One day in June 1995, Mary Ellen Lloyd called in sick to work, citing a variety of ailments.
Then she vanished.
She would later recount how she packed a few personal effects from her modest home in suburban Fort Worth--such as her collection of gold and porcelain swans--stowed them in her Dodge Stealth, then drove away from her 19-year job as personal secretary to one of Texas' richest men, multimillionaire oilman W. A. "Tex" Moncrief Jr.
Her disappearance was followed by the filing of a criminal complaint, and 18 months later, police tracked down the divorced mother of one to Barstow, California. She wasn't exactly hard to find. Local officers picked her up at a condo she'd rented in her own name.
Lloyd's disappearance somehow escaped media attention at a time when the papers were fairly well focused on the 78-year-old Moncrief and his family. The mantle of privacy surrounding him and his closely held business had been yanked aside six months earlier, when federal agents raided his three-story office building in downtown Fort Worth and carted away a computer system and more than a million pages of financial documents.
The raid, carried out as part of an investigation into allegations of massive tax fraud, set into motion various legal, personal, and political battles that are still reverberating. Most important for Mary Ellen Lloyd, the IRS blitz prompted Tex Moncrief's team of lawyers to begin combing through his financial records--including the personal checkbooks Lloyd had kept on her desk.
In several sloppily maintained ledgers, they discovered that between 200 and 300 checks--about five or six checks a month going back to the 1980s--had been written on Tex's or his deceased father's accounts and paid to Lloyd or her credit cards. The criminal investigation that followed showed Lloyd's MasterCards had been used for gambling trips to Las Vegas, and for more than $205,000 in clothes purchased at a single west Fort Worth boutique.
An accountant brought in by Moncrief's tax defense team discovered the payments just before Lloyd left town. In what appeared at first blush to be a clear case of embezzlement, Moncrief filed a criminal complaint, and the Tarrant County District Attorney's office obtained a two-count indictment accusing Lloyd of second-degree felony theft.
Once she was arrested and extradited to Tarrant County, though, her trial became one of the most extraordinary courtroom tales in the city since millionaire Cullen Davis was tried and acquitted of killing two people in a shooting spree at his west Fort Worth mansion in 1976.
During the four-day trial, which took place in late April this year and gained not a single mention in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lloyd took the stand and conceded she took every penny of the $400,000 she was accused of taking, and more--all with Tex's blessing.
In a proceeding in which both Lloyd and Moncrief testified, she said she was his mistress and had carried on a sexual affair with him for the past 16 years, going back to the late 1970s.
Although the silver-haired Moncrief denied it, Lloyd testified she would often run bets for Tex to Las Vegas, which accounted for her many trips to the MGM Grand, the Golden Nugget, and other casino hotels.
"It's not something I'm really proud of, that I had an affair with a married man," Lloyd, now 55, told the jury. "I had true feelings for him. He told me that he did love me [on] many occasions over the years." With that relationship came Tex's approval to spend freely on clothing, travel, home repairs, and such, as long as the tab didn't outdo the $25,000-a-month allowance Moncrief set for his wife of five decades, Deborah.
Jurors were treated to testimony that was part overcooked soap opera, part Shakespearean formula. There was a low plot--Lloyd and her office friends drinking away the nights at a Fort Worth dart bar; and a high plot--Tex's alleged indifference toward his ailing mother and his harsh malediction of a son who chose a penniless wife. All this was told against a backdrop of life at the Shady Oaks Country Club, a privileged and somewhat archaic world of golf, gin rummy with Ben Hogan in the men-only grill room, and affairs so prevalent that when one woman testified about one of Lloyd's supposed assignations with another married man at the club, she was forced to confess an affair of her own.
Juror Susan Totty recalls being disappointed when she was picked to sit through the Lloyd trial, but her thoughts changed once the witnesses began taking the stand. "When the testimony started, I could not believe it. This is the best kind of trial you could be on," the 50-year-old special education teacher from Arlington says. "It wasn't child abuse or murder. This was just sex and money and embezzlement. It couldn't have been anything more fun."
Mary Ellen Lloyd was born in Lubbock, the daughter of a roughneck and a homemaker. She grew up in Santa Anna, a small agricultural town where her high school graduating class numbered 30.
Lloyd moved to Fort Worth in 1965, and by the end of the decade was working at the Shady Oaks pro shop, selling golf balls and renting carts and occasionally modeling women's golf clothes in the mahogany-paneled clubhouse.
"I used to pick out gifts for the wives and the mistresses too," Lloyd recalls during a recent interview in the Dallas office of her attorney, Robert Hinton.
It was at the club that Lloyd met Tex and his father, W.A. Moncrief Sr.--known as Monty or Mr. Senior--who in the 1930s first wildcatted his way to vast wealth in the East Texas oil fields, along with H.L. Hunt and Sid Richardson. Working side by side with his father for four decades, Tex, an obdurate man whose deep voice resonates with a West Texas drawl, expanded the family fortune, particularly with his discovery of the massive Madden gas field in Wyoming in 1972. In 1995, Forbes estimated his net worth at $300 million; his assets include vacation homes in Palm Springs and in Gunnison, Colorado, and a 15,000-acre Texas ranch.
Dressed in black shorts and a white T-shirt, a gold cross hanging around her neck, Lloyd looks much, much older now than the leggy young woman in the orange miniskirt standing next to some golf equipment in the Shady Oaks pro shop: a photo of her in her early 30s that became "defendant's exhibit 2" in Lloyd's trial.
It was this woman with the flowing dark hair who caught Tex's eye, Hinton says, though one source associated with the prosecution team observed, "Even in those days, she wasn't what I'd call a looker. A rich man like Moncrief would have done better. But you couldn't say that to the jury without offending the women."
In 1976, when the Shady Oaks golf pro decided to let her go, Tex and Monty offered Lloyd a job at Montex Drilling, the family oil business. By that time, she was divorced and raising a then-10-year-old daughter.
There are about 35 employees in the Fort Worth home office, which oversees oil and gas exploration in Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and elsewhere in the western United States. As personal secretary to Tex and his father, Lloyd was responsible for maintaining their personal checking accounts and attending to bookkeeping and other duties, such as keeping up payments on their hundreds of oil leases.
Fellow employees testifying at Lloyd's trial, which took place at the Tarrant County Justice Center before Visiting Judge R.E. Thornton, described Lloyd as an affable, pleasant co-worker who became good friends with several other women who worked there.
But, she claimed when she nervously took the stand, there was another, secret side to her office life.
It began in 1979, just after a staff trip on the company jet to Reno. "Tex and I had feelings for each other," she told the jury as Hinton guided her through her testimony.
At the beginning it was "sit and have a Coke with him, talk, hug, kiss." About three months into the affair, she said, they began a sexual relationship. "The first time was on his desk in his office" after the rest of the staff went home, she told the jury. From there, it moved to a small sofa in Tex's office, then a larger sofa in his father's office; it then became an almost routine rendezvous at her home, a smallish tan brick bungalow in Edgecliff Village, a 1960s-era suburb just south of Fort Worth.
Lloyd described how their meetings would often go: "If his wife was gone, then he would want to see me that afternoon. He said what time he would be there, and I'd be there. I was to leave my garage door up, and he would pull into the garage, push the button on the garage door, and he came through the garage into my home."
Moncrief, who told the jury he never had anything more than a business relationship with Lloyd, said in a recent interview with the Dallas Observer, "She's a liar. It's all lies."
In court, Tarrant County prosecutor Charles Brandenberg, a specialist in economic crimes, prodded Lloyd to explain why she had not a single Valentine card or any other written proof to back up her story of an affair.
In an interview, Lloyd described Tex both as a gentleman with a "soft side" and as someone who could be hard and cruel.
She said he took great interest in publicity in 1991 about a young, attractive personal aide to Fort Worth billionaire Perry Bass who had been accused of stealing $2.5 million from her boss--after which the charges were mysteriously dismissed. The woman "could tie these oil-tycoon types around her finger," her ex-husband told the daily paper. "Tex got a big laugh out of that. He thought it was funny," Lloyd remembers.
In court, prosecutor Brandenberg pressed her for further details about "the nature of the sex" she had with Moncrief. Lloyd, in this age of tell-all, was frank: There was "genital sex," and "sometimes he did oral sex. I did not," she told the court.
It went on like this from 1979 until 1995, and never once did anyone see them, she said--not anyone at the office, not anyone in her neighborhood, not even her daughter, who lived with her for six of those years. "He wanted me to be sure I was there and my daughter was gone," Lloyd said, explaining that her daughter was involved in after-school activities such as choir, which meant she didn't get home until Tex had showered and left for his gin rummy game at Shady Oaks.
She testified that she had her bathroom shower retiled and other home repairs done at Tex's insistence, and that he liked the way the place looked after they were done.
In the meantime, Lloyd told the jury, the Moncriefs introduced her to casino gambling through the office trips to Nevada; she recalled how their pilot taught her to shoot craps, and how it was more fun to win than to lose.
In Fort Worth, she said, Moncrief would ask her to place bets for him on college and professional football games. And she produced an envelope from the Moncrief Building on which was scrawled in Tex's scratchy handwriting, "Notre Dame -6 maybe -7 [$]7700 on Notre Dame." Also on the envelope, in her handwriting, was the name Sam Lupica, who works at the MGM Grand's sports book, and his home phone number.
Because the bet was a loser, she also had the betting slip--which proved the bet had been made.
Six months before the Lloyd trial, Bill Jarvis, a former accountant for the Moncriefs who helped initiate the tax investigation, filed a sworn affidavit in a civil lawsuit brought against him by Tex. In it, Jarvis said he believed Moncrief "set up" Lloyd. "I previously identified Ellen Lloyd to the IRS as Tex's 'bag lady' for Tex's gambling activities," he wrote.
Lloyd testified in her case that some of the money she was accused of stealing was actually used for Moncrief's bets, although she admitted to making frequent trips to Vegas so she could play in slot-machine tournaments. In all, about $100,000 of the $400,000 Lloyd is accused of stealing went for Las Vegas hotels, airfare, and such.
Because of the statute of limitations, the charges covered only money allegedly taken after 1990.
She told the court that Tex gave her the OK to spend his money starting in 1979--meaning she could have spent, at the rate she was going, more than $1.5 million. While many of the checks were signed with a rubber stamp Lloyd said Moncrief had given her, some were signed by Moncrief himself, or another secretary in the office.
Of the $400,000 at issue in the trial, about $205,000 wound up in the register of Maribianca Moda Italiana, a chic west Fort Worth clothing shop. Lloyd told the jury that Tex paid considerable attention to how she looked and what she wore. He forbade her to wear pantsuits, told her one of her dresses "looked like a couch cover," and said another made her look "fat and pregnant," she said.
To spruce her up, she said, he gave her permission--and carte blanche--to shop at Maribianca, where dresses start at $750 and some outfits cost more than $3,000. Presided over by Bianca Pastore, whose accent and inventory suggest stylish Milan, it's where a number of Fort Worth society women, including Tex's wife, like to shop.
"I'm not an expensive person," Lloyd insisted under cross-examination. "It looks it, but it's not mine. It's not my lifestyle."
Lloyd also produced for the jury an array of jewelry--including an expensive jade pin and a diamond tennis bracelet--that she said Tex had given her over the years. Some of it came from the collection of Tex's mother, who died in 1992, Lloyd said.
She said she spent considerable time--more than the family, actually--sitting at the family home in Rivercrest with the elderly "Mrs. Senior" in the years after her husband's death. With such intimate knowledge of the family, she had gossip to tell--stories that painted Tex as a hard, at times eccentric man.
She told how he balked at buying his bedridden mother new nightgowns when hers were threadbare, and how Tex took away his son Tom "Oil" Moncrief's accounts when he refused to make his fiancee sign a prenuptial agreement. Tex was so angry that he skipped the wedding and canceled the reception at his house, she said.
In his closing statement, Lloyd's attorney made much of the fact that members of the Moncrief family, including Tex's sons Tom and Richard, were in attendance at the trial and none was called to refute her accounts.
Instead of exploring Moncrief family rancor, prosecutors Brandenberg and Paul Silverman introduced three witnesses, two of them close friends of Lloyd's, to show jurors Lloyd did have a long-running affair--with another man.
Gloria Capps, a manager in the Moncrief office for nearly 20 years, testified that she was very close to Lloyd. "She was very kind to me," Capps said. "She would lend me money to make car payments. She sat with my mother. We were very friendly."
Their friendship notwithstanding, Capps said Lloyd had been going "for years and years" with an insurance man named Bobby Malone, himself a married man and a golfing buddy of Tex's. "I'd seen them together. Various places for happy hour and outside certain establishments. London House, which doesn't exist anymore. It was a restaurant on Camp Bowie that we used to go to."
She said she'd seen the two out in the car "kissing and hugging and loose clothes." Capps said Lloyd told her that many of the pieces of jewelry Lloyd brought to the trial had been given her by Malone.
Then she told of a double-date with Lloyd in which the two women ended up at a Fort Worth home. Malone and Lloyd paired off and headed for one of the bedrooms, she said. They emerged later wearing towels.
In a moment that made the whole deal sound like Dallas, with the Ewings in fact residing in Cowtown, defense lawyer Hinton asked Capps who her date had been.
"I don't believe I have to say that," she said.
When she was informed otherwise, she answered, "So if I don't answer it I go to jail? Well, there's nothing going on between us. But it was..." (She went on to name a Fort Worth businessman.)
"Was he a married man at the time?" Hinton continued.
"Yes," Capps said, adding that her fling with the man, a roofing contractor, ended years ago.
Two other witnesses linked Lloyd romantically with Malone--boutique owner Bianca Pastore and Connie Richie, an accounts payable clerk at the Moncrief office--with Richie also identifying the rings and bracelets and other baubles as gifts Lloyd had told her came from Malone.
During her second turn on the stand, Lloyd denied that Malone was anything more than her insurance agent and old friend, but the man himself was missing in action throughout the trial.
"He ran like hell when he found out the trial was going on," Silverman told the judge. He left town, letting the newspapers stack up in his front yard--which displayed a fresh "For Sale" sign--and wasn't expected to return until after the trial.
By subtle design, Lloyd's defense took primary aim at her chief accuser, Tex Moncrief, attempting to explain why he might turn on his secret lover and pursue her with charges that could send her to prison for as much as 20 years.
Hinton also needed to explain why Lloyd left town at a time when the alleged embezzling was being uncovered.
The answers--according to his defense strategy--lay in an event that Lloyd says affected Tex deeply: the IRS raid, which took place September 1, 1994, about nine months before Lloyd left town.
"He was a very concerned person. He lost sleep. He lost weight. He was afraid he might be put in the penitentiary," Lloyd told the jury.
The raid, the following investigation, and a lawsuit brought by his nephew, state Sen. Mike Moncrief, changed his personality into that of a paranoid searching for hints about who turned him in. "He told me he didn't want me being talked to by the IRS or Mike Moncrief's lawyers at all," she testified.
She said he didn't want her discussing "Mrs. Senior's" mental state around the time Tex helped change her will, or the way income from producing wells was spread among family members. The former was an issue in Mike Moncrief's lawsuit, which he withdrew in 1996. The latter related to estate and gift tax matters being investigated by the IRS.
Testimony in the case showed that during the federal investigation, Tex had bought one employee a brand-new $22,000 Buick. While Hinton's questions suggested it was some sort of payment for cooperation, those involved said the employee had been forced by the investigation to work late at the Moncrief offices and needed a reliable car.
Lloyd told the jury that Tex had devised a more drastic plan to shield her. "He told me that he thought it was time for me to disappear," she testified.
Which is just what she did.
"I did not know what he would do to me if I stayed around to talk--to be available for the IRS and anything to do with Mike's dealing," she said. "I knew too much about the family business and the family."
In his trip to the stand, Tex ended up reinforcing a few of the things Lloyd and other defense witnesses had said about him.
Mickey Oxford, who worked as the Moncriefs' data processing manager for 13 years, had told the jury that Tex was a "control-oriented" person, that he was involved in every aspect of the business.
At the same time, he said, Moncrief could be "very, very vindictive. His personality changed after his father's death in 1986," Oxford said. Before, he was friendlier, more happy-go-lucky.
Later, "I saw men coming out of his office with tears because of the abuse and verbal lashings that he had given them," Oxford said.
Along with that was a certain stubbornness. "Mr. Moncrief believes what he believes is the truth. Mr. Moncrief believes what he wants is the truth."
Tex gave the jury a first-hand demonstration of his slant on things when Lloyd's attorney took him through his account of what eventually happened in the IRS matter.
In early 1996, an agreement was worked out between U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins' office and Moncrief's legal team, which included influential Washington lawyers Robert Bennett, President Clinton's lawyer in the Paula Jones lawsuit; and James Bruton III, former acting chief of the Justice Department's tax section.
Moncrief and his sons agreed to pay $23 million for unpaid back taxes in a civil settlement, and all criminal matters were dropped.
(One Coggins assistant told the Observer that the conduct of the government's chief witness, former Moncrief accountant Bill Jarvis, considerably weakened the government's chances of successfully prosecuting the case. Apparently attempting to profit from his knowledge of the Moncrief books, he signed on with a lawyer working for Tex's nephew as a $5,000-a-month consultant. The assistant, however, said he could not understand why higher-ups in the Justice Department nixed a no-contest plea to criminal tax evasion that Tex's son Charles and Tex's lawyers had signed in October 1995 for Tex's company, Montex Drilling. "[Justice Department officials] said they don't take no-contest pleas, but we do them all the time," the assistant prosecutor said. In papers filed in another lawsuit, Jarvis alleges that Tex's heavyweight attorneys used their clout to kill the guilty plea in Washington.)
Interpreting the outcome for the Lloyd jury, Moncrief said that he was the victim of a conspiracy, that the IRS staged a "Gestapo-like" raid on his offices, and that he finally paid a settlement that was "nothing but extortion by the IRS."
Prosecutors had convinced the judge in the Lloyd case that jurors should not hear the amount of Tex's settlement in the case. As Brandenberg stressed to the judge: "They're going to think that somebody who paid the government $23 million is a crook."
But after Tex referred to the settlement as nothing but "extortion," the judge revised his ruling and let Hinton ask about the amount.
"So for the jury to understand what you're getting at here is, even today, you don't consider that there was any merit at all to the IRS investigation or their allegations?" Hinton asked in a dramatic flurry.
"There was no merit to their allegations," Tex replied.
"You paid the government $23 million, didn't you?" Hinton coaxed.
A couple of questions later, Tex couldn't help but concede: "That was the figure you mentioned, $23 million, which has been in the newspapers across the country."
The kinetic procession of witnesses ended after two and a half days, leaving only closing arguments before the jury could begin its work.
Prosecutor Brandenberg underlined the testimony from Lloyd's friends about the affair with Bobby Malone, not Tex Moncrief. "Folks," he said, "that has the ring of truth," not these "scurrilous allegations" of a love affair with Tex, which he called the inventions of a "desperate woman to save her hide."
"Is it reasonable to believe that for 16 years there is absolutely no indication, anywhere, anytime, of any personal relationship between two people in a small office? For 16 years is there not one written communication? Not one trip somewhere out of town? It's inconceivable."
Hinton made use of the same word. "It's inconceivable that somebody could be stealing out of Tex Moncrief's personal checkbook for a decade and he not know it...inconceivable."
He pointed out how Tex, who swore he was not a betting man, clearly used Lloyd to place the $7,700 bet on Notre Dame.
"He's got a reputation for being a dishonest person. He's got a reputation of being a very, very, very vindictive person," Hinton said.
The jury got the case before lunch, and after the break, took their first anonymous poll. It was 10-2. After less than three hours of deliberation, the panel was unanimous.
Lloyd was found not guilty.
"We were all thinking along the same lines," says juror Susan Totty. "There is no way she could have taken that amount of money, month after month, without him knowing about it."
Tex had to replenish the account, with her spending as much as $100,000 a year.
She said it was "fairly obvious she was fooling around with Bobby Malone, but she was probably screwing both of them." The prosecution portrayed Lloyd as sexually loose, Totty says, "which I guess she was."
Totty said Lloyd's nervousness on the witness stand, and the many details she offered about the relationship, made it difficult for her to think her story was made from whole cloth.
She says it was easy to see Lloyd in her 30s attracting a man like Moncrief in his 50s.
Kimberly Baggett, another member of the jury, which consisted of eight women and four men, called the trial "quite a bit of sex, lies, and scandal."
The 36-year-old accountant, who counted herself among the handful who leaned at first toward conviction, says one important matter that was apparent in the exhibits--but not brought out in testimony--was the fact that Tex's checking account carried an average balance of between $25,000 and $30,000. With Lloyd spending at least a third of that every month, "that couldn't happen without him [Moncrief] knowing about it," she says. "He had to fund that account fairly regularly."
Lloyd's attorney caught Tex in a flat-out lie about gambling, which made him seem to be a man who would lie to protect his reputation, she says. "I believe he had her placing bets regularly."
In all, looking back, she says she can't understand why Moncrief even pursued the case. "Why would he go through the embarrassment when he has enough money to pay the IRS $23 million?"
A third juror, a middle-aged Fort Worth woman who asked not to be identified, says she thought Lloyd probably overstepped her authority to spend Moncrief's money. But she has no question that there was a relationship through which she was given freedom to write checks on his account, adding, "There was something going on between them."
Says Moncrief now of the outcome, "I figured we had it documented in the office. The jury saw fit to let her off. That's it. That's all I care to say about it."
As for the sting of the adultery allegations, Moncrief says it hasn't affected him or his family, or hurt his reputation in the least. "All my friends, my bankers, I get along with them fine. It hasn't bothered me at all."
Just six days after Mary Ellen Lloyd's acquittal, Moncrief appeared before a U.S. Senate committee and launched a salvo at the IRS that was picked up by news outlets around the nation.
"If you told me that 64 IRS agents would storm my office with sidearms holstered and boot heels trampling on my civil rights and my business reputation, I wouldn't have believed you," he said. He went on to describe as "extortion" the $23 million he paid in the settlement with the government.
Unlike the Lloyd jury, several Republican senators on the panel and in the Texas delegation--several of whom have received campaign contributions from Tex--offered their apology. "Mr. Moncrief was badly treated by the United States government," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters. Others even talked about a tax rebate.
One thing that Moncrief had long complained of in the government's handling of the investigation was the fact that the U.S. Attorney never unsealed the search warrant and supporting "probable cause" affidavit that were used to authorize the raid.
Coggins, who has been nominated to a federal judgeship, has come under criticism by some Republicans sympathetic to Moncrief's complaints.
The documents do much to tell the IRS' side of the story--which was not sought at the April 29 congressional hearing.
The sworn, 21-page probable cause affidavit prepared by IRS Special Agent Donald R. Smith shows that the agency had gone through scores of Moncrief tax statements and accounting records, some provided by former Moncrief comptroller Jarvis, before the raid.
The affidavit identified three "schemes" used by Moncrief and his accountants that "were designed to evade the payment of federal taxes."
First, there was the allegation that Tex submitted false gift and estate tax returns that "grossly" undervalued the oil and gas properties left to the family by his father, Monty, who died in 1986, and his widow, Elizabeth, who died six years later.
Properties worth as much as $190 million were valued at $12.5 million, which allowed the oil and gas fields to pass to the next generation without payment of inheritance taxes. "Working papers showed that the oil and gas properties were valued not by an independent petroleum engineer but by Tex Moncrief, who used extremely low multipliers in order to grossly undervalue these properties," Smith wrote.
The affidavit cited accounting documents giving the IRS "probable cause" to believe that Tex deducted as business expenses personal perks such as a jet used to fly to vacation homes and salaries for a chauffeur and handyman.
It also cited three other instances in which assets were transferred between Tex and his mother, or Tex and his sons, without payment of gift taxes.
Moncrief, in an interview, denied he did any of the things alleged in the affidavit and said the government "didn't do right" by keeping the allegations sealed for four years.
He says he plans to keep speaking out against the IRS investigation of him, and is looking forward to his civil suit against his former chief accountant, which is scheduled for trial in October.
"I sort of like my reputation," he says, when asked how all of this is reflecting on it. "It's a good one."
And Lloyd herself may keep things simmering. Hinton says he is preparing to file Lloyd's suit against Tex for defamation and malicious misuse of the criminal justice system.
In the meantime, Lloyd has found a job as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant in Coppell, where she pulls down $2.16 an hour plus tips. "I like my job," she says. "I'm a good waitress, and I have a fair boss.
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