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Judge: Woman took advantage of husband with dementia

- Spent $100,000 a month, cheated his children

By KELLY NIX

Published: August 26, 2011

A PEBBLE Beach woman alleged to have spent more than $4 million of her elderly husband’s money on international getaways, lavish jewelry, expensive cars and clothing — and who convinced her husband to cut two of his children out of his will — was guilty of elder abuse in manipulating his $15 million estate, according to a judge’s ruling following a two-month trial.

On Aug. 12, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills ruled that former realtor Lynne Lintz took advantage of her wealthy 81-year-old husband, Robert Lintz, who had been in declining mental and physical health. Robert Lintz, a successful real estate developer, died in October 2009, four-and-half-years after the couple was married.

Pricey trips without him

The trial, from March 7 to May 26, was in response to a lawsuit Robert Lintz’s adult children, James and Susan Lintz, filed in June 2009 against their stepmother. They claimed she spent millions of dollars of her husband’s money, racking up as much as $100,000 per month, including taking pricey trips abroad without him.

The lawsuit also alleged the 60-something Lynne Lintz convinced her husband, who had Alzheimer’s and dementia, to take two children from a previous marriage out of his multimillion trust and leave her as the primary beneficiary. It also gave her the power to remove a third child, 19-year-old MacKensie Lintz, if she chose to.

While Wills didn’t find Lynne Lintz had committed fraud or neglect, as the lawsuit also alleged, he ruled she had committed financial abuse, illegally took her husband’s money and exercised undue influence over him to control his fortune.

The judge found Lintz spent “huge amounts” of her husband’s money. “While it is not uncommon for a spouse to spend money or purchase items of which the other is not aware ... what Lynne did in this case went well beyond the line of reasonable conduct and constituted financial abuse,” according to Wills.

But during her testimony, Lintz contended her husband had control over his own money.

“It was all Bob’s money that created and did everything,” she said. “If he wanted to give it away, that was Bob’s decision. If he wanted it back, that was his decision also.”

Robert Lintz was confined mostly to a chair or a bed for the last several years of his life, but during that time, his wife carried on a lavish lifestyle, accumulating $2,859,640.41 in credit card purchases from 2005 to 2009, according to Carmel attorney Al Nicora, who represented Robert Lintz’s children in the lawsuit.

In 2008 alone, Lintz allegedly spent more than $850,000 using two separate American Express cards. Her purchases included:

- $74,526.35 in TV shopping;

- $94,714.62 in jewelry;

- $59,410.11 in clothing;

- $76,378.76 in travel; and

- $97,554.45 for a Lexus.

“The majority of this spending was for herself,” Nicora wrote in his closing trial brief.

Even though her husband couldn’t drive, Lintz spent about $400,000 on vehicles, including a Lexus sedan, an SUV and a motorhome, according to Nicora. She had the vehicles placed in her name.

The jewelry she purchased included a $10,675 ring she bought in San Francisco, a $4,004 gold bracelet she purchased at a New Zealand airport, and a $9,188 watch and a $10,800 pair of earrings from a store in Carmel, according to Nicora.

Lintz “admits that in 2008 alone she spent $524,556.35 of Robert’s funds, in addition to spending $867,842.24 in credit cards in the same year,” Nicora wrote.

Lintz also had their two Pebble Beach homes — one on Stevenson Road and another on Lisbon Lane — taken out of his trust and placed into their names individually, he said.

While leaving her husband with a caregiver, Lintz and her children took a $60,000 cruise to New Zealand and a $23,800 trip to Africa. She also took other vacations to Australia and Vail, Colo., according to Nicora.

Even considering the substantial income her husband was making from his lifetime annuity, Wills called the amounts Lintz spent on credit cards in various shopping sprees “alarmingly large.”

In addition to the credit card purchases, Lintz spent about $253,000 on checks she made out to herself during 2005, 2006 and 2007, sometimes signing her husband’s name on the checks, according to Nicora. When questioned during trial about the signatures, Lintz was “evasive,” Wills said.

“Most of these checks bore a signature which purported to be that of Robert,” according to Wills. “But they were not in his distinctively shaky handwriting.”

Though the lawsuit alleged Lintz spent about $4.5 million during the marriage — a point her attorney, Larry Lichtenegger, strongly contests — Wills hasn’t yet determined precisely how much Lintz spent during their marriage. In September, both sides will present accounting information to Wills so he can rule how much Lintz owes her husband’s children.

During their brief marriage, Robert asked a longtime business partner and ex-son-in-law to keep his wife within a monthly budget because he felt he was unable to stop her unbridled spending. But she declined to follow the plan.

“The budget evidence demonstrates Robert’s helplessness and susceptibility to Lynne’s wishes and influence,” Wills wrote.

In 2005, the same year they were married, Lintz’ wife became the “point person” in modifying her husband’s trust and estate plans, according to Wills.

“Such actions were part of a pattern of increasing control over Robert’s assets which went far beyond marshaling them,” he wrote.

As part of his ruling, Wills invalidated a series of trusts Lintz had modified so she had almost complete control of her husband’s estate while cutting out Robert’s two adult children. Instead, Wills ruled the court would recognize a 2005 trust, which allows about 50 percent of the estate to go to Lintz and the other half to Robert’s children and grandchildren.

The couple’s 2005 marriage was their second. In 1999, Robert and Lynne got married but divorced after only six months. Robert had been married three previous times.

Though his estate is estimated to be worth $10 million to $15 million, Lintz was described by his children during the trial as a frugal man, preferring to buy floor-model furniture over new pieces. Another witness testified that IHOP was among his favorite restaurants and that he liked to get his hair cut at Supercuts.