October 16, 2009
Special to the San Bernardino County Sentinel
by Janet Phelan
As the October 20th date of her licensing hearings looms, new allegations have surfaced concerningby conservator/fiduciary Melodie Scott.
Scott is president of C.A.R.E., Inc, a Redlands firm offering conservatorships, trusteeships and other services for the elderly. She was denied her professional license in August of 2008, when the newly created Professional Fiduciary Bureau began reviewing requests for licenses. The Professional Fiduciary Bureau was created by an act of the California Legislature in 2006, following a maelstrom of protest generated by a series in the Los Angeles Times, entitled “Guardians for Profit-When a Family matter becomes a business.” The series exposed questionable financial practices and outright abuse in the practice of a number of professional conservators. Melodie Scott was featured in the kick-off article, which was published in November of 2005. The California Legislature subsequently passed the Omnibus Reform Act of 2006, which created the Professional Fiduciary Bureau, mandated with the task of licensing the previously unregulated conservators and fiduciaries.
Black's law dictionary defines a conservator as a protector or guardian. Conservatorships are generally initiated through court proceedings when there are allegations that an individual lacks the competency to handle his or her own affairs. There are two types of conservatorships in the state of California—conservatorship of person and conservatorship of estate. A conservatorship of person allows the conservator to make personal decisions for the alleged incapacitated person, including whether or not the conservatee will be allowed to marry, where he or she will reside or whether the alleged incapacitated person will even be permitted to see family members and friends. At the initiation of a conservatorship of estate, all assets are transferred into the control of the conservator, including bank accounts and property, which may then be sold without the permission of the conservatee. In many cases the court will approve both types of conservatorships upon initial hearing.
Melodie Scott has been removed from most of her cases since her failure to achieve licensure. She has appealed the decision and the hearings, which have been ongoing since May, will resume on October 20th in Oakland Administrative Court.
However, new allegations have arisen concerning her recent actions . A protest was recently filed in San Bernardino Court referencing her taking sixty thousand dollars out of a conservatee's account following her resignation from the case. Scott Viracola was under a conservatorship with Melodie Scott until she was replaced by another conservator on July 13, 2009. On August 12, 2009, almost a full month following her removal, Melodie Scott withdrew $60,000 from Viracola's trust account. The disabled man was left with a little over five thousand dollars in his trust. According to Viracola's wife, Gina Rilke, Scott returned the sixty thousand dollars last week as well as another fifteen thousand apparently taken under questionable circumstances after the new trustee, Lee Ann Hickman, filed papers attempting to retrieve the money.
Calls to Scott's attorneys on this matter, Bryan Hartnell and Jack Osborne, were not returned.
Over a year after her license was denied, Scott is still conservator over De'Wayne Cory. Allegations have surfaced concerning questions over a pool that Scott decided should be built for Cory, who is physically disabled. While a bid as low as $133,000 was tendered, Scott decided to go with the high bid of $185,0000, which was approved by Judge Welch (see September 11, 2009 Sentinel article on Welch). Sources close to Scott have suggested that Scott, who is divorced, has had a personal relationship with the winning bidder, Kirk Gillette. While work on the pool began in July, it slowed to a complete stop in late August. Gillette was contacted by the Sentinel but refused to answer any questions. Scott's attorney of record, J. David Horspool, could be reached for comment. John Thomas, at Rancho Cucamonga Building Inspection, did not return calls from the Sentinel inquiring as to the Cory pool.
In Riverside court a tort claim has been filed naming Scott and her attorney, J. David Horspool, claiming multiple acts of financial misconduct and elder abuse. Legal papers filed recently in this case alleged that felonies were committed by Scott and Horspool in the matter of the conservatorship. Neither Scott nor Horspool appeared at the court date, which was scheduled for 8:30 am on October 8.
Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Cooper is representing the State Fiduciary Bureau in the action against Scott. While Cooper is reportedly dissuading people who have been negatively impacted by Scott in their requests to testify at the hearings, he is nevertheless allowing positive character witnesses to testify. Several individuals who have had negative experiences with Scott are nonetheless planning on attending the open hearings in October, in attempts to be heard. Among these is Joe Quattrochi, who, after battling Scott for four years in San Bernardino Court, succeeded in having her resign as conservator of his father. " She lied on the stand and lied in her accountings;" said Quattrochi. "I want the judge in Oakland to hear what she did to our family."
Update to story at EoD:
Other Related Aricles by Janet Phelan
The Probate Murders