Part 7: Lath and advocates for the aged say that it’s not difficult for court-appointed guardians like Janet Mastronardi to abduct from the cognitively broken audience whose interests they are declared to be protecting. Mastronardi’s abstraction came to light, but experts say confiscation of funds is not consistently detected.
Attorney Janet Mastronardi accepted to burglary about $130,000 while confined as court-appointed guardian for Jane Jacques, an aged and cognitively broken achievement victim, and she fabricated abounding restitution.
But added allegations apropos her announcement practices emerged at Mastronardi’s 2014 sentencing hearing. Accompaniment prosecutor Maureen Keough, now a Superior Cloister judge, acicular out that civilian complaints had been filed adjoin Mastronardi for fee gouging.
Mastronardi, who had pleaded no challenge to accuse of abstraction and corruption of an ancient in the Jacques case, was bedevilled to seven years in prison, with 30 months to serve on home bonds and the actual 54 months abeyant with probation.
After her sentencing, David Curtin, the accompaniment Supreme Court’s arch antidotal counsel, said that several bodies declared him to accuse that Mastronardi had answerable them absonant fees.
One case complex a administration over Lois Battles, a above physician for the Barrington School Department. Mastronardi became Battles’ guardian in 2005, the aforementioned year she was appointed Jacques’ guardian.
A little over a year later, Battles’ babe and son-in-law wrote Tiverton Probate Cloister Adjudicator Richard D’Addario, allurement that the accompaniment accredit a new guardian for Battles and investigate Mastronardi’s adequacy to administer her assets.
They cited an “unnecessarily adversarial relationship” amid them and Mastronardi and claimed that there was no affirmation that she was acting in the best interests of her client. They additionally complained that there was little to no affirmation to abutment some expenditures that Mastronardi claimed she had fabricated on Battles’ behalf.
In one month, added than $2,500 was paid from Battles’ assets to a auto company, Airport Car Express, for busline for Battles. Her babe and son-in-law said Mastronardi, as fiduciary, should accept banned to pay for the busline because Battles’ assisted-living association already provided chargeless van service.
They additionally declared there were instances in which Mastronardi answerable for assignment that she did not do. Specifically, they cited a allegation for a half-hour buzz chat with Battles’ daughter, Catherine Harding, on Nov. 26, 2005. This happened to be the Hardings’ bells day, and Catherine wrote that she was assertive this buzz alarm did not occur.
Shortly afterwards the complaint from the Hardings, Mastronardi accommodated as Battles’ guardian.
There were added complaints of fee gouging, too — none of which resulted in accuse actuality filed or any added sanction. The son of a woman over whom Mastronardi had ability of advocate accustomed to sue her for “exorbitant and boundless fees in affiliation with acting beneath said ability of attorney,” but the accusation was dismissed.
Donna Halsband, Mastronardi’s acknowledged assistant/bookkeeper, remembers several habits of Mastronardi’s that gave her pause. As acknowledged assistant, Halsband would address all the checks from the close and Mastronardi would assurance them. But sometimes, Mastronardi would address a analysis fabricated out to banknote for a few thousand dollars from a client’s account. Aback Halsband would ask what the checks were for, Mastronardi would acquaint her that the applicant capital to buy article like accumulation bonds, but didn’t appetite anyone to know.
“I was like, why can’t I apperceive about it? It’s not like I’m activity to run into her tomorrow and be like, ‘Oh, you bought accumulation bonds,’” Halsband said. “Those were red flags that would appear up on altered accounts. She would consistently accept some altered reason.”
In a Glocester administration case over an aged woman with dementia, Probate Adjudicator William Bernstein denied Mastronardi’s aboriginal appeal for acknowledged fees, which totaled added than $13,000. The reason, Bernstein wrote in a cloister filing, was that not all time billed by Mastronardi was for acknowledged assignment — some hours should accept been billed at a lower amount for her assignment as guardian.
“I am alert that you are advantaged to advantage for casework rendered as Guardian; however, this Cloister will not acquiesce those casework to be billed at the aforementioned amount as acknowledged services,” Bernstein wrote to Mastronardi in a letter included in a cloister filing.
Not every hour spent alive as someone’s guardian is spent accomplishing acknowledged work, according to Hyman Darling, admiral of the National Academy of Ancient Law Attorneys. Some work, such as advantageous a bill for a client, should be answerable at a lower amount because it is a simpler activity and does not crave acknowledged training. However, time spent authoritative acknowledged decisions should be answerable at the college alternate acknowledged rate, said Darling, who practices law in western Massachusetts.
Following Bernstein’s abnegation of her fee petition, Mastronardi submitted an adapted address for about $3,000 beneath than her aboriginal request. Bernstein accustomed the revised petition.
According to the National Center on Ancient Abuse, banking abusage is the second-most-common anatomy of ancient abuse. However, ancient corruption as a accomplished is acutely underreported. D’Addario, who practices law in Newport as able-bodied as confined as probate adjudicator in Tiverton and Little Compton, said it is abominable how accessible it is to financially accomplishment bodies for whom one has administration or ability of attorney. He speculated that if he couldn’t accomplish his mortgage acquittal one month, it would be accessible to rip off an aged client.
“I could grab a brace of admirable and they wouldn’t alike apperceive it,” he said. “I abhorrence to say that, but it’s true. It’s accessible to corruption somebody.”
Darling said he has apparent situations like Mastronardi’s appear “too abounding times,” from attorneys adversity from gambling, alcohol, or biologic problems. (Mastronardi’s advocate told the cloister during her sentencing audition that a bank addiction had apprenticed her to abduct from Jacques.) He additionally worries about the abundant instances aback the acknowledged arrangement never learns of confiscation of funds by attorneys.
Darling said it’s accessible to ambush probate cloister lath into acknowledging accuse or spending that may be abnormal or illegal. It’s difficult, he said, for the cloister to apperceive if the guardian is actuality honest about how he or she spent money.
Looking aback on his time as adjudicator administering Mastronardi’s administration of Lois Battles, D’Addario said the bills appeared to be in order, but it’s difficult to apperceive for sure. “Maybe she abstract her hours, I don’t know,” he said. “There’s no way to acquaint that because the assignment was itemized, it was laid out.”
If Halsband hadn’t apparent and again appear the accounts that Mastronardi opened at Citizens Bank with Jane Jacques’ money, no one would accept accepted they existed, and Mastronardi would accept been larboard with absolved admission to tens of bags of dollars of her ward’s money.
Judges could attending through tax allotment and act as argumentative accountants, said Darling, but this takes assets that best courts and government offices don’t have. “There’s alone so abundant you can do. You can’t assume that everybody is guilty.”
In a columnist absolution afterward Mastronardi’s book of home confinement, Rhode Island Advocate General Peter F. Kilmartin said, “financial corruption of elders is one of the best arduous accuse to investigate and prosecute.”
At the time of Mastronardi’s arrest for burglary Jacques’ money, she was confined as court-appointed guardian for bristles added cognitively broken Rhode Island women.
All accept been appointed acting guardians. Mastronardi, who beneath to animadversion for this story, is now disbarred.
Editor’s note: The elder-abuse alternation was produced in cooperation with the nonprofit alignment The Association Tribune.
THE JOURNALISTS BEHIND THE SERIES:
Jack Brook is a ascent chief at Brown University, belief history. In 2015, the Journalism Education Association called him California (student) Announcer of the Year. He’s formed as an editor at The College Hill Independent and is a biographer for Brown Alumni Monthly. He has additionally formed as a anchorman for the Jerusalem Post accoutrement alarm attacks, adjustment amplification and agitation in the West Bank. Last summer, he formed for the Santiago Times in Chile. He affairs to accompany a career in long-form journalism and documentary filmmaking.
Andie Corban is a ascent chief at Brown, belief accessible policy. An ambitious journalist, Andie has formed for added than two years as a anchorman and account administrator for 95.5 WBRU, breadth she covered bounded breaking account in the Rhode Island area. Andie spent the summer alive at NBC-10 WJAR. A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native, Andie is Cuban-American and chatty in Spanish. In her final year at Brown, she’ll be alive as an editor on the accessible WBRU podcast “Unearthed” and creating her own affection stories.
Rebecca Ellis is a announcer from New York City. In 2018 she accelerating from Brown, breadth she concentrated in burghal studies. She was a managing editor at the Brown Daily Herald, Brown’s apprentice newspaper, and interned this summer at the Miami Herald accomplishing general-assignment reporting. She will be branch to NPR in the abatement for a year-long Kroc Fellowship.
Katrina Northrop is a Brooklyn, New York, built-in and a ascent chief at Brown, breadth she is majoring in all-embracing development studies. At Brown, she was the managing editor of the College Hill Independent, a account newspaper, and the administrator of the interviews lath at the Brown Political Review, which conducts interviews with arresting political figures. Katrina, who is chatty in Chinese, spent this summer alive as a advertisement intern at the Beijing agency of The New York Times. Afterward graduation, she hopes to acknowledgment to China as a reporter.
Asher Woodbury is amorous about application numbers to acquaint stories. Currently a abstracts architect at Simon Abstracts in New York, he accelerating with a computer science amount from Brown University, breadth he additionally advised journalism and political science. Asher is consistently accessible for a acceptable debate.
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