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Lawsuit: Harper's family helped him steal

- Mom and ex-wife accused of ‘looting’ doctor’s estate

By KELLY NIX

Published: June 25, 2010

THE MOTHER and ex-wife of a man charged in a lawsuit with cheating a Carmel senior out of millions of dollars are now being accused of taking part in the alleged scheme.

On Feb. 18, attorney Frank Hespe filed suit in Monterey County Superior Court alleging Charles Harper stole millions from his then-client, Lawrence Loftus, including taking out big loans in Loftus’ name. Hespe also alleges Harper physically abused the 87-year-old retired internist.

Harper, 48, “immersed” himself in Loftus’ life, only to bilk the senior out of his entire life savings, including draining Loftus’ bank account of $960,000 in cash and forcing his home into foreclosure, according to the lawsuit.

Now, Hespe is alleging members of Harper’s family also stole from Loftus.

“The money Harper allegedly stole may have ended up in his mother’s name and his ex-wife’s name,” Hespe told The Pine Cone Monday. “There are checks floating around that are made out to them. We think they have some legal liability as well.”

On June 18, Hespe filed a motion to amend the lawsuit against Harper to add Harper’s mother, Helen Harper, and ex-wife, Amanda Harper, as defendants.

“Defendants Helen Harper and Amanda Harper assisted and conspired with defendant Charles Harper to convert [Loftus’] funds and to loot his estate,” according to court documents.

The Harpers are accused of financial elder abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, constructive trust and undue influence. Charles Harper is individually accused of physically abusing and isolating Loftus.

The Pine Cone called Helen Harper and Charles Harper, but their numbers were not accepting messages. A number for Amanda Harper was unlisted.

The suit alleges Harper stole property from Loftus’ Scenic Road home, including antiques, artwork and automobiles, and that his mother and ex-wife “participated” in Harper’s scheme and took some of Loftus’ personal items.

“Funds and assets improperly obtained from [Loftus] were acquired by defendants Helen Harper and Amanda Harper and remain in possession of said defendants ... ,” Hespe alleges in the amended complaint.

Loftus was forced to liquidate his personal property to pay for his own care, according to Hespe.

In court documents to amend the lawsuit, Hespe alleges Harper “conspired” with Washington Mutual Bank and the San Jose-based Pacific Northwest Mortgage Corporation to apply for a $2.7 million loan secured by Loftus’ house.

The defendants “knew or should have known that [Loftus] had no reasonable means to pay back” the loan, according to the suit.

Abuse alleged

The lawsuit also alleges the 6-foot-1-inch Harper intimidated and physically and emotionally abused the 5-foot-2-inch, 110-pound Loftus.

Besides threatening to hit Loftus, Harper said he “would dump his wife’s ashes into the ocean, kill [Loftus’] dog and stuff him into his wife’s urn,” according to the suit. Loftus’ wife died about six years ago.

The allegations led a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against Harper in February.

The suit also alleges Harper sometimes adopted the alias “Charles Loftus.”

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office investigators plan to discuss Harper with county prosecutors so they can determine if Harper will face criminal charges, according to sheriff Cmdr. Tracy Brown.

But getting a jury to convict Harper could be tough, considering he and Loftus were close friends at one time. And Harper has already been criminally accused — then acquitted — of swindling Loftus.

Six years ago, Harper, a former real estate agent who surrendered his state license, went on trial in 2004 for allegedly stealing from Loftus and others.

During the trial, Harper faced criminal charges he persuaded Loftus to invest nearly $1 million in his real estate company, which Harper then converted for personal use, according to accounts of the trial at the time.

But the Loftuses and another person testified they considered Harper a friend and gave him the money willingly.

After a three-week trial, a jury acquitted Harper on seven of eight felony counts. The jury was hung on the remaining count.

Meanwhile, Hespe said Loftus has moved out of his Carmel home and into a residential care facility.

“He is doing fine,” Hespe said. “He seems really comfortable. He has a lot more socializing going on, but he’s still frail.”

On July 23, a Monterey judge will decide if Hespe can amend his complaint to add Helen and Amanda Harper as defendants in the lawsuit.