Creditors of bankrupt US Fidelis this week demanded documents and depositions from 18 relatives of the company's owners -- the brothers Darain and Cory Atkinson -- as well as records from a Christian church financed by the Atkinsons and e-mails the brothers sent to their personal lawyers using company computers and e-mail accounts.
Wentzville-based US Fidelis, which has been run by an independent management team since it filed for bankruptcy on March 1, has sued the Atkinsons to recover at least $101 million they allegedly stripped from the company, which until late last year was the nation’s biggest seller of extended auto-service contracts. The brothers are under a court order that limits how much money they can spend while creditors and the company tried to track down where the company's money went.
Much of it, it seems, went to the Atkinsons' relatives. Many were on the US Fidelis payroll, and the company picked up the tab for relatives personal expenses -- things as varied as school tuition, home repairs and landscaping, travel, counseling and chiropractic bills.
On Thursday, a committee of unsecured creditors sent subpoenas to the Atkinsons' parents -- Ernest and Sandra Atkinson -- as well as their brother, Kevin Atkinson, and several other relatives and in-laws, including:
The subpoenas demand that the Atkinson relatives made themselves available for depositions next month.
The creditors committee also is seeking financial records from the Element Church, an evangelical Christian church that is housed at US Fidelis' sprawling but now largely abandoned headquarters at the old Belz Outlet Mall, near Interstate 70 and Highway 40.
The Atkinsons brothers, who owned the old mall through one of their real-estate companies, leased space to the church. They were also benefactors to the church who, according to the US Fidelis bankruptcy filing, spent more than $200,000 of the company's money on church-related constructions costs.
In 2008, a US Fidelis press release said Darain Atkinson was a member of Element's congregation.
The creditors committee's demand that US Fidelis turn over the Atkinsons' correspondence with their personal attorneys was attacked by Norman Pressman, Darain Atkinson's lawyer in the company's bankruptcy case. In a motion to get more time to object to the committee's request, Pressman wrote that it seeks to invade his client's attorney-client privilege.