We all remember that very first episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, when Taylor Armstrong shocked the viewing public by describing her marriage as “80% business, 20% pleasure,” well apparently there is more truth to that statement than initially suspected.
In the continuing tragedy of Russell Armstrong’s life and death, The Daily Beast conducted an in-depth investigation into Russell and Taylor’s financial dealings, interviewing legitimate sources who actually identified themselves by name. Sadly, in light of the investigation, it seems Taylor was a driving force behind many of Russell’s business ventures and was an active player in allegedly scamming investors.
The Armstrongs, who married in 2005, welcomed their daughter Kennedy into the world soon after. Taylor, who was on her fourth name change by the time she became Mrs. Armstrong, apparently used her “maiden name,” Ford, to imply she was a wealthy member of the Ford Motor Company family. Tom Crosswaite, a long-time business associate of Russell’s who invested heavily in two of his companies, on Taylor’s ever-shifting identity: “She’s from Oklahoma, for goodness sakes! And she’s changed her name from Shana Hughes to Shanna Taylor to Taylor Ford to Taylor Armstrong. She wants you to think she’s a dumb blonde but she’s not!”
Taylor, described as more than “arm candy” by sources, was part of a complicated scam to rope in potential investors using fraudulent information about her past; thus misrepresented her affiliations. Russell and Taylor whose history of grifting came out in the press during the first season of RHoBH soon became embroiled in lawsuits and accusations about their shady dealings and manipulative ways from former acquaintances and business partners, including a history of filing bankruptcy and misappropriating investor money.
Currently MyMedicalRecords.com (MMR) has filed suit and complaint against the Armstrongs in Superior Court of California alleging: “Russell engaged in “self-dealing” and, “in concert with Taylor,” the couple “secretly funnel[ed]” money to themselves to fund their “lavish lifestyle, redecorate their mansion…and become business colleagues of (actress) Eva Longoria, in an upscale restaurant.” (The couple openly bragged about owning 51% of Beso, the restaurant owned by Eva Longoria, but documents show Taylor invested $11,000 – or 2%.)
“Taylor’s most blatant tactic was to tell people that she was a member of the prestigious Ford family and by implication put a stamp of approval on her husband’s proposed investments.” Through this pseudo-affiliation with a prestigious family, she ” falsely claimed others in the family were major investors in Russell’s business dealings.”
Through her attorney, notorious celeb lawyer, Martin Singer (whose clients include Charlie Sheen); Taylor, denies that she ever portrayed herself as a member of “the Ford Motor Company family,” and Singer maintains that his client has always represented herself as coming “humble beginnings.”
A long-time friend of Russell’s, Dr John Franks, remembers Russell as “happy go lucky” before Taylor:
“After Taylor came into Russell’s life, however, with her expensive tastes and demands for costly jewels, clothes, and fancy vacations, Russell’s carefree days were behind him, and Franks says his friend submerged himself in more investment plays. Once The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills came into their lives later, Taylor required cosmetic enhancements, a stylist, a maid, a nanny, landscapers, and pool attendants—all designed to showcase her in the best possible light for the TV public.” Franks continues, asserting that Taylor required an “$11,000 a month nut for the house and staff.”
To help garner capital to support her expensive requirements, Dr. Franks reveals of Taylor: “She’d go around working the crowd, especially the guys, mentioning her Ford family connection. She would set up the presentations at the Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, rent the room, make sure there were hors d’oeuvres and drinks. And he would make the presentation”
According to Beverly Hills real-estate entrepreneur, Philip Elghanian, Russell and Taylor attempted to purchase a home from him through a lease to own type deal and the keys were turned over to them with the promise of payment. After months of waiting for a signed contract that was never returned he attempted to evict them and was immediately served with papers from the couple demanding he pay them $75,000 for renovations they made to the home, despite never being given permission to make said reservations.
Elghanian reports: “Taylor said, ‘My best friend is the decorator on this house. We’ve already paid him $50,000. We’ve already bought the wallpaper.’” According to Elghanian’s account, “My lawyer finally said to pay them because they’ll tie you up in court forever at a huge cost.”
The supposed decorator and best friend, John Wiltgen; well the Armstrongs defrauded him too – with Taylor at the helm! “They were telling people I was their designer but they never signed the contract I sent them. They picked out furniture and fabrics … but they never paid for any of it. They never paid me a dime [but] they did offer me some more MMR stock. And Taylor can’t say she didn’t know because she was standing right there smiling.” Oops, busted again, Tay-Tay.
Robert H. Lorsch, a wealthy LA businessman who invested in MMR, the most recent company Russell was attempting to start, recounts that Russell left the partnership “under a cloud of missing money.” An investigation into their shady dealings with the company attracted attention when another associate’s wife was confronted by Taylor in the ladies room at a restaurant, where Taylor “completely broke down … [She] told her how Russell was in a bankruptcy and she was unsure about how it would affect her friendships with people who had invested with them.” Lorsch hired a private investigator to track down this bankruptcy and discovered over $1M that never made it into the company’s accounts. Including $10,000 from a elderly widow Taylor had deposited into the account of a separate company headed by Russell, “which utilized Taylor’s services.”
After being confronted quietly by the board of directors at MMR, Russell AND Taylor signed a settlement agreement requiring them to list every investor they had gotten money from and relinquish all their shares of MMR stock. “It’s very rare to have the wife of an executive sign a settlement—but we had to,” recounts Lorsch. “Her fingerprints were everywhere.”
An additional internal audit conducted by MMR which led to the pending lawsuit against the Armstrongs, revealed that Taylor did a lot of spending while Russell was supposedly in bankruptcy. The audit uncovered that in April and June of 2007, Taylor wrote a $20,000 check to a charity and put another large sum in an offshore Cook Island account for the “Taylor Family Trust,” meanwhile MMR was missing millions in unaccounted for investor money.
The article goes onto speculate that the couple might have come through the bankruptcy “with flying colors,” and Taylor could benefit mightily from some of Russell’s undisclosed financial investments (although his attorney, Ron Richards has previously stated he was virtually penniless at the time of death), including an investment in a film company Russell bragged to associates about receiving $200M from! I wonder if that money is in the “Taylor Family Trust,” as well?
Photo credit: WENN
Thoughts on Taylor’s involvements swindling investors? Are you surprised? Do you believe the couple was hiding monetary assets?