Lawyers for manufacturer S.C. Johnson, who are trying to stop what they say is a divorce designed to hide millions in assets, cite an Edwardsville couple's lavish lifestyle as proof it's a sham.
In an amended complaint filed June 4, S.C. Johnson says Sara and Thomas Buske took trips to Las Vegas and California, and paid for massages and other acts after their divorce was filed.
Thomas Buske, owner of trucking companies Buske Intermodel and Buske Lines, was indicted in a Wisconsin federal court in March on charges he defrauded the Racine-based manufacturer of $15 million between 1999 and 2004. He has pleaded not guilty.
In addition, a state court in Racine, Wisc. on June 2, 2008, entered a judgment against Thomas Buske for $203.8 million over a trucking kickback and bribery scheme.
Sara Buske filed for divorce on June 10, 2008.
The company had tried to argue its motion to dismiss the case before Madison County Associate Judge Duane Bailey in early May.
Bailey, however, set a hearing for 10 a.m. June 12 Bailey, to hear arguments whether the company even has standing to intervene in the divorce.
In its amended complaint, S.C. Johnson's lawyers also argue that Thomas Buske has continued to live at the couple's Edwardsville home with his wife and their two children as of the last hearing in the case, May 15.
S.C. Johnson says the Buskes undertook "numerous activities to defraud S.C. Johnson of its right to enforce the judgment."
The company cites two trips to Las Vegas the couple took in May of 2008, shortly before the divorce was filed in Madison County, and in August 2008, just months after the filing. According to the complaint, on these trips, the divorcing couple shared a room at the Bellagio Resort, "spent lavishly and gambled tens of thousands of dollars."
The complaint alleges that Sara Buske began consulting lawyers about the effect of dissolving the marriage just days after Thomas Buske filed post-trial motions challenging the verdict in the Wisconsin verdict.
According to the complaint, those consultations were about the effect of dissolving a marriage and its relations to enforcing a judgment against trust assets. Most of Thomas Buske's assets are held in trust through a holding company, the complaint states.
S.C. Johnson has yet to receive any of the 203.8 million, it claims. It argues that the money is a marital debt resulting from Thomas Burke's illicit actions.
"The money Thomas Buske reaped as a result of his fraudulent scheme was used by the Buskes to fund their extravagant lifestyle and accumulate assets," the complaint states.
The couple built a home in Edwardsville valued at $1.7 million, owns multiple vehicles and property throughout the country, the complaint states.
S.C. Johnson also cites Sara Buske's maintenance request as a red flag.
Sara Buske has asked the court for $22,000 a month in maintenance for herself and the couple's two children. However, according to court records, Thomas Buske only makes $180,000 a year.
At a May 15 hearing, Thomas Buske asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked questions beyond his name.
The Buskes are also facing a federal lawsuit filed in East St. Louis in April. In the suit, SC Johnson accuses the couple of frustrating the collection efforts on the $203.8 million Wisconsin judgment.
S.C. Johnson is represented by Andrew Velloff and Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. Sara Buske is represented by Springfield attorney Howard Feldman. Thomas Buske is represented in the divorce by St. Louis attorney Vicki Cochran.
The Buskes married in August 1993.