Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr didn't leave a will, but he did leave behind two children – the only heirs to a multimillion-dollar estate that included the largest share in mixed martial arts clothier TapouT, a stable of customized European sports cars and an assortment of luxury Swiss watches.
Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian John S. Williams moved quickly to take control of Lewis' fortune, which he initially valued at up to $15 million, arguing that he was better suited to handle the “large, complex estate” than Diane Larson, the mother of Lewis' children. Orange County Probate Court Judge Gerald G. Johnston agreed in May 2009, turning the estate over to Williams.
“The Public Administrator is forcing itself into this Estate where it is neither needed nor wanted,” Adam Streltzer, an attorney for Larson, complained in court filings.
Eleven months later, the 4th District Court of Appeal would agree, accusing Williams of overreaching his authority and chastising Johnston for abusing his discretion. The estate was eventually handed back to Larson.
But by then, it was too late. The public administrator had already agreed to sell TapouT at a price other shareholders would later call “pennies on the dollar.” It sold Lewis' Bentley and Mercedes-Benz for $58,000 less than their appraised values, and paid $45,000 to Lewis' former business partners for funeral expenses they promised to provide for free, court records and interviews show.
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