SHELBY — The owner of a cosmetics company with ties to leaders of the Word of Faith Fellowship was in bankruptcy court last week.
Leigh Valentine owns Integrity Development and Valentine Spa, both operated out of an office on Shiloh Road. Valentine, who lives in Rutherfordton, filed for personal bankruptcy in June and was in Shelby last week answering questions of a bankruptcy trustee and attorneys for creditors.
Public records from the bankruptcy filing reveal some of Valentine’s ties to the Spindale-based WOFF. WOFF leadership are listed as both creditors of Valentine’s and in paperwork related to her assets.
Valentine’s name was first associated with the WOFF back in the mid 1990s when she was married to televangelist Robert Tilton. In February 1995, The Daily Courier published its first set of stories about the practices of the controversial church some call a cult.
Valentine and Tilton are mentioned in one of the first stories. Tilton traveled to Spindale and credited Sam and Jane Whaley with saving his life through a blasting, or demon exorcising, experience.
Tilton had recently been discredited through a series of media reports questioning the legitimacy of his ministry. He and Valentine later when through a contentious divorce.
In June this year, Valentine filed for relief under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code.
P. Wayne Sigmon was appointed to administer the case as trustee and presided over last week’s proceeding in the Cleveland County Courthouse where the Shelby division of the bankruptcy court operates.
Sigmon requested a sig- nificant amount of details from Valentine during questioning about her finances. Sigmon must determine the true financial status of Valentine in the process of determining if she qualifies for relief from creditors.
As trustee Sigmon has very broad authority to request information, he pressed Valentine for details the hearing.
FINANCIAL TIES TO WOFF
Valentine has two mortgages and a home equity line on her Partridge Lane home in Rutherfordton. Documents for both the mortgages and the home equity line indicate that the home is not Valentine’s primary residence. Yet she only claimed this home on her list of assets to the court.
Sigmon asked Valentine about the “second home rider” in her loan documents and whether or not she had another house.
Valentine said she didn’t have another home and didn’t know why the rider was in the documents.
Those documents also show a series of transactions involving WOFF leader Jayne Caulder.
Valentine bought the house in 2002. It is currently worth at least $ 430,000.
About a year after the purchase, the house was deeded to a trust called LAV Intervivos Trust. Caulder was named as the sole trustee of that trust account.
In 2004, Caulder as trustee signed for a home equity line of $50,000.
Later that year Valentine authorized another WOFF member, Marianne Simpson, to be her power of attorney for subsequent transactions on the house.
In October 2004, Simpson signed on behalf of Valentine as the house was deed back to Valentine from the trust.
Simpson then signed off on a second mortgage, again with documentation showing this was Valentine’s second home.
Sigmon asked about a $40,000 claim from Covington, LLC. Valentine said it was for back rent to 2002 for the main office space she rents from WOFF leader Kent Covington on Shiloh Road.
Sigmon asked how much the monthly rent was and Valentine said $400 per month, based on a verbal agreement. That rent was supposed to go up by $1,400 per month when her company moved into a larger space, she told Sigmon.
Another claim is from Jayne and David Caulder for $32,500. Sigmon asked what that was for.
Valentine hesitated in answering the question and said, “I’m really not sure what that is for.” She later said it was probably for child care when her son stayed with the Caulders for three years when Valentine was traveling back and forth to Dallas.
“(Caulder) came out to Dallas and helped me when I had a lawsuit and couple other situations, complex situations,” said Valentine.
Valentine also said Caulder loaned her money. Sigmon asked for a detailed statement about those loans.
Other bankruptcy public documents indicate Valentine donates $2,000 a month to the “ Word of Faith Church.”
OTHER DEBTS ACCUMULATE
Other debts Valentine include a judgment regarding the Black Palm Development Corp. The company was represented at the hearing by attorneys James M. Bowen of Rutherfordton and Sam Craig of Shelby.
The case resulted from a lawsuit filed by Black Palm in Maryland. Black Palm won a judgment in the amount of nearly $170,000 for non-repayment of a loan. Bowen and Craig also asked questions of Valentine at the hearing on behalf on their client.
The judgment was domesticated in North Carolina, allowing the company to pursue payment here. Craig raised questions about the amount jewelry Valentine was claiming. She listed $14,000 worth of jewelry on her bankruptcy filing. Craig noted in a deposition related to the Black Palm suit in 2005 that Valentine estimate she had $50,000 worth of jewelry.
Craig asked what happened to her jewelry in the past year.
Valentine gave rather vague answers about four instances where she says her jewelry was either stolen or lost.
Another lawsuit, this one emanating from Arizona, has a claim against Valentine by Dale Barlage of $784,000. Valentine listed that claim as disputed.
Barlage was once a big-time financial broker with Dean Witter in Minneapolis. The stock market crash of 1987 led to Barlage’s downfall with Dean Witter. Barlage claims the brokerage firm made him the fall guy for a failed deal.
Barlage’s bankruptcy filing in 1990 was considered one of the biggest in Minnesota history.
Barlage later spent six months in jail resulting from as fallout from a failed deal during that same timeframe. He has since rebounded and lives in Wyoming and is involved in various investment deals.
The suit with Valentine appears to be pending further review in a Superior Court in Pima County, Ariz., with Barlage having won the most recent round of appeals.
Multiple other creditors are listed. Most are either attorneys, doctors or cosmetic dentists.
Valentine also owes the Internal Revenue Service over $32,000 for back taxes.
Throughout last week’s bankruptcy proceeding, Valentine appeared to have very limited knowledge of her finances.
She regularly sought the advice of her assistant, Bridgett Powell.
Her attorney, Keith Johnson, was noticeably frustrated on occasions with Valentine’s circuitous or vague answers to questions by Sigmon and other attorneys present.
Peter Lane of Rutherfordton was one of the attorneys present for the proceeding, though he is not representing a specific client and did not ask any questions. Lane is currently assisting former WOFF member Shana Muse with her custody battle with WOFF over Muse’s children.
Valentine is on contract with a company called One World Live to sell her line of cosmetics.
The products are sold under lines such as Valentine Spa Collection and Distinction by Leigh Valentine with products such as the Non-Surgical Face Lift. She has made regular appearances on the QVC shopping channel. Sigmon filed an adversary proceeding regarding the One World Live deal which will be part of what it heard this coming Friday as proceedings continue.
Sigmon is looking for further details on how Valentine is paid for her services and how that money flows through her various incorporated entities.
Valentine also has a non-profit organization incorporated as Leigh Valentine Ministries.
The three-hour length of last’s weeks hearing, the first for her creditors, is considered unusually long.