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PROBATE BASED RICO CASE STEAMS TOWARDS TRIAL.
A $22 million civil RICO case from Cleveland, Ohio has survived another procedural hurdle and appears headed to trial in Cuyahoga county court.
RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization. It was passed by congress and signed into law by President Nixon 50 years ago, in 1970. Originally designed to combat organized crime, the laws’ application has expanded to include any group profiting from an illegal activity.
The racketeering suit was filed in January of 2019 by the Cleveland legal firm of Charles Longo and Associates on behalf of Dr. Medhi Saghafi and his family. The case is rooted in a guardianship ordered by the Lorain county probate court and has survived more than a year of procedural challenges.
A guardianship is a legal tool used by state courts to protect the health and assets of an incapacitated person. In the Ohio case, the wife of Dr. Saghafi was placed in a guardianship because she was suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The defendants include a group of eight attorneys from the Cleveland area: Zachary Simonoff, Stephen Wolf, Joyce E. Barrett, James Reddy, Lisa Hahn, Neil Spike, Rachelle Kuzwick Zidar and Eric Zagrans. Also named is Dr. Saghafi’s estranged daughter Jaleh Prescutto; Jaleh’s husband Phillip Prescutto, Jr., a local contractor named Christopher Francis and Stephen Sartchev who is a Certified Public Accountant.
ATTORNEYS TARGETED ASSETS OF DEMENTIA PATIENT
The 54-page suit claims that the attorneys and the other defendants defrauded the court into ordering an illegal guardianship. Then, using the guardianship that was intended to protect Mrs. Saghafi, the defendants instead turned it into an enterprise that they used to enrich themselves.
The suit asks for $22 million in damages which makes the case one of largest probate and estate-fraud cases in recent U.S. history.
OTHER SIMILAR CASES
While the Saghafi case is unusual in Ohio, there have been similar estate fraud cases in other states.
In the Saghafi case, the RICO complaint details how a guardianship that was intended to serve and protect an 80 year old woman was turned into a business enterprise that illegally drained the family’s assets under the guise of “elder care.”
The case is set for an August, 2020 trial in the court of Cuyahoga county judge Sherrie Miday.