MUCH WAS LEARNED on April 29 when W. A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr., regaled the U.S. Senate Finance Committee with tales of Internal Revenue Service abuse. The 78-year-old Fort Worth oilman testified that on September 1, 1994, 64 IRS agents “stormed” his offices “like an army landing on an enemy beachfront” to gather evidence of tax fraud by his family, which the IRS alleged owed anywhere from $116 million to $300 million, according to various reports. After sixteen months of legal wrangling, Moncrief ended the civil and criminal actions against him by paying a settlement of $23 million with no admission of wrongdoing.
Yet as is often the case, the story behind the story is more interesting than the story itself—and it will soon be told in excruciating detail. According to papers filed in a civil suit that will be tried in Tarrant County beginning on August 3, Moncrief alleges that Bill Jarvis, his family’s chief accountant from March 1979 to June 1993, stole confidential financial records and gave them to lawyers Don Jarvis (his brother) and Sam Graber and accountant Jim Keller, all of Sherman, and lawyer James Rolfe of Dallas, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas. They, in turn, negotiated with the IRS, which agreed to investigate the Moncrief family and pay Bill a percentage of any money collected, with the total reward not to exceed $25 million. Subsequently, the lawsuit alleges, the same group approached State Senator Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, Tex Moncrief’s nephew and longtime adversary, and offered to provide stolen documents that would help him sue his uncle if he would hire a lawyer of their choosing—Gary Richardson of Tulsa, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma—and pay Bill Jarvis $60,000 a year to be his “litigation consultant.” Tex Moncrief accuses Bill and his cohorts (except for Rolfe, who has been dismissed from the suit after cooperating with Moncrief’s attorneys) of breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.
Yet Bill Jarvis says the records in question weren’t stolen. In court papers he explains that the Moncrief family knew he had copies and never asked for them back after he left the company; he didn’t return them voluntarily, he says, “because I believed I would need them to illustrate to the proper authorities the possibly fraudulent activities I had witnessed the Moncrief family commit.” He goes on to describe what he calls fourteen “schemes” by the Moncriefs that “cheated” the government out of more than $400 million in taxes, penalties, and interest.
What’s the likely outcome of the suit? Moncrief fans and foes marvel at his crack legal team, which has included Fort Worth powerhouse Dee Kelly’s firm and Robert Bennett of Washington, D.C. Yet Jarvis has to be encouraged by the outcome of another case involving a former Moncrief employee. In late April Moncrief testified in the criminal trial of Mary Ellen Lloyd, who worked for Moncrief Oil from 1978 to 1995. Moncrief accused Lloyd of stealing $1 million, but Lloyd said that she had been Moncrief’s mistress and that he authorized her to use the money to pay her living expenses and to place bets for him in Las Vegas; he accused her, she said, only to destroy her credibility because he feared she would cooperate with the IRS. The jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Lloyd not guilty.