Angela V. Woodhull,Ph.D.
“A large part of the victim’s money is spent on attorney’s fees and guardian’s fees. As long as there is ample money in the victim’s guardianship account, the guardian and her attorney cohorts will file motion upon motion after motion to the courts,”
STEP ONE—“EMINENT DANGER”—THE INITIAL COURT PETITION
The professional guardian, with the assistance of her attorneys, commences the embezzlement process by filing an emergency petition in the probate courts to become the “emergency” “temporary” guardian
Florida guardianship statutes, like many states, (Chapter 744) require that there be an “eminent danger” in order for the petitioner to become the “emergency temporary guardian.”
The guardian oftentimes fabricates the “eminent danger” by , stating that there is a neighbor or relative or stranger who is taking advantage of the elderly person. In some cases, this may be a somewhat true statement, albeit an exaggerated claim. In most cases, upon further investigation, there has been no “eminent danger” whatsoever.
Step One takes away all of the victim’s civil rights and therefore gives the guardian and her attorneys full control over the victim and his or her assets.
STEP TWO—THE EXAMINING COMMITTEE
Once the professional guardian has taken control of the victim on a temporary basis (the emergency temporary guardianship order expires in 60 days) an examining committee of three medical “professionals” steps in to verify the allegation of mental incapacity. Oftentimes, the victim is administered a cocktail of psychotropic drugs to enhance the claims that he or she is incompetent.
“Ward” Elizabeth Faye Arnold, for instance, stated, “They put me on drugs that made me feel very drunk. I couldn’t even remember my name. Now that they have all my money, they don’t medicate me that way anymore.” One of the three medical professionals must be a psychiatrist and the victim is generally always found to be mentally incapacitated. The guardian usually has her own set of medical professionals that she utilizes on a regular basis. For instance, professional guardian Rebecca Fierle is married to a medical doctor and therefore has an entire fleet of medical professional associates available to her. Rebecca Fierle also utilizes the services of Attorney Thomas Sawyer, Orlando, who also happens to be a medical doctor.
Back in the courtroom, soon after the three medical professionals file their reports, there is a capacity hearing. The victim seldom is permitted to attend this hearing. The judge quickly scans the medical examinations that “verify” that the victim is “mentally and/or physically incapacitated.” The judge then signs an order that gives the professional guardian full and permanent legal authority over the victim’s person and property.
STEP THREE—THE “FEAST” BEGINS
Property is sold for below market value and the deeds switch and switch several times. (kick backs are suspected) Bank accounts, annuities, stocks, and CDs are liquidated into one big guardianship account.
Out of this large bank account, the guardian is expected to pay all the victim’s, but bills oftentimes go unpaid.
HOW THE VICTIM’S MONEY IS SPENT
1. ATTORNEY’S FEES AND GUARDIANSHIP FEES FOR “SERVICES RENDERED TO ‘BENEFIT’ THE ‘WARD’”
A large part of the victim’s money is spent on attorney’s fees and guardian’s fees. As long as there is ample money in the victim’s guardianship account, the guardian and her attorney cohorts will file motion upon motion after motion to the courts, such as:
–A motion to sell the ward’s furniture
–A motion to liquidate stocks and CDs
–A motion to transfer the ward to a different nursing home
–A motion to sell the ward’s homesteaded house
–A motion to open up a safety deposit box
Each motion can cost the “ward” in excess of $2,000.00 because the motion must be written, researched, filed, and then a hearing is scheduled. Oftentimes, the motions cost more than what is being petitioned for.
2. PUFFING THE MONTHLY BUDGET—The guardian frequently doubles the monthly expenses then keeps the remainder.
1.3. SELLING THE “WARD’S” PERSONAL BELONGINGS FOR BELOW MARKET VALUE THEN POCKETING THE DIFFERENCE—The guardian underestimates the amount of the sale of personal items, such as jewelry, paintings, and antiques, for the purpose of the court record inventories, then is free to keep the difference. There is little court oversight. For example, professional guardian Rebecca Fierle went from bankrupt in 1997 to multimillionaire by 2007.
2.4. BILLS ARE SIMPLY NOT PAID
Oftentimes, the bills of the “ward” are not even paid. When the “ward” dies, the guardian simply places an ad in an obscure newspaper, if there is money left for an estate to be probated. Assuming creditors do not see the ad and file a claim against the estate within 30 days, their claims are forever barred and so the guardian was able to fool creditors and abscond with the money and not have to pay any of the bills. If she is caught, she simply pays the bills of the creditors who caught her. This frequently includes Medicaid.
1.5. ACCOUNTING IS NOT ACCURATE
The guardian can claim a much lower amount of liquid assets than what the victim is actually worth and then pocket the rest.
EXAMPLE: Julie Sweeten–$400,000.00 estate with an alleged $80,000.00 remaining when Sweeten died. More than $300,000.00 was spent in three years.
Louise A. Falvo started off with approximately $800,000.00. Two months into the guardianship, Fierle filed an accounting with the court stating that Falvo was worth only $672,000.00. Shortly thereafter, a bank statement from Bank of America stated that Falvo now had $449,000 after all accounts had been liquidated. So, approximately $200,000 turned up missing.
1.6. FAKE WILLS: In this scenario, the guardian claimed that Julie Sweeten desired to leave her estate to her bank. A forged will was entered into the record. Wachovia Bank trustee was then given $80,000.00 from the uncontested, probated estate.
STEP FOUR: THE MYSTERIOUS DEATHS
Once the funds have been spent, the “ward” oftentimes suddenly dies.
The “ward” dies when there is still plenty of money — if a huge probate battle can commence, thereby further enriching the attorneys and guardian.
Examples: Carlisle Bosworth died soon after his $250,000 had been spent.
James Deaton–$5 million, three years in probate–$3 million in attorney’s fees with a pittance finally paid out to his family members.
LOUISE A. FALVO—suspected morphine sulphate overdose as cause of death; huge probate battle to enrich attorneys ensued even though
LOUISE A. FALVO’s bank accounts were all POD/ITF to her daughter, so probate should have been completely unnecessary.
NASGA, National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse, has adopted a three part theme to succinctly describe the legally sanctioned exploitative guardianship process: “Isolate, Medicate, Take the Estate.”
*All court records are available for verification of the facts
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Angela V. Woodhull,Ph.D.