Tuesday, October 12, 2010

US Marshals interrupt dressage warm up during WEG 2010 to serve notice of deposition to Sjef Janssen regarding $500,000 fraud case

Well-known dressage trainer Sjef Janssen was found liable for fraud to the tune of $500,000 in a civil suit back in 2001, but apparently he never paid his fines. During WEG 2010, he was served a notice of deposition by US Marshals, but was not actually detained. The court documents for this lawsuit, Neal v Janssen , are easily found online.

If you don't feel like reading through the legal-eze, here's a summary of the fraud case:

In 1997, Sjef Janssen agreed to act as agent (for a 10% commission) in selling a very expensive dressage horse named "Aristocrat" that was located in the Netherlands, but owned by the Neals of Tennesee. The Neals wanted to sell Aristocrat for $500,000. In 1998, Janssen said that the Neals were asking too much for the horse and that he would forgo his commission if they would sell the horse to a buyer he found who was willing to pay $312,000. The Neals eventually agreed to sell for $312,000. The Neals later found out that Janssen actually sold the horse for $480,000. They sued him in civil court (that Janssen refused to appear at) and won $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, totaling $500,000. He appealed the case on the basis that since he is a foreign national and never lived in Tennessee, the Neals didn't have the right to sue him. The Sixth circuit court of appeals rejected Janssen's appeal on the grounds that he travels world wide and did own a house in Florida during the time the fraud took place. Thus the case was decided in favor of the Neals in October 2001.

“defendant appears to be well traveled throughout the world, including the United States, where he once owned a house in Florida. It seems apparent that defendant offered no defense not because of any undue hardship but rather because he had no valid defense on the merits. His effort to stand on the defense of no jurisdiction must be rejected.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the district court.”
-- 2001 FED App. 0379P (6th Cir.), File Name: 01a0379p.06, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT ( http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&case=/data2/circs/6th/006122.html )

In September of 2010, the Neals filed another civil suit with the Kentucky Eastern District Court. I imagine they filed in Kentucky because of WEG 2010 being held there. They must have rightly assumed that Janssen would appear at the games. I presume this more recent suit is what led to the marshals' actions during WEG 2010, since I believe that Janssen has been in the US several times since the original suit.

Apparently, almost 10 years later, Janssen still hasn't paid the judgment given by the court. And no one, outside of a few blog and forum posts, is saying anything about it. Why not? It's quite easy to find the legal documents about the case. In addition to the link given above, here are some other links that I've found with court documents about the case.






However, outside of the actual court documents, it is very hard to find any information about this lawsuit and Sjef Janssen's failure to comply with the ruling of the court. Also, I originally couldn't find any information, outside of a blog post by Camera Obsura, about US marshals having to interrupt what is the equivalent of the horse olympics to serve notice to the Dutch dressage team trainer. When I asked the author of Camera Obscura about her sources, she gave me some information that led me to a an article by Astrid Appels published on Eurodressage.com that briefly mentions US marshals interrupting a WEG 2010 dressage warm up to depose “a famous dressage trainer” who was in the warm up arena.

“Tyrone Neal ... told me a story about a famous dressage trainer who was deposed by U.S. Marshalls on Wednesday at the warm up area (confirmed by witnesses), as he still ows[sic] the Neal family a substantial amount of money. Justice will prevail. (for detailed info check out the replies of "Rat King" on the Chronicle forum) “ -- http://www.eurodressage.com/equestrian/2010/10/06/words-weg-6-october-2010-thinking-back-days

If you follow the link to the Chronicle of the Horse forum, you discover that the forum is discussing the Neal v Janssen fraud and breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit. Rat King gives the following information:

“He has not paid any of the $500,000 judgment which was first rendered by the Federal 9th District court, then upheld by the 6th Circuit, the second highest court in the US. The US Marshals did not depose him but rather delivered a Notice of Deposition, Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories, as well as collect any cash, jewelry, personal property on his person. Today, the amount of monies owed is in excess of $900,000 given 10 years of interest. He was deposed the following day in Lexington. His home in FL was transfered to his then-girlfriend (with whom he has a child) one day before the emergency order was registered in FL in the year 2000. “ -- http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=275772&page=2

I sent a message to Rat King on October 11, asking where he got his information, but haven't received a reply yet. Since the writer of the Eurodressage.com article mentions talking with Tyrone Neal, brother to one of the plaintiffs in the fraud case, right before giving the link to the Rat King post, I can't help but wonder if Rat King is Tyrone Neal.

Other than the above sources, I did find a few mentions of Sjef Janssen's fraud case in various online horse forums, and I also found a website for Equine Legal Solutions that mentions Janssen's fraud case in a post about:

Secret Profit-Taking: The Truth about Horse Sale Commissions

However, I cannot find any online NEWS articles about the Neal v Janssen fraud case. Not one. Not even in online dressage journals. (Even the Eurodressage.com article doesn't mention Janssen's name. Of course, considering Astrid Appels' lawsuit history with Sjef Janssen and Anky van Grunsven, I suppose her reticence is not surprising.) And other than the very brief and nameless mention of the incident in the Eurodressage.com article, I couldn't find any mention of the fact that US Marshals had to interrupt a dressage warm up during WEG 2010 to serve a notice of deposition to Dutch dressage team trainer Sjef Jannsen.

So... why has no other journalist reported on this Sjef Janssen fraud case and the, admittedly minor but still noteworthy, disruption it caused at WEG 2010? He is such a popular and controversial figure in the dressage world. Articles, both positive and negative, are written about him all the time. You would think that some professional journalist would want to report on Janssen being found liable for fraud to the the tune of $500,000. Even if $500,000 doesn't mean much to the ultra wealthy who inhabit the upper echelons of the dressage world, it still shows the dishonesty (and disregard for the US legal system) of someone that many people consider a “leading figure” in dressage. And it's not like the fraud case is unrelated to Janssen's work in dressage. It's about misrepresenting the sale price of a dressage horse. Where is the journalistic interest in this act of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty on the part of one of the most talked about individuals in the dressage world?

I suppose the professional journalists are all scared of being sued. Whatever happened to freedom of the press?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flood Aftermath Part 3: Clean up

I am waaay behind in posting about the flood. I got too busy actually doing stuff to post about it. Anyway...

We had so many downed trees and tangles of vines and fence debris and all sorts of other flood debris along the south side of our property that we hired our hay guy to come out with his bobcat and help us clean stuff up on the Saturday after the flood.

You can see the beginning of what turned out to be a HUGE burn pile as well as some of the bent and twisted fence panels in the foreground.

But even with the bobcat to do the heavy lifting, there was still a lot of work that had to be done by hand.

Fortunately, Foxfire's dad came over to help us out. And our hay guy brought an assistant.

We also had to take down all the fencing that was damaged, but not completely washed away.

Foxfire taking down the part of the orchard fence that was damaged.

On Sunday, Foxfire's father and his sister's fiance, Mac, came out to help us continue cleaning things up. While taking a break Mac found some fossilized shells in a somewhat rocky area of our pasture. Sadly, I did not think to take pictures of them.

After the first weekend, I was feeling healthier and so I started helping out again with the cleanup. Basically, every day, while Foxfire was at work, I would go out and sort usable fence panels and t-posts from the unusable ones, and clean up smaller debris. I also looked at the creek and the land alongside it and made plans for where we wanted our new fence line and gates to go. When Foxfire got home from work, we would both go out and finish demolishing the damaged fences and cleaning up the heavier debris. On a couple of evenings, friends of Foxfire came by and helped us work up until it got too dark to see. By the next weekend, there was still some cleanup that needed to be done along the creek, but the fence lines were clear and we were ready to start re-building.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

PRE Andalusian, Fuego XII, does very well at WEG 2010

Since I got Shadowfax, who is an Andalusian, though not PRE due to being 1/32 Lusitano, I've been paying more attention to Andalusians in the news and such. I was very happy to see that a PRE Andalusian did very well in dressage at the World Equestrian Games 2010(WEG 2010). Fuego XII ridden by Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz of Spain placed 5th overall in the dressage freestyle. He placed 4th in the individual Grand Prix Special and had the 5th highest score in the team dressage competition. Below are videos of his performances:

Freestyle: Fuego XII and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz was one of only two performance teams to receive a standing ovation in the dressage freestyle. The cheers and screams were so loud at the end of the performance that this very experienced horse was actually spooked into a short bolt. You can't really hear the crowd reaction on the video I've posted below, but on other videos (recorded by people in the audience and not as good visually), you can hear the crowd clapping along with the music and cheering him on during the performance, and then the thunderous roar of approval at the end. In online news articles, they report that when his score of 81.45 was announced, the crowd boo'd their disapproval of such a low score, especially since one of the judges' scores was SIGNIFICANTLY lower than all of the others. (According to the official FEI Altech results page, the judge at B, Maribel Alonso of Mexico, gave him a 71.5 and 82 and placed him 8th.) The scoring was VERY uneven and the crowd was not happy. It apparently took some time for the boo'ing to die down.

Fuego XII and JMMD Freestyle Dressage WEG 2010

Diaz and Fuego's freestyle scores:
Judge At E: 76 tech, 89 Art, 165 total, 5th place
Judge at H: 80 tech, 88 art, 168 total, 4th place
Judge at C: 80 tech, 86 art, 166 total, 5th place
Judge at M: 75 tech, 87 art, 162 total, 4th place
Judge at B: 71.5 tech, 82 art, 153.5 total, 8th place
Overall score: 81.450

Individual Grand Prix Special: Fuego XII and JMMD won 4th with a score of 76.042. (Is that Russian the commentator is speaking?)

Fuego XII and JMMD Individual Grand Prix Special WEG 2010

Team Dressage: Fuego XII and JMMD had the 5th highest individual score of 73.957.

Fuego XII and JMMD Team Dressage WEG 2010

An American, Steffan Peters on Ravel(Dutch Warmblood), won bronze in both Individual Grand Prix Special and Freestyle. Theirs was the one other freestyle performance to receive a standing ovation and earned an overall score of 84.90. NBC showed highlights of this week of WEG and Ravel and Peters freestyle was one of four performances shown(the top four finishers). The tv commentators were very impressed with how complex the routine was and how well it was performed. Sadly, I can't find a good video of this performance online. Maybe one will show up later. I did find this video of Ravel and Peters performance recorded by someone at the games. It's not very good, but it will give you some idea of how it went.

Ravel and Steffen Peters Freestyle Dressage WEG 2010

Edward Gal on Moorlands Totilas won first in the Freestyle with a score of 91.80, despite Totilas breaking into a canter in the middle of a section of extended trot. And Laura Bectholscheimer on Mistral Hojris won second in the freestyle with a score of 85.35, despite having some very obvious problems in the piaffe. I'm far from expert, but I think it would be nice for the horses and riders who had equally difficult routines and who performed without blatantly obvious mistakes to score higher than the ones who did make extremely noticeable mistakes. Even the tv commentators and several online journalists commented on the fact that the scores did not seem to accurately reflect the performances given. And of course, there was the audience boo'ing of the score for Fuego XII. To borrow a line from 00Jumper commenting on Fuego XII's perfomance on the Chronicle of the Horse forum,
There was harmony! There was passion! There was fun!
And then . . . there was politics.

I'm not saying that Fuego should have won. I'll admit that his technique isn't as good as Totilas'. But I do believe that he should have scored higher. I've only been riding dressage a few years and know just enough to know how much I don't know. But based on the little I do know and, of course, on my own feelings and reactions to the rides, I think that Totilas and Gal, though they did have inflated scores (especially for artistry) still deserved first place, mainly for extremely strong technique. Ravel and Peters should have gotten second for their combination of cleanly presented technical complexity and smoothly delivered artistic performance. Fuego and Diaz, whose scores were deflated by Judge B's overly low scoring, should have gotten third for their explosion of artistry and showmanship combined with solid, though not brilliant, technique.

No, I don't think that Freestyle dressage should be all about flash and showmanship at the expense of technique. But the artistic score is there for a reason. It should be used appropriately, as a score that is completely separate from the technical score.

Yes, Totilas has great technique and should get high scores for it, but his artistry is somewhat lacking. And an obvious mistake such as going into a canter in the middle of a section of extended trot should have definitely brought his artistic score down for breaking up the flow of the performance. I personally think it should have brought his technical score down also, but apparently, it is accepted for judges to overlook such mistakes as far as technique is concerned.

And okay, Fuego's technique isn't the greatest, but his artistry almost brought down the stadium. He should get points for that. Yes, artistry is a somewhat subjective thing to judge, but it appears that most people who actually saw the performance believed that Fuego's artistic performance was better than anyone else's that evening. His artistic scores should have been higher. If the dressage world isn't willing to reward artistic performance as something separate from technique, they should just get rid of the artistic score altogether and admit that they are only interested in technique.

Oh well... On to other matters. Sadly, all the horses had their heads held behind the vertical throughout most if not all of their performances. Though some weren't quite as bad as others. At least the event judges did disqualify a couple of riders whose horses had blood dripping from their mouths during other dressage performances. I suppose that's progress of a sort.

If you have Time Warner Cable, you can watch the remainder of WEG 2010 on the Universal Sports Channel. If you have Dish or DirectTV, you only get 2 hours of WEG 2010 highlights on NBC next Sunday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm.

UPDATE: I just discovered that you can watch all of the freestyle dressage performances online at


The top five horses all perform in Part 3(last). Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris perform first. Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and Fuego XII perform second, and their performance starts at the 12:25 minute mark. Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas perform third, and their performance starts at the 23 minute mark. Steffen Peters and Ravel perform fourth, and their performance starts at the 35 minute mark. Imke Shellekens-Bartels and Hunter Douglas Sunrise perform last, and their performance starts at the 47 minute mark.