BOSTON — A family and probate court judge in Suffolk County has ruled against a 91-year-old woman from South Boston who says she was duped into giving a former tenant everything she owned, including a house that had been in her family for 60 years.
In a civil lawsuit, Frances Lepsevich said her former tenant and friend, Tracey Goodman, tricked her into signing away her home on M Street for just $100 and also drained bank accounts which held about $47,000.
According to the 75 page judgment obtained by 25 Investigates, Judge Megan Christopher dismissed the majority of claims made by Lepsevich’s lawyers, and did not find any evidence of “fraud” when Lepsevich signed away the deed to her home. The court also found Lepsevich was “competent and capable” at the time she signed the documents and that Goodman had no “undue influence” over the elderly woman’s decisions.
With no family of her own, Lepsevich had made Goodman her power of attorney and health care proxy. Lepsevich even added Goodman’s name to her bank accounts.
As 25 Investigates first reported, bank records showed hundreds in charges on those accounts to Harley Davidson, a local veterinarian and $240 to order personalized M&M candy.
“She was taking it for herself – the money – from the bank accounts and using it for herself,” Lepsevich told 25 Investigates.
In her ruling, Judge Christopher wrote: “Because both Ms. Lepsevich and Ms. Goodman had a habit of using cash to make purchases and pay bills, it is difficult for the Court to pinpoint the transactions that were likely unauthorized.”
“However, the Court finds that it was not equitable or moral for Ms. Goodman to use Ms. Lepsevich’s funds for her own benefit… Ms. Lepsevich was, like the Court, forced to rely on Ms. Goodman’s word as to the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars,” Christopher wrote.
The judge ruled that Goodman breached her fiduciary duty by failing to pay bills to a nursing home in 2015 and ordered her to pay $13,900 to Lepsevich. However, Goodman is not ordered to pay any damages because the judge determined her inaction was not “malicious.”
Goodman’s attorneys did not respond to 25 Investigates’ request for comment. The attorney for Frances Lepsevich, Richard Davies, says he’s filed a notice of appeal.
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