Citizen Staff Writer
A judge ordered $2.1 million and several Tucson properties transferred from a former high-profile attorney to the Pima County Public Fiduciary on behalf of a 90-year-old widow.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Clark Munger granted the fiduciary’s motion Tuesday, ordering sanctions against Jack J. Rappeport, 84, and his family on Cherie Van Dyke Adams’ behalf.
“All we know is that Mr. Rappeport engaged in clearly unethical and perhaps criminal conduct to enrich himself,” said attorney Bill Walker, representing the public fiduciary.
Though the possibility of a criminal investigation was mentioned several times, no such case has been confirmed, attorneys said.
Walker said Rappeport avoided answering the lawsuit, which was filed in February, despite the judge’s repeated orders to hand over documents.
“I’m not playing a game with the court that you seem to be playing,” Munger told Rappeport, who said he has had trouble hiring an attorney.
Adams is living in an assisted care home and didn’t attend the hearing, though an attorney appointed to represent her backed the public fiduciary’s motion.
Rappeport said he had difficulty concentrating on Walker’s arguments for sanctions and didn’t speak to the judge about Walker’s claims of wrongdoing.
“I feel incompetent, which I am,” Rappeport said. “I’m short on being Cherie Adams’ age and I’m nowhere near in good health. I’m weak.
“I keep hearing that I’m a lawyer of 50 years, but that doesn’t ring a bell with me.”
Walker asked why Rappeport never notified the State Bar of Arizona that he was incompetent to practice law.
Ginger Rappeport said her husband has been in failing health for 10 years.
Anita Royal, of the public fiduciary, said Rappeport has been day trading, investing and handling perhaps millions of dollars in numerous accounts for 10 years.
Walker said the public fiduciary has “abundant” evidence that Jack Rappeport acted as a fiduciary for Adams from 1997 to the present and held her power of attorney.
A bank account Rappeport opened in Adams’ name once contained $2.1 million, which is gone now, Walker said.
Adams came to the public fiduciary’s attention after a neighbor at her Elm Street home found her destitute and ill, Walker said. Adams’ mother bought the property in 1941; Rappeport transferred the deed to himself in 2003, though he didn’t record it until 2006, Walker said.
Rappeport also deposited more than $1 million in another bank account of Adams’, but claimed in June the money was his, Walker said.
Rappeport used his power of attorney status to make himself rich, Walker claimed, which is a crime. Rappeport also set up other bank accounts in Adams’ name that were payable to his relatives upon her death, Walker said.
Munger granted the public fiduciary’s motion to transfer $2.1 million from a trust account seized from Rappeport and his family, deeds from the Elm Street house and another property and money from the sale of another property.
Royal said that without Munger’s ruling, Adams would have been penniless at the end of this month.
Arizona law says the public fiduciary must protect the legal rights and financial interests of vulnerable adults and administer estates of dead people.
Rappeport obtained his law degree at Harvard University, was a University of Arizona law school professor and served as the university’s legal adviser in the 1970s.
In court filings, he denied taking advantage of Adams or his sister, Norma Salonic, 78, who joined the public fiduciary’s lawsuit claiming he also stole money from her.
Munger ordered Tuesday that an apartment complex in Rappeport’s name remain under the control of the public fiduciary until Salonic’s claims are settled.