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Houston Chronicle Article - October 27, 1998

Parents raise safety issues, get hearing 
A new twist in Moceanu case 
Copyright 1998 Houston Chronicle 

Moceanu asked Monday that an emergency court hearing be held to determine if she is safe. Dumitru and Camelia Moceanu claim Dominique's court-appointed attorney has left their daughter under the influence of an undocumented immigrant and two men of questionable motives who are harming her and her career. The hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday. The three people who have been helping her hide since she ran away Oct. 17 from her parents' home in Spring are Luminita Miscenco, 26, her gymnastics coach; Brian Huggins, 32, a friend; and Jeff Pudlo, 23, who coached at the Moceanu gym until he was fired the day Dominique ran away. Dominique, who turned 17 Sept. 30, filed suit Oct. 19 seeking to be certified as an adult, saying her father has squandered the money she has earned in her seven-year professional career. In an affidavit submitted in support of the request for a hearing, Janice Ward, a friend and former masseuse of Dominique, said, "Brian Huggins began a relationship with Dominique Moceanu when she was 15 years old and he was 31 years old. I counseled her about this relationship, because of the age difference and the fact that he was a married man and his wife never was with him." Dominique, who moved into her own apartment this weekend, said Monday that the implication of Ward's statement was "totally not fair. This has gone way over the limit, how can somebody stoop so low?" Dominique said Ward used to massage her after workouts and was one of the few adult friends her parents allowed her to have. Huggins, a family friend who provided professional services for the Moceanus when they built their gym at 6120 Louetta, which opened last year, said the only reason he is helping is to ensure Dominique's safety. "As a parent I made the decision I wouldn't leave her out on the street," Huggins said. "I think any parent would want somebody doing that for their children." The Moceanus' court filings include the claim that Miscenco, whom Dominique credits with reviving her sagging career, "is currently illegally in the United States and may be subject to deportation immediately." Dominique's father, Dumitru Moceanu, is Miscenco's sponsor for her work visa. He fired her the day Dominique ran away. Dominique said she is confident Miscenco will be allowed to stay in the United States to coach her. The affidavits claim that Miscenco, Huggins and Pudlo have conspired to influence Dominique to run away. "Dom made this decision on her own free will," Pudlo said, echoing the sentiments expressed by the others. "As a friend I told her I would help her but not influence her. The only benefit I want to see is her well-being. I don't want any money, I don't want anything." The parents' motion also says Dominique's court- appointed attorney, Ellen Yarrell, was out of town Friday or Saturday and thus could not be with Dominique. Yarrell said she was "insulted" by the insinuation she did not properly carry out her duties. She said it is not her responsibility to supervise Dominique around the clock. She said she talked frequently with Dominique by phone, even while out of town. Yarrell said she met with the Moceanus on Friday to try to settle the matter out of court, and that they told her they are concerned that Miscenco, Huggins and Pudlo would leave their daughter "penniless" if she were certified as an adult. Yarrell said she proposed that a third party oversee Dominique's trust fund so she would not spend the money unwisely, but her parents refused, saying it is a "family matter." Dominique said Monday she had always assumed she would have access to the trust fund when she turned 18, but was shocked to read in a newspaper last week that she would not have access to it until age 35. The hearing on her request to be certified an adult is scheduled for Nov. 11, but a request to delay that hearing will be heard Nov. 4, as well as a request to have the entire matter dropped. Yarrell said she filed a motion Monday to be appointed as Dominique's guardian if the adult status hearing is delayed. 
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Good Will Hunting Free on

Houston Chronicle
In 1996, 14-year-old Dominique Moceanu showed an inner strength that belied her age by refusing to let a stress fracture keep her from competing in the Olympics Games in Atlanta. 

But masked beneath her steely eyes, a different kind of stress was taking its toll. 

The pressure of being driven by her parents to be an Olympic athlete since she was 3 years old finally got to Moceanu this weekend. On Monday, at age 17, she filed a lawsuit in state district court in Houston asking to be declared a legal adult so her parents would not have control over her -- or her money. According to the suit, Moceanu's father, Dumitru Moceanu, has squandered the money she has earned in her professional career, which started at age 10. 

A judge signed a temporary restraining order Monday, saying her parents must stay away from Moceanu -- who ran away from her parents' north Harris County home on Sunday -- until a hearing is conducted Nov. 11 on her requested adult status. An ad litem attorney was appointed by the court to represent her interests. 

But in an interview Tuesday, Moceanu said the problem is about much more than money. 

"I never had a childhood," Moceanu said sadly, a change from the intense confidence she normally projects from her five-foot frame. "When I went to compete when I was young, I always was in fear because I would get yelled at by my father, and I would say to myself, `I'm 13 years old, come on,' " she said. "Instead of talking to me, they're always yelling with me, fighting with me," she said. 

Although such sentiments are probably those of any teen-ager, she said her life has been far from typical. 

"It always had to be about the gym," Moceanu said about her relationship with her parents. "I would think, `Don't you guys know anything besides gymnastics? Can't we go out for ice cream? Can't you be my mom and dad instead of me being your business?' 

"Things have been getting rough for a while, a lot of people don't know," Moceanu said. "We've been trying to keep things hidden." She said her father has hit her "a couple of times." 

Moceanu's father, who spent some of Moceanu's earnings opening a gym last year,

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declined to comment. Her mother, Camelia Moceanu, could not be reached for comment. 

Moceanu said her parents, who are Romanian immigrants, are very upset about what has happened. 

Moceanu and her lawyer, Roy W. Moore, declined to say how much money she has made and how much they think has been lost. Her lawsuit said a trust that had been established for her is all but gone. Moceanu said her father has made some poor investments with the money, such as buying property that is polluted. 

"I kill myself training and going to school, and what is he doing with my money?" she said. "They haven't been working since 1996. Where does their income come from? Me." 

Moore said her parents have refused to answer his client's questions about where her money has gone. He said all that she needs to prove to receive adult status is that she is living away from her parents and can support herself. Once she has the status, Moore said, Moceanu will be able to demand through legal channels to see an accounting of her money. 

Moceanu was born in Los Angeles in 1981, and she and her parents moved to the Houston area in 1990 so she could train with famed gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. 

She said she has been "living like a fugitive" the last couple of days, moving from house to house to make sure her parents can't find her. 

Moceanu, the only member of the 1996 U.S. gold medal women's gymnastics team still competing in all gymnastics events, said being away from her parents will help her focus on her training. 

"I've been trying to block it out, but with school and everything I just didn't want this to affect me any more," she said. 

She said she hopes to compete in the world championship games in China next year and possibly in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But her plans to participate in a competition in Australia in two weeks may have to be scrapped, she said.

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Moceanu said she reached her breaking point Saturday after her father angrily said he would fire her coach, Luminita Miscenco, 26, whom Moceanu credits with helping turn her career around. In August, Moceanu became the first non-Russian to win the all-around competition in the Goodwill Games. 

Moceanu said her father brought Miscenco from Romania early this year so she could teach at his gym, but he became threatened by Miscenco because she helped Moceanu understand she should be concerned about her finances, the young gymnast said. 

According to Moceanu, she told her father Saturday that she would quit if he fired Miscenco, and he replied, "Fine, you're just going to have to quit gymnastics.' " 

She said her father threatened to take actions to have Miscenco deported to Romania. "I told her, `We're going to stick together, I'm not going to let you go,' " Moceanu said. 

Moceanu said she has been thinking about taking legal action for some time. She said during a meet in Plano last summer, retired gymnast Kurt Thomas told her she should think about where her money is going. She said she called her mother to discuss the matter, and her father immediately drove to the north Texas city to bring her back. 

Moceanu, a senior at the private Northland Christian School, said she has only had one chaperoned date in her life and has to hide from her father when she calls friends on the phone. 

She stressed that none of her actions had been motivated by any relationship with a boyfriend and no one has pressured her, but that she is doing it all on her own. 

She said she has a 9-year-old sister who is also training in gymnastics, and doesn't want to see her sister have the same problems. 

"I love my parents," Moceanu said. "I hope that after all this is over, we'll be closer than ever. That would be my dream."

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© Copyright 1998 Jason World Entertainment
© Copyright 1998 Houston Chronicle
© Copyright 1998 Zoe

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Dominique just turned 17 years old less than a month ago, September 30th.  She loves to drive so she picked out one of the finest cars there are. It's fully loaded with all the options. And Domi's new CARalthough she listens to pop, hip-hop, and other music she still finds time to come back to her first love country music.  You'll find Reba and Garth CD's in this car for sure.
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