Originally created 05/14/05

Model sues stepfather for stealing her money



NEW YORK - Calvin Klein model Maggie Rizer has filed a $24 million lawsuit against her imprisoned stepfather and several other individuals and businesses in connection with his theft of several million dollars from her.

The stepfather, John R. Breen Jr., pleaded guilty in October 2004 in Watertown, N.Y., to charges of grand larceny and scheming to defraud in connection with the thefts. He was sentenced to 16 months to four years in prison.

Breen admitted he stole from Rizer while he was her business manager. Prosecutors estimated he stole as much as $7 million.

Rizer's lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, said the 27-year-old model chose her mother, Maureen Breen, and stepfather, the owner of an insurance agency, to manage the fortune she was amassing so she could avoid professional management fees.

Most of Rizer's finances were handled by John Breen, who also was the treasurer of a private business group.

The model, who began her career at age 21 and became a celebrity in her upstate hometown, said she did not know that Breen "was spiraling downward as an alcohol abuser and gambler who stooped to stealing from his own family to cover his losses."

Rizer's lawyer, Edward W. Hayes, said a bank and other businesses were named as defendants because they let Breen waste Rizer's money when they knew or should have known that he was stealing from her.

The lawsuit seeks more than $3 million from Breen and another $3 million-plus from several individuals and businesses that dealt with him between 1999 and 2002. The lawsuit also asks for $17.9 million in punitive damages.

Breen's lawyer, James McGraw, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

The 5-foot-10 Rizer, a 1996 Watertown High School graduate who now lives in Manhattan, has been one of the world's highest-paid fashion models. She has worked for Klein and Tommy Hilfiger and has appeared on the cover of Vogue.