In five years of covering the courts, we’ve seldom come across a lawsuit as cinematic, or at least Real Housewives-ish, as that of Julie Svancara vs. Amy Castillo.
Totaled Lamborghinis, six-figure fraud, high-end prostitution, the specter of Glenn Close, allegations of multiple affairs, and a family held hostage: this scandal among the Mid-Westheimer Steakhouse Set has it all.
Sounds pretty dry, but it gets weird, and sordid, right from the very first pleading of fact.
“The Defendant, Amy Castillo, has been following, stalking, and harassing [Svancara], since on or around June of 2012, spreading false rumors about [Svancara] including the fact that she infected people with a venereal disease, because Svancara refused to lie about [Castillo’s] husband’s character, which [Castillo] intended to use against him in their divorce proceeding.”
And now the backstory...According to the suit, in June of 2012 Svancara was negotiating a contract to decorate the offices of a local company called Clover International. During the negotiations, Svancara dealt with J.C. Castillo, the husband of Amy Holsworth Castillo, an ardent Tea Party activist.
The suit claims that Amy Castillo, 44, approached Svancara, up to then a stranger to her. Castillo made it known that she was the wife of J.C. and promptly accused Svancara of having an affair with him. She had an angle, according to the suit: “[Castillo] appeared to be seeking assistance from [Svancara] in obtaining disparaging information about her husband,” the suit reads. Svancara denied the affair, unleashing a barrage of harassing texts and phone calls from Castillo, according to the suit, which goes on to state that Svancara was made to understand that her life would become miserable if she failed to comply with Castillo’s plans.
Svancara contacted J.C. Castillo, who reportedly apologized for his wife’s behavior and confirmed that the couple was heading for a divorce, and that he believed that she was seeking dirt on him.
Court records show that, indeed, both J.C. and Amy had filed separate divorce suits against each other the previous month. Those proceedings are ongoing.
And then, according to the suit, Castillo stepped up her campaign to what is characterized as Fatal Attraction levels.
Among the allegations:
- That Castillo obtained Svancara’s home phone number and address and intensified her harassment, texting and calling often and Facebook-stalking.
- That Castillo went to Clover International and confronted Svancara about the alleged affair publicly, causing Clover to pull what would have been a $30,500 contract.
- That Castillo went to Svancara’s favorite restaurant. The restaurant isn't named in the suit, but a source who knows most of the principals tells us that these women are devotees of such mid-Westheimer haunts as the Palm, Stogie’s, and Fuad’s, and members of a notoriously bed-hopping clique within that demimonde. At any rate, Castillo told random patrons and employees that Svancara was sleeping with her husband.
Then, according to the suit, Castillo had her hair cut and dyed to match Svancara’s and started dressing like her.
Alarmed, Svancara shut herself in at home and suffered from severe anxiety and depression. She sought counseling and hired an attorney who sent a cease-and-desist latter to Castillo on her behalf. (At some point around this time, Castillo flipped her estranged husband’s Lambo into a ditch. Initially charged with DWI by Tomball police, Castillo later pled down to reckless driving and was sentenced to four days behind bars.)
January 2013 found Svancara in a new address hoping that she had at last escaped from Castillo’s alleged terror campaign.
Hardly, according to the suit, which claims that Castillo soon uncovered this sanctuary and would pop around unannounced. Svancara also alleges that Castillo found her home’s external power supply and switched off her electricity several times.
And then things got even more disturbing, if Svancara is to be believed…
“One Sunday, out of the blue, [J.C.] Castillo called [Svancara] out of the blue,” the suit claims. “He sounded like he was reading off a script. He told [Svancara] how much he loved his wife and wanted to be with her. [Svancara] had no idea what Mr. Castillo was saying [and told him so] and hung up. Three hours later, Mr. Castillo called [Svancara] back and apologized. He told [Svancara] that [Amy Castillo] had held a gun up to her own head while the children were there, saying she would kill herself and the kids if he did not comply with her demands. Mr. Castillo also told [Svancara] that the cops had come to his house to investigate.” (No charges were filed in connection with this alleged episode, which seems bizarre as Amy Castillo was then out on bond for DWI.)
That was when Svancara went pretty much off the grid. According to the suit, she moved again and got a P.O. box, changed her phone number, and bought a new car, which she registered under someone else’s name. According to the suit, these measures earned her a brief moment of freedom.
According to the suit, frustrated by her inability to find Svancara, Castillo turned to the Internet. Above a photo of the buxom, red-headed (for the occasion) Svancara at a charity event in a low-cut red gown and posting it on a well-known (and notorious) national gossip site, Castillo wrote “Nasty Julie Svancara Prostitute Embezzler.”
Andy Cohen wept.
According to the suit, Castillo went on to call Svancara a “sick nasty whore” who had stolen her “husband from her family.”
Which would be defamatory, if only it weren’t almost totally true.
Svancara does indeed have a checkered past.
In 2011, Svancara was judged to have defrauded a Cypress man of $235,442. No, "embezzling" was not used in the documents, but "fraud" was.
The following year she was arrested for prostitution and avoided a conviction by completing a pre-trial diversion program.
And in her answer and counter-suit, Castillo also claims that Svancara admitted that he had been sleeping with J.C. after all.
“We didn’t have any personal relationship till June,” Svancara is alleged to have written. “I told him that I didn’t date married men. Then he said he was getting a dvorce and was separated and I was like OK...then he came on strong and I used bad judgement [sic] and got involved with him.” The countersuit claims that Svancara broke it off for a time, but, as of May 2014, they were back together.
Hence her lawyers have claimed a “defense of justification”: maybe she did do some of the things Svancara claims, but if she did, as a woman scorned, she had a good excuse.
In any event, Castillo has denied all of Svancara’s allegations. She also claims that her statements about Svancara on the gossip website are defensible because they are true. Castillo claims that Svancara’s true agenda is to hasten the finalization of the Castillos' two-year-long divorce battle. She also claims that -- via the comments beneath Castillo’s “embezzler/whore” post -- Svancara libeled her 19 times by accusing her “of committing crimes that did not occur, of sexual misconduct, and of having a loathsome disease.” (That’s right: Svancara is being sued for her comments under a post branding her an embezzler and a whore. And she might lose.)
The suit demands the removal of the comments, but they are still there, including one by Svancara, which we just have to immortalize here:
“I have to again pay to get this crazy crap undone of what you did.”
What crazy crap who did to whom will not be undone for quite some time, very likely, as the suit is ongoing. Now Castillo is requesting a jury trial and seeking damages for mental anguish, court costs, and exemplary damages, as she contends that Svancara’s allegedly libelous statements were made with actual malice.
Jury trials are getting scarce but if this mess comes to that, you know where to find us.