A $22 million civil RICO case from Cleveland, Ohio has survived another procedural hurdle and appears headed to trial in Cuyahoga county court.
RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization. It was
passed by congress and signed into law by President Nixon 50 years ago,
in 1970. Originally designed to combat organized crime, the laws’
application has expanded to include any group profiting from an illegal
A guardianship is a legal tool used by state courts to protect the
health and assets of an incapacitated person. In the Ohio case, the wife
of Dr. Saghafi was placed in a guardianship because she was suffering
from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The defendants include a group of eight attorneys from the Cleveland
area: Zachary Simonoff, Stephen Wolf, Joyce E. Barrett, James Reddy,
Lisa Hahn, Neil Spike, Rachelle Kuzwick Zidar and Eric Zagrans. Also
named is Dr. Saghafi’s estranged daughter Jaleh Prescutto; Jaleh’s
husband Phillip Prescutto, Jr., a local contractor named Christopher
Francis and Stephen Sartchev who is a Certified Public Accountant.
ATTORNEYS TARGETED ASSETS OF DEMENTIA PATIENT
The 54-page suit claims that the attorneys and the other defendants
defrauded the court into ordering an illegal guardianship. Then, using
the guardianship that was intended to protect Mrs. Saghafi, the
defendants instead turned it into an enterprise that they used to enrich
The suit asks for $22 million in damages which makes the case one of
largest probate and estate-fraud cases in recent U.S. history.
OTHER SIMILAR CASES
While the Saghafi case is unusual in Ohio, there have been similar estate fraud cases in other states.
The Ohio case has parallels to a guardianship case based in Florida’s
probate courts. In 2017 Julian Bivins won a $16.7 million award in
Florida federal court against five Florida attorneys who targeted the
assets of his father, Oliver Bivins a Texas resident, while Oliver was
held in a guardianship.
Writing for the Palm Beach Post, John Pacenti explained: “The younger
Bivins said he felt his father was “held captive” in South Florida by
the guardianship so the attorneys could liquidate real estate assets —
including a New York City Upper East Side mansion — and charge more
The jury found that Florida attorneys Brian M. O’Connell and Ashley
N. Crispin of the Ciklin, Lubitz & O’Connell firm not only breached
their fiduciary duty but committed professional negligence.
See Pacenti’s full story here: http://www.stopprobatefraud.com/blog/2017/09/19/feds-nail-probate-firm-for-16-million/
In an even bigger, but slightly different case, a Texas jury delivered a $4 billion dollar punitive damage award against JPMorgan Chase for fraud in the estate of Max Hopper.
Hopper had about $19 million in assets in his estate, but had died
without a will. JPMorgan Chase was hired by the heirs to administrate
Hopper’s probate. They were responsible for collecting assets, paying
debts and other legal and accounting tasks that are common in the
accounting of an estate.
But after months of chaos, Hopper’s widow Jo and his two children
(from a previous marriage) sued JPMorgan Chase for breach of fiduciary
duty, breach of contract and fraud. They claimed that the lawyers and
accountants who were in charge of the probate had not only failed in
their core tasks, but had created strife and problems rather than
The month-long trial in Dallas ended in September, 2017 when a jury
found that JPMorgan Chase had committed fraud and breached its fiduciary
duty to the heirs. In addition to the $4 billion in punitive damages,
the jury awarded nearly $10 million dollars in actual damages and
attorney fees to the Hopper family.
For more details on this story, follow this link: http://www.stopprobatefraud.com/blog/2017/12/08/jp-morgan-guilty-of-fraud/
FRAUD: THE HEARTBEAT OF A RACKET
Fraud is an illegal activity often described as “stealing with a
smile.” The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) broadly
refers to fraud as gain or profit from deceit. Based in Austin Texas,
the ACFE has 80,000 members around the world and three chapters in Ohio:
Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
One example of fraud is seen when investigative reporters catch
mechanics doing unneeded repairs. Another common fraud is found in
stories about health care workers who perform tests and procedures that
are not needed or wanted by a patient.
In the Saghafi case, the RICO complaint details how a guardianship
that was intended to serve and protect an 80 year old woman was turned
into a business enterprise that illegally drained the family’s assets
under the guise of “elder care.”
The case is set for an August, 2020 trial in the court of Cuyahoga county judge Sherrie Miday.
Full Article & Source:
OHIO LAWYERS ACCUSED IN GUARDIANSHIP RACKET
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