Seattle, WA January 27st, 2019 – The Trump Administration, directly after taking office, asked U.S. Attorneys across the country to submit their resignations. As a matter of routine, politically-appointed U.S. Attorneys submit letters of resignation after a change of administration. In March of 2017, the Trump administration selected Brian Moran as Annette Hayes’ replacement for the Western District.
But when Hayes, the recently departed U.S. Attorney for the Western District was asked to resign, she declined. After the departure of her predecessor, Jenny Durkan, Hayes enjoyed a unique form of job security. When Hayes replacement was abruptly announced last week with no advance notice or explanation, political insiders and journalists began asking questions.
“It does seem very odd,” commented Kerri Kasem, Founder and President of the Kasem Cares Foundation, which advocates for guardianship and probate reform. “Here’s someone who declined to leave in 2017 when her replacement was announced, then without advanced notice she’s just gone. You would think there’s a reason for her leaving office so suddenly.”
In fact, the only basis for the departure of a transitional appointee who refuses to leave would normally be a resignation, demonstrated incompetence, or corruption. A request for an investigation of Annette Hayes office had been made by rapidly escalating efforts on the part of several national groups concerned with guardianship and probate fraud (“GPF”).
The organized effort for investigation of corruption in the U.S. Attorney’s Office was led by a national Seattle-based group that has aggressively pursued the criminal prosecution of corrupt judges and attorneys, Veterans for Guardianship and Probate Reform (VGR), together with GPF organizations AAAPG, CEAR, and the Kasem Cares Foundation.
After reviewing dozens of probate and guardianship cases with serious problems, VGR Paralegal Sophia Bagnaschi noticed a pattern of names, contacted ad hoc guardianship advocacy groups to compare notes, performed exhaustive searches of thousands of records, and discovered evidence that Washington State public officials are being bribed.
“When you work directly with people who’ve been affected by court fraud, you see the human cost, the loss of life, the destruction of families. You really feel the pain, the trauma, the loss of faith, and the hopelessness. It’s just unbelievable, the total devastation. When I found out that staff attorneys at the U.S. Attorney’s Office wouldn’t prosecute corrupt judges and lawyers because the victims are, to quote, ‘either dead or diminished so they don’t make good witnesses,’ that was it,” said Bagnaschi, “I just knew something was very wrong. I needed to know why this was happening. I just became completely outraged and went to work,” said Bagnaschi.
“It’s hard to explain how seeing and feeling all this pain can motivate you so much,” said Bagnaschi. “I think part of it is the hypocrisy, these people we’ve all given this power to. They sit there hiding behind masks of virtue and respect, we pay them well, but most of all we place our trust in them. We trust them to determine some of the most important things that will happen in our lives. They betray all of us,” stated Bagnaschi.
Members and affiliates of the recently formed and rapidly growing VGR group have been presenting evidence of corruption of Washington State judges and attorneys to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for years, without a single case of corruption having been prosecuted. Bagnaschi’s research was so well organized and extensive that it provided VGR with the ammunition to build support across the country and build a coalition. Now armed with overwhelming evidence, the groups joined together to remove Hayes who refused to address the judicial fraud, the center of probate and guardianship fraud.
“I won’t comment on active cases at this time,” said Jonathan Grindell, General Counsel for Veterans for Guardianship and Probate Reform. “ VGR Executive Director, Robert Crawford, was more direct: “For more than three months, there has been a significant national effort by many people and groups concerned with court fraud to present evidence to people in government and others in prominent positions that probable cause of corruption may exist in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District.”
“Many of us involved in guardianship and probate reform across the country supported a joint effort to remove or suspend Annette Hayes and ask for a comprehensive investigation. It’s not clear if those efforts resulted in Hayes’ resignation, but her departure will be a starting point to determine why cases of corruption have not been prosecuted,” said Kasem. A radio host, writer, and producer, Ms. Kasem was personally affected when her father, the late radio personality Casey Kasem, was a victim of the GPF process, part of which occurred in Washington State.
“Our staff’s research uncovered evidence that establishes probable cause which warrants an investigation to determine if Annette Hayes and members of her staff have been receiving bribes to not prosecute cases involving corrupt judges and attorneys. We have hundreds of pages of evidence. Based on the pattern of financial activity of the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, it is our opinion that evidence strongly suggests key members of the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office are being bribed,” said Crawford.
Rick Black, the Executive Director of CEAR, the national Center for Estate Administration Reform said, “For more than five years there has been an effort to engage federal investigators in probate, trust, and adult guardianship fraud across Washington. We were confident the passage of the federal Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act in late 2017 would motivate U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes of the Western district of Washington to take long overdue action.”
“Sadly, Ms. Hayes and the Civil and Criminal Elder Justice Coordinators working for Ms. Hayes, Kayla Stahman and Michael Dion, refused to consider complaints or referrals to federal investigators. They indicated the plight of the elderly isn’t a priority and they don’t like prosecuting attorneys, especially those endorsed by local administrative jurists. Hopefully Annette Hayes’ departure will prompt reprioritization by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington State to prosecute attorneys and judges who use their special privileges to defraud vulnerable adults of wealth,” said Mr. Black, who is also a member of VGR’s Advisory Board.
According to Dr. Sam Sugar, the founder of the country’s largest organization on guardianship fraud, AAAPG, a national expert and #1 best-selling author of Guardianships and the Elderly-the Perfect Crime, the probate and guardianship courts of Washington State appear to be as corrupt as any in the nation. “One of the only solutions to the problem of corrupt public officials and judges, and violations of Washington State citizens’ federal rights, is meaningful legal action by the U.S. Attorney. We must demand honest, thorough investigations, prosecutions and indictments of corrupt public officials,” said Dr. Sugar.
“Corrupt public officials and especially probate and guardianship judges, have cost Washington State dearly for a very long time. They needlessly impose life altering guardianships that strip innocent people of the right to live under the protection of our laws. They strip people of their money, forcing the public to pay for their care resulting in unnecessary increases in healthcare costs to the public. And they destroy innocent families–all in the name of greed and the insatiable thirst for power.”
“We hope the departure of Annette Hayes will remove any remaining barriers to an honest investigation into the many years of highly suspicious behavior in the Washington State probate and guardianship courts, and when confirmed, result in robust criminal prosecutions” according to Dr. Sugar, who is considered the leading expert in the nation on the subject of guardianship and probate fraud.
“The efforts of the veteran’s groups are understandable,” said Kathy Wright-Brawn, Chairman of the Kasem Cares Foundation, an organization which advocates for guardianship and probate reform. Ms. Wright-Brawn family was directly affected by GPF when attorneys and judges wrested control of her philanthropist father’s $100m estate. “My father was a veteran. Veterans fought for their and our right to live under the rule of law. Now veterans and their families are being denied that right by corrupt courts, with devastating consequences. We have to see prosecution of corrupt attorneys and judges,” said Wright-Brawn.
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“At the State level, we need to look at every option to address court corruption, specifically corruption in the guardianship and probate courts, by creating ways to quickly and efficiently deal with a problem that we are hearing a growing chorus of voices expressing serious concern about. At a State level, we need to know that the Bar Association and Commission on Judicial Conduct are acting decisively on complaints and charges of corruption,” said Anne Block, Publisher of the Gold Bar Reporter.
“There is a root issue here that has taken years of investigation for us to uncover,” Block continued. “That root issue is about the role state insurers have played in court fraud. Specifically, the influence the insurers have over judges, law firms, attorneys, prosecutors and the State Bar Association. Both of the State’s insurers, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) have illegally influenced the entire legal system to deny Washington State citizens their right to due process.”
“The goal is to solve the problem and have a close productive working relationship with the new U.S. Attorney, Brian Moran, whom we understand is very capable. We hope that Mr. Moran will staff his office with people who are willing to criminally prosecute corrupt judges and attorneys,” said Crawford.
“If we have corrupt courts, what legal protections does anyone have? Does anyone live under the rule of law?”
“Cicero, the great Roman statesman, said that the definition of an unjust society is where the small crimes are harshly prosecuted, and the great crimes go unpunished.”
“We must all work together to prosecute corrupt attorneys and judges,” said Crawford, “We need to support our new U.S. Attorney, Brian Moran, in any way we can.”
Additional contacts (in alphabetical order):
Chair, Advisory Council VGR
Anne K. Block
Publisher, Gold Bar Reporter
Member, Advisory Council VGR
Chairman, Kasem Cares Foundation
Executive Director, VGR
General Counsel, VGR
Founder-President, Kasem Cares Foundation
Dr. Sam Sugar
Additional contact information for verification of quotes is listed above.
Image credit: Associated Press