A probate hearing Friday in the estate of Dan Gaub, who is suspected of perpetrating a Ponzi scheme, included lots of fireworks but few answers.
Hundreds of investors, many of them members of Yakima’s evangelical Stone Church, have filed claims totaling more than $40 million against Gaub’s estate ever since the self-described “living legend” in foreign currency trading was killed at age 53 in a motorcycle crash last May.
The estate is believed to be deeply insolvent, and resolution of the case has proven difficult so far due to the ongoing nature of a criminal investigation by the FBI. Among the more than 250 claimants so far is Gaub’s own father, evangelist Ken Gaub.
Against that backdrop, lawyers representing Gaub’s estate and his widow, Dawndee, sparred repeatedly Friday with a litigious investor and purported associate of Gaub named Jack Baugher.
Before the Yakima County Superior Court were several motions filed by Baugher, including a claim to a piece of property in Benton County that Baugher says is valued at $700,000 and belongs to him.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Vic L. Vanderschoor, who was asked to handle the probate case after all eight Yakima County Superior Court judges recused themselves due to conflicts of interest, reserved ruling pending further developments.
Baugher is representing himself, leading to several somewhat heated exchanges with the estate’s attorneys and several warnings by Vanderschoor, who nevertheless declined to award attorneys fees sought by the estate’s attorneys against Baugher.
Baugher was particularly outspoken about fees being charged by attorneys in the case and in his belief that Dawndee Gaub, serving in the capacity of personal representative to the estate, was involved in her husband’s investment activity.
“She’s part of this scam,” Baugher insisted over the protestations of estate attorney Sean Flynn.
“Objection, your honor, objection,” Flynn said, adding, “My client hasn’t been convicted of fraud.”
“She hasn’t even been charged,” noted the judge. He declined to remove her as personal representative.
At another point, Vanderschoor also admonished Baugher for filing motions and declarations that, in the judge’s view, are ratcheting up the legal expenses in the probate case.
“Basically you’re shooting yourself in the foot,” he told Baugher.
The sparring over Dan Gaub’s alleged fraudulent activity underscored the problematic nature of the probate case, which has been hampered by a parallel FBI criminal investigation.
It has also been complicated by several lawsuits filed by Baugher against the Gaub family, including Ken Gaub and his business, Ken Gaub Ministries. The family, through their attorney J.J. Sandlin, has countersued for defamation and harassment.
According to records in U.S. District Court, the FBI got involved shortly after Gaub’s death in the belief that he had been operating a Ponzi scheme, also known as a pyramid scheme. The manner of his death — accident or suicide — was not established conclusively by the State Patrol despite a lengthy investigation.
FBI agents seized most if not all of the Gaubs’ assets, including several expensive cars, motorcycles and a 70-foot yacht in Seattle called “4CURRENTSEA,” a pun on Dan Gaub’s professed business dealings in forex trading.
In January, federal prosecutors in court filings described the FBI’s investigation as completed. The current status of the case, however, remains unclear, as is the status of assets and legal records that are necessary to resolve the probate case.
Lawyers in the probate case say they are under the impression a federal grand jury in either Yakima or Spokane has been meeting with regard to the alleged investment fraud. Such proceedings are secret.
At the end of the hearing Friday, Vanderschoor made it clear he was unhappy with what is typically sedate probate proceedings and, in the future, would not handle the related litigation that has sprung up.
At the end of the hearing Friday, Vanderschoor made it clear he was unhappy with the proceedings, which in most probate cases are more sedate, and that in the future he would not handle the related litigation that has sprung up.
Even so, he ruled on several motions related to some of Baugher’s litigation, declining a change of venue and limiting interrogatories by Baugher to 40 questions.
Afterwards, attorneys in the case, including Patrick Vane, one of the Gaub estate’s attorneys, expressed frustration with the ongoing but unknown status of the criminal investigation by federal authorities.
Said Vane, “It’s a moving target.”
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.