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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Affirms $3.2M Verdict for Gill Trustee

COLUMBUS, Ga. (CN) - The custodian of a trust established by fugitive real estate mogul John Gill is entitled to a $3.2 million jury award for damages stemming from the conversion of the trust's funds, a federal judge ruled.

U.S, District Judge Clay Land confirmed the award in a case that pitted Daniel Van Gasken, trustee of the Gill Family Cornerstone Trust, against Gill's brother, Loren Gill and Elm Leasing LLC, an entity that he controls.

John Gill made his initial fortune as a pioneer in the pay day loan industry, and like many an entrepreneur, he began to look for ways to invest his profits and minimize his taxes.

However, according to the Judge Land's opinion, Gill chose a more imaginative strategy than most.

"He set up an elaborate scheme in which he took a purported vow of poverty and became a minister of the Order of the International Academy of Lymphology," Land explained. "He set up the Gill Family Cornerstone Trust in 1999 with his daughters, Kaitlyn and Lauren Gill, included as beneficiaries."

Van Gasken was named trustee, and Cornerstone was set up to be the beneficiary of 250 real estate holding trusts.

Ten years later, John Gill was convicted in Florida on criminal charges related to his payday loan business. Instead of reporting to prison, Gill fled the country and forfeited control over his real estate empire, Land wrote.

After hostility developed between Loren Gill and Van Gasken regarding control of the trusts, the daughters filed suit accusing the men of draining the Cornerstone Trust's assets.

On April 14, 2014, the daughters settled for 40 percent of the properties held in the trusts and 40 percent of any assets recovered from their uncle, Loren Gill.

Trustee Van Gasken claimed that John and Loren Gill converted money from the real estate holding trusts to purchase eight properties titled in the name of Elm Leasing.

The ruling explains that Van Gasken was duped into believing Elm Leasing belonged to a trust benefiting the Cornerstone Trust, when in fact, Loren Gill is the sole owner.

Van Gasken also introduced evidence that Loren Gill accepted almost $235,000 from the new management companies that mistakenly believed he was entitled to the funds.

After four days of trial and an examination of financial records by expert witness accountant, the jury determined that Gill used roughly $2.8 million in trust funds to pay for the Elm Leasing properties.

Dissatisfied with the jury verdict, the defendants filed motions for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial.

Judge Land rejected both.

According to the 15-page ruling, "The jury found that Loren Gill and Elm Leasing converted property belonging to Van Gasken in his capacity as trustee of the real estate holding trusts and awarded damages."

"The Court finds that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that Van Gasken did not authorize the transactions," Land wrote as he tossed the defendants' request for judgment.

As for the motion for a new trial, Land said the request was "based on the same arguments Defendants relied on in support of their motions for judgment as a matter of law

"As discussed above, the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to Van Gasken supports the jury's verdict, and the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the jury unless the 'verdict is against the great, not merely the greater weight of the evidence.'"

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