In my 2012 documentary film, Last Will and Embezzlement, Hollywood icon (the late) Mickey Rooney, who had been the victim of elder financial exploitation, warns the audience, “If it can happen to Mickey Rooney, it can happen to anyone.” Today, in Massachusetts, a 28-count elder abuse / elder exploitation lawsuit is pending against an astounding 66 defendants — including 15 attorneys — one of whom, I was appalled to learn, is John O. Mirick (Mirick, O’Connell, DeMallie & Lougee), the former Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (what others would refer to as the Legal Ethics Board).
This landmark lawsuit, filed by Attorneys Coreen Goodwin and James Bailey Brislin, alleges a shocking, even ghoulish RICO scheme to actually imprison an elderly couple in a nursing home for the final, horrific year of their lives, steal their money and property during that year, conceal their wills from the rightful executors, then thoroughly plunder their estates after their deaths, just six days apart.
Sound improbable? Maybe even fictitious? It’s not. In fact, it’s a lot more common than you might imagine. Since I released my film, I have become privy to stories of avarice and thievery, murder and depravity, that would curl your hair and turn your stomach. This is one such tale, and over the coming weeks and months, I will be sharing with you the chronicles of one woman (Sarah, the victims’ daughter) who chose to earn a law degree, not only to obtain post-mortem justice for her parents, but to dedicate the rest of her life to saving others from suffering the same fate.
This is not just your average David and Goliath story – this is David simultaneously battling more than sixty Goliaths, including some of Boston’s largest and most prestigious law firms, two real estate agencies, two health care conglomerates, a nursing home, a funeral home, a surety bond company, five nurses, a social worker, a doctor, and a fire department captain – all of whom, in one way or another, were (allegedly) complicit in the conspiracy to hasten the end of the Oultons’ lives (the Oultons being the elderly couple in question), and then unlawfully pillaging their entire estate.
In November of 2011, Carol Oulton was admitted to Marlborough Hills Nursing Home to recover from a broken leg, but was overdosed (allegedly) by staff within 24 hours of her arrival, whereupon she was rushed to UMass Memorial Hospital, in a coma. Sarah, who was caring for her dad, Donald, who suffered from dementia, decided that if her mom recovered, she (Sarah) wanted to find her mom a better place to recuperate.
However, the suit alleges, the Oultons’ other three children conspired with Marlborough Hills and their attorneys to force Donald into that facility, as well, and then blocked both Donald and Carol from ever having contact, in any manner, with Sarah or any of their friends. On top of that, they separated the couple – forced them to live apart.
So that was it – they had no way out, no-one to lean on, and no way to get help. That was how this loving couple, married more than fifty years, spent the final year of their lives: alone, isolated, being victimized in every way possible, separated from everything and everyone they had ever known or loved, until their deaths, one year later.
Adding insult to injury, it turned out that the attorney Sarah had hired in pursuit of a conservatorship over her parents (in her failed attempt to rescue them) actually had a prior relationship with two of her siblings — two of the people who were illegally imprisoning her parents! But the attorney never informed her. He took her money but took no action. Instead, he (allegedly) conspired with his prior clients to fraudulently induce Sarah to dismiss the conservatorship petitions.
If all of this is not shocking enough, the defendants then blocked Sarah from attending her parents’ funerals at Christmas of 2012.
Join me, won’t you, in a story of inestimable courage and determination, of love and greed and sorrow and forgiveness and grace and deception and a passionate commitment to be a voice for those who cannot speak out for themselves.