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  • Janet Phelan
    Tuesday, March 5, 2013 Conservator seeks to overturn court s ruling that man can keep his own house Janet Phelan Activist Post A San Bernardino probate judge
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2013
      Tuesday, March 5, 2013
      Conservator seeks to overturn court's ruling that man can keep his own house
      Janet Phelan
      Activist Post

      A San Bernardino probate judge recently denied a highly unusual petition
      to revoke a 28-year-old notarized and recorded deed of sale and to
      return the property into the estate of the seller. In a stunningly bold
      move, the petitioner, conservator Melodie Scott, has moved for another
      trial on this matter.

      This case potentially redefines the very concept of property ownership and as such may be seen as a precedent setting case.

      The revocation of the deed of sale was sought by the conservator of an
      elderly woman, Lois Risse, who after nearly three decades sold her home
      to a friend of hers, Glenn Neff, with the understanding that she could
      live in the house—rent free—for the rest of her life. Lois Risse was in
      her early seventies at the time of the sale.

      Fast forward to 2012. Risse, then 101 years old, was being preyed on
      financially by a bevy of individuals who were accessing her bank
      accounts, buying vehicles with her money and apparently even living in
      her house, robbing her under the pretext of caring for her.

      When Melodie Scott was appointed Risse’s guardian by Judge Michael Welch in San Bernardino Superior Court, she inherited a Pandora's Box of predation and
      financial abuse which had greatly reduced the size of Risse's estate.

      At that point, Scott made some legally questionable decisions. Rather
      than filing police reports against the people who appear to have taken
      off with over $70,000 of Risse's assets, she chose to try to persuade a
      judge to revoke the deed of sale to Risse's friend, Glenn Neff. Neff,
      who now lives in Northern California, has been maintaining the property
      and paying the taxes and insurance on the Yucaipa home. Scott has made
      it clear that she wishes to get a reverse mortgage on the property in
      order to pay for her services as Risse's guardian.

      This reporter has reviewed papers from Melodie Scott's own files which
      indicate that several individuals withdrew tens of thousands of dollars
      from Risse’s bank accounts in fall of 2011 as well as cashed checks
      from her accounts for thousands of dollars for inexplicable expenses.
      Apparently, one of these individuals purchased a couple of vehicles with
      Risse’s money.

      In her quest to make a case that Neff had committed financial elder abuse, Scott had to go back nearly thirty years. She found some checks that
      Risse had written to Neff back in the early eighties and ponied up these checks as evidence that three decades ago, Neff financially abused Lois Risse.

      Neff has claimed that he took these checks to the bank and cashed them
      for Lois. Scott also claims that, nearly thirty years ago, Neff stole a
      gun collection belonging to Lois Risse. Both Risse and Neff have
      asserted that Risse sold her guns to someone else years ago.

      In January, after depositions and a trial, Judge Raymond Haight decided
      that the deed of sale was legal and that Neff would be allowed to keep
      his house.

      In an odd misattribution of responsibility, a distraught Melodie Scott subsequently emailed this reporter:

      Hey you have another notch for your belt. We lost our trial to keep Mrs. Risse’s home and she has to go to a convalescent home. And no I was
      never paid in this file. Go see who else’s life you can ruin.
      After the judge ruled against giving Melodie Scott the house belonging
      to Glenn Neff, an outburst from Melodie Scott was overheard in the
      courtroom in which she cried, “What am I gonna do now? She's out of
      money and she's gotta go! She's gotta go!”

      It was unclear to those overhearing this where exactly Lois Risse had to
      go. Glenn Neff is honoring his promise that Lois can live in the house
      and is still carrying the financial burden of the insurance and taxes on
      the property. Given Melodie Scott's propensity to withhold medical
      care from her clients when they run out of money, one might wonder if
      Risse might soon be scheduled for a trip to the Big Retirement Home in
      the sky.

      Not content with the judge's ruling, Scott turned around and has filed
      for a new trial. In her application for this trial, she alleges that the
      initial agreement between Neff and Risse stated that the deed would not
      be recorded until Risse died and therefore when Neff recorded the deed
      in 2012 he breached the contract and thus de facto nullified the
      original deed of sale. The crux of her motion for a new trial lies in a
      legal dispute as to whether the early recording of this document is an
      incidental or material breach of contract.

      Neff has stated that when he realized that Lois's assets were under attack, he recorded the deed.

      “My lawyers are already into me for thirty thousand dollars,” states a
      battle-weary Glenn Neff. According to Neff, he asked attorney Jack
      Osborn, who is the lawyer he initially hired to defend his house against
      conservator Scott's petition, whether he could redeem his attorney's
      fees if he is successful in derailing Scott's efforts to take the house
      away from him. Curiously, Neff reports that Osborn has told him he will
      be stuck with the bill no matter who wins in court. In fact, this is
      not necessarily true.

      Osborn’s affiliations have already been questioned in this matter. When
      Neff learned that Osborn had previously represented Melodie Scott, he
      confronted the lawyer with this potential conflict of interest. At that
      point, a new lawyer was substituted in from the same firm of Brown,
      White and Newhouse. Neff states that Osborn never explained the change
      of lawyers to him and he suspects that Osborn's failure to disclose the
      conflict of interest resulted in Osborn bolting from the case.

      Oddly, his lawyers are also billing Mr. Neff for reading the articles being
      published about this case. An entry on the attorney's bill for
      December 10, 2012, notes that Neff was charged for the following:
      “received and analyzed article ...regarding conservatorship of Lois

      “I think I am getting screwed every time I turn around here,” stated
      Neff in a recent interview. His lawyers have also billed him over $1500
      for a deposition of Lois Risse. There is scant legal precedent which
      allows for deposing a mentally incapacitated party and the centenarian
      Risse has been medically deemed to be what us normal folks would call
      “deeply confused.”

      On March 6, the motion for a new trial will be heard at 9 a.m. in Dept.
      S15P of San Bernardino Superior Court. The underlying implications of
      this protracted effort to reverse a decades-old deed of sale has
      reverberations for the whole concept of property ownership and
      levitates the common understanding of “who owns what” into a
      stratospheric legal grey zone. Conservatorships constitute a
      Constitutional loophole whereby simply the assertion made before a judge
      that someone has mental incapacity may result in his losing most of his
      civil rights and all access to his property and funds.

      Janet Phelan is an
      investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los
      Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica
      Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other
      regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues
      pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of
      adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the
      relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She
      also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her
      poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea
      One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was
      published in 2005. She currently resides abroad.  You may browse
      through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com

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