Ex-appointed guardian gets prison in Nevada elder abuse case

January 5, 2019 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 53-year-old former court-appointed financial guardian who admitted stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from people assigned to her care in Las Vegas was sentenced Friday to 16 to 40 years in Nevada state prison in what prosecutors called the state’s largest-ever elder exploitation case.

Clark County District Court Judge Tierra Jones also ordered April Parks, 53, to serve 16 to 40 years in Nevada state prison and to pay almost $560,000 in restitution to victims, according to a statement from state and local prosecutors.

Parks’ former office manager, Mark Simmons, was sentenced to seven to 18 years in prison, and her husband, Gary Neal Taylor, was sentenced to two to five years.

Each pleaded an equivalent of no contest in November to felony exploitation of a vulnerable person, theft and perjury.

The plea deals avoided trial on charges that they spent more than six years using Parks’ business called A Private Professional Guardian to overbill for services and siphon money from accounts of people they had been appointed by courts to protect.

Guardianship can be authorized if a judge rules that a person needs help to care for their own health and wealth.

Sentencing was postponed for company attorney Noel Palmer Simpson. She faces probation and the loss of her law license after pleading guilty to an exploitation charge.

A fifth defendant, James Melton, faces trial next month after pleading not guilty to felony exploitation, false document, perjury and theft.

The investigation became public following the creation of an enforcement task force in 2015 after stories emerged about abuses in the guardianship system.

A court Guardianship Compliance Office last year hired an investigator and a forensic financial specialist.

Officials noted the defendants were a private guardianship business, not a Clark County Public Guardian office that serves people legally determined to be incapable of managing their own affairs.

The public office also offers a voluntary money management assistance program for people over 60.