Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Former Tustin, Calif., police sergeant Nancy Clayton says she gave up her career and moved to Florida to become “queen” to a man who claimed he was the “son of God” and had been commanded to preside over the destruction of the world. The relationship between Clayton and Michael Anthony Wayne began in a matter-of-fact way over the Internet in September 1999. She was selling a laptop computer on eBay. He was a dealer in used computer equipment. E-mails and instant messages evolved into daily phone conversations that lasted for hours. “He starts telling me that he knows the Bible like the back of his hand,” she said in an interview, “and that he can open up my eyes and show me something that has been a secret to the world.” Within two months, according to a fraud and an undue influence lawsuit Clayton later filed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., she had been utterly seduced by Wayne’s depiction of himself as “the Messiah” who was appointed by the supreme being to “execute judgment on the world.” Clayton would be the Messiah’s queen, she says he promised her. According to Clayton’s suit, filed in December 2002 in Broward County Circuit Court, she quit her police job, resigned as a major in the Marine Corps Reserve and moved to Coral Springs, Fla., to live with Wayne in a house occupied by him and three or four other Wayne followers — including another “queen” with whom Wayne also was intimate. Clayton claimed she gave Wayne $490,000, realized from cashing out her pensions and other assets. She also bought the leased house they were living in and signed the deed over to Wayne. “As explained by Wayne,” the complaint says, “the money belonged to God, and the Son of God (Wayne) would decide how it would be spent.” After a testy, two-week bench trial last January before Circuit Judge Richard D. Eades, Clayton won back title to the house and a $50,000 judgment against Wayne for back rent. Now he has appealed the ruling while he continues to live in her Coral Springs house with several of his followers. His Lincoln stretch limousine is often parked in the driveway of the four-bedroom, two-bath ranch house, which has a pool in the back. Comparable properties in that neighborhood are being listed at $400,000. Clayton’s lawsuit as well as interviews with Wayne, Clayton and their attorneys portray Wayne as a Svengali-like figure who uses promises of eternal salvation and threats of damnation to hold his followers — both female and male — in thrall. In an interview, Wayne, who refers to himself as Sir Michael Anthony Wayne, acknowledged forming a now-defunct offshore corporation, World of Serenity Inc., for the purpose of buying the Irish island Ballinakill. Clayton contends that he wanted to use the island as his base for presiding over the destruction of the world and the ascension of his followers to the role of world leadership. That’s a variation on the increasingly popular fundamentalist Christian belief in a coming apocalypse. This belief is based on a 19th century interpretation of the Book of Revelation. It’s known as premillennial dispensationalism. But Clayton simply contends that she was the victim of a con man who exploited her religious faith. “It was where I was weak,” she explained. “I still can’t wish Michael bad. He’s still one of God’s children.” For his part, Wayne contends that Clayton “concocted” all the allegations in her lawsuit and suffers from “vindictive woman syndrome.” He denies that he coerced her into signing the house over to him. “You cannot make that woman do anything she doesn’t want to do,” he said. “My ex-fiancee wanted to ruin me. She wanted to make it so no woman would have anything to do with me.” But he avoided talking about his religious views or activities. The judge and the attorneys in the case all found the case surpassingly strange. “Unusual case, unusual players,” Judge Eades told the parties from the bench as he issued his ruling. “I don’t see people like you all that often in here.” CREATE A ‘PSEUDO-NATION’ Clayton, now 50, and Wayne, now 53, first came into contact on the Internet in 1999, when Wayne, who operated a business called The Laptop King, spotted her computer for sale on eBay and began an online conversation with her. “I didn’t even know she was a woman at the time,” he said in the interview last week. “I found that out as we communicated.” By December, Clayton had quit her job in Orange County, Calif., ended her 25-year career with the Marines and moved in with Wayne. Clayton acknowledged that “a lot of people would not understand how you could actually fall for this con.” But, she said, “Michael is very shrewd.” In all, she said, about 15 people have been persuaded by Wayne’s vision of the coming apocalypse. Clayton said that she has a “thirst” for religious fulfillment. “If you took religion out of this, I wouldn’t have given him the right time of day.” Once she moved in, Clayton said, both she and the other “queen” had intimate relations with Wayne, who previously had been married four times. He explained to them, she said, that the Old Testament prophets practiced polygamy. Clayton said she believed in Wayne’s “Serenity Project” — a grand plan to pay $10 million to buy the Irish island, complete with a golf resort called Waterford Castle, and create a new nation of which he would be king. Wayne said his plan was to create a “pseudo-nation.” Clayton obeyed Wayne’s orders to dispose of earthly possessions and provide money to the ministry, according to her suit. The actual figure approached $750,000, she said. She also bought the leased house they were living in and signed the deed over to Wayne. But her devotion waned. Her relationship with Wayne lasted until October 2002, the complaint says, until she “fled the premises in fear of her life and personal safety.” She did not indicate what she did then or where she went. According to her suit, Clayton “was unable to protect herself from … abuse or to resist the defendant. … The plaintiff believed defendant Wayne possessed actual power to carry out the threats of eternal damnation.” But Wayne said that Clayton’s vindictiveness toward him ran so deep that she engineered his arrest on charges of possession of stolen goods, a charge to which he pleaded nolo contendere. Broward Assistant State Attorney Penn Farrington, who prosecuted the case, said in an interview that Wayne was charged with taking improper possession of some U.S. State Department computer equipment; the government believed it was going to a charity and not to Wayne’s for-profit computer business. Wayne did not receive any jail time. Clayton acknowledged that she’d reported Wayne to police. Wayne said he now has the FBI “watching” the Coral Springs Police Department that arrested him. HE SAID, SHE SAID

Fort Lauderdale attorney Michael L. Feinstein, who represented Clayton, said he originally filed a five-count complaint on Clayton’s behalf — one alleging fraud and four related to the transfer of ownership of the house from Clayton to Wayne. He said he dropped several of the counts, including the fraud allegation, on the eve of trial. “We dropped the fraud because of documentation problems relating to the amounts and because my client was out of money,” he said. “I focused on the house because, with appreciation, it was the best way for my client to get back some of her money.” In his decision in the case in January, Judge Eades barred Wayne from “claiming or asserting title” to the house and assessed him back rent on the property, dating from the transfer of the deed from Clayton to Wayne in March 2000, in the sum of $50,000 payable to Clayton, at 7 percent annual interest. Explaining his ruling from the bench, Eades said it was a he-said, she-said case that boiled down to whom he believed about conversations between Clayton and Wayne. Eades said their accounts were “diametrically opposed as to what happened behind that closed door.” The judge said he vacillated. He took into account that “you have a right to be foolish in this country, and you have to pay the consequences.” He had a particularly hard time believing that the worldly Clayton could be so frightened of Wayne. “Am I supposed to sit here and believe that this ex-police officer, ex-Marine was so intimidated?” Ultimately, the judge said, he decided to rule in Clayton’s favor because of the testimony of a corroborating witness, Ryan Drinkhahn, who had lived in the house at the time and supported Clayton’s version of events. Eades ruled that Clayton “as a grantor did not freely and voluntarily sign that deed. … By this court’s final judgment, the deed has no validity.” Wayne told the Daily Business Review that Drinkhahn was “the man she’d run off with.” But Feinstein said that no romantic relationship existed between Clayton and Drinkhahn. Wayne said he posted a $25,000 bond to cover a portion of the rent judgment while he pursues his appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeal. NO DURESS? Fort Lauderdale attorney Kenneth Trent, who defended Wayne at trial but no longer represents him, said he disagreed with Eades’ decision because there was no evidence of duress and undue influence with regard to Clayton signing over the house to Wayne. “Duress is supposed to be a gun to your head,” he said. “That’s the way I learned it in law school. That was not the case here.” He said Clayton’s lawsuit “seemed like a remarkably frivolous case, and it’s a bit embarrassing to have lost it.” Fort Lauderdale attorney Edward Darrah, who’s handling Wayne’s appeal, said he’s challenging the outcome of the trial because his client’s side was given inadequate time to prepare. “The judge asked for a ton of data in 30 days and then immediately ordered a trial,” Darrah said. “The judge was ticked off at the attorneys on both sides.” Trent said that while Wayne is a man of strong religious conviction and has followers, the disputed Coral Springs house is “not a cult compound. It’s just a house.” He characterized Wayne as “in some ways a very smart guy. Some people get seduced by the power of his ideas and his personality.” Clayton said she’s now in a terrible financial predicament. Having returned to California, she’s now jobless and broke and without prospects, because no police department will hire her in the wake of the Wayne affair. She said she was duped by Wayne’s patter that was one part Book of Revelation, one part Elmer Gantry and all parts flim-flam. Her former lover’s religious teachings were her “Achilles heel,” she lamented. “It was my weakness. I loved God so much, and I put him first in my life so much, that I was willing to do anything for God. And I proved it.”

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.