JUSTICE Bad Boy Oilman

The last desperate sales pitch of Bill Brosseau.

IN THE FEDERAL COURTHOUSE’S GARDEN of good and evil, this became a morning when the good phoned in sick. A small assembly had gathered before the bench of U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall for a sentencing hearing. The session combined all the necessary ingredients for a one-act play, a play remarkable for its grim characters and acrimonious dialogue.

The plot revolved around one character: the defendant, Bill Brosseau. A man with sharp facial features, Brosseau resembles the jack of clubs. He claims a height of 6-foot-7, although persons who know him insist he stands 6-foot-9.

Brosseau’s biography reads as follows: After a self-described Dickensian childhood of poverty, despair, and parental neglect, the defendant became a basketball star at San Antonio Central Catholic High School, attended UT Austin, then graduated from Baylor Dental School in Dallas and immediately abandoned the realm of the tooth.

In or around 1975, Brosseau barged into the Texas oil business and, according to his ample file of press notices, soon became a freshly minted version of J. Paul Getty. His activities after sunset would suggest that Hugh Hefner created Playboy specifically for the lifestyle of Bill Brosseau.

Later years produced dark and frequent accusations that the Brosseau oil fortune was a facade of Brosseau’s creation and that the defendant’s only genuine talent was a mastery of the quirky arts of griftmanship. His tapestry of deception led to divorce, bankruptcy, a monthlong stint in the Seagoville federal correctional facility for contempt of court in 1996, and finally, last October, an appointment before Judge Kendall.

Officially, Brosseau, now 50, faced sentencing after filing a guilty plea on one count of securities fraud-misapplying about $8 million worth of investor money for an oil well in Bee County. The government charged that the money was raised through a boiler room scam operated out of Brosseau*$ house in University Park. Brosseau arrived in court with his lawyer, Billy Ravkind; his former live-in girlfriend (whom he had identified to some people as Fidel Castro’s granddaughter); and their baby daughter. The defendant seemed confident of delaying sentencing another 30 precious days, contending that he could sell two houses and repay some investors. It became immediately evident that this would be the morning that Bill Brosseau’s luck and sales pitch would at last betray him.



The Hearing

The Court (aka Joe Kendall, steamed because Ravkind had shown up the previous day without his client): We are here today for sentencing. And I understand the defendant wants to delay sentencing.

Mr. Ravkind: If Your Honor please, I have been talking to the bankruptcy trustee and…(at this point, Brosseau’s baby apparently files an objection).

THE COURT: Excuse me a minute…. We need to take the baby outside, please. OK.

Mr. Ravkind: I think I scared the baby. (Ravkind describes a house in Acapulco that Brosseau hopes to sell.) There is a judgment in Canada against the house. My understanding of Mexican law is that what Mr. Brosseau has to do is go down there and, for want of a better word, domesticate his Mexican judgment which will take precedent over the Canadian situation. And the trustee tells me that he can at that point sell the home.

The Court: Do you understand what you re saying?

Mr. Ravkind: No.

The Court: Well, I don’t either.



Creating a Legend

In the context of the times. Bill Brosseau stood out as a model citizen of the Dallas of the early ’80s. The Cocaine-for-Break-fast ’80s. The Who-Cares-If-She’s-Got-Herpes?-Let’s-Do-It-Anyway ’80s. The Approach -The- Altar- And-Kiss-The-Dollar-Sign ’80s.

At the game preserves for carnal cowboys along McKinney Avenue, where the children of finance gathered nightly to consummate their decadence. Big Bill was winning perfect-attendance badges.

During daylight hours, Brosseau’s name and face became ubiquitous in print. Here was Brosseau showing off his knee-high python cowboy boots on the September 1981 cover of Money magazine, with the headline “Bom poor,Texas oilman Bill Brosseau is building a fortune.”

March 1982: Bill Brosseau told the Dallas Times Herald about the stresses that come with receiving more than 1,500 letters from love-stricken women after he was listed as bachelor of the month in Cosmopolitan. “Maybe they should ship me and the letters around the country the way they did King Tut,” Brosseau told a reporter. “They could call me King Slut.”

The persona that Brosseau created for himself in those days read like fiction. And it read like fiction because largely, it was fiction. Brosseau’s declarations that his net worth ranged from $ 12 million to $30 million were exaggerated to the extreme.

Brosseau, the financial legend, was largely the product of public relations efforts masterminded by Gene Wilson, who in the early ’80s was just getting started in the business of sculpting images. He set about the task of establishing a personality for Brosseau copied from the Jett Rink character in Giant.

“Bill presented all the right elements,” says Wilson, who wants to make it clear his work for Brosseau ended in 1986. “He was articulate and offered a kind of star quality. He appeared on the Mike Douglas TV show and they invited him back. He was on ’Good Morning America.’”

Charlie Langston, who operates an investments company, became one of those taken in by Brosseau’s ample media portfolio of the early 1980s. “As it turns out. Bill Brosseau is the only oilman I ever heard of who hired a PR man before he hired a geologist,” Langston says. “Unfortunately, his PR man turned out to be a hell of a lot more proficient than his geologist.”

Langston believed Brosseau was the second coming of H.L. Hunt. “What I should have recognized as a red flag happened when Bill himself answered the phone,” Langston says. “What should have been red flag No. 2 came when 1 went to his office, which, was actually in the living room of this condo at the Beverly on Turtle Creek. It was just Bill and one other woman. I asked him where everybody was, and he said he liked to keep the worker bees off site so that he could enjoy the peace and serenity of total concentration.”

Langston wanted to sell Brosseau leases in Cook County. “But instead, he turned the whole spin around and then he was selling me,” Langston says. “He pulled out this presentation for a well in Louisiana…air-brushed, color renderings. It must have been a $ 10.000 package. Bill said if I bought 5 percent of the deal, I would become not rich, but wealthy.” Brosseau told him: “Sign on with me, and I’ll make you a star.”

“Bill was really hung up on that star thing,” Langston says. “God only knows how desperately he wanted to become one himself.”



The Hearing Takes a Turn for the Worse

Mr. RaVkind: Well, if one were to read the pre-sentence report, one would possibly believe that there’s a large sum of money that this man has squirreled away in kiddie trusts-ill-gotten gain. That’s simply not true.

The Prosecutor: Your Honor, if I could just give a different view of this. When Mr. Brosseau began this process of cooperating with us and the receiver, I told Mr. Brosseau-personally, face to face-that all the hocus-pocus had to stop. There are several things that happened along the way, one of them being a $38,000 Mercedes that Mr. Brosseau was going to turn over to the receiver and then told me, through the receiver, that his girlfriend had run off with the car…. Then he later told me that his girlfriend had taken the car, sold it. and run off with the money. We determined that that was a He and that Mr. Brosseau had sold the Mercedes and spent the money in conjunction with his girlfriend….

The Defendant: Regarding the Mercedes, the Mercedes was not in my name. The Mercedes was in the name of Angelina Maria Perez, who I was living with at the time and who is the mother of my daughter. She had put $30.000-when I was indicted and the hank accounts were frozen-she put $30,000 of her own money into running the family.

The Court: Where did she get 30 grand?

The Defendant: From working.

The Court: What does she do for a living?

The Defendant: She was a dancer…. Please don’t judge her for what she does because she is an excellent mother and a wonderful person.

The Court: Oh. that kind of dancer. I thought you meant like ballet or something.

The Defendant: No. That kind of dancer.



The Scam-Or at Least One of Them

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas has assembled several cartons of documents that finally brought Brosseau into Judge Kendall’s courtroom. The most intriguing element of the paperwork in Brosseau’s case file is a list of individuals who invested and lost big in Offshore Financial, the company that operated out of the big house in University Park.

This list begins with the name of Dan Abbate and continues for 192 names to John Zychowica. Addresses of the defrauded individuals run from Maine to New South Wales. Interestingly, one of the names includes actor Gary Busey. who chipped in $ 140,000. Busey used to party with Brosseau. In all. the individuals on the list wrote checks to Offshore totaling $7,681,394. Court records show that Brosseau has agreed to participate in a restitution fund, paying $ 1,000 a month.

Selecting at random from the list of 193 names. 1 called a home in North Carolina. The 71-year-old widow does not want her name published because nobody except her daughter knows that she sent checks totaling $57,811. She describes a classic Ponzi scheme. Before writing big checks to Offshore Financial, the woman had invested in a company called Global Environmental in North Carolina, which is how her name appeared on the University Park bucket shop sucker list.

One of Brosseau’s telemarketers called from his house on McFarlin and got her in on the deal. “No risk, all they needed to do was take a cement block out of a well that they had acquired that was already a producing well,” she says. “I’ll admit it. I fell for it.”

She received a few checks, one for more than $400, a couple more for $300 and change, a couple of others for lesser amounts. Then the checks stopped arriving. She called Bill Brosseau. “He said they were reworking the wells, and they’d be up and pumping again in three weeks, maybe a month,” the widow says. “But- no more checks.”

Then she got a visit from the FBI. That’s when she learned there had been no production from those wells and the checks she had received were from money that had come in from other people like herself.



The Judge Decides He’s Heard Enough

The Court: I think it was Woody Guthrie, Alio s daddy, who said, some men rob you with a gun; some men rob you with a fountain pen.You’re just as robbed either way, and in some cases much more so. And this is one of them….

F m going to sentence you to 60 months. And the reason I am sentencing you to 60 is because that’s all I can sentence you to. From reading this, you re just a con man. That’s my assessment.

And given what I have heard here today, I see…plenty of good reasons for you to begin your sentence today because at least I know that no one else will be sending you $25,000 in the next 30 days.

The End of the Story-For Now

Nobody who knows Brosseau-even his militant detractors-seems capable of providing a reasonable explanation as to how he wound up in the darkest of circumstances. He stood out as that rare individual who came with the whole package. Charm. Looks. Discipline. Guts. Good education. Keen, versatile, inquisitive mind. Stuck amid the depths of the huge publicity file left over from the early ’80s, I found an eerie quote. Brosseau, commenting on his estrangement from his family, talked about his father: “He went to prison. For embezzlement. Five years. And when I was 12 or so, I went to visit him up at Seagoville. He was a miserable sight. And I was ashamed.”

In the ultimate irony, we find Bill Brosseau pulling those same five years at a similar facility in Texarkana. If there is such a thing as a death wish, it could be reasonably speculated that throughout his life, Brosseau was driven by a prison wish. A Dallas psychiatrist confirms that a child-hood trauma, or series of traumas, can produce an unconscious force too compelling to resist and, in this case-as far out as it sounds-to re-create the sins of the father through a pattern of self-destructive acts.

In regard to the hypothesis of Brosseau’s prison wish, Don Hanvey, who was actually involved in a successful venture with Brosseau, says, “When you bear the degree of hate that he had for his mother, his sister, his father, I think it’s going to roll back on you.

“I ran into Bill on the street after he’d been in Seagoville for a short time on that contempt thing. He told me, ’You won’t believe who all is in there-sort of a little Who’s Who of Texas business.’ It was like he was halfway impressed with jail. So maybe it’s his kind of club. The membership is free.”

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