Photo above: Omar Ramirez, who has traumatic brain injury, stands alongside his mother, Juanita. In April, Juanita was informed that her son’s million-dollar settlement from a car accident case had disappeared from a nonprofit trust company’s accounts. (photo credit: Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Dear Guardianship Study Commission Members, Attorney General Hector Balderas, News Media Professionals, and others:
This week we have a Tale of Two Cities.
Type 1: Guardianship of people of modest means:
In just the last week alone, the Albuquerque Journal ran not one or two but three articles detailing how victims of relatively modest means were ripped off by a court-appointed Trustee.
- June 15, 2017: FBI joins probe of NM trust fund company
- June 17, 2017: Trust company didn’t post bond, avoided oversight
- June 19, 2017: Daughter laments mom’s loss of trust account: ‘There’s no way you can tell her’
Upon reading these articles, one can see that these latest victims were open to judicial and legal abuse in a legal setting that provided:
- Public-family guardianship, costing little and provided and paid for by the family;
- Privately-owned, “non-profit” trust company;
- CEO serves as Trustee; and
- Typically, Trust receives Ward’s money from Judge’s Order as a condition of the Ward accepting attorney-negotiated settlement. Very little of the Trust’s funds go for the Ward’s care; typically less than $25,000/annually.
The CEO/Trustee/private trust company received no documented oversight from the judges that either repeatedly appointed his private trust company, or failed to monitor the private trust company to whom so many previous judicial appointments had been made. The judiciary and its appointees may state this is because there is no Rule or Statute compelling them to be accountable. To adopt any similar excuse is moral and ethical abdication as well as, in some cases, against Rules and Statutes.
Then there is the absence of oversight from state regulators that should have been auditing the “non-profit” company, who was repeatedly and continually entrusted by the courts in perhaps hundreds of judicial appointments for more than a decade to manage the victims’ considerable collective assets, totaling approximately $4.1 Million.
Type 2: Guardianship of people possessing property and other assets:
Contrast the experience (above, Type 1) of the court-ordered guardianship and trust account victims with last year’s explosive revelations in Diane Dimond’s 6-part series “Who’s Guarding the Guardians?” where just one family lost about as much money to a court-appointed Trustee, Conservator, and Guardian as the 70+ victims described above:
- Nov 26, 2016: Part One: Who guards the guardians?
- Nov 27, 2016: Part Two: Court appointees have incredible power
- Nov 28, 2016: Part Three: Family members say they were shut out
- Nov 29, 2016: Part Four: Family members feel helpless when court takes control
- Nov 30, 2016: Part Five: Children feel steamrolled as parents’ estates disappear
- Dec 1, 2016: Fixing a well-meaning but flawed guardian system
In the Nov-Dec 2016 (Type 2) example, shared across multiple victims, whose stories Diane Dimond included in her articles, but chose to not identify separately from the Darnell family1, the common setting was:
- Private 3rd party guardianship, with costs ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000 annually, paid for out of the Ward’s estate and/or privately-created Trust fund(s);
- Trust created by Ward prior to death, or prior to guardianship and/or conservatorship;
- Prior to becoming a Ward, the original Grantor is in control of their own money, since the Grantor typically serves as their own Trustee;
- Upon guardianship, the court appoints an attorney of the Judge’s choice to be Trustee, and through its appointee, the court is responsible for, and manages, all Trust(s) assets, including the payment of costs that range annually from $100,000 to $1,000,000, paid for out of the Ward’s assets.
The conclusion is unmistakable: Whatever their original intent, guardianship, conservatorship and trust Rules and Statutes are used by Judges to appoint attorney(s) who will separate the rightful owners from their money, using a combination of Rules and Statutes that serve that particular case, as the legal guise for their misappropriation of another’s funds.
MIA: Law Enforcement
For the 2nd week running we ask, WHERE is New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and WHY is the Attorney General not protecting New Mexicans from multi-million dollar fraud, conversion of assets, embezzlement, exploitation of the vulnerable, and many other felony counts that should be lodged against obvious fraud and theft of people’s assets?
Why, whether in Type 1 or Type 2 (listed above) guardianship, is AG Balderas (through his office) and other state officials instructing victims of financial fraud, embezzlement, conversion of assets (which are felony crimes) to consult a private attorney and pursue a ‘remedy’ in civil2 – not criminal – court. WHERE is New Mexican Law Enforcement? Why isn’t Hector Balderas and his District Attorney counterparts in each affect county not impaneling Grand Juries, investigating, receiving testimony, and if warranted, indicting anyone found to have defrauded the elderly, the infirm, and the court-dependents?
We recognize AG Balderas, his staff prosecutors, and impaneled grand juries are busy with the prosecution of former New Mexico legislator Phil Griego, but surely prosecuting individuals who have been documented by the Albuquerque Journal’s research to have defrauded vulnerable New Mexicans a collective $8.2 Million, would be higher up on AG Balderas’ “To Do” list than prosecuting a single individual who profited from his position by pocketing a $50,000 realty fee in what is basically a victim-less crime.
Why is AG Balderas setting these “White Collar” crimes prosecutorial priorities? At best, this appears to be a case of severely misplaced legal efforts that allow predators to go free, continuing to harm large numbers of New Mexicans. The ultimate effect is to remove millions of dollars from their rightful owners and transfer it into the pockets of politically-connected insiders, using judge’s Orders written by court-appointed attorneys to favor the insiders, not the victims that the money was intended to help.
The State of New Mexico appears to defraud the Social Security Administration
Looking into “Type 1” guardianship a little further, it is disturbing to read in the Albuquerque Journal the following paragraph:
- The nonprofit company specialized in special needs trusts, which are designed for beneficiaries with disabilities, either physical or mental. The trusts are written to allow the beneficiary to receive essential government benefits while maintaining eligibility for distributions from trust accounts – which can come from lawsuit settlements or other money set aside by the clients’ families.
Evidently, as deduced from the statement above as published in the Albuquerque Journal, the State of New Mexico is in the “business” of allowing Desert Trust to defraud the Federal Government. Desert Trust is the sole company in the entire state allowed to create these “Special needs trusts,” which provide people who have suffered catastrophic health injuries due to a car wreck that is not their fault the ability to “receive essential government benefits while maintaining eligibility for distributions from trust accounts.”
It appears the State of New Mexico is defrauding the US Federal Government of social security and other benefits by setting up trust accounts that hold millions of dollars that belong to the Ward, but those Millions of dollars are never recognized as belonging to the Ward, because if the Ward was the recognized rightful owner, the Ward would have the money to pay for their own care in a fully-funded fashion, at a health care facility of their choice.
Reviewing the SSA’s website page, “What is Fraud, Waste, or Abuse?” it is stated:
- A variety of situations may be considered fraud, waste, or abuse against Social Security. These include:
Making false statements on claims
When people apply for Social Security Benefits, they state that all information they provide on the forms are true and correct to the best of their knowledge. If a person reports something they know is not true, it may be a crime. [More information]
Concealing facts or events which affect eligibility for Social Security benefits
It may be considered fraud if a person makes a false statement on an application or does not tell SSA of certain facts that may affect benefits. [More information]
The State of New Mexico appears far more interested in ensuring that all multi-million dollar settlements, estates, trust funds, inheritances, or any other kind of wealth, be controlled by the Courts – not the people chosen to control the money by the money’s rightful owners.
Instead, in cases like Type 1 (above) the family is responsible for the day-to-day care of the Ward, as well as paying for all day-to-day expenses of the Ward, which allows the family to receive “essential government benefits,” while the Court-Appointee gets to keep the Ward’s money and do with it whatever s/he wants. No one is auditing, no one in the state or federal government is monitoring, and no one at any level ever holds the court-appointee responsible for their decisions, no matter how disastrous the court-appointee’s decisions are for the rightful owner of the money. The conversion of assets worth millions of dollars happens without any oversight, any accountability, or any consequences.
What New Mexicans could expect
Instead of former Governors grandstanding on the national or international stage, or a current Governor engaging in power-plays with the Legislature, the New Mexican Public – both residents and those subject to New Mexican law — expect their Public Officials to ensure that New Mexicans and their dependents are not subjugated to medieval legal standards where their rightful property is stripped from them in the guise of “protecting” the elderly, the disabled, or infirm.
In many, if not most cases of guardianship, conservatorship, trusts and estates, the rightful owners or the rightful beneficiaries of the funds are depicted by court-appointees in hearsay evidence as being incapable of appropriately managing their money and thus the courts must “award” control of all large sums of money to the court-appointees in order for the funds to be safe-guarded. That these same court-appointees then grossly mismanage the money they’ve been entrusted with is particularly galling. Note: Use of hearsay evidence in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings is forbidden by statute (NMSA 45-5-303(H); NMSA 45-5-407(L) but following the laws in probate proceedings is not any District Court Judge’s strong suit evidently — not when there are large piles of money to be grabbed and taken under court control.
That the State of New Mexico’s Supreme Court has allowed its state District Court Judges and their appointed attorneys to become mired in a rip-off of social service benefits for the less-advantaged, while enriching their chosen private corporate owners is unconscionable – but such is the state of affairs in New Mexico today.
What the public can do
If you are a member of the public — or especially if you are an attorney or a judge — and reading this makes you angry at the way the public is being treated by these self-dealing, self-enriching, self-interested guardianship industry “professionals,” attorneys, and judges — then please attend the next public hearing of the New Mexico Supreme Court Adult Guardianship Study Commission, to be held:
- Friday, July 14, 2017: 8-30am – 4:00pm
- at a so-far undisclosed location that is rumored to be in Santa Fe.
Over the next few weeks, please periodically check this website to see when or if they announce where the next meeting will be. Scroll down to the section marked Meeting dates to locate where this next meeting of this secretive, late-announcing “public” Commission will be located this time.
If you can’t make this meeting, or you can’t wait weeks to register your displeasure and make your complaint known to the Commissioners, then use the Commission’s “Comment Form” by going to this link, and scrolling all the way down to the end, where you will be asked to submit your Name, email address, and your phone number — all of which will be made public by the Commission, so beware!
Here is the Commission’s complete contact info so you may choose a method to contact them that best suits you:
- Joey D. Moya, Clerk
- New Mexico Supreme Court
- P.O. Box 848
- Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-0848
- 505-827-4837 (fax)
The utter lack of consideration for the privacy of the members of the public who wish to speak out against the Court’s guardianship abuses is in-line with known treatment of New Mexico’s Judges and their Appointees shown to the Wards and the families that the courts have conscripted into guardianship. It’s the same callous, thoughtless, and dismissive manner judges and their appointees treat their Wards and the Wards’ families, so you might as well get used to it, as that seems to be the new “normal” for today’s courts in New Mexico.
And if this really makes you mad, then:
- Show up at the July 14, 2017 Commission meeting, rumored to be held in Santa Fe;
- Send an email, write an old-fashioned postal letter or send a FAX to the Commission, asking them to reject all recommendations made by the private, for “industry professionals and lawyers” Adult Protective Proceedings Task Force, most especially the recommendation that all court-appointees be given Absolute quasi-judicial Immunity.
- Demand restitution for all past and current victims of the courts’ predations upon innocent seniors, the mentally-ill, the disabled, and anyone else a Judge decided was suffering from “brain damage.” Those that have had their money stolen from them by a court-appointee must be made whole by the state that allowed their courts to rob the people of their money.
Working together, in one unified voice, we are going to reform this terrible situation that the courts have let fester for way too long now. And it’s going to happen faster, if as many people as possible write, phone, email, or visit an upcoming Commission meeting to voice their requirements for reform.
Thank you, on behalf of all the past & current victims of court-sponsored guardianship, trust, and estate abuses.
WillPowerNM has been formed to support and inform each Member of the Commission in their work over the coming weeks and months by preparing and releasing regular email information in a format similar to this weekly message and by establishing and maintaining a publicly accessible and widely promoted web site on the Commission’s important study effort.
1 The confirmation of families other than the Darnell family having been victimized through guardianship, conservatorship, or trust abuse and reported in the Journal’s series “Who’s Guarding the Guardians?”, was confirmed by frequent court-appointed Conservator and Trustee Darryl Millet, as published in the Albuquerque Journal’s ‘rebuttal’ on May 6, 2017 in “Darnell conservator disputes claims.”
NOTE: In the Darnell case, as in others, Darryl Millet served not only as Conservator, but also as Trustee. In both positions, Millet – or any other attorney serving the court – receives their power and money from a Judge’s Order(s). It is instructive to study what attorney writes the Judge’s Order(s) naming Millet or any other court-appointee, to their position of nearly unassailable power.
“The state Financial Institutions Division in a May 5 letter recommended Juanita Ramirez “consult with appropriate personal financial advisors and legal counsel concerning your rights.”
“But honestly we don’t have the money to say, ‘let’s start looking for an attorney,’” Armando Ramirez said in the Journal interview.”