|For Immediate Release
Case # 08NF3196
May 22, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
PARALEGAL SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR DEFRAUDING 84-YEAR-OLD ATTORNEY, WHO SUFFERED FROM DEMENTIA, BY PURCHASING $750,000 LAW OFFICE WITH $20 BILL
FULLERTON – A paralegal was convicted today of committing real estate fraud against an 84-year-old attorney, who was suffering from the early onset of dementia, after convincing the victim to sell his $750,000 law office for a $20 bill. Mario David Abernathy, 42, Garden Grove, pleaded guilty to one felony count of grand theft from an elder and was sentenced to two years in state prison. He was ordered to pay $15,300 in restitution to the victim. An additional $14,100, which was seized in cash from Abernathy at the time of his arrest, was ordered to be paid to the victim. The grant deed and documents transferring the victim’s estate and finances to the defendant and his family were ordered to be declared null and void.
In July 2008, The Orange County Public Guardian obtained temporary conservatorship to protect the financial holdings of 84-year-old attorney Nathan G. The victim, whose wife of more than 50 years had recently died, was suffering from the early onset of dementia.
Abernathy, who is informally trained as a paralegal, met Nathan G. in court in August 2008 and befriended the victim. He took advantage of the victim’s deteriorating medical condition by gaining his trust with the intention of defrauding Nathan G. The defendant offered to help the victim under the false pretense of acting as a property manager of the Lincoln Law Center in Anaheim for Nathan G.
While pretending to help the victim, Abernathy had Nathan G. designate in his will the defendant’s mother and daughter as beneficiaries of the victim’s multi-million dollar estate. He also had the victim sign a power of attorney granting Abernathy control of the victim’s financial assets and properties. Abernathy, who convinced Nathan G. to sell him the law office, gave the victim a $20 bill as payment toward the property, valued at $750,000. Escrow closed on the property, giving Abernathy ownership.
In September 2008, the Orange County Public Guardian discovered the theft after noticing an unauthorized financial withdrawal from the victim’s bank account. After being unable to locate Nathan G., the Orange County Public Guardian filed a missing persons report with Anaheim Police Department (APD) on Sept. 24, 2008. APD began investigating Nathan G’s whereabouts and found the victim with Abernathy on Sept. 26, 2009, in a fast food parking lot. The defendant was arrested at the scene.
Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.