Arizona’s highest court has tasked a committee to review the status of probate court with a mind toward identifying improvements. See Yet another court committee to look at guarding the guardians.
But as if another indicator was warranted of the need for improved judicial oversight of those hired to protect the vulnerable, there’s the case this month of the now disbarred New York lawyer, Steven T. Rondos. See Mtr of Rondos; Grievance Committee.
On Tuesday, May 4, 2010, Rondos, who before being disbarred, had served as a legal guardian of incapacitated wards, was sentenced to a stretch of 5 to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $4 million from the settlement monies that belonged to 23 vulnerable wards whose physical and financial affairs he was supposed to be managing and preserving.
When it comes to temptation, defalcation is an equal opportunity offense. It can afflict not only lawyers, but the public guardians and the private professional guardians.
Sadly, the temptation to embezzle also worms its way into caregivers, including friends, family members and strangers hired by the hour. But when lawyers fall prey to human avarice and exploit their wards, the betrayal weighs most egregiously.
Not the first nor the last.
Steven T. Rondos is not the first lawyer nor will he be the last to get in trouble for financially abusing vulnerable wards. In fact, in January of this year, Matthew Terry Graff, a former southern Utah lawyer was sentenced for stealing from clients, In Graff’s case, it also involved taking settlement money that wasn’t his. Graff got his mitts on settlement money belonging to two men who had lost their wives in a plane crash.
And just last month, a Virginia man, Troy A. Titus, Real Estate Investor, Disbarred Lawyer was sentenced to 30 Years for multiple fraud schemes and misappropriating over $10 million, including funds given to him by elderly or incapacitated clients who provided him with income intended to be held in trust. And it was just a few years ago, that Michigan lawyer Richard McQuillan was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison for embezzling some $800,000 from the estate of a long time client.
The real cost.
But beyond the human cost involved when fiduciaries exploit wards, the real cost is the consequential one once all the ward’s money is gone. That’s when the wards are left for the state to take care of. And who pays for that? We do.
Full Article and Source:
The Irreverent Lawyer: Equal Opportunity Defalcators