It reads like a villain origin story: The right-hand man was by all accounts devoted to the hero, seemingly willing to do anything to protect and serve him. Until his true identity was unmasked.
On May 25, Stan Lee’s former business manager Keya Morgan was arrested on charges of elder abuse against the late Marvel mastermind.
Morgan, 43, was charged with five counts of elder abuse, including false imprisonment, fraud and forgery.
Among the allegations is that Morgan, who is also known as Keyarash Mazhari, collected $US262,000 ($378,295) from autograph-signing sessions in May last year and never gave the money to Lee.
Authorities called Morgan’s alleged crime a “long con”: “The method of operation of financial-abuse opportunists is gaining the trust of the elder in hopes for what may be a big pay-off in the long run,'” reads a Los Angeles Police Department statement.
The statement said Morgan, who calls himself a “CEO, filmmaker, entrepreneur, historian” and who claims to be making a documentary on Michael Jackson’s “innocence”, “exerted his control and influence” over Lee – a comic book icon who co-created Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man and many other characters who are now big-screen favourites within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The charges are the latest development in a story with more twists than an Avengers plot.
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Back in February last year, Lee – who died at age 95 in November – signed a declaration prepared by his attorney Tom Lallas, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The document detailed how three men with “bad intentions”, including Morgan, were conspiring to take control of Lee’s finances after his wife Joan’s death in 2017.
Lee was worth between $US50 million to $US70 million.
But in the first twist of the saga, Lallas was fired and Lee called the document “totally incorrect, inaccurate, misleading and insulting”.
Lee’s daughter J.C. Lee, 69, and Morgan then took more control of Lee’s life, firing long-time staff members and limiting visits from Lee’s devoted assistant Mike Kelly.
According to police, however, Morgan took the control to a sinister level.
In early June 2018, there were reports that Lee had been the victim of an attempted robbery at his mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Following the incident, Morgan moved Lee to a secure Beverly Hills condo “during the late-night hours,” said police.
Days afterwards, Lee declared that Morgan – a memorabilia collector who counts as his friends Donald Trump Jr and Marina Oswald (the wife of John F. Kennedy’s alleged killer Lee Harvey Oswald) – was now his “only partner and business manager”.
In a reply post, Morgan thanked Lee before quoting another celebrity friend: “Like Michael Jackson use [sic] to always tell us, ‘Stan is the greatest writing genius alive’.”
Turns out, Morgan had been allegedly penning a plot of his own. That month he was arrested on suspicion of making false 911 calls, including one call that claimed there were intruders at Lee’s mansion.
The alleged ruse was “to further deceive Lee into believing he was in danger and needed to be moved from his home to a more secure condominium where Morgan had more control over Lee,” authorities said.
Lee took out a restraining order on Morgan, which was extended to three years in August. According to the order, Morgan allegedly had embezzled millions in assets from Lee.
In the request for the restraining order, daughter J.C. alleged that Morgan had attempted to prevent Lee from seeing his loved ones or managing his affairs and finances.
Morgan’s attorney Alex Kessel said his client was innocent of the charges.
“My client stands firmly on his presumption of innocence. I expect him to be completely exonerated of all charges,” he said in a statement. “Mr Morgan has never abused Mr Stan Lee in any way.”
Plans are now under way to extradite Morgan, who was arrested in Arizona and granted a $US300,000 bail, to Los Angeles.