Congress Steps Up to Control Court Ordered Guardianships

Finally, Washington is taking steps to protect older Americans who have fallen into an exploitation trap set for them by state courts. Federal officials will soon be empowered to go into states to investigate – and prosecute – unscrupulous court-appointed guardians and conservators who prey on their elderly wards.

This is a really big deal in my book and a long overdue first step in curbing the obvious abuses of this mostly secret system. According to experts there are at least 1.3 million Americans currently living under guardianship control representing between $50 billion and $300 billion in assets which are at risk for exploitation.

Both houses of Congress have now passed Senate bill 178, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act which strengthens the laws on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation on several fronts including targeting telemarketers, e-mail scammers and the like.

But Congress has also now finally recognized the well-documented nationwide scandal wherein judges sidestep family members and appoint outside, for-profit guardians to handle the financial and personal affairs of aging Americans. In the end, hard earned estates are frequently plundered and families are left grieving. Inheritances wind up paying the fees of total strangers.

Many appointed guardians are Good Samaritans who truly help the elderly who either have no family or family that is not available to help them in their final years. These kind souls step in to handle all aspects of the senior’s life, from medical matters and housing to finances and funeral arrangements.

This Florida Guardian Charged With Stealing $126K from a 94-year-old Man

However, after more than 2 years of investigation I’ve discovered a veritable racket of uncaring and dishonest guardians, their staffs and elder law lawyers who concentrate more on billable hours (paid for out of the ward’s estate) than what is truly in the elder’s best interests. These scoundrels have the power to isolate loving family members who ask too many questions about their loved one’s situation or where their money is going. Many relatives told me they hadn’t been allowed to see their aged parent in months, or even years, before they died.

Once the president signs this newly passed bill into law the Department of Justice will assign at least one Assistant U.S. Attorney to each federal judicial district to investigate reports of wrongdoing by guardians. They will be empowered to bring in specially trained FBI agents to help investigate the complaints. And, the bill requires the DOJ to set up an elder abuse resource group to facilitate information sharing among all federal prosecutors. When a dodgy guardian tactic is uncovered in one state prosecutors will share their findings so counterparts can be on the lookout in other states.

And, within 60 days of the president’s signing the bill U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will designate a DOJ Elder Justice czar to oversee this new investigative process.

“It’s not the best bill ever but it’s a start,” Rick Black, executive director of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship told me on the phone.

The AAAPG and other family-centered watchdog groups are happy that Washington has now acknowledged there is a major problem with state guardianship systems that see judges routinely declare absent citizens as “incapacitated,” take as truth the claims of one family member over all others and continue to appoint questionable characters as guardians in lucrative cases without much supervision.

And it’s not just Congress that has taken notice, according to Black. He’s the intake director of a non-profit organization that keeps track of guardian horror stories from all across the country. By AAAPG’s count federal investigators are already actively looking into questionable guardian practices in at least six states. Black ticked off the list as we talked on the phone.

“We know from families who have contacted us (the feds) are investigating cases in New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Florida, Washington and New Mexico,” where a 28-count indictment on charges of conspiracy, fraud and theft was recently unsealed against Ayudando, a private guardianship  company. More indictments are expected against others.

In Florida, a federal case brought by the son of a millionaire Texas oil man against two guardianship lawyers ended with a whopping $16.4 million award. No action was taken against the Judge who was supposed to be supervising the lawyer’s activities.

“That’s one thing this new bill doesn’t do,” Black said. “It doesn’t address problem with the judicial system … judges who appoint these guardians in case after case with hardly any follow up.”

The bill also doesn’t establish a way to keep accurate track of how many Americans are held in guardianship nor does it call for a central registry where complaints against unsavory court appointees can be lodged. Without a means to keep track of unsuitable guardians they can be appointed over and over.

But like the man said. At least it’s a start. Sign this bill, President Trump. ASAP.


NOTE: President Trump did, indeed, sign this bill into law in late October 2017


  1. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Facebook Friend Mary Darnell writes:

    This is the Best News yet! I have been told that the reason the Feds were not going after anyone on our case (private pay) was because there was no law for them to stand on. This will hopefully fill that gap! Rick Black and his team did a fantastic job to get it this far, we know that is no easy task! /// Diane do you know if there is a hotline to the President that citizens can call in favor of him signing this bill?

    • Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Mary –

      I do not know. But if you look on the White House website there might be more information. I DO know from my days covering various presidents that they have a staff that keeps track of every letter that comes in – name, topic, etc. A massive letter writing campaign to: PRESIDENT, 1400 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20500 would certainly get noticed. ~DD

  2. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Jeromne Paul Shea writes:

    Good column this morning, Diane. So good to see semi-encouraging news. Now let’s hope that Trump and Sessions, two of my unfavorite people, vigorously follow through. And kudos to you, especially for the excellent series in the ABQJ.

    You may know that there is a relevant long piece on these reprehensible buccaneers in the current New Yorker (10/9). I don’t know if I have the stomach to read it, but maybe it will keep the heat on.



    • Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      Yes! I read that article right after it was published. . It is absolutely fabulous. The New Yorker reporter had the luxury of dealing with a state in which guardian/conservator cases are NOT sequestered so she was able to include so many different stories. I loved it.
      I my series (in the ABQ Journal) I focused on the state of New Mexico because its guardianship system operates in such archaic secrecy. If a person involved in a guardian case speaks publicly – from an adult child to a lawyer – they face hefty fines, imprisonment and even disbarment. I was lucky that I found a family to highlight that didn’t care about the penalties. They just wanted their story told.
      I encourage everyone to read the New Yorker piece by Rachel Aviv. The link follows:

  3. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Reader Carolyn writes:

    This is great progress. Too late perhaps for our family whose estate is still not settled, if you can believe it but it is a first step in making the crooks who profess to be guardians of the elderly when they in fact are ripping them off blind. Our family suffered the injustice of a court appoint shrink deeming dad incompetent, to a total stranger who was appointed Trustee walking into dads house and taking $300 out of dad’s wallet and leaving dad $3. Not explaining anything except telling him he didn’t need to carry cash. Crooked and heartless from the judges to guardian ad litems to guardians to absolutely snaky shaky lawyers who did nothing but fatten their own wallets and drain inheritances from families. They effectively killed dad exactly one year to the day of them taking over. When I left dad he was riding his bike to the end of the block past the park. When I was allowed to see him again – 3 months – he was bedridden and had a strap around his waist for the ” caregivers ” to walk him. His demeanor had plummeted into depression. His health had deteriorated vastly. He was not the same man. We were not allowed to talk to him about anything to do with what was happening to him – he had to be confused and befuddled why his family could not be with him and when with him could not answer his questions or concerns because the guardians and lawyers forbade us to discuss it with him or we could not visit him again.

  4. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Noozhawk Reader Penny Collins writes:


    Great article, thank you. What can we do to get the Feds to come to Santa Barbara? We need help NOW exploiting these terrible people that call themselves people that care, all they care about is greed. They have no compassion, will go to any extreme (my Father’s conservator just drugged him and killed him in less than 2 days, she wanted to be paid). There is a huge epidemic going on in this town due to the old money, new money and whatever kind of estate, large or small, they will do anything to get it and act as if they had zero fear (this is because they have the whole town protecting them). The judge is the ring leader, the police and sheriffs, attorneys, hospitals, doctors, and senior living facilities are all involved. It’s very clear by our experiences and the public records, it’s usually all the same people, over and over again.

    My Father and I were abused, neglected, lied to and made to look non creditable in order for the conservator to take him over. Later after several months this same person who did this to us (who we were fortunate enough to have removed) is now in multiple law suits regarding her issues with marijuana. She was driving my Father around stoned charging him $160 per hr. She has no right to have a license to do what she is doing and should pay restitution for her actions. After getting her removed, the judge put another conservator in charge, she’s the one that isolated me from my Father and had him drugged. I gave my Father my life, my soul and gave up my income to care for him. I turned his health/life around in a matter of 10 months and I know he would still be here today if the conservator, who never met him I might add, had not done this to him. To my own personal knowledge, this is the second time she’s been accused of drugging someone to their demise.

    We are a group of victims that are sticking together to correct their sick actions and we’re not backing down until we get justice for our future elders and their families. This has been excruciatingly painful to go thru with my Father and even though he is gone now, they are continuing to abuse me.

    Is there anything at all you can do to expedite them coming to Santa Barbara, this is not a safe place to go old?

    • Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Please, please, get in touch with Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships at
      They are working hard to compile a list of cases just like yours with an eye toward steering federal prosecutors to the worst of the worst.
      Please visit that website and join their effort. I really believe there is a true strength in numbers.
      God bless. ~ DD

  5. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Reader Tom Fields writes:


    While I am glad Congress has introduced and passed this legislation, I am glad you and others recognize that much more is needed. I am also glad that you began to address what more is needed by sharing Rick Black’s observation “It doesn’t address the problem with the judicial system … judges who appoint these guardians …” With this observation in mind, I want to encourage you, Rick and others to identify (1) specific actions for which judges should be held accountable, and (2) how judges should be held accountable for these actions.

    Do you recall that I have already done so as far as holding accountable lawyers and others in cases like that exemplified by the 3-minute video at

    which ABC News includes in its report at If so, I hope you would share that information with your readers.


    Tom Fields

  6. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Dave Menicucci writes:


    I want to commend you (and the Journal) for the extraordinary journalistic work re the guardianship situation in NM. It was the finest series of investigatory articles that I have seen since the Watergate days. You have improved the lives of many people who have been subjected to what appears are outright thieves, masquerading as guardians. It is hard to fathom anything better as a journalist.

    As a writer I appreciate the effort. One writes for a variety of reasons, but honest, balanced and thorough investigations by a newspaper are becoming rare events these days where dissemination of propaganda seems to be the prime motivation of many in the media.

    I commend the Journal also for publishing your work. I believe the editorial staff has done an excellent job.

    I think about your work frequently, especially now as I prepare to participate in a national scholar’s meeting in Montana to form policy recommendations fo
    r the future of our public lands. I suddenly find myself as one of 25 people from across the country who might be able to affect national policy re our public lands. For me, some simple little guy in Alb, it is a sobering experience and I feel inadequate, but I will do my best.
    Thank you Diane. . The Journal is back in the saddle! Makes me smile…

  7. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Reader Brett Darken writes:

    Hey Diane:

    We chatted briefly over the summer when you were in Italy.

    Great story on Albuquerque.

    At the end of your article you hit on the theme I’m interested in:
    Why are the judges not investigated?
    Where do all the “judiciary committees” in state legislatures stand on these corrupt judges?
    What about the Bar Associations in these various states?

    Is it possible that the American Bar Association has replaced the UAW & Teamsters as the
    biggest and meanest union in America?

  8. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Vida Amaral writes:

    Diane Dimond. Your voice is God sent. Thank you for your compassion and watchful reporting./// My beloved mom endured so much abuse under a Guardianship that ISOLATED her from family, liquidated her estate, delayed care and neglect and suffered 2 heart attacks required pacemaker. Almost 100k to free her from the worse unimaginable CRUELTY done to humanity is ISOLATION. Maria Norbina Amaral died age 82 December 10, 2016. I held her tight, all she wanted was her home of 42 yrs and her family. She never could understand why we could not just go see her. I hear her voice saying tell those people take me out of here. For ever in my heart, until Jesus returns. Mãe querida.

  9. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Frederick Bailey answers the question: Think the feds will start prosecuting offending guardians?

    “… only if the case is on a silver platter. And the victim is alive. Other than that most prosecutors couldn’t be bothered and fall back on the “its a civil not criminal (which it clearly is) matter. That’s why the guilty are so brazen & bold. 98-99% of all theses cases are never investigated…let alone prosecuted.

    Pretty good odds…compared to robbing a bank. And a lot more $$$ to take.

  10. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Facebook Friend Marilyn Salzman writes:

    Read your column in Albuquerque Journal. Spot on.

  11. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Facebook Friend Elizabeth Blackburn writes:

    Thank you Diane Dimond for your great reporting on this and bringing a huge light into the darkness. We are truly thankful.

  12. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Facebook Friend Marci Friedman writes:

    I have a list for them! Pain, suffering, dismantling families, isolation, alienation, medical negligence, over dosed and the list goes on!

  13. Diane Dimond on October 9, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Facebook Friend Sandi Chaykin Teller writes:

    I wish this was a concern of more court systems and prosecutors . Sadly most die before anything can be done .

  14. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Facebook Friend Savannah Silver writes:

    It Is A National Disgrace !

  15. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Facebook Friend Lyn Novosel writes:

    It is all very scary Diane.

  16. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Facebook Friend Sally Kellogg writes:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please Keep going. The judges must be held in inmost accountability. They do NOT provide hearings and take away All Rights if the Person and most family members. That is NOT Justice. Thank you all for fighting and I forming and small victory helps….sadly not in time.

  17. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Facebook Friend Tracy Petry writes:

    I am the guardian for my step-grandmother because her only surviving child wants complete control and fleece her. I am the one who is looking out for her! Making sure she gets great medical care, living arrangements, and nursing care 24/7. I just want to put in a good word for guardians and what their jobs are supposed to be. Sometimes you need to protect the elderly from their own blood.

  18. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Facebook Friend Lenore Riegel writes:

    Think your family can save you – they can’t.

  19. Diane Dimond on October 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Facebook Friend Rosemary Taylor writes:

    Definitely needs more exposure. Thks for writing!!

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