Sick Old Man Says He Was Conned for $1M
WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - With help from an attorney, a health-care adviser conned a dying man out of $1 million and threatened to have his wife committed to a mental institution when she tried to recover the money, the couple claims in court.
Jerry and Frances Berkowitz sued Princella Lewis, her company Prestigious Lifecare for Seniors fka PL Firm, and attorney Glenn Ricardo Miller, in Palm Beach County Court.
Jerry Berkowitz was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized in June 2012.
After leaving the hospital, Berkowitz was sent to a nursing home in Boynton Beach, according to the complaint.
Berkowitz claims that shortly after his transfer he was referred to PL Firm, a Fort Lauderdale-based senior healthcare consulting company, for a consultation about eligibility for Medicaid benefits.
The Berkowitzes claim that Princella Lewis agreed to provide them financial advice, and retained Miller, a North Miami Beach attorney, to prepare documents for them to sign.
After the Berkowitzes signed the documents, PL Firm persuaded Frances to give it a $55,000 cashier's check to establish a trust, and to move all the couple's money to a single bank account, according to the complaint.
"In addition to obtaining the $55,000 in Chase funds and making that amount payable to PL Firm, Mrs. Berkowitz was driven from bank to bank and directed by PL Firm to obtain cashier's checks from her various different banks and to deposit all of the funds in one single bank account that Mrs. Berkowitz held at (nonparty) SunTrust Bank ('SunTrust')," the complaint states.
It continues: "In total, Mrs. Berkowitz, under the close control and scrutiny of PL Firm, was directed to gather well over $1 million of funds belonging to her and/or her husband and, as a first step, consolidate this money in an account at SunTrust."
Lewis and PL Firm then had Mrs. Berkowitz transfer more than $1 million to a trust it controlled, and refused to give the couple any copies of the documents they had signed, or an accounting, the Berkowitzes say in the complaint.
"On information and belief, defendants have abused and misused their positions of trust and influence over plaintiffs, taking advantage of Mr. Berkowitz's frail condition as he lingers in a nursing facility dying of cancer and taking advantage of Mrs. Berkowitz who is in the process of losing her husband," the complaint states.
"On information and belief, defendants have wrongfully and illegally threatened plaintiffs with having Mrs. Berkowitz committed to a mental facility if Mrs. Berkowitz does not relent in her request to have her assets returned to her, including the over $1 million wrongfully obtained from plaintiffs by defendants."
The couple wants the money returned and copies of the documents, and treble damages for civil theft, civil conspiracy, conversion, unfair trade, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and unjust enrichment.
They are represented by Webb Millsaps of Boca Raton.
The PL Firm did not return requests for comment.