INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 25, 2015
LAS VEGAS – After years of court sanctioned bilking of wealthy senior citizens and disabled persons, the biggest shake up in Clark County District Court history has just forced the immediate removal of two well-known jurists who were allegedly doing the bidding of veteran for-hire private guardian Jared E. Shafer and his protégés.
In the wake of the court house shake up, the Nevada Legislature on May 23, 2015, voted to change the arcane laws that allowed Clark County Family Court Judge Charles Hoskin and his appointed “Hearing Master” Jon Norheim to blanket approve the actions of unscrupulous private for-hire guardians who for over a decade preyed on the fortunes of hapless seniors and disabled people in Southern Nevada while their out of state families protested in vain. (Remember the court video of Norheim closing his court to the public upon orders of a private for-hire guardian who is not an officer of the court. That guardian, Jared Shafer, did not want the public to know that he could not account for $500.000.00 missing from one of his wards.)
Too often, the “ward’s” wishes to move to another state to be with family are ignored by the court so the estate can continue paying the guardian’s outrageous fees until the ward dies, and sometimes for years thereafter with the court’s approval (see: Grave Robbery Under Color Of Law! The story of the late Leanne Peccole).
One of the Nevada laws that Hoskin and Norheim relied upon limited those who could become fiduciaries of the estates of Nevada “wards” of the court to only those persons who physically resided within Nevada thus prohibiting out of state children of well-to-do elderly persons from overseeing the fortunes of their own parents. This bad law opened the way for unscrupulous for-hire guardians to be appointed by Hoskin and Norheim to fleece elderly widows or widowers. As of last Saturday, the Nevada Legislature voted to change that law and allow out of state relatives to govern the assets of incapacitated loved ones living in Nevada. Another law was enacted to require all for-hire guardians to be licensed and bonded – a first for Nevada.
Most decisions made by Hoskin and Norheim were based on the amount of wealth the surviving spouse had, not their actual needs (poor people are not provided private professional guardians). After the passing of a parent, out of state relatives would soon learn that their surviving mother or father was secretly made a ward of the court during their grief, and that a stranger was the best choice to be given full power of attorney by Hoskin or Norheim to manage their loved one’s estate without allowing input from family members living outside Nevada.
In some cases, family members who actually live in Nevada were disapproved if their loved one was extremely wealthy. The appointed for-hire guardian would tell Hoskin or Norheim during a hearing that the local relative was an “exploiter” or “unfit,” often falsely accusing the relative of drug addiction or being a compulsive gambler. In all cases researched by INSIDE VEGAS, Hoskin or Norheim took the side of the for-hire guardian, and the fleecing continued.
The out of state family is told that someone called authorities to report that their parent or relative was in need of help, and a for-hire guardian was “temporarily” appointed by the Family Court to look after the physical needs and assets of the loved one. Within months, sometimes weeks, the temporary status is changed to permanent by Hoskin or Norheim when its determined that there are no relatives living in Nevada who can care for the “ward” allowing life’s savings to be drained through double charges, excessive fees, and outright thievery by the appointed “guardian,” and assets can be liquidated without anyone’s approval (see cashed checks below, and review this website for documentation.
This legal, but immoral practice was finally exposed by Nevada media, and the scam’s effect on Las Vegas’ second most lucrative business – retirement – is only now being realized, i. e., who would want to retire to Sun City Anthem in Henderson, or Sun City Summerlin in Las Vegas if they knew that local Family Courts would collude with certain private “guardians” to take the retiree for everything they’re worth before their children could receive their inheritance?
I wrote my first editorial on this subject in April 2002, for a local weekly newspaper. The editorial was republished by an Internet magazine on May 31, 2006.
The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) also began reporting Clark County guardian abuse cases in April of 2006. The organization’s president, Elaine Renoire, has closely followed the exploitation of Las Vegas victims Marcy Dudeck and Guadalupe Olvera.
INSIDE VEGAS began exposing this racket February 25, 2013, on AmericanMafia.com in a story entitled “GUADALUPE OLVERA’S WAR.” Several more columns followed until I was able to expose the modus operandi of the scheme in “Las Vegas’ Death Watch – The chain of events start at Sun City Anthem and end in private guardian Jared E. Shafer’s pocket” published March 17, 2014, on AmericanMafia.com. In the column, I explained how a cartel of local attorneys, judges and guardians would single out wealthy elderly couples who had no relatives in Nevada, and after the death of a spouse, collude to drain their estates.
Up until that point, no one in Las Vegas media would ever believe such a horrible thing was happening right under our eyes to our most vulnerable citizens. I persisted writing, hoping the stories would gain traction before more people were injured.
The next to tell this sordid story was The Vegas Voice, a hard copy publication with a vast circulation to local senior citizens and retirees. On August 18, 2014, the paper began running a hard hitting series exposing the ill-deeds and names of corrupt for-hire guardians. But the paper went one step further. Publisher Dan Roberts and Political Editor Rana Goodman flew to the state capitol in Carson City to lobby for changes in the guardianship laws, specifically that out of state relatives could handle the finances of loved ones living in Nevada, and that all private for-hire guardians be licensed and bonded. They also circulated a petition gathering over 3,500 signatures. The paper soon received a letter from attorneys Gardener Jolly and Bruce Woodbury threatening a libel (SLAPP) lawsuit if they continued writing about their client, for-hire guardian April Parks. However, The Vegas Voice stories continued unfettered until Parks’ double billing and lack of accountability was confirmed by KTNV Contact 13.
Then on March 6, 2015, KTNV TV Contact 13 News producer Kean Bauman and investigative reporter Darcy Spears aired “Valley man wrestles with guardianship system,” which told of 25 year old cerebral palsy victim Jason Hanson, and how for-hire guardian Jared Shafer allegedly took him for everything he had.
INSIDE VEGAS videographer Mike Christ had interviewed Jason in April, 2014, for my March 3, INSIDE VEGAS column. Here is a LINK to Mike’s heart rendering video: “Special Administrator Jared E. Shafer takes house and inheritance from 24 year old man with cerebral palsy.”
April 11, 2015, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest newspaper, began a series of front page stories written by investigative reporter Colton Lochhead. The first story was “Clark Countys private guardians may protect or just steal and abuse.” In the same RJ edition was the story of Guadalupe Olvera; “Escape was only option for an old soldier trapped in guardian system,” telling about the 95 year old World War 2 hero’s exploitation by Jared E. Shafer, and his escape from Shafer’s abusive custody.
Then on April 17, 2015, another of Colton Lochhead’s stories appeared on the RJ’s front page entitled “Chief judge vows to improve guardianship process.” On April 21, the front page article by Lochhead headlined; “Clark County Commissioners want reform of appalling guardianship program,” followed April 26, with an Editorial; “Guarding the guardians,” and the May 5, story by Lochhead; “There’s now a hotline to call with guardianship complaints,” that stated, “Cases highlighted in the Review-Journal showed a lack of oversight by the courts that allowed people who were wards of the county to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to their private professional guardians. In those cases, the court failed to enforce state laws, such as the requirement to file a yearly accounting of money spent on behalf of wards, and ignored the wishes of wards and their families.”
Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak responded by scheduling a special hearing to discuss the guardianship problem. At that hearing held on April 21, LVMPD Lt. James Weiskopf told the Commission “And the complaints we get from the citizens is that Judge Hoskin will rubber stamp it and say Norheim made appropriate decisions, or Judge Hoskin doesn’t hear the family’s complaint.”
On the same day as the Commission hearing, Colton Lochhead reported on the RJ’s front page; “Clark County Commissioners, Nevada lawmakers move to reform appalling guardianship program.” He wrote: “Calling Clark Countys court-appointed guardianship operation ‘appalling’ and ‘frightening,’ county commissioners Tuesday called for a sweeping overhaul of the system.” “Two commissioners called for immediately ousting Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim, the county employee who oversees the troubled operation for the District Court.”
Also on April 21, KTNV News reported; “County Commissioners demand answers from Guardianship Court” on their six o’clock newscast.
On May 4, KTNV News aired their story “Guardian Gouging” about for-hire “guardian” April Parks. The story told of how an elderly couple was forcefully removed from their home by Parks, and their life savings drained while the couple’s daughter fought unsuccessfully in Norheim’s court to gain custody of her parents and stop the exploitation. The day after the story aired, Parks’ name was stricken from the guardian directory published by the Nevada Division of Aging and Disability Services. The state agency removed Parks from their resource list after Contact 13 and The Vegas Voice both reported she was double-dipping and draining the couple’s money.
On May 6, KTNV aired; “State takes action on guardianship problems” revealing that April Parks had been dumped from the state’s list of professional guardians.
On May 21, 2015, Contact 13’s lead story was, “Major overhaul in guardianship court.” That’s when we knew the goose that laid the golden eggs was cooked!
During the coverage by The Vegas Voice, Review-Journal, and KTNV TV News, District Court Chief Judge David Barker was quietly working behind the scenes at the Regional Justice Center to remove Hoskin and Norheim no later than June 1, 2015. (The office of Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, and the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission have both received multiple complaints, but both agencies have refused to take action on issues concerning guardianship abuse.)
On May 20, the morning preceding Judge Barker’s announcement of Norheim’s termination, a hearing was held in Norheim’s court room that clearly revealed his angst. Contact 13 covered the event.
In what would normally be a rubber stamped approval of the continuation of the bilking of an elderly couple’s savings, with TV news cameras in his courtroom, Norheim is shown nervously throwing for-hire guardian April Parks under the bus and liberating two “wards” from her custody. His actions were described as “theatrical,” and did nothing to deter Judge Barker’s decision to remove him from his appointed position.
Barker’s administrative order took all guardianship cases away from Norheim and transferred them to experienced Family Court Judge Dianne Steel.
In this video by KTNV News, Norheim states in a shaky voice; “That is an enormous problem! That is no technical problem, that is a big, enormous, major problem!” “She will not have any authority from this court to act on behalf of your mom and dad.”
This was the first time in over ten years that Norheim ruled against a for-hire guardian!
This was not the first time Norheim was accused of theatrics though. On May 19, KTNV News anchor Steve Wolford asked; “Did a county Hearing Master spout false information in court to scare a family trying to care for their loved one? Terri (Black) is fighting to get her father back to North Carolina. To do that, she planned to transition him through Aegis Assisted Living. But in a hearing last March, Norheim spouts scare tactics about what he says is her and Aegis’ plan.”
Norheim defamed Aegis Assisted Living, one of the highest rated assisted living companies in the U.S., by asserting from the bench that “Aegis would send over typically 3 to 4 medical techs. Big burly guys. They would take him to the ground,” Norheim said. “They would tie up his hands and his feet. They would inject him with a combination, they call it a B-52. It’s a combination of Haldol an anti-psychotic and a sedative Benadryl to try to settle him down. They would then strap him to a gurney–five point restraints–including a belly restraint, hands and feet. They would then take him to Aegis where he would be in a padded cell for a minimum of three days up to a year until he could be made docile enough to be transported to North Carolina.”
Reporter Darcy Spears responded; “We contacted Aegis who flat out deny the procedures Norheim described. In fact it’s against state law (NRS 449). Assisted living facilities cannot use chemical or physical restraints or lock a resident in a room.”
Because what he said was from the bench and on the court record, Aegis cannot bring a defamation action against Norheim.
There is currently speculation that Jon Norheim will return to his previous profession as a local mob attorney after turning in his judge’s costume, a profession he was much more suited for than overseeing the fortunes and well-being of senior citizens. Here is Norheim in 2003 with two infamous clients Ralph and Rick Rizzolo in a photo by the late Buffalo Jim Barrier. At the time, Norheim was being paid to harass Barrier into moving out of his business so the Rizzolos could expand their topless bar, the Crazy Horse Too, into his space. Tactics used by the Rizzolos included slashing the tires of Barrier’s client’s cars. Barrier didn’t budge, and the U.S. Dept. of Justice eventually closed the Crazy Horse Too and put Rick Rizzolo in federal prison.
And as for Judge Charles Hoskin, many of his victims believe he belongs in the cell next to his former colleague, ex-Clark County Family Court Judge Steven Jones (mug shot), who was removed from the bench and sentenced to prison last February for defrauding the elderly. Remember, it was Hoskin who signed the arrest warrant for Rebecca Schultz after she followed her then-90 year old World War 2 hero father Guadalupe Olvera’s orders and removed him in 2010 from the abusive guardianship of Jared Shafer after over $320,000 was bled from Olvera’s trust account at Wells Fargo Bank. At the time of the warrant, as long as Olvera remained in Nevada, the bilking could continue, so Shafer used Olvera’s money to hire attorneys in California to try to enforce Schultz’ warrant, and have her dad forcefully returned to Nevada where Shafer could continue bleeding his trust account at Wells Fargo. (A California judge later quashed the arrest warrant, and Shafer’s illicit guardianship of Olvera was finally terminated by the California Superior Court in August 2013, three years after he moved away from Shafer’s jusisdiction.)
Here is a summary of the amendment to the Nevada law that once enabled private for-hire guardians to legally rob their “wards” with full approval of the Clark County Family Court.
AN ACT relating to guardians; adding provisions governing the appointment of certain preferred persons as guardians for adult wards; providing an exception to the residency requirements for certain guardians (emphasis added) under certain circumstances; revising requirements governing eligibility to utilize a public guardian; revising provisions concerning attorneys retained by a public guardian; revising provisions concerning reimbursement by a public guardian to the county for expenses relating to a ward; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.
Guadalupe Olvera on August 20, 2014, filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Jared Shafer, his company PFSN, Inc., and Wells Fargo Bank. In it he states:
|Case 2:14-cv-01298 Document 1 Filed 08/08/14 Page 8 of 15
56. Upon information and belief, Shafer and the other Defendants herein are responsible for embezzling, taking under wrongful pretenses and otherwise fraudulently or wrongfully diminishing the value of Olvera’s and the Trust’s assets in an amount to be proved at trial, but in excess of $420,000.00.
An amendment to the RICO lawsuit was filed on May 20, 2014. It states:
|Case 2:14-cv-01298-GMN-NJK Document 92 Filed 05/20/15 Page 5 of 17
29. Between approximately December 2,2009 and approximately April 26, 2013, PFSN billed and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for services and reimbursements from the Estate of Guadalupe Olvera without court approval, accounting or oversight, in violation of NRS 159.183.
30. Upon information and belief, many of the reimbursements paid by the Guardianship, Estate and/or Trust benefiting Guadalupe Olvera to PFSN were for charges made to the personal credit card(s) of Jared E. Shafer.
31. Upon information and belief, the Guardianship was charged for expenses completely unrelated to Plaintiff’s well being and care.
32. Of the reimbursements paid from the Guardianship Estate to PFSN, the vast majority of expenses are unsupported by any verifying documentation, such as receipts or invoices.
33. Between approximately November 17, 2009 and April 26, 2013, several law firms billed and collected tens of thousands of dollars for services and reimbursements from the Estate of Guadalupe Olvera without court approval, accounting or oversight, in violation of NRS 159. I83.
And there is a damning claim against Wells Fargo Bank whose Trust Department was supposed to be safeguarding the Olvera Trust account. According to the bank’s Trust website, a Wells Fargo Trust is supposed to “:Assist in the event you become incapacitated or cannot handle your financial affairs.” In Mr. Olvera’s case, its obvious the bank failed because hundreds of thousands of dollars were bled from his trust by Shafer for expenses that had nothing to do with Olvera’s wellfare.
|Case 2:14-cv-01298-GMN-NJK Document 92 Filed 05/20/15 Page 9 of 17
56. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull were specifically and knowingly complicit in the wrongful actions taken by the other Defendants, particularly those wrongful actions of Shafer, PFSN, Bristol, Deittrick and Avid.
57. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull failed or refused to inform the beneficiaries of the Trust that they were beneficiaries, or to provide them with statements and other information pertaining to the Trust which would have allowed the beneficiaries to bring the wrongful actions of the Defendants herein to the attention of proper Court’s and authorities.
58. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull failed or refused to provide account statements to the lawful beneficiaries of the Trust, ignoring repeated requests that they do so.
59. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull provided false information to the Guardianship Commissioner and to the other Defendants, which affected the ability of Olvera’s family to assume the guardianship and take care of Olvera.
60. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull knew or should have known, as early as 2007 that Olvera was not in need of a guardian and could govern his own affairs, yet they continued to support the claims and attempts of Defendants Shafer and the other Defendants to maintain the guardianship strangle-hold they had on Olvera and the Trust.
61. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull knew or should have known that bills and invoices being paid by them for Olvera’s care were inflated, inappropriate, duplicated and fraudulent, and yet they continued to pay such bills.
62. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull caused checks to be issued to Defendants Shafer and Bristol in their individual names, rather than to Defendants PFSN for which they were both employed.
63. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull falsified documentation submitted to the Veteran’s Administration, changing beneficiary status without authority to do so.
64. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull engaged in a pattern of hiding information from the beneficiaries of the Trust and covering for the wrongful actions of the other Defendants.
65. Defendants Wells Fargo, Mills and Bull have failed or refused to provide a complete accounting to Mr. Olvera or the Trust, and it is believed that additional causes of action may arise upon their receipt of the complete accounting sought through discovery herein.
66. Specifically, Wells Fargo has refused to provide copies of the invoices for which payment was processed and made from the Trust’s funds and accounts.
Another defendant in the lawsuit is Shafer’s office manager, Amy Viggiano-Deittrick. She is also the manager of Signs of Nevada LLC, a political sign business run out of Shafer’s PFSN, Inc. office, and AVID Business Services, an unlicensed bookkeeping service that billed Shafer’s wards $45 – $125 per hour for Viggiano-Deittrick’s services. Both of Viggiano-Deittrick’s businesses operate out of Shafers office on Pecos Road in Las Vegas. Sources in local political campaign circles say Shafer is well known as the go-to guy when it comes to cheap or donated A-frame portable roadside campaign signs, especially for select Family Court judges, state Assembly and Senate candidates, county DA and Nevada AG candidates, or those running to replace judges and politicians who are not in Shafer’s favor.
The Center for Guardianship Certification, Inc. (CGC) is also included in the lawsuit along with ex-PFSN, Inc. “guardian” Patience Bristol who is currently serving 5 – 9 years in prison for defrauding PFSN’s clients. CGC is the quasi-non profit organization responsible for certifying professional guardians, but in a national investigation, CGC was proven to license anyone who applies and pays their fee without doing background checks or other due diligence. Parks and Shafer remain in good standing with the organization even in the face of so much incriminating evidence. Bristol is no longer in good standing with CGC, but there are no CGC rules that would prevent her from becoming recertified as a guardian after her release from prison.
This is a unique lawsuit because of the volume of incriminating evidence that the Plaintiff located which includes hundreds of Jared Shafer’s personal financial records. Below is just a sample of the documents Guadalupe Olvera’s attorney Brian Boggess plans to present as evidence in his case.
|Editor’s note: The source of the following documents is protected under NRS 49.275, the Nevada Reporter’s Shield Law: “No reporter, former reporter or editorial employee of any newspaper, periodical or press association or employee of any radio or television station may be required to disclose any published or unpublished information obtained or prepared by such person in such person’s professional capacity in gathering, receiving or processing information for communication to the public, or the source of any information procured or obtained by such person, in any legal proceedings, trial or investigation: 1. Before any court, grand jury, coroner’s inquest, jury or any officer thereof. 2. Before the legislature or any committee thereof. 3. Before any department, agency or commission of the state. 4. Before any local governing body or committee thereof, or any officer of a local government.”|
The following check was cashed by Jared Shafer. The family of the late Marcy Dudeck says they were never informed of the check, nor received the proceeds from it after her death. Mrs. Dudeck was under guardianship and considered legally incompetent at the time she purportedly signed the check, therefore she was legally prohibited from being a signatory on any legal document.
An insurance check for $20,000 issued to the “Estate of Carmela Olvera, Deceased” that was entrusted to “The Powell Litigation Group and Jared E. Shafer Special Administrator” was deposited by Shafer on December 15, 2011.
The funds have never been accounted for, according to Carmelas widower, 95 year old WW2 veteran, Guadalupe Olvera.
Five months after the check was deposited, the Powell Litigation Group filed for bankruptcy claiming assets of less than $50,000. Shafer in 2013 told officials in California that he did not know the whereabouts of Olvera’s $20,000. This is a clear violation of NRS 159.073 (1) A summary of the duties, functions and responsibilities of a guardian, including, without limitation, the duty to: (I) Act in the best interest of the ward at all times.
This locally based story is attracting national media attention because Las Vegas is a popular retirement community. I hope other cities can also benefit as did Las Vegas from acute interest by their media. Otherwise, this travesty will be allowed to go on indefinitely in other cities. Also, it is important to set an example through the vigorous prosecution of all perpetrators of guardianship abuse. If these people are not brought to justice, they and their protégés will continue to share in the largess at the expense of our most vulnerable persons.