Physician subpoenas tax preparer in RICO case against Lorain County probate court officer
The physician husband of an Ohio registered nurse who was guardianized seven years go by the Lorain County Probate Court has subpoenaed the accountant who prepared tax filings for her.
Dr. Mehdi Saghafi has requested that CPA James Knuff, Jr produce income tax returns for the Guardianship of Fourough Bakhtiar [Saghafi] dating back to January 1, 2014.
“Those documents and records will provide discoverable and relevant information to bolster Plaintiff’s contentions of the misuse of funds meant for the benefit of the Ward, Mrs. Saghafi, for the financial advantage of the Defendants,” wrote Dr. Saghafi’s attorney Charles Longo in his March 25, 2020 pleading.
Court records indicate that the tax preparer is not opposing the doctor’s motion to compel production of the tax filings pertaining to Mrs. Saghafi, 85, who was allegedly forced to divorce her husband Dr. Saghafi, 89, by the court after she was declared incompetent due to dementia.
“Given their advanced ages and Mrs. Saghafi’s advanced, progressive dementia, filing an action for divorce was not in the best interests of either party, and there existed no reasonable, rationale or good faith basis for filing the divorce action,” Dr. Saghafi’s attorney Charles Longo previously told the Southeast Texas Record.
The aging couple had amassed $8 million in marital assets working side-by-side as healthcare providers in Cleveland.
The subpoena of the tax preparer is part of an overarching lawsuit alleging racketeering in the court-appointed guardianship of Mrs. Saghafi filed in January 2019 by Dr. Saghafi under the Ohio Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (RICO).
Defendants named in Dr. Saghafi’s lawsuit include a construction company, 7 lawyers, a CPA, probate court officer Zachary Simonoff, convicted felons Philip Presutto and his wife Jaleh Presutto who is Mrs. Saghafi’s daughter and former guardian.
“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 told the Southeast Texas Record.
More recently, court records dated March 10, 2020 show that the guardian received authority to spend up to $500,000 dollars of Mrs. Saghafi’s funds but does not identify the institution from which the funds were taken or to which they were to go.
Last year, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Ohio Northern District Court’s decision to deny Guardian of the Estate Zachary Simonoff’s request that Dr. Saghafi pay his legal fees after the physician husband challenged an order requiring him to pay to Simonoff some $3 million of his pension proceeds held at Franklin Templeton mutual fund company.
The honorable federal appellate justices Jeffrey Stuart Sutton, Deborah L. Cook and Amul Thapar stated in their landmark opinion that they are unconvinced of Probate Court Officer Simonoff’s claim that “[Dr. Mehdi] Saghafi’s legal positions were frivolous.”
“Whenever you defy a facially valid court order, you have some explaining to do,” wrote the panel of federal appellate judges in their opinion. “But Saghafi does have an explanation. He maintains that the divorce proceedings were a fraud on the court, a sham. And Ohio-law authorities suggest that a judgment procured by fraud may be void.”
Simonoff sued Dr. Saghafi in federal court and Dr. Saghafi filed a counterclaim, alleging violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act in 1970 and allows extended criminal penalties to be charged as well as civil causes of action for conduct performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.
“Simonoff argues the RICO counterclaim was unreasonable because (he says) a guardianship is not an “enterprise” under the RICO Act,” stated the panel of three judges. “But Simonoff fails to explain why an association that does its dirty work through a guardianship cannot be an enterprise. If anything, the Act’s expansive definition suggests the opposite. Right or wrong, Saghafi’s legal theory was not frivolous.”
At the core of the dispute is Mrs. Saghafi’s daughter and former guardian, Mrs. Presutto, who pleaded guilty to multiple felonies in 2018, according to Longo.
“To some, this might mark [Saghafi] as a sore loser bent on delay and vexation but others might see the distress and indignation of an elderly man who believed — maybe rightly, maybe wrongly, but at least sincerely — that his daughter and her lawyers had teamed up to loot him by taking ruthless advantage of an old woman’s dementia and duping the Ohio courts,” state the appellate justices in their decision. “The district court saw the latter.”
As previously reported in Pacer Monitor News, the Saghafi litigation is one among many complaints across the country that are alleging fraud in court-appointed adult guardianships of the elderly and people with disabilities, which are designed to help them manage their lives. Accusations include cruelty, neglect, starvation, isolation from family members, perjury, sexual abuse, over medication, financial exploitation and violation of constitutional rights.
Dr. Saghafi is continuing his litigation in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas before the Honorable Judge Sherrie Miday. Discovery has been delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.