Los Angeles police are investigating reports of elder abuse against Stan Lee amid a struggle over the life and fortune of the 95-year-old Marvel Comics mogul, court documents showed on Wednesday.
The investigation was revealed in a restraining order granted against Keya Morgan, who in recent months has been acting as Lee’s business manager and personal adviser.
Mr Morgan has inserted himself into the life of the Lee, according to the order. The filing accuses Mr Morgan, 42, of taking advantage of Lee’s impaired hearing, vision and judgment, moving Mr Lee from his long-time family home and preventing family and associates from contacting him.
Mr Morgan was arrested on Monday for allegedly filing a false police report by calling 911 and saying burglars were in his house when in fact two detectives and a social worker were conducting a welfare check on Mr Lee.
“I have a very dear friend I take care of who is 95 and, um, uh, three unidentified people have gone inside this house and locked the door and locked his security out and I’m very, very scared that they’re harming him,” Mr Morgan said on the 911 call made on May 30, according to a transcript filed with the restraining order.
Attempts to reach Mr Morgan on Wednesday were not immediately successful. An attorney he hired on a previous criminal case said he no longer works for Mr Morgan, and it’s not clear if he has retained a new attorney. His cell phone was no longer accepting messages.
Mr Morgan’s arrest and ouster is the latest and most dramatic move in the fight that has emerged over Mr Lee’s business and estimated US$50 million (Dh183.7m) fortune since his wife of 69 years Joan died in July last year.
Police have been investigating reports of elder abuse against Mr Lee since at least February and had issued an emergency order keeping Mr Morgan from Mr Lee even before Wednesday’s order was issued.
For decades, Mr Lee has been revered as a comic-book giant for his central role in creating the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man and other major Marvel characters. In more recent years, he has become a grandfatherly figure over the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with his comical cameos in each film beloved by fans.
Mr Morgan is a memorabilia dealer and Marilyn Monroe expert who befriended Mr Lee’s daughter and only child J C Lee, and since February has increasingly taken personal control of Mr Lee’s life and household, taking advantage of his age to influence and isolate him, Mr Lee’s attorney Tom Lallas said in the restraining-order request.
He ousted many people who had worked for Mr Lee, including Mr Lallas, who had been helping with estate planning and other financial matters, and has now returned. Mr Morgan prevented friends, employees and relatives, eventually even J C Lee, from contact with Mr Lee, police said in reports included with the restraining order.
Detectives said in the reports that in interviews Mr Lee acknowledged that Mr Morgan had helped him, but would frequently forget his name when talking about him.
The reports said they had twice carried out welfare checks on Lee, on February 23 and again on May 30, when Mr Morgan was not home. He returned and was denied entry. After his 911 call reporting burglars, he again called 911 to say a security guard was being threatening and aggressive.
Mr Morgan was released on Monday after his arrest. He is already serving two years of probation for making criminal threats in an unrelated dispute, and he has been summoned back to court to determine whether he has violated the probation.
A day before the arrest, Mr Lee appeared in a video posted to his Twitter account declaring that Mr Morgan was his only partner and representative, and anyone claiming otherwise was lying.
“Anybody else who claims to be my rep is just making that story up,” Mr Lee says.
Mr Morgan shared the video on his own Twitter account, whose bio calls him “Co-creator with Stan Lee”.