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Bankruptcy filing complicates elder abuse case


Published: November 4, 2011

THE FORMER Marina caregiver who was sued by an elderly Carmel man for taking millions of dollars from his estate has filed for bankruptcy, according to federal court documents.

Retired physician Lawrence Loftus sued his former caregiver, Charles Harper, in February 2010 alleging Harper stole nearly $1 million in cash and and the proceeds of a $2.7 million loan against Loftus’ Scenic Road home. Harper, Loftus alleges, left him a mere $66 in the bank.

The case seemed to be coming to a close when Harper told a Monterey County Superior Court Judge in August he would pay Loftus about $1 million to settle the case as long as Loftus dismissed the lawsuit against him. But on Sept. 6, Harper filed for bankruptcy in U.S. District Court, claiming he is broke and unable to pay his victim.

However, in a hearing for Harper two weeks ago in Salinas, the attorney representing Loftus, Frank Hespe, told the bankruptcy court that much of Harper’s debt is a result of fraud against his client, and that Harper’s bankruptcy filing should be dismissed.

“We have notified the bankruptcy court that this is a product of fraud and [that his debt] can’t be wiped out in bankruptcy no matter what,” Hespe told The Pine Cone Monday.

According to Harper’s Chapter 13 filing, he owns a $2.7 ?million three-bedroom house in Los Angeles, a $280,000 house in Marina and Lawrence Loftus’ $4 million home on Scenic Road. Harper lists all three houses as his “primary residence” — and all three have mortgages exceeding their present value.

Harper also reports owning a 1996 Lincoln Town Car valued at $950, a 1986 Pontiac Fiero valued at $500, $2,500 in household goods at his Marina home and $500 in clothing. At the time of the filing, Harper reported having $300 in a Wells Fargo Bank account. His total assets, Harper claims, are about $7 million. But his debts are more than $10 million.

Apart from owing Loftus $1 million, Harper said he owes nearly $150,000 in loans, including $100,000 to Rich Cook in Los Angeles, $30,000 to Nitin Patel of Monterey and $10,000 to Maggie Grimm, whose address is not listed.

Harper, in a return phone message to The Pine Cone seeking comment, refused to discuss the case. “Tell the nosey people who buy your paper,” Harper said Oct. 27, “I do not discuss my private, personal or business life with anyone.”

Loftus had alleged in his lawsuit that Harper took over his estate by putting everything, including his Scenic Road home, in his name. That, he said, allowed Harper to take out a $2.7 million loan against Loftus’ Scenic Road home and withdraw about $950,000 from his Bank of America account.

But because Harper was in control of Loftus’ mortgage but wasn’t paying the bills, the Carmel home went into foreclosure, Hespe said.

Harper went so far as to register himself and Loftus as domestic partners and started using the name “Dr. Charles Loftus” even though the two men had a strictly platonic relationship, the lawsuit alleges.

“That’s just part and parcel of his ongoing scheme to defraud Dr. Lawrence Loftus,” according to Hespe.

On Aug. 12, Harper agreed to settle the lawsuit, and Monterey County Superior Court Judge Kay Kingsley approved the terms of the agreement, which required Harper to pay the money he owed Loftus within 60 days. But Harper hasn’t paid Loftus anything, Hespe said.

Loftus, who is 5 foot 2 inches and weighs just 110 pounds, also alleged the 6-foot-1-inch Harper intimidated and physically and emotionally abused him. Harper threatened to hit Loftus and said he “would dump his wife’s ashes into the ocean, kill [Loftus’] dog and stuff him into his wife’s urn.” The allegations led a judge to issue a restraining order against Harper.

The bankruptcy court was expected to make a decision as to whether to dismiss Harper’s bankruptcy filing sometime after Oct. 25, Hespe said.