Love's Labor Lost

Cleared last year of criminal charges, the oilman's former pal now wants cash

Crusty, cootish, a legendary ass-chewer, W.A. "Tex" Moncrief Jr. is -- to put it lightly -- blunt.

So when the multimillionaire Fort Worth oilman spoke to the Dallas Observer last summer about the particularly embarrassing defense his ex-secretary used against charges she embezzled from him, Tex put it like this: "She's a liar. It's all lies."

Mary Ellen Lloyd, now a waitress of 55, had claimed she carried on a 16-year affair that began with an assignation on a Moncrief office couch. ("Cowtown Babylon," August 27).

The relationship, she told a Tarrant County jury last year, evolved into a routine where she would leave the garage door open at her suburban Edgewood Village home. Tex would tool over in his Cadillac, pull into the garage, have sex, a drink, shower, and leave in time to make his regular gin rummy game at the Shady Oaks Country Club. In return, she said, she had free rein in his personal checking account as long as she didn't outspend Mrs. Moncrief's $25,000-a-month allowance. The arrangement was of great benefit to a Fort Worth clothing boutique where Lloyd spent more than $205,000, and Las Vegas, where Lloyd would travel, she says, to place Tex's bets.

To back up the Vegas chapter of the story, Lloyd produced a piece of paper with betting instructions in Moncrief's handwriting and a receipt for the same $7,700 losing bet. Prosecutors in the criminal case alleged that between 200 and 300 checks -- five or six checks a month going back to the 1980s -- had been written on Moncrief's account and paid to Lloyd or her credit cards.

In the end, after watching both Lloyd and Moncrief take the stand, the jury believed Lloyd, enough so to acquit her of felony theft charges after deliberating less than three hours.

Now, in a lawsuit filed July 8, she alleges Moncrief's comments to the Observer amounted to defamation.

"There is no doubt he said it," says Dallas attorney Bob Hinton, who represented Lloyd in her criminal case. Given the embarrassing personal details, "I don't know what else he could have said. It's what we expected," Hinton adds. The suit, which does not name the newspaper as a defendant, asks for an unspecified amount of actual and punitive damages.

One of Lloyd's most explosive claims against Moncrief is an allegation that he pressured her to keep quiet during a 1995 federal tax investigation of Moncrief, asking her to leave town and later assuring her that her embezzlement charges would be "worked out" in return for her silence. This amounted to an abuse of the legal process, Hinton and two other Lloyd attorneys allege.

Lloyd's attorneys say she was left with the impression that if she did not speak with the feds, the criminal matter would be dropped.

Moncrief's side is likely to point out that the federal investigation had concluded more than a year before the alleged deal, when Moncrief agreed to pay the government a $23 million civil penalty, ending the IRS' civil and criminal probes.

Shortly after a Moncrief accountant discovered the checks written to Lloyd in mid-1995, Lloyd abruptly skipped town, according to testimony in the criminal case. The divorced mother of one moved to Las Vegas, then Barstow, California, where she was arrested in late 1996.

Moncrief, who could not be reached for comment, has denied all of Lloyd's claims. One of his attorneys has called them "outrageously false."

"She knows he's a rich guy, so why not try to ring the gong?" says Moncrief attorney Hugh Connor. He says it's almost a textbook defense for a woman accused of stealing from a man like Moncrief to claim there was an affair.

Connor says it's curious that with all of Moncrief's alleged trips to Lloyd's little brick bungalow, no one ever saw him or his car.

Prosecutors attempted to poke similar holes in Lloyd's testimony at her trial -- asking why her daughter had never seen Moncrief, or how he could possibly travel to and from their little love nest in the time she said he usually took and still make his country club card game. On cross-examination, she was asked to explain why she had not a single Valentine card or birthday note or any other written proof of the extramarital affair. Prosecutors brought witnesses who said Lloyd did have a long-running affair, but it was with another man.

Hinton pointed out that it was just as inconceivable that someone could be stealing out of Tex Moncrief's personal checkbook for more than a decade and he not know it.

As the preliminaries in the civil case have begun, the sides are arguing over whether various claims are too old to press. Moncrief's attorneys say the statute of limitations has run out on many of Lloyd's accusations. Hinton counters that until the criminal charges against her were settled, civil claims couldn't be brought.

The wealthy defendant, who suffered a stroke last fall but is said to be recovered, has a full plate of courtroom battles to see him through old age. Moncrief and his sons Charles and Richard have accused their former accountant Bill Jarvis of conspiring to initiate the IRS investigation and illegally split fees with several attorneys and associates. That civil case, which was postponed by Tex's health problems, is set for trial in September.

Jarvis, who says he was simply reporting suspicions of tax fraud to the appropriate authorities, filed a sworn affidavit in his case saying he believed Moncrief "set up" Lloyd. He said he had told the IRS that Lloyd was the "bag lady for Tex's gambling activities."

With the new case, she wants Moncrief to dig down and replenish her now-empty bag.

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