Hill, 40, and his wife, Erin Nance Hill, a former beauty queen and Dallas socialite, were charged with making a false statement to obtain property or credit and one count of securing execution of a document by deception. Hill claimed a monthly income of $54,341, while Erin claimed to have more than $100,000 in a bank account. Apparently, they did not.
Erin, 38, was charged with two counts of making a false statement and one of securing execution of a document by deception. The charges are first-degree felonies, with a punishment range of probation or five years to life.
The charges center on a real estate home improvement loan the Hills obtained from OmniAmerican Bank in 2009, claiming to be sole owners of their $1.9 million dollar Highland Park home, pictured. (Highland Park is an exclusive township in Dallas County.) Turns out, they are not.
According to the Dallas Central Appraisal District website, the couple owns only 20 percent of their $1.9 million home on tony Bordeaux. The majority interest is owned by the Albert Hill Trust, whose beneficiary is Al III's father, Al Hill Jr., and H.L. Hunt's grandson. And here's where it gets gritty. Father and son have been embroiled for years in a high-profile, bitter series of lawsuits over the Hunt estate and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In Dallas, there is speculation that this is just one more chapter to the Hunt's never-ending family feuds and complex family tree skirmishes. Or could it be the final straw to destroy the foundations of one of the nation's wealthiest family fortunes, because the great grandson, Al Three as he is known, is a spendthrift?
Margaret Hunt Hill's name is on a highly touted new city bridge under construction, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Margaret is the daughter who, when she learned that her father had sired at least 14 acknowledged children, suggested trust funds for each of them. Her son, Al Jr., is a handsome former pro tennis player who suffered an unfortunate fall at his Highland Park mansion nine years ago that left him both paralyzed and a teetotaler. For a time, the tragedy brought him closer to his son, Al Three, who had sworn off alcohol in his college days at Baylor University after a serious car wreck. The son went to work for his father managing the family's investments for $10,000 a week. At this point, for some reason, the father signed over most of the billion-dollar estate he inherited from his mother to his children, Al Three and two daughters.
But when Margaret Hunt Hill, died in 2007, Al Three became disgruntled over money. He started complaining about family finances and sued his father, sisters, aunts, and long-time family advisor Tom Hunt, H.L.'s trusted nephew and confidant. Tom Hunt, 84, started working with H.L. in the oilfields of East Texas when he was 16. Al Three's beefs were numerous but centered on tax fraud, mismanagement of trust funds, and the prime family jewel, Hunt Petroleum, which the family wanted to sell, putting about $5.5 million a year in interest income in his pockets.
But Al Three wasn't satisfied.
Hunt Petroleum was sold to XTO Energy for $4.2 billion in 2008.
The word in Dallas, and as chronicled in a 2008 Vanity Fair story by Dallas society reporter Alan Peppard, was that Al Three and his wife, a former Miss Georgia, lived way beyond their means: a $98,000 revolving charge balance at Neiman Marcus, not uncommon with the high net worth, my sources tell me, but when added to $81,000 revolving credit at the Stanley Korshak department store; a couple Mercedes and a Porsche; $188,821 for household staff, including a British butler that some relatives dubbed the "manny"; and countless costly vacations, including $343,000 blown on one trip alone to Cap d'Antibes, France, with the kids and Erin's mother, well, the couple got overextended.
Erin was nicknamed Georgian American Princess by some Hunt insiders and family. She was on Dallas's coveted best-dressed list three times and also worked feverishly on the Dallas charity circuit, raising close to a million on events. But the family money was all tied up in tight trusts. In 2002, the father okayed a $2,275,000 advance from Smith Barney to cover the son's debts. Three's combined personal and business debts topped $20 million, but most of the business debt was eliminated through bankruptcy.
Al Jr. felt his son was spending way too much and suggested a monthly budget of $45,000. In 2004, he gave his son $3.1 million for an 80 percent ownership of Three's home on Bordeaux. The elder Hunt family is notorious for being frugal. Legend has it that H.L. ate lunch at a small Dallas diner almost every day because it was cheap. Caroline Rose Hunt, founder and chairman of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, still refuses to fly first class. The children of H. Ross Perot, says one Dallas Realtor, live far more outlandishly than do the Hunt children.
In 2007, the young Hill's clothing expenses for ten months of the year topped $460,713. The father-son lawsuit over control of the trust was settled last spring, but that, too, was complex.
But the battle did not stop there. The father sued the son for committing corporate espionage against Hunt Petroleum, which he claims lost them $439 million on the XTO sale.
Al Three and Erin had their Highland Park home on the market briefly (and quietly) last year, but no longer. A confidential source tells me they have pared down their lifestyle somewhat: Whereas Erin used to have a nanny for each child, there is now a house manager who cooks some and tends to the three children, plus two housekeepers and gardeners. The British "manny" is gone. Last week, reports the Dallas Morning News, Al Three filed an appeal in federal court of the almost year-old mediation settlement.
The Dallas Morning News story also noted that the great grand-son of H.L. Hunt and his wife do not have legal representation, at least not at this time.
Al Hill, Jr. told the paper that it's "a very, very sad day for our entire family," and said he no longer has contact with his son -- even a birthday gift for his grandson was refused at the door. A spokeswoman for the Dallas County district attorney told the News they plan to pursue these cases just like any other case in Dallas County. Meantime, the father continues to dabble in the real estate business. His father, Al Hill Sr. developed Garden of the Gods Club, a lavish golf and mountain resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1951 and built three homes there. (The Hunt family still vacations in the area.)
Real estate is in Al Hill, Jr.'s blood, too. He built his first spec house in Dallas in 1971, several townhouses throughout the '70s, plus more homes in Colorado and Plano, Tex. Building homes is a vocation, he told me in an interview at his home last year, and he selects his locations methodically. Hill has built three high-end spec homes in his Highland Park neighborhood, where he now prefers building, on lots he snapped up in 2007 and 2008. One of his daughters is living in one while her new home is under construction, and one sold for about $10 million. A beautiful 12,000-square-foot French chateau with high quality finish out, is listed for $7,800,000, reduced from $9,250,000. It's been on the market for more than two years, but Hill says he's not a bit concerned.
"Two of the lots I bought two weekends in a row," he said. "The following weekend I was out looking with my physical therapist, and he said, aren't we going to buy another house today?"
Candy is an award-winning, Dallas-based real estate reporter, blogger, and consultant. She's the gal who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt! Read more at SecondShelters.com. and send story ideas and tips to CandyEvans@secondshelters.com.