Last March, a Nevada court indicted April Parks, proprietor of A Private Professional Guardian, which had secured court guardianship over four hundred elderly Nevadans, working with crooked doctors and social workers to find the identities of old people who had considerable assets, then using a streamlined court process with no checks and balances to have those people declared to be unable to care for themselves.
Parks's victims were then dragged out of their homes under threat of arrest. All their possessions were sold off and used to pay Park's sky-high fees (for example, she'd charge her victims' estates hundreds of dollars for a few minutes' worth of conversation with the victims' distraught children who were trying to find out where their parents had been taken), while the victims themselves were given assessments of dementia on the basis of an 11-question quiz administered by a "medical practitioner" whose training had consisted of watching a few hours' worth of video lectures. Thereafter the victims were medicated into oblivion while Parks's fees gobbled up their estates, until the money ran out and the victims would be dumped in paupers' wards where the medication regimes were upped and any pretense of care was removed.
Parks paid social workers and others to tip her off to the existence of rich, vulnerable old people. In at least one case she cold-called rehab centers looking for a woman said to have $700K in savings and no children; she then doctor-shopped until she found a friendly MD that would declare her victim to be incapable of caring for herself, and swooped in and had the woman kidnapped, stealing all her stuff.
Trustee hearings can last as little as 90 seconds. Almost all of the guardianship cases in Las Vegas have been heard by the Clark County guardianship commissioner, lawyer Jon Norheim, whose case-record shows numerous irregularities and lax standards. When Parks was finally indicted, Norheim kept his job, but was transferred to dependency court, "where he now oversees cases involving abused and neglected children."
Parks operated in Las Vegas, which advertises itself as a retirees' paradise, but which also has some of the nation's most lax standards for this kind of fraud and imprisonment. Many of these bad laws were seemingly written by Jared Shafer, the father of the guardianship racket, who had more than 3,000 "wards" and who is "still listed in the Clark County court system as a trustee and as an administrator in several open cases."
Worse, versions of this scam flourish all over the country, with "hotspots" in "Palm Beach, Sarasota, Naples, Albuquerque, San Antonio."
Gonzalez, who had roughly three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in assets, urged Rudy not to accept the nurse’s medications. “If you take the pills, they’ll make sure you don’t make it to court,” he said. Gonzalez had been prescribed the antipsychotic medications Risperdal and Depakote, which he hid in the side of his mouth without swallowing. He wanted to remain vigilant. He often spoke of a Salvador Dali painting that had been lost when Parks took over his life. Once, she charged him two hundred and ten dollars for a visit in which, according to her invoice, he expressed that “he feels like a prisoner.”
Rudy was so distressed by his conversations with Gonzalez that he asked to see a psychologist. “I thought maybe he’d give me some sort of objective learning as to what I was going through,” he said. “I wanted to ask basic questions, like What the hell is going on?” Rudy didn’t find the session illuminating, but he felt a little boost to his self-esteem when the psychologist asked that he return for a second appointment. “I guess he found me terribly charming,” he told me.
Rudy liked to fantasize about an alternative life as a psychoanalyst, and he tried to befriend the wards who seemed especially hopeless. “Loneliness is a physical pain that hurts all over,” he wrote in his notebook. He bought a pharmaceutical encyclopedia and advised the other wards about medications they’d been prescribed. He also ran for president of the residents, promising that under his leadership the kitchen would no longer advertise canned food as homemade. (He lost—he’s not sure if anyone besides Rennie voted for him—but he did win a seat on the residents’ council.)
He was particularly concerned about a ward of Parks’s named Marlene Homer, a seventy-year-old woman who had been a professor. “Now she was almost hiding behind the pillars,” Rudy said. “She was so obsequious. She was, like, ‘Run me over. Run me over.’ ” She’d become a ward in 2012, after Parks told the court, “She has admitted to strange thoughts, depression, and doing things she can’t explain.” On a certificate submitted to the court, an internist had checked a box indicating that Homer was “unable to attend the guardianship court hearing because______,” but he didn’t fill in a reason.
How the Elderly Lose Their Rights
[Rachel Aviv/New Yorker]
(via Naked Capitalism)