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Celebrated Sculptor Sues Wife for $18 Million

MONTEREY, Calif. (CN) - Renowned bronze sculptor Richard MacDonald sued his wife and her family for $18 million, claiming they defrauded and abused him and stole his money and art.

MacDonald, 70, who lives in Monterey County and has a studio in Carmel, is known for sculpting figures in motion, such as dancers or athletes. He was commissioned to create "The Flair," a 26-foot-tall gymnast, for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and a 15-foot-tall monument of a golfer's swing for the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at Pebble Beach in 2000.

Lead defendant Julia Cominos, 45, met MacDonald in 2005 and began working for him soon after, eventually becoming vice president of his company in 2009. They married in 2010, but MacDonald says in his Jan. 29 lawsuit in Monterey Superior Court that the abuse had started before that.

"Julia's abusive and controlling behavior was often fueled by alcohol," MacDonald says in the complaint. He says her attacks "ranged from insults, name-calling and screaming ... to breaking and throwing objects ... to physical assaults such as pinching, shoving, grabbing Richard's face and kicking him."

She tried to run him off the road when he was driving, prevent him from leaving the house and spied on him with hidden cameras, according to the lawsuit. "On a particularly violent occasion, Richard called the police," the complaint states. "Upon arrival, Julia's belligerent and destructive behavior led to her arrest and a subsequent plea of guilty to vandalism and disorderly conduct."

He says the financial abuse was as bad or worse. Cominos gained power of attorney over his finances before they were married, and has stolen from him, mismanaged money and driven away good employees to the tune of $18 million, MacDonald says.

He says he became aware of the extent of the problem on Oct. 23, 2014, when he got a call from American Express, "stating that $256,798.45 was owed on the RMS [Richard MacDonald Studios] AmEx card and that the amount was due the next day."

That call spurred him to investigate, he says, and he "has to date uncovered millions of dollars in misappropriated and/or stolen funds."

So far, MacDonald says, he's determined that Cominos rang up $700,000 in personal expenses on the AmEx and company credit cards, putting his studio in financial jeopardy; opened up a fraudulent bank account and transferred more than $300,000 into it; changed his mailing addresses on his personal bank accounts to a P.O. box she created; misreported about $4.5 million in sales to give herself a bigger bonus; diverted money into her family's property management company; sold artwork at deep discounts and falsified records to hide it all.

MacDonald and his studio sued Cominos, her father, a Cominos family trust, two banks, a title company, an accounting firm, and two former employees of his studio.

He seeks punitive damages, an accounting and an injunction on 16 causes of action, including elder abuse, negligence, conversion, concealment, intentional misrepresentation, trespass to chattels, criminal violations, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Terry Szucsko, with Lvovich & Szucsko in San Francisco, who did not respond to calls to his office.

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