Grand Jury Report Hopes To Protect Incapacitated
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown has announced that a special investigative Queens County Grand Jury impaneled to probe thefts from guardianships has issued a comprehensive report recommending major changes in existing law and court rules to improve oversight of court appointed guardians and examiners and better protect the assets of incapacitated individuals incapable of managing their own affairs.
Many of those incapacitated individuals cited in the report lived and died in Rockaway.
District Attorney Brown said, "It is essential that public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the pro cess by which fiduciaries are ap point ed and regulated — and the manner in which they carry out their res pon sibilities — be maintained."
Brown added, "The Grand Jury carefully reviewed the existing system, found it riddled with loopholes and has urged legislative and administrative action to address the many serious prob lems it uncovered during its six-month-long investigation. I would urge that the panel’s recommendations receive careful review and consideration by the Legislature and Jud iciary so that never again will the est ates of helpless, incapacitated and vulnerable individuals be plundered with impunity."
The Grand Jury in its 51-page report with appendices cites the case of a Queens attorney appointed by the court as a guardian to oversee the estates of 14 incapacitated individuals who last year was convicted of stealing over $2 million from their estates.A0 The attorney, who cooperated in the Grand Jury’s investigation and who is referred to as John Doe in its report because of Grand Jury secrecy rules, was automatically disbarred upon his conviction and sentenced to serve up to nine years in prison.
The Grand Jury recommended: (1)stricter enforcement of existing accounting provisions of the law; (2)no tification requirements to ensure effective communication among guard ians, examiners, financial institutions and the courts; (3)prohibition of conflicts of interest; (4)uniform procedures for examination of guardian reports and accountings and (5)stronger remedies for failures to meet proper accounting and examination procedures.
The District Attorney said that his investigation began in September 2002 when the Queens County Public Administrator’s Office discovered an irregularity in the accounting of the financial affairs of a 67-year-old mentally ill individual for whom the attorney had been appointed to serve as guardian and notified Queens County Administrative Judge Steven W. Fish er who in turn referred the matter to the District Attorney.
District Attorney Brown said that the investigation determined that between 1997 and 2002 attorney Doe stole over $2 million from the funds of incapacitated individuals and filed false instruments and lied to cover the thefts when accounting for costs and expenditures.
The thefts included:
$631,000 taken from a guardianship and the estate of a 67-year-old mentally ill man who died at a nursing home in Far Rockaway.
$832,000 taken from a guardianship and an estate of a 52-year-old quadriplegic who died at a nursing home in Far Rockaway.
$270,000 taken from a guardianship of a 76-year-old mentally ill man who is being cared for at home in Hollis.
$35,000 taken from a guardianship of an 81-year-old woman with Alzhei mer’s disease who is being cared for at a nursing home in Rockaway Park.
$21,500 taken from a guardianship of an 18-year-old youth born with massive birth defects who is being cared for at home in Valley Stream.
$29,000 taken from a guardianship of an 84-year-old mentally ill man who is being cared for at an adult home in Kew Gardens.