Buffalo Bills football star Mario Williams, who signed the biggest contract in team history last year, has filed a lawsuit against his former fiancée in Houston, seeking the return of a 10-carat diamond engagement ring reportedly worth $785,000.
The lawsuit alleges that Erin Marzouki “unilaterally terminated” the engagement in January for reasons that were “caused solely” by her.
Furthermore, Williams alleges that Marzouki never intended to marry him and that she used their relationship as a means to “get … money and acquire gifts.”
“[Marzouki] has absconded with the diamond ring,” according to the suit. “[Williams] has demanded that Defendant return the diamond engagement ring, but Defendant has failed and refused to do so.”
The 28-year-old defensive end filed the lawsuit Friday in Harris County Court in Houston. The Buffalo News obtained a copy of the document Monday.
The lawsuit comes almost 14 months after Williams joined the Bills, signing a six-year, $100 million contract with $50 million in guaranteed money. When it was signed, the contract made Williams the highest-paid defensive player in National Football League history and by far the highest-paid in Bills history.
So far, nothing has been filed in the Houston court giving Marzouki’s side of the story. A News reporter left a telephone message for Marzouki in Houston but did not receive a return call. Court officials said they do not know who represents Marzouki in the case.
Williams’ Houston attorneys, Monica S. Orlando and Michael G. Orlando, could not be reached Monday afternoon to comment.
The football star contends in court papers that Marzouki agreed to marry him but also agreed that, if the wedding was ever called off, she would return the ring that Williams bought for her.
“Defendant had no intention of returning the diamond engagement ring. Instead, Defendant intended to break off the relationship and abscond with the diamond ring,” Williams said in his 10-page complaint.
Williams said the ring was purchased in December 2011 from “Valobra Master Jewelers.” The ring was described as a “GIA certified radiant cut diamond weighing 10.04 carats, E color grade and VS2 clarity grade.”
In court papers, Williams said he gave Marzouki the engagement ring Feb. 19, 2012, which was 3½ weeks before he signed his landmark free-agent contract with the Bills while both were living in Houston.
In addition, Williams said, he gave his fiancée an American Express credit card to pay for living expenses. He contended that she ran up $108,000 in charges on the card in 2012.
Williams also said that he has purchased “additional luxury items” for Marzouki with a total value of $230,000. In his court papers, he did not itemize the purchases.
Under Texas law, Williams has the “right of recovery” to the ring, his attorneys said in court papers. He asked the courts to issue an order restraining Marzouki from selling the ring or transferring it to anyone else.
Williams had Marzouki fly to Buffalo from Houston in March 2012 during his contract negotiations with the Bills. During that visit, the two met with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, at their Orchard Park home. Subsequently, they bought a 13-room, 9,389-square-foot house valued at $2 million across the street from the Kellys.
On the Buffalo radio program “The Better Half of the Bills” on STAR 102.5 last December, Marzouki told interviewer Rob Lucas that she had spent the football season commuting back and forth from Buffalo to Houston to be a bridesmaid and maid of honor for the weddings of two of her friends.
After one of the weddings, she added, she flew immediately back to Buffalo so she could attend the Bills game the next afternoon.
Marzouki said that she and Williams had talked about getting married last June but that the move to a new city put those plans on hold.
“We’re looking at next summer,” she said, “but we have no date or no place.”
Seeking the return of engagement gifts is not unheard of for sports celebrities. Former Buffalo Sabres player Matthew Barnaby reached an out-of-court settlement five weeks ago of a lawsuit against his ex-fiancée and reclaimed an engagement ring worth $50,000. Two years ago, Dallas Cowboys receiver Roy Williams sued his ex-fiancée over a $77,000 engagement ring but got the ring back without going to court.
Several State Supreme Court and Appellate Division rulings in engagement ring cases over the last decade have, in effect, established New York as a “no-fault engagement” state, meaning that it doesn’t matter why an engagement gets called off or whether one party or the other did something wrong. The person who gave the ring is entitled to get it back.
Texas is not a no-fault state for such a conditional gift. The person giving the ring can recover it “on breach of the marriage engagement by the donee,” according to a 2003 Texas Court of Appeals ruling.
Williams’ lawyers contend “that the engagement was terminated by” Marzouki.