Ascent of a Woman

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Just four years out of jail, Menke once again possessed a broker's license. But she needed some business. Unable to afford a car (she had a company vehicle with Oshman's), she took to walking to appointments or taking cabs until a deal closed. But she allowed herself one luxury: a membership at the Houstonian. Working out, she explains, was more important than food or a car.

Her luck changed again when President Bush was defeated for re-election, because that brought former business acquaintance Mosbacher back to town. Desperate, she called Mosbacher for an appointment, hopped a cab to his office and asked if he would consider loaning her $2,500 a month until her deals started closing and she could pay him back.

Mosbacher thought about it, but instead retained Menke to research properties in the Cinco Ranch area. She eventually became his broker for a deal involving three properties and totaling 2,200 acres.

Mosbacher says he had no reservations about hiring Menke and found she did a thorough job for him.

"From what little I knew of it, it sounded like she took more than a large part of the blame," Mosbacher says of Menke's role in the Hermann scandal. "If she was guilty, she had less knowledge than the others because she was not sophisticated in those kinds of transactions. She's smart in some areas and incredibly naive in others."

Guilty or not, he adds, Menke has paid her dues.
In November 1994, Menke slipped quietly into the local business pages again when she was listed as representing both parties in First Metropolitan Baptist Church's purchase of 25 acres on the east side of Sam Houston Tollway.

Pastor John Ogletree expressed some surprise when asked if he had been hesitant to work with Menke. Ogletree says he knew nothing of Menke's past, but he found the Bible-quoting broker to be "professional and aggressive."

At present, Menke says she's waiting to close a $5 million deal.
"I'm not making as much money as I did in the eighties," she says. "But I'm on the way to."

She's also a new member of the Houston Symphony League and is trying to get her children's stories published. Overall, Menke says, her life is pretty dull. She's not a "party girl," preferring to stay home at night and read the Bible. And she's obviously not lying awake agonizing over her past: when one prominent Houston businessman recently asked Menke how she was doing after dealing with all "her problems," she flashed a puzzled gaze and replied, "What problems?"

The folks at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation aren't comfortable talking about Menke's problems, but executive director Sissy Boyd, who was a co-chair of the foundation's Holiday Spree, credits Menke with "a fabulous job" acquiring items that were auctioned off at the charity benefit.

"She has maintained a lot of connections," Boyd says. "I wish we had more Susan Menkes."

One person who betrays a bit of skepticism over Susan Menke's resurrection is Don Stricklin, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted her back in the mid-eighties. Asked what he thinks about Menke having a license to broker real estate deals once again, Stricklin paused. A jury heard the evidence E, he starts to reply before catching himself.

"I think this is one of your bite-your-tongue things," the prosecutor finally allows. "It's best if I say absolutely nothing.

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Bonnie Gangelhoff