LAS VEGAS - A former court-appointed financial guardian in Las Vegas, her friend and her office manager were charged Wednesday with siphoning more than $550,000 out of accounts of people assigned to her business as wards of the court.
A 270-count criminal indictment filed in Nevada state court alleges that more than 150 victims lost money to April Parks, her employee Mark Simmons, and Parks' friend, Gary Neil Taylor, through overbilling for court filings, banking visits and services not rendered by the business, A Private Professional Guardian LLC.
Together, the three are accused of racketeering, theft and exploitation of a vulnerable person — charges that could get them decades in state prison.
"Guardians are appointed to protect ... some of the most vulnerable members of our community," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who joined state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and county Sheriff Joe Lombardo to announce the charges after a two-year investigation.
"They are entrusted with every aspect of that person's life, including their health and finances," Wolfson said in a statement. "These defendants took advantage of helpless individuals who did not have the ability to defend themselves."
Laxalt said the indictment "should send a message to court-appointed guardians throughout the state that law enforcement is committed to aggressively protecting our elderly and vulnerable populations."
Parks and Simmons also face perjury charges. In all, Parks faces 212 charges, and Simmons faces 134 counts. Taylor faces seven.
Parks' attorney didn't immediately respond to messages. Officials said she is believed to now live in Pennsylvania.
Simmons' attorney, Julian Gregory, declined to comment. It wasn't clear from officials or the court record if Taylor has a lawyer.
Clark County District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti ordered the arrest without bail of Parks and Simmons and set bail at $200,000 for Taylor.
Officials didn't say how they believe Parks, Simmons and Taylor spent the money they're accused of stealing from about December 2011 to July 2016.
The indictment alleges they used various schemes to illegally siphon money from the accounts of people they were assigned and entrusted to protect.
One method had Taylor, who prosecutors identified as Parks' boyfriend-turned-husband, serve as a deliveryman to file court papers that could be filed online. Another billed wards for bank deposits made in person rather than by direct deposit.
Wards were billed extra for home visits made to deliver holiday gifts, and one ward was billed $4,800 for services even though he died just two days after Parks filed her petition for guardianship.
The investigation became public with the creation of an enforcement task force in late March 2015, after stories emerged about abuses in the guardianship system. The investigation of Parks began a couple of months later.
The Nevada Supreme Court also created a 25-member commission in July 2015 that still meets monthly to study guardianship abuse.
Officials noted the defendants were affiliated with a private guardianship business, not a Clark County Public Guardian office that serves people legally determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs. The public office also offers a voluntary money management assistance program for people over 60.
The case also led to charges of theft and filing a false instrument against Las Vegas family law, estate planning and tax attorney Noel Palmer Simpson.
Simpson's attorney, William Terry, said his client intends to plead not guilty and will seek to sever her case from the others. Terry said Simpson posted $7,500 cash bail pending a March 22 court appearance.
Full Article & Source:
Former court-appointed guardian accused of theft from wards