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Guardianship commission hears tears and jeers

Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 21:40:30-05

Victims and their families demanded justice and sweeping change today from the State Guardianship Commission amid tears, raised voices and harsh criticism.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears is here to share the new slogan designed to highlight alleged corruption.

Isolate. Medicate. Steal the estate.

That's how critics say private, for-profit guardians operate.

The state knows it. 

And the public wants to know how and when they're going to stop it.

"As a steward of the public it is your responsibility to stop this corruption!" admonished Julie Belshe, who fought to free her parents, Rudy and Rennie North from what the family calls a fraudulent guardianship by private for-profit guardian April Parks.

It's been a year since Contact 13 first reported on the Norths' case as part of an ongoing series of reports on  alleged corruption, abuse of power and exploitation of our most vulnerable citizens by private guardians and those in the judicial system who are supposed to oversee them.

"I ask each of you to put yourself in the shoes of a victim or their family," said Rick Black, fighting back tears. 

His father-in-law, Del Mencarelli, died shortly after a bitter fight by his family to free him from guardianship. "Recognize Nevada laws are being violated to this day," Black demanded of commissioners.

The Attorney General and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department have launched a criminal investigation into private guardian April Parks. 

Three new laws were passed to protect the vulnerable. 

A new guardianship judge was put in place in Clark County and the Supreme Court formed a commission to pursue reform, but families say nothing has really changed.

"The issue is isolate, medicate and steal the estate.  That's what's happening," said Registered Nurse Fran Grady, who came to Las Vegas from San Diego just to address the commission at Friday's hearing.

"My idea is guardianship is ownership of a human being.  It should be done away with!" Grady said.

Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty and his panel heard all kinds of suggestions to deal with Clark county's overwhelmed and essentially broken guardianship system. 

But folks are fed up with waiting and want action.

"At least 12 cognizant people were freed from fraudulent guardianships," said Black, "but none of their money was returned or even accounted for."

Justice Hardesty asked for case numbers on those guardianships to dig deeper into allegations of corruption as families continued to share their devastation.

"You promised me until death do us part," a tearful Leonard Stein told commissioners his wife said to him after she was taken away and placed under guardianship. "And I don't know what to tell her."

Stein told commissioners how his wife was isolated and he was prevented from seeing her during her time as a ward under guardianship. 

She died three weeks ago after he failed in his battle to free her. 

The lawyer involved in the guardianship was Elyse Tyrell--a controversial figure who critics say has no business being a member of the reform commission.

"Elyse Tyrell, I don't know why she is here.  She destroyed my marriage and our lives," said Stein.

The Supreme Court's top judge blamed lack of action in part on law enforcement, saying they've been dismissing guardianship complaints as civil matters, when there appear to be clearly criminal acts in some cases. 

He promised that will change and asked for optimism from the public through what promises to be a long process.