Sunday, May 3, 2009

Will the Defendant Please Rise - Part III

Click here for The Sting – Part I
Click here for Name That ... Paralegal? – Part II

As mentioned in Part II, Ross* is no stranger to litigation. A search of the River Springs Superior Court’s case index returned 12 cases in which Ross was listed as a defendant, including the case brought by Gemini. Gemini’s case specifically addressed the incompetence and substandard document preparation services that were provided by Ross.

I’ll let her describe it in her own words.

I, Ruth Gemini, declare:

  1. I utilized the services of Ted Ross and River Springs Legal Services, Inc. on two separate matters between May and September of 2008.
  2. I first contacted River Springs Legal Services on or about the first week of May 2008, on behalf of my sister who was the executor for my mother’s trust, “The Vivian Gemini Living Trust.” The complexities of the Trust required several steps before the properties could be distributed to the heirs.
  3. The attorneys at Lawyer & Lawyer APC had agreed that we could save some money by having the LLC (needed to hold one property), and the three promissory notes and two trust deeds, drawn up by a service other than the firm. To that end, I “Googled” and the most central service for my sister and I to meet was River Springs Legal Services, Inc.
  4. I met a man who identified himself as Ted Ross to see if he would be able to provide those two services. At the meeting Mr. Ross assured me that he could do those things. He claimed that he was trained as an attorney. He talked at length about the difference between a barrister and a scrivener and that he was a scrivener.
  5. I shared a bit about the complexity of the Gemini Trust and the difficulties that we were having getting the assets distributed. It had been determined that the property that was to be sold (and which had not sold) to pay the estate taxes was to be put into an LLC, with each of the heirs as equal partners. In addition, three promissory notes and two trust deeds would need to be executed before the assets in the Trust could be distributed. Mr. Ross stated that was no problem as he had done it many times.
  6. Mr. Ross easily got distracted and on to other topics. He said he was a writer or wanted to be and that he collected names to be used in the book he would someday write. He got up from his desk and retrieved a book in which he had copied unusual names that he had seen in magazines, letters to editors, in reviews and such.
  7. He read several of the names to me, among which was “Pablo Coelho.” “Isn’t that a great name?” he asked me. I agreed it was. It made an impression because it also was familiar to me as the author, Paulo Coelho. I later “Googled” the name, and it came up on a review of some product.
  8. Months later when I was preparing to file in Small Claims Court regarding the Archetype matter, below, I noticed that the Registered Agent for River Springs Legal Services was the fictional Pablo Coelho.
  9. I made an appointment to bring my sister to meet Mr. Ross and sign as executor to initiate the LLC and other documents that were needed.
  10. On May 12, 2008 my sister Marjorie Gemini and I met with Ted Ross. We were in his office for well over an hour. Again Mr. Ross assured us that he was competent to prepare the documents, recited again his legal training, and took down the details for the LLC. I was somewhat surprised that he spent so much time talking about his personal life, showing the picture of his wife the model, etc.
  11. We discussed names for the LLC. At one point Mr. Ross made a comment about how no one would ever be able to connect him to any of his corporations as his name was not on any of them.
  12. Marjorie wrote a check from the Trust for $925 for Ross to prepare and file the articles of organization for the LLC and to serve as the Registered Agent. He claimed that we would have the LLC in a matter of days because he had a courier in Sacramento who hand delivered everything.
  13. I secured the deed for the property that was to be held by the LLC and provided that to Mr. Ross on May 15, 2008.
  14. On June 2, 2008 I contacted Mr. Ross to see if the LLC was completed, as everyone was quite anxious to have the assets distributed because it had already been nearly two years and the stress over getting loans was mounting. Mr. Ross said he had “just gotten the paperwork back from the SOS.”
  15. On June 20, 2008 I contacted him again to ask if the LLC was completed. He replied that the LLC was ready but he needed Marjorie’s signature. I replied asking if he had called her and he responded “No” because he was “out of the office.”
  16. The end result of his work with Marjorie Gemini, executor of the Vivian Gemini Trust was that my family had several months of delay and an LLC that is sloppy and that to date we have not placed the property into, as the attorneys have advised against it.
  17. We removed Ross as Registered Agent almost immediately, a service for which he charged $125. The three promissory notes and trust deeds for which the Trust paid $775 were so bad, even with the attorneys feeding him the terms of each, that none could be used and ultimately the Trust had to pay premium prices to have the law firm prepare them.
  18. Marjorie never requested any of the fees back and never contacted him because she claims he “creeped her out.”
  19. On June 9, 2008 I paid River Springs Legal Services $900 to form a nonprofit public benefit corporation called Archetype. Included in the fee were the initial filing, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Organizational Minutes and IRS Form 1023.
  20. Ted Ross represented himself as the agent of River Springs Legal Services and told me that he had extensive experience in incorporating nonprofits in California.
  21. At our initial meeting I told Mr. Ross the name under which I wanted the corporation formed, the purpose, the number of board members and the accounting year. He took notes. In addition I gave him a copy of the Archetype brochure which stated clearly the purpose of the corporation.
  22. He assured me that I would have the documents within the month. That was not the case and after several e-mail inquiries Mr. Ross finally turned over the documents to me more than eleven weeks after our initial meeting, and I was stunned at the gross errors.
  23. Mr. Ross incorporated my organization as “Archetype Assist” not as “Archetype” as I had requested. In an email to me dated July 22, 2008, Mr. Ross claimed that “Archetype” was not available even though we had checked the availability on June 9, 2008 and it was available. He asked if I had another name. I allowed “Archetype Assist” as it was the website domain name. He said he would research the availability. However, the Incorporation documents for “Archetype Assist” were endorsed by the Secretary of State on July 23, the very next day after Mr. Ross claimed he would research name availability. I believe he never attempted to incorporate as “Archetype,” as I had requested, and simply lied to me in order to cover that fact. I subsequently amended the Articles of Incorporation and changed the name to Archetype, Inc.
  24. The Articles of Incorporation drawn up by Mr. Ross state the purpose of the corporation as for the “elderly.” I had given Mr. Ross the purpose of the Corporation and a copy of my brochure that states “Assisting persons with disabilities, and their families, to secure services for quality of life.” I drafted and submitted Restated Articles to the Secretary of State with the correct purpose as “persons with disabilities,” not “elderly.”
  25. The Bylaws drawn up by Mr. Ross state the purpose as “To raise funds for various charitable purposes.” In addition there were numerous grammatical and spelling errors; inconsistencies between articles; inconsistencies within the Bylaws based on the number of Board members and the number of Board members designated to perform certain tasks. The Bylaws included whole sections on “shareholders” when there aren’t any, and I specifically told Mr. Ross that the Corporation would have no members and no shareholders. I subsequently rewrote the Bylaws to reflect a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation.
  26. The Organizational Minutes prepared by Mr. Ross have incorrect dates and years; refer to the Corporation as “Mutual Benefit”; have the wrong accounting year and include a section on Domestic Stock Corporation.
  27. Upon discovery of such errors that were too numerous to allow any simple remediation, I requested that Mr. Ross and River Springs Legal Services NOT prepare IRS Form 1023 to request tax-exempt status as a nonprofit corporation. I subsequently completed IRS Form 1023 and submitted it to the IRS, and completed the California Franchise Tax Board exemption application.
  28. Not one item done by River Springs Legal Services by Mr. Ted Ross was satisfactory. Though Mr. Ross offered to make corrections the errors were so pervasive that edits would not suffice. I paid for a product that was not produced and in addition to the monetary investment, I and the Board lost months of getting the corporation operating.
  29. On September 9, 2008, I received an email from Mr. Ross in which he stated, “Whichever bylaws you care to use would be up to you but the ones you drafted, in my opinion, are legally insufficient.” He went on to state that his fees “are flat rate and are non refundable and not seperable,” and that his “offer to complete the 501 application was more or less a contribution as you know the hours involved are 6 to 10 and my hourly if I bill that way is $225 per hour.”
  30. I never received any refund, and filed a Small Claims action on October 7, 2008 seeking a refund of $880.00, as follows: $900 flat fee paid, minus $50 the binder and corporate seal I received (estimated value), plus $30 in fees to file the Restated Articles of Incorporation.
  31. When Mr. Ross spoke with me in the hall after our first appearance in Small Claims Court on the Archetype matter, he told me that if the Judge would decide in my favor at the next hearing he would appeal and I would be dealing from that point on with his attorney and that I would have a much larger bill to pay then. I felt intimidated and dismissed my case.
  32. I was in Ted Ross’ office a total of five times. Because the office does not allow any privacy or confidentiality, the last time I was there I was aware of an older couple who were having River Springs Legal Services, Inc. handle some Trust work.
  33. They left and Mr. Ross called me in and began to discuss the elderly couple’s case. He told me that he had gotten a reverse mortgage for them even though one or the other wasn’t really 62. He had the house put just in the name of the one who was old enough to get the reverse mortgage and he would hold on to the trust in his file until a later date and no one would know.
  34. All of my face to face work with River Springs Legal Services occurred in May and June of 2008, as was the case with my sister Marjorie. It was not until September 2008 that the ineptitude of everything he touched on my behalf for Archetype and for my family and the Trust became evident.
  35. Ted Ross maintained that his fee is fixed and final regardless of dissatisfaction. He claims that he cannot be sued personally because he is an employee of River Springs Legal Services, Inc.

On April 17, 2009, ALDAP submitted a formal complaint package to the River Springs District Attorney, California State Bar, Attorney General and Department of Consumer Affairs, alleging fraud, unauthorized practice of law, forgery, violations of California’s statutes governing paralegals and legal document assistants, and unfair business practices. The article above was excerpted from a Declaration that was submitted in support of the complaint.

Click Here for Another Victim's Story - Part IV

Stay tuned to Scribe for more intrigue featuring…The Rogue.

* This is a true story. Content and identifiers have been changed to maintain confidentiality of the innocent, and the integrity of the official investigation.

No comments: