Archive for the ‘Trust’ 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

Florida Bar Suspects Lawyer in $3M Firm Theft

April 18, 2013

The Florida Bar is seeking emergency suspension of the law license of a South Florida attorney suspected of stealing more than $3 million from his firm’s accounts.

Bar officials asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to suspend the license of Timothy McCabe of Boca Raton. Court documents show that McCabe allegedly took the money from his firm’s trust accounts where clients’ funds are deposited.

The documents include emails McCabe sent to his partner saying that he had committed unspecified wrongdoing and was trying to set it right. His wife told investigators she hadn’t seen McCabe since April 2 and that he has not answered his cell phone. An email to her that same day said he had made bad business decisions.

A missing persons report was filed with police.

Bar:  Fla. Lawyer Suspected in $3M+ Firm Theft

Sick Old Man Says He Was Conned for $1M, Wife Threatened

April 6, 2013

With help from an attorney, a health-care adviser conned a dying man out of $1 million and threatened to have his wife committed to a mental institution when she tried to recover the money, the couple claims in court.

 Jerry and Frances Berkowitz sued Princella Lewis, her company Prestigious Lifecare for Seniors fka PL Firm, and attorney Glenn Ricardo Miller, in Palm Beach County Court.

Jerry Berkowitz was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized in June 2012.

After leaving the hospital, Berkowitz was sent to a nursing home in Boynton Beach, according to the complaint.

Berkowitz claims that shortly after his transfer he was referred to PL Firm, a Fort Lauderdale-based senior healthcare consulting company, for a consultation about eligibility for Medicaid benefits.

The Berkowitzes claim that Princella Lewis agreed to provide them financial advice, and retained Miller, a North Miami Beach attorney, to prepare documents for them to sign.

After the Berkowitzes signed the documents, PL Firm persuaded Frances to give it a $55,000 cashier’s check to establish a trust, and to move all the couple’s money to a single bank account, according to the complaint.

“In addition to obtaining the $55,000 in Chase funds and making that amount payable to PL Firm, Mrs. Berkowitz was driven from bank to bank and directed by PL Firm to obtain cashier’s checks from her various different banks and to deposit all of the funds in one single bank account that Mrs. Berkowitz held at (nonparty) SunTrust Bank (‘SunTrust’),” the complaint states.”

It continues: “In total, Mrs. Berkowitz, under the close control and scrutiny of PL Firm, was directed to gather well over $1 million of funds belonging to her and/or her husband and, as a first step, consolidate this money in an account at SunTrust.”

“On information and belief, defendants have abused and misused their positions of trust and influence over plaintiffs, taking advantage of Mr. Berkowitz’s frail condition as he lingers in a nursing facility dying of cancer and taking advantage of Mrs. Berkowitz who is in the process of losing her husband,” the complaint states.

“On information and belief, defendants have wrongfully and illegally threatened plaintiffs with having Mrs. Berkowitz committed to a mental facility if Mrs. Berkowitz does not relent in her request to have her assets returned to her, including the over $1 million wrongfully obtained from plaintiffs by defendants.”

The couple wants the money returned and copies of the documents, and treble damages for civil theft, civil conspiracy, conversion, unfair trade, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and unjust enrichment.

Lewis and PL Firm then had Mrs. Berkowitz transfer more than $1 million to a trust it controlled, and refused to give the couple any copies of the documents they had signed, or an accounting, the Berkowitzes say in the complaint.

Full Article and Source:
Sick Old Man Says He Was Conned for $1M

Lawless America: Marty Prehn

February 8, 2013

Source: Lawless America: Marty Prehn

Source: The Prehn Family

Fmr. Pinole Police Commander Arrested for Financial Elder Abuse

December 2, 2012

A former police commander is in county jail in Oakland. The one-time Pinole cop is accused of the financial abuse of an 82-year-old woman.

Pleasanton police arrested Matthew Messier after a four month investigation. They discovered Messier and his wife took control of the 82-year-old’s home, bank account, cars and safety deposit box — assets amounting to about $750,000.

Matthew Messier, 36, was a commander with the Pinole Police Department when investigators say he used his position of authority to convince the Pleasanton woman to sign over all her assets.

“Property and other assets probably range is estimated about $750,000,” Pleasanton Police Sgt. Kurt Schlehuber said.

Schlehuber was one of the investigators in the case that began in July when a social worker with the county’s adult protective services noticed some problems with the woman’s assets. Schlehuber says Messier’s wife, 30-year-old Elizabeth Regalado, was also involved.

“They gained the trust of the victim including an actual trust of the victim’s estate where they were named as trustees,” Schlehuber said.

The Alameda County districts attorney’s complaint lists 14 counts of financial elder abuse that range from grand theft to practicing law without a license. Regalado is being charged with conspiracy.

Fmr. Pinole Police Commander Arrested for Financial Elder Abuse

Woman’s Competency Debated in Estate Battle Involving City Detective

December 1, 2012

Attorneys embroiled in claim that a Portsmouth police detective is exploiting an allegedly incompetent elderly woman in order to inherit her significant estate faced off Thursday in Superior Court.

Squaring off in Rockingham Superior Court before Judge Peter Hurd were Portsmouth attorney James Ritzo and Hampton attorney Gary Holmes. Both lawyers met in Probate Court, where each argued their side of the accusations involving the local woman and her relationship to local detective Aaron Goodwin. The woman, who will be 94 in December and whose competency is being disputed, has an estate that includes an $805,000 waterfront home, according to Portsmouth assessing records.
Goodwin, who denies any wrongdoing, is named as a beneficiary of her new trust, which was filed in June with the county probate court.
During the roughly 40-minute proceedings, Ritzo argued Goodwin provided companionship to the elderly woman so he’d “inherit the entire estate.”
Ritzo told the court the woman was his client the past 25 years and during the last 10 years has suffered “increasingly” from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and failing eyesight. He told the court he drafted several wills for the woman, most recently in 2009, and that they remained fairly consistent over the years.
That changed, according to Ritzo, shortly after Goodwin met the woman in November 2010, when she called police about a prowler. “She called me up two weeks after that and said ‘I want to change my will because I’m in love with Mr. Goodwin and I want to leave my entire estate to him,'” Ritzo said.

Full Article and Source:
Woman’s Competency Debated in Estate Battle Involving City Detective


Sacramento Judge Gerrit Wood Condoned Trust Misconduct Says Decendent’s Daughter

November 15, 2012

Jamie Lamborn, whose victimized elderly father set up a living trust to distribute assets after his and his wife’s deaths, has authorized Elder Abuse to publish in its victim stories section a scathing letter that Ms. Lamborn wrote to Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gerrit W. Wood.

In her February 9, 2011 letter, Ms. Lamborn told Judge Wood, who was handling the trust administration case in the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse in Sacramento, California, that he had exhibited blatant bias against her and toward an unethical and inept professional fiduciary acting as trustee of the living trust. Ms. Lamborn, who lives in the Sacramento area, said to Judge Wood that he had essentially condoned abusive and corrupt practices by the professional fiduciary and an unethical, less-than-honest attorney associated with the fiduciary. Ms. Lamborn also said that Judge Wood had failed to make fair rulings according to the wishes of the creators of the living trust.

“I have pointed out the numerous unethical and inexcusable acts committed by Carolyn Young as trustee, with attached supporting documentation, in my past filings,” Ms. Lamborn wrote Judge Wood. “You have allowed and ordered Young to stay in place,” she continued, “ignoring the facts I presented and the wishes of the creators of this trust, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Johnson.”

Full Article and Source:
Sacramento Judge Gerrit Wood Condoned Trust Misconduct Says Decendent’s Daughter
See Also:
TX Judge William Adams Under Investigation

Georga Paralegal Admits Stealing Almost $300K

November 15, 2012

An Elberta woman today admitted to stealing almost $300,000 from a Foley lawyer for whom she worked and then forging his signature on letters to her creditors.

Katrina Duke Williamson pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory-minimum prison term of two years in addition to her punishment on the bank fraud charge, which the U.S. Probation Office estimates would be at least three years and five months.

Court records describe a systematic scheme to embezzle money both from Stephen Middleton’s law firm and from trust accounts held on behalf of his clients from February 2008 until June of last year.

Assistant Federal Defender Latisha Colvin said her client was a paralegal with bookkeeping responsibilities. She said she did not want to comment until the defendant’s sentencing hearing in May.

Full Article and Source:
Paralegal Admids Stealing Almost $300,000 From Foley Lawyer, Forging His Signature

FL Appeal: Trust Agreements Entered Into by Wards

November 12, 2012

In the recent decision of Jasser v. Saadeh, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal determined that a ward, with an emergency temporary guardian who has been granted all of the ward’s legal rights, lacks legal capacity to enter into trust agreements. Any trust agreement entered into by the ward is void ab initio.

Guardianship proceedings were initiated against Karim Saadeh, and the Florida probate and guardianship court appointed an emergency temporary guardian (ETG). In appointing an emergency temporary guardian for Saadeh, the trial court removed all of Saadeh’s rights, except his right to vote. The order appointing the emergency temporary guardian delegated to the emergency temporary guardian the power to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of Saadeh with the exception of Saadeh’s right to vote.

During the time of Saadeh’s emergency temporary guardianship, Saadeh’s emergency temporary guardian (ETG) directed Saadeh to sign a trust agreement. After Saadeh’s execution of the trust, an examining committee was appointed to determine Saadeh’s incapacity. In all other respects, the temporary guardianship continued, and Saadeh did not regain any of his rights. Upon the reports of the examining committee, which unanimously determined that Saadeh was competent, the Florida court dismissed the petition for guardianship.

Saadeh filed a petition to revoke the trust that Saadeh had signed under the direction of Saadeh’s emergency temporary guardian. The trial court found that when it appointed the emergency temporary guardian and granted her all of the ward’s legal rights, it thereby removed them from the ward. Thus, Saadeh had no legal capacity to enter into the trust agreements. Therefore, the trust agreement was void ab initio. Thus, even though Saadeh was ultimately determined competent, because Saadeh had signed the trust during the time period when his power to exercise his legal rights had been delegated to the emergency temporary guardian (ETG), Saadeh had no legal right to sign the trust.

The Florida court reasoned: “[A]t the time of the execution of the trust, the right to contract had been removed from Saadeh…Thus, because Saadeh had no legal right to execute the trust, the trust was invalid and void.” Even though Saadeh had actual capacity to execute the trust, Saadeh had no legal capacity.

Emergency Temporary Guardianship (ETG)

Probate Judge Rules Land Trusts Valid; Heirs to Appeal

July 28, 2010

New Britain Probate Judge Walter Clebowicz ruled that two trusts that gave a dead woman’s land to three local churches can’t be changed or revoked.

The 80 acre-parcel is valued at $2 million and is needed for plans to build a $118 million sports arena in the town’s northeast corner.

Clebowicz had been asked to rule on the establishment of the trusts by Smoron’s heirs who claim they were not notified of a May 12, 2009 hearing.

Then conservator John T. Nugent applied to Southington Probate Court Judge Bryan Meccariello for permission to create and fund the trusts and received it at the May hearing.

Meccariello has since said he approved the creation of the trusts but did not authorize their funding. He also said he erred by not notifying the potential heirs of the hearing and recused himself from the case in February 2010.

The Council on Probate Judicial Conduct has determined there is probable cause of judicial misconduct by Meccariello. A public hearing is set for September.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Judge Rules Land Trust Valid; Heirs’ Attorneys to Appeal

See Also:
Judicial Council Finds Probable Cause Against Probate Judge