California heirs and beneficiaries expect that trustees, estate representatives and executors will act as good and prudent fiduciaries. When these fiduciaries fail and take money belonging to trust beneficiaries, they may be subject to civil and even criminal penalties.
There are several cases in point. A Sacramento woman was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2018 for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering (U.S. v. Stewart-Cabrera, United States District Court, E.D. California, Case No. 2:18-CR-0085 KJM). The woman, a professional fiduciary, served as the trustee of a trust that owned Sacramento property. The U.S. Attorney’s news release indicates that Loretta Darlene Stewart-Cabrera, the trustee, carried out a scheme in which she sold property for $300,000, gave the trust beneficiaries $30,000 and spent the rest.
She used some of the trust proceeds for a Las Vegas gambling trip. Her case is still ongoing.
A San Diego probate trustee, Teresa Laggner, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from client trust accounts. The money was used by her for gambling at local casinos – a habit that resulted in more than $1 million in losses over a four year period. At one time, Ms. Laggner was overseeing over $20 million in assets.
While a trustee’s wrongdoing by be suspected, it may take a fair amount of litigation discovery and forensic analysis to gather supporting evidence. Most victims are in disbelief, questioning why and how a trustee would commit such wrongdoing – wrongdoing that may also be a crime. It seems to be the classic “breaking bad” – to “defy authority” and break the law.
At Hackard Law we take significant cases where we think that we may make a significant difference and there is a wrongdoer who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing. We represent clients from California, other states and even countries, in estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation cases that are in California courts.
We often represent clients in California’s major urban courts including Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties. If you would like to speak with us about your case, call us at 916 313-3030.