Friday, June 28, 2013

California’s Public Guardians: Eager to Lock You Up and Steal Your Money


Ruth Hull

You've spent your life building up some assets and you think they are secure. Or you got an inheritance and you think it’s yours. Where there is money, there are vultures ready to steal it. Among the most dangerous vultures are Public Guardians and conservators, who are willing to lock you away to steal your money. Judges simply look the other way and give them carte blanche to do as they please with your life, your property and your future. With a stroke of the pen and the elimination of one dangerous government office, Jerry Brown could save the people of California, hundreds of millions of dollars and protect the state’s seniors, their heirs and their assets. 

In Orange County, California, we have had a changing of the guard. That’s because John Williams, the last Public Guardian and Peggy Buff, his second in command, lost their positions after they got caught ripping off Orange County residents. Since Peggy Buff was the District Attorney’s fiancée, seniors were powerless to protect themselves. Williams apparently thought his sole responsibility was to grab the assets of senior citizens to help with his department’s budget shortfall. When this was exposed, the public thought they could do better.

Williams already had been twice dinged by the Grand Jury for mismanagement of funds when the truth hit the media big time. For years, Williams had been confiscating assets from rich Orange County citizens whom he felt could not handle their own money. While he grabbed their estates, these seniors were often put into low-cost sub-human facilities, places that mostly facilitated early deaths. Sometimes seniors were not even properly notified that Williams had secretly put them into conservatorships and had ripped off their assets until their associates were arrested for kidnapping for just taking them to a nearby fast food restaurant. Adult Protective Services was reportedly in on the get-rich-quick scheme too. When APS comes calling, the Public Guardian isn't far behind. It's all about money.


Williams met his downfall after hinting he planned to grab the assets of a Santa Ana woman, a forty-year civil servant, whose family had rescued her from a violent abuser. Williams, Adult Protective Services and the District Attorney’s office made no attempt to go after the violent abuser. They didn’t care about protecting the elderly. They just wanted their money. Deputy District Attorney Todd Spitzer made an inquiry call about the matter to the Public Guardian’s office, putting the money-grabbers into fear that he was wise to the scheme. So District Attorney Tony Rackauckas fired Spitzer and told him the reason for the termination was the inquiry call about the matter of the Santa Ana woman. Needless to say, there was a press conference and the truth came out. More and more of the Guardian’s victims flocked to the press with some pretty disturbing horror stories. In the end, Williams was not able to keep his position, and was locked out of his office. However, recent reports do indicate that the changing of the guard may have just been a superficial fix, window dressing for a corrupt system that continues to threaten the security of Orange County's seniors. 

In San Bernardino County, the Public Guardian is picking people up off the street and warehousing them. I attended a Yucaipa town hall meeting a while back where citizens who expressed concerns about the disappearances and spoke about their fears regarding what had happened to those who hadn’t resurfaced. Occasionally, the Public Guardian hits the jackpot by nabbing someone with enough money to assist with the office’s budgetary desires. Often these individuals wind up dead, like Charlie Castle. He didn’t just wind up dead. He was held for over a year against his will by the San Bernardino Public Guardian before his death. Here is a Facebook page that was started by people who were worried about him. 
Then there is the Riverside County Public Guardian. International journalist and popular author Janet Phelan is trying to get some answers regarding the depletion of her mother’s trust fund. The Riverside Public Guardian Bill Vanderpoorten seems to be hiding out. He won’t answer phone calls or see members of the press at his office. The Public Guardian is paid by the public but apparently doesn’t answer to the public and doesn’t want anything to do with the public – unless maybe it’s grabbing their money. Their operations are hush hush – kind of like the operations of drug dealers, hitmen, etc. – you know, the people who have to operate in secret because they’re likely to be arrested if the public knows what they are really doing....

Among the questionable acts the Riverside Public Guardian is alleged to have committed in the Amalie Phelan Trust are the improper depletion of trust assets in violation of the trust document and the law, an uneven distribution of trust assets in violation of the trust document and the law, the pawning off of taxes on one of the beneficiaries in violation of the trust document and the law, and falsification of documents, interstate mail fraud and misstatement of wire transfer fees, all in apparent violation of the trust document and the law. Among the issues are false charges to Ms. Phelan's account for a wire transfer from the brokerage of UBS. Though UBS charged in-country transfer fees, Attorney Toni Eggebraaten on behalf of the Riverside Public Guardian’s office pretended that the fees were out-of country and charged double. Apparently, somebody in her office or that of the Public Guardian pocketed the rest of the overcharged fees. If the Public Guardian’s office were operating in accordance with the law, they’d have nothing to hide. But they seemed pretty frightened of public scrutiny the day I showed up.

I had left numerous messages for Public Guardian Bill Vanderpoorten with no response before showing up at his office. In a booth was a woman who identified herself as Sharon but who didn’t have a last name or at least not one she would give out. She spoke over a phone to a supervisor who reportedly told her to tell me that nobody in the office would speak with the press. However, that supervisor’s name was top secret and Sharon stated that she could not provide any part of the supervisor’s name. So this person who refused a media request didn’t even have a first name. Since the only identifiable people working for the Riverside Public Guardian’s office are Bill Vanderpoorten and Sharon No-Last-Name, then theoretically that office should only receiving funding for one and a half salaries. If more has been paid, a refund should be demanded.

This writer was referred to the above-mentioned outside attorneyToni Eggebraaten, who (like Bill Vanderpoorten) does not return phone calls and who was reportedly involved in much of the above-mentioned wrongdoing.
Janet’s grievances with the system run much deeper than just the above issues. The Riverside Public Guardian’s office and the case are connected to Melodie Scott, the former conservator for Amalie Phelan. Melodie Scott has a particularly troublesome problem. It seems her wards too often drop dead, prematurely. Maybe conservatorships are not so healthy. Hint. Hint. If you want a long life and someone wants a conservatorship over you. Run. Run very fast. 

Melodie Scott can be particularly scary. I tried to interview her at her home and was threatened with arrest for just knocking on the door and asking for an interview. Her son Chris chased me down the street threatening me with arrest for simply asking to speak with her. She had reportedly also threatened Janet with arrest on apparently trumped up charges as well.

Why would she be afraid of an interview? Well, when Janet’s mother Amalie was alive, Melodie reportedly withheld heart medication. Fortunately for Amalie, Janet rushed the mother to the hospital and saved her life. Unfortunately for Amalie, Melodie Scott reacted to Janet’s life-saving results by getting a restraining order to keep Janet from doing it again. Since when do conservators have the right to stop family members from saving a ward’s life? Oh, maybe it has something to do with dwindling trust funds. And surprise, surprise, while under Melodie’s care, the mother wound up dead. There should be lots of questions there.

What needs to be grasped out of this is that the whole Public Guardian system is corrupt. It’s not just corrupt in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, but throughout the State of California.

Whenever you have a non-family member taking charge of the funds of an individual, you have a system where corruption is at a high point. There have been lots of reports of judges being paid off in the system and of people being helpless to fight an overpowering and corrupt system that is out of control. A lot of money is flowing and changing hands in these conservatorships. At least, if a person blows their own money, they have nobody except themselves to blame. But what gives a public official or a court-appointed official the right to deplete the funds of someone who doesn’t want them to control their funds?

America was built on self-determination. Seniors and others need protection from the very people who claim to be protecting them. It’s time to re-examine the whole process of conservatorships. The Public can do without Public Guardians and conservators grabbing their assets and leaving them to die in squalor. The state can do without the waste of funds going to various Public Guardians offices that terrorize the elderly without doing anything to protect their real interests.

This isn’t somebody else’s problem. One day, if you earn enough money, the Public Guardian or a conservator could be after you. Is this the future you want for yourself?

Ruth Hull is an activist and writer whose career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, and an educator.

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