Gregory S. DuPont
Chapter 2: The Boys Are Back
The hearing for the living will dispute was scheduled for the following morning, and despite the gravity of the situation and the stakes involved, I really wasn’t worried about it. I had known Arturo for a long time, and it was unfathomable to me that he would so radically reverse what we had carefully and meticulously put together here in my office. The new documents had to be false, and so his originals from my office were going to be upheld.
But the problem wouldn’t end there. Chelsea’s conviction that her husband’s ex-wife and his sons were engaged in such a sinister plot against him could be nothing more than paranoia, stress, and fear. I would need to see what they were presenting to the hospital before committing to full belief in such an outlandish conspiracy. In then mean time, I wanted to pour through my files, the Internet, any information I could get my hands on to learn all that I could about Vivian Wainwright, her two privileged sons, and what they might have to do with stolen documents, a runaway food truck, and the very unfortunately timed arrival of a swarm of angry hornets in Arturo de Modelo’s classic car.
My files on Arturo went back to 2004, when his real estate development company had taken off and he’d suddenly found himself with more money than he knew what to do with. He was a self-made man, born in the working-class town of Steubenville on the Ohio River, and raised in the sixties, missing the Vietnam War by a very narrow margin, and joining the Navy right out of high school. His mother had been a teacher, his father a union electrician; they were among the more financially stable in their town. But he had seven siblings, and there was certainly no trust fund. Arturo de Modelo left the navy after five years, skipped college, and simply got to work. By the time he walked into my office, he’d rolled up a nest egg of nearly several million dollars, and all of it was just sitting in the bank.
He was already married to Vivian by then. Jeremy was seventeen years old, Jackson three years younger, and although I didn’t meet either of them, I got the sense that Jeremy was already getting into trouble, and that Jackson was eagerly following him right into it. He’d crashed the expensive Mustang he’d been given, driving it too fast and possibly drunk – Arturo had made a vague reference to having to “call in some favors” to keep Jeremy out of serious trouble. And yet by the end of the meeting I recalled Vivian mentioning that they’d already given the boy a new car to barrel around in. Like burning your finger on a stove and then looking at it, shrugging, and burning it again.
And he always referred to them as “the boys,” as if whatever they were doing, wherever they were going, whenever they were being arrested, it was always the two of them. The same way Chelsea referred to them almost, when accusing them of crimes.
I’d set up a very complex asset protection plan for him to protect his assets while allowing for growth. He’d told me with great confidence that this was only the beginning, and about the goal he’d set for himself to buy the beloved Canton Crowns football team, a goal that came true like an eerie prophecy just a few years later.
He was very particular about making sure the estate plan had a trust for Jeremy and another for Jackson. As I perused those documents on my screen from nearly fifteen years before, something began to nag at the back of my mind, a feeling that I was missing something. Perhaps the old man had reason to be concerned about the boys. My notes from our subsequent estate planning meetings read like a case study for troubled youths.
There was nothing unusual about either trust. They both stipulated that any money in them upon Arturo’s demise would be available for the benefit of the son named in it, but that a trustee would need to approve any money paid out. It was fairly normal that such a trust would continue in that manner until the children turned twenty-five, an age at which young men were expected to have their wilder years behind them. Notably, Arturo had elected to use the age of thirty, a testament perhaps, to his tempered expectations of them. As we met from year to year, Arturo at first began pushing these years out by amendment. Eventually, he turned to reducing the amount of money they would inherit, and placed distribution limitations on them.
I had files on both Jeremy and Jackson as well; they’d been to my office several times to discuss their finances but had never become clients. Because of my close working relationship with their father, I’d put considerable work into analyzing their situations, but in the end there didn’t seem to be a fit. I pulled up my notes on the meetings and was surprised to notice that Jackson had never been into my office without Jeremy, whereas Jeremy had attended just one appointment on his own.
Jeremy and Jackson had been loan officers in their twenties, working at a large firm for just a few years before getting licensed and starting their own brokerage. It was after the market crash of 2007, and in the aftermath of its catastrophic effects, the industry was slowly rebuilding itself on historically low interest rates, a lot of government bailout money propping up real estate values, and a massive wave of new legislation. Jeremy and Jackson seemed to have developed a knack for understanding and surfing this new wave of legislation, and they initially prospered while others languished in the bureaucracy.
I was worried about them, that was very clear from my notes. They succeeded financially so young, and they did so with the same irresponsible habits which had no doubt prompted Arturo to structure their trust so conservatively. They leased expensive cars, bought expensive homes and rental properties, saved little for the future despite my charts and graphs. And I’d heard from an associate that the mortgage company they’d started out at so young was one of the companies getting hauled in front of Congress after the crash, the sort of place where’d they’d learned to bend the rules, to exaggerate appraisals, to borrow upon equity that wasn’t really there.
And so when Arturo told me one day in spring of 2013 that they had trouble with the IRS and had lost their license to operate, I was not particularly surprised. I referred an attorney who specialized in such matters, and eventually the situation blew over after costing Arturo a quarter of a million dollars in bills and penalties. Early in 2014, I saw them both walking out of a downtown restaurant with a pair of young women, climbing into a pair of identical BMWs, one red and one yellow, looking for all the world like two men who hadn’t learned a thing.
It was at that point in my notes that I concluded they were in fact not a very good fit, and I closed their files as potential clients. But just after that, at the very end, I found a note that intrigued me, a reference to a life insurance policy held by Arturo which he’d bought years before becoming my client. There wasn’t anything for me to do on the policy; it was fine just how it was. But I’d noted that he had listed Jeremy and Jackson as beneficiaries on it. Both of the boys would get a check for a solid million dollars were he to pass. And it was a twenty-year term, due to expire just a few months after his accident.
I remembered who had sold him that policy because he was a mutual friend of ours, a respected banker who’d started out as an insurance agent in the nineties, and who now owned more commercial real estate around the city than probably anyone else I knew. His name was Carl D’Antonio. I picked up the phone and gave him a call.
We met in a local pub, because Carl’s the kind of guy who will take any excuse to do so. First we did a quick conference call with Chelsea so she could authorize him to discuss the life insurance policy. Carl notably had a copy of her valid Power of Attorney on file, which I would probably bring up at the hearing in the morning as it supported the validity of the documents we’d drawn up in my office. Then I printed out my notes and an activity log on Arturo de Modelo, and walked out to my car.
I found Carl at a table in the back of the bar, next to a pool table that didn’t look like it was used often. He had a martini glass in front of him, almost filled to the top with a pair of olives on a spear floating in it. The glass was still frosty. I figured that probably made it martini number two. I sat down across from him, setting my own glass down and craning my neck to see what he was watching on the screen.
Carl had dark hair and a matching moustache with no beard. He was lean and had serious eyes, like if you worked for him and he pointed them at you and started blinking, you’d get pretty nervous very quickly. His eyebrows were slanted just slightly, a quizzical expression. He said, “Have you ever watched this rugby? They’re showing rugby. I can barely figure out what’s going on.”
I looked and my first thought was that rugby looked like it would hurt. The guys were running around with no pads, sort of passing a ball around to each other while the other team would physically attack them, and then once in a while, they would all fall into a pile of arms and legs and the ball would get passed out the back of the pile to someone, and then that guy would start the process over again.
We spent a few minutes trying to piece it together and then Carl got abruptly tired of it, sort of waved his hand at the television and then it seemed to blip out of existence to him. He never mentioned it again. He said, “That file was a blast from the past. I was barely starting out when I wrote that thing. It was actually a great sale for me at the time, I remember it now.”
I nodded. It had probably been a pretty big deal to Arturo as well, even though he had far more complex accounts going on these days than term life insurance. “Did he change the beneficiary clause to the name of the trust?”
This was important because the trust restricted the boys’ access to the money in it. But the insurance policy named them as individuals, so if he died they’d just get the lump sum of a million dollars each. I had explained that to Arturo and he understood that by naming the trust as the beneficiary, their money would go directly into it, becoming subject to all of the restrictions he’d put into place to keep them from blowing it all.
Carl raised his eyebrows and simply said, “He did not.”
I found myself rubbing my chin, having a bad feeling. I took a sip of my martini. “Do you remember that call though?”
I didn’t think he’d have kept a conversation log from so far back, but he surprised me. “I was a Franklin Covey guy back then. Everything went into my Franklin Planner, everything got archived. All I had to do was walk into my office and pull the archive for that year off the shelf. Turned to the date you gave me, you know, when you were putting that plan together and called me. There were my notes, plain as day. You’d called me up, put me on speaker phone with Arturo, and we talked about getting that changed to the name of the trust.”
It was amazing how something so long ago could seem so clear, but now that we both had it in our minds it seemed like yesterday. I said, “Right, and you arranged to have the form sent out to get that change made.”
“Right. That form had to come from the home office, so I had my assistant order it, and it was sent directly to Arturo’s address. You had even followed up with him and we had another brief conference call, and then Arturo said that he had signed it, sealed it, put a stamp on it, and that it was going out the door.”
“But no record that they ever received it.”
Carl shook his head. “I put in a call to the guy who manages the entire database over there. He confirmed it. The form never came in. There were even two follow up letters that went out since the inquiry had been opened, they send out follow up letters if they don’t receive what you asked for. Both of them got ignored, another went out closing the ticket, and that was that. All that happened from corporate.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the television, where another pile of arms and legs had formed, making me cringe. “So what do you think happened?”
Carl shrugged. “Well, you know. I don’t like to speculate about things, you know what I mean?”
“I mean, someone fully intends to mail something, it doesn’t get mailed, you don’t want to go around accusing people of tampering with mail, right? That’s a federal crime, technically.”
We sat there nursing our drinks, intently refraining from watching rugby. Finally Carl said, “But I do know this friend of mine. He had something similar happen to him. This was just a couple years ago, same situation though. In this case he was taking one of his three kids out of the account completely. Kid was like twenty-seven, on drugs, had blown up his mom’s van trying to get some kind of insurance pay out. Scheme didn’t even make sense, it was the drugs that were the only thing making him think it would work.
“So my friend, he was a little more suspicious than Arturo, and he went ahead and called the insurance company a few weeks later, found out the paperwork hadn’t gone through. Turns out he had a security camera out at the end of the driveway. Had a nice house, and wanted to be able to capture the license plate number of anyone who arrived and left. It was all digital and his home security company archived it. He gets on the phone to the president of the home security company – a buddy of his, that’s why he went with them.”
I knew where this was probably going and my heart sank a little, the way it always does when the world reminds me that some folks are just awful, that it’s just the way things are.
“There it is,” Carl went on. “Right there on video, his twenty-seven year old son taking the mail right out of the box. Turns out the kid would root through there all the time, even managed to fill out a credit card application, send it in, and then plucked the card out of the mail before my guy even knew it was opened. Eight grand was already charged on it.”
“How did he even know it was going out?”
“The kid had a contact at the security company. It was like the president’s nephew, a computer guy. They had access to everything, they were reading his email, listening to his phone, just monitoring the guy through his own security, looking for opportunities. They heard about the beneficiary change and took care of it.”
“Who are these guys? Stealing from their own fathers when they already have so much given to them?”
Carl shrugged. “They’re asking the same thing, I guarantee it. They’re like, ‘Who are these guys, not stealing money when it’s right in front of them.’”
I shook my head like a fly had landed on my face. I had a daughter myself, couldn’t comprehend what it would feel like to find out she’d done such a thing. It just didn’t compute.
“So,” Carl said. “I guess the first question is, do you think Arturo’s kids are the kind of kids who would steal his mail if they found out this sort of thing was going on?”
I thought about the brightly colored BMWs and the quarter of a million-dollar legal bill, thinking the whole thing seemed about as painful as a pile of angry rugby players landing on top of you. I kicked my leg up on the seat so I could see the game easier, still shaking my head as I finished my drink. After a while I said, “Is there a second question?”
Carl sighed and said, “There is. Only reason I can ask it is you put me on the phone with Chelsea and you’ve now got full authorization to discuss the account.”
“Let me have it.”
“Did you know about the other policy? The one for his wife?”
I didn’t have to answer him, just looked at him over our drinks. “How much?”
“Five million,” Carl replied. “Bought at the same time as the others. Expires in just a few months. And she’s still on it after all this time.”
That is all for this month. To participate in this months drawing for the $25 dollar amazon gift certificate and to voice your opinion on this months plot quiz click here: https://ug344.infusionsoft.com/app/form/web-form-submitted38