- Her Side of the Story - Part 1- The Early Years
By Nelson Thibodeaux
Like many folks
that read this, I knew of Karen Lucchesi primarily because of her
famous last name. Her personal fame grew with the opening of an
opulent salon and wellness center in Colleyville. Lucchesi made
appearances at all the right charities and was known for her generosity
in support of local groups. She built what appeared to be an
edifice to those who professed to be Colleyville's elite amongst elitist.
Lucchesi did appear to have the ability to navigate the rocky
waters of Colleyville's materialistic crowd without being forced
to profess loyalty to any one clique. She appeared at ease
with any group and always managed to be a gracious and caring
host when events were held at her magnificent establishment.
The big limousines parked in front of the La Plaza Wellness Center
seemed an appropriate visual exclamation point for Lucchesi.
Here was a statuesque Italian beauty that had it all.
Lucchesi seemed to be a dynamic lady, but obviously she had a head
start on the rest of us being the daughter of a famous baseball
manager. The European splendor of this palace was probably a
gift from her famous father. Oh well, I should have been so lucky.
Click on photos
Lucchesi built a center that resembled a Mediterranean
Village with marble tiles, stately Grecian columns and
colorful rooms in colors like sea green. The
operation included sculptures, cascading fountains and big
If I would had ever refreshed my memory
by doing a little research on Karen's dad, Frank Lucchesi,
I probably would have had a different perspective. Here was
a guy that rose to incredible heights in his profession against
great odds. Frank Lucchesi was the youngest manager in the
major leagues at 23 years old, managing a backwater low minor
league operation. It took him 19 years of perseverance to
finally land a major league manager's job with the Philadelphia
Phillies in 1970. At the time, he had a little girl named Karen.
She had been born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1965.
The Lucchesi family 1970
after Frank had been named the Phillies manager. (l
to r) Fran, Karen in Frank's lap, Bryan and
Frank was the first manager of
the Phillies in their new Vet Stadium in 1970.
Karen at five years old
By the time Karen was 17 she had three jobs and, moved
from home and supported herself.
At ten, Karen moved to
Arlington with her family when Frank become the manager of the
Texas Rangers. She went to public school in Arlington and began a
collection of sports memorabilia. Problem was that Frank would not
allow any of the children to ask for autographs from his own
players. Years later, when Karen paid hundreds of dollars
for an autographed ball, she said that she could recall actually
hanging out with some of the same players at an early age.
Karen has always been an
animal lover. In fact, she moved onto property owned
by a Fort Worth attorney, Anand Alloju and refurbished an
old barn into a New York type loft to have a place for her
dog. Alloju would later involve her in the money
laundering sting fiasco.
During the earlier
years, with Frank traveling
so much, Kathy and the kids became a very self-sufficient group.
By the time Karen was 18 years old, she had become a real
entrepreneur buying condos at distressed sales and flipping them
for a profit.
At 15 years old, Karen was
already working in a day care. During her last year at high school
1/2 day at modeling jobs everyday. She had saved enough money to
pursue her own businesses by the time she was in her early
Karen maintained a
close and loving relationship with her dad. The Lucchesi
family has maintained homes close to each other over the
years. Frank and his brother set up a line of credit
for $20,000 to help Karen expand her spa business.
However her dad always recognized the entrepreneurial ability
of Karen and knew a little seed was all it would
take. He was always frugal however, her first car
was a hand me down through two other family members.
At the risk of being
accused of stereotyping a particular ethnic group, if Italian families
are supposed to be a very tight group, then this Lucchesi clan is the quintessential
Italian family. Of course, under the circumstances,
Karen's problems are a heavy weight to bear for any family and
seems especially so in
this close family. Having a brief opportunity to meet with Karen's
mom Kathy and brother Bryan, one can not help but feel their pain
and concern. Karen continues to provide comfort to her
family by exhibiting an incredible level of self-confidence in her
future and strength to get through the next few months.
Fran, Karen, Frank and Bryan
Lucchesi during earlier more carefree times. While known
as a firebrand manager, since his retirement, Frank
Lucchesi has a reputation as a gentle, generous and kind
man. Watching a story about someone in need on the
news, it was not unusual for Lucchesi to call the
television station and find out how to get in contact
with the family.
Karen began her career
in the spa business with a small 2,000 sq. ft. operation in La
Colinas. When she purchased the business it was only doing
nails and she quickly expanded the operation to a full service
By 1997, Lucchesi had expanded her operations to a facility near
the Kroger store in Colleyville. She refined her successful
business and began the design on a facility that would be a blend
of sophistication and glamour with a dedication to health, fitness
Just prior to opening the new vision known as La Plaza, Karen was
diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that prompts the body
to attack its own tissues. She experienced negative effects
with steroids prescribed and began to look for alternative
solutions. During her time of research she began to develop
an expanded vision of a total wellness center rather than just a
salon/spa. She envisioned a place that would have all the
necessary ingredients for a healthy lifestyle at one location.
The concept for La
Plaza Wellness Center was born. Of European splendor
resembling a Mediterranean Village with marble tile floors and
stately Grecian columns the facility would feature colorful rooms
with colors like sea green. It would be decorated with
sculptures and fountains offering an experience unlike anything
Lucchesi worked during the construction of the facility doing what
was necessary to launch the next phase of her entrepreneurial
career. When the sheetrock wasn't ready on time, she floated
and bedded the walls herself.
Patrons of La Plaza were
often greeted by all the members of the Lucchesi
family. The facility provided an opportunity for the
close knit family to work together. Above is Bryan, mom
Kathy and Karen Lucchesi.
As the success of the
La Plaza grew, Karen Lucchesi followed in the footsteps of her
generous dad. She was a major contributor to the fund
raising activities of many local charities including the Women's
club, shelters for women, the Christ Haven Shelter, the North
Texas Cancer Center and the Bobby Bragan Foundation that provides
scholarships to deserving kids for college.
Karen launched her entrepreneurial ways out of high school.
She never obtained a college education, however her instincts and
ability to understand the needs of her customers contributed to
her business success. She received numerous awards for her generosity
and business leadership skills.
During a particular busy time in 1998, Lucchesi had a problem with
a tenant that required the services of an attorney. A mutual
friend introduced her to a young attorney by the name of Anand
Alloju. Alloju discussed the issue with the tenant's
attorney and quickly resolved the matter. Since he would not
accept any payment, Lucchesi provided him with gift certificates
from La Plaza for his wife Lisa.
Over the subsequent years, Alloju and Lisa often visited La
Plaza. The couple befriended the entire Lucchesi family.
They would often visited Karen's parents, Frank and Kathy and even
went boating with Fran's family.
The friendships continued and a mutual trust seemed to be part of
a bond between all the parties. In fact, Lucchesi and Alloju traded
off when one or the other was out of town. A friend and neighbor
helping each other as they would feed the pets and have
total access to each other's homes. Then Alloju began to handle
minor business issues for Lucchesi and at one time obtained a
Power of Attorney to conduct business affairs for Karen when she
was out of town.
Suddenly, last year Alloju was arrested in a money laundering
sting and he had checks from Lucchesi's businesses on his person
at the time. Although Alloju continued to assure Karen
Lucchesi that she had nothing to fear, he eventually agreed to a
plea bargain in exchange to testify against her.
Next week we explore Alloju's role in the money laundering scheme,
actual transcripts between Alloju and an undercover DEA agent,
audio tapes and defendant's evidence that was not allowed to be
introduced at the trial.
In a recent family photo is
Karen far left, her niece, Frank, Kathy, Fran and Bryan.
or letters in support of Lucchesi will be forwarded to her parole
officer, who will make recommendations to Judge McBryde.
Anyone wishing to urge that Lucchesi be given an opportunity to
remain free on bond during her appeal may send comments to LNO and
have them forwarded to the appropriate party. Local business
leaders that would like to show support are encouraged to write on
your letter head and send to LNO, PO Box 332, Colleyville, Texas
76034. Anyone that wishes to assist Lucchesi in any other
fashion may also contact LNO and the information will be
HERE to Contact LNO on behalf of Karen Lucchesi. Readers are
always welcomed to submit "emails
to the editor" as well on any subject matter to LNO.
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