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Dead Man’s Float

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Billy Ash at his Beverly Hills deposition last month.  

“You’re a whore!” Tobias screamed, according to police reports.

A passing officer witnessed the rest: “F. Tobias immediately responded by striking S. Tobias across the left side of his face with an open hand. The force of the slap turned S. Tobias’ head and made a loud popping sound … it became clear she was intoxicated. I had to grab F. Tobias so she could not get close enough to strike S. Tobias again. I placed F. Tobias in handcuffs.”

Phyllis spent a night a jail, but the charges were dropped.

On it went. The West Palm Beach police answered a number of calls to the couple’s home in their first year of marriage. Just before the couple’s first anniversary, Phyllis confronted her husband with evidence of an affair. Tobias responded by filing for divorce on March 10.

Three days later, the two engaged in an instant-message exchange:

Phyllis: YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE OF STOPPING TO DRINK, OR DOING YOUR COKE OR BEING HONEST …

Seth: I am sad about this.

Phyllis: I HOPE YOU GET AIDS WIT ALL THE WHORES YOU FUK TOO.

Seth: I am sorry … take a breather.

Phyllis: NOW IT’S WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Phyllis cited her husband’s infidelities, gambling losses, and unspecified “illicit activity” in her request for spousal support. She asked for nearly $47,000 a month, including $9,429 for vacations, $1,000 for makeup, $4,400 for clothing, and $3,000 for unreimbursed counseling fees. Her lawyer at the time argued that Tobias had promised a lifestyle grander than the one she could afford on Jay Jacknin’s alimony. Tobias responded by accusing his wife of forging his signature on expensive purchases, including a $74,000 Porsche.

The couple was on the verge of finalizing their divorce. But within minutes of meeting with their lawyers Seth and Phyllis were apologizing, professing their love, and kissing at the conference table.

That’s when Tobias promised to move Phyllis from their $1.75 million West Palm Beach home to the Bear’s Club. Phyllis was unsure. The reason, she told Tobias, was that she was now running all her decisions past her online psychic.

This is where Billy comes in. Billy Ash had a Website called askbilly.com, where he advertised himself as the winner of “many titles” including Best Psychic at the Las Vegas Psychic Convention. Others had a less charitable view. One rival displayed a picture of the 300-pound Ash with the words “Worst. Psychic. Ever.”

Phyllis started e-mailing Billy through keen.com, an online psychic service, paying the standard $3.99-a-minute rate. Then the two started e-mailing directly. According to Jay Jacknin, Ash told Phyllis that his clients included Sarah Jessica Parker and Nancy Reagan. Jacknin also says that Ash once mailed Phyllis a necklace that Ash claimed the former First Lady had given him. (Ash denies those claims.)

Phyllis began talking to Ash regularly, paying him as much as $2,500 a month, Jacknin says.

Not only did Phyllis consult Ash on all decisions. Now she urged Seth to make use of his powers, too. Tobias would roll his eyes, but on a few occasions he called Ash. (Ash says he spoke to Seth “all the time.”) Maybe he could help him understand his wife.

One day in the summer of 2006, Seth Tobias was back in Circle T’s New York office. According to a deposition Tobias’s longtime secretary has given, she got a call from someone whose name she had never heard before. Billy Ash. Tobias said he would take the call. A few minutes later, he walked out of his office. He looked out of sorts.

“This man is totally crazy,” Tobias said. “He says I owe him $156,000.”

According to one of Tobias’s lawyers deposed in the estate case, Ash told Tobias he was billing him for services rendered during their chats. Tobias called his lawyer, who sent Ash an e-mail urging him to cease contacting his client. Ash responded by suggesting that, if he wasn’t paid, he would have no choice but to publicly announce what he’d learned about Seth from their conversations. Ash, Tobias’s lawyer alleged, suggested that the disclosures would not sit well with Circle T’s investors. (Ash denies pressuring Tobias.)

Phyllis continued to consult with Ash, and Tobias was furious about it. On November 18, 2006, Tobias wrote Phyllis an e-mail. He said he thought their marriage was permanently broken. He saved his harshest words for Ash and for Phyllis’s relationship with him. “In the end, if I threatened your livelihood with lies and extortion; if I manufactured the craziness that he did to me you would have gone nuts. I still have some pride. You promised me you were finished with him. I believed you. I lost.”


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