Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Urgent Call To Guard Assets from Guardians/Conservators

A Queens grand jury has recommended on overhaul of the state's system of court-appointed guardians and examiners, saying it's riddled with loopholes that encourage theft and corruption.

The jury's six-month investigation found that tens of millions of dollars in people's assets are entrusted to guardians, often lawyers, who are poorly trained and inadequately supervised, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said early today.
He said in one case a lawyer stole more than $2 million from people whose assets he was appointed to protect, including $631,000 from the estate of a 67-year-old mentally ill man and $832,000 from a 52-year-old quadriplegic.

To improve the system, the grand jury recommended that court examiners be full-time employees of the Unified Court System and be required to fulfill specific requirements for the job.

It also called for tougher enforcement of accounting requirements and stiffer penalties for improper accounting.

To keep track of what happens to large sums, it said banks should be required to report to court officials' withdrawals of $10,000 or more from accounts controlled by guardians.

Brown urged the state Legislature and courts to act on the proposals "so that never again will the estates of helpless, incapacitated and vulnerable individuals be plundered with impunity."

Leo Standora

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