LOS ANGELES (CN) – “Happy Days” producer William Bickley sued a childhood friend, who became his business manager, for $6 million.
Bickley, Bickley/Warren Productions, and Bickley Productions sued Kenneth Cleveland, Cleveland and Associates and Recome Financial, in Superior Court.
Bickley demands $6 million for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion and unjust enrichment.
Bickley and Cleveland were “lifelong” friends, and had known each other for decades when Bickley discovered his old friend had been fleecing him for 20 of the 23 years Cleveland was in charge of his finances, Bickley says in the lawsuit.
Bickley says in the complaint that he chanced upon the fraud in late 2010, after his wife Melanie reviewed his finances as he became semi-retired.
Among other things, she discovered that Bickley’s credit score was low because of unpaid bills, and that Cleveland had lied about a $1 million interest free loan, which the couple thought was an amortized loan, according to the complaint.
After confronting Cleveland at a November 2010 meeting, Bickley says, he uncovered more details. He claims he learned his manager had failed to pay his taxes or file his returns, and there were corresponding IRS tax liens under his name.
Though there was a $37,500 annual limit on Cleveland’s manager fee, he had been paying himself $100,000 a year, Bickley says in the complaint.
But worse was to come. At the November 2010 meeting, Cleveland “became defensive and angry and suddenly blurted out that William and Melanie were virtually without money and only have enough cash to pay their bills for two more months. William and Melanie were shocked and dumbfounded by Cleveland’s revelations,” the lawsuit states.
Bickley claims that Cleveland’s revelation was “particularly shocking and surprising” because just weeks before Cleveland had told him that if he wanted to, he could buy a luxury car.
Investigation showed that Cleveland had opened several bank accounts under Bickley’s name, and placed money belonging to Bickley and his companies into Recome, the complaint states.
After Cleveland refused to hand over the couple’s financial records, the Bickleys drove to Cleveland’s office in early 2011 and discovered 60 boxes of their files “stacked wall to wall” in the manager’s offices, the complaint states. The Bickleys say they promptly moved those files into their car.
“After obtaining possession of plaintiffs’ records from Cleveland’s office, William and Melanie discovered copies of checks which Cleveland had written over a period of almost 20 years from William’s, BWP’s, [Bickley/Warren Productions] and/or BP’s [Bickley Productions] accounts to himself which totaled approximately $6 million dollars,” the lawsuit says.
It adds: “Cleveland has either dissipated or secreted to said funds based, inter alia, on the fact that Cleveland represented to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective investigating Cleveland’s embezzlement of plaintiffs’ funds that he (Cleveland) ‘has no money’ and has a first, second, and third deed of trust encumbering his residence.”
Bickley claims that Cleveland siphoned off more money “in an amount presently unknown” by writing checks from Bickley’s bank, retirement and investment accounts, or withdrawing funds from Recome.
Cleveland, who managed several other sports and entertainment clients, lost his status as a certified public accountant in 2009, according to the lawsuit. It claims that Cleveland’s investment adviser license was revoked in 2005. Bickley claims he learned of those black marks in 2011.
Bickley has worked in television as a creator, producer and writer. His credits include “Happy Days,” “Perfect Strangers,” “The Love Boat,” “Family Matters” and “Step By Step.”
He demands an accounting, a constructive trust, and $6 million in damages.
He is represented by Roger Golden of Calabasas.
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