This is happening all over, not just in Vegas but the courts seem to favor it in Vegas.
By Janet Phelan
Las Vegas. These words conjure up visions of glitz, glam, glitter and fabulous wealth. And behind Vegas’s casino culture have always lurked rumors of laundered money and organized crime.
The Mob’s influence in Vegas is legendary, going back to its inception. Recent concerns have involved the Sands Hotel and Casino, whose owner, Sheldon Adelson, paid $47 million to avoid federal money laundering charges in 2013.
But now, another form of organized money laundering appears to have taken up residence in the centers of power in Sin City. This form of money laundering does not involve casino bosses and mob figures, however. It involves prestigious and reputedly honorable members of government in Nevada.
For not only does money flow freely through the over one hundred casinos in the desert city of Las Vegas. Millions — possibly billions — flow through the probate courts, as well. According to calculations by the Bank of America, in the next 30-40 years 1 trillion dollars may be transferred through inheritances, from one generation to the next. What is happening now in probate courts across the US is an interception of wealth transfer. These interceptions are largely taking place through guardianship proceedings.
HOW ASSETS ARE PLUNDERED IN GUARDIANSHIP COURT
Guardianships are generally initiated through court proceedings when there are allegations that an individual may be lacking capacity, possibly suffering from old age afflictions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Upon the appointment of a guardian by a judge to an alleged incapacitated person (AIP), the guardian assumes the financial and personal responsibility for his ward. This may involve decisions such as selling the AIP’s property, reallocation of investments as well as personal decisions such as where the ward lives and who, if anyone, may be allowed to visit him. The opportunity for fraud and abuse when one person has total control over another cannot be overstated.
A recent scandal involving allegations that a Las Vegas guardian for profit, April Parks, misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars from her clients recently hit the national news. Parks, owner of the business A Private Professional Guardian, LLC, was charged along with her office manager, Mark Simmons, her husband, Gary Neil Taylor and her attorney, Noel Palmer Simpson.
Parks and her cohorts are being referred to as a “crime ring.” Parks, who was arrested in Pennsylvania earlier this year after fleeing the jurisdiction, is claiming indigence and has been appointed a public defender.
The charges state that Parks systematically overbilled and exploited her wards, isolating them from family and friends. She has been charged with over 200 felony counts, including racketeering, theft and exploitation.
Some of the reporters on the Parks story have wondered out loud how she could ever have gotten away with her stealing. In a local television report, tellingly titled Guardianship Crimes Occurred in Courtroom, Channel 13 wanted to know … “why all those phony and altered documents were accepted and whether any judges, commissioners or doctors would be held accountable.”
“Where was the oversight?” asked 13 reporter Darcy Spears.
The worst-offender guardians seem to have been passed over in the recent rash of arrests. The names of Jared Shafer and Patience Bristol, allegedly conspiring with Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim, pop up consistently in the abuse reports. Yet Shafer and Bristol have remained unscathed in the scandal and calls for Norheim to be fired have gone unattended to.
The human cost in these guardianships cannot be quantified. The heartache and loss of a beloved parent to a system which only sees individuals as “cash cows” is a plight that many in Las Vegas have now endured. Leslie Newman, a social worker, recounts how Commissioner Norheim and guardian Shafer “worked” the weak link in her family, her mother’s second husband, in order to gain complete control over her mother Enid’s assets. She recalls the day in guardianship court when Commissioner Norheim announced that he was going to give temporary guardianship for two weeks only to the husband, Norman. Norman then proceeded to remove Leslie from all the previously prepared documents and formalized a “Family Trust” leaving everything to him and his son from his first marriage. After Norman accomplished this, he was removed as guardian and Shafer and Bristol stepped in.
Leslie maintains that her mother was murdered by the husband, in full sight of police and other so-called protective agencies. And true to form, Shafer ended up with the money.
Leslie’s voice quavers as she recalls how a Dr. Rosenstien at Desert Springs Hospital called the police and stated that Enid was being poisoned at home. The police referred the matter to Protective Services, which failed to take action.
To date, arrests have targeted guardians and those in their employ. No judges or other judicial officers have been charged or fired over what is being called the biggest guardianship scandal in Las Vegas history.
ARE THE JUDGES INVOLVED?
However, at least two of the judges involved in Clark County guardianships may have also had their mitts in the cookie jar. A review of the mortgage histories of Family Court Presiding Judge Charles J. Hoskin, who ascended to the bench in 2009 (first having served as a temporary judge since 2002) and Judge William Voy, who has sat on the bench in Clark County since 1998, raises questions about the possibility that they are laundering “extra benefits” through their mortgages.
A money laundering scam using home loans as the vehicle for bribery is exquisitely simple and nearly undetectable: Judge X takes out a loan and Mr. Y pays it back.
Consider this: Since ascending to the bench in 2002, Judge Charles Hoskin has taken out or reconveyed over 2 million dollars in home loans, including an $800,000 loan in 2006 (Mort 20060124-0004304) paid back in 2016. It is of concern that the value of the property, bought by Hoskin in 2003, was declared at $540,000 at that time. One might wonder how Hoskin could have taken out a loan for considerably more than the property is worth.
Hoskin has made some effort to obscure his ownership of the property. The Clark County Assessor’s site records his ownership only as “Taxpayer” and records the property location as that of the Assessor’s office. The document link to the sale record is also obscured and given the bogus document number of * 99999999:99999
Hoskin’s tenure as a permanent judge began in 2009 with a salary of approximately $160,000 per year. Spread equally over 15 years and excluding interest rates, that would amount to over $133,000 per year to pay off the loans, leaving Hoskin with a remainder of $27,000. That would be before taxes.
Something ain’t right here.