I-Team 10 Consumer Alert: Looting the estate

Posted at: 06/19/2013 2:33 PM
Updated at: 06/19/2013 6:42 PM

One man lost his battle with cancer and while his loved ones grieved, they lost everything in his estate.

It's hard to imagine someone violating the trust of the most vulnerable, the dying who are trying to get their estates in order. But it happened to several people at the hand of their own attorney and it should be a warning to everyone to make sure you know who you are dealing with.

Erik Varvir is referring to the estate of his partner, Vernon. When Vernon learned he had an aggressive form of leukemia, he immediately took steps to put his estate in order to protect his family.

Erik Varvir said, "He made Ken, the attorney, the administrator of the will, because the family had used him for years."

Three weeks later, Vernon was gone. Erik and Vernon's stepson went to attorney, Ken Hoesch, to settle the estate.

Varvir said, “He was supposed to bring over copies of the master copies of the trust and all the paperwork. He never did and that is where it started. He kept giving us exercises.”

After months without answers, postal inspectors began an investigation and found the money from Vernon's estate was gone, all of it.

Varvir said, “He did it fairly quick. We didn't realize it, but he had started to withdraw money from Vernon's trust two weeks after he died in $30,000 increments."

Victim's stepson said, “It's devastating, especially to find out it's a professional is the one that did that. They are supposed to be watching out for you, not taking advantage of you."

Vernon's family was not alone. Postal inspectors say there were multiple victims and more than $800,000 in losses among the cases.

Gil Webb, U.S. Postal Inspector, said, “It was quite substantial loss, because it involved people's estates, everything they had saved all of their lives, it was just taken from them."
Victim's stepson said, "He was taking advantage of elderly people, people he knew, organizations, people that were due certain things, and he had no right to just take them and do what he wanted with them."
Varvir said,"The level of betrayal is indescribable and Vernon wasn't here too. Who speaks for him? It was Vernon's money. "

Postal inspectors say Hoesch spent the money he stole on expensive trips and an art collection. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution.

Experts say before selecting someone to handle your estate, interview several lawyers, call the Bar Association and ask a lot of questions about their expertise.