Archive for the ‘Trust Fund’ Category

The Ruling That Could Change Everything for Disabled People With Million-Dollar Trusts

July 17, 2013

When  Judge Kristen Booth Glen walked into her Manhattan Surrogate’s courtroom one day in 2007, she had no idea she was about to challenge the nation’s top banks on behalf of tens of thousands of disabled people.

Before her stood lawyer Harvey J. Platt,  who was petitioning to become the legal guardian of  Mark Christopher Holman,  a severely autistic teen who lived in an institution upstate.

Holman had been left an orphan nearly three years earlier after the eccentric millionaire who adopted him passed away. According to doctors, he had the communication skills of a toddler, unable to bathe, dress, or eat by himself.

But before Judge Glen would grant this seemingly perfunctory petition, she had a few questions for Platt.

“How often have you visited Mark Holman?” she asked the lawyer.

“Since his mother died, I have not visited him,” said Platt.

“And when you say you haven’t visited him since then, how often had you visited him prior to that?”

“I haven’t seen him since he was eight or nine,” responded the lawyer. “His mother used to bring him to our office with his brother, just to show him my face and so forth and so on, so I haven’t seen him probably since 1995 or 1996.”

It was around that time that Platt helped Mark’s mother, Marie Holman, draft her will and create trusts for him and his older brother. A decade later, when she was dying, Platt promised Marie he’d apply to become Mark’s guardian.

“And have you visited the institution which he currently resides in?” Glen asked.

“No, I intend to, but I have not as yet,” Platt said, sounding weary. “I don’t think even a visit has much significance anyway. He’s totally nonverbal—he’s never spoken a word. He’s potentially aggressive.”

This didn’t sit well with Judge Glen. When it came to signing away the rights of disabled people to guardians, she was perhaps the most cautious judge in New York. But what came next would floor her.

Platt informed her that Mark’s trust had reached nearly $3 million. But while his trustees—Platt and JP Morgan Chase—had collected thousands of dollars in commissions, they hadn’t spent a penny on Mark. Medicaid covered his basic care at the institution upstate, but neither the lawyer nor the bank had considered how his mammoth trust might further aid his quality of life.

“Whether there is a cure for his autism or not, the question is: Are there things that could make his life more pleasurable or fulfilling?” Glen asked. “If somebody took him out to the movies once a week, or somebody took him out to lunch, or what he really likes to do is watch football—I don’t know. There’s always something that could make people happier, and I don’t think you could know that without really visiting him and knowing what’s going on.”

As she spoke, Glen could not have predicted that the case would become a five-year obsession for her. Or that she was about to disrupt a lucrative trade in which some trustees sponge commissions off wealthy disabled people—while doing little to enhance their care.

“They’re lazy pieces of shit,” says Glen. “It’s a business. They collect their commissions, and they think their only responsibility is to invest the money and keep the money safe with no regard for the beneficiary.”

Full Article and Source:
The Ruling That Could Change Everything for Disabled People With Million-Dollar Trusts

See Also:
The Fleecing of Medicaid and the American Taxpayer

Family: Lawyer Stole Money Left by Dying Father for Kids

June 12, 2013

Derek Tate had expected money from a $500,000 life insurance policy would help with things like college and weddings for his children after he died of cancer in 2007.

Instead, much of the money was drained by a Macomb County attorney from the trust fund set up to financially help Tate’s sons, authorities said.

Buschmohle, 40, was charged in February, accused of writing checks to himself over a four-year period from the trust fund. The boys’ mother complained to the Attorney Grievance Commission, which contacted Warren police, after Buschmohle failed to return her calls as the boys reached the fund distribution age of 19, authorities have said.

Stephen Tate said he believes the money went to Buschmohle’s family and friends.

Buschmohle was expected to plead no contest [5/29/13] to embezzlement of $100,000 or more, a 20-year felony, in Macomb County Circuit Court, but the plea did not go off.

Assistant Prosecutor Sian Hengeveld said there was some misunderstanding with the terms and conditions of the sentence the judge was going to give. She said the sentencing agreement was for one year in the county jail and $315,000 in restitution, with 10% due at or before sentencing.

She said the prosecution and defense agreed on the $315,000 figure but there was a separate agreement between the judge and the defense on the jail time. Hengeveld said the Prosecutor’s Office is not offering anything, including a plea offer, and “we are not in agreement with the sentence.”

Buschmohle was disbarred effective May 22 and ordered to pay more than $462,000 in restitution, according to a notice Friday of disbarment and restitution posted on the state Attorney Discipline Board’s website. He had a notice of reprimand and restitution from the board in 2009.

The notices did not detail specifics of the complaints.

Full Article and Source:
Family:  Lawyer Stole Money Left by Dying Father for Kids

Gina Rinehart, World’s Richest Woman, Awaits Decision In Court Battle With Her Kids Over Money

September 16, 2012

Lawyers for Asia’s richest woman and three of her children held preliminary arguments on Wednesday over who should control a $4 billion trust, a bitter family feud that has captivated Australia.

Justice Paul Brereton of the New South Wales Supreme Court reserved a decision on whether the case against mining magnate Gina Rinehart should be thrown out of court or argued fully. A decision is not expected for some days.

At stake is Rinehart’s position as the sole trustee of the trust that holds a near-one-quarter share in Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd, one of the world’s largest privately-owned mining companies.

Lawyers for Rinehart and her daughter Ginia Rinehart, the only child to side with her mother in the feud, sought to have the suit brought by the three elder children to remove their mother as a trustee thrown out of court.

Hancock Prospecting is developing what would be Australia’s fourth-largest iron ore mine and generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in royalties from tenements secured by Gina Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, a legendary figure in Australian mining history.

Full Article and Source:
Gina Rinehart, World’s Richest Woman, Awaits Decision In Court Battle With Her Kids Over Money

Former Lawyer Accused of Stealing From Clients, Including Murdered Children’s Fund

April 7, 2012

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a former Independence attorney for allegedly stealing nearly $650,000 from three clients, including a memorial fund set up in 2007 for two murdered children.

The Porter children were killed by their father in 2004 in a case that captured national attention.

Harley Kent Desselle, 61, of Raytown, was charged in the six-count indictment with wire fraud, bank fraud, bankruptcy fraud and making a false oath in a bankruptcy case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City announced.

Full Article and Source:
Former Independence Lawyer Accused of Stealing From Clients, Including Murdered Children’s Fund

Wells Fargo Bank Sued Over Trusts

April 3, 2012

Barbara Burton Morriss is suing Wells Fargo Bank over the handling of two family trusts that suffered millions of dollars in losses.

Barbara Burton Morriss is the mother of B. Douglas Morriss, the financier and former CEO of the Acartha Group in Clayton. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused B. Douglas Morriss of defrauding investors in civil charges lodged in January. The SEC alleged B. Douglas Morriss improperly transferred funds from the Acartha Group private equity management company and other investment funds into the Morriss Trust for personal use.

In the lawsuit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court on March 19, Barbara Burton Morriss of St. Louis County alleges Wells Fargo Bank breached its fiduciary duty by failing to fully disclose financial transactions in the Burton Trust, which had $14 million in assets at one time, and in the Morriss Trust, which $32 million.

Both trusts have suffered a complete loss of value, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also alleges funds in both trusts were wrongfully pledged as collateral in risky business ventures. Barbara Burton Morriss was a beneficiary and co-trustee on both of the trusts with her son.

Full Article and Source:
Wells Fargo Bank Sued Over Trusts

Lawyer/Accountant Charges With Stealing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars From Guardianship and Family Trust Account

January 21, 2012

An Indianapolis attorney and accountant faces charges stemming from allegations she stole hundreds of thousand dollars from two accounts she managed.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office says Stacy H. Sheedy faces three counts of theft and one count of forgery after investigators discovered $596,000 in withdrawals and unaccounted money missing from a guardianship account and a family trust account.

According to court documents, money turned up missing from a guardianship account that supported an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. In that case, investigators say they found several unauthorized transfers and withdrawals, including checks Sheedy allegedly wrote to herself.

Investigators say money started disappearing from that account two months after Sheedy took control.

“Stacy Sheedy failed not just her profession, she also failed the people for whom she had a fiduciary and ethical obligation to protect,” said Prosecutor Terry Curry. “This type of theft is unconscionable, and we simply will not tolerate it. We look forward to vigorously prosecuting this case to its conclusion.”

During the course of their investigation, they began looking into Sheedy’s work with a family trust account. According to the prosecutor’s office, the family trust was valued at $501,000 when she became a trustee. Now the same trust is valued at $168.

Full Article and Source:
Doc: Accountant Stole Thousands from Widow, Family Trust

Millionaire’s Children Battle for Estate, Vs. Ex-Neighbor, Lawyer

December 18, 2011

A successful multimillionaire in life, Frank Blumeyer of Naples knew where every penny of his fortune would go after his death.

He set up partnerships and trusts, using profits from his 30 years as an insurance company owner and his later business, Storage Inns of America, to provide for nine children, 22 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Now, nearly a year after the 92-year-old patriarch was buried, his children are battling his former neighbors over his estate in courtrooms from Collier County to St. Louis.

The tangled web of litigation and love is like a made-for-TV movie.

There’s a suspended lawyer who has been in trouble with courts and state bar associations; a now-defunct escort service the lawyer operated with his current wife before his prior wife died of cancer; naked photos of his current wife found on Blumeyer’s computer; and allegations of elder financial fraud.

Eight of Blumeyer’s children allege his former Gordon Drive neighbors — suspended Naples attorney Allen Brufsky, 72, and his wife — used their father as a bank, siphoning more than a million dollars, while turning him against them.

In complaints to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), Collier Circuit Court and The Florida Bar, they allege the Brufskys seduced their father, allowing him to take naked photos of Marcia Brufsky, 64, and have an affair so they could use his money. Emails show Brufsky even offered to sell his wife for $675,000.

Full Article and Source:
Love and War in Port Royal: Millionaire’s Children Battle for Estate vs. Ex-neighbor, Lawyer

Ohio Attorney Loses W Va. License

December 15, 2011

As he did in his home state a year ago, an Ohio attorney has lost his license to practice law in West Virginia.

The state Supreme Court on Nov. 22 annulled the license of James R. Henry. The Court’s action mirrored that of Ohio’s High Court when it ordered Henry’s permanent disbarment last December after an investigation found he mishandled the cases of eight former clients during a three-year period.

Records show in disbarring Henry, the Ohio Court said his failure to perform work on client’s cases after he was paid a retainer was “tantamount to theft of the fee from the client.”

‘A pattern of neglect’
According to the Ohio Court’s Dec. 22 order, Henry, a sole practitioner in Gallipolis, was charged with 25 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by its Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. Though not specifically indentified, the order says Henry, among other things:

* Informed a father from Indianapolis in May 2008 four days too early about a hearing in Gallia Court of Common Pleas’ Juvenile Division on his petition for sole residential parent and guardian of his son. The father had to later file a pro se motion for immediate or emergency change of custody when Henry missed the deadline to file a motion for a final hearing or agreed order.

* Failed to keep a man updated on the status of a potential lawsuit against his former employer. The man paid Henry a retainer of $2,500 in February 2007, and did not hear from him after September 2009 due to Henry’s phone getting disconnected.

* Failed to return over $1,500 to a couple in July 2009 after they sent him certified letters saying they no longer wanted him to complete a trust for them. The letters were sent after repeated calls made to his office informed them his voice mailbox was full.

* Closed his office without giving a woman notice he failed to complete the estate settlement for her late husband’s estate after paying him $500. Between the time she retained him in April 2009, and he closed his office that December, the woman made repeated calls to his office only to have them go unanswered or him tell her he’d be completing the work soon.

Full Article and Source:
Ohio Atty Loses WVa License

FL: Ex-Lawyer Gets 2 Years Prison for Elder Fraud

December 13, 2011

A disbarred Kissimmee lawyer was sentenced Friday to two years in prison for bilking elderly people out of their life savings.

Linda Vasquez, formerly known as Linda Littlefield, pleaded no contest in May to engaging in a scheme to defraud of $20,000 or more. The state dropped 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal-identification information.

Vasquez, 40, also was ordered to pay some restitution, although the amount was not available.

Vasquez’s ex-husband, Ross Littlefield, 47, pleaded no contest in November to one count of fraudulent use of a credit card. The state dropped 10 other fraud charges and one count of scheme to defraud. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Several lawsuits are pending against the former couple, a pooled trust they controlled, foundations that administered the trust and Medicaid Benefits Experts, a company Littlefield established last year in Tampa after her arrest.

An attorney for some of the plaintiffs said hundreds of thousands of trust money has vanished.

Ex-Lawyer Gets 2 Years Prison for Elder Fraud

See Also:
Elderly Couple Faces Nightmares

NASGA Member Seeks Lawyer to Sue Over Her Trust Fund

October 18, 2011

Nineteen months after a judge ruled that Michelle Cohen should be allowed to handle her own affairs, the mentally ill woman is living out of her van. She is still searching for an attorney willing to help her sue the banks that handled her trust fund, once worth half a million dollars.

She’s spent years trying to get lawyers to listen and to help her. When she had money, a few signed on to represent her in her attempts to get her trust money released and to help her fight against efforts to place her under state guardianship.

But now she’s destitute. She spends hours each week calling lawyer offices, hoping to find someone to represent her against the banks that oversaw the trust fund left to her by her grandmother.

“I’ve probably made thousands of calls,” Cohen, 42, said. “And I’ll make as many as it takes until I find someone to help me. I think it’s despicable about what they’ve done to me. They’ve run me into poverty.”

Cohen once had a good deal of money. Her paternal grandmother left her the Henrietta Neufeld Cohen Trust, which at one point was worth about $500,000. The trust was first managed by Wachovia, which was purchased in late 2008 by Wells Fargo . In January 2009, the Flower Mound branch of American National Bank took over managing the account, which had about $135,000 left at that point.

Cohen had difficult relationships with the trust managers at the banks. She believed that the money belonged to her and that she should be allowed to control the account. She bought a van, a home in Wisconsin and a motorcycle for a friend. She purchased DVDs and spent freely on extended-stay hotels and restaurant meals. She spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to try to break the trust.

She owed $100,000 and had about $50,000 left when American National Bank filed for a limited permanent guardianship of her and the estate in June 2009.

“Nothing good will happen if I have a guardian,” she said. “I’ll probably wind up in a group home. I have a lot to fear about that.”

Under guardianship, a state judge would appoint someone to make decisions regarding the person’s property, medical care, living arrangements and potentially all personal and financial decisions.

Denton County Probate Judge Don Windle dismissed the case in January 2010, saying there was little point in ordering restrictions when there was little money left to restrict. He said he would leave it to Cohen to pursue attorneys to investigate whether any of the prior trustees breached their fiduciary duty during their oversight of the trust.

The remaining money in the trust fund was drained by attorney fees because lawyers on both sides of the case were legally able to bill the trust fund.

“They spent everything I had in trying to get me found incompetent,” Cohen said.

Full Article and Source:
Mentally Ill Woman Seeks Lawyer to Sue Banks Over Her Trust Fund

Note: Michelle Cohen is a member of NASGA.