A Forsyth County judge dismissed parts of a lawsuit that allege a Winston-Salem lawyer committed fraud against a woman declared mentally incompetent and was part of a racketeering ring that involved Forsyth County clerks and others.
Judge John O. Craig of Forsyth Superior Court signed a written ruling Monday granting a motion to dismiss parts of the lawsuit against Bryan Thompson, a public administrator in Forsyth County. Bryan Thompson was sued on Oct. 20, 2015, by Reginald Alston, an attorney representing the estate of Mary Thompson. The lawsuit also named Forsyth County Clerk of Court Susan Frye and others. The lawsuit against Frye is still pending.
Mary Thompson and Bryan Thompson are not related.
Craig said in his ruling that Alston had failed to “state a claim against Defendant Thompson upon which relief can be granted.” Alston declined to comment Tuesday because the case is still pending.
Competency ruling questioned
Mary Thompson, a former nurse and businesswoman, died Oct. 2, 2014. The lawsuit alleges that Bryan Thompson illegally obtained guardianship of the estate because former assistant court clerk Theresa Hinshaw violated state law in declaring Mary Thompson mentally incompetent in May 2007. Hinshaw then signed an order May 1 appointing Bryan Thompson guardian of the estate. She signed a second court order May 3 declaring Mary Thompson mentally incompetent. Both orders were never file-stamped, showing that they were officially filed with the clerk’s office.
Because they weren’t file-stamped, Alston argues, Bryan Thompson’s appointment was illegal. Alston said in a Feb. 19 hearing before Craig that Bryan Thompson is an experienced lawyer regularly assigned to be guardian of estates. He should have known, Alston said, that any order appointing him that wasn’t file-stamped was invalid. That proves he was committing fraud when he took guardianship of Mary Thompson’s estate.
Alston also alleged that Bryan Thompson was part of a racketeering organization (RICO) whose sole purpose was “taking assets from numerous Forsyth County citizens without entered orders of incompetence or duly filed guardianship appointments.”
Craig didn’t seem convinced of Alston’s arguments during the Feb. 19 hearing. Craig asked Alston several times what evidence he had that Bryan Thompson took anything from Mary Thompson’s estate for his own personal benefit. Craig asked if Bryan Thompson bought a house, clothes or other personal items with assets from Mary Thompson’s estates.
Alston said there has not been a full accounting of where the money went. Molly Whitlatch, one of Bryan Thompson’s attorneys, said Tuesday that Bryan Thompson was required to file annual accounts with the clerk’s office, detailing how assets of Mary Thompson’s assets were spent.
“There’s no question where the money went,” she said. “It went to Ms. Thompson’s benefit.”
Allegations made in another case
Alston disputed that at the Feb. 19 hearing, noting that Bryan Thompson paid $7,000 a month for Mary Thompson to stay in a nursing home. Mary Thompson owned plenty of property and she didn’t have to stay in a nursing home, Alston said. Craig said Bryan Thompson would not have had the legal authority to determine health care needs for Mary Thompson as guardian of her estate, but Alston argued that he could have raised an issue of whether it was a waste of money to spend on a nursing home.
Alston said in court that he took his allegations to the Winston-Salem Police Department, which investigated. The Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate because his office is not a party in the lawsuit.
Alston has made similar allegations in another estate case. He has accused Bryan Thompson of taking $44,000 in November 2009, six months before he was appointed guardian of Steven Epperson’s estate. Whitlatch said Alston is relying on a receipt that has erroneously says that Thompson received funds in 2009. She said Thompson had transferred the money from the estate of Steven’s father, who had previously served guardian, to Steven’s estate in June 2010. Steven’s father, John Epperson, had no money in his estate in November 2009, Whitlatch said.