In her role as one of the most highly regarded private fiduciaries in the county, Teresa Laggner was appointed scores of times by the probate court to oversee trust accounts, conservatorships and estates.
Teresa Laggner, a private fiduciary, is shown in February before pleading guilty in federal court in San Diego to stealing thousands of dollars from client trust accounts to fund a gambling addiction. On Monday, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison. — John Gastaldo She built a reputation for scruples and integrity, known for being exacting and meticulous when it came to accounting for the millions of dollars she had control over.
But unknown to those same lawyers and judges was the state of Laggner’s personal life, as disorganized and chaotic as her professional life seemed precise and ordered.
That other life was revealed in federal court Monday when Laggner, 56, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from client trust accounts over the course of a single year. The money was used to feed a voracious gambling habit at local casinos, where Laggner racked up more than $1 million in losses over the past four years.
Laggner was appointed to oversee dozens of trusts, a power that gave her the authority to open bank accounts for the trust assets under her management. Last October, she was overseeing a combined $20 million in assets.
Prosecutors said she would transfer funds from the trust accounts into her personal accounts via online banking. Money was then transferred to her players account at Barona Casino & Resort, where she played almost daily.
At first, prosecutors pegged the losses from the trusts at $1 million. On Monday, that amount was lowered to $471,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tenorio said. The difference comes from $600,000 in fees that Laggner was entitled to have for managing one large estate.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns was skeptical about the size of those fees, but Tenorio told him that they were properly paid out according to the terms of the trust.
Like all fiduciaries, Laggner was required to be bonded when taking on an estate, and insurers will likely have to make the trusts whole.
Laggner has been diagnosed with depression and — not surprisingly — having a gambling addiction. Burns said he was sympathetic with her plight but that did not justify or excuse taking advantage of her position with the court and the trusts of the people whose money she oversaw.
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Trusted Probate Trustee Gets Prison for Stealing