Casey Askar’s ex-wife claimed he tricked into a divorce, then left her for his secretary
Casey Askar is suing newly elected Congressman Byron Donalds for defimation.

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Ex-wife Susana believed legal separation was a way to hide financial assets.

Court filings by Casey Askar’s ex-wife say the candidate tricked into a divorce with startlingly low alimony. Along the way, he made her move to Florida before evicting her from the home they shared.

In a 2012 court motion, Susana Abo (then Susan Askar) accused her ex-husband of demanding she sign divorce papers as a way of shielding financial assets in her name.

The couple continued living together and raising their children, not even telling friends or family of the legal separation. The whole time, she claimed, she expected to legally remarry at a later date.

But a couple of years later, after the family relocated from Michigan to Bonita Springs, Casey Askar revealed he wanted to end the relationship completely.

Askar’s campaign now dismisses the accusations as those of a woman jilted after years in a troubled marriage.

Still, five years of court filings present a narrative of a woman oppressed by her culture and assailed by deception, betrayal and exploitative legal maneuvering that ultimately left her with limited finances, estranged from her children after being blindsided by the end of a 14-year marriage.

Sham Divorce?

Casey Askar wed Susana Abo on June 20, 1996, in Southfield, Michigan, weeks after his 27th birthday and nine and a half months before the birth of their first child. The couple lived together from the time of their wedding until late 2008 with no documented trouble, having three girls and two boys along the way.

Then on Aug. 25, 2008, the couple legally separated, with their divorce finalized in a Michigan court on Nov. 4, 2010. A court judgment shows the two originally shared joint legal custody of the children. The four oldest were to live with Askar; Abo kept their youngest daughter, who was three years old when the divorce was finalized.

Askar agreed to pay $2,000 in spousal support for no more than two years, beginning in November 2010, along with $1,000 in child support for the toddler.

A divorce complaint describes a “breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

But Abo later said that wasn’t true.

In a court motion filed in March 2012, Abo said the divorce was just a legal move. In reality, Askar faced a “major financial and legal problem.” The fast food restaurant mogul had been sued by a former business partner, revealed in documents as Frank Lombardo, regarding the merger of Mr. Pita and Papa Romano’s. A bad judgment had Askar bracing for a financial hit. So he wanted all his personal assets transferred either to his brother or to Abo as part of the “divorce.” He explained it to her as a common way couples restructured their finances to protect family assets.

“They were going to still be married in all respects, despite the processing of the divorce matter, through to the conclusion,” a court motion by Abo’s attorney states. “ … They were going to continue their marital relationship in all respects, however, they needed to move out of the State of Michigan, where all of the Defendant’s [Askar’s] financial and legal problems were going to exist, and relocate to the state of Florida.”

Nobody in the couple’s social circles, even Abo’s own family, would find out about the divorce, Askar promised. In fact, it was best not to include them in the proceedings at all.

Abo was skeptical, but Askar’s lawyers assured the process would make life easier for the couple.

About a year after filing for separation, the family moved to a $2 million estate in Bonita Springs. The case continued to unfold in Michigan, with the couple claiming to be broken up but raising children in Southwest Florida. In one instance, documents allege, the two took separate flights to Michigan for a court hearing to avoid an appearance.

The Askars continued to live as a family. Indeed, a Naples Daily News article from 2011, described Abo as Askar’s wife in a lawsuit he filed against a private school; he was upset the curriculum was less rigorous than his children’s former school in Michigan.

Then in November 2011, Abo claims, Askar “suddenly and personally” informed her the “relationship was over.” He achieved what he needed with his assets. Now, he was leaving her and taking the kids. At first he went to a Naples apartment, but soon demanded Abo and their youngest move out of their home.

Askar informed her “she had nothing further that she would be receiving from him.” The divorce decree obligated him to pay $1,000 a month in child support, and he still had to pay the $2,000 in spousal support for another 13 months after. But then, he was “done with her.” He would cut off a $75,000 a year payment, money coming from one of his franchise stores. All assets that had been transferred to Abo had been moved to other members of his family. He evicted Abo from their home in February of 2012.

Abo’s father, Jamil Abo, in a court deposition testified he never learned the couple were no longer legally married. “I was not ever informed that my daughter, Abo, and Kousay were involved in a divorce proceedings and that they had actually become divorced, until January or February, 2012, after that matter was over,” he said.

While the story requires the belief Abo would go along with a complicated plan against her better judgment, she said subservience to her husband was part of the culture from which both came. When asked to sign legal paperwork, she ultimately did with little question.

By the time Abo filed the most detailed account of this arrangement, she’d become convinced the sham divorce itself had been a ruse against her, and that Askar intended to leave her for his secretary the entire time.

Askar married current wife Shera, a former employee 14 years his younger, in 2017. The couple have since had another child, and would eventually take full custody of all of Askar’s children.

The Other Side

Askar, now one of 11 candidates running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, has disputed his ex-wife’s account of events numerous times along the way.

He stated in a 2012 court filing that this wasn’t even the first time he considered filing for divorce. He’d filed in 1998, a decade before they legally separated, but quickly dismissed his case in hopes of reconciling. And Abo threatened to do the same several times, he claimed.

“The parties’ marriage was unstable from the beginning,” his attorneys wrote in a Michigan court filing.

He also denied any financial “scheming” behind the couple’s move to Florida. Rather, he said the move was supposed to allow the couple to start life over in a new location and avoid the embarrassment of a retail theft conviction for Abo in Michigan.

Askar also calls into question the characterization of Abo as a rollover on household decisions.

The divorce was contentious at various moments throughout. Askar filed for a restraining order against Abo in May 2012 after she a plastic toy at him during a disagreement during the eviction process. She also spit on him and one of the children, which counts as assault under Florida law. In court papers, Askar asserted he was in fear for his daughter’s safety. That ultimately led to a court in 2012 ordering she could not have any lone contact with the children.

The papers describe the type of family crises that can accompany divorce proceedings. Abo argued against the courts taking witness testimony from the couple’s teenage daughter months after Askar bought her a $60,000 sports car. She complained her was poisoning her relationship to her children by disparaging her behind her back.

But Askar’s lawyers along the way called her credibility into account. During one hearing in Naples, Askar’s attorney says events with the move to Florida played out very differently that Abo describes. The intention was always for Askar to live in the Bonita mansion while Abo could live in a condo in Naples he owned, an arrangement outlines in the original legal separation. But she moved into the home while he was traveling for business.

“Ms. Askar was watching the children and slowly kind of moved herself back into the home — or excuse me, not back into — into the home,” said attorney Chris Lombardo. “… My client tried cooperatively to ease her back out of his life and his home, and unfortunately, it has come to this.”

Abo’s attorneys notably say the estate never in fact belonged to Askar, but to his brother Anthony. The same goes for the condo.

At the same time, one of Abo’s attorneys at a point filed a motion in the financial case suggesting assets were being concealed amid the divorce proceeding.

But courts ultimately sided against Abo more often than they accepted her version of the facts. The legal battle closed in September 2014 and she left the home. A plan was agreed to in the courts where Askar paid Abo $100,000, though the bulk of that was distributed not to Abo directly.

Instead, $60,000 went directly to credit card debt with $5,000 going to her attorney. Another $20,000 went to Abo’s father with another $1,000 to her mother and $4,000 was divided among her sisters. That left about $10,000 for Abo herself.

The 14-year marriage was annulled.

Running for office

Abo has largely vanished from public view, but Askar can be seen on Southwest Florida television sets and computer monitors each day. He’s one of nine Republicans running to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. In the heavily Republican district, the candidate who wins the nomination will be favored in the general election

A recent poll commissioned by Florida Politics found Askar leading the field. The front-runner status has come with intense scrutiny, on the financing behind his $3 million loan to the campaign, on his educational claim to be a Harvard graduate and on his military service.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


6 comments

  • Sonja Fitch

    July 24, 2020 at 4:53 pm

    Why did I immediately think another rich old white privileged man and of course republican!

  • Amy Roberts

    July 24, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    All I can say is this is too crazy to be made up. Do not VOTE for this guy. Florida has got to get away from putting crooks in office!

  • Amy C Roberts

    July 24, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Oh I forgot to add, this guy has misrepresented his education and military service people.

  • Bob Schultz

    July 24, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    He’s a typical Republican liar and fraud. Of course, this is the kind of candidates that most often get nominated by the GOP. The IDIOT in the White House comes to mind.

  • Jennifer Miller

    July 26, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    “Family Man” for sure! This guy better not get elected. Total fraud and not as wealthy as he likes to portray himself. Drives a Ferrari “Askar 1”

    He claims to be a Harvard Business School graduate but it was merely a certificate program. What a joke.

    Left wife of kids for secretary who wears Chanel dresses.

  • Brenda VanHatten

    July 27, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Mr Askar should not be running for congress.  He should be a member of the Trump Administration.  He seems like Donald Trump’s kind of guy; crook, philanderer, fast-food mogul, narcissist.  Trump should appoint him to run the school lunch program with all that healthy fast-food experience.

Comments are closed.


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