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Ohio: Federal Court Equates Guardianship with Racketeering

Federal Appeals Court disallows attorneys fees in court-ordered divorce of Ward

A trio of federal appellate justices affirmed a lower district court decision to deny a probate officer’s request for an award of attorney fees and declared that court appointed guardianship of the elderly can be used as a racketeering enterprise.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Ohio Northern District’s decision involving a physician named Dr. Mehdi Saghafi, 89, and his wife Mrs. Fourough Bakhtiar [Saghafi], 85, who was declared incompetent due to dementia and was placed under the control of Guardian of the Estate Zachary Simonoff by a local probate judge. Simonoff was seeking an award for his legal fees but the honorable federal appellate justices Jeffrey Stuart Sutton, Deborah L. Cook and Amul Thapar denied his request.

Instead, the Justices stated in their landmark opinion that they are unconvinced of Probate Court Officer Simonoff’s claim that “[Dr. Mehdi] Saghafi’s legal positions were frivolous.”

Simonoff declined to comment stating in an email, “I am sorry I can’t discuss on going litigation.”

The physician husband challenged an order requiring him to pay to Simonoff, the guardian, some $3 million of his pension proceeds held at Franklin Templeton mutual fund company after a divorce was reportedly imposed upon him by the court guardians, enabling the division of some $8 million in joint retirement savings.

“The 6th Circuit ruling confirmed my client’s right to challenge a court order, which may have been obtained through abuses of judicial processes,” said Dr. Saghafi’s attorney Chuck Longo in a telephone interview. “The decision will have far reaching negative implications for guardians and lawyers who improperly use guardianships as criminal enterprises to defraud the elderly and incompetent, which is a violation of the RICO statute.”

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act in 1970 and allows extended criminal penalties to be charged as well as civil causes of action for conduct performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

It was the Honorable Lorain County Probate Judge James T. Walther who appointed Simonoff as Mrs. Bakhtiar [Saghafi]’s guardian of the estate.

“Whenever you defy a facially valid court order, you have some explaining to do,” wrote the panel of federal appellate judges in their opinion. “But Saghafi does have an explanation. He maintains that the divorce proceedings were a fraud on the court, a sham. And Ohio-law authorities suggest that a judgment procured by fraud may be void.”

Simonoff sued Dr. Saghafi in federal court and Dr. Saghafi filed a counterclaim, alleging violations of the federal RICO Act.

“Simonoff argues the RICO counterclaim was unreasonable because (he says) a guardianship is not an “enterprise” under the RICO Act,” stated the panel of three judges. “But Simonoff fails to explain why an association that does its dirty work through a guardianship cannot be an enterprise. If anything, the Act’s expansive definition suggests the opposite. Right or wrong, Saghafi’s legal theory was not frivolous.”

At the core of the legal dispute is Dr. Saghafi’s estranged daughter Jaleh Presutto, who was allegedly removed and re-appointed as guardian on multiple occasions by Judge Walther and in May 2018 pleaded guilty to multiple felonies allegedly.

“To some, this might mark [Saghafi] as a sore loser bent on delay and vexation but others might see the distress and indignation of an elderly man who believed — maybe rightly, maybe wrongly, but at least sincerely — that his daughter and her lawyers had teamed up to loot him by taking ruthless advantage of an old woman’s dementia and duping the Ohio courts,” state the appellate justices in their decision. “The district court saw the latter.”

As previously reported in Pacer Monitor News, the Saghafi litigation is one among many complaints across the country that are alleging fraud in court-appointed adult guardianships of the elderly and people with disabilities, which are designed to help them manage their lives. Accusations also include cruelty, neglect, starvation, isolation from family members, sexual abuse, over medication, financial exploitation and violation of constitutional rights.

Dr. Saghafi is continuing his litigation in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas before the Honorable Judge Sherrie Miday. Discovery is scheduled to conclude in May.

1 Comment on Ohio: Federal Court Equates Guardianship with Racketeering

  1. We need to let Florida Governor know that the 15th Judicial Circuit court equates Guardianship with Racketeering.
    What happened?
    (1) Fabricated guardianship and using under color of law court orders to transfer all of my parents designated named inheritance beneficiary financial accounts to “Property Guardian”. I named my brother as the “property guardian” because the Court was ready to name totally stranger to be my mother’s “property guardian”. That was ILLEGAL GUARDIANSHIP. So I know I am have right to see all of the accounting. My brother did not let me see the accounting until I filed Pro se lawsuit against the attorneys. The most important thing is 6.4 million dollar was transfer out of my mother’s financial accounts and NO MONEY was paying for her daily living expenses. I was the one who paying for her daily living expenses. How much money did attorneys looting and taking from my mother per month? It is more than $10,000 or more per month. Since 2016 to 2019 attorney took more than $400,000. My brother wrote the checks from the Trust account for designated named inheritance beneficiary distribution in 2017. To shut me up from complaining. The attorneys with judges created non-existing criminal code and violated every possible U.S. Constitution and Florida Constitution to put me in jail. The jury was pre-selected for me with judge demand that I have to give good reason not to have those jurors. Criminal Judge even pick up “evidence” while State Attorney (Prosecutor) watched. So I was sent to jail for no criminal code. Then after I was in jail, they changed from jury trial to “Plea deal”. I was able to write to 4DCA and Federal Court so I can defend myself outside the jail. How much money did it cost me? In order to get out I had to put up total $3,000 bond, and $2,000 bond. I don’t know how bondsman able to get bond for no criminal code.
    2. Attorney and Clerk of Court told or write to Financial Institutions that the financial accounts are in PROBATE. But how did it become Probate when my parents had all of their financial assets have the designated named inheritance beneficiary destination? When those financial assets were transferred those attorneys instruction to my brother was not to complete the designated named beneficiary accounts. So new accounts did not have designated named inheritance beneficiary accounts but the original accounts has it. One example is IRRA and Money Market account. My parents has the same named beneficiaries for over 20 years. When illegal Guardianship used color of law court orders for transfer assets, the “property guardian” forgot to name the same beneficiaries for over 20 years. The beneficiaries was not inform. I found out in June 2018. Attorneys and judges put me in jail in 2019. Before that Judge used threat when she put me in jail for contempt of court (September 13, 2017, Florida Supreme Court Court Order AOSC17-59). The Judge demand that I waive my right to my inheritance in-front of the attorney or I will be incarcerated indefinitely. I paid RANSOM MONEY TO GET OUT OF JAIL for $20,000. Who took the $20,000? Those attorneys.
    Now after I filed FINRA complaint against Merrill Lynch (it seems that they are with the attorneys) file lawsuit in State Court (15th Judicial Circuit), judges took the opportunity to sign more under color of law court orders. So the FINRA complaint is in suspense. The not the attorney told judge that I owe $600,000 or more in attorney fees therefore the attorney seeking using Merrill Lynch to transfer my inheritance into the court registrar so they can have judge sign court orders to get to my $600,000 inheritance.
    Yes, the judges and attorneys used guardianship for their benefits. That is racketeering.
    It is easy to check on guardianship court files with John Cramer professional guardian and the team of judges and attorneys receive under the color of law court orders from judges for guardianship fees (about $5,000 per month), attorney received (about $30,000 per month for attorney fees).
    The purpose is to drain out all of “ward”‘s financial assets called it “professional fees” for provide zero benefit or negative benefit to the “ward”. The U.S. Attorney General should investigate whether Judge benefits from signing under color of law court orders.
    Put me in jail and named it elderly abuse and organized crime while looting and stealing from my mother before she passed away, my younger brother and me for over $400,000! Now using Merrill Lynch to help the attorneys steal money. Once my inheritance money enter the 15th judicial circuit clerk of court court registrar is more for them to looting and stealing. The looting and stealing is fast at the speed of 100% and the 4DCA appeal which they decided they lack of 15th jurisdiction they will issue PCA. The PCA looks like the beneficiaries had lost but in reality is Judge just committed crime of obstruction of justice by signing under color of law court orders.

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