Good Guys Win Financial Exploitation Case

Posted on: Sunday, February 8th, 2015

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Frances and Elizabeth Stafford were sisters in the Bay City area. When Elizabeth died, her trust continued for the benefit of Frances. Frances was a vulnerable adult, physically and cognitively impaired. Her trusted financial advisor of many years was Trustee over Elizabeth’s Trust.

We were hired by the beneficiaries when, after Frances died, evidence of misappropriation came to light. We first acted to remove the Trustee and appoint a CPA as successor Trustee, who conducted a forensic review of the accounts and came to the conclusion that the prior Trustee had misappropriated over $500,000 for his personal benefit.

The case was assigned to Judge Sheeran in Bay County Circuit Court (although originally a probate file, due to various procedural issues and the retirement of Judge Tighe, Judge Sheeran took the case).

The case was interesting in several respects, including the assertion by the defendant Trustee of his 5th amendment right not to make self-incriminating statements.

On February 4, 2015, the Court conducted a hearing on our motion for summary disposition. In addition to seeking recovery of the misappropriated $500,000, we requested treble damages pursuant to MCL 600.2919a. This was granted and the final verdict was for $1,539,634.71, plus interest.

Thanks to Judge Sheeran for his handling of this matter. Thanks to the successor Trustee, Michael Zimmerman, C.P.A. of Yeo and Yeo. Thanks to our fantastic litigation team, including, but not limited to: Nancy Theis, Joe Weiler, Drummond Black, Dan Hilker, Phil Harter, Julianne MacDonald, Rita Athanasion and Romani Schrems.

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