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Florida: Latest Pinellas County Guardianship horror story

Seal of the State of Florida Seal of the State of Florida

At AAAPG we receive many emails, pleading for help with attorneys and judges who abuse guardianship laws and enrich themselves, leaving our elderly and disabled loved ones to suffer.  But this letter is the most heart-rending, horrific story of a lawyer criminally abusing his legal priviledges granted by their  admission to their State’s Bar, that we have ever heard.  Read it and decide for yourselves:

About a year and a half ago, I was in the mist of a child custody dispute for my 12 year old son. I had been his sole care giver since he was born but his mother now wanted custody. Since she is his biological mother the court was tending to grant her request in spite of the serious objections of both my son and myself.

It was an expensive suit and I was forced to maintain two households. I was running into financial difficulties and went to my lawyer of over 10 years and asked his advice on how I could get some advice on restructuring my debts and get myself out of trouble. (A couple of years earlier, my credit rating was well over 800. I have a good retirement income and knew I could get out of problems with a little help.) He said he’d look into it and a few days later he let me know that he thought he could help out and even told me he was considering expanding his practice to doing more of this kind of work but he would have to get court approval.

As my personal lawyer, I assumed he would be working in my best interest. I was wrong. Being in debt was no longer my biggest problem. My biggest problem was that my lawyer had become my Plenary Guardian. I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t even know that such a thing could happen.
My ex-lawyer, now my plenary Guardian (John Lonergan) immediately placed me in a lock-down “Assisted Living Facility” which specializes in the elderly with advanced stages of dementia.

  • He confiscated my car and cell phone;
  • He has allowed my house to fall into default and I do not what the status is;
  • He does not know what happened to all my furnishings, personal records, electronics and clothing;
  • He has seriously hampered my ability to resolve my debt problems.
  • He has torn apart my family and seriously interfered with my son’s education.

The Assisted Living Facility he placed me in was at $5000.00 a month. (He has since moved me to another at $4000.00 a month.)

He refuses to discuss the status of my finances. And he will not discuss any efforts being made to satisfy my debts or the possibility of declaring bankruptcy.

He has taken advantage of our attorney/client relationship of over 10 years to twist facts and figures around in an attempt to justify his actions. And he has seriously misstated facts concerning my personal history to place a shadow over my reputation in official documents to the court.

I have recently been able to track down my son.

He is in Panama with his mother. I was able to contact them and I spoke with her and, for a few minutes. with him. He said he is doing well and I don’t think he is being mistreated. However, I am at a loss when I try to understand why the state allowed him to be taken to Panama by his mother.

I think that if my Guardian had not rushed me off to a Lock-down ALF with almost all the residents in some form of advanced dementia and severely limiting my ability to communicate with others I would have been able to help my son.

We did have a Magistrate’s Hearing on my case. My Guardian submitted his objection to my rights being restored and I submitted my response. His submission was listed as being considered by the Magistrate, mine was not. I am still living in a Locked Down Assisted Living Facility. It does differ from a penitentiary in that the uniforms are different and there are no weapons in sight. However, penitentiaries do have a liberal program of issuing passes to inmates from time to time. Also, the inmates do not have to pay for their imprisonment.

I am not allowed to leave the ALF except in the custody of a staff employee or a “companion” the guardian pays with my funds to take me shopping once a week to purchase snacks and personal items. I was in good health and physical condition but that is deteriorating due to lack of any exercise facilities and a lack of any beneficial social interactions. I have tried to cooperate with this system for the past year but continuing to put up with this situation is very difficult and, I believe, a financial disaster.

I still haven’t quite figured out how I ended up in this situation.

I am proud of my service in the U.S. Army I do believe that we live in the finest country the world has ever seen and was proud of the contribution I was making. I volunteered for the draft shortly after graduating from High School in Dayton, Ohio in 1957. After taking the enlistment tests the Recruiter said that if I would enlist for 3 years, they could assign me to the Army Security Agency. I accepted the offer and after some appropriate schooling was assigned to Germany where I was stationed for 4 years.

Returning to the states, as a Sergeant, I was assigned to Ft. Hood Texas. After a few months there, I decided to apply for a Commission. I was accepted and was assigned to the Infantry Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning Georgia. This school is widely recognized as one of the most effective leadership schools in the U.S. Military. I graduated in 1965 as a Distinguished Graduate (top 10%).

After several assignments including two tours in Vietnam with Infantry Divisions, the Army was faced with a rift of Army Officers. Not having a college education was not a good thing. I was offered an opportunity to attend the University of my choice if I could show that I could obtain a bachelor of science degree in 2 years (24 months). I talked to the University of Dayton and it was determined that it would be possible and I did it. Graduating in 1973 a Bachelor of Science with a Major in Computer Science and a second Major in Psychology; also, a Minor in Mathematics concentrating on Statistical Analysis.

Following my graduation, I was assigned to the Staff and Faculty of the U.S. Army War College where I was assigned to Information Services, Computer Division for four years. This was at a time when tremendous advances were being made in the use of Computers by the Military Services in general and my double major was put to good use. During that time, I was promoted to the rank of Major.

After 4 years at the War College, Army policy required that I be given an overseas assignment and offered me the position of Plans and Operations Officer for Communications in the Canal Zone. I served in that position for one year but then, since I preferred working in the Computer field, I decided to retire when I would be able to start a second career before reaching the age of forty. I did retire and accepted a Position with the Panama Canal Company on the Technical Services Staff.

During my military career, among the awards and commendations I received were three Bronze Stars for services in Vietnam, and two Distinguished Service Medals for services in non-combat arenas.

Retiring in Fort Myers Florida, I majored in tennis, an Internet International Chess Club and raising my son who was born on October 11, 2002.

I was born on June 28, 1939 and am now 76 years old.

I have no service related injuries or disabilities. I do not know of any health, physical or mental disabilities that would prevent me from living a normal and productive life for many years to come. I will occasionally drink some wine or, after a heated tennis match, a beer or two.

There was a divorce from my son’s mother in September, 2003. However, an agreement was reached between me and my ex-wife that I would retain custody of our son. This agreement was maintained for over 10 years when, my ex-wife decided that she wanted to take our son to Panama for an extended period of time so he could become better acquainted with Panama and his extended family in that country. My son and I both strongly objected to being separated but the court decided that my son should live with his mother for a few months to see if they could become more closely acquainted. This turned out to be a true disaster. It was also during this time that I discovered that I had become financially over extended due to some errors on my part and some financial misdeeds on the part of my ex-wife which were attributed to my credit accounts.

And, I recently discovered that, in spite of dedicating my life in service to my country, of obeying the laws and customs of our society and of a continuing participation in the good order and the political processes under which we live, my guardian has specified that I forfeit all my personal and constitutional rights. I recently found out that included my right to vote and, once again, tears came to my eyes. I would be very grateful for any help you can give me or on how I can best work with the system. I have not had any help in writing this correspondence but it is difficult to plead my case, especially while a Ward of a Plenary Guardian.

My Plenary Guardian (Previously my Personal Lawyer for over 10 years):

John R. Lonergan, Esq.
12520 World Plaza Lane, Suite 1
Fort Myers, Florida 33907
(239) 275-8200

Darryl L. Steiner, Sr.
Currently residing at:
Seasons ALF
1145 Belleair FL 33756
Office phone: 727 754 9797

I currently have a lap top computer for my use. As long as I have that capability, I can be reached at: darrylsteiner5@gmail.com.

Yours Truly,

Darryl L. Steiner, Sr.