Monday, October 26, 2009

DA Investigates Public Guardian Estate Sales

Prosecutors are investigating allegations that at least one Madera County employee broke state law by buying the property of people who died while under the county's care.

The Madera County District Attorney's Office began its investigation of the three-person Public Guardian's Office several months ago. Last month, the department's director, Dennis Blessing, resigned and the other two employees -- the chief public guardian, Colleen Nielsen, and the deputy public guardian, Heather Young -- were placed on administrative leave.

Nielsen has since returned to her job. Young, however, remains the focus of a criminal investigation, according to court records.

The Public Guardian's Office acts as a conservator for about 160 people in Madera County who are disabled or unable to care for themselves and don't have anyone else who can oversee their day-to-day activities and finances. The office also sells off the property of those clients -- called "conservatees" -- who die or must pay off debt. About a dozen such estate sales occur every year in Madera County, Blessing said.

Two search warrants issued by a judge last month gave investigators permission to search the Public Guardian's Office, Young's house and a county-owned vehicle she used. One warrant said that investigators should look for evidence "relating to sales and purchases of personal property from conservatees' estates, which Young had been entrusted with."

It went on to say authorities should look for records "which would tend to show any evidence ... that Heather Young or other members of the Public Guardian's Office were engaged in embezzling property entrusted to that office."

State law does not allow public guardian officials -- or their relatives -- to buy property from a client's estate unless it is at a public sale. Public guardians play a role in setting the value of client property and could sell it to themselves or a relative at a discounted price, thereby shortchanging the estate, said Dr. David Hadden, the Fresno County public guardian and coroner.

"There's just all kinds of ways to game the system," much like insider trading in the business world, he said.

Full Article and Source:
Probe Looks at Madera Co. Office


Thelma said...

The Cleanup Crew! Insider sales - a perk of office?

jerri said...

at least one county employee??? sure one who got caught usually the paper trail HIDES those connected to probate club and probate court profiting from sale of real estate property buying sinfully low and selling for profit to hide the profit to be split up divided with the players hey has anyone even thought about the personal property of the wards? this is huge mega business nothing to do with people and humanity it's all about the power control = opportunity to seize estates mega profits income usually not reported to the IRS and state taxing agencies nice gig huh? the feds need to be sniffing around here for IRS tax evasion issues guarantee it's worth their time and efforts

Anonymous said...

At least one? I imagine there were many more.

StandUp said...

The article says Nielsen has come back to her job, but it doesn't explain if she's been cleared of suspicion or not.

Anonymous said...

This is the tip of the iceberg, I bet.

Betty said...

The public guardian sells off property of the clients who die or must pay off debt, for sure, but what this article misses is the debt if often to the public guardian.

They sell the ward's assets, stick him/her in a nursing facility and then sell the home and convert it to cash. And then the billing increases to warp speed.

Anonymous said...

This says about a dozen sales occur each year. I wonder how many of those sales are against the will of the conservatees?

Anonymous said...

I hope the culprits will be charged accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Nielsen was fully cleared or they would not allowed her to return to work, I am sure the true culprit is gone and will be prosecuted