By Alec Brooks of Kazerouni Law Group, APC on Monday, June 6, 2016.
There’s an endless list of hardships an individual faces when growing old. Their bodies simply deteriorate, and like an old car, and don’t run the way they used to. Along with the loss of hearing, eyesight, and ability to move around comfortably, perhaps the scariest part about growing elderly is the decline of your mental capacity. In the United States approximately 15% of persons over the age of 60 suffer from some type of mental disability (World health Organization). As if life isn’t already hard and scary enough for senior citizens, it’s made much worse by the fact that there are people out there looking to exploit and profit from these weaknesses.
In 2014, KLG was brought a case by a woman named AJ. A few years prior to meeting with us, AJ was forced to move back home with her elderly mother who had been deemed mentally incompetent and incapable of living on her own. AJ, at the time, was 65 years old herself. She soon found out that this task was too arduous for her to take on alone. Needing help, AJ went out and hired a pair of live-in caretakers, a mother and a daughter.
The younger caretaker, Katrina, met a man online shortly after moving in. This man, Pete, wound up moving into the house as well. Pete convinced 20 year old Katrina that he was in love with her, so much so that the two were wed. KLG would later learn that Pete was openly gay and actually had a partner at the time of his marriage with Katrina. This, it turns out, was not where Pete’s deception ended.
During his time at the house, Pete routinely went through AJ’s mother’s mail. He was looking for anything that could aid him in stealing her identity. After collecting all of her personal information Pete’s first move was to list her as the cosigner and forge her signature on loans for two brand new sports cars. The cars were roughly $60,000 combined. It seemed a bit odd that Pete would buy two of those cars, until it was later found out that one of them was for his partner.
A few years after Pete and his partner rode off into the sunset in their brand new cars, AJ’s mother started getting contacted about the car loans. Since AJ’s mother at this point was bedridden and capable of very little, it was AJ who was left to deal with everything. She obviously knew that her mother hadn’t purchased any sports cars in the last decade, and had no idea where any of this was coming from. AJ was able to gather the necessary documents to prove that her mother had been a victim of identity theft. The motor company, at that time forgave the debt. AJ was still at a loss and decided to take a look at her mother’s credit report where she discovered that there had been numerous accounts opened in her mother’s name. The first thing that jumped out at her on the report was a loan for $40,000 taken out from a student loan company. AJ contacted the student loan company and learned that the money was loaned for the purpose of nursing school. A nursing school that Pete, and obviously her mother, never attended.
The student loan company wasn’t as forgiving as the motor company and began coming after AJ tenaciously. Call after call, letter after letter, it didn’t matter if the money went toward nursing school or not, they wanted it back. The company demanded a copy of AJ’s mother’s signature, even though she lacked the motor skills to give one. They wanted to put her on the stand, despite the fact she didn’t have the strength to leave her bed. After feeling insanely helpless and vulnerable AJ reached out to KLG.
Attorney Matthew M. Loker, from KLG’s San Luis Obispo location took the case. He was aided by attorney David McGlothlin from Hyde & Swigart in San Diego. Loker and McGlothlin wound up in over two years of litigation. The student loan company wouldn’t back down from their stance that AJ was lying, her mother wasn’t that sick, and that everything was a cover up. The two attorneys traveled the country from Florida to Washington D.C. to San Francisco, and Texas taking depositions. AJ’s mother passed away before the proceedings were finished. Unfortunately, even in death, debt isn’t forgiven. In the end, KLG was able to not only save AJ from having to cover her mother’s illegitimate debt, but also obtained a settlement with the loan company for an undisclosed amount.
Unfortunately, this story hasn’t been wrapped up with a neat little bow quite yet. The motor company decided it wasn’t in fact ready to send the original debt to the chop shop quite yet and started to contact AJ again. At this point, with her mother gone, AJ was simply trying to keep the estate intact. KLG is still in litigation with the motor company, three credit bureaus, and two debt collectors. Attorney Matthew M. Loker thinks they could easily be litigation for another two years before any of it is settled.
Identity isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we create. A human’s identity is like a lifelong piece of art, and like any piece of art, it can be stolen. You can be the nicest person in the world, or, in this case, a mentally incompetent woman in your final years and there will still be someone out there who’d like to take you for everything you’re worth. As Matthew M. Loker put it, “Identity thieves, and abusive people in general are extremely manipulative and target specific individuals solely for nefarious purposes.”
Identity theft, elder abuse, and aggressive and unforgiving debt collectors are all unfortunate realities that we have to deal with. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, please contact KLG for a free consultation. No matter how bleak things might look, maybe together, we can bring forth better days.