NASGA highly recommends the fact-based diary account, “Marked For Destruction,” by John Caravella as the true story of one woman’s guardianship nightmare. Adele was fortunate to have a kindly neighbor to take an interest in rescuing her from the people to whom she was referred for help in managing an inheritance.
"Marked for Destruction"\1/ is about a very kind an sincere senior lady who became dear to me. Being able to contribute to this book is, for me, an honor that has resulted from knowing this gentle lady. I met Adele Fraulen through the desperation of her friends, who had committed themselves to rescuing her from an abusive situation. Professionals appointed to her care were to blame.
Adele's large and recent inheritance made her seek professional help for its management, but, instead, these professionals saw her as an easy “mark.” As seen through Adele's eyes, “Marked For Destruction” recounts their activities and outlines their actions to embezzle
her life and her money. Certainly, their hope was that no one would notice or, much less, care. They were wrong.
Adele was forced to live the life of a prisoner as her world was quietly stolen from her piece by piece. The inexcusable conduct of these professionals started with a lie to obtain a court order, so they could be in her life - to facilitate their plans to remove all her social freedoms.
Once that first goal had been accomplished, their remaining estate-bashing\2/ schemes took on a freewheeling strategy headed toward a horrifying conclusion. So Adele's future was inevitable, and probably just routine enough for a court never to notice. But her friends noticed.
I came to know Adele because of the pleading of one friend -- and neighbor. This man persisted in telling me about Adele's trouble until I couldn't help but become involved. If for no other reason, I felt compelled to investigate to determine if such a thing could happen in today's world. Unfortunately, I learned that the events he reported to me were true, and to my complete disgust I saw these professionals proclaim their fraud to have court approval.
I could not resist the compelling urge to help this woman and expose those who had schemed to steal her from our society. Adele is free today, but she will probably never recover from her experience. Life is fragile, and it is unfortunate that there will always be those who will take every opportunity to inflict harm upon others.
This time - Adele was the "mark." Next time, it could be you."
~John Caravella, Retired Police Officer
The following current case, involving a multi-faceted attack upon an elderly gentleman, illustrates many of the issues we have discussed in this paper.
We include this case as an illustration of guardianship gone wild. Violations of the protective statutes, without intervention by the rescue team, would have led “George” to confinement in a lockdown facility where he might be subjected to psychotropic drugging and perhaps even an early death. He would have been financially and emotionally ruined were it not for the dedication and caring of his rescue team, outraged at the abuses perpetrated on the intended victim.
The following account was written by a member of George’s rescue team:
“George and the Great Writ”
In August of 2009, when octogenarian George went to his family doctor for a regular check up, the doctor dropped a bombshell on George. No, he wasn’t told he has a fatal disease and only months to live. The doctor told George he would have to give up driving his car. Maybe a terminal illness would have been better news, because George led an active, independent life. Being able to drive his car was essential to his lifestyle. George was a retired general contractor who ran all his own errands, and took care of the upkeep of his home himself. A widower, he had been steadily seeing the same lady, Melody, for fourteen years. When the two of them went out, George drove. He needed to drive just to get to her house to see her.
George overreacted to the news. He told the doctor he would rather kill himself than give up driving. Then the doctor overreacted. He called George’s son, Junior, who lived about 100 miles away, and said his father was threatening suicide. Junior called the police in George’s town. The next thing George knew, he was faced with choosing between involuntary commitment as a danger to himself, or 30-day voluntary commitment. George chose the latter, believing what he was told, that he could leave at the end of 30 days.
But as the end of the 30-day period approached, George learned he wasn’t going anywhere.
Junior activated his Power Of Attorney powers and sought to petition the court for emergency and permanent guardianship hearings. He had already taken over his father’s property; the $450,000 in George’s bank account was transferred to Junior’s personal account, and all the locks on George’s residence were changed. Junior planned to have George permanently placed in a long term care facility. George wanted Melody to get him help, but the hospital staff would not let her call or visit him. It was later discovered that his court-appointed guardian ad litem, whose role is supposed to be looking out for George’s best interests, had told the hospital Melody was not to have contact with him, and this had been added as an order to his medical orders.
George was desperate to regain his freedom. He called Harry, a retired police officer George had known for many years, and asked for his help. In turn, Harry called Bob, a local attorney whose innovative thinking in numerous other cases had impressed Harry. George retained Bob as his lawyer over the phone. The problem came when Bob tried to meet with his client.
By then, the 30-day commitment period was over, and the hospital had no legal basis for continuing to hold George. But the hospital refused to release George, and refused to allow Bob to see him.
Harry and Bob had become a rescue team. Bob’s calls to Junior’s attorney and to the guardian ad litem, went unanswered, and it seemed evident they were stalling Bob in order to get an emergency hearing for temporary guardianship followed by permanent guardianship in place literally behind his back. Understanding the dire consequences if he didn’t act quickly,
Bob filed a petition for habeas corpus, the Great Writ. Literally meaning you have the body—in this case, George—a habeas corpus petition is neither criminal nor civil, because it incorporates the assumption that the person or institution holding the individual does not have authority to do so.
So it was that the Great Writ restored George’s freedom and cut short an attempt to isolate, medicate and take his estate. A Petition for temporary and permanent guardianship and lockdown placement of George had, indeed, been filed. Junior’s lawyer failed to serve Bob
copies of the emergency guardianship petition, although the attorney knew Bob represented George. Instead, copies were mailed to Melody, and were not received until after the originally-scheduled petition hearing date. But Bob had beaten them to the punch in filing the habeas corpus petition, and the hearing preceded the hearings of the temporary and permanent guardianship petition.
Bob met his client for the first time about half an hour before the habeas corpus hearing. It was evident to him that George was lucid, coherent and competent. That was evident to the judge, too. After hearing testimony from George and from the hospital psychiatrist, the judge ruled that George was credible and the psychiatrist was not. George was set free. While the judge who presided over the habeas hearing had no official role in the emergency or permanent guardianship proceedings, he said that he would speak with the guardianship judge about his findings.
George was out of the hospital but not out of the woods. Happily reunited with Melody, they both got a shock when they went to George’s house. The locks had been changed and he couldn’t get inside. When George went to the bank to get money to hire a locksmith, he learned that Junior had cleaned out his bank account and George was unable to find missing items, personal property from his home. Harry arranged some short term loans so that George’s immediate needs could be met. The trauma of almost losing each other brought George and Melody to the decision to marry. Harry helped with that as well, taking George around to get a copy of his birth certificate and a replacement driver’s license for identification, and making arrangements for a quiet wedding and small reception. Junior was not invited.
When the petition for emergency guardianship was heard, George appeared with his lawyer, Bob, his bride, Melody, and his enduring good friend, Harry. Junior had a new attorney. The guardian ad litem was not present, and Bob asked that she be removed from George’s case for bias. In support of his request, he presented the order from George’s hospital records from the guardian ad litem that Melody be barred from seeing George.
Similarly, Junior was removed as a fiduciary of Power Of Attorney; the Power Of Attorney was revoked. It was agreed that an independent home care consultant would visit each week to make sure George and Melody were getting on alright, and that if George needed a guardian in the future, his wife was the most appropriate person for that role.
It is not all over yet. The guardianship judge continued the case to the end of the year, with a status conference in the interim. If the issues must be tried, a jury will decide them. A jury trial in a competency/guardianship case is allowed by law in George’s state but rarely invoked. Junior’s lawyers think George should pay their fees; George strongly disagrees and that remains an issue in the guardianship.
George has filed two civil suits. One is against the hospital and doctor for unlawfully depriving him of his rights. The other suit is against Junior, to get back the money taken from George’s accounts, for an accounting of all amounts Junior spent, and for repayment of the
costs to restore George’s residence to its pre-guardianship petition state.
When the litigation has been resolved, we will be able to use real names and locations in telling this true story. Meanwhile, rescuers should not forget about the power of the Great Writ to free the victims of guardian abuse.
NASGA Comment: Not all lawyers are unethical or incompetent. It is our pleasure to cross paths with several exemplary attorneys, such as Bob, who will go the extra mile to right a terrible wrong.
But most victims are not as lucky as George. Most victims have no “rescue team.”
No one should have to spend their life savings to protect themselves from a predatory, unlawful and abusive guardianship. No one should have to spend any of their golden years traumatized by an attempted takeover of their life and liberties.
1 www.MarkedForDestruction.com (for a free download)
2 Estate Bashing: Intentionally depleting by quasi-legal or extra-legal means the monetary or property assets of another to financially benefit any person, firm, corporation or entity not being the original owner.