Mellon v. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery et al
COMPLAINT (2 summonses issued) with Jury Demand ( Filing fee $400 receipt #CAS1066.), filed by Timothy Mellon. (Consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge emailed to Counsel) (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet) (Court Staff, stbd)
";S DISTRICT COURT
Jeff Oven, Bar No. 6-3371
CROWLEY FLECK PLLP
490 North 31'" Street, Suite 500
P.O. Box 2529
Billings, MT 59103-2529
Telephone: (406) 252-3441
3 PH 3 34
olEPHAN 'J/w'iK.'C, CLEHK
Timothy Stubson, Bar No. 6-3144
CROWLEY FLECK PLLP
152 N. Durbin, Suite 220
Casper, WY 82601
Telephone: (307) 265-2279
Facsimile: (307) 265-2307
Attorneys for Plaintiff
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF WYOMING
TIMOTHY MELLON, a Wyoming resident,
THE INTERNATIONAL GROUP FOR
HISTORIC AIRCRAFT RECOVERY,
Delaware non-profit corporation and
RICHARD E. GILLESPIE,
Plaintiff, Timothy Mellon, a Wyoming resident, by and through his attorneys, Crowley
Fleck, PLLP presents the following as his complaint against Defendant, The International Group
for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a Delaware non-profit corporation and Defendant Richard E.
Plaintiff, Timothy Mellon, (Mellon) is a Wyoming resident.
Defendant, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is
a Delaware non-profit corporation with its principal offices in Wilmington, Delaware. TIGHAR
performs investigations, aviation archeology and historic preservation of rare and historic
Defendant Richard E. Gillespie, (Gillespie) is a citizen of Delaware and is the
Executive Director of TIGHAR.
The parties are of diverse citizenship.
The amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum for this Court.
Jurisdiction is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), § 1331 and 18
U.S.C. § 1964.
The claims forming the basis of this complaint, or a significant portion thereof,
arose in that geographical area which is contained within the federal judicial district known as
the District of Wyoming.
Venue is properly in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 1391 and 18 U.S.C. §
FACTS COMMON TO ALL CLAIMS
TIGHAR conducts investigations around the world into aircraft wreckage and
As part of its efforts TIGHAR engages in extensive fund raising utilizing
corporate sponsorships and private dollars to fund its activities.
Among the most prominent of its efforts is TIGHAR's ongoing investigation into
the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in the South Pacific in 1937.
TIGHAR has focused its efforts on the island of Nikumaroro in the Republic of
Kiribati. The island was formerly known as Gardner Island.
Operating on a hypothesis that Earhart and Noonan landed and perished on
Nikumaroro, TIGHAR has launched a number of expeditions to the island and conducted
numerous detailed surveys and searches of the island and its surrounding waters.
In 2010, TIGHAR undertook an expedition to the island known as NIKU VI.
The expedition, which lasted from May 18, 2010 through June 14, 2010, included
the use of a remote operated vehicle (hereinafter "ROV") which was equipped with a HighDefinition video camera. Significant footage of the waters surrounding Nikumaroro was
obtained during the investigation, including footage of the wreckage of the Lockheed Electra
flown by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared in 1937.
TIGHAR did not disclose the discovery. Instead, TIGHAR began to plan and
fund-raise for its next expedition, NIKU VII.
As part of its preparations for NIKU VII, the Executive Director of TIGHAR, Ric
Gillespie, began meeting with potential benefactors who would support the newly planned
Among those who Mr. Gillespie met with in order to solicit contributions was
Plaintiff, Timothy Mellon.
On or about March 22, 2012, Mr. Gillespie spoke with Mr. Mellon by phone
while Mr. Mellon was at his home in Wyoming. During that conversation the two spoke about
the next planned expedition and the possibility that Mr. Mellon might contribute to funding the
Mr. Gillespie followed up by fax and by mail communicating to Mr. Mellon in
Wyoming stating that the Earhart aircraft had not been located.
Mr. Mellon and Mr. Gillespie had an additional conversation about the possibility
of supporting the latest expedition and noted his interest in being involved in discovering the
whereabouts of the Earhart wreckage. At no time did Mr. Gillespie discuss the NIKU VI
expedition or the debris field that was discovered as part of that expedition. Instead, Mr.
Gillespie represented that the wreckage had not been found and expressed optimism that by
utilizing additional tools a discovery was possible during the NIKU VII expedition.
Based upon TIGHAR's representations Mr. Mellon contributed stock having a
value of $1,046,843.00 to help fund the NIKU VII expedition.
NIKU VII departed Hawaii on July 3, 2012. Mr. Mellon accompanied the
expedition as did a documentary crew from the Discovery Channel and other supporters of the
The expedition again included the use of an ROV and a high definition camera.
TIGHAR has now announced its plans to fundraise for and launch yet another
expedition in search of the Earhart aircraft, NIKU VIII.
Mellon incorporates and realleges paragraphs 1 through 25 as though fiilly set out
TIGHAR knowingly and intentionally misrepresented the status of its exploration
and investigation into the Earhart aircraft to Mellon. Specifically, TIGHAR represented that the
aircraft had not been located and that additional funding and efforts were needed to locate the
These representations were material and were reasonably relied upon by Mellon
in making his decision to contribute to TIGHAR's proposed expedition.
Based upon those representations, Mellon pledged and did contribute
$1,046,843.00 to support the NIKU VII expedition.
Plaintiffs reasonable reliance on such representations has directly, proximately
and foreseeably caused Plaintiffs damages.
Plaintiff is entitled to a judgment against TIGHAR in an amount to be proven at
trial, for damages sustained by Plaintiff as the direct, proximate and foreseeable result of the
Mellon incorporates and realleges paragraphs 1 through 31 as though ftally set out
Prior to Mellon's donation, TIGHAR represented that its search for the Earhart
aircraft was unsuccessful and that additional efforts were needed to discover the aircraft.
TIGHAR had, at the time it made the representations, a pecuniary interest in the
transaction with Plaintiff.
TIGHAR made such representations in the regular course of its business, and
made such representations for the purpose of persuading Mellon to make a contribution to its
At the time TIGHAR made such representations, they were false, as Defendant
had filmed the wreckage of the aircraft during the course of its prior expedition in 2010.
TIGHAR failed to exercise reasonable care and competence in the review of
information obtained from its prior expeditions which demonstrated the representations made by
TIGHAR to be false.
Mellon reasonably and justifiably relied on the representations made by TIGHAR
as described herein to his detriment and made a contribution in reliance upon the
Plaintiff is entitled to a judgment against TIGHAR, in an amount to be proven at
trial, for damages sustained by Plaintiffs as the direct, proximate and foreseeable result of the
Defendants' negligent representation.
Mellon incoiporates and realleges paragraphs 1 through 39 as though fully set out
Mr. Gillespie is a culpable person and was associated with TIGHAR as its
TIGHAR constitutes an enterprise under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (RICO).
In the course of the enterprise, TIGHAR has engaged in a pattern of racketeering
activity for the unlawful purpose of intentionally defrauding Plaintiff.
Mr. Gillespie knowingly participated in TIGHAR's affairs, specifically the
racketeering activity engaged in by TIGHAR.
Pursuant to and in furtherance of their fraudulent scheme, Defendants committed
multiple acts of wire fraud and mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341and 1343 and has
used both of these methods to solicit contributions for its expeditions.
Utilizing the mails and national wire facilities, TIGHAR made false
representations to Mellon, to Andrew Sanger, to the Discovery Channel and others that the
Earhart aircraft remained undiscovered. These representations were made with the express
purpose of soliciting contributions and sponsorships. These solicitations took place in a number
of states, including Wyoming, and had a direct impact on interstate commerce.
TIGHAR continues this pattern as it solicits ongoing donations for its planned
expedition NIKU VIII.
TIGHAR'S pattern of racketeering has directly and proximately caused injury to
the business and property of the Plaintiff, Mellon.
TIGHAR engaged in predicate acts including the solicitation of donations and
fraudulent communications regarding its expeditions that were communicated both tlirough the
mails and telecommunications. These included faxed transmittals and the transfer of documents
through the mail.
Following these predicate acts Mellon donated $1,046,843.00 to support the
discovery of the Earhart aircraft. That donation was only made after and in light of fraudulent
communications by TIGHAR that it had not yet discovered the aircraft.
Mellon incorporates and realleges paragraph 1 through 50 as though ftilly set out
In the alternative to the above Counts, Defendants owed a duty of reasonable care
to Mellon who, based on Defendants' own conduct, had an interest in the location of the Earhart
aircraft and the NIKU VII expedition.
Defendants breached that duty when, based on the information Defendants had
gathered concerning the location of the Earhart aircraft, Defendants acted unreasonably and
outside of their duty of care in the manner in which they conducted NIKU VII. This negligence
included, but was not limited to, failing to utilize the information they had to conduct a
reasonable search for the Earhart aircraft.
This unreasonable conduct, and breach of their duty of ordinary care, caused
WHEREFORE, Mellon prays that this Court:
enter judgment in its favor against the Defendant in an amount to be proven at or
prior to trial,
enter judgment providing for treble damages as permitted by 18 U.S.C. §1964(c),
enter a judgment awarding attorneys' fees and both prejudgment and post
award such other and further relief as shall be just and equitable.
DATED this ^
day ofJune, 2013.
CROWLEY FLECK PLLP
Billings, MT 59103-2529
TIMOTHY STUBSON, Bar No. 6-3144
152 North Durbin Street, Suite 220
Casper, WY 82601
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