartshorn defendants had collected rental proceeds that should have been paid to Elm Leasing.
Citing "obvious fact disputes in the present record," Clay refused to grant Loren Gill summary judgment on claims involving Elm Leasing.
Wallace Whitten, another of John Gill's former business associates, also brought cross-claims as trustee of the real estate holding trusts, but Clay noted that the court previously disabused Whitten of the notion that he was a trustee.
Whitten can pursue cross-claims in his capacity as trustee of the Cornerstone Trust, however, because there is a fact dispute as to that issue, according to the ruling.