Troubles for Buskes mount; Bailey allows discovery on assets/liabilities

Madison County Associate Judge Duane Bailey has ruled that SC Johnson has the right to discover assets and liabilities in the Sara Buske v. Thomas Buske divorce case.

But in an extensive order issued April 3, Bailey denied SC Johnson's request for discovery depositions and interrogatories on the issue of the Edwardsville couple's dissolution.

SC Johnson, a global manufacturer of household cleaning supplies, such as Windex and Pledge, intervened in the Buskes' divorce, calling it a sham attempt to conceal millions of dollars worth of assets belonging to them.

Thomas Buske, owner of Edwardsville trucking brokerage companies Buske Lines and Buske Intermodal, was indicted March 10 in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on 23 counts of defrauding SC Johnson of $15 million through false and inflated invoices between 1999 and 2004.

Buske has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has been released on his own recognizance pending trial set for June 25. The charges against him carry a maximum sentence of 70 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines, according to court documents.

In addition to criminal charges, a court in Racine, Wisc. on June 2, 2008, entered a $203.8 million judgment against Thomas Buske and his companies --in favor of SC Johnson-- over a trucking kickback and bribery scheme.

Sara Buske filed for divorce on June 10, 2008. The couple continues to live together in Edwardsville.

The Buskes face even more trouble, according to a new lawsuit filed against them in federal court in East St. Louis by SC Johnson. They are accused of frustrating collection efforts on the $203.8 million Wisconsin judgment.

"Prior to and subsequent to entry of that judgment, Thomas Buske and Sara Buske have undertaken numerous actions, including fraudulent conveyances of their marital home and other funds, designed to shift assets available for execution away from SC Johnson," states the complaint filed April 13.

SC Johnson is represented by Thomas Q. Keefe, Jr. of Belleville in federal court. Keefe also is co-counsel to Andrew Velloff of Alton for SC Johnson in the divorce case.

"This action also relates to the efforts undertaken by Sara Buske to commit fraud and to conspire to commit fraud against SC Johnson during the course of the fraudulent scheme against SC Johnson for which her husband and two of his companies have already been found liable," the complaint states.

Back in Judge Bailey's court, SC Johnson's arguments on the Buskes' alleged collusion will be heard at a May 15 hearing.

Bailey will also take up the issue of temporary maintenance and support, in which "S.C. Johnson does have an interest in determining if potential assets are being dissipated," Bailey wrote.

If the issue of collusion is proven to the satisfaction of the court, it "will have sweeping effects on the issue of discovery," Bailey wrote. "Therefore, discovery is limited to the submission of Assets and Liabilities as to Sara and Thomas Buske only."

The order noted that Sara Buske had complied with the court's order to submit an affidavit of assets and liabilities; but that Thomas Buske had not. He was ordered to provide all parties a copy of a sworn affidavit of assets and liabilities within 10 days of receipt of the April 3 order.

Bailey wrote that Thomas Buske does not need to be present for the issue of temporary maintenance and support.

But if he intends to invoke the Fifth Amendment, he must be present.

"Counsel for Mr. Buske cannot invoke said privilege for him," Bailey wrote.

More Stories