Notes on a few recent postings.
Not sure where this latest “revelation” from the Brown family tree may go, but EoD and other sites like Lee Bailey’s eurweb.com (Electronic Urban Report) shared it as part of James Brown’s ongoing yet posthumous saga. Most important is Sue Summer’s continuing coverage of what EoD sees as the state of South Carolina’s hijacking of Brown’s estate.
It’s happening in plain sight. Though the trust is sometimes (seemingly when convenient) considered public, FOIA’s that would reveal trust administration details – including what costs taxpayers are bearing and what estate assets are likely being funneled off to legal industry allies – are being fought by the state. It’s a highly questionable situation deserving of attention. If South Carolina can confiscate Brown’s estate despite “proper estate planning,” who’s next?
Several chuckle-provoking points on this piece. First. In “best defense is a good offense” strategical plays, government bureaucrats positioning themselves as proactive in the elder exploitation issue would seem a productive move both in sowing seeds to justify new social service programs (i.e., new funding) and to expand existing ones (i.e., more funding). And the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides such a dramatic, feel-good backdrop for this taxpayer-funded compassion. Here at EoD, we think exploiting people of all ages is bad any day of the year and to that end, prefer non-discriminatory public policies and programs.
Another chuckle came from the Texas Adult Protective Services quote attributing many elder exploitation cases to family members. While indeed there is truth in that statement, another side of exploitation also exists – a side which government isn’t so quick to want to discuss. The EoD News Archive is filled with stories involving bureaucrats and/or their allies exploiting the elderly. In fact, our 2010 column Guardianship study shows Texans, others at risk for probate abuse is just one of many pieces from over the years in which we’ve noted our list of prospective culprits or their aiders and abettors. Indeed family members can exploitative, but they hardly are the only source of such bad acts.
And finally, the story of Brandy Ann Bounds, sentenced to deferred adjudication for a criminal estate looting charge and facing a six-figure judgment ordered by Tarrant County Probate Judge Steve King in a civil estate case. Prior articles indicated Bounds was running a concierge-type business for the elderly. One could surmise it was and would continue to be an access point for gaining control of estates, control that would later be used for her own enrichment. Here’s the problem. Some observers familiar with the Tarrant County probate system would say such an entity already exists — that it is highly lucrative for a chosen few, court-sanctioned, court-controlled (by King and Pat Ferchill, the county’s two probate judges) and unappreciative of competition. And therefore Brandy — you’re out of business, girl!
At Estate of Denial® we take probate abuse and its prosecution quite seriously. Suspiciously-motivated prosecutions with self-protectionist linkage are also viewed seriously – as a breach of public trust. In light of Dallas County’s Mark McCay verdict, we’d like to think this Tarrant County prosecution was also about justice. In doing so, though, this “justice” will have to come with quotation marks and a chuckle.
This case is just sickening. It’s all about a local government wanting Josephine Smoron’s dairy farm in order to build a sports complex on the property. Everyone got caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar – but so what!!?? In 2010, Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello, the judge who allowed Smoron’s will to be disregarded in lieu of giving her property to three local churches (against her previously expressed will), withdrew his bid for re-election. Now John Nugent, the attorney who ignored Smoron’s wishes of leaving her farm to long-time caretaker Sam Manzo, has been found to have violated ethics laws. Can’t pull anything over on that bunch!
Meanwhile, three years after Josephine Smoron’s death and despite her “proper estate planning,” Smoron’s estate is tied up in court and her legitimate heir struggles to pay the farm’s taxes and care for the animals. With having heard nothing to the contrary, one can surmise that developer Carl Verderame still wants his sports complex. And so likely do local officials. After all, tax revenue is what they’re after. With a few more years of stone-walling, Manzo may cave and they can all prevail.
Go Team Southington!! Lie, cheat and steal. It’s for the team….
An EoD post next week on the Connecticut probate system touts something about its reform efforts making progress, but still having room for improvement. Room for improvement? You can bet the (Smoron) farm on that one!!
Since day one of EoD, we’ve discussed the guise of religion as a powerful tool for bad acts – that includes abusing probate instruments. Here’s this story. Remember the Smoron story discussed above? Three churches were going to inherit Smoron’s property (and presumably a share of some spoils) as the starting point for ownership transfer to ultimately accommodate building of the sports complex.
In EoD’s years of hearing from people, ministers, music ministers, youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, deacons, church secretaries – you name it – they’ve all been described as having a hand with Involuntary Redistribution of Assets (IRA) actions! Over the years stories involving all sorts of folks using a guise of religion have surfaced.
We understand why stories like this continue as news — just don’t get why they’re always still a surprise.
Stay tuned! More to come!!