Saturday, January 29, 2011

CA: Court of Appeals Upholds Judgment Against Lawyer for Elder Abuse

The First District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment requiring several individuals, including an Oakland attorney, to pay more than $400,000 in damages and attorney fees to the conservator for an elderly disabled woman.

Div. Four upheld the award against Oakland attorney Carol Veres Reed, along with Ida McQueen’s sister and uncle, for misappropriation of funds from the unauthorized sale of property that McQueen’s father left her in trust.

McQueen, now 75 years old, suffers from physical and mental disabilities. Her father provided in his will that she could live in the family’s Oakland home for life. He also established a testamentary trust, giving the trustees discretion to use the principal for McQueen’s benefit during her lifetime, with the remainder of the assets to be divided among her surviving siblings after her death.

McQueen’s father died in 1990, and his two brothers were appointed to administer the estate. McQueen remained in the home until 2000, when she was taken to a nursing home due to medical complications.

While in the nursing facility, she was visited by Reed—who had handled her father’s estate, and whose father had prepared the will—and her brother, attorney Richard K. Veres. The two lawyers presented her with a power of attorney, naming her sister, Earline Drumgoole, to act on her behalf.

A witness later testified that McQueen told him that she did not understand who her visitors were or what they had her sign.

Full Article and Source:
Court of Appeals Unpholds Judgment Against Lawyer for Elder Abuse

Three Relatives Accused of Exploitation

Three relatives of an 88-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease are accused of illegally withdrawing nearly $174,900 from her bank account.

Tammy Childs, 50, used about $72,000 of the ailing Genevieve Gallant's money to purchase a house, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Childs, who alone is accused of taking about $153,800 from Gallant, faces charges of exploitation, money laundering and theft from a person 65 or older.

If convicted, she could face as many as 30 years in prison.

Childs is Gallant's biological granddaughter, arrest records said, but Gallant had adopted Childs and referred to her as a daughter.

Childs' daughters, Kari Lynne Boyett, 26, who lives with her mother, and Kati Marie Childs, 24, were each charged with theft from a person 65 or older.

Kati Childs took about $1,850 from Gallant and Boyett about $19,232, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Full Article and Source:
Three Relatives of Victimized Elderly Woman Accused of Theft

TX: Former County Judge Indicted by Federal Grand Jury

Liberty radio station KSHN is saying former County Judge Phil Fitzgerald has confirmed he's been indicted by a federal grand jury, but doesn't yet know what the charges are.

The feds are mum, but it's likely any indictment handed down has been temporarily sealed.

It was a joint investigation by 13 Undercover and the Cleveland Advocate Newspaper that sparked the criminal probe. Our hidden cameras showed trucks owned by the then-county judge were used in the Hurricane Ike cleanup in his own county.
Later, we reported his family may have made a million dollars from the cleanup.

News: Former Liberty County Judge Indicted

Friday, January 28, 2011

Court of Judiciary Responds to Ginger Franklin's Complaint Against Judge Randy Kennedy

In an unusual turn of events, the Court of the Judiciary responded to Ginger Franklin’s appeal in her complaint vs. Judge Randy Kennedy. Click the link below to read the correspondence. This is the second investigation simultaneously being conducted by the COJ into the judicial misconduct of Judge Kennedy that we are aware of. We have also been told that there are several other complaints vs. Kennedy and that the attention Kennedy has notoriously garnered in the last year has led to an avalanche of complaints. This all in a probate court which rarely becomes the spotlight of complaints vs. judges. Let’s see if the Court of the Judiciary does their job. We’ll be contacting Senator Mae Beavers to find out what she is doing as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Read the Tennessee Court of Judiciary's Letter

See Also:
Ginger Franklin Freed!

TN Judge Randy Kennedy Reversed in Appeal


Attorneys: Sheryl D. Guinn, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Hazel Childs, Oreva Childs.

Jeanan Mills Stuart, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.


Two of the daughters of an eighty-two year old woman filed a petition to be named as their mother’s Conservator. The trial court found that the mother did indeed need a Conservator, but because of family disagreements it appointed a third party to perform that role. Seven months later, the same daughters filed a petition to remove the incumbent Conservator and to be named as Co-Conservators to replace her. The mother died after proceedings on the second petition began, but before the trial court could rule on its merits. The Conservator subsequently moved the court for payment of her fees. The court found that some of those fees were incurred as a direct result of the uncooperative acts of the two daughters. Since the decedent’s estate was indigent, the court entered two money judgments for costs against the daughters. We reverse the judgment that was assessed against one of the daughters for failing to return her mother to the nursing home in a timely way, because although her actions led to additional costs, no legal basis for the judgment appears in the record. We vacate the judgment based on the unsuccessful petition to remove the conservator and we remand the case for further proceedings, because although Tenn. Code Ann. section 34-1-114 does allow an assessment of costs against such petitioners, it is unclear how much of the court’s judgment falls within the parameters of that statute.


Read the January 5, 2011 Decision

District Judge Charged With Fraud, Perjury

Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure was accused in a felony fraud charge of collecting state funds to care for twins that she secretly gave to her bailiff’s sister.

Bass-LeSure, 43, and her husband, Karlos Antonio LeSure, 46, cheated the state out of public funds for three years, prosecutors allege.

The judge faces 30 counts of making a fraudulent claim and two counts of perjury. Her husband faces two counts of making a fraudulent claim and two counts of perjury. She said Friday at the courthouse the accusations are not true.

Prosecutors allege the judge and her husband contracted with the state to become foster parents of a twin boy and girl in January 2008. They adopted the children in May. The children are now 3.

Prosecutors allege the children actually have been with the sister of the judge’s bailiff since January 2008. The bailiff, Lania Davis, and her sister, identified only as R.E., have not been charged.

The judge has been paid more than $22,000 in public funds already for caring for the children, prosecutors allege. Monthly subsidies continue until the children’s 19th birthdays.

Bass-LeSure first was elected as a district judge 12 years ago and spent most of her time handling criminal cases. She decided to move to probate, guardianship and adoption cases last year after she stepped down from a high-profile murder case against a pharmacist.

Full Article and Source:
Oklahoma County District Judge Charged With Fraud, Perjury

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Al Katz, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor

This is the first in a series of investigative columns that will tell the story of Al Katz, a Holocaust survivor.

Why should you be interested?

If you or a loved one is a senior citizen, living in Florida either full time or part time, this story applies to you.

Al Katz had his liberty and property taken from him by National Socialist Germany in 1940. They tried to take his life, but he survived. Fast forward seventy years to 2010, and Al Katz had his liberty and property taken from him a second time. This time, however, the state in which this all happened is Florida.

During the Holocaust, Al helped to save innumerable lives by secretly distributing scraps of food to starving slaves along the train route he drove. After the Holocaust, Al delivered his memories to thousands of students in Manatee County and other southwest Florida schools. He was a true Holocaust hero to those he saved and the generations after them.

This story is a written in his memory and is a warning to all those who live in Florida and beyond.

Full Article and Source:
Al Katz, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor

Al Katz, Part Two: Road to Perdition

The story begins on December 11, 2008, when Al Katz is put into a Bradenton nursing home against his will by his girlfriend. Upon hearing of this, his daughter Beverly Newman on December 15th legally files for guardianship of her father in Indiana because her father always stated that he did not want to be placed in a nursing home. Up until that time Beverly and her husband Larry had been Al’s sole familial caretakers through numerous medical crises since 2002.

From December 2008 through August 2009, Beverly constantly contacts her brother Louis H. Katz, Executive Vice President and Treasurer of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who has Power of Attorney for their father to help Beverly get him back home to Indianapolis, where he had been domiciled since 1946.

In the interim, Al Katz is repeatedly hospitalized by a Dr. James Hanusa. Unbeknown to Beverly, Dr. Hanusa contacts Louis to give guardianship of his father to Ashley Butler, Public Guardian of Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto Counties. This is done even though Al (a) is not indigent; (b) has his daughter ready to care for him; and (c) has never been domiciled in Florida, all 3 of which are mandatory before placement in public guardianship.

In September 2009, Al was hospitalized with breathing problems. Inexplicably, Dr. James Hanusa orders that no information about Al be given to his daughter Beverly.

On September 17, 2009, Beverly Newman receives a phone call from an anonymous third party that someone is trying to improperly put her father into guardianship in Florida, but no details are given.

Without ever listing Beverly on court documents as next-of-kin and without notifying Beverly, who is in Indianapolis, of the guardianship hearing scheduled for the very next day, September 18, 2009, Ashley Butler is given guardianship of Al Katz.

Immediately, Ms. Butler attaches all of Al’s assets (bank accounts, Social Security, Holocaust reparations), changes the locks to his house, and takes boxes of legal documents, jewelry, financial data, and valuables from the home, while keeping Mr. Katz in a nursing home against his oral and written wishes.

After the guardianship is granted, Al Katz’s former attorney tells Beverly that Ashley Butler has guardianship of her father in Bradenton.

Full Article and Source:
Al Katz Story, Holocaust Survivor, Part 2

Al Katz, Part Three: There's no Room for Common Sense in the Eyes of Government Regulation

Our meeting began with a review of the case beginning with a large, laminated photo array of pictures resembling large dinner placemats. They documented the deteriorating condition of Beverly’s father during the last year of his life while under the care of various court appointed guardians. The photos and associated legal documents were presented to the Joint Legislative Committee of Congressional District 13, composed of both Florida Senate and House Representatives on January 18,2011 in Manatee County. Beverly was on the Agenda for 5 minutes to present her case on the series of events discussing what she classified as senior abuse and financial abuse permitted under the Guardianship provisions of the law. She also presented a packet of information she prepared suggesting changes in the laws and regulations as they relate to administering senior care.

Later that day, I followed up with State House Representative Ray Pilon, a member of the Joint Committee, from House District 69 which covers North Sarasota County and a small portion of Manatee County, where Al Katz maintained a condo and later died. Representative Pilon related that the forum is designed for citizens to present situations of concern and to give and receive information. Based on the information I heard, it appears to be a joint-legislator Town Hall Meeting. Beverly stated that Chairman Mike Bennett, State Senator from her father’s district, spoke with her briefly after the session stating he would follow up on her situation.

Without repeating events from past articles, I will relay one example, out of many I heard, that is representative of situations and activities that might be legal, but lack common sense and lead to suspicion of doubt and impropriety. Through our discussion I discovered that under high paid court appointed supervision, Al Katz’ personal effects inexplicably disappeared. His estate included cash assets, income, a house in Indiana, a condo in Bradenton, and an old Ford Escort that once resided in a parking stall at the condo. A guardian was court appointed to maintain and manage the assets.

Under the terms of guardianship it seems that management activities come with heavy cost.

[Beverly] further mentioned that while embroiled in all the drama caused by lawyers and court appointed managers, no one has ever filed a tax return in Indiana, Florida, or with the IRS. It is surmised that paying taxes would drain the funds needed to pay the fees of those who are mismanaging the Katz estate.

Full Article and Source:
Al Katz, The Story of a Holocaust Survivor, Part 3

Monday, January 24, 2011

Press Release: Arizona Could Become National Leader With New Laws

Following multiple reports of devastating abuses involving Arizona probate court, Arizona State Representative David Smith (R – Carefree) sponsored legislation that would make Arizona the nation’s leader in judicial probate reform. House Bill 2424 seeks to remedy rampant financial exploitation and abuses by Arizona’s probate court-ordered fiduciaries and others in the court system. The concerns over probate abuses have been widely documented in the media and in a report to the United States Senate submitted in September 2010.

When asked about his motivations, Representative Smith shared in an interview with theArizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts: “I was concerned about the articles I read in the paper, some of the abuses that you point out. In fact, I knew some of the people involved in one case.”

Sherry Lund, who is advocating for HB2424 said, “We are fighting for probate reform so no other Arizona family will suffer from the horrific abuses in the current system. Such reform is overdue and new laws are the solution.”

HB2424 will become the national standard for probate reform. The current draft includes:

*Improving oversight of probate court system by establishing an advocacy panel appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President of the Senate.
*Allowing wards, or their families, to request a change of fiduciary annually.
*Protecting financial interests of persons in probate by “capping” certain fees while requiring the court to establish a fee schedule for others.
*Developing stronger fiduciary accountability by requiring a monthly accounting of expenditures.
*Ensuring the civil liberties and wishes of the ward are upheld and respected.
*Implementing stricter qualifications for probate judges.

Full Press Release and Source:

See Also:
Read HB2424

Laurie Roberts: Will the Legislature Ride to the Rescue of the People in Probate?

People often ask me what we can do about the mess that is probate court. How, they ask, might Marie Long have managed to hang on to some of her life savings instead of watching an estate worth $1.3 million plummet to zero in just four years?

What steps can people take to avoid falling victim to a system where fiduciaries and attorneys so often seem to wind up with a nice pile of cash, courtesy of the people they're supposed to be protecting?

Finally, I have an answer.

A bill was introduced in the Arizona House on Tuesday that would make it easier for vulnerable people or their representatives to have some say in who is handling their money and their care.

I know. It's radical stuff. Right now, the deck is stacked in favor of court-appointed fiduciaries and if you try to remove them, they use your money to fend you off.

House Bill 2424, sponsored by Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Carefree, won't be the only probate proposal before the Legislature this year. Sen. John Nelson, R-Glendale, also has one and others are in the works. Thus far, I'm skeptical about Nelson's proposal, which is taken from a draft report of the Supreme Court's probate review committee. It appears to actually strengthen the fiduciaries' hand, although Nelson says that's not his intent. I do appreciate his reasoning for wanting to fix what ails probate.

“There was probably some good intention in putting the system together but candidly, I think it's being abused,” Nelson told me. “I think people are finding ways of using clients' money for their own benefit. When somebody goes in with a million-and-a-half-dollar estate and comes out with nothing … something's wrong.”

Something is wrong and now the Legislature could ride to the rescue, led by a freshman lawmaker on his second stint at the state Capitol, having been forced out a few years ago for not following the state's Clean Elections law.

“I was concerned about articles I read in the paper, some of the abuses that you point out,” Smith said, in explaining why he introduced HB 2424. “In fact, I knew some of the people involved in one case.”

Smith was referring to Bill Lund, who became embroiled in a probate dispute involving the trusts of his children, the grandchildren of Walt Disney. Lund hired a former state legislator, Laura Knaperek, to lobby for the bill.

"We're just trying to put more accountaibility in the courts and give wards more rights," she said.

Full Article and Source:
Will the Legislature Ride to the Rescue of the People in Probate

Anna Nicole Smith Case Returns to Court

Even by the high-brow standards of the Supreme Court, Tuesday's case over the estate claimed by deceased Texas sex symbol Anna Nicole Smith delves so far into the depths of probate and bankruptcy law that even the most attuned legal minds will be challenged to fully understand all of the complexities now before the justices.

While the high court is known for issuing rulings on great constitutional issues, its routine business often ventures into the mundane interpretation of somewhat obscure laws passed by Congress. In this instance, it's a dispute over a provision in the 1984 Bankruptcy Act.

As any regular reader of supermarket checkout line magazines already knows, the case started with the 1995 death of tycoon J. Howard Marshall and the struggle between Smith, a strip club dancer whom the elderly Marshall married shortly before his death, and Marshall's son Pierce over claims to the hundreds of millions dollars left in the estate.

Over the years the case has worked its way through various federal bankruptcy courts and Texas probate proceedings and a much-publicized stop at the Supreme Court in 2006. Then, camera crews surrounded the court to get a look at Smith who died nine months after the justices ruled unanimously in her favor.

The 2006 ruling sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for further review.

Last year that court again ruled against Smith, known as Vickie Lynn Marshall in the legal records, and the executor of her estate, Howard K. Stern.

One of the many oddities of the case is that Pierce Marshall is also dead. So the dispute before the justices is between two estates fighting over J. Howard Marshall's will.

Full Article and Source:
Anna Nicole Smith Case Returns to Court Tuesday

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public Administrator /Public Guardian John S. Williams Overreached, Heirs of TapouT Co-Founders Say

Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. lived life in the fast lane until a late-night encounter with a drunken driver in a speeding Porsche sent his Ferrari into a Newport Beach light pole. The TapouT co-founder died in the driver's seat.

Lewis, a former San Bernardino sheriff's deputy, didn't leave a will, but he did leave behind two children – the only heirs to a multimillion-dollar estate that included the largest interest in mixed martial arts clothier TapouT, a stable of customized European sports cars and an assortment of luxury Swiss watches.

Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian John S. Williams moved quickly to take control of Lewis' fortune, which he initially valued at up to $15 million, arguing that he was better suited to handle the “large, complex estate” than Diane Larson, the mother of Lewis' children. Orange County Probate Court Judge Gerald G. Johnston agreed in May 2009, turning the estate over to Williams.

“The Public Administrator is forcing itself into this Estate where it is neither needed nor wanted,” Adam Streltzer, an attorney for Larson, complained in court filings.

Eleven months later, the 4th District Court of Appeal would agree, accusing Williams of overreaching his authority and chastising Johnston for abusing his discretion. The estate was eventually handed back to Larson.

By then, it was too late. The public administrator had already agreed to sell TapouT at a price other shareholders would later call “pennies on the dollar.” It sold Lewis' Bentley and Mercedes-Benz for $58,000 less than their appraised values, and paid $45,000 to Lewis' former business partners for funeral expenses they promised to provide for free, court records and interviews show.

County attorneys said they were not aware of the funeral offer.

Williams declined to comment for this article, but in a statement sent to The Orange County Register by his attorney, he insisted that “Ms. Larson had no legal priority to act as administrator because she does not personally inherit from the Estate. … Since Ms. Larson did not have legal priority, and there were Estate assets that needed to be properly handled, the Public Administrator was under a legal duty to seek appointment.”

In a quirk of Orange County government, Williams is elected public administrator and then appointed public guardian by the Board of Supervisors. Each year, the agency handles estates valued at more than $38 million.
Full Article and Source:
Public Administrator, Heirs of TapouT Co-Founder Say

See Also:
< a href="">Orange Co. CA Will Spend $45,000 to Review the Public Guardian

Letting Mom and Dad Live on Their Own Terms

Millions of us went home for the holidays. Well, not "home" exactly. In reality, millions of us left home, and went back for the holidays. Back to who we used to be, back to where we came from, and in some cases, back in time. Like salmon up the river, we inexplicably navigated back to the people of our birth. Our parents.

Have you ever made the trip thinking, what if this is the last time? Parents age, especially when we're not looking, and most especially when we live far away from them. Periodic visits sharpen our senses. All of a sudden, we may be witnessing our parents in steep decline, heading toward the exit ramp, and it raises all kinds of questions.

When will it be time for assisted living? Should Mom still be driving? Are they taking their pills? Is Dad's memory actually shot?

These realizations can be tough, especially if your parents have been role models of determination and resourcefulness. Dealing with normal age-related decline can cause dissention amongst siblings, too, because each has a different relationship with Mom and Dad.

Whose life is it anyway? We live our lives free to make our own mistakes, to put ourselves at risk and determine our own destinies. Why should this change just because we're old?

In our culture, roles often reverse: At some point adult children seem to think they need to parent their parents. This is fine if a parent asks for help, but often elderly parents are resentful because their middle-aged kids keep bossing them around. Their final years are full of conflict and humiliation because of well-meaning -- but strong-willed -- children, intent on removing the "risks" of living.

Full Article and Source:
Letting Mom and Dad Live on Their Own Terms

Disbarrment of PA Attorney

The state Supreme Court has followed suit with the Pennsylvania high court in disbarring a Pittsburgh attorney.

The Court on Jan. 13 ordered the annulment of Arthur Louis Bloom's license. The Court's action came in response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court first disbarring Bloom in 2009.

According to its Web site, the Pennsylvania high court's action stemmed from a Nov. 1, 2006, statement of charges its Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed against him for mishandling, and misappropriating money from the estate of Louise Lowe, who died on Jan. 12, 2001. In her will, Lowe, among other things, named Bloom as executor, bequeathed $1,000 to Mars Presbyterian Church and left all remaining personal and real property to Bloom and his daughter, Mara.

According its July 14, 2008, report, the Court's Disciplinary Board found Bloom between Feb. 6, 2001, and May 5, 2005, withdrew $151,412.06 from the estate for his personal use. This included a withdraw of $65,000 on June 25, 2003, and deposited into his wife's individual retirement account, and $17,598 between April 2001 and January 2002 to pay for Mara's various college expenses.

While he was executor, the Board found Bloom failed to pay any of the estate's inheritance taxes, and make disbursements to the other beneficiaries. This included the $1,000 to Mars Presbyterian Church.

Another stipulation in Lowe's will was that Mellon Bank was to be appointed guardian of the estate for any beneficiary who had not turned 28. At a date not specified, Mellon refused to accept the appointment, and Bloom not only failed to appoint a replacement guardian, but also made disbursements on Mara's behalf before her 28th birthday.

In its report, the Board noted Bloom reimbursed the estate the $17,598 he withdrew on Mara's behalf two weeks before the statement of charges was issued against him. All told, the Board found he misappropriated $63,500.33 from Lowe's estate.

The Board recommended Bloom be disbarred based on not only his "fundamentally dishonest act" in mishandling and misappropriating money from Lowe's estate, but also his prior disciplinary history. According the Board's report, Bloom was informally admonished in 2003 for two separate, unspecified matters, and suspended for three years in 1979 after pleading guilty to 114 counts of theft by deception after converting $50,000 in subrogation claims over a four-year period as an officer in an insurance company.

Full Article and Source:
Court Orders Disbarrment of Pennyslvania Attorney

Woman Jailed in Fleecing of Disabled Grandmother

A Carson City woman was jailed, accused of abusing control over her disabled grandmother and spending the woman's savings.

Leza L. Bulman, 37, a gas station employee, was booked into the Carson City Jail on suspicion of felony exploitation of an older person and felony embezzlement against a person over 60.

According to the arrest report, in 2008 Bulman was awarded guardianship of her grandmother Yvonne Crow, 84, described as having “cognitive impairments and ... unable to independently meet her current care needs.”

At that time, Crow had more than $300,000 in the bank, the report states.

When the nursing home where Crow was staying reported payments weren't being made on Crow's account, Aging Services became involved, and then investigators.

The investigation allegedly revealed Bulman was using her grandmother's money to pay rent, her sister's rent, phone and auto repair bills and was loaning out money.

According to the report, when the investigation was opened in May, Crow's account had a zero balance and Bulman was allegedly trying to sell her grandmother's property in Palm Springs, Calif.

Bulman denied taking the money, telling investigators her grandmother gave her permission.

Bail is set at $3,000.

Woman Jailed in Fleecing of Disabled Grandmother