Saturday, December 19, 2009

Family Members Speak Out in Harvey Case

Sara Harvey has been battling with Chemung County over legal guardianship of her husband, Gary, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2006 fall.

State Supreme Court Judge Robert Mulvey determined that Sara Harvey was not a suitable guardian for her husband, and designated the county as legal guardian instead.

Since that time, Sara Harvey has been restricted to supervised visits only with her husband following several unusual incidents, according to county attorney Bryan Maggs.

At the same time, Sara Harvey claims Gary has received inadequate care in the county nursing facility and later St. Joseph's Hospital. She is pursuing legal action to win guardianship and bring him home.

But other members of Gary Harvey's family now say that Sara Harvey is slanting the story, and that it's time for the public to know the whole truth.

"It's all about Sara, not what my dad would want. He would not want this to be publicized like this," said Heather Harvey of Elmira, Gary Harvey's daughter from a previous marriage. "If she actually loved him, she would put what he wants first.
"We're very happy with his care. I appreciate the nursing staff and doctors," Heather Harvey said. "We believe he's gotten the best care he can. I just want what's best for him. It's all about him."

Full Article and Source:
Family Members Speak Out in Dispute of Treatment of Comatose Man

If Apathy Wins in Corruption Fight, We All Lose

So much for masses with pitchforks storming the Broward Governmental Center and screaming, "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore."

To get a sense of the apathy that has allowed corruption to flourish across South Florida, all you needed to do was count the audience at the latest meeting of the Broward Ethics Commission on Wednesday.

It only took one hand.

Just four members of the public turned out, and that's including the executive director of the Broward Workshop, a business group that's been monitoring the proceedings.

The temporary ethics panel, approved by voters last year, is crafting new guidelines for county government. Its recommendations will be sent to the County Commission in March. If the County Commission doesn't enact them voters will get final say in the fall.

Only two citizens spoke on Wednesday. One was from Palm Beach County.

The sole Broward resident to give his two cents -- Jim Weldon, 74, of Fort Lauderdale, a retired union official who has lived in South Florida since 1957.

"There ought to be more people here," Weldon said afterward. "This goes to the heart of faith in government."

"We have a public corruption crisis in the state," said Latour Lafferty, an attorney from Tampa and former Florida Ethics Commissioner who wants to see stronger state ethics rules. "I think people are fed up. They're ready to say we want more and we expect more."

But judging by the empty seats and chirping crickets at county hall on Wednesday, don't be surprised if we get more of the same.

Full Article and Source:
If Apathy Wins in Corruption Fight, We'll All Lose

Lawyer Accused of Theft

An Amarillo attorney is accused of bilking a dozen clients out of at least $200,000.

A Randall County grand jury recently indicted David Neal Duncan, 40, who practiced law and lived in Amarillo, but now lists a Lakeview address. It's the latest in a series of criminal charges against the attorney since 2008.

Randall County Criminal District Attorney James Farren said Wednesday that additional charges could be possible as the investigation progresses.

According to the indictment, Duncan is alleged to have stolen money from 12 people.

"The people that are listed (in the indictment) are clients," he said. "They are people we are alleging had the right to those funds."

In August, Duncan was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 from a woman; the same woman also was listed in the Dec. 7 indictment. That same month, Duncan was charged with forgery after he allegedly added his name to a $100,000 check presented to Happy State Bank.

Prosecutors also are seeking to have revoked a deferred sentence of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Duncan was given 10 years' deferred adjudication in April for hitting a man with his hand and "repeatedly" slamming the unconscious man's head into a concrete floor at a PetSmart in 2008.

Duncan also is serving three years' federal probation for taking a gun into Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport in his luggage in February. It was the second time he was detained for carrying a weapon there.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Accused of Theft

Former Conservator Could Get 5 Years

A Torrington woman embezzled thousands of dollars when she worked as a health aid and a conservator could be sentenced up to five years in prison for her crimes.

Audrey Curtis, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree larceny, one count of second-degree larceny and possession of marijuana in Litchfield Superior Court on Tuesday. Curtis held back tears as Judge James P. Ginocchio discussed the plea agreement, in which Curtis faces between 18 months and five years in prison with five years probation. She is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26. and the judge said based on his review of the file, Curtis could “very well” get the five-year sentence.

Curtis reportedly admitted to police that while she served as a conservator for a 73-year-old Goshen woman, she liberally used the woman’s bank accounts to pay her own bills and fund a lifestyle that included drugs, gambling and tattoo parties.

It’s the second time Curtis has been arrested for stealing from an estate. She also stole from the estate of her deceased ex-boyfriend forging his name and taking $35,650 his estate. “None of that money is going to be returned,” Gallo said.Curtis also stole several items amounting to $5,562.58 from a bar she leased in Torrington which she admitted doing later, Gallo told the court.

Full Article and Source:
Embezzler Pleads Guilty, Could Get Five Years in Jail

See Also:
No Deal

Friday, December 18, 2009

Family of Terri Schiavo Support Sara Harvey

Family of Terri Schiavo Join Custody Fight

See Also:
Schiavo Family Supports Sara Harvey

A Probate Matter: Who Should Speak?

Who should make the life-or-death decision for Girts Zukovs, a 33-year-old Latvian immigrant who lies in a permanent vegetative state in Hartford Hospital?

Zukovs, critically injured in a motorcycle accident last summer and comatose since his surgery went awry shortly after that, has little chance of recovery.

Should it be a girlfriend from years ago, a woman who has already hired lawyers to sue in a potential malpractice case — and who has said she wants Zukovs shipped back to Latvia, where hospitals say they are unable to care for him?

Or should it be his mother and sister, who live overseas, but who bitterly oppose the ex-girlfriend, Hartford Hospital and the cabal of lawyers crowding around this potentially lucrative case?

It seems clear to me. The courts should respect the family in a life-or-death situation like this.

The question is now before probate court, where Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian will attempt to sort out the mess that began when Zukovs' motorcycle collided with a car last June 25.

These are the sort of life-and-death decisions that come before probate. It's why the legislature and Gov. Rell did the right thing this year when they required that new judges (but not the old ones!) be lawyers and receive professional training. But it also illustrates why more needs to be done: judges should be appointed based on merit, like Superior Court judges, not elected.

Full Article and Source:
A Probate Matter: Who Should Speak For A Comatose Latvian Immigrant?

Guardianship Abuse in Australia

The Guardianship Board of any state or country has been mandated by law to help protect the vulnerable seniors. Unfortunately, there have been so many cases of mismanagement, fraud and acts of injustice perpetrated by these so called “protectors of the elderly” that it is beyond belief.

In the USA, many family members of those who experienced this sort of abuses, had to resort to putting up a web site to tell their experiences. There is even a National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

Media do not find this sort of cases “sexy” enough to want to write about.

There are no Guardianship Abuse in Australia?

WRONG! It is just that the country do not want to acknowledge that such cases exist in their sunny country.

Blog Source:
Guardianship Abuse: Who Guards the Guardians, 12/15/2009

Charged With Felony Theft by Swindle

Kathy Ann Weimar was supposed to take care of two sisters, ages 90 and 79.

Instead, she used their debit and credit cards to pay her bills and withdraw cash and wrote extravagant checks on their accounts to herself and to pay a friend to do maintenance and repairs on their townhouse, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.

Weimar, 52, of Oakdale, is charged with one count of felony theft by swindle. The criminal complaint said she took more than $17,000 from the sisters while serving as a home health-care aide. Her first court appearance is Jan. 6.

"That is just not true at all," Weimar said Friday. "All those things went to them. They gave me that card to use. The money that was taken out was used to replace a deck on their townhouse. They wanted it before winter."

Full Article and Source:
Oakdale Health Care Worker Charged With Bilking Elderly Sisters

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Investigation Discovery Documentary Airs Tonight: "The Will: Family Secrets Revealed"


Steeped in circumstances, legal complexities and raw family emotion, a will has the ability to tear families apart or bring them together. In THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED, Investigation Discovery invites viewers on an emotional and intimate journey as the final wishes of the deceased are revealed to the family members left behind. Expressed in dollars and cents, heirlooms and even last words of wisdom, a person's will is often a telling reflection of what they perceived of their loved ones. But, what happens when there's room for interpretation to the final will? Or worse - what if a person leaves no will at all?

Presenting a unique documentary that explores family intrigue and legal wrangling, Investigation Discovery will air a pilot of THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED on Thursday, December 17 at 9 PM ET.

"As we continue to expand the scope of ID's investigative programming, THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED examines the compelling stories of family dynamics in the wake...of a wake," said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager, Investigation Discovery. "We believe this show, along with future episodes, will allow us to explore explores a part of the human condition often overlooked in both life and death - greed."

Full Article and Source:
The Will: Family Secrets Revealed

Backlogged Court Calendars Can be Treated as Judicial Misconduct

The state's top court ruled Tuesday that backlogged court calendars can be treated as judicial misconduct, ordering a hearing for a former Kingston City Court judge who was publicly reprimanded by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct this year.

The decision by the Court of Appeals said a judge's failure to move cases in a timely way is primarily something for administrators to correct. But the decision also said, “it is not workable to exclude completely the possibility of more formal discipline for such behavior, in cases where the delays are lengthy and without valid excuse.”

Kingston City Court Judge James Gilpatric's lawyer, James E. Long, said he welcomes the hearing before the state commission, adding that “we're confident that we will show that he didn't commit misconduct.” But he predicted the decision will have serious consequences in other cases, because delays that were once resolved by an administrator could lead to allegations of misconduct.

“It basically opens the floodgates for the commission to investigate judges,” he said. “Each case is going to require a hearing.”

Full Article and Source:
Appeals Court Orders Hearing for Kingston Judge Who Was Reprimanded for Court Backlogs

Alleged $1.9 Mil Scheme Targeting Elderly

Federal prosecutors are seeking more than $1.9 million from a Trenton man who they say gained the money through a Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly people.

Lavern Huelsmann, 44, was indicted on charges of mail fraud and engaging in a financial transaction in excess of $10,000 from property derived from mail fraud.

The indictment accuses Huelsmann of selling fraudulent investments to elderly people. The charges were issued by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis.

The charges contain a forfeiture allegation, seeking $1.93 million in "funds representing the value of criminally obtained proceeds."

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.

According to the indictment, Huelsmann has been operating under the business named Senior Retirement Services and was licensed to sell only approved life insurance and fixed-annuity products.

He allegedly convinced elderly people to invest in a "cash management account" with Senior Retirement Services, but didn't tell them he was the owner of Senior Retirement Services.

Full Article and Source:
Trenton Man Faces Fraud Charges; $1.9 Million Scheme Targeted the Elderly

Charged With Embezzlement and Elder Abuse of Brother

A Mid-Michigan woman is facing charges after she was accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from an ailing family member and using the cash for everything from vet bills to lawyer fees.

Authorities said [78-year old Donald] Turpin suffers from dementia and relies solely on others to take care of his needs.

Detectives with the Genessee County Elder Abuse task force said they have gathered box after box of evidence against Donald’s sister, 66-year-old Mt. Morris resident Mary Jo Davis.

Davis is facing 18 counts of embezzlement, 15 counts of fraud and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.

Investigators said she siphoned anywhere between $100,000 and $1.4 million from her ailing brother over a period of 10 years.

Full Article and Source:
Mt. Morris Woman Charged With Elder Abuse

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Schiavo Family Supports Sara Harvey

The family of Terry Schiavo, the comatose Florida woman whose case drew national attention, is intervening on behalf of a Chemung County resident whose husband is in a similar state.

Sara Harvey of Horseheads has been battling with Chemung County over guardianship of her husband, Gary, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2006 fall.

Schiavo was at the center of a legal battle between her husband, Michael, who said he wanted her to die with dignity, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who wanted her to be kept alive.

Schiavo died in March 2005 after she was disconnected from life support.

Monday, Mary Schindler and Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler visited Gary Harvey at St. Joseph's Hospital and said they would offer Sara any support they could.

"We're looking out for the best interest of Sara. She wants to bring her husband home," Bobby Schindler said.

"She wants guardianship of her husband, and it doesn't make sense to us or her why she's being denied that right, and why they've taken away her visitation rights and won't allow her to visit her husband.

"It's horrible how they're treating this woman when she simply wants to care for her husband," he said.

Full Article and Source:
Schiavo Family Supports Horseheads Woman's Battle for Guardianship of Comatose Husband

"Procedural Issue" in Lokuta Case

A state discipline court left attorneys for former Judge Ann H. Lokuta with two options Monday: refile a brief accusing her prosecutors of keeping a witness' misconduct complaint and criminal investigation secret, or save the allegations for a potential appeal.

Those choices manifested after the state Court of Judicial Discipline volleyed the brief back to Lokuta's attorneys Monday because they had submitted it without the court's "authorization."

The court was acting to enforce a haphazardly applied rule that requires attorneys to obtain the court's permission before making certain filings, Lokuta's attorney, George Michak, said.

Lokuta's attorneys filed their brief last Friday - five weeks after the court began deliberating whether to return Lokuta to the Luzerne County bench.

"It's a procedural issue," Michak said. "It's not a decision on the merits, and it's not a setback by any stretch."

Lokuta and her attorneys will spend "a day or two" considering whether to refile the brief with the necessary permission or use it as ammunition for an appeal if the court denies her reinstatement.

Full Article and Source:
Court: Lokuta Lawyers Not Authorized to Submit Filing

See Also:
Shocking Fraud in Lokuta Case

98-Year-Old Woman Charged with Murder

Charges have been filed in connection with a September death at a Dartmouth nursing home.

Laura Lundquist, 98, the victim's roommate, was charged with second degree murder.

In September, 100-year-old Elizabeth Barrow was found dead in her bed during a routine check of patients at the Brandon Woods Nursing Home. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was strangulation and suffocation.

[District Attorney] Sutter said he wrestled with whether he should bring murder charges against a 98-year-old woman, but in the end, believes it is the right thing to do.

"We're confident those were the right decisions. They were made after great thought and great deliberation.

Sutter said the defendant has a history of paranoia and dementia, so the murder could not have been premeditated, a prerequisite for a first degree murder charge.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd MacDonald ordered that Lundquist be sent to Taunton State Hospital for a competency evaluation prior to being arraigned.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Woman Charged In Nursing Home Murder

Appellate Court Upholds Fee Awards

A probate court had authority to charge approximately $226,000 in attorney fees generated defending a trustee’s proposed sale of an asset solely against the shares of the minority of beneficiaries who brought the challenge in bad faith, the Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

Reasoning that a Kern County judge had the equitable power to make the award, the court on Thursday upheld an order reducing the shares of three beneficiaries who sought to keep the trustee from closing the $48 million sale of a ranch on time.

Kern Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tafoya made the award against Philip Rudnick, Robert Rudnick and Milton Rudnick after concluding it was unfair to burden the majority of beneficiaries who approved the sale by a vote of 60 percent.

The three beneficiaries claimed that the Rudnick Estates Trust’s principal asset—the 68,000-acre Onyx Ranch, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just outside of Bakersfield—was worth substantially more than $48 million, that the trustee violated his fiduciary duty and that the transaction violated the terms of the RET.

But Tafoya determined that their opposition was primarily for the purpose of causing unnecessary delay and in bad faith.

The case is Rudnick v. Rudnick, 09 S.O.S. 6928.

Full Article and Source:
Court of Appeal Upholds Fee Award Against Disgruntled Beneficiaries

Courtney Love's Daughter in Guardianship

The only daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love has been placed in a temporary guardianship. A Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner granted control over Frances Bean Cobain, 17, to Kurt Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor, and his sister Kimberly Dawn Cobain.

The court filing does not mention Love or give a reason for the guardianship. Geraldine Wyle, the lawyer handling the case for the mother and sister, called it a private family matter and said no other comment would be issued.

Full Article and Source:
Cobain Guardianship

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Shocking Fraud" in the Lokuta Case

The prosecutors in former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta's misconduct case committed a "shocking fraud" by failing to disclose that a key witness against her, former Judge Michael T. Conahan, was the target of a misconduct complaint and a criminal investigation, Lokuta's attorneys said in court papers Friday.

The Judicial Conduct Board, the state agency that investigates and prosecutes charges of judicial misconduct, knew of the allegations against Conahan more than a year before he testified, but never shared the information with her attorneys or a state discipline court, the attorneys said.

The board's prosecutors - Joseph A. Massa Jr. and Frank Puskas - kept the complaint and criminal investigation secret even as Conahan emerged as a "star witness" at Lokuta's misconduct hearing in January 2008, her attorneys said.

Massa and Puskas' handling of the complaint "raises serious questions" about their ethical standards, demonstrates a "lack of candor" to the discipline court, and "calls the integrity of their case into irremediable doubt," Lokuta's attorneys said.

They asked a state discipline court Friday to forego its ongoing deliberations, dismiss Lokuta's misconduct charges and return her to the bench immediately.

Full Article and Source:
Lokuta Says Conduct Board Kept Conahan Allegations Under Wraps

More Information:
Read Lokuta's Filing

See Also:
Wave of Hope for Lokuta

Investigation of Public Guardian

Three people are behind bars after allegedly embezzling money from a group of disabled people. The Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Treasury report $300,000.00 had been taken from the Arenac County Guardian's Office since 1999.

A forensic audit on client's files assigned to the Guardian's office was conducted. The Guardian's office has been assigned over 80 clients.

Michigan State Police turned their investigation over to Ogemaw County Prosecutor, LaDonna A. Schultz. Schultz was appointed as special prosecutor by the State Attorney General. At that time it was then announced that three persons have been charged by criminal compliant.

Sherilyn Jones of Linwood, MI is one of three people facing criminal complaints. Ms. Jones has been charged with one count of criminal enterprise; two counts of embezzlement by a public official; and one count of embezzlement from vulnerable adults over $20,000.00 or more; and one count of conspiring to embezzle over $200.00 but less then $1000.00. Jones was appointed the Arenac County Guardian in 1999 and was dismissed from her position on August 18, 2009.

Robert Joseph Romps was appointed her successor who also faces one count of embezzlement by a public official.

And former employee Sally Lebeau was charged with conspiring to embezzle over $200.00 but less than $1000.00 If convicted she will face up to 1 year in jail and or a fine of $2,000.00 or 3 times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.

Full Article and Source:
Michigan State Police Investigate Alleged Embezzlement Scam

See Also:
County Cuts Ties With Public Guardian

Scott Rothstein Sued by Car Dealer

Scott Rothstein is being accused by one of South Florida's most prominent car dealers of fraud.

According to published reports, Ed Morse is suing Rothstein for malpractice. The Morse family said he swindled $57 million from them.

The car mogul claims Rothstein and other members of his law firm lied to him, forged legal documents and misrepresented their interests.

A week ago federal agents charged Rothstein with racketeering and accused him of masterminding a $1.2 billion ponzi scheme.

Full Article and Source:
Car Dealer Sues Scott Rothstein

See Also:
Rothstein Graphic

Prosecutor Assigned to Lawyer's Criminal Case

To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest within the Kane County state's attorney's office, an Illinois appellate prosecutor has been assigned to the criminal case against William C. Chesbrough, the local lawyer charged last month with bilking two area residents out of $140,000, Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti said.

Elgin police on Nov. 11 arrested Chesbrough, 57, on two counts of felony theft and one count of felony financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Between 2006 and 2009, Chesbrough allegedly stole a combined $140,000 from a 69-year-old Hampshire woman and a man from West Dundee while handling their respective legal affairs. Chesbrough was released from police custody after posting $3,000 bond on his $30,000 bail.

Chesbrough is accused of failing to return more than $120,000 at the end of a three-year probate filing to the Hampshire woman, who had hired the Elgin lawyer to help her with an estate, police said. Chesbrough allegedly wrote the Hampshire woman a check for about $120,000 to cover the missing money, but the check never cleared the bank, police said.

Full Article and Source:
Prosecutor Assigned to Lawyer's Case

See Also:
Attorney Accused of Stealing More Than $140K

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Absolute Prosecutorial Immunity"

A lawsuit filed against two Joplin attorneys involved with the prosecution of a woman jailed two years ago after being charged with “kidnapping” her own mother has been dismissed in federal court.

Joe Hensley and John Briggs were entitled to “absolute prosecutorial immunity” in the prosecution of Delores Forste and Steve Forste, her husband, according to a ruling by Judge James England, of the U.S. District Court of Western Missouri.

The attorney representing the Forstes said that ruling will be appealed. Attorney Lynn Myers, of Springfield, also has appealed the decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by Emma France, Delores Forste’s mother, and other former county wards, against John Podleski and Gayle Crane, attorneys for Rita Hunter, former Jasper County public administrator. That case will be heard Jan. 19, before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District.

Full Article and Source:
Federal Court Dismisses Suit Against Prosecutors

See Also:
95-Year-Old Fights Back

Scrutinizing the Guardian

A state board will conduct a special meeting Monday after FOX 4 raised questions about an accountant who swore on court records he was a certified guardian in Texas.

Collin County Judge Weldon Copeland appointed Michael Taylor of Greenville to serve as the Guardian of the Estate of Eugene and Michael Kidd. They are the Richardson couple that was stripped of their rights and placed in a nursing home against their will.

The Kidds were away from their home for nearly one year after the state determined they couldn’t take care of themselves or their finances. After FOX 4 aired their story, they regained their freedom and returned home but it has been a tough adjustment. They have had to rely on the help of total strangers and neighbors.

The Kidds say the system that was supposed to protect them and their assets failed miserably. They still have no accounting of their finances. Michael Taylor was appointed Guardian of the Estate in June 2009. He is still in charge of their money until the house is refinanced.

“We need a financial guardian in place until we get the house taken care of,” said Tim Taylor, the Kidd’s pro bono attorney.

“The mortgage is really the big one,” her said.

Attorney Tim Taylor says the Kidds were paying their bills until the state took over in January. Judge Copeland then appointed Michael Taylor in June. Tim Taylor says the Kidd’s mortgage was not paid for months, leaving their credit a mess.

“All of those problems have arisen in the past year while the guardianship was in place,” Tim Taylor said.

Michael Taylor is still refusing to talk to FOX 4 but we have learned he is now applying to become a certified guardian.

The questions is why he was ever in charge of the Kidd’s money in the first place without that certification.

Full Article and Source:
Questions Remain for Kidd's Guardian

See Also:
Kidd Family Freed

Accused of Bilking France's Richest Woman

A French court ordered a photographer accused of bilking France's richest woman out of cash and art worth euro1 billion ($1.5 billion) to stand trial for exploitation.

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers has waged a two-year legal campaign against the man she accuses of taking advantage of Liliane Bettencourt, her 87-year-old mother and the heiress to the French cosmetics giant L'Oreal, including a failed attempt to have her mother put under court-ordered supervision.

On Friday, a court ruled that Francois-Marie Banier, 62, will be tried April 16-17 for exploitation. He faces up to three years in jail and a euro75,000 fine.

"This trial will really show that Francois-Marie Banier abused a fragile woman," said Olivier Metzner, the lawyer for Bettencourt Meyers said.

Banier's lawyer, Herve Temime, said his client wasn't afraid of prosecution. "He's in a hurry to be absolved of this defamation," he said.

The Nanterre criminal court also ordered Liliane Bettencourt to undergo a medical examination before March 10.

Full Article and Source:
Photographer Accused of Bilking L'Oreal Heiress Out of $1.5 Billion Ordered to Stand Trial

See Also:
Family Feud and the L'Oreal Billions

Judge Reduces Bail in Fraud Case

A Riverside County Superior Court judge Wednesday lowered bail from $144 million to $5 million for James B. Duncan, charged with masterminding a major securities and mortgage fraud based in Murrieta that caused hundreds of investors in California and Arizona to lose about $17 million in cash and pushed 201 Riverside County homes into foreclosure.

In setting the bail, Judge Richard Fields commented on the extraordinary seriousness of the alleged crime, in which some people lost their life savings, and said that record would tend to put the public in jeopardy if Duncan were released.

He also said the millions of dollars of money lost and unaccounted for in the various investment schemes outlined in court by the district attorney could give Duncan "reason to flee and live comfortably."

If Duncan, 38, manages to post bail, Fields said, "I want to know the source of those funds," to make certain they are not ill-gotten gains.

In refusing to agree to the district attorney's demand to keep the bail at $144 million, Fields said he was swayed by the arguments of Duncan's lawyer, Catherine Corcoran, that Duncan has no previous criminal record and that in the years since he has been under investigation, starting in 2007, he has not attempted to flee, continued to reside with his wife and three children in Murrieta and surrendered his passport to the FBI.

Duncan was one of seven defendants arrested and jailed Nov. 19 and charged in a wide-ranging criminal complaint that contains 249 felony counts, including securities fraud, grand theft, elder abuse and corporate identity theft.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Reduces Bail for Defendant in Fraud Case

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'20/20' Features Mary Ellen Bendsten Case

Near the end of her 88 years, Mary Ellen Bendtsen, a fading celebrity whose landmark mansion had been a jewel of Dallas real estate, put her trust in two younger friends she called "the boys."

The men, Mark McCay and Justin Burgess, brought a fourth party to the relationship: their lawyer.

Attorney Edwin Olsen took Bendtsen on as a client. At the end of her life, he helped her grant power of attorney to McCay and Burgess and sign a will making them beneficiaries.

Her family says "the boys'" relationship with Bendtsen was all designed to get her share of the almost $1 million home. The men, meanwhile, say that they were simply honoring their dying friend's wishes.

After Bendtsen's death, a grand jury would weigh in on the case, indicting Olsen, McCay and Burgess for attempted theft.

Central to the court case may be videos the trio made of an aged, ailing Bendtsen signing legal documents under Olsen's supervision.

Full Article and Source:
A Lawyer's Work: Dying Woman Signs Over Mansion

See Video:
'Mary Ellen's Mansion': Friendly Care -- or Con??

Note: The Dallas Morning News published a four-part series in August of 2006, by reporter Lee Hancock, titled "Mary Ellen's Will: The Battle for 4949 Swiss"
For information on that series and updates: Reader's Respond to 4949 Swiss Project

Orange County CA Considers Revamp

Saying they need more time to look into the cost and implications, county supervisors postponed a decision on reducing the authority of the county’s elected Public Administrator.

The proposal involves splitting the Public Administrator and Public Guardian positions — now headed by the same elected official– and giving oversight authority of the Public Guardian office to county chief executive Tom Mauk. And it comes on the heels of two scathing Grand Jury reports alleging mismanagement by Public Administrator John Williams.

The Public Administrator, which protects the assets and manages the affairs of OC residents who have died and left no heirs, would remain an elected office. Supervisors would appoint the Public Guardian, a job charged with investigating and overseeing the care and estates of people, usually elderly or mentally ill, who are unable to care for themselves.

The supes only danced around the grand jury allegations during their discussion about the proposal, characterizing it as procedural and not punitive. Even Mauk recommended reappointing Williams to Public Guardian if they approved the proposal.

Full Article and Source:
Public Administrator's Authority Safe at Least for Another Week

Rothstein Graphic

A new presentation has surfaced that was supposedly used to entice Rothstein investors. It's a PowerPoint show, 18 pages, including a nifty graphic.

The graphic is supposed to show how money would flow from defendants in Rothstein's lawsuit settlements to the plaintiffs and investors.

It shows a handshake, money with a lock on it, a signed contract, the scales of justice next to a stick figure, a female plaintiff jumping for joy over dollar signs. The final graphic is a large hand, representing a bank, delivering a bag of cash.Given what has happened to the money, it was apparently a work of fiction. The scales of justice were supposed to represent Rothstein's involvement in verifying the accounts. As others have noted, the trust the public puts in attorneys, and bank officials, was the driving force behind Rothstein's alleged swindle.

Full Article and Source:
Banyon's Rothstein Presentation

See Also:
Scott Rothstein Arrested, Charged

Court Vandal Caught "Red-Handed"

Police said they arrested a disgruntled Washington state man early Thursday after he allegedly spray-painted graffiti on a courthouse in Brockton.

Officials said Andrew Steele, 45, of Tacoma, Wash., was arrested after he became angry over a probate court decision and used red spray paint to write "Steele Boys Rights Denide (sic)" several times on the Brockton District Court at 215 Main St.

Witnesses called police at about 2 a.m. to report a man vandalizing the courthouse. The responding officer caught Steele with a can of spray paint in his hand, officials said.

Steele told police he painted the message as "a protest" because he wanted his children to visit him in Washington, but a probate court judge denied the request.

Steele was arraigned in the same court on charges of tagging, destruction over $250 and malicious damage. Steele was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $500,000 surety. He will return to court on Jan. 6.

Full Article and Source:
Court Vandal Caught Red-Handed -- Literally