Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund

Editor's note: The Probate Court of Cook County pillaged the Estate of Alice R. Gore's burial funds. This Shark believes that the Probate Court of Cook County Judges and lawyers should be charged with "stealing from wards, bilking burial fund".  Lucius Verenus, Schoolmaster,

Lawyer charged with stealing from wards, bilking burial fund

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Brooke LaValley | Dispatch file photo
Lawyer Paul S. Kormanik
A grand jury has accused a Columbus lawyer who served as court-appointed guardian for more than 400 people of stealing from his wards and from taxpayers.
Paul S. Kormanik was indicted on 11 charges yesterday. One is a first-degree felony accusing him of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a violation of Ohio’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said.
Kormanik was in jail last night. He is already awaiting trial on two felony theft charges. He was re-indicted on those two charges yesterday, and nine charges were added.
Investigators with O’Brien’s office and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said Kormanik stole nearly $50,000 from four wards between 2009 and last year. The indictment says Kormanik hid assets from the court that belonged to wards and deposited them into his own accounts.
In addition to the RICO charge, Kormanik, 65, faces four felony charges of theft from an elderly person or disabled adult. He is also charged with five counts of tampering with records; authorities say he hid his wards’ checking or savings accounts from the court.
A fifth-degree felony charge accuses him of theft from the city of Columbus’ indigent-burial fund. Investigators found that Kormanik hid the assets of some of his wards to make it appear that they were indigent.
He applied to receive $710 from the city at least three times to bury wards he told the court were indigent, according to the indictment. Investigators found that those wards had thousands of dollars in assets that Kormanik did not disclose.
“The city has a burial fund that pays for burial for indigent people, and what actually happened is the person who oversees that fund, having read The Dispatch and seeing the articles (about wards and their court-appointed guardians), contacted us,” O’Brien said. “We sat down with the probate court and did some cross comparisons."
Calls to Kormanik and his attorney, Richard Cline, were not immediately returned.
Kormanik was one of several guardians highlighted in “Unguarded,” a five-part Dispatch investigative report that raised questions about how county probate courts across the state handle the care of children, the elderly and people with mental disabilities who are deemed unfit to care for themselves.
The investigation found lapses in court procedures and a lack of follow-through by several judges that subjected wards to abuse and neglect. Those lapses in Franklin County allowed Kormanik to amass nearly 400 wards.
Kormanik told The Dispatch last year that he was likely the guardian with the most wards in the country and easily in the state.
Probate judges, including current Franklin County Probate Judge Robert Montgomery, appointed Kormanik as guardian to each of his wards.
Court officials have been cooperating with the investigation.
“The court is aware of the indictment of attorney Paul S. Kormanik on theft and related charges concerning his conduct as a legal guardian,” Mike Moran, chief counsel to Montgomery, wrote in an email. “The indictments, in part, resulted from this court making one or more referrals to the appropriate law-enforcement agency concerning Mr. Kormanik’s handling of guardianships.”

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