OHIO - The Honorable Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Sherrie Miday denied Lorain County Probate Judge James T. Walther’s motion to quash last week in response to a forlorn husband's request for his wife’s adult guardianship records, according to a press release.
“The court hereby orders that an in-camera inspection is to be conducted to determine relevancy to the allegations in this complaint per the request of the movant,” wrote Judge Miday in her Sept. 30 order. “The Lorain County Probate Court is hereby ordered to produce to Judge Sherrie Miday for an in-camera inspection on or before Oct. 18, 2019.”
Dr. Mehdi Saghafi, 89, filed the racketeering lawsuit in the state of Ohio on Jan. 31 under the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 after guardians appointed by Probate Judge James Walther in Lorain County allegedly initiated a divorce between the retired general surgeon and his wife of 60 years, Mrs. Fourough Bakhtiar [Saghafi] with whom he had amassed $8 million in marital assets, according to a press release.
“Should any item(s) be found relevant by this court,” stated Judge Miday. “A protective order will be in place prior to production.”
A protective order, if issued, would allegedly preclude the parties from circulating an April 2, 2015 tape recorded interview with the 85-year-old Mrs. Saghafi.
“She was asked permission to use her assets to pay for Guardian of the Estate Jaleh Presutto’s criminal defense attorney fees, which were incurred as a result of being charged for the kidnapping of Mrs. Saghafi and the theft of her money,” Dr. Saghafi’s attorney Charles Longo said. “It is believed that the recording will reveal communication between Guardian of the Estate Zachary Simonoff, Jaleh Presutto and counsel that relate to Mrs. Saghafi giving permission to pay those criminal defense fees even though Mrs. Saghafi had been deemed incompetent.”
In 2013, the Honorable Judge Walther made national headlines when he ordered dead beat father Asim Taylor to stop making babies or face prison time until $100,000 in child support was paid, according to media reports. That same year, court records show that Judge Walther guardianized 85-year-old Mrs. Saghafi while her physician husband alleges that the court appointed guardians and others are operating a scam to liquidate the Saghafi family assets.
“Jaleh Presutto was removed as guardian for criminal activity three times and was reappointed by Judge Walther despite pleading guilty to multiple charges of forgery and theft for defrauding the Amherst school system,” Dr. Saghafi’s attorney Charles Longo previously told the Southeast Texas Record. “By law, Mrs. Saghafi’s funds are only supposed to be used for the care and needs of Mrs. Saghafi not legal fees but Mrs. Saghafi’s funds were used to finance her personal attorney, Neil Spike, $270,000.00, most of which was paid when Presutto had been removed as guardian.”
The Saghafi lawsuit is one of many filed across the country that are exposing the unexpected downsides of court-appointed adult guardianships of the elderly and people with disabilities, which are designed to help them manage their lives. Those downsides, which include accusations of neglect, elder abuse and financial exploitation, haven’t escaped the watchful eye of Congress, which re-introduced HR 4174 to enact protections against elder abuse and neglect under guardianship.
“Since we originally introduced our bipartisan bill, we have added three new co-sponsors to a growing list of supporters nationwide,” said Florida Congressman Darren Soto. “We are also requesting that the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over these matters, bring our legislation up for a vote immediately.”
In addition to Congressman Soto, co-sponsors of HR 4174 include Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Charlie Crist and Gus Bilirakis both of Florida.
“Our Seniors and people with disabilities deserve our immediate attention to this situation,” Soto said.
In addition to Presutto and Simonoff, defendants named in Dr. Saghafi’s state racketeering complaint are Custom Contractor C. Francis Builders, Accountant Stephen Sartchev, Attorney Eric Zagrans, Attorney Rachelle Kuzwick Zidar, Attorney James Reddy, Attorney Lisa Hahn, Attorney Joyce E. Barrett, Attorney Stephen Wolf and Phillip Presutto, Jr.
Last month, the youngest of Dr. Saghafi’s four sons, Khashayar Saghafi, 46, moved the Lorain County Probate Court to release his mother from the grip of guardians.
The son’s motion to remove guardian of the estate Zachary Simonoff and guardian of the person Jaleh Presutto accuses the pair of alleged neglect of duties, incompetency, fraudulent misconduct, theft and wrongful isolation, according to court records. A hearing has yet to be set.