Archive for the ‘improprieties’ Category

Police Investigate Probate Lawyer Over Disabled Man’s Missing Funds

August 28, 2013

Police are investigating a probate court-appointed lawyer who allegedly tried to cover up his improper handling of a disabled man’s finances by filing false accounting statements — as the man’s assets dwindled by tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

The Newington Police Department’s investigation of Michael Schless, a retired Newington attorney now living in Florida, began after the Aug. 4 publication of a Government Watch column about Schless’s longtime role as probate conservator for John Fritz, 64, of Wethersfield, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

Fritz once had assets worth more than $100,000, but now his money market and stock accounts have shrunk to about $20,000 — even though his family says they should have remained stable because his living expenses are covered by Social Security payments and part-time employment.

Newington Probate Judge Robert A. Randich also wrote in a ruling last spring that Schless attempted to “hide his transgressions by filing knowingly false accountings.”

Despite that ruling, however, Randich had declined to exercise his option to request a criminal probe, and Fritz’s family had been unable to persuade law enforcement authorities to investigate.
That soon changed.

Days after the column appeared, a Newington police detective was assigned to the case. A member of state’s attorney’s office in New Britain “took notice of [the] newspaper column … and independently requested that the matter be investigated,” according to an Aug. 8 letter to a state prosecutor from David A. Ruth of Bolton, a lawyer representing Fritz’s family.

A state prosecutor independently confirmed Ruth’s assertion that the police investigation is underway.

Full Article and Source:
Police Investigate Probate Lawyer Over Disabled Man’s Missing Funds

See Also:
Deceit, Improprieties By Probate ‘Conservator’ Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds

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Police Investigate Probate Lawyer Over Disabled Man’s Missing Funds

August 26, 2013


Police are investigating a probate court-appointed lawyer who allegedly tried to cover up his improper handling of a disabled man’s finances by filing false accounting statements — as the man’s assets dwindled by tens of thousands of dollars over the years.

The Newington Police Department’s investigation of Michael Schless, a retired Newington attorney now living in Florida, began after the Aug. 4 publication of a Government Watch column about Schless’s longtime role as probate conservator for John Fritz, 64, of Wethersfield, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

Fritz once had assets worth more than $100,000, but now his money market and stock accounts have shrunk to about $20,000 — even though his family says they should have remained stable because his living expenses are covered by Social Security payments and part-time employment.

Newington Probate Judge Robert A. Randich also wrote in a ruling last spring that Schless attempted to “hide his transgressions by filing knowingly false accountings.”

Despite that ruling, however, Randich had declined to exercise his option to request a criminal probe, and Fritz’s family had been unable to persuade law enforcement authorities to investigate.

That soon changed.

Days after the column appeared, a Newington police detective was assigned to the case. A member of state’s attorney’s office in New Britain “took notice of [the] newspaper column … and independently requested that the matter be investigated,” according to an Aug. 8 letter to a state prosecutor from David A. Ruth of Bolton, a lawyer representing Fritz’s family.

A state prosecutor independently confirmed Ruth’s assertion that the police investigation is underway.

Full Article and Source:
Police Investigate Probate Lawyer Over Disabled Man’s Missing Funds

See Also:
Deceit, Improprieties By Probate ‘Conservator’ Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds

Deceit, Improprieties By Probate ‘Conservator’ Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds

August 5, 2013

A Wethersfield man suffering from cerebral palsy entrusted his affairs to a probate court-appointed lawyer, whose job as “conservator” was to protect his interests and assets. But those assets dwindled by tens of thousands of dollars amid improprieties by the lawyer, who tried to “hide his transgressions by filing knowingly false accountings,” a probate judge said in a recent ruling.

John Fritz, 64, of Wethersfield, hasn’t been able to get his money back. And his family so far has been unable to get law enforcement officials to investigate.

Meanwhile, Michael Schless, the longtime conservator — who was replaced last December in that role by Fritz’s half-brother — has retired as a lawyer and moved to Florida. He said in a brief interview last week that he’d done nothing wrong. “I deny stealing any money,” he said.

What happened to Fritz is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen when a judge of the Connecticut Probate Court appoints a conservator to manage the affairs — and protect the assets of — someone incapable of doing it himself.

Fritz, who was born with cerebral palsy, asked Connecticut Probate Court 25 years ago to appoint a conservator to manage his finances including an inheritance from his recently deceased mother that ultimately put his assets at more than $100,000.

In voluntary conservatorships like Fritz’s, a person who feels he needs such help can ask the probate court to give a “conservator” the power to handle his affairs by managing his finances, paying his bills and making various other arrangements.

Now his money market and stock accounts have shrunk to about $20,000, even though his family says they should have remained stable because his living annual living expenses are balanced out by Social Security payments and income from his limited part-time employment.

The sad story is told in public documents on file at Newington Probate Court.

When Fritz asked the probate court for a conservator, it appointed Schless, an attorney in Newington. The arrangement continued over the decades as Fritz has lived in a Wethersfield Housing Authority apartment building for the disabled and elderly.

Schless, as conservator, submitted annual financial accounting statements to the probate court in Newington.

Schless retired as a lawyer in recent years and moved to Boynton Beach, Florida. But he kept his role as Fritz’s conservator (you don’t have to be a lawyer to be someone’s conservator). Then, last year, Fritz’s half-brother and sister-in-law, James and Sharon Imbert of Newington, were shocked to see how little money was left in his accounts.

They particularly did not like the fact that Schless’s financial accounting statements showed net annual losses from Fritz’s stock and money-market accounts — of $9,333 for 2010, $12,752 for 2011, and $6,181. The Imberts obtained statements from the financial institutions and found that there actually had been a net gain of $1,451 in 2010, a loss of only $456 in 2011, and a gain of $254 for 2012.

They found other problems — including thousands of dollars in payments out of Fritz’s account for expenses that were not his. Examples, they said, were $1,074 to American Express, $39 to XM Satellite Radio, and $4.35 to the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Florida.

In cases like this, the probate court approves financial accountings in three-year batches after a hearing. After Schless submitted his reports for 2010, 2011, and 2012, Imbert challenged the accountings and sought the return of $58,147 to the state of his living half-brother.

Full Article and Source:
Deceit, Improprieties By Probate ‘Conservator’ Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds