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In Some Cases of Elder Abuse, Banks Facilitated Financial Exploitation

Posted on Sep 23, 2016

By Colton Lochhead / Las Vegas Review-Journal

  Wells Fargo allowed Guadalupe Olvera’s guardian to improperly bill his trust for $39,297. (Mike Mozart / CC 2.0)

Editor’s note: In the wake of the recent revelations of Wells Fargo’s illegal and unethical business practices, Truthdig is analyzing other instances of greed and expanding American corporatism. The following excerpt examines the issue of elder abuse under court-appointed guardians. In this specific case, Wells Fargo contributed to one guardian’s financial exploitation of a “ward” by approving huge withdrawals from the elderly person’s trust. The piece reproduced in full below, “Clark County’s Private Guardians May Protect—Or Just Steal and Abuse,” is one of the articles in M. Larsen’s book “Guardianship: How Judges and Lawyers Steal Your Money,” a collection of reports on guardianship abuse. Written by Colton Lochhead, the article originally was published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

   
    Guardianship: How Judges and Lawyers Steal Your Money
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APTOS, Calif. — Guadalupe Olvera sits in his tall green chair, blowing a familiar tune on his harmonica as a baseball game plays on his television. The harmony echoes off the walls of his daughter’s 1960s-era home, filling the air with an enticing melody.

Although slowed by age at 95, the World War II veteran regularly attends Veterans of Foreign Wars barbecues in Aptos, where he easily remembers the names and family details of those he meets. Life in the lush green hills near Santa Cruz is peaceful for Olvera and his family.

That wasn’t the case a few years ago, when he was isolated and alone, a prisoner in his Henderson home — a ward of Clark County, surrounded by people he didn’t know who were supposed to protect him, but who ended up with more than $420,000 of his money, most of his estate.

No longer a ward of any state, he’s settled in the home of the daughter who had to “kidnap” him when all else failed.

A FATEFUL CHOICE

Olvera and his wife, Carmela, moved from California to Henderson to retire in 2002. They enjoyed warm weather and quickly became active members of their new Sun City Anthem community. Life was serene for the Olveras.

In 2007, Carmela took a step that would later prove costly. At a financial planner’s behest, she became her husband’s guardian.

The couple’s daughter, Rebecca Schultz, said Carmela already handled the couples’ finances, so Guadalupe never questioned the move.

But after Camela’s sudden death in fall 2009, he needed a new guardian. Schultz wasn’t an option because state law says a guardian must live in Nevada.

“I didn’t understand it,” Schultz said of the guardianship system. “I knew nothing about what that term meant, legally.”

Schultz called the office of the guardianship commissioner, who at any one time supervises 8,500 such cases for Clark County Family Court.

“I thought these people were going to help me,” Schultz said.

A court clerk told her she needed to see Jared Shafer, who for 24 years handled estate administration and guardianships as Clark County public administrator before starting Professional Fiduciary Services of Nevada, a guardianship company for hire, in 2003.

Shafer told Schultz he would act as a temporary guardian until conservatorship could be transferred to California, which should have taken about six months. She assumed the transfer would go quickly with such an experienced guardian involved.

In a few months she realized she was wrong.

Rather than making an easy move to California, Olvera was stuck in Nevada while his family was forced to watch him lose everything.

“My father had a 3,000-square-foot house with a huge master bedroom and two guest bedrooms and they (his court-appointed guardians) wouldn’t let us stay there when we first visited,” Schultz said. Later visits were limited to a maximum of four days.

“That’s the first sign I saw that ‘OK, something’s wrong,’ ” she said.

A month after he was granted temporary guardianship, Shafer petitioned the court to make it permanent — a legal move that tethered Olvera and his money to Nevada.

Schultz and her father became increasingly suspicious of Shafer and the people he assigned to work with Olvera — people such as Shafer’s case manager, Patience Bristol, and his bookkeeper, Amy Deittrick.

Deittrick runs AViD Business Services, a bookkeeping company with ties to Shafer.

In February 2010, just three months after Shafer became guardian, Olvera’s Wells Fargo trust was billed $39,297.

More than $8,700 went to Bristol. AViD received $5,760 for charges ranging from $40 to $125 to pay a bill.

Shafer’s then-attorney, Elyse Tyrell, was paid $5,919.

Shafer’s bill alone was $15,000.

Only $3,080 went to KeepYou Company, a health care provider that took care of Olvera in his home. A representative of the now-defunct company said it had no business relationship with Shafer beyond caring for Olvera.

Neither Shafer nor Deittrick responded to requests for comment for this article. Bristol could not be reached for comment, for good reason. After leaving Shafer’s office to start her own business she was convicted of stealing at least $200,000 from her wards and is now serving a prison term.

Still mourning the death of his wife, Olvera began to change, Schultz said. Once a cheerful joker, he became withdrawn — a shell of his former self, she said.

“He wasn’t happy being there with somebody that wasn’t his family,” Schultz said. “He had no friends there. No relatives. He was fearful.”

Watching costs mount and fearing her father was being exploited, she tried to have Shafer removed as guardian, hoping to eventually move Olvera to California.

That set in motion a long, costly legal battle that resulted in a warrant for her arrest.

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