Case Studies: Estate & Probate

Elderly Couple Freed from Caregiver’s Fraudulent Schemes

The children of senior citizens Herbert and Madeline Montgomery were having trouble reaching their parents. Kate and her brother, Rob, both lived out of state and had become alarmed. A month before communication was cut-off; Mrs. Montgomery had hired a live-in caregiver for her and her husband, who was in an early stage of dementia. They knew little about this caregiver whom their mother had hired on a referral from her hairdresser. Shirley Costanza was answering all phone calls to the Montgomery house. She was good at making excuses and assuring all callers the Montgomery’s were fine.

Then one day Kate received a call from the family’s financial advisor, Mary, who said Shirley was trying to get signatory power on all the Montgomery accounts. Mary also said Shirley had a boyfriend named Roger who was now living in the house. Kate and Rob agreed with Mary; it was time to take action for the safety of their parents. Kate and Rob flew to Indiana, contacted an attorney, who immediately phoned Trace Investigations to assist in what we all clearly believed was an elder fraud case.

Our investigation showed that Shirley Costanza was not what she seemed. She had no background as a caregiver, and had a shaky financial history and three divorces. We discovered that the mysterious Roger had been charged in another state with elder abuse and fraud. That case had been dismissed but Roger likewise had a shaky financial and employment history.

The family attorney obtained a court order naming the children as temporary guardians of their parents. Trace Investigations assisted counsel in removing Shirley and Roger from the Montgomery residence. Kate took her parents for a doctor’s check-up while we examined the house. We found records that Shirley had been forging Mrs. Montgomery’s signature on checks.

Result: Since Mrs. Montgomery couldn’t recall exactly what she had or had not authorized Shirley to do, no criminal charges could be brought. But thanks to our investigation, Shirley Costanza’s days as an elder caregiver were over and the Montgomery children were relieved to see their parents safe and sound. Kate and Rob hired a professional elder care service, and Kate referred her mother to a new hairdresser.



Retired Professor’s Assets Saved

Benjamin Kellogg was retired from teaching and in the early stages of dementia, but his wife, Rose, was a professional woman still busy with her career, which kept her out of town Monday through Friday. She became concerned when she received a phone call from the visiting nurse she had hired to check on her husband during the week. Arriving at the Kellogg house early one day, the nurse had encountered a strange woman in the house, who identified herself as a former student of Mr. Kellogg just in town for the day. Mrs. Kellogg phoned Trace Investigations and asked us to conduct a background investigation on this woman. All we had was the name she had given the nurse, which turned out to be her real name.

Our investigation discovered the woman was one of the professor’s former graduate students, now in her early 30s. She had gone on to earn two more graduate degrees, yet had never held a fulltime job and apparently had no debt. She owned her own condominium and drove a luxury vehicle. We discovered this wasn’t her first trip to visit the professor while his wife was out of town. Immediately, we referred Mrs. Kellogg to an estate attorney. Further investigation established that the young woman had been living off Mr. Kellogg’s retirement account for years.

Result: Trace Investigations intervened in time to prevent further depletion of the Kellogg family assets. The estate attorney filed to give Mrs. Kellogg power of attorney over her husband’s retirement account, and a restraining order was served against the “freeloading” former graduate student.


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All names have been changed for privacy concerns.