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New Mexico: Court scrambles to replace Ayudando guardians

New Mexico 2nd Judicial District Court Judges Bacon and Nash scramble to replace Ayudando guardians New Mexico 2nd Judicial District Court Judges Bacon and Nash scramble to replace Ayudando guardians
By Colleen Heild / Journal Investigative Reporter

State district judges in Albuquerque have identified 176 people, many of them indigent and all of them incapacitated in some way, who relied on Ayudando Guardians for help with everything from living arrangements to ensuring their funds, however meager, were safe.

Chief District Judge Nan Nash and Chief Civil Division Judge Shannon Bacon in Bernalillo County said in an interview Friday that the courts are faced with having to quickly find lawyers who will file cases for replacement guardians and conservators, and to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

Editor’s note: There doesn’t appear to be any attempt by the courts to identify willing family members to act as guardians for Ayudando’s “clients.”  Why not? 

What vested interest do New Mexico District Court’s have in keeping these wards — who have already been abuse by one corporate guardian, under corporate guardian control? Given New Mexico state agencies deplorable track record in auditing and managing the corporate guardians under contract to the state, who’s to say the next corporate guardian that gains control of the wards will be any better?

Who owns these corporate guardian firms? Do the judges have any ownership or interest in any of the corporations to whom they routinely award their wards?

Those people fall under court oversight, because the courts, over the years, have appointed Ayudando Guardians as their guardians or conservators and judges relied on annual reports from the company to keep tabs on Ayudando’s clients.

“A guardianship/conservatorship offers a higher degree of protection to the individual than other management mechanisms,” explains Ayudando on its web site.  Editor’s Note:  Keep in mind that indicted Ayudando guardian co-owner Sharon Moore made a presentation to the Adult Guardianship Study Commission on May 12, 2017, and extolling her companies virtues and ethics.  This was 60 days before Moore, along with Ayudando co-owner Susan Harris, were indicted on 28 counts of Conspiracy, Fraud, Theft, and Money Laundering Offenses.  Who makes the decision to invite speakers to make presentations to the Commission? Who else is making presentations to the Commission that are under federal investigation?

Now that the company and its two principals are under federal indictment for looting client accounts and money laundering, two CPAs with the U.S. Marshals Service are winding down Ayudando business operations. The Albuquerque-based company has lost about half of its employees since the recent arrests of its two top managers.

Chief District Judge Nan Nash and Chief Civil Division Judge Shannon Bacon in Bernalillo County said in an interview Friday that the courts are faced with having to quickly find lawyers who will file cases for replacement guardians and conservators, and to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

“Our intention is to move heaven and earth to make sure every single case is transferred in a timely manner and in accordance with the law,” Bacon said Friday.

Bacon has also asked the State Auditor’s Office to conduct an audit of 20 other companies, like Ayudando Guardians, that have contracts with the state Office of Guardianship to provide guardianship or conservatorship services for low-income or indigent and incapacitated New Mexicans.

“We are looking into the Office of Guardianship’s oversight and lines of accountability for guardianship companies,” said a spokeswoman for State Auditor Tim Keller on Friday.

The guardianship office provides publicly funded guardianship/conservatorship services, paying contractors about $325 a month for each client.

In responding to Journal questions, officials with the Office of Guardianship last week said the agency’s most recent audit of Ayudando was in September 2016. Ayudando has 166 clients through its guardianship office contract, and is required to carry liability insurance and post fidelity bonds each year.

Editor’s Note: How in the world can the US Marshal Service seize a corporation that supposedly has been

In Bernalillo County, about 110 clients who have court-appointed Ayudando guardians and conservators fall under the responsibility of the state guardianship office. That state agency is expected to find replacement companies, but faces budgetary issues and has only about 10 lawyers on contract, the judges told the Journal. Finding lawyers to refile cases for the remaining 66 “private pay” Ayudando clients is underway, and Bacon is also working to recruit guardians ad litem and other guardians to take over Ayudando’s role.

Editor’s Note: What about the approximately 174 other wards of Ayudando Guardians who are not in the 2nd Judicial District court system (Albuquerque) – what are those District Court Judges doing to ensure the health, safety, and fiduciary responsibility of their wards?

Outside the court’s jurisdiction are those clients who gave Ayudando authority to act as their representative payee, managing their monthly income from Social Security, VA pensions or other sources and paying their bills. That group of Ayudando clients will need to find new payees, and if they are now incapacitated, that could send another wave of guardianship/conservatorship cases into the courts.

Nash and Bacon said they learned that the U.S. Marshals Service, which has federal court authority to operate Ayudando for the time being, is expected to end its oversight by the end of August, so there is a looming deadline to transfer clients to other guardians.

Editor’s Note: What’s the incentive for the courts to keep these wards under corporate guardianship? Why is no effort being made to find out if family members are willing to care for Ayudando’s awards of the court?

As for those Ayudando employees who remain at work, many appeared shocked and worried about their clients when Nash and Bacon visited Ayudando’s office last Thursday for a meeting with U.S. Marshals.

“I can’t tell you how moved we were about the dedication of the employees,” Nash said. Even before the indictment was handed down, employees were paying for some clients’ incidentals out of their own pockets, she said.

“They were just as gobsmacked as the rest of us (about what’s happened),” Nash added.

In promising that clients’ funds will be protected, Ayudando’s web site notes, “The guardian/conservator must file an inventory which lists all the property of the client and must file accountings with the court that reflect all transactions involving that person’s assets.”

But Nash and Bacon said the annual financial reports filed by Ayudando in their courts provided no red flags. Neither judge recalled receiving complaints from Ayudando clients about missing money.

Editor’s Note:  How would Judges Bacon and Nash ever have found out about any complaints of missing money from Ayudando client’s accounts, when clients are not present at their hearings, and clients — along with the Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration — receive all their reports from Ayudando? 

Critics say the annual reports required of guardians and conservators fall short of providing judges with enough information.

Moreover, a recent lawsuit alleges a $600,000 theft of client funds by another Albuquerque conservator, Desert State Life Management. The firm filed annual conservator reports, but accountings of the client’s trust funds weren’t in the court file, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

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To read this article on the Albuquerque Journal’s website, please click here.

2 Comments on New Mexico: Court scrambles to replace Ayudando guardians

  1. I know that many of the clients don’t have anyone to speak for them because they have no family support or no family at all. I know the conditions of the homes they live in and the costs. Some are deplorable yet what can money buy and why can state grant money to people willing to take in the clients? I’ve been to about six of these homes and had some of the clients call me dad. I’m also one of the parents that has a son that’s a client of ayudandos. Seems as though you have to spend massive amounts of money and know the law to try to get any info of your sons or daughters health or well being. I’m willing to bring my son in and always have but with all the calling I do nobody responds. All you get is have your lawyer call.

    • John – Our heart goes out to you and your son.

      In our experience, the courts do not want any non-attorneys or non-professionals involved, because they can’t control them. If you are represented by an attorney, then you have no chance to speak up, no chance to be heard, and no judge will ever ask your opinion, because your attorney of record will be the ONLY person listened to by the courts. And the courts can control any attorney, especially in New Mexico.

      If any attorney thinks s/he can buck the system, the judge will immediately haul that attorney/professional back into line, with threats of disbarment — and if the threats fail, actual disbarment — which always works to quell out-of-line attorneys who think the system stinks.

      We’ve personally spoken with many New Mexico attorneys who either 1) excuses themselves from the room as soon as they find out guardianship is being discussed, even in a general way, under threat of being disbarred, or 2) murmurs platitudes while saying there’s nothing they can do (unspoken: no action can be taken without risking their entire career and law license.) That’s the judicial/attorney racket that keeps the entire profession in the thrall of what we personally believe to be dishonorable people, little more than crooks and thieves. And whether anyone likes it or not, we are entitled to our opinions, as are the attorneys and judges.

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