Buske says giving money back to S.C. Johnson would leave him penniless

Steve Korris Sep. 1, 2009, 10:40am

Wisconsin jurors found that Edwardsville trucking company owner Tom Buske stole millions from household products maker S.C. Johnson, but he pleads that he shouldn't have to give the money back because it would leave his family penniless.

On Aug. 18 Buske opposed a motion that would allow S.C. Johnson to start collecting $204 million that jurors awarded last year in Wisconsin civil court.

"If Intervenor is allowed to take Respondent's property, all parties except Intervenor will be necessarily left penniless," lawyer Vickie Cochran of St. Louis wrote.

S.C. Johnson intervened in divorce proceedings between Tom and Sara Buske last year to keep Tom from moving assets beyond the reach of the Wisconsin court.

Madison County Associate Judge Duane Bailey, who had presided over the case before he was reassigned to juvenile court on June 30, entered a series of orders against S.C. Johnson and rejected its claim that the divorce proceedings were a sham.

Bailey found that Tom and Sara had grounds to dissolve the marriage and he set trial Oct. 5 on visitation and custody.

Chief Judge Ann Callis reassigned the case to Associate Judge Thomas Chapman.

The Buskes now seek $1,060,000 from S.C. Johnson for their two minor children.

For S.C. Johnson, Andrew Velloff of Alton opposed the children's petition on Aug. 20.

The petition "implies that the Buske minor children are entitled to enjoy the same (or better) standard of living than they previously enjoyed prior to Thomas Buske incurring hundreds of millions of dollars in debt," Velloff wrote.

The petition would guarantee the ability of the children to attend expensive colleges that Tom Buske can't afford, he wrote.

"In short, the Buske minor children are simply not entitled, as a result of their parents' divorce, to receive a windfall from Thomas Buske's unlawful scheme to defraud S. C. Johnson," he wrote.

The children currently receive an allowance of $4,000 a month from S.C. Johnson under one of Bailey's orders.

A motion remains pending before Chapman that would require S.C. Johnson to pay for Tom Buske's defense against criminal fraud charges in federal court.

Buske's legal team estimates the cost of his defense at $600,000.

His lawyers in Wisconsin plead that S.C. Johnson can't collect on the civil judgment because forfeiture claims of federal prosecutors will take higher priority.

They also argue that they plan to appeal the civil court verdict because jurors awarded greater damages than S.C. Johnson claimed.

"There is a chance, however small SCJ cares to characterize it, that the Buske defendants will prevail on appeal," James Murray of Milwaukee wrote on Aug. 13.

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