Marie Winkelman’s guardianship has a large cast of characters who benefit from her status as a Ward of the State of Florida, including family members and quasi-family members, as well as a host of attorneys and numerous service providers that were unknown to Marie before she was forced into guardianship. This is the fifth in an investigative series on Marie’s case (see links at the end of this column).
A Large Cast of Attorneys
Marie’s first guardianship attorney, Erika Dine, was appointed by Judge Deno Economou, who single-handedly presides over the probate courts in Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Florida. Dine was also the attorney who represented the guardian (Aging Safely, Inc.) of Al Katz, who was an 89-year-old Holocaust Survivor, as is Marie. See this writer’s previous investigative series on the Al Katz guardianship.
Barry Spivey, Marie’s next attorney, prepared and signed a mediated settlement agreement that he asked Judge Economou to adopt in his incapacity and guardianship order, which declared Marie to be incapacitated and made Sabal Trust Company her Trustee. Spivey never showed the Agreement to Marie before or after it was signed and never told her he had a closed hearing with the Judge to declare Marie incapacitated and put her into guardianship, losing all control of her millions of dollars in trust.
Also attending the secret hearing on December 2, 2013, was Rebecca Proctor, the attorney for Marie’s two guardians, Raymond Millman and Alina Koren, Marie’s sole blood relative, who was rescued by Marie from Poland as a toddler after the Holocaust. Attorney Proctor is a Director of Aging Safely, which is the agency that was Al Katz’s guardian for two months, during which time he went from fully verbal and mobile to “imminent death” status.
Both Proctor and Alina Koren (plus her husband, Dr. Yoram Koren) signed the Mediated Agreement that made Marie’s trust part of her guardianship and transformed it from revocable to irrevocable, thereby sealing the beneficiaries of the trust forever, including Alina Koren. Thus, its primary beneficiaries, Marie’s stepdaughters – Corinne Szychowski and Diane Winkelman – are set to inherit millions of dollars each from the trust.
Quasi-Family Members and Even More Attorneys
Corinne’s husband and Ruttger’s administrator, Robert Szychowski, initiated Marie’s guardianship, which automatically made him the successor trustee to her trust. All of his legal bills and transportation costs to fight Marie in court are paid from Marie’s assets without any oversight by Marie or the court. Robert Szychowski hired two attorneys, Christopher Likens and Kim Bald, who fought to have all of Marie’s civil rights taken from her. Their fees, likely amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, are paid from Marie’s accounts.
At this time, Marie’s lawyer is Audrey Bear, a friend of Rebecca Proctor and Christopher Likens, who had promised Marie she would litigate her case zealously, but instead asked the court to once again mediate Marie’s incapacity and guardianship behind closed doors, with no record made and no evidence presented on Marie’s behalf. This mediation has been ordered by the court to take place on February 28 in the offices of attorney and mediator, Gary Larsen.
Medical Professionals Added to the Cast Members
Behind the scenes from the beginning of Marie’s case were medical professionals. Dr. Joseph Larkin, Marie’s physician, sent visiting nurse, Lori Gaetano, to Marie’s residence, and Gaetano then recommended a psychiatrist, Dr. Miguel Rivera, to see Marie. In early July 2013, Gaetano accompanied Rivera to evaluate Marie without telling her the purpose of their visit. It was Rivera’s subsequent report that was used by Robert Szychowski in court to initiate Marie’s guardianship. Rivera was later paid more than $900 from Marie’s assets by Robert Szychowski, who later hired Gaetano to be Marie’s “care manager,” at her expense without her knowledge for months.
Also hired by Robert Szychowski is an agency (Bright Star) that visits Marie twice everyday, although Marie is in good health for her age and has outstanding health for a Holocaust Survivor. Somehow, unbeknownst to Marie, Lori Gaetano is still being employed at Marie’s expense to supervise this staff of nursing assistants.
In a depressed economy, at least dozens of professionals are faring very well from fair Marie.