Aug. 16, 2010 -- A daughter of Treasure Island Foods co-founder Christ Kamberos is accusing her stepmother of scheming to reduce the daughter's inheritance and dividing the family.
The family feud is outlined in a lawsuit filed in Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court by Christi Kamberos Matthews, who claims her father's estate is worth "in excess of several million dollars."
Kamberos Mathews claims her stepmother, Maria Kamberos, sought to distance Kamberos from his children and manipulated the businessman into eliminating the stepdaughter as one of the major beneficiaries of his estate.
Christ Kamberos – who died in October at age 83 – and his brother opened the first Treasure Island store in 1963 on the North Side of Chicago. The business grew into a chain of seven stores specializing in foods from around the world and billing itself as "America's Most European Supermarket."
Court papers, filed last week, repeatedly stressed the 31-year age difference between Maria, who married Kamberos in 1986 as his second wife, and her late husband. He was 60 and she was 29 when they wed.
The lawsuit claims Maria Kamberos held "undue influence, domination and control" over the older man and "secluded" him from his children.
Maria Kamberos, who took over the business in 2000, did not return a call seeking comment at her office. Her lawyer, David Baker, declined comment Friday, saying he had just received a copy of the lawsuit. Kamberos Matthews' lawyer, Joseph Marconi, also declined comment.
The suit accuses Maria Kamberos of engaging in a long campaign to alienate Kamberos from his three children from a previous marriage.
"Maria prevented normal contact between Christ and [Kamberos Matthews] as well as his other children, brother, sisters, grandchildren and other relatives," the suit said. "The previously loving nature of Christ's family relations was altered forever." It said Christ Kamberos only saw his children and grandchildren on rare occasions.
Court papers said Kamberos' ailing health and "diminished mental capacity" allowed him to fall under the "undue influence, domination and control" of his spouse, who succeeded in "poisoning his mind and overcoming his will."
"Oftentimes, Christ's children could not visit their father or talk to him on the telephone unless Maria agreed in advance," the lawsuit said.
In 1990, the suit said, Maria Kamberos utilized "lies, deceitful conduct and wrongful persuasion" to convince Kamberos to change his will, originally drafted in 1975. The new will eliminated and reduced inheritance that was to go to his surviving children and instead placed it under Maria's control, the lawsuit said.
"Christ Kamberos did whatever Maria told him to do," the lawsuit said.
Kamberos Matthews has asked for compensation exceeding $1 million in addition to the costs for the lawsuit, punitive damages, interests and attorney fees.