Saturday, August 21, 2010

Editorial: CT Probate Court Reform to Yield Big Profits

Although the full effect of reforms to the Probate Court system will not be felt until next year, when the 117 courts will be cut to 54, they already are helping to right its financial troubles.

The archaic, fee-based system was so inefficient that it had lost money for years, requiring a state subsidy to keep it running.

At one point, it had been expected to run out of money last year and to have run up a further deficit of $5 million this year.

Instead, the system’s deficit for this fiscal year is projected to be $820,000 and the Office of Probate Court Administrator is expected to spend $703,000 less than its approved budget.

For the following fiscal year, which starts in July 2011, savings of $2.8 million are expected.

The savings are the result of the 2009 reform law that cut the number of courts, centralized its finances, set judge’s salaries and requires judges to be lawyers and courts to be open 40 hours a week.

The courts have operated independently, setting their own hours and pay based on fees they collected.

They will remain the only courts whose judges are elected.

About half the savings in the probate administrator’s office has come from staff cuts, salary freezes and unpaid days off.

The rest, according to the office, have come from better use of technology and lower operating costs.

The biggest savings will come after January, when the court consolidation takes place.

Cutting the number of judges by more than half is expected to save $2.3 million in salaries and benefits. Consolidation of the courts’ finances — accounting, payroll, audits — will save more than $400,000.

Full Editorial and Source:
Editorial: Probate Court Reform to Yield Big Profits

NC Man Receives 3 Years for Bilking Elderly Woman

Federal authorities say a former North Carolina financial adviser has been sentenced to three years in prison for taking millions from an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease.

U.S. Attorney George Holding announced Wednesday that 66-year-old Harold Blondeau of Raleigh was also ordered to pay nearly $425,700 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, the victim, her trusts, and the charity founded with her money.

Blondeau pleaded guilty last year to investment adviser fraud and tax fraud, for not reporting or paying taxes on the illegal income. He admitted taking nearly $3 million from a then-83-year-old Raleigh woman.

Full Article and Source:
NC Man Receives Three Years for Bilking Woman

Man Charged With Bilking Elderly Man Out of His Entire Estate

A Padanaram man is in the custody of federal marshals on charges that he bilked an elderly widower of his entire estate and tried to conceal the transactions.

Richard C. Souza, 45,was arrested at his home after an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS. He is accused of befriending a local man who had hired him to do work on his roof, then systematically bilking the man (identified in court papers only as "Larry") of everything he owned and then some.

The complaint alleges that from 2003 to 2008, Souza — who had only $20,000 in reported income for the entire period — was soliciting odd jobs doing home repairs. One of his customers was an 84-year-old local man whom Souza befriended.

"In or about 2005, Souza proposed that he and Larry go into business together," according to the complaint, written by investigator Timothy Saunders.

"According to financial records that I have reviewed, when Larry first met Souza in 2004, Larry's net worth was approximately $750,000. His assets consisted of the equity in his house, funds in his investment and bank accounts, and his automobile.

"By 2008, Larry no longer owned his home, his investment and bank accounts had balances of approximately $1,452.58, and he had no automobile. His liabilities, however, had grown to approximately $144,638.77, which was comprised of approximately $52,643.06 in credit card debt and a mortgage of approximately $91,995.71.

"His total net worth was approximately $143,186," the complaint said.

The government has asked the court to seize Souza's property, which includes the house on Seaward Lane; a piece of land in Medway, Maine; two Mercedes Benz automobiles; and a commercial building at 368 Elm St. in Padanaram where Souza once had a real estate office and where his son operated a business dealing in exotic cars.

Full Article and Source:
Padanaram Man Charged With Bilking Elderly Widower Out of Entire Estate

Friday, August 20, 2010

Danny Tate Conservatorship, Part Three

A conservatorship (guardianship) can strip a person of their individual liberty and property rights. While Nashville musician Danny Tate admits his struggle with alcohol and drug issues may at a point have merited assistance, never would he - or most anyone else - have dreamed that such "help" would manifest as the near depletion of his $1.5 million estate and a continued assault on any future prosperity. These, however, are the circumstances directly resulting from a 32-month "temporary" conservatorship petition initiated in October 2007 by his brother David Tate, facilitated by attorney Paul T. Housch and sanctioned by Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy. For this reason, supporters and friends of Danny Tate along with a growing host of interested parties will be watching an Aug. 20 court hearing in which Tate will ask the court to set aside prior orders that will further diminish Tate's financial position on the basis of "Petitioner David E. Tate's fraud on the court and misconduct throughout this proceeding."

An act of God brought the early May flooding that took lives and destroyed the property of many in Nashville. Danny Tate lost his home and remaining possessions in the flood. Hard as that is, his real challenge is overcoming the acts of three men - David Tate, Paul T. Housch and Judge Randy Kennedy - who under the guise of working "in the best interest of a disabled person" appear to have destroyed the fruits of Danny Tate's past efforts and thwarted his current ability to provide for himself in the manner which well-served him for years. And as legal expenses create mounting debt, the man who once had a solid financial status now has far more limited prospects for future prosperity.

An act of God casts light on the hardships of life, but that's something with which we all have to deal. The acts of this probate court cast a frightening light on the fragility of freedom and property rights across America, and as this case shows, especially in Nashville, Tennessee. Beware.

Full Article and Source:
Musician Danny Tate's Conservatorship: A Case of Caring or Corruption? (part three)

Lynn EnEarl Resigns!

Less than a week after her husband resigned as East Fork Justice of the Peace, Douglas County Public Administrator Lynn EnEarl has resigned effective Dec. 1.

EnEarl, 59, denied her resignation had to do with the recent controversy over her public guardianship.

“No, this is all about family,” she said. “Our daughters and grandchildren live here. It's almost like a job. It takes time to take care of family.”

“Since my husband's retirement, I've been seriously thinking about what is important in life,” she said. “My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's and her health is deteriorating. It's difficult for my husband to take care of her on his own.”

EnEarl said there are some probate cases she needs to complete.

Under Nevada law, EnEarl is required to report on each of her charges' personal and financial welfare to the district court. Senior advocates reviewing the case files said the reports were not completed. EnEarl's attorney, Michael Rowe, said that in some cases the court waived the annual reports, though advocates were unable to find written waivers.

A score of EnEarl's guardian cases are passing through the district courts now to bring those reports up to date. In two cases, wards were placed in more restrictive care facilities than required by their condition.

During one hearing, EnEarl said she didn't meet with her wards because she's not a confrontational person. She was ordered by District Judge Dave Gamble to meet with her charges on a monthly basis.

In some of the cases, the wards said they'd never met EnEarl until they were in court.

Full Article and Source:
EnEarl Resigns as Public Administrator

See Also:
Judge Sets New Tone for Guardianships

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Danny Tate Conservatorship, Part Two

Danny Tate's conservatorship/guardianship initially gained attention in part due to his status as a respected singer/songwriter. Upon a closer look, however, the circumstances of his plight raise interesting questions regarding the legal industry (courts and lawyers) and its potential to use probate venues as a vehicle for hijacking the liberty and property of American citizens. For that reason, a Tennessee probate court will once again come under scrutiny at an Aug. 20 hearing with all eyes focused on those most involved with the musician's 32-month "temporary" conservatorship: Danny Tate's former conservator (and brother) David Tate, attorney Paul T. Housch and Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy.

Danny Tate's Motion for Relief from Judgment, the motion to be heard at the upcoming hearing, describes David Tate's methodical use of a POA to overtake his brother's financial assets. Per the motion, David Tate acknowledged in deposition testimony Danny's protest and disapproval of his actions. Nonetheless, his efforts continued and even expanded as Danny Tate accessed cash by liquidating securities from a Vanguard investment account as the company declined recognizing the POA being used by David Tate. In his deposition testimony, David Tate said: "Had they been restricted (the investment accounts), I would never have filed for conservatorship."

The motion notes that all David's actions were allegedly based upon Danny Tate's rampant drug use though "David never called the paramedics, and never attempted to take Danny to the hospital or to an emergency room." It further states "David felt he was at liberty to confiscate, transfer and spend Danny's money as he saw fit, over Danny's objections, because, in his words, Danny was a 'pathetic crack addict.' Even though, during his deposition, David admitted that Danny was 'coherent' in June 2007." Despite Danny Tate renouncing the POA and asking his brother to find someone else to fill the role, David Tate continued to "exert control and dominion over his assets in spite of Danny's disapproval."

Three months passed during which the motion claims that David Tate wrote checks "to himself, his wife and his company, Signet, In., using Danny's funds." During this time, through deposition testimony, David Tate indicates he decided to file for conservatorship over Danny yet did not visit his brother in Nashville nor make any attempts to have him evaluated.

A conservatorship is no small matter. It can strip a person of their individual liberty and their property rights.

In the petition, David Tate represented that "for the past six months [Danny] has increased his crack cocaine and alcohol substance abuse, with usage of at least one-half ounce of crack cocaine per day and more on some days, at an average of $500 to $800 per day." In the motion to soon be heard, Danny Tate responds with documentation of how these allegations, for instance in April 2007 would mean he spent $15,000 - $24,000 that month on drugs when a bank statement for that month shows he only withdrew $5,500 from his account in a comparable timeframe. Similar analysis follows for the subsequent five months. By David Tate's numbers, Danny Tate was purported to have spent somewhere between $90,000 and $150,000 on drugs yet the documentation provided shows withdrawals of "less than half of the 'low-end' dollar figure alleged in the sworn Petition." And incidentally, David Tate had access to the bank records used for the analysis upon filing his petition.

Indeed, the more one looks at this case, the more questionable it becomes. But the story's far from over. Next up, the ex parte hearing in which the Judge Randy Kennedy's Nashville court sanctioned what appears to be an unsubstantiated litany of charges that were used to hijack an American citizen's personal liberty and property rights.

Full Article and Source:
Musician Danny Tate's Conservatorship: A Case of Caring or Corruption?(part two)

Woman Charged With Elder Abuse, Class B Felony Charges Filed

A Paragould woman was charged last week for the abuse of an adult, which is a class B felony, according the circuit court documents.

Joan Dollins, 44, was arrested June 2 for neglecting her elderly mother, Norma Dollins, age unknown, Det. Rhonda Thomas of the Paragould Criminal Investigation Division said at the time of the arrest.

It was reported she was not taking proper care of her mother for whom she was the primary caretaker, Thomas said at the time.

According to the document, this charge includes abusing, neglecting or exploiting any endangered or impaired person, if the abuse causes serious physical injury or a substantial risk of death.

According to Norma’s probate file, an affidavit to remove Norma from the home she shared with her daughter was filed Feb. 16, stating the home was kept in an unsanitary condition and she was not being cared for in a proper manner. On March 3, Norma was ordered into long-term adult protective custody.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Charged Elder Abuse

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Danny Tate Conservatorship

The actions of a Tennessee probate court will once again come under scrutiny as an Aug. 20 hearing becomes the next chapter in Nashville musician Danny Tate's effort to undo the near depletion of his lifelong accumulation of assets and to stop the continued assault on any future prosperity - circumstances directly resulting from a 32-month "temporary" conservatorship (guardianship) initiated by his brother David Tate, facilitated by attorney Paul T. Housch and sanctioned by Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy.

An awareness campaign moves forward as Tate friend Kevin Montgomery has blogged on Everything you need to know about the Danny Tate case-brilliantly presented by Michael Hoskins., the Friends for Danny Tate's Defense Facebook group remains active and the Free Danny Tate web site continues providing sardonically witty commentary on case players and developments. With Milwaukee-based investigative consultant Ira Robins' compelling presentation of case documents and related information on Nashville Criminals, the side of Danny Tate's case either ignored or previously unaddressed through the Tennessee legal system is at least now available for public consumption. This information should serve as an important warning to an unsuspecting public regarding the full power and potential of probate actions.

The Aug. 20 hearing will largely center on a Danny Tate Motion for Relief from Judgment prepared by his attorney, Michael G. Hoskins, which asks the court to set aside prior orders that will further diminish Tate's financial position on the basis of "Petitioner David E. Tate's fraud on the court and misconduct throughout this proceeding." The motion gives background on a series of visits starting in May 2007 that David Tate paid to his brother Danny who, prior to the conservatorship, lived unassisted in his Nashville home and was completely self-sufficient.

Full Article and Source:
Musician Danny Tate's Conservatorship: A Case of Caring or Corruption? (Part One)

Possible $27m Case of Elder Abuse

An elderly man with dementia remains in the care of those accused of fleecing $27 million from him as the State Government drags its heels.

The Noosa News reported in June that Roger Hack, 80, sold his farm on Noosa Hill for $27 million seven years ago but was now virtually bankrupt.

The whereabouts of the fortune is unknown after being weaved through a maze of trust funds and investments.

Mr Hack’s son, Richard, battled to have his father removed from those in charge of his money, and two months ago the case reached the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Mr Hack would be put in the care of the State Government, it ruled, away from those who had controlled his fantastic wealth.

Full Article and Source:
Possible $27m Case of Elder Abuse

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Judicial System and the Fight for Justice

Who is accountable? Who is immune? How much does it cost to have a chance to win? Or, is the game rigged and the poor (or disfavored) need not apply?

Does it matter who (or what) is right? Or is it a matter of who is on what side and how much money and manpower that side has to create their scenario for the system to consider? A public relations campaign against the word of the little feller?

Sara Harvey has asked for help in presenting her husband’s case to the “judging” system, but to obtain that help — she must have money for a retainer and all the hours that the case might entail. On the other hand, had this been a case that the ACLU might have been interested in — like her right to kill off Gary, rather than fight to keep him alive — would she have been given a free ride? Under those circumstances, would someone else have been willing to pay the bill to get her case represented and out there to create a precedence?

We think this is fair?

Maybe it is time to not only review the politics in Washington — but rather – maybe it is time to review the judicial system that is not always a system that represents justice. Maybe it is time to start protecting our vulnerable.

Maybe… just maybe… it’s time to start getting things right!

The Judicial System and the Fight for Justice

Grandson and Pastor Accused of Bilking Elderly Woman

Last February, Viola Hunt's family made the decision to put the 81-year-old in a place where she would get extra attention.

"Mom was happy, making friends. She was doing good," Frederick Hunt said of moving his mother to Medco.

But after just a few months there, the family found out her bills were not being paid. McCracken County sheriff's deputies made two arrests in the case.

Hunt's pastor, Charles Dunbar, and her grandson, Josh Hunt, were accused of using their power of attorney over Viola Hunt to steal her money.

Her son and Josh's uncle, Frederick Hunt said his stomach turned at the news.

Full Article and Source:
Grandson and Pastor Allegedly Bilk Elderly Woman

Monday, August 16, 2010

Families Torn Apart by Maricopa Probate Court

Edward Abbott Ravenscroft said his faith helped him in the fight of his life. It was a fight against a guardian who was appointed by the court to protect him.

"It took me a lot of money, effort, 11 different court hearings to get rid of these people, " Ravenscroft said. "Bottom line is, it's all about the money."

The ABC15 Investigators found excessive fees are just one part of a major review into how Maricopa County probate court works.

The State Supreme Court ordered Judge Ann Timmer to head up that investigation.

"Are the fees excessive? Who's looking at that? What guidelines are there out there for judges to be able to be awarding or approving fees?"

These are just a few of the questions Judge Timmer wants covered in the task force reviewing probate court.

In Ravencroft's case, Sun Valley Group of Tempe was appointed conservator.

His attorney, Peter Williams, called the fees "excessively high" and "abnormal" at almost $12,000 a month going to Sun Valley Group and its attorneys to administer Ravencroft's finances.

"That doesn't include any care, any food, any shelter, any clothing, anything along those lines. That's simply the legal process of making sure there's a fiduciary in place. I've never seen a case like this," Williams said.

In another Sun Valley Group case we examined, all of Marie Long's $1.4 million estate was spent on her care. In one court hearing alone, we counted 12 attorneys representing various parties.

The ABC15 Investigators found other areas of potential conflicts of interest after speaking in-depth with many of the families involved. These issues are not part of the investigation into probate court.

For instance, probate attorneys are allowed to fill in as judges including attorneys who work for guardians. They could be making decisions on guardian issues like approving fees.

Another potential conflict of interest involves court investigators who help decide whether guardians are necessary.

The ABC15 Investigators uncovered that a contracted court investigator, Heather Frenette, is also part owner of Sun Valley Group.

Patti Gomes told us that Frenette investigated her mother's case. Then Frenette's company, Sun Valley Group became guardian.

"Everybody just hires an attorney, and they just start billing the estate! And nobody stops it," Patti said. "I mean its bizarreness going on. I had no input at all."

Attorneys claimed Patti's mother had a million dollar estate. Ravenscroft is an heir to Abbott laboratories. He's worth millions.

Full Article and Source:
Families Torn Apart, Financial Ruin and Extreme Toll, All Taking Place in a Maricopa Court

Guardian Files Lawsuit for Ward Allegedly Raped at Hospital Facility

The guardian of a mentally disabled person blames a Belleville hospital for allowing the man to be repeatedly raped at its facility.

A lawsuit was filed July 23 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against St. Elizabeth's Hospital and an unknown person identified only as "Criminal Joe."

The guardian claims he brought the mentally disabled person, who is severely retarded and has the mental capacity of a six year old, to St. Elizabeth's in June 2009 because of behavior problems.

When the guardian dropped the mentally disabled man off at the hospital, St. Elizabeth's promised to provide him with quality care and treatment and assured the guardian it would provide appropriate oversight and place the man into a psychiatric ward, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, St. Elizabeth's allegedly placed the man into a room in the psychiatric ward with a rapist and failed to supervise the men, the suit states.

The guardian seeks a judgment of more than $200,000, plus costs.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian Claims Mentally Disabled Man Was Attacked in Pyschiatric Ward

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Woman Repays Stolen Money and is Freed

A Texas woman who was locked up in December for contempt for refusing to repay $402,000 that she removed from her mother's bank accounts in 2008 was released from Wayne County Jail.

Wayne County Probate Judge David Szymanski ordered Janice Stanton Hines' release after her husband gave her mother's court-appointed conservator a check for that amount.

Stanton Hines withdrew nearly $800,000 from the accounts of her mother, M. Louise Stanton of Detroit after Stanton gave her daughters access to the accounts. When confronted about what she had done, court records show, Stanton Hines returned some of the money leaving a $500,000 shortfall.

Full Article and Source:
Wayne County News: Texan Freed as Cash Repaid

Editorial: Discipline Against Judge Exposes Flaws

Cocke County General Sessions Judge John Bell took his third disciplinary strike in June and was sent to the showers, but his bank account won't suffer.

A judicial ethics panel last month suspended Bell for 90 days with pay - essentially a three-month paid vacation - after his third violation.

The decision makes one wonder what it would take to actually remove a sitting judge, and a revelation during the proceeding that a previous action against Bell has been shielded from the public view exposed a flaw in the process.

Bell was convicted in June for mishandling a relatively simple lawsuit. The Court of the Judiciary could have removed him, but instead opted to keep him off the bench for 90 days.

Once the decision was made to suspend him, the panel could not keep Bell from receiving his salary during the hiatus. The state constitution doesn't allow the panel to take a judge's pay.

Taxpayers also will have to pay the salary for a special judge who will have to hear Bell's cases during the suspension.

Full Editorial and Source:
Discipline Against Judge Exposes Flaws

Financial Advisor Gets 3 Years for Bilking Elderly Woman

A Raleigh financial adviser was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay $425,694 in restitution for stealing from an elderly female client in an elaborate scheme to bilk her of nearly $3 million.

Harold " Hal " Blondeau, 65, a former adviser with Morgan Keegan, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Greenville to more than 15 months in prison after he was charged with investor advisement fraud and making and subscribing a false tax return, according to federal court records..

Blondeau, according to federal court documents, used his role as an investment adviser to Martha B. Capps, 83, a Raleigh woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease, to gain access to funds held in trust, then used the money to pay for his own personal expenses — including spending $24,000 on wine and a beach house.

Blondeau's plea and sentencing came more than two years after lawyers representing Capps filed suit in state court against Blondeau; his son, R.J. Blondeau ; Florida lawyer Neal Knight, and Knight's two daughters. The group conspired to take an estimated $3 million that Capps had inherited in 1989, according to the lawsuit.

Only Blondeau was brought to federal court on criminal charges. He pleaded guilty to taking $531,000 out of the nearly $3 million that Capps' lawyers contend was stolen.

Full Article and Source;
Former Investor Gets 3 Years for Bilking Elderly Woman