RENO — A lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon against prominent Nevada businessman Harvey Whittemore and his wife Annette Whittemore for alleged misappropriation, breach of fiduciary duties and embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars.
Wingfield Nevada Group Holding Company, Tuffy Ranch Properties and The Foothills at Wingfield filed the lawsuit in Clark County District Court.
Harvey and Anette Whittemore quickly issued a written response through their representative Mike Draper in Reno.
“These allegations are false. We will take any and all steps necessary to preserve the reputation for integrity that we have built in this state for over 40 years,” the Whittemores wrote.
According to the 41-page complaint, the Whittemores face several accusations of using company assets for personal gain.
“... By misusing and exploiting corporate assets, by failing to document corporate and personal transactions, by misleading and lying to other Wingfield owners and employees, by discouraging employees from disclosing key facts to the other Wingfield owners, and by using the bank accounts of Wingfield for his personal purposes, Whittemore has breached his fiduciary duties to Wingfield and its owners, has committed a series of fraudulent transactions designed to financially harm Plaintiffs, and has conspired to use Wingfield improperly and illegally to advance his personal and financial interests,” the lawsuit states.
Kent Robison, a Reno attorney who filed the lawsuit, said his clients are seeking repayment of company funds and payment for damages from the Whittemores.
“There is a certain time they have to respond,” Robison said. “We have to follow the legal process.”
The lawsuit alleges the Whittemores used company funds to make political donations, used the company airplane for personal trips and funded entertainment and personal investments with company proceeds.
The suit also claims Whittemore diverted corporate funds to buy or lease numerous vehicles for himself, his wife and other family members, and to operate and maintain the family home, the Glenbrook Inn at Lake Tahoe.
In early 2004, the Whittemores sold half of their ownership interest in various companies, including Argus Media, Inc., Wild West Sound Company, Inc., Redlabs U.S.A., Inc., Dr. Pepper/7-Up Bottling Company of the West, Coyote Springs Water Corporation and Coyote Springs Land Development corporation to Thomas Seeno’s Company, TNSS, LLC.
Whittemore was the president of Coyote Springs Investment, the developer of Coyote Springs, a $30 billion golf course community of 160,000 homes on 43,000 acres in southern Nevada. His friendship with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) underwent scrutiny when many thought Coyote Springs was allowed special favors to overcome regulatory problems.
Robison filed Friday’s lawsuit together with James Pisanelli of Las Vegas. The Whittemores live in Washoe County. However, the companies involved require all complaints involving litigation be filed in Clark County.
The companies involved in the suit seek several claims of relief, including the reimbursement of $2.2 million in reported flight costs for Harvey Whittemore’s personal trips, $345,500 in Annette Whittemore’s flight costs and several thousands of dollars in reimbursements for other apparent withdrawals and loans of company funds through the years. They also seek payment for damages and demand a jury trial.