Thursday, August 16, 2012

What I learned about fraud and elder abuse by a family member - and tips to watch for.

Yesterday this came in the mail.

August  Lawsuit files

These are all of the records from the lawsuit my mother, sister and I pursued against my first cousin, Lucia Montoya  (also known as EFC for "evil first cousin" throughout my blog).



I am going to elaborate on this a little here for the record and then I will be done ever having to deal with her again.

When I was in my late 20s, Mr Pete and I flew out to New Mexico to visit my father.  It was the first time I had set foot on that ranch since I left the place at age 15 months with my pregnant mother.  We had such a good time that a few years later we returned with my sister and her family.  That was also a great trip.  We got to know my dad a lot better and we became re-acquainted with friends and extended family.

One of those family members was a first cousin, Lucia Montoya,  that I had never heard of before. Although she was 18 years older than me,  I was struck by how interested she seemed to be in us!  She wanted to know about our lives and where we lived and she made sure to be around a lot while we were visiting my father.  This was my cousin, Lucia.

Several years later, after living apart for decades,  my parents reconciled and my mom moved back to New Mexico to be with my father. In a lot of ways she was like a newly wed again.  She finally had her own little ranch house and she decorated it the way she wanted to.  She and my dad were busy with church activities as well as starting up a music festival and working for that. Mom always did bloom wherever she was planted, and she certainly became a well loved and respected member of that little community.  My sister's in-laws took a trip out that way to visit them, and they said that Mom and Dad seemed very happy and healthy and that their little ranch house was charming and in good order.

During this time my father was going for cancer treatments once a month and my mother drove him all the way to town and then back again. My mom started talking about my cousin who was always there and always helpful. I felt a little uncomfortable about that, but thought maybe I was just feeling a tad jealous that my cousin could be there while I could not. When my mom escalated the rhetoric to, "Lucia's just like my third daughter," I really felt uncomfortable, but again I chalked it up to my own pettiness instead of taking a look at the situation more objectively.

The truth was that my cousin  was following the pattern I had learned in my Virtus training. She had come from the outside and made herself part of the family. My parents had grown  to love and to trust her. And essentially because they lived in such a rural area, she quite literally had them secluded and all to herself.

My sister didn't like Lucia when she first met her, and she didn't trust her now. But I thought sis was being too hard on her and that we should just be grateful that there was someone there to help our parents when we couldn't be there.

The years went by.  Mom had a health scare herself when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer and had to  have surgery.  Mom later told me what good care Lucia was taking of her and that Lucia kept reiterating that SHE was taking care of her because "Elena" couldn't.  I was very pregnant at the time and I felt very uncomfortable about this.

A few months later, Sis mentioned to me that Mom wasn't sounding right on the phone. Her conversation sounded nonsensical and she just wasn't being herself.  After talking to mom myself, I agreed that something was a little "off" about her, but I wasn't alarmed until I tried to call mom and discovered that her phone had been shut off for nonpayment! That really was not like my mother to let her bills go! I wondered if her cancer was back and causing problems with dementia.

In a panic, I called the phone company and got her phone back on.  Then I called my mother to find out what was wrong.  And she couldn't tell me.  In fact she said she just didn't have much energy and couldn't talk.  This really concerned me.

In a panic I called Lucia and asked her if she had noticed anything unusual about mom and if her health was alright; she assured me that she was fine. But after a few more days of rambling phone conversations, Sis and I became convinced that there was something wrong and that we needed to get mom to a doctor.

I again called Lucia, and this time I asked her to help me please get my mother on a train or a plane to Ohio so that we could have her checked out.  What she said next was my first clue that  Lucia wasn't really on my side or looking for my parents best interests.  Her reply to my request that she put Mom on a plane was, "Well whatever your mother wants!"

What happened next still sickens me.  Realizing that the jig was up Lucia loaded my mother and father into her car, took them down to a lawyer in Santa Fe and videotaped them signing away all of their earthly possessions, to her.  Then she gave my mother an empty suit case and popped her on a train towards Ohio.

Mr. Pete and I were stunned by her appearance.  She was disheveled, she smelled bad and she was swimming in clothes that were much to large for her.  And aside from all that, Lucia had put her on a train in the winter time without a coat.

What Lucia didn't count on was that medical tests revealed that my mother had a large, personality altering, hemangioma in the frontal lobe of her brain - a brain tumor. Mom required a 15 hour surgery to remove it and she lost some use in her right hand. However this surgery and rehab produced ample physical evidence in the form of medical records to show that my mother was not of sound mind when she signed, and she would testify that my father, (who was suffering from dementia) was not either.

Lucia flew up to visit my mom in the hospital but she did not bring my father. (She never brought him to any legal proceedings either - probably afraid the truth would come out. ) I guess she wanted to see what was going on and if there was going to be a court battle.  I remember sitting with her in the waiting room and she told me that she knew I was going to be upset because of what had happened with the property, but that she knew how to deal with me because, she had "been through this before." And she sat right there and told me about another elderly person she had finagled out of their property and how she had dealt with that outraged family.

It's very rare you get to see evil straight in the face.  I was stunned to see it right in front of me, cold and cruel, and yet in a sickeningly sweet syrupy sort of way.

As soon as my mother's health was better and she realized what had happened, my mother, sister and I became plaintiffs in a very expensive law suit that started around 1999 and just concluded a few months ago.  After all of that time and money, my mother did not even live long enough to see the outcome.

My father lived in his ranch house until his death.  When Mr. Pete and Sis went out there to bring mom's things to Ohio, it had fallen into disarray and there were mice and vermin everywhere. Much of my mother's books and things had to be thrown away because they were unsanitary.  Lucia carried a big stick with her and while my sister and Pete packed things up, sis felt a little intimidated.  Apparently my father was intimidated by her too because when he  tried to come out and talk to my sister, Lucia yelled at  him in Spanish and he seemed to shrink down.  A call to the Adult Social Services never seemed to be of much help.

The last time I saw my father he told me that "One day all this will be yours, sweet heart!"  and when I reminded him that he had given it all to Lucia she said something to him in Spanish.  After that he seemed to regard me with disdain and when I kissed him good bye he stiffened and said, "I'm in a state of grace."  That was the last time I saw him.

When he died, I asked Lucia to let me tell my mother that he had passed. But when Sis asked the medical examiner for an autopsy, Lucia called my mom immediately to tell her before I could.  My father was cremated so we were never able to prove physical abuse, although sis and I suspect it.

During that time period, my EFC Lucia was able to procure and spend my Father's $70,000 CD, she logged all of the trees on his property and she and her husband Robert Montoya fought us tooth and nail, refusing to give back any of the property she had taken.  In the end she still got 1/3 of the property and my sister and I were able to hold on to the other 2/3.

So what did I learn from this?  Well actually much of it was very similar to what I learned about pedophiles from the Virtus training.


  • Predators can be family members.  You can't necessarily trust someone because you are related.
  • Be wary of outsiders or people on the fringe of the family unit who suddenly seem to become enmeshed with the family. 
  • Predators try to get close to their victims.  Lucia was very diligent about working her way into the good graces of my parents.
  • Be on guard when outsiders suddenly become privy to family business, medical issues and money matters. 
  • Predators like to get their victims alone  Lucia had the perfect set up - a ranch out in rural upper New Mexico without my sister and I close by - the perfect set up. 
  • If older parents start referring to an outsider as "like a son or daughter" that could be a potential problem. 
  • Go with that gut feeling.  I kept thinking to myself that I was ungrateful or jealous of Lucia's place in my parents lives, and perhaps I was.  But that little feeling was telling me that the situation wasn't right and I should have trusted that instinct.  
  • Make sure that assets, trusts, wills certificates of deposit etc. are in a safe place, like a safety deposit box. 
  • Get power of attorney at the first sign of medical or legal trouble. 

    Ironically, one of the reasons my Dad had a hard time being married to my Mom is that she only gave him two daughters and he wanted sons. One of the reasons he let my EFC take the ranch away was because he did not have any sons to leave it to. How ironic that his two daughters produced six grandsons.


    As for Lucia, I hear about her from time time.  She is not well liked by even her siblings and has had law suits with some of them.  Every time I have to do business out there and Lucia's name comes up, there is usually some bad story to go with it. I can honestly say that I don't stay up late nursing bad feelings about her. I hardly think of her at all any more. What's done is done. She's never asked for forgiveness. I guess I feel sorry for her more than anything else. But if she did ask for forgiveness, what would it take to forgive her? It seems to me that to be truly sorry for what she has done she would have to make everything right, or at least make an honest effort in that direction. I don't think that will ever happen.

    None of this has left a good feeling about that side of my family heritage.  As far as I am concerned, my mother never should have married my father.  That property was his false idol and it is is cursed.  I can't wait to get rid of it. And if I had a spoon and could scoop that part of my DNA out of me, I would gladly do it.

   1 Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; 
       protect my life from the threat of the enemy. 
    2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, 
       from that noisy crowd of evildoers. 

    3 They sharpen their tongues like swords 
       and aim their words like deadly arrows. 

    4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; 
       they shoot at him suddenly, without fear. 

    5 They encourage each other in evil plans, 
       they talk about hiding their snares; 
       they say, "Who will see them [a] ?" 

    6 They plot injustice and say, 
       "We have devised a perfect plan!" 
       Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.  Psalm 64
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