Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trust Administrator Charged With Grand Theft, Perjury and Forgery In Ventura County California

We see numerous cases where there are allegations of wrongdoing in the administration of estates, however, a recent case turned criminal. On February 13, 2012, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office arrested Geoffrey Charles Sjostrom (DOB 09-25-1954), of Simi Valley, and charged him with nine felony charges, including grand theft, perjury, forgery, and the aggravated white collar crime enhancement. His bail was initially set at $200,000.

The criminal complaint alleges that Mr. Sjostrom was a friend of Francis J. Copland, who died in 2005. Before Mr. Copland died, he prepared a trust and a will, naming Mr. Sjostrom to administer both. In his estate documents, Mr. Copland left all of his property to family members. After Mr. Copland's death, Mr. Sjostrom failed to probate Mr. Copland's will and failed to properly account for Mr. Copland's trust property.

The probate court removed Mr. Sjostrom as trustee and ordered him to account for Mr. Copland's property. At that point, Mr. Sjostrom allegedly filed a sworn declaration claiming Mr. Copland had exhausted his bank accounts when he died. A successor trustee was appointed and discovered this information was false. The successor trustee found that Mr. Copland had money in various accounts when he died and that then trustee Mr. Sjostrom methodically took more than $250,000 from those accounts by means of check and ATM withdrawals. If convicted of all charges Sjostrom faces up to 11 years in state prison.

Thus, apart from the fiduciary duties that administrators have to beneficiaries and the estate, it is critical to remember that basic criminal law can come in play if there is misappropriation of funds or pleadings filed under the penalty of perjury.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney, A Partnership. For a free 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.

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