In September 2022, retired federal judge Hon. Elizabeth D. Laporte awarded more than $5 million to Amulet Estate, its majority owner, and others in a dispute with the winery’s founder and former CEO, Tuck Beckstoffer. Mr. Beckstoffer’s winery partners alleged that Mr. Beckstoffer had improperly used winery funds to fuel an extravagant lifestyle that included expensive cars, lavish vacations, private jet travel, and decadent home improvements. Notable inappropriate spending of Mr. Beckstoffer included over $370,000 for a Baja-style racing truck, nearly $166,000 for “mostly personal fishing and hunting vacations,” a $57,000 Meadowood Napa Valley resort membership, and approximately $100,000 for home landscaping.
In her ruling, Judge Laporte found that Mr. Beckstoffer’s partners had “amply proved that Mr. Beckstoffer committed fraud,” and that Mr. Beckstoffer had attempted to cover the fraud with “serial lies to Claimants and Winery staff.” Such lies and deceit included the alleged altering of invoices for a gate Mr. Beckstoffer had claimed was installed on winery grounds but was actually installed at his personal residence, as well as stealing a $60,000 John Deere tractor that Mr. Beckstoffer had alleged was lost in the devastating 2017 Atlas fire. In addition to the monetary award, which included $3.32 million in costs and fees, Judge Laporte ordered Mr. Beckstoffer to divest his interest in Amulet Estate, which was valued at $3.6 million.
A Hemming Morse team, led by Travis Armstrong and Dan Ray, assisted Amulet Estate and its legal team at Hueston Hennigan in investigating Mr. Beckstoffer’s inappropriate expenses. Ultimately, Mr. Armstrong’s testimony during the arbitration trial provided Judge Laporte information on the nature and quantum of Mr. Beckstoffer’s inappropriate expenses and the resulting losses to Amulet Estate.