Seattle, WA. October 24, 2019. A national expert and investigative journalist are alleging that a Washington State case is a “national model” of guardianship and probate fraud. This article principally examines the role of a Seattle law firm in that ongoing case and others.
The larger implication of the case, however, is how that case has exposed a complex and systematic fraud that is allegedly being committed by private law firms, public officials, and guardianship firms who are misappropriating hundreds of millions of dollars – usually from the estates of vulnerable people.
“The case of the late Seattle attorney D. Douglas Titus is truly shocking and outrageous for several important reasons,” according to The Gold Bar Reporter (“GBR”), an award-winning publication based in the Seattle area. “Mr. Titus was a practicing attorney. He wasn’t incapacitated or impaired by any legal definition. He was daily practicing complex law. In spite of those facts, he was forced into an illegal guardianship. In the process, he was prevented from making important financial decisions regarding his health which cost him his life.”
“The question is, if this could happen to a practicing lawyer, where does that leave the average person? That is why the Titus case is nothing less than an important national model of guardianship and probate fraud,” said the GBR. “Many of us continue to closely follow this case and advocate for the investigation and prosecution of the participants.”
One aspect of the Titus case that is now the subject of examination is the conflicted role of a Seattle law firm. The firm, Aiken, St. Louis & Siljeg, P.S., is alleged to not only have a “highly questionable role in the Titus fraud,” but a “significant ongoing role” in questionable probate and guardianship cases in Washington State, according to the GBR. “Insider testimony and documents we’ve been provided establish a conflicted relationship between the Aiken law firm, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, and the court-appointed guardian ad litem,” said the GBR, which has extensively reviewed the court record and investigated the Titus case.
“In the Titus case, Aiken Partner Richard Furman, Jr. appeared in court and was copied on all court documents before Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Emily R. Hansen was appointed, before the GAL investigation began, and before the GAL report was written. In the absence of any legally valid finding of incapacity of Mr. Titus, Hansen’s GAL report in later recommended Richard Furman, Jr. and a company Furman is co-owner of, Puget Sound Guardians as guardian for Mr. Titus,” said the GBR. “Among the extensive documentation of Aiken’s participation in a RICO [racketeering] enterprise is evidence that both Furman’s guardianship firm and law firm appear to be directing the State Attorney General’s staff to pre-select them for the cases Furman, Aiken and Puget Sound Guardians want,” said the GBR.
“From the beginning, the Titus case never passed the smell test,” said the GBR. “The first judge [court commissioner] in the case, Henry Judson, had acted as General Counsel for Care Planning Associates. The GAL Emily Hansen had worked on cases with Amy Miller, an employee of Care Planning. Neither the GAL, nor Commissioner Judson disclosed their past relationships, which may have properly resulted in recusal or disqualification. Although Mr. Titus had no obligation under the law to establish his mental capacity, his legal team provided the Judson court with overwhelming evidence that Titus was of sound mind and practicing complex law daily. Judson ignored every fact and every legal right,” said the GBR.
Emily Hansen’s GAL report, subsequent legal filings and statements in open court repeatedly claimed that Mr. Titus had been incapacitated from a stroke, was cognitively impaired, and had been financially exploited. The “wildly baseless” allegations in the words of Titus’ own legal team were refuted by hundreds of pages of evidence submitted in the court record, including medical records from Titus’ physician. The legal team of Mr. Titus and his associate included retired State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, and four other highly experienced and qualified attorneys. All evidence that Mr. Titus had never experienced a stroke, was not mentally impaired or financially exploited in any way was ignored by Commissioner Judson and subsequently every judge in the Titus case.
Although not mentally impaired, Mr. Titus was addressing a serious healthcare issue and required a kidney transplant. His insurance company declined the transplant, however, citing recent changes in the way candidates were prioritized. Now his only option was to pay for the transplant in cash. Yet, with the State of Washington represented by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Boharski working in tandem with the GAL Emily Hansen – together spending millions of public dollars against Mr. Titus’ interests and legal rights – his resources were becoming limited. Titus and an associate arranged for a sale-leaseback of a home to access the funds, while retaining the right to live in the property. While the transaction was in escrow, and within hours of the disbursement of funds for the transplant, the GAL Emily Hansen contacted the realtor to kill the deal.
Ms. Hansen falsely claimed to the realtor to be “the court-appointed attorney for Mr. Titus” and with no legal basis, evidence, or authority stated that Mr. Titus’ former home was illegally titled. Although a voicemail recording of Hansen claiming to be Titus’ court-appointed attorney and a court-certified transcript of that recording has been submitted in the court record, Hansen has denied on record of having made the statement. Every judge in the Titus case has ignored this evidence.
Out of options, Mr. Titus died within weeks of GAL Hansen’s interference with his sale-leaseback. Mr. Titus’ friend, Fred Christianson, was then appointed as the Administrator of his estate. Mr. Christianson retained William Dussault’s law firm. At the time Dussault was a partner and principal of his own firm. Within days of Dussault’s firm assuming representation of Mr. Christianson, Dussault left to become a partner at the Aiken firm.
Shortly thereafter, with alleged questions of ethics and fees, Mr. Christianson discharged Dussault’s firm. According to extensive court records, in the absence of evidence or legal cause, GAL Emily Hansen then falsely accused Christianson of mismanagement of the Titus estate by not challenging the title to Mr. Titus’ former home, which Mr. Titus had never disputed and in fact Titus and his legal team made clear had long before been sold at his own direction. The case was heard by Judge Ken Schubert. In Judge Schubert’s court, Christianson was then represented by the General Counsel of an advocacy group created by friends and associates of the late attorney Mr. Titus. The attorney, Jonathan Grindell, submitted hundreds of pages of evidence of legal practice violations and violations of federal and state law by Hansen and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Boharski. Given the evidence of violations of federal law in the Titus case, attorney Grindell cited Judge Schubert’s duty under Misprision of Felony to forward the evidence to the U.S. Attorney.
“Not only did Judge Schubert refuse to comply with his duty under federal law to forward the evidence to the U.S. Attorney,” said the GBR, “Schubert then illegally sanctioned and fined Jonathan Grindell and his client Mr. Christianson $10,000 for simply asserting their legal rights. Among the things Schubert sanctioned and fined them for were referencing Judge Shubert’s legal obligation to report violations of law under Misprision of Felony and for having submitted a declaration from the most recognized and qualified expert on guardianship and probate fraud in the nation, Sam Sugar, M.D. A prominent physician based in Florida, Dr. Sugar is the N.Y. Times best-selling author on guardianship and probate fraud, and the Executive Director of the nation’s largest anti-guardianship fraud organization. Schubert’s fines and sanctions against Mr. Christianson and his attorney Mr. Grindell were inconsistent with the law. Schubert’s actions warrant an investigation of his conduct,” said the GBR.
Judge Schubert ’s role in the Titus fraud didn’t end there. Schubert not only ignored the evidence of illegal activity in the Titus case, he then removed Mr. Christianson as Administrator of the Titus Estate without a legally valid basis. In a textbook example of what Titus advocates refer to as “court theatre,” Schubert then pretended to reference from his clerk’s computer what he claimed was a court-approved list of personal representatives. There is only one problem with Judge Schubert’s claim: no such list exists. The only legally valid way a personal representative of an estate may be appointed is by a petition to the court.
The GBR clarified the judicial impropriety, “Schubert’s reference of a court-approved list of personal representatives is absolute fiction – a fact confirmed by the court’s own staff. Under state law, the court doesn’t solicit personal representatives or nominate them. The legal duty of the court is to impartially adjudicate. Without being solicited by the court, a party submits a petition for appointment of personal representative to the court, and states their qualifications and relationship to the estate. A judge then decides if they are appropriate. That is the only legally valid way a personal representative is appointed to any estate. Every judge knows that.”
Not only did Judge Schubert pretend to choose a replacement personal representative for the Titus case from a non-existent list, he chose Chris Lee of the Aiken law firm. Chris Lee, whose law partner Richard Furman, Jr. was present in court and copied on every Titus court record before he was appointed by the court. Chris Lee, whose law partner Richard Furman, Jr. by all appearances was pre-selected for the Titus case by the state Attorney General’s Office. Chris Lee, whose law partner Richard Furman, Jr. is co-owner of Puget Sound Guardians. Chris Lee, whose law partner William Dussault formerly represented Mr. Christianson. Chris Lee, whose law partner and pro tem judge Eric E. Brunstrom previously ruled in the Titus case. “The conflicts with the Aiken law firm in the Titus case merit a comprehensive investigation and disqualification by the court and every party involved,” said the GBR.
“Let’s be clear about the Aiken law firm’s role in the Titus case, it’s relationship to the Office of the State Attorney General, and guardianship fraud. These people are participants in a criminal enterprise. There is central direction, there is a series of predicate acts, and there is a network of people colluding. We have the evidence. It’s a RICO enterprise. It’s that simple,” said the GBR.
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“What is most remarkable is the arrogance. The legal team of the Titus case involved a retired Supreme Court Justice, a former U.S. Attorney, and four other prominent attorneys. The evidence of the Titus fraud and how it works are part of the court record. Yet these people still have the hubris to think that they’re able to get away with openly practicing an extensive RICO enterprise,” said the GBR.
Incensed by Fred Christianson’s illegal removal, Chris Lee’s fraudulent appointment as administrator in the Titus estate, and Schubert’s sanctions imposed without legal basis, Christianson’s attorney Jonathan Grindell sent an impassioned letter to every member of the Aiken law firm, citing their conflicts and impropriety, and demanding that Lee and Aiken withdraw their involvement in the Titus case. Even when confronted with direct evidence of their fraud, Lee and the partners of the Aiken law firm refused to withdraw from the Titus case.
GAL Emily Hansen’s role appears to be at least as irregular as the Aiken law firm. The role in the Titus case of Ms. Hansen by law ended on May 27, 2016 when she submitted her report recommending Titus’ guardianship. Hansen was further ordered removed from the case by Judge Mary Roberts on Nov. 1, 2016. Contrary to state law governing GALs, Hansen not only continued in the case, but illegally performed the combined roles of GAL, guardian and attorney. Hansen submitted and billed Titus and his estate for thousands of pages of legal work, at all times during and after the late attorney Titus’ life, arguing against both Titus’ wishes and legal rights. From the time Hansen’s role ended when her report was submitted, and after Mr. Titus’ death, Hansen has billed the Titus estate more than an additional $100,000 for performing the illegally combined roles – all for a practicing attorney who was never by any legal definition found to be incapacitated.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Hansen and her collaborators. Contrary to the legal rights of former estate Administrator Christianson, Hansen also sued Christianson for fees she charged to Titus and his estate. Judge Schubert approved of Hansen’s baseless claims of negligence against Christianson. Based on Schubert’s own illegal sanctions against Christianson attorney Grindell, Schubert then approved of Hansen’s motion for summary judgement for what now totals over $150,000. By claiming bad faith and sanctioning Christianson and Grindell, Hansen and Shubert together established an unlawful pretext to justify a summary judgment and thus deny Christianson his constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial.
GAL Hansen, who had originally recommended the Aiken law firm and Puget Sound Guardians as guardians for Mr. Titus, continues her involvement in the Titus case as of this writing. In response to a petition to the court by a qualified administrator for appointment to represent the interests of the Titus estate, and in what may be a classic case of “good cop, bad cop” court theatre, Titus Estate Administrator and Aiken attorney Chris Lee appears to continue his law firm’s collusion with Hansen: Lee’s most recent court filing of Oct. 14, 2019 appears to be feigning the appearance of willingness to withdraw from the Titus case.
Coincident with Chris Lee’s filing of Oct. 14, 2019, Ms. Hansen also filed with the court to insist that Mr. Lee remain as the Titus Administrator. While Ms. Hansen has no valid standing in the case to make any such argument, she continues to bill the estate for all of her legal work – all for the late practicing attorney Titus who was never by any legal definition found to be incapacitated. On Oct. 18, 2019, two days after the deadline for filing arguments in the case, Ms. Hansen entered into the court record additional arguments unsupported by any relevant evidence or reference to applicable laws. She did, however, submit as an exhibit a letter from Mr. Christianson’s counsel to the Aiken law firm that had only been in the possession of Aiken, further suggesting collaboration between Hansen and Aiken.
Yet on Oct. 23, 2019, King County Superior Court David J. Whedbee ruled in favor of Ms. Hansen, refusing to remove Chris Lee of the Aiken law firm. Regardless of the overwhelming evidence presented to the court of Lee’s illegal appointment by Judge Schubert and Aiken’s conflicts of interest, the fact that Ms. Hansen at all times had aggressively opposed Mr. Titus’ interests, including fraudulently intervening in his financial affairs which resulted in Mr. Titus’ death, Judge Whedbee refused to remove Titus estate administrator Mr. Lee, without addressing the fact that Lee had been illegally appointed by Schubert. “Judge Whedbee’s decision defies both logic and the law. There is not one valid reason why Chris Lee should remain as Administrator for the Titus Estate,” said the GBR, “Judge Whedbee’s decision demands not just an explanation but an investigation, as well as an investigation of every other commissioner and judge in the Titus case.”
The toll in the Titus case, and related exposure and liability of the players continues to accumulate. Overwhelmed with Judge Schubert’s illegal sanctions and direct threats in open court to take Mr. Grindell’s law license, together with what he stated to friends, associates and family was his conviction of “total corruption” in the Titus case, the 38-year old General Counsel for the veterans’ group that represented Mr. Christianson, Jonathan Grindell, hung himself.
As of this writing Emily Hansen continues her involvement in the Titus case, as does the Aiken law firm and Chris Lee as Administrator. Regardless of the evidence of collusion and violations of law presented in the court record, not one judge has removed themselves from the case. Nor one attorney. “Their arrogance has been the biggest asset of the case,” said the GBR. “It is because of that arrogance that we have been able to find extensive documentation of the fraud and establish how it works – they’ve basically just gotten sloppy. It’s rewarding for all of us to have finally established the pattern of fraud and identify the key players.”
“Nearly everyone who reviews the Titus cases asks the same question,” said the GBR. “Why would the State of Washington that claims to have no money for homelessness spend millions of dollars to impose a guardianship on a practicing attorney of sound mind? The answer is very simple: Titus and his associate had both advocated for the reform of Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). They wrote a paper called ‘Dawn of a Working Government.’ It was a threat to the State and the Attorney General’s ability to control $18 billion dollars.”
The paper presents a three part idea: one, apply Steve Ballmer’s idea and post the agency’s accounting books online; two, convert the books into a standard accounting format; and three, take the $18 billion dollar checkbook away from the state’s most ineffective and wasteful agency and hand it to outside accounting firm,” said the GBR. “Evidence suggests that the state Office of Attorney General has used the guardianship fraud system that was already in place to retaliate against Titus and his associate. The retaliation began directly after they published the paper.”
“There are now two casualties, two deaths that have resulted from the Titus case, and countless violations of law,” according to the GBR. “So many people across the country have been supporting and contributing to the investigative work, countless public records requests, and have worked with insiders as well as private and public investigators.”
“While it’s encouraging that we have substantial evidence, insiders, and numerous witnesses, we’re particularly fortunate that where there is fraud involving a great deal of money, there is usually money laundering and tax evasion,” said the GBR. “The discovery of an extensive fraud translates into strong incentives for the private and public sectors to both recover damages and pursue prosecution.”
“The Titus case is truly a national model of guardianship and probate fraud,” said the GBR, which has been among a handful of the most successful investigative journalists in the State of Washington in the exposure of public corruption, “It should help many people by presenting to the public an extreme example of that fraud.”
“Beyond that, I really can’t comment further on the case, the parties involved in the investigation, our witnesses or evidence other than to say until we have prosecutions, Washington State is a state of injustice,” said the GBR.
Quotes may be verified via the Gold Bar Reporter at [email protected]
“State of Injustice” is the result of a three-year ongoing investigative series on guardianship and probate fraud in Washington State involving public officials, attorneys, and guardianship firms.
The next articles in the series individually focus on Commissioner Henry Judson, Judge Ken Schubert, Seattle Attorney Emily R. Hansen and Washington State Assistant Attorney Generals Jennifer Boharski and Diane Dorsey.
A related series, “Your Courts, Their Fraud,” is being published concurrently in cooperation with other news media.
Top image: Pixabay
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