FROM OUR PRINTED MAY 2019 EDITION
Jewish Family & Children’s Service FORCED Guardianship of Another Millionaire
Attorneys David A. Schwartz and Lisa M. Cukier
at Epicenter Again
by Lonnie Brennan
“I represent Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Inc…”
According to John Savanovich and his attorney, more horrifying words are seldom put to paper.
Cambridge Attorney Dave. A. Schwartz wrote those words. Yes, the same Schwartz (617-795-0902), who was at the epicenter of isolating multiple seniors, most infamously Mary Frank. We printed Mary’s extensive recorded statements in which she exposed Schwartz and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. (See www.BostonBroadside.com/MaryFrank to listen to Mary in her own words. Isolated, Mary died under JF&CS guardianship.) And, to make matters worse, Lisa M. Cukier, attorney at Burns & Levison of Boston (617-345-3000), is also at the epicenter of the guardianship of another millionaire, now deceased multi-milllionare Marvin Siegel (see prior issues).
More than $3 Million
Out the Door?
John Savanovich related how he found himself “in the clutches of these lawyers…they put a guardian on me, took everything, controlled everything. Tricked me into signing papers.”
John said he had plenty of money in the bank (we confirmed $235,410.83 via court documents filed on May 7, 2018), was living an extremely frugal life, but at age 76 he let his multi-million dollar properties deteriorate, and finally attempted to get some help to get them fixed up. He admitted he let things go badly, and so he reached out for some help. He figured he would sell them off one at a time and get things taken care of. He had lost his mother, had no family, and fell into a malaise for a period of time. Just kept to himself, had plenty of cash. Wasn’t interested in dealing with tenants and all that.
But after John asked for help, he was shocked that instead he lost control of everything.
John Savanovich – April 2019 – Photo by Janet Aldrich
John had no mortgage on his properties. No wife. No kids. No living family. Neighbors complained about the condition of his properties. Certain city employees were reported saying they had tried to force him to sell his properties.
John related how he went to his local banker asking for advice. John is a soft-spoken guy. The banker recommended a lawyer named Peter Russell.
Russell has been running ads on You Tube.com in which he says that he likes helping people, and that everything is done openly, honestly, transparently. “What I like to say to our clients is this,” Russell says, “let us do the worrying for you. We will take care of everything.”
John said Atty. Russell tricked him into signing paperwork that gave Russell control over his life. (Later, he learned that Atty. Russell’s online profile shows a long relationship with the AG’s office. John was in near panic at one point after the attorney general’s office sent him a letter complaining about his shrubbery and threatening to take certain properties under an “Abandoned Housing Initiative.” Yes, shrubbery.)
The AG dropped all actions (dismissed), but not before things got strange, and John lost control of everything. Russell arranged for the sale of one of John’s properties. The proceeds of the sale cleared up all of John’s back taxes, with a lot left over. But John doesn’t know where the money went. John said he was short-changed.
But It Gets Worse
Russell and Attorney Nicholas Luisa (781-444-5151, 781-514-5075, firstname.lastname@example.org) engaged Attorney Schwartz, who filed guardianship against John. Then, they sold off more properties, with five duplexes going for slightly over $3.1 million. And John? He hasn’t seen the money. He got shuffled off to an assisted living unit. Then, with the properties sold, Russell and Luisa dropped out of the game, and Schwartz swooped in noting that he was now acting directly as guardian for JF&CS.
“So I went to my banker and asked for help,” John said in the initial telephone interview with the Boston Broadside. “And the next think I know, I have a lawyer who tricked me and stole everything from me.”
Here’s How it Unfolded
Atty. Russell had asked for a $6,000 retainer to get started, and ended up having John sign various papers, one of which included a durable power of attorney. This gave Russell full control over John’s assets.
One property was sold over John’s objections for $480,000, an amount John felt was way too low. According to court documents, the developer leveled the building and sold off two new units, one for $795,000 and one for $800,000. “But that’s not the worst part,” John said. “Then the same developer wanted to buy my five duplexes.”
John said he got forced into an assisted living facility at the tune of $7,000 per month, drawing down his bank account with this big-ticket bill, as well as the lawyers’ “incredible” draws against his account. “I don’t need assisted living. I’m not getting assistance. They’re assisting themselves to my bank account and they’re railroading me out of my properties,” John told the Boston Broadside.
And You Thought It Couldn’t
John says he gets “a pittance each month on this debit card they gave me. I can buy some groceries, but it’s not much and by the end of the month, I’m begging for my own money.”
John said he was not prepared for any of this. Sure, he needed to clean up his house. Sure, he was living extremely frugally. Sure, he let the temperature drop as he had closed the doors on various rooms that went unused and he used a portable heater to keep his one room warm. Sure, he needed help, and yes, he finally asked the people he thought he could trust for advice and to hire people to help him. But it all blew up and cost him millions.
Guardian Playbook Act #2: Medicate
John detailed in a letter to the court that Atty. Louisa hired Arkadiy S. Stolyar of Belmont (617-855-3554) for a fee of more than $8,000 (John thinks Louisa used John’s money to pay Stolyar), who tried to get John to sign over all his properties. John wrote that he thought Stolyar was an attorney. Turned out he was a doctor, hired as part of setting the stage to get John under more solid guardianship. John said that Stolyar pestered him twice, and he sent him away both times, talking less than five minutes the first time, only a few minutes the second time. He said all the Stolyar guy wanted to do was get him to sign over papers.
On May 7, 2018, Dr. Stolyar filed a medical certificate stating that he examined John on March 12, and 24, and May 5, and that John’s overall alertness/level of consciousness suffered from a “mild” overall impairment, and that his memory and cognitive functions suffered from a “moderate” overall impairment. This was used as a basis to assign guardianship over John. He listed a number of disorders that John suffered from.
In November of 2018, after the guardianship was well secured, the lawyers not only contacted John’s primary care physician, but attended a routine exam with John, and pushed his physician to prescribe medications for John. That request was rebuffed, and the doctor wrote a letter, impounded by the court (which we obtained), stating in part that John’s “appointed guardian at the visit mentioned that John felt that the attorneys were trying to take his money and asked if I could give him some medication for this. I see no evidence of anything wrong with John. He seems mentally very well, his cognitive function is very good, as is his memory. He has never demonstrated to me any abnormal behaviors and has never seemed to express any paranoid behaviors.”
Getting back to John’s five duplexes, John contends that the property was worth a lot more selling off in single lots over a period of time, rather than aggregate selling all the property at once. He said the duplexes should have been listed as 10 units, not five. Indeed, in the small print, while his properties listed under MLS #72367559 were noted as “Total Units 5,” the fine print said that there were two-family homes on each of the five lots. He also said he has no idea where the money from the sale went. He’s still “practically begging to get a couple of hundred bucks each month. This is crazy.”
Steve Venincasa (508-560-9440, email@example.com), manager of Elite Home Builders, LLC, purchased the properties, with papers filed in Norfolk Probate and Family Court (NO18P1287PM) by Attorney E. Alexandra Golden of Needham (781-433-8665, firstname.lastname@example.org), acting as court-appointed conservator for John. As conservator, she worked one side of the court while Attorney Lisa M. Cukier of Burns & Levenson, LLP of Boston (617-345-3000, email@example.com) and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Waltham apparently worked the other side. But John’s objections and his handwritten appeal were all ignored or denied.
On Sept. 18, 2018, Norfolk Probate Court Judge George F. Phelan (781-830-1200) wrote, in part, “The Court recognizes that on May 23, 2018, the organization “Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Inc., was appointed permanent guardian in docket number 18P1286.” On Thursday, October 4, 2018, certain properties were listed under the legal notices section of the Needham Times. On October 24, 2018, a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem Susan Rossi Cook of Franklin (508-528-5122), wrote extensively about the conditions of the properties and John’s hoarding and other actions and said that he was incapable of conducting his financial affairs and that “there is no reasonable likelihood that Mr. Savanovich can return to his home to reside independently.” She recommended that his properties should be “sold forthwith.” Atty. Cook was paid at an hourly rate of $300 per hour, invoicing $3,420.00 for her services.
Court Files Impounded –
Hidden from Electronic Listings
No one might ever have known about John’s situation. His court files were impounded, and very, very strangely, his file information doesn’t show up on the electronic listing. This makes his case basically invisible from newspapers or anyone to view or investigate.
But John had read The Boston Broadside and the horrific story of the taking of Marvin Siegel of Boxford, and his isolation, medication, and liquidation (of millions) by court-appointed guardians. John reached out to Marvin’s daughter, Lisa Siegel Belanger, for help (as an attorney, she had helped chronicle the abuse of her father at the hands of a guardian, and continues to fight the guardian). John also reached out to The Boston Broadside. (For her part, Lisa immediately went to bat for John. However, she’s being dogged by agressive, politically-connected lawyers who are on the verge of removing her license to practice law. Lisa exposed many irregularities against multiple Massachusetts lawyers and judges in a RICO filing. The Mass. courts refused to hear Lisa’s case, but instead, the Board of Bar Overseers are pitched to rip away Lisa’s license, because of what she filed in the RICO documents.)
What we have discovered so far is that Attorney Schwartz arranged for John’s file to be locked down. “Impounded,” with the excuse that no one should see the file’s contents as they contain personal medical information and such – you know, privacy laws. These same kinds of excuses we’ve seen before. Excuses such as these were used to isolate Mary Frank from the public. How much personal medical information? Practically nothing compared to the thickness of the file. Despite being Impounded,” The Boston Broadside got the file, but Schwartz and his associates at JF&CS still control John’s life, and John’s money.
EDITOR’S NOTE, MAY 22, 2019: UPDATE: PROBATE COURT JUDGE GEORGE PHELAN IS VERY UPSET WITH BOSTON BROADSIDE FOR PRINTING PORTIONS OF FILE UPDATE TO FOLLOW….AND WE’LL BE PRINTING AND POSTING MUCH MORE! (Anyone know anything about the judge’s propensity for property purchasing? Just asking. His financial disclosures, redacted, appear to leave open many questions. Contact us.)
Attorney Schwartz – Just a Reminder
Schwartz is the same guy who, along with several other representatives for Jewish Family & Children’s Service, grinned, smiled, laughed, rejoiced, and for a couple of them, made a big spectacle in Cambridge Probate Court a little more than a year ago when they won a major step towards pulling the plug (literally, ending the life) on widow Beverley Finnegan. (Beverley was taken against her will and placed under so-called JF&CS guardianship. Her sister still seeks information on the death of Beverley. See story on page 17.)
Where from Here?
At press time, Attorney Belanger was scheduled to appear in court with John to begin his attempted defense against Mr. Schwartz and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. An uphill battle, as it’s a near penniless John vs. an incredibly huge outfit with bottomless resources with a long track record of finding and then helping to orchestrate selected seniors into court-ordered guardianships.
John knew he needed some assistance, knew he needed help, but he explained, “I don’t deserve to have everything taken away, everything. They lied to me. They took everything. They tricked me into signing away my rights. At one point, they sent a so-called doctor to where they stuck me to live now. All he did was keep saying that I needed to sign papers to sell the rest of my properties. That’s all he cared about was my money.” ♦