Imagine answering the door at 8 a.m. to find a complete stranger waving a piece of paper in your face.
This person, who you’ve never seen before, tells you that a judge, who you don’t know and have never heard of, has decreed that you no longer control your own life, liberty, and assets. The stranger then tells you that he or she is your court-appointed guardian and offers you a pitiful few minutes to pack a bag and leave your home forever on threat of arrest.
That’s when the nightmare really begins, and to make matters worse, this scenario goes on every day in our country, unbeknownst to most Americans.
This stranger whisks you away to a nursing home. You ask to call your kids.
“Don’t worry,” this guardian says assuringly, “there will be time for that soon enough.” Meanwhile this person takes your phone away and gives you a new one, complete with a new number and none of your old contacts.
The care facility is bleak. But don’t worry — the depression that hits when you see your new home only lasts a little while, because soon you are pumped so full of drugs that you’re barely aware of what has been done to you.
There you remain. In that room. Alone. A zombified shell of your former self, locked away from your family, left to suffer and die.
This is of little concern to that “guardian” of yours, who by the time your family has figured out what happened to you, has already begun draining your lifesavings and selling off your entire estate, piece by piece.
Your family demands to see you, but it’s hopeless. They’re just regular people. Your kidnappers — the guardians, doctors, lawyers and judges are supported by the authority of the state and are backed up by a badge and gun.
If you’ve seen the popular film, I Care A Lot, then the above story might sound familiar, but guardianship and conservatorship abuse is not the work of clever Hollywood screenwriters. It is a very real, multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise that targets families of all walks of life across the country.
That hit movie, the highly publicized plight of Britney Spears, and the case of Joan Bashinsky in Alabama have shined a national spotlight on guardianship and conservatorship abuse, bringing enough attention to peak the interest of several members of Congress to call for a hearing on the issue.
If it wasn’t for these cases the public, simply wouldn’t have a clue about guardianship abuse. Still, the American people are only barely beginning to scratch the surface of this issue and have yet to grasp the true scale and horror of this shameful national epidemic.
I spent my entire career in law enforcement, and until this past year I had no idea that this was going on — in every corner of the country. What I’ve learned has shocked me to my core. If you’re familiar with the concept of guardianship abuse and wonder how anyone could do such a thing to an innocent person, the answer is they can’t.
Guardianship abuse takes an entire village of corrupt individuals working in concert to subvert the system and use it to prey on the vulnerable. It is made possible by an incestuous relationship between attorneys, guardians, nursing homes and medical professionals, and probate judges.
And it’s not just celebrities or wealthy individuals who are targeted by such schemes either. A 2017 exposé in the New Yorker revealed that approximately 1.5 million adults with combined assets of around $273 billion were under the care of guardians and/or conservators at the time. Their horror stories are simply endless.
Earlier this year, a Houston, Texas, probate judge was sued for estate trafficking, racketeering, and abuse of a 91-year-old. Last year, a Florida woman escaped her guardianship abuse prison by using a phone and Facebook to contact the media.
Her “guardians” had sold off her entire estate. In 2015, an instance of guardianship abuse and medical kidnapping in Texas resulted in the death of an elderly woman who was stolen from her son’s care.
In 2019, a Tampa guardian was arrested for stealing over $500,000 from an elderly man. In 2018, in what is easily one of the most heartbreaking cases of guardianship abuse that I’ve yet encountered, retired schoolteacher Marian Leonard was forced into hospice care against her will. In 2019 her state-appointed “guardian” banned all visitors, including relatives, from seeing her. Barely a month later she died, scared and alone.
Marian Leonard wasn’t a wealthy woman. She wasn’t a pop singer, or the owner of a billion-dollar company. She was a normal, average American, a schoolteacher, a mother, a 103-year-old woman beloved by her friends and family, targeted by ruthless predators because she owned 300 acres of land, land that had been in her family for generations.
These are just a few of the countless, tragic stories of innocent, vulnerable people preyed upon by corrupt con artists and thieves masquerading behind the authority of local and state governments.
It’s a crime of which anyone can be a victim, and it’s well past time that state legislators, Congress and the Justice Department does something about it.
As New York City’s 40th Police Commissioner, Bernard Kerik was in command of the NYPD on September 11, 2001, and responsible for the city’s response, rescue, recovery, and the investigative efforts of the most substantial terror attack in world history. His 35-year career has been recognized in more than 100 awards for meritorious and heroic service, including a presidential commendation for heroism by President Ronald Reagan, two Distinguished Service Awards from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and an appointment as Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Commissioner Kerik hosts a weekly radio show, Behind the Badge, on 77 WABC Radio New York. Read Bernard Kerik's Reports — More Here.
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