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Heiress "Bunny" Mellon, Identified as Client No. 5, Says She Had No Inkling of Starr's Alleged Fraud

By Nicole Bode | May 27, 2010 6:12pm | Updated on May 27, 2010 6:11pm
The late billionaire Paul Mellon and his wife Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon talk with two unidentified women at the Rolling Rock race meet, October 5, 1946.
The late billionaire Paul Mellon and his wife Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon talk with two unidentified women at the Rolling Rock race meet, October 5, 1946.
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By Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Senior Editor

MANHATTAN — Listerine heiress and philanthropist Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon has preferred to shun the media spotlight since long before her financial largesse became tangled up in the John Edwards mistress scandal. But Mellon was back in the news on Thursday thanks to the alleged financial misdeeds of her long-time financier, Kenneth Starr.

Mellon — described in the 37-page federal criminal indictment as "Client 5, an elderly heiress" nearing her 100s — "had not the slightest inkling" that anything was wrong with her investments with Starr, who had been a friend and financial advisor for three decades, her lawyer said.

"We have no idea at the moment what exposure she has to this," said lawyer Alexander Forger, who represents Mellon's family office, Oak Spring Farms. "She is just shocked."

According to the criminal complaint, Starr siphoned at least $5.75 million from Oak Spring Farms LLC to his own personal account to pay for a $7.5 million Upper East Side apartment between April 13 - April 16. The following month, Mellon's lawyer told the Manhattan District Attorney's office that the transfer was never requested nor approved, the complaint says.

The doyenne of high society is the widow of Paul Mellon, a billionaire art patron and racehorse breeder. She is famously camera-shy and keeps a residence in the Jumeirah Essex House on Central Park South and an estate in Upperville Virginia, where she reportedly became fond of then-first-time presidential candidate John Edwards in 2006.

She reportedly told friends the senator reminded her of John F. Kennedy, whose wife Jackie O. was a close friend, the Daily Beast reported. She soon began to support him with an increasing number of campaign contributions.

Little did she suspect that the money would later allegedly be used to fund Edwards increasingly tawdry exploits with his mistress, the Daily Beast said.

In somewhat of a taste of what was to come, Mellon was visited by the FBI as part of a federal grand jury probe into Edwards' handling of campaign funds, and was reportedly thrilled by the experience. In particular, feds were interested in the $700,000 in funds Mellon allegedly made out to Edwards' campaign in the form of blank checks annotated "furniture," the Daily Beast said.

"'Just think!'" she told a friend after the visit from the feds, Daily Beast reported. "I have lived for 99 years and I've never been interviewed by the FBI before!"