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Note: Los Cerritos Community Newspaper would like to encourage our readers to submit their own “investigative articles” that are factual based and backed up with proper documentation. This is an interesting article that was given to our Editors regarding an ongoing legal battle here in Los Angeles County. Los Cerritos Community Newspaper, the La Mirada Lamplighter and or Hews Media Group is not responsible for the contents of this article. This is part of our “Who Are the Shameless Series.”
(MALIBU) 1,400 acres in Malibu, a Beverly Hills Home, 950 acres in La Tuna Canyon, a series of suspicious deaths and a bevy of crafty attorneys. Although these are all elements you’d expect to see in a Blockbuster Hollywood movie, they are but a few of the realities in what is now the longest running legal battle over an estate and also one of, if not the worst elder abuse, real estate fraud cases in American History.
It is alleged that former attorney for the Mansdorf Family Trust, John Torjesen, launched a series of legal maneuvers aimed at stripping the Mansdorf Family Trust and the current Trustee and beneficiary, Jaime Gonzalez of their entire Malibu properties following honorable judge Charles F. Palmer’s 2009 Statement of Decision in Mansdorf vs. Giacomazza, Los Angeles Superior Court Case# BC 385946.
Torjesen was fired for refusing to prepare and submit a judgment following the August 3rd, 2009 Statement of Decision written by Judge Charles F. Palmer which returned all of the property to the Trust and determined that Giacomazza committed fraud, elder abuse and undue influence.
Torjesen defied a direct order from then-Trustee Harry Mansdorf and Gonzalez to end the battle so Harry could get on with his life and get access to his fortune. Harry Mansdorf, then 88 years old and the last surviving member of his family was under siege since 2003 when he became the Trustee following his brother Lee’s death. Mansdorf/Gonzalez alleged that Torjesen was not concerned with Harry’s wishes and instead wanted to continue through phase two of the trial seeking punitive damages against the defendants, Giacomazza and his daughter Kathryn Gatto.
Torjesen even sent Harry a twelve-page fear- mongering letter detailing how if Harry did not follow through with seeking damages that Giacomazza could move into his neighborhood.
A tragedy of judicial errors by Mansdorf attorneys, ethically questionable litigation practices by Torjesen and a Judge that didn’t seem to care about a Stay Pending Fee Arbitration resulted in converting a $2 million courtesy bonus from Mansdorf to Torjesen into a $2 Million judgment after default. Harry Mansdorf passed away on August 27, 2012.
Twenty-one days later attorney Torjesen submitted a Writ of Execution and now believes he has a right to sell the entire Malibu property by a Sheriff’s Writ of Sale scheduled to take place on April 18, 2013.
All of this despite Torjesen’s own admission in court that the property belongs to Jaime Gonzalez.
In an attempt to halt the Sheriffs Sale, Gonzalez took the advice of another attorney who on his behalf filed a Third Party Claim to Ownership.
In response to the claim, Torjesen filed a Petition to Invalidate the Third Party Claim of Gonzalez in which he alleges that Gonzalez was abusing Harry Mansdorf and attempted to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in property, potentially worth billions of dollars, from a dead man.
This outraged Harry’s widow Linda Mansdorf, who filed a declaration in support of Gonzalez in which she states “If it were not for our son’s (Jaime’s) efforts, my husband and I would have never recovered the Mansdorf Trust’s real property assets”. She went on to state “I vehemently deny and am appalled by Torjesen’s false and sordid accusations of elder abuse by Jaime Gonzalez against my husband. It is Mr. Torjesen who is the perpetrator of elder abuse”.
Mrs. Mansdorf also declared that she and her husband agreed in 2008 to strike a joint venture with Gonzalez to provide monies for attorneys to fight off the criminals who were targeting them and the Trust assets.
In addition to the joint venture, Harry Mansdorf executed a grant deed, granting all the assets of the Trust to Gonzalez in Joint Tenancy in an effort to ensure there was no question as to Gonzalez’s position upon Harry’s passing.
Mrs. Mansdorf and Gonzalez allege that attorney Torjesen is committing extrinsic fraud upon the court in his efforts to push the Trust into bankruptcy so he can get to the entire Malibu property.
Mrs. Mansdorf categorically denies any wrongdoing by Jaime Gonzalez. She states that anyone who knew Harry, witnessed Jaime personally provide daily care for Harry as a son would for his father in his final years. When Harry passed away in August 2012, all of the Trust assets were tied up in litigation, with the future of his Family Trust uncertain.
After considering the potential outcome of a hearing to determine ownership, the Third Party Claim was determined to be inappropriate and could have led to a civil court judge determining ownership of a trust property which can only be done in a probate action.
Gonzalez dismissed the Third Party Claim before the hearing on the Petition to Determine Ownership, though the court refused to take the hearing off calendar. The Tentative ruling granted Torjesen’s petition. Gonzalez appeared in pro per before judge White and represented that the court had no jurisdiction over him and that the Third Party Claim had been dismissed. Judge White agreed and took the hearing off calendar. Torjesen’s attorneys still believe that Judge White should determine ownership of the property and have filed an Ex Parte Motion to reconsider the dismissal of Gonzalez’s Third Party Claim.
Yet another attorney that is making efforts to collect on the Trust assets is Daniel Bromberg of the firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.
Bromberg was retained to represent the Trust in two appeals. The first filed by Giacomazza which turned out to be an easy win. The second appeal filed by Mansdorf re: McClanahan v. Mansdorf. Gonzalez alleges that Bromberg failed to argue the most salient points of the case and because of this the appeal was lost.
Justice Mosk wrote in the opinion: “I also have concerns that there was no showing that the publication here was a newspaper most likely to give the defendant actual notice, as seemingly required by Code of Civil Procedure section 415.50, subdivision (b). It is a fiction that publication can give actual notice. (See Watts v. Crawford, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 749, fn. 5 ["`it is generally recognized that service by publication rarely results in actual notice'"].)
The practice seems to be that there is no requirement to show likelihood of actual notice from a publication. Whatever the requirement, appellant seemed to abandon at oral argument any contention concerning the showing of this requirement. These are issues that deserve further clarification, either by the Legislature or the courts.” Emphasis added.
Quinn Emanuel attempted and succeeded in confirming a spurious arbitration award for attorney’s fees in the Los Angeles Superior Court at a hearing that occurred on 4/11/2013 which is three days prior to the statutory thirty day response time allowed after service of the petition to confirm arbitration award.
A Google search of “The Mansdorf Family Trust” reveals many of the details of the ongoing legal battles.
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