Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks suing former fiance

Tuesday, October 10th 2006, 12:29 pm
By: News On 6

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) _ The ``runaway bride,'' who took off days before her lavish wedding in 2005, is suing her former fiance for $500,000, claiming he defrauded her out of her share of their assets.

Jennifer Wilbanks is seeking $250,000 as her share of a home she says John C. Mason purchased through the partnership with proceeds from $500,000 received for selling their story to Regan Media in New York.

She also wants $250,000 in punitive damages for alleged abuse of the power of attorney she granted for Mason to handle their financial affairs.

In addition, letters included as exhibits in the lawsuit show that the former couple has been in dispute over personal property Wilbanks claims Mason has kept. The items include a ladder that belonged to her father, a gold-colored sofa, a new vacuum cleaner and wedding shower gifts. Mason's attorney wrote to Wilbanks' attorney in July that his client had agreed to deliver those items. The court filings do not show whether the items were returned.

Wilbanks and Mason broke up for good in May, about a year after her excursion to Las Vegas and New Mexico made international headlines while hundreds of friends and family members searched for her back home in suburban Atlanta.

Mason has until Oct. 18 to respond to the lawsuit, filed last month in Gwinnett County's Superior Court. The lawsuit, Wilbanks vs. JCM Consulting and Mason, was filed Sept. 13, according to court records.

Wilbanks' attorney, Michael Wetzel, and Mason's father, Claude, declined comment Tuesday morning. John Mason's attorney, James C. Watkins, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The lawsuit says the $500,000 was put into an account of JCM Consulting, based in Gwinnett County. After Wilbanks was ``hospitalized and under medication,'' Mason bought a home in Dacula in his name with the money, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit claims that Wilbanks asked JCM Consulting during the summer for various documents, but the firm didn't give her records of bank accounts. Through the lawsuit, she wants to inspect and copy those records.

Wilbanks also claims that Mason used the company to defraud her.

Wilbanks disappeared four days before her planned April 30, 2005, wedding. Hundreds of police and volunteers searched for her for three days before she called Mason from Albuquerque, N.M., claiming to have been abducted and sexually assaulted.

She later recanted, saying she fled because of unspecified personal issues, and pleaded no contest to telling police a phony story.

She was sentenced to two years' probation and performed community service that included mowing the lawns of public buildings.

News of the lawsuit was first reported Monday night by WAGA-TV.