Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Conservator seeks to overturn court's ruling that man can keep his own house

Janet Phelan
Activist Post

A San Bernardino probate judge recently denied a highly unusual petition to revoke a 28-year-old notarized and recorded deed of sale and to return the property into the estate of the seller. In a stunningly bold move, the petitioner, conservator Melodie Scott, has moved for another trial on this matter.

This case potentially redefines the very concept of property ownership and as such may be seen as a precedent setting case.

The revocation of the deed of sale was sought by the conservator of an elderly woman, Lois Risse, who after nearly three decades sold her home to a friend of hers, Glenn Neff, with the understanding that she could live in the house—rent free—for the rest of her life. Lois Risse was in her early seventies at the time of the sale.

Fast forward to 2012. Risse, then 101 years old, was being preyed on financially by a bevy of individuals who were accessing her bank accounts, buying vehicles with her money and apparently even living in her house, robbing her under the pretext of caring for her.

When Melodie Scott was appointed Risse’s guardian by Judge Michael Welch in San Bernardino Superior Court, she inherited a Pandora's Box of predation and financial abuse which had greatly reduced the size of Risse's estate.

At that point, Scott made some legally questionable decisions. Rather than filing police reports against the people who appear to have taken off with over $70,000 of Risse's assets, she chose to try to persuade a judge to revoke the deed of sale to Risse's friend, Glenn Neff. Neff, who now lives in Northern California, has been maintaining the property and paying the taxes and insurance on the Yucaipa home. Scott has made it clear that she wishes to get a reverse mortgage on the property in order to pay for her services as Risse's guardian.


This reporter has reviewed papers from Melodie Scott's own files which indicate that several individuals withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from Risse’s bank accounts in fall of 2011 as well as cashed checks from her accounts for thousands of dollars for inexplicable expenses. Apparently, one of these individuals purchased a couple of vehicles with Risse’s money.

In her quest to make a case that Neff had committed financial elder abuse, Scott had to go back nearly thirty years. She found some checks that Risse had written to Neff back in the early eighties and ponied up these checks as evidence that three decades ago, Neff financially abused Lois Risse.

Neff has claimed that he took these checks to the bank and cashed them for Lois. Scott also claims that, nearly thirty years ago, Neff stole a gun collection belonging to Lois Risse. Both Risse and Neff have asserted that Risse sold her guns to someone else years ago.

In January, after depositions and a trial, Judge Raymond Haight decided that the deed of sale was legal and that Neff would be allowed to keep his house.

In an odd misattribution of responsibility, a distraught Melodie Scott subsequently emailed this reporter:
Hey you have another notch for your belt. We lost our trial to keep Mrs. Risse’s home and she has to go to a convalescent home. And no I was never paid in this file. Go see who else’s life you can ruin.
After the judge ruled against giving Melodie Scott the house belonging to Glenn Neff, an outburst from Melodie Scott was overheard in the courtroom in which she cried, “What am I gonna do now? She's out of money and she's gotta go! She's gotta go!”

It was unclear to those overhearing this where exactly Lois Risse had to go. Glenn Neff is honoring his promise that Lois can live in the house and is still carrying the financial burden of the insurance and taxes on the property. Given Melodie Scott's propensity to withhold medical care from her clients when they run out of money, one might wonder if Risse might soon be scheduled for a trip to the Big Retirement Home in the sky.

Not content with the judge's ruling, Scott turned around and has filed for a new trial. In her application for this trial, she alleges that the initial agreement between Neff and Risse stated that the deed would not be recorded until Risse died and therefore when Neff recorded the deed in 2012 he breached the contract and thus de facto nullified the original deed of sale. The crux of her motion for a new trial lies in a legal dispute as to whether the early recording of this document is an incidental or material breach of contract.

Neff has stated that when he realized that Lois's assets were under attack, he recorded the deed.

“My lawyers are already into me for thirty thousand dollars,” states a battle-weary Glenn Neff. According to Neff, he asked attorney Jack Osborn, who is the lawyer he initially hired to defend his house against conservator Scott's petition, whether he could redeem his attorney's fees if he is successful in derailing Scott's efforts to take the house away from him. Curiously, Neff reports that Osborn has told him he will be stuck with the bill no matter who wins in court. In fact, this is not necessarily true.

Osborn’s affiliations have already been questioned in this matter. When Neff learned that Osborn had previously represented Melodie Scott, he confronted the lawyer with this potential conflict of interest. At that point, a new lawyer was substituted in from the same firm of Brown, White and Newhouse. Neff states that Osborn never explained the change of lawyers to him and he suspects that Osborn's failure to disclose the conflict of interest resulted in Osborn bolting from the case.

Oddly, his lawyers are also billing Mr. Neff for reading the articles being published about this case. An entry on the attorney's bill for December 10, 2012, notes that Neff was charged for the following: “received and analyzed article ...regarding conservatorship of Lois Risse.”

“I think I am getting screwed every time I turn around here,” stated Neff in a recent interview. His lawyers have also billed him over $1500 for a deposition of Lois Risse. There is scant legal precedent which allows for deposing a mentally incapacitated party and the centenarian Risse has been medically deemed to be what us normal folks would call “deeply confused.”

On March 6, the motion for a new trial will be heard at 9 a.m. in Dept. S15P of San Bernardino Superior Court. The underlying implications of this protracted effort to reverse a decades-old deed of sale has reverberations for the whole concept of property ownership and levitates the common understanding of “who owns what” into a stratospheric legal grey zone. Conservatorships constitute a Constitutional loophole whereby simply the assertion made before a judge that someone has mental incapacity may result in his losing most of his civil rights and all access to his property and funds.

Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad.  You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com


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3 comments:

Hide Behind said...

Deeds of ownership are no more than permits of Tenetcy, the State and its Legal Establishment own almost all homes within US.
The only property , as in real estate ground over and under, actually owned outright sre those pieces in hands of Original Homestead Act Provisions.
US gov was never supposed to own any lands outside of one District of Columbia, and all other lands were held under public trust.
Military held lands are goverened under federal law as temporary military "Reservations and once abandoned revert back into the State or private hands by open sale.
Of course the meme of government land that the sheople won't understand anything different.

Diane said...

I do not understand why Melodie Scot is not in prison. As for the attorney Osborn, the conflict of interest is so obvious it is ridiculous. The judge, if he knows the law, should censure him and Neff needs to fire that law firm. And as for charging Neff to read articles? What crap!! Since when? Neff did not hire them to do that. He hired this guy to protect his rights, isn't that true?

During my mother's guardianship, the attorney Mary Giordano with Franchina and Giordano in Garden City, NY, hired a lawyer in 2009, David Smith to represent her when she desperately tried to prevent me from seeing my mother unless the visits were supervised. She wanted me out of the picture so she could rush my mother into a nursing home. She had compiled a list of lies about me, put them in a letter to the judge and worked in cahoots with Anne Recht, the geriatric care manager from Plainview, NY. Judge Asarch, Nassau County Supreme court judge in Mineola, NY, did not allow her wish but he trashed me in court anyway. These three people are/were all in cahoots on my mother's case and other cases before mine.

Fast forward to 2012, and Mary Giordano was hired to represent the Grace Lee family in a famous right to die case in Manhasset, NY. The lawyer for the opposing side, the woman who wanted to die, Grace Lee, was, you guessed it, the same David Smith !! In my opinion, this was a HUGE conflict of interest, illegal, ethical violations, all of the above. Mary Giordano had an obligation to tell the family that David Smith was her personal attorney. AND both attorneys had an obligation to tell the judge on the case....why didn't they? It is always and only all about the money in these cases of stealing from the elderly. It is never about caring for the person or dong what is right. It's not about the legalities. It appears to me that this Melodie Scott person and Neff's lawyer KNOW that what they are doing is not only illegal but harassment. I do hope Neff finds an honest and ethical lawyer and sues Osborn's law firm for malpractice and Melodie Scott for harassment and attempted theft.

As for the theft by the "caretakers”, the fact that as "guardian" and I use that term loosely, Scott has not reported it to the police, I believe it is a crime in itself. Why hasn't anyone brought her up on charges of aiding and abetting elder abuse?
I hope Neff continues to expose all of the wrongdoing in this case. We support him.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Melodie Scott is the predator. Mr Neff is honoring his agreement to Risse, she is living in peace in the home he (her friend) saved and Melodie Scott wants to forcibly take it away which would result in Risse losing not only her resources but her independence which would force her to be completely dependent on I wonder who - Melodie Scott! Neff is helping Risse to live free and in peace. If they lose the house Risse will lose most if not everything, including her independance. I am certain the real predator IS Melodie Scott.

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