Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin sues family alleging fraud

Astronaut accuses family of mishandling money, social media accounts

By James Dean, Florida Today
Getty Images

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut, looks on during a pre-opening press conference of the Apollo Treasures Gallery at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex July 16, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The gallery opening celebrates the 40th…

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin has launched a legal battle against his children and family foundation, accusing them of abusing his trust and finances nearly 50 years after his historic moon landing, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

The 88-year-old Aldrin's children, in turn, say they fear he is a victim of manipulation by parties seeking to take advantage of his money and reputation.

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In a civil suit filed this month in Brevard County Circuit Court, Aldrin, a Satellite Beach resident, claims his son, daughter and a former manager have misused credit cards, refused to disclose financial information and mismanaged social media accounts and other media obligations.

Aldrin further says they have slandered him, telling others that he has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and have refused to let him marry and undermined romantic relationships.

The family and Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation “have used this tactic to gain further control over (Buzz Aldrin’s) personal relationships, business contacts, and assets,” the lawsuit states.

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Aldrin also seeks to remove his son, Andy Aldrin, as the controlling trustee of his estate that oversees memorabilia worth millions of dollars.

Andy Aldrin is a former rocket company executive who also serves as the foundation’s president and director of the Aldrin Institute based at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Buzz Aldrin's daughter, Jan Aldrin, is a foundation board member. Buzz Aldrin is the foundation’s chairman, but does not oversee day-to-day operations.

The foundation, which is gearing up for an annual gala fundraiser July 21 at Kennedy Space Center, did not comment directly on the lawsuit Friday.

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However, the foundation said in a statement that it has “concerns for (Buzz Aldrin’s) vulnerability to manipulation by other parties seeking to gain access to and control of foundation and personal resources.”

Those concerns were expressed this week after public questions arose about a surge of activity on Buzz Aldrin’s official Twitter account, after it had been dormant for six weeks.

One of the messages personally attacked Aldrin’s longtime manager, Christina Korp, of Winter Park, Florida, accusing her of “using Buzz’s voice and brand to self-promote/ promote her clients ….”

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Echoing the lawsuit filed June 7, the tweet said Aldrin had fired Korp, whom the lawsuit also accuses of fraud and other exploitation.

The family foundation said that was not true, and that Korp remains a board member with its full support.

The foundation also said someone else appeared to be speaking for Aldrin on his official Twitter account, @TheRealBuzz.

“We are not sure who is responsible for the tweet regarding Christina Korp, but we are confident Buzz did not write this," the foundation said in a statement.

Florida Tech, which houses the Aldrin Space Institute and Aldrin Center for Entrepreneurship in Space, also is a defendant in the case.

Identifying Buzz Aldrin as a “vulnerable adult” under Florida law, the lawsuit accuses Andy Aldrin of making “large sums of transactions monthly” from Buzz Aldrin’s accounts.

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“The amounts are unknown in amount but substantial, potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the suit states.

Robert Tourtelot, Buzz Aldrin’s Santa Monica, California-based lawyer, did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

The lawsuit reflects a rift that has divided the Apollo astronaut — who this week visited the White House for a National Space Council meeting — from his family in favor of a different management team.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Saturday commemorated the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon. He raised more than $190,000 for his nonprofit space education foundation and honored space innovators and pioneers. 

The new team last month promised to unveil a new Aldrin initiative, the Human Spaceflight Institute, at Spaceport Houston located at Ellington Airport.

The planned May 22 press event was canceled without explanation. But on Friday, its spokesperson, Beverly Hills-based Edward Lozzi of Lozzi Media Services, said to stay tuned.

“We are going to be making a major announcement in the near future,” Lozzi told FLORIDA TODAY.

Lozzi previously has represented celebrity clients including Lou Ferrigno and Jon Voight and served as a White House press aide under President George H.W. Bush, according to his website.

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Aldrin’s new advisers have established a Los Angeles-based entity, Buzz Aldrin Ventures, that they say now represents his business interests.

The organization’s website says it is “Buzz’s overarching holding company charged with developing strategic projects and international joint ventures that further Buzz’s vision and legacy in addition to activities formerly undertaken by Buzz Aldrin Enterprises.”

The venture’s chief operating officer is Linn LeBlanc,who had previously worked as executive director for Buzz Aldrin’s Share Space Foundation, a major educational initiative run by the family foundation. Her involvement with Share Space ended in February 2017, according to LeBlanc’s LinkedIn page.

LeBlanc also previously served as executive director for more than a decade of the then Kennedy Space Center-based Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

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Also involved with Aldrin, according to the online news site NASA Watch, is Lisa LaBonte, who once served as CEO of the United Arab Emirates-based Arab Youth Venture Foundation, which partnered with NASA on some education projects.

Aldrin’s family foundation says its mission is to promote STEM education, space exploration and Aldrin’s legacy. It reported net assets of about $240,000 in 2016, according to IRS documents.

“We are determined to protect Buzz’s personal reputation and professional legacy, while also protecting his ability to remain self-sustaining financially,” the foundation said.

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