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Moncrief Family Values

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"Mike and [his brother] had me go over and talk to Tex about it," Goodwin recalls. "'Remember that thing you signed?'" the accountant says Tex told him. "'That took care of it.'" Because they hadn't scrutinized the documents, "we kind of accepted it," Goodwin says. Tex "hoodwinked us and we didn't holler about it."

But Mike vowed it wouldn't happen again. The senator's opportunity to make that point to his uncle came in July 1994, when Tex's office sent over another seemingly innocuous note--this one handwritten. It asked Mike and his brother to sign a stipulation for filing in a federal lawsuit involving family property in Wyoming.

"Somewhere in the depositions it came out that the grandchildren now owned [their grandfather's] interest and Tex owned his interest," the note to Goodwin read. "The court said not all the parties are before the court and this stipulation is to get around making all parties plaintiffs in the suit. Call me if you need more info."

The attached stipulation stated that Tex owned 50 percent of the property. Mike and his brother refused to sign.

Instead, they hired high-profile Tulsa plaintiff's lawyer Gary Richardson and his partner, Gerald Hilsher, to challenge Tex's claim that he owned 50 percent of the property.

Tex would later claim in court that he owned not only half of the Wyoming property but also half of all other properties in Monty's name. His reasoning: He and Monty had an unwritten agreement to share equally in wells they developed during their decades of working together.

Tex's claim was sweeping. If accepted, it would mean that he owned half of everything the seven grandchildren thought belonged to them. It would halve their individual shares in the family assets--from 14 to 7 percent.

Mike Moncrief and his brother contend that their grandfather had no intention of splitting his assets with Tex. Had he wanted to do so, they say, the old man knew enough to put the properties rightfully in Tex's name. And Monty Moncrief never made such transfers. "Actions speak louder than words," says Mike. "Clearly my grandfather's action, or lack thereof--there was no transfer of these titles to my uncle--says something. I don't think from all we have seen that my grandfather had wanted to treat any of his seven grandchildren any differently."

Even as the implications of the Wyoming fight between Tex and Mike were emerging, the IRS, on September 1, 1994, raided the three-story Moncrief Building where Tex and his sons conducted business.

"Raids like this should simply not happen to America's citizens," the Star-Telegram declared in an editorial. Tex's youngest son, Tom Oil Moncrief, was in the office when the agents came. "They told me I could wait downstairs in the lunchroom," he told the local daily, "and they said when I left, I couldn't come back. They really treated us like criminals."

Eight days after the IRS raid, attorneys Richardson and Hilsher dispatched a letter to Tex Moncrief's lawyers demanding a detailed accounting of the grandfather's estate, for which Tex and his sons served as executors. That letter launched a series of meetings and correspondence among the troops of lawyers representing the Moncrief family members. "From September to March, we tried to get in to look at the books," says Goodwin.

Making little progress, Mike Moncrief and his brother, on March 7, 1995, filed suit in Fort Worth state court. Their wide-ranging claims allege fraud and embezzlement in Tex's handling of the family assets. They even alleged that Tex had "unduly influenced" his 91-year-old mother to change her will in favor of Tex's family. But the central issue of the litigation was the dispute over whether Tex truly owned 50 percent of the late patriarch's assets.

On March 24, 1994, Tex filed his counterclaim, alleging that his nephews' suit was "designed to purposefully cause extreme emotional distress.

"These actions have caused extreme and significant harm to this 75-year-old, highly regarded man," the counterclaim added.

The two sides were to have stood face-to-face in court on March 30; Tex showed up, but Mike, citing legislative business, let his lawyers represent him.

State District Judge Bob McGrath settled one matter quickly: the senator's side of the family would get to see more of the documents that Tex had been reluctant to cough up. But he also ordered the senator's attorneys to revise or withdraw their inflammatory allegations of Tex unduly influencing his mother to change her will.

The judge ordered a 90-day cooling-off period to allow the warring Moncriefs to review the records and try to settle the differences.

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Miriam Rozen
Contact: Miriam Rozen