Friday, March 5, 2021

Former guardian charged with pillaging elderly man's estate refuses to sign final accounting

Family seeks $1.8 million dollars in lawsuit

 

More than a year after professional guardian Traci Hudson was arrested on charges she exploited an elderly man, her alleged victim’s family can’t close out his estate.
 
By: Adam Walser

CLEARWATER, FL — More than a year after professional guardian Traci Hudson was arrested on charges she exploited an elderly man, her alleged victim’s family can’t close out his estate because they say Hudson failed to turn over financial documents, specifically a signed final accounting of his estate.

On November 14th, 2019, professional guardian Traci Hudson was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, accused of exploiting 93-year-old Maurice Myers, for whom she served as power of attorney.

Investigators say Hudson paid herself $1,600 a day from Myer’s bank account, spending more than half-a-million dollars of his money on things like jewelry, Tampa Bay Bucs tickets, and a 4,000 square foot Riverview home.

“There’s no documentation as to how any of the monies were spent or not spent,” attorney Charles Tillman, Jr. said during a Wednesday court hearing.

Tillman represents the personal representative for the Myers estate, alleging in a civil lawsuit that Hudson “breached her fiduciary duty” to Myers.

He asked Pinellas County Probate Judge Pam Campbell during a hearing in the estate case to require Hudson to produce documents that would allow him to close-out Myers’ estate.

“The final accounting filed is not verified. It’s not signed by Traci and the statute says we’re entitled to that,” Tillman said.

Hudson asserts her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination

“She was charged in criminal court related to prior dealings with Mr. Myers, so it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate for her to have documentation about Mr. Myers, and she certainly does not,” said Hudson’s criminal attorney Richard McKyton, who now also represents Hudson in the civil lawsuit and in her guardianship and estate cases.

The prior attorneys in those probated cases resigned after Hudson’s arrest.

Myers’ estate received an accounting from September 2019 prior to Hudson’s arrest, but his heirs’ attorney says there is a gap between that accounting and when Hudson’s previous attorney turned over financial records in January 2020.

McKyton wrote in a court pleadings Hudson would not turn over certain requested documents because she is asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

He says the Deeb Law Firm, which prepared the power of attorney agreement Hudson used to gain control of Myers’ assets, has Myers’ financial information.

“We need something verified”

“None of us have those records. We invited them to come today and they declined,” said Tillman.

“We need something verified and Mrs. Hudson and Deeb Elder Law need to figure that all out,” said Judge Campbell.

McKyton said the Deeb Law Firm previously turned over financial documents and the money remaining in Myers’ bank account.

“She can’t swear to what they did on either occasion. She would be committing perjury,” McKyton said.

“Mrs. Hudson can get with her lawyer who was Deeb Elder Law at the time,” Judge Campbell said. “They were her lawyer at the time. She’s certainly able to talk to them to confirm what she did or didn’t do with Deeb Elder Law.”

Judge Campbell ordered Hudson and her former attorneys to produce a signed final accounting within 10 days.

Family seeks more than $1.8 million

In the meantime, Myers’ family has requested Hudson’s $35,000 bond from her insurance company and is suing Hudson for treble damages, or $1.8 million dollars.

Court records show prosecutors are continuing to gather evidence in Hudson’s criminal case, which has been delayed several times.

A hearing in that case is set for next month.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at adam@abcactionnews.com

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Fraudster lawyer arrested

US District Court, Concord, NH.

MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester attorney who stole millions from his clients and then skipped his federal sentencing hearing is now behind bars.

Federal agents arrested John Allen, 63, last week after he failed to show up to his sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Concord, according to court records. Allen, who used to live in Bedford, had garnered the ire of federal prosecutors ahead of his Feb. 25 sentencing date by failing to disclose his finances.

Allen pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud charges in November as part of a negotiated plea agreement. He agreed to repay more than $2.4 million to his clients and faced the project of a 57-month prison sentence.

However, according to Assistant United States Attorney Mathew Hunter, Allen was dodging federal officials who wanted to see his financial records. Hunter said that Allen was likely trying to hide assets from the government.

“This is a financial fraud case where the defendant stole more than $2.4 million from his victims,” Hunter wrote. “The defendant’s continued refusal to provide this financial information raises a particular concern that the defendant may have assets that he is trying to hide.”

Allen has made a financial disclosure to federal law enforcement since his arrest, and he is seeking a public defense attorney claiming that he cannot afford his own lawyer, according to court documents. Allen had been representing himself in court up until his arrest.

Allen specialized in real estate and business law, and he pleaded guilty to creating fake investments for clients. The money went into bank accounts he controlled, and he used the money for his own personal expenses, according to court records.

Allen is due back in court on Wednesday for his new sentencing hearing.

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Bill would protect seniors from financial exploitation

by Star Bradbury

Scene from "I Care a Lot"

Florida is finally in the news for a great reason! We are about to become the first state in the entire country to pass groundbreaking legislation that criminalizes attempting to change an elderly or disabled person’s will or trust with the intent to exploit or defraud the victim of assets.

What makes these bills so unique? If found guilty of abuse, neglect or exploitation, these bills prevent exploiters from receiving any monies or benefits at all, including forfeiting inheritances. This will apply broadly to real estate, life insurance, retirement benefits, joint accounts or other assets owned by the victim. 

In 2021, financial scams and exploitation of the elderly totaled $2.9 billion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Just last year, 22% of Americans were victims, according to a recent New York Times/Harris poll, with the average amount of money scammed by a non-family member estimated to be $17,000 and, for a family member, $50,500. 

Recently an article appeared in The Sun about a former University of Florida assistant professor “suspected of stripping about $2.2 million from his mother’s account to make home improvements, take vacations and buy jewelry and cars.”

He was arrested, charged with grand theft and exploitation, and is in jail. He is accused of abusing the trust his mother placed in him and stealing from her and his siblings — very sad indeed. To be clear, he can be charged under current existing laws governing exploitation. If it was also proven he used undue influence to appoint him sole trustee with intent to exploit, he would deservedly face even more criminal charges.

If this legislation passes, it will also be a crime to intentionally isolate or restrict access to an elderly or disabled victim from family members for any length of time with the intention of unduly influencing the victim.

Pending passage of this bill, family members will not have to file for guardianship if they suspect a family member is being conned by a neighbor or caregiver, for example. This bill allows someone with durable power of attorney to file “exploitation injunctions” to freeze assets in order to protect their family member until the facts can be investigated, and extends the time of a temporary injunction up to 45 days.

If you’ve watched the recent horrifying movie “I Care A Lot” (on Netflix, starring Rosamund Pike), you were likely shocked, as I was, that an unscrupulous attorney and doctor colluded to identify “a cherry,” an elderly woman with no family (or so they thought) and lots of money. The doctor got paid off, the assisted facility got bribed and the ruthless attorney got very rich.

This may be more fiction than fact in north central Florida, but maybe not in big urban areas. The good news is that if the bill passes, it will be a crime to receive a “kickback” or other inducements for referring a victim to an establishment or adviser with the intent of exploitation.

This bill has teeth, thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Ashley Moody and bill co-sponsors Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Colleen Burton. They worked very closely with the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar to craft this legislation. 

According to Moody’s press release, “Scammers often target older Floridians thinking their crimes will go unnoticed or unreported … As attorney general, I am dedicated to protecting our great seniors and ensuring criminals who target them are brought to justice … We must strengthen our laws to ensure none of these criminals evade responsibility for their devious actions.”

Shannon Miller, a member of the Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar told me, “We have long been seeking this kind of legislation that provides legal authority to law enforcement, prosecutors and elder law attorneys to intervene prior to irreversible physical harm or financial loss to our vulnerable seniors. This bill, if passed, gives families hope of stopping exploitation before it ruins the lives of so many seniors. We need everyone’s support on this.” 

With well over 5 million seniors living in Florida, this bill needs everyone’s support, regardless of your politics.  Please, wherever you live in Florida, pick up your phones and call or email your state representatives and ask for their support on House Bill 1041 and Senate Bill 1344!  

In Alachua County, contact:

Sen. Keith Perry: 352-264-4040

Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson (District 20): 352-264-4001

Rep. Chuck Clemons (District 21): 352-313-6542

Rep. Robert Charles Brannan (District 10): 386-758-0405

Star Bradbury (starbradbury. com) is a certified aging life care specialist with Senior Living Strategies in Gainesville.

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Audit: Guardian program lacks proper oversight

Tiffany Moore Russell

An audit by the office of Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond suggests Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell has not adequately monitored the guardian program.
 
The audit recommended 13 changes to the supervision of the guardian program.

On four of those recommendations, Russell did “not concur” and it is currently unknown if those changes will be made.

Under Florida’s guardian system, professional or public guardians, or in many cases, family members or friends, are appointed by a judge to oversee the financial and health care affairs of a person, called a “ward,” deemed to be physically or mentally incapacitated, or both.

The audit covers 3,302 guardian cases from 2007 through 2017, with each case representing a ward. In just 14 of those cases, the audit revealed $1.25 million in “unsupported expenses” meaning the guardians provided no documentation to substantiate the expenditure of funds from their ward’s accounts. The audit found that $809,000 was allegedly for living facilities for the wards, $81,924 for medical expenses, and $370,426 for “other” expenses.

In general, the audit found: a lack of training by deputy clerks to handle guardian cases, active guardian cases cannot be identified in the case management system, inaccurate data recorded in the case management system, courts not being consistently notified when professional guardians were not following state law, non-professional guardians being appointed, without meeting training requirements under state law, and the clerk did not notify the court in a timely fashion of delinquent guardian case filings.

For example, in 29 cases examined in the audit, filings were delinquent by at least one year, and eight were more than eight years past due. The audit further revealed that a former guardian, suspended by the State Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG- under the direction of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs) still had five active cases.

The audit also found no procedures to document identified conflicts of interest, that could result in guardians taking advantage of their power over a ward’s finances.

For example, one guardian used the services of her husband’s nonprofit business, which handles pooled trusts. He managed and invested the savings accounts of multiple wards. That relationship was not reported to the court, according to the audit. Another guardian had nine cases that generated fees totaling more than $59,000, but those fees were not reported to the court.

Comptroller Diamond concluded, “Based on the results of our testing, the Orange County Clerk Of Courts needs to improve controls over the administration of the guardianship program.”

The audit findings were presented to Russell for a response on Dec. 19, 2019. She provided her response to Diamond’s staff on Jan. 20, 2021, 13 months later.

The response from Russell includes a mention that during the timeframe of the audit, there were two different operations managers in her office, three different circuit judges handling guardian cases and changes in state law in recent years may have contributed to delays in the clerk’s office responding to guardian cases.

Russell added, “While we fully understand the recommendations suggest additional steps in the furtherance of improving communications, some of the findings imply that the clerk is not in compliance (with State law). We find that we are complying with our statutory responsibilities. Without the benefit of a full audit review of all the case numbers corresponding to the findings, we cannot effectively evaluate whether we concur with some findings.”

In Russell’s response, she does not “concur” with four of Diamond’s recommendations, including one to document and implement procedures for reviewing professional guardian cases annually to verify that required documents are accurate, and filed in a timely fashion. She also does not concur with his recommendation that the clerk should develop and implement guardianship and incapacity procedures to document identified conflicts of interest, and should immediately report those conflicts to the court.

Part of the audit focused on the actions, and the clerk’s oversight of 554 cases handled by 11 professional guardians. More than half, 280, were handled by Rebecca Fierle, who was arrested in February 2020 and charged with two felony counts of aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult.

As previously reported in a series of WESH 2 News investigative reports, Fierle is alleged to have signed more than 140 “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, or DNR’s, for many of her wards. In the case for which she is charged, Steven Stryker, of Central Florida, was hospitalized in Tampa. Fierle signed a DNR, which neither he nor his daughter wanted. Hospital staff reported Fierle declined to rescind the DNR in May 2019 and, days later when Stryker stopped breathing, staff had no legal ability to try and resuscitate him, and he died.

The audit found that in 275 of Fierle’s cases, the attorney representing Fierle is the son-in-law of an examining committee member. Those committee’s determine if people are incapacitated and those recommendations are used to help guide judges in assigning a ward’s legal rights to a guardian.

The audit also found that Fierle was paid $53,988 from a ward’s trust account and it was not reported to the court. Previously, a WESH 2 News investigation revealed Fierle was paid nearly $4 million by AdventHealth over the span of a decade before she was permanently suspended by the state from guardianship in 2019, for services to hundreds of elderly patients, for services not revealed to the court. A previously released Orange County audit also determined Fierle billed the hospital $130 per hour for those patients, and further billed the patients $65 for the same work, none of which was reported to the court.

Fierle is to be tried on the charges in Hillsborough circuit court. She remains free on bond. All of her prior cases have been re-assigned to other professional guardians.

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Six South Florida lawyers disciplined for misconduct

By Rafael Olmeda

Six South Florida lawyers have been disciplined for misconduct in February, according to the Florida Bar.

The Bar releases an official list of sanctions once a month, targeting attorneys accused of violating the standards of the legal profession. All of the descriptions below are provided by the Bar.

William Robert Amlong, of Fort Lauderdale, had his law license suspended for 91 days effective March 6. A Bar investigation concluded he failed to properly supervise his associate and “acted in bad faith in pursuing frivolous claims and concealing evidence” in a 2012 civil case. Details of the case were not posted online. As a consequence of the same case, Jennifer E. Daley is suspended for 91 days starting March 6 for allegedly making false statements to opposing counsel, failing to disclose material facts and obstructed opposing counsel’s access to evidence.

Brandon Joshua Barker, of West Palm Beach, had his license suspended for 30 days starting March 13 for failing to show up for a civil trial and not notifying the court.

Andrew David Hodes, of Boca Raton, had his license suspended for 60 days and ordered to attend The Florida Bar’s Ethics School for filing a faulty quit claim deed for his client. The error was uncovered when civil litigation regarding the property found that “Hodes committed acts of fraud, misrepresentation, forgeries and/or material alterations regarding the subject property and title,” according to the Bar. “Hodes’ intent was not to deceive or make a material misrepresentation, but rather, to correct ... errors that Hodes had made on the deed,” the Bar wrote in a news release announcing disciplinary action.

Enrique Miranda, of Miami, was suspended by a Feb. 11 court order ”inappropriate disbursement of escrow funds, misrepresentations about the funds held in trust, and violation of the fiduciary duty” in two business transactions totaling more than $100,000.

Francisca Johanna Wider, of Boca Raton, received a public reprimand and must attend the Florida Bar’s Ethics School for preparing a last will and testament in 2014 naming herself as the personal representative. “Wider telephoned the sole beneficiary [in 2016] and informed her that she was ‘mentioned’ in the will but did not tell the woman that she was the sole beneficiary of the estate,” the Bar stated. “Misrepresentations were made by Wider regarding the beneficiary’s status as sole beneficiary.”

Elsewhere in the state:

Curtis Lee Allen, of Temple Terrace, received a public reprimand for unprofessional conduct and was ordered to attend Professionalism Workshop effective immediately after a Feb. 4 court order. In one matter, Allen became unprofessional in his questioning of a witness who he believed was repeatedly lying. In another case, the trial court entered an order stating it had to intervene and set case management directives for both Allen and opposing counsel due to their unprofessional behavior toward each other. In a third matter, the trial court entered an order finding that Allen engaged in unprofessional and aggressive behavior.

Carl Robert Anderson, of Phoenix, AZ, was suspended for 91 days starting March 18. In Arizona, Anderson represented a homeowners association that was managed by a property management company. He allowed the employees of that company to perform secretarial and paralegal work for him. In some instances, the work was for cases unrelated to the HOA matters. In cases, Anderson failed to timely respond to discovery requests and failed to notify the clients of the requests. Judgments were subsequently entered against his clients and he failed to notify them of the judgments. This is a reciprocal discipline action based on the order filed by the State Bar of Arizona.

David A. Fernandez, of Bradenton, had his license revoked with leave to apply for readmission in five years effective 30 days after a Feb. 18 court order. Fernandez was hired to serve as the closing agent and title agent for the sale of a home and was found guilty of multiple rules. In additional matters pending at the grievance committee and staff level, Fernandez was accused of missing deadlines, failure to communicate with clients, engaging in a conflict of interest, being disqualified and removed as counsel in a matter due to a conflict, misusing client funds being held in his trust account, and conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation.

Andrew C. Hill, of Trinity, was suspended effective 30 days after a Feb. 3 court order. Hill was held in contempt of the court’s order dated June 27, 2019, due to a finding of probable cause for misconduct that occurred during his probation period.

Stephen Hillebrand, of Sarasota, was disbarred effective March 6. Hillebrand failed to diligently represent three clients; failed to reasonably communicate with the clients; and failed to complete the client’s representation to the detriment of the clients. Hillebrand failed to appear at his scheduled sworn statement and failed to participate in the disciplinary proceedings.

Diane Marie McGuire, of Key Largo, is publicly reprimanded effective immediately after a Feb. 11 court order. McGuire was found in contempt of court for failing to respond to official Bar inquiries.

William E. McManus Jr., of Johnson City, Tennessee, was disbarred in Florida effective March 22 after a Feb. 18 court order. McManus was charged with bribery of a public servant, a felony offense in Tennessee. McManus consented to disbarment in Tennessee and Florida. This is a reciprocal discipline action based on the Tennessee Supreme Court’s order dated June 26, 2020.

Charles Paul-Thomas Phoenix, of Sanibel, is suspended for two years after a Jan. 28 court order. Phoenix was counsel for a vacation rental management company that was operating as a Ponzi scheme. Phoenix signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreeing to cooperate in the prosecution of the company’s executives in exchange for not being prosecuted himself. In the agreement, Phoenix admitted to certain conduct constituting rule violations, including making false statements and failing to timely withdraw from his representation of the company despite his knowledge of its illegal activity.

Michael Anthony Saracco, of Cocoa, is suspended for 45 days effective April 12 after a Feb. 11 court order. Saracco failed to provide diligent and competent representation to a client in connection with filing an action against the client’s mortgage lender and failed to keep the client reasonably informed regarding the legal matter. Saracco failed to respond to a motion to dismiss in the matter as well as an order to show cause, resulting in dismissal of the case without prejudice. At his client’s request, Saracco filed a new lawsuit in federal court to preserve the claim. The court ultimately permitted Saracco to withdraw from the case. Saracco provided a full refund to the client.

A. Siddiqui, of St. Augustine, is suspended for three years effective March 3. In one matter, Siddiqui failed to competently and timely pursue the client’s family law matter and misrepresented to the client the status of the case. In a second matter, Siddiqui failed to competently represent the client in his criminal case and failed to appear for jury selection. In a third matter, Siddiqui failed to appear for court and misrepresented to the court that he did not receive notice of the court hearing.

Erik Donald Ulano, of Spring Hill, was disbarred effective immediately after a Feb. 18 court order. Beginning on Oct. 1, 2018, Ulano became ineligible to practice law in Florida for not paying his Bar membership fees for fiscal year 2018-2019. While he was ineligible to practice, Ulano repeatedly appeared in court in Hernando County on behalf of his client. Ulano also failed to respond to the Bar’s inquiries and failed to participate in the disciplinary proceeding.

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Elderly woman falls prey to robbers in Augusta kidnapping, exploitation case

If you know anything about the robbers who used this car, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office wants to hear from you.(WRDW)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Authorities say an elderly woman was targeted by three people in a robbery by intimidation, kidnapping and exploitation.

The victim was not physically harmed, authorities said.

Although it happened Feb. 1, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office released information about it Tuesday.

The incident began at a Walgreens at 3228 Wrightsboro Road, authorities said.

A vehicle was occupied by a white male wearing a worn blue dress suit with a side satchel, a black female wearing gray pants and tan jacket who was carrying a green purse (possibly armed with an unknown type firearm), and a heavyset black male or female who wore sweat pants and a hoodie.

Authorities released a photo of the car they used.

Investigators are seeking any information regarding the vehicle or the identities of the three suspects.

Any information concerning these subjects or this vehicle, please contact Investigator Ryan Ferguson at 706-821-1027 or any on-duty investigator at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, 706-821-1020 or 706-821-1080.

Full Article & Source:
Elderly woman falls prey to robbers in Augusta kidnapping, exploitation case 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Disney family Jackson Hole property subject of legal battle

Photo by Ryan Dorgan, Jackson Hole News&Guide The Disney family’s Eagle South Fork ranch off Fall Creek Road is made up of 110 acres of meadows, including Fish Creek and the Snake River bottoms. The land is at the center of a dispute between two grandchildren of the famous Walt Disney and the trustees who control their estate.

By: Mark Huffman

JACKSON — Trustees for two grandchildren of Walt Disney have taken the first steps leading to development on Fall Creek Road property that is the object of a legal battle.

The heirs, their trustees and lawyers are contending for control of an estate said to be worth near $400 million.

The local angle in the yearslong fight is 110 acres south of Wilson near Mosquito Creek, occupied by a single house and barn, and also about what can be done on neighboring subdivided lots.

It pits Bradford Disney Lund against his twin sister, Michelle Lund, and trustees who control their estate, set up by their mother, Sharon Disney Lund, a daughter of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland creator Walt Disney. Bradford Lund claims his sister and the trustees are trying to cut him from any control of the Fall Creek property and perhaps sell it.

Lund said over the weekend that there is “no other piece of property like it in the county” and that his parents hoped to see it stay as it is for the use of their children. Lund, 50, said his father “wanted the ranch to be kept in the family for generations to come.”

“I like keeping it the way it is, simple,” Lund said. “It’s quiet and peaceful; you’ve got wildlife all around you.”

One of the lawyers involved on Lund’s behalf is Lanny Davis, a special counsel to Bill Clinton for three years, including during Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial. Davis called the situation a “family civil war.” Other lawyers are Sandra Slaton, an Arizona attorney long involved in the case, and, in Jackson, Chris Hawks.

Though the legal battle remains undecided, one of the trustees, California developer Doug Strode, has hired Jackson consulting firm Y2 Consultants and taken steps to allow development of a large part of the disputed land.

Lund is fighting efforts by trustees to sell the land, which he visits several times a year, in spite of what he says are recent attempts to deny him use. He was told in January that he had five days to come up with $35 million to buy all the land or the trustees could go ahead with their plans to sell. Davis said that price was a big boost from an earlier agreement that put the value of Lund’s half of the parcel at $9.76 million.

Attorney Davis said “the sale of this family ranch against Mr. Lund’s wishes by these trustees is part of a long pattern of alleged violations of their fiduciary duties and alleged self enrichment.”

He also criticized the price and 2 percent fee they want to charge. The higher, $35 million price, Davis said, is designed to benefit the trustees and neither of the Lunds.

In an Arizona court filing, Davis and his colleagues said, “trustees” did not explain that the higher price, under the terms of the trust, will not benefit Mr. Lund or his twin sister, beneficiaries of the trust.

“But the higher price does benefit Mr. Strode and his three trustees because they are taking a 2 percent additional commission on the sale, in addition to the 2.5 percent real estate commission they are paying — both out of trust funds.”

The filings also charge that the sale and 2 percent fee trustees would pay themselves “is part of a long pattern of alleged violations of their fiduciary duties and alleged self-enrichment.”

Bradford Lund told the News&Guide that the sale the trustees intend is “to make a profit off it, which is wrong ... it benefits them and not us.

“I have strong feelings about how the trustees have treated me,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”

Trustees for the Lund estate did not respond to requests for comment.

Davis said in filings that the trustees and their attorneys “have given false and slanderous statements about Mr. Lund and his family to several media outlets, causing Mr. Lund and his Arizona family extreme stress.”

The estranged siblings have — or at least their representatives have — each claimed the other is incompetent to handle their own affairs. In Bradford’s case the insinuation has been that he has Down syndrome, which he denies, a rebuttal endorsed by a DNA test and an Arizona judge in a separate clash in the family war. Sister Michelle has at times been said to be being manipulated by trustees after a 2009 brain aneurysm.

In California legal action the trustees have blocked Bradford from receiving payouts from the family trust that were due when he turned 35, 40 and 45. He receives about $120,000 a year from trusts set up for him; the trustees he is fighting are said in one court filing to “receive fees exceeding $500,000 year ... more as a fee than Bradford receives as a beneficiary.” Lund’s representatives also claim trustees have paid $8 million from the trust to lawyers to fight his claims and maintain their control.

The Fall Creek land was purchased as a trust for Bradford and Michelle by their parents, Bill and Sharon, both now dead. Bill Lund was a real estate man who married into the Disney family in 1968 and who listed among his deals scouting the site that became Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. He adopted Bradford and Michelle, the children of Sharon and her ex-husband.

Lund’s case to stop any sale of the Fall Creek land was filed in Jackson in Ninth District Court. Judge Tim Day later allowed the case to be transferred to California when the trustees argued it would be “convenient” for them to have it heard there.

Hawks, Lund’s Jackson attorney, filed to have any sale put off, and Lund’s attorneys have fought to have the case decided in Wyoming. There’s currently a stay in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Audit finds missteps in Orange County Clerk of Courts handling of guardianship cases

County comptroller investigation was already underway when former guardian Rebecca Fierle was arrested

Click to View Video

ORLANDO, Fla.
– The Orange County Comptroller released its findings into the Clerk of Court’s role in Florida’s guardianship program following the arrest last year of Orlando-based guardian Rebecca Fierle, who is accused of placing do not resuscitate orders on elderly clients against their wishes.

Following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, Fierle was arrested in February 2020 and is facing one count of abuse of an elderly person and one count of neglect of an elderly person in regards to the case of 74-year-old Steven Stryker.

Prior to the allegations against Fierle, Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond ordered an audit into the Orange County Clerk of Court’s administration of the state public and professional guardianship program, which provides guardianship services to help elderly and incapacitated adults. The Department of Elder Affairs oversees the program and includes more than 550 professional guardians statewide.

Under Florida law, a judge appoints guardians for minors and adults with mental or physical disabilities, allowing them to make financial and medical decisions.

Diamond said his team was already well into the audit when the allegations against Fierle came to light. The period audited was from January 2015 to December 2017 with additional information collected through July 2017.

“During the course of this audit, we became aware of acts committed by a professional guardian in Orange County that were not in the best interest of the wards and potential violations of Florida law,” Comptroller investigators wrote in the report. “We brought our concerns to the Court and law enforcement. As a result, we worked concurrently with multiple law enforcement agencies during this audit.”

An Orange County judge revoked “do not resuscitate” orders in 98 cases in which Fierle, was found to have “abused her powers” by filing DNR orders on behalf of clients without permission from their families.

An 86-page audit of the clerk of court’s role in the program recommends changes to the guardianship program to prevent more harm to Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Investigators listed a series of missteps in the court’s handling of guardianship cases.

Investigators found that clerks did not notify judges of unauthorized attorney and guardian fees. The audit includes that a professional guardian was paid directly by a hospital group in 117 of their 204 cases totaling payments of $2.5 million. The hourly rate the guardian was paid was more than twice the approved Orange County rate.

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“At the request of the Court, we conducted two separate investigations of professional guardian, Rebecca Fierle,” according to auditors. “These investigations found that the guardian had received approximately $4 million in fees without Court approval.”

Auditors reported missing documentation from guardians, errors in documents filed and the lack of consistent reporting between clerks.

The court was not consistently notified when guardians were not in compliance with the state requirements. The audit listed several examples.

“One professional guardian still had five active cases when they were suspended and a replacement was not timely appointed. In one case, a replacement was not assigned for 16 months after the guardian was suspended,” investigators wrote. “In another case, we notified the Clerk that the ward had died 33 months prior. The Clerk was unaware the ward had died almost three years earlier.”

The court was aware of conflicts of interest between guardians appointed and other parties involved in cases. Guardians make financial decisions for their wards and auditors found judges may not have been aware when clerk staff did not document those conflicts.

“The investigations also found that the guardian maintained business relationships that were not approved (or even disclosed) to the Court,” according to the report. “This created conflicts of interest in the performance of the guardian’s fiduciary duties.”

The Clerk of Courts advised investigators that it has made numerous changes to guardianship administration procedures.

As for the audit, Orange County Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell said she disagrees with four of the findings and recommendations, partially concurs with seven and concurs with two.

“While some findings and recommendations included in the document are well-intentioned, we strongly disagree with a number of them, primarily because they are outside the scope of the audit and reflect a misunderstanding of our office’s responsibilities under the law,” Russell said in a news release. “But, let us be clear: When it comes to guardianship, all of us involved in the process are working toward a common goal – to protect the most vulnerable in our community. We want the system to work effectively and efficiently on their behalf.”

Russell’s news release also provided additional context into the timing of the audit.

“The timing of the audit spanned two different operations managers in the Clerk’s office, three Guardianship Judges in the Ninth Circuit, several changes in Statutes by the Legislature, and many process improvements made voluntarily by the Clerk to increase efficiency and effectiveness. These changes in leadership and process render several of the recommendations null and void given the office’s present-day process,” it reads.

Russell said initially, her office would review cases that auditors were examining and some cases came to the conclusion that the findings were inaccurate but because conducting reviews was such a timely process, her office stopped about three years into the audit.

“Although we’re bound by statutory responsibilities, the Clerk of Court’s office is committed to a culture of best practices and continuous process improvement,” Russell said. “We welcome feedback and oversight – and we will work with all offices of government to help improve the guardianship system so that, together, we can better serve those in our care.”

The Office of Statewide Prosecution is prosecuting the case against Fierle, according to FDLE.

She is accused of placing do not resuscitate orders on clients who did not want them.

A state investigation revealed one of her clients may have died as a result. According to a statement from the FDLE, the investigation began after a complaint to the Office of Public and Professional Guardians about Stryker’s death, he was under the guardianship of Fierle.

News 6 is reviewing the audit. Check back for updates on this developing story.

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Caretaker allegedly runs over person she's caring for; victim in critical condition

by Julia Thatcher


Kathryn Giese, Action News

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Court documents obtained by Action News are revealing new details after a woman was run over by another woman during a dispute.

Kathryn Giese, 66, is facing suspicion of vehicular assault and theft in the 3rd degree.

Arrested Friday, Giese is accused of running over a woman who she claims to be a caretaker for.

Court Documents say the victim lunged on the hood of the car, trying to get her cell phone back from Giese, and then got off the hood and walked to the driver side of the car. 

When the victim moved from the front of the car, investigators say Giese accelerated, with one of the rear tires running over the lower body of the victim, and her head striking the asphalt.

Investigators say Giese drove away, and then turned around to where the victim was laying.

Giese allegedly inspected the victim while a witness called 911.

Earlier in the day, Giese says the victim asked her to go to the store and buy a bottle of alcohol for her.

Giese says the female began drinking and the two got into an argument because of her drinking.

Documents say the victim took Giese's car keys and in return, Giese took the victim's phone.

Investigators say the altercation became physical, and Giese sustained injuries consistent with 4th degree assault.

During this altercation, court documents say the victim fell and Giese was able to get her car keys back, she then left with her keys and the victim's phone according to investigators.

Several hours later, investigators say Giese returns to get her dog, but after arriving at the apartment, the victim lunged at Giese.

Court documents say Giese went to her car to leave, but the victim began banging on the back window of the car, and then fell.

Giese is said to have got out of the car, and helped the victim into the car to drive her back up to the apartments.

After getting the victim back to the apartment, investigators say Giese returned to her car to leave.

They say the victim also returned to Giese's car banging on the car requesting to get her phone back.

That's when authorities say she lunged on the hood and was eventually was run over.

The victim is in critical condition with a skull fracture, broken tibia, fibia, humerus, and liver laceration according to court documents.

The victim has been life flighted to Harborview Medical Center according to investigators.

Giese's bail is set at $1,000.

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