By Terri LaPoint, Real News Spark
May 20, 2021
Imagine a situation in which someone you love is abducted. You may or may not know where they are, but you are powerless to free them. The captor takes their money by getting into their bank account and investments, changing insurance policies and trusts to the benefit of the captor. The captor drugs the loved one into oblivion and forbids them to contact friends or family members.
If a masked thug did all this, law enforcement would jump into action, and the person reporting such a crime might even be hailed as a hero.
However, if the perpetrator of such actions does so by manipulating the probate or civil court system, it is business as usual. No one bats an eye if the victim is declared by the court to be an “incapacitated person” in need of a guardian, whether the allegation is true or not.
Worse, there is often swift retaliation against anyone speaking up for these hidden victims of guardianship abuse. Such bullying tactics are so common that they are considered part of the standard “playbook” used by the perpetrators of guardianship exploitation through local probate courts.
Occasionally, stories of this abuse of power make it into mainstream media, such as that of Golden Flake heiress Joann Bashinsky and the film from Netflix, “I Care A Lot”. More often, stories appear in alternative media and blogs.
The prevalent thinking is that, indeed, this case is an anomaly. Few realize how commonly it occurs. And few recognize the high cost at which these stories ever see the light of day.
Retaliation – Part of the Script
Talk show host and elder advocate Marti Oakley has been covering stories of the abuse of senior citizens for 14 years. Over half of her 2000+ broadcasts on the TS Radio Network have been on guardian abuse. She has interviewed many hundreds of victims and family members who have spoken out about the horrors experienced in this system.
Though each story is different, the playbook is predictable, almost like a script. In a recent interview, Oakley told Real News Spark:
In virtually every one of the cases, the retaliation is just unthinkable.
Though they have committed no crime, the person’s fundamental human rights under guardianship are stripped from them. Everything they have worked for their whole lives, including their family relationships, businesses, and estates, are at the mercy of strangers known as guardians and conservators, who now control everything. Exploitation and abuse of the “ward,” as they are called in this system, are the standard MO.
Oakley explains that family members who speak up or try to fight for the rights of their loved ones may come under attack by having false charges levied against them. Their reputations are frequently slandered. It is not uncommon for family members or advocates to be attacked in online or media smear campaigns.
Both the wards and their families are often bankrupted by endless legal battles, while the guardians siphon off inflated fees and commissions from the estate of the ward.
Visits with the loved one, whether the ward is mother, father, sibling, grandparent, or even spouse, have been cut off as punishment. The guardian may tell the court that it is not “in the best interest” of their victim to have visits from the family because the ward “becomes agitated” during visits, (perhaps in wanting their life back?).
While they are being told that their loved ones have moved on with their lives, their families are often fighting expensive battles in probate court simply for the privilege of having a visit or trying to free the estate from being milked away by people with no interest in preserving the intentions of the senior citizen. The bullying tactics kick up into full gear against anyone trying to fight for their dignity or freedom.
Even media personalities and advocates have been de-platformed, shadow-banned, or threatened when they provide a place for the victims or their families to tell their stories.
“Insidious Retaliation” against Daughter Fighting to Free Her Father
In the struggle to free her father Marvin Siegel from the isolation and abuse of guardianship, Boston area attorney Lisa Belanger learned how vicious retaliation can be. Court-appointed guardians forced her and her family to move out of her father’s home just before Christmas in 2011.
Not only did the attorney guardians engage in a smear campaign against her reputation, but they also went after her bar license when she dared speak out against them. She responded in court:
This entire procedure [of the attempt to remove her bar license] has been about a persecution because it’s retaliation against me for lawfully and reasonably fighting for my family’s constitutional rights.
This is a battle she yet fights today. She recently told me:
This intimidation is the rule, not the exception. They are used to intimidating people and they will shut up.
Lisa Belanger refused to bow to the bullying tactics used against her. She says she will always stand up for the truth. After a court hearing, the “insidious retaliation” began, she explains, when she exposed attorney Marsha Kazarozian and the court-appointed guardian for their role in drugging her father. She told their story to the Boston Broadside, naming names and providing documented evidence.
Belanger realized that this was happening to many more people besides her father. She got involved with the cases of Alice Julian, Mary Frank, and Beverly Finnegan, all Boston-area seniors who were ultimately euthanized under their court-appointed guardianships.
Before long, Belanger had uncovered 29 other cases besides her father’s, involving many of the same players. When she filed a federal racketeering lawsuit in 2015 exposing those cases, retaliation against her began in earnest. She was labeled a “misguided crusader,” and guardians stopped her visits with her father.
Citing a restraining order that did not exist, the guardians threatened her with arrest when she tried to see him.
The court removed her as trustee of her father’s estate. The guardians subsequently dismantled the trust and drained the estate – an estate that held over $9 million before guardians entered the picture. Most of the money was gone by the time of his death in 2019.
Wife Threatened and Slandered
Helen Taylor of Missouri fought for, and eventually won, the freedom of her husband of more than 40 years. Under the guise of “protecting” Charley Taylor, guardians sold several properties that the couple owned jointly. She told MedicalKidnap.com about some of the outrageous retaliation against her:
I have never had but a speeding ticket in my life until the county took him from me. Since then, I have been labeled a thief, a person that blows up nursing homes, called in to take a lie detector for abusing animals. The county won’t stop with the things they accuse me of. I was a grandmother of 13. Now, I am a homeless woman that lives in an apartment across the street from my husband in a nursing home. Oh, I forgot, an abuser of my husband. No charges after 719 days in court. No witnesses. I can’t believe what a crooked county can do to people.
After she spoke out about the cruel treatment of her husband under the guardianship, including sexual abuse and starvation in the nursing home, the guardians retaliated by obtaining a court order forbidding her to see the love of her life.
Though the attacks were merciless, she refused to back down. Because of her courage, Charlie Taylor finally came home. Helen Taylor is now a passionate advocate for families fighting guardianship abuse.
Retaliation Is Frighteningly Common to Silence Dissent
During almost 7 years of investigating stories of “medical kidnappings” of seniors and children, virtually every family member I have interviewed whose loved one has been taken reports that the court documents contain false information about them. The predators use the power of motions and false allegations in their filings to seize the ward and keep them under the custody of the court. Often these are wild accusations or outright lies which are easily proven false. However, that part of the story is swept under the rug while the victims’ reputations are smeared.
In many cases, family members and advocates have been threatened. In a pattern that is all too familiar to those who have been following these stories, anonymous bloggers and social media trolls attack the reputations and character of those who fight back. By doing so, attention is deflected away from the very real crimes being committed in the guardianship system against senior citizens.
Courage to Stand
History is full of those with the courage to stand for truth and justice, refusing to back down, no matter the cost. Like Daniel in the lion’s den and the Hebrew boys in the fire, these families do not stand alone. May God give them the strength to stand, even in the fire.
Lisa Belanger told a Massachusetts court why she will never back down in speaking out for people like her father:
This matter is not just about me. It’s not just about my father…. This case is about a nationwide epidemic, and it is shown from the exhibits of the federal action through the Government Accountability Office that what I have been exposing over the past seven years is a nationwide epidemic. This is not an isolated circumstance.