SANTA ROSA, Calif. (CN) – A woman who in the company of her cousin came upon her husband’s corpse, claims in court that the cousin abused the trust she gained from their “bond,” pretended to be a financial expert and drained nearly her entire $6 million inheritance.
Judy Ann Wesch sued her cousin, Sandra Vitorelo, in Sonoma County Court. Wesch also sued Vitorelo’s business, M.V. Services, and Edward D. Jones & Co. and its investment adviser Gary C. Scott.
Wesch says that she and Vitorelo found Wesch’s husband after he shot himself in December 2000.
“Wesch was traumatized by the grisly scene. She formed a bond with Vitorelo because they both witnessed the horrific scene of Wesch’s husband’s death,” the complaint states.
Wesch says her husband left her more than $6 million in securities and investments in income-producing real estate. She says her husband had handled all of their finances and she was unprepared to administer his estate because she is “unsophisticated in financial matters and has no knowledge of investing,” having spent her adult life as a homemaker and caring for her ailing mother.
A short time after her husband’s death, “Vitorelo approached Wesch and represented to Wesch that she was an accountant, an enrolled agent and a sophisticated investor with substantial experience in wealth management,” the complaint states.
“Based on Vitorelo’s representations, Wesch entrusted Vitorelo with her day-t-day finances and with the management of her deceased husband’s estate. Wesch agreed to pay Vitorelo $400 a month for her bookkeeping services.
“Vitorelo took over a room in Wesch’s home and used it as an office. She used this office to intercept Wesch’s mail and phone calls, restricting Wesch’s access to important information about her assets and financial information.”
Wesch says Vitorelo told her that she “was creating a team of professionals that Wesch could rely on to manage Wesch’s finances.”
Among these “professionals” were an accountant, a lawyer, and defendant Scott, the financial adviser, according to the complaint. Wesch claims her cousin chose the people “based on her existing, close personals and professional relationship with each.”
In February 2001, 2 months after her husband’s death, Vitorelo took her to the Sonoma branch the Edward Jones brokerage firm, managed by Scott, Wesch says in the complaint. She says she told Scott of her lack of knowledge in financial matters, then hired him and opened several accounts with Edward Jones through him.
“Vitorelo, who was not licensed as a stock broker or financial planner, managed Wesch’s accounts at Edward Jones,” the complaint states. “Vitorelo had Wesch execute forms that gave Vitorelo limited control over Wesch’s accounts. Wesch executed the documents based on misrepresentations by Vitorelo about the content and legal effect of the forms. Vitorelo, however, failed to have Wesch execute forms that would give her control over Wesch’s all of her accounts [sic] at Edward Jones. Despite this, Edward Jones and Scott gave Vitorelo unfettered access to all of Wesch’s accounts at Edward Jones.”
Wesch claims that by 2003, all of her assets except some real estate investments were held in accounts at Edward Jones and were being administered by Scott and Vitorelo.
“Between 2001 and 2010, Vitorelo depleted Wesch’s accounts of virtually all of the assets,” the complaint states.
It continues: “On July 13, 2010, Vitorelo informed a friend of Wesch that Wesch had no money left. Wesch confronted Vitorelo on that day and confirmed the loss of assets. This was the first that Wesch knew that her assets had been depleted.
“Wesch went to see Scott on July 21, 2010. On that date, she discovered that she had approximately $10,000 left in her accounts.”
Wesch says she knows where some of the money went: “Vitorelo failed to disclose that she was taking large sums of money from Wesch’s accounts each month, greatly in excess of her agreed upon compensation of $400, and depositing these sums of money in her own accounts. When Wesch would inquire into the state of her accounts, Vitorelo would represent that everything was fine and that Wesch need not worry. Wesch also owned numerous parcels of income-producing real property. Vitorelo convinced Wesch that it was to her advantage to sell the properties at a lower price to avoid taxes and to deposit the proceeds of the sale of properties into Wesch’s Edward Jones accounts managed by Scott. For several sales of real property, Vitorelo used Scott’s mother, a licensed real estate agent.
All of the above representations by Vitorelo were false, and Vitorelo suppressed information that would likely lead to Wesch’s discovery of her fraud. Vitorelo is only a licensed tax preparer, not an enrolled agent of a certified public accountant. Vitorelo was not the trustee of Wesch’s living trust. Vitorelo had no experience managing large estates. Wesch could have sold her real property at higher values without any adverse tax consequences. …
“Vitorelo knew that each of the above representations was false and made each intending to lull Wesch into a sense of safety with Vitorelo managing her life. Vitorelo also knew that she needed to suppress information about Wesch’s finances to ensure that she remained in a position of trust with Wesch.”
Wesch seeks damages and punitive damages for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, promissory estoppel, vicarious liability, conversion, and breach of contract.
She is seeks a constructive trust over two loans she claims she gave Vitorelo to buy a house. She claims that Vitorelo “used her control over Wesch’s accounts to shift money to make it appear as if both loans had been paid back.”
She says the loans came to $690,000.
Wesch is represented by Henry Froneberger with Burroughs and Froneberger, of San Rafael.