A new report outlines how former professional guardian Traci Hudson failed to protect elderly people under her care.
A year-long investigation by the Pinellas County Inspector General's Office led to criminal charges and identified new concerns about how Hudson treated her clients.
It's been almost two-and-a-half years since professional guardian Traci Hudson was arrested, accused of using a power of attorney agreement to take $541,000 from a 92-year-old man under her care.
She is currently out of bond awaiting trial.
“She’s still walking the streets," advocate for people in guardianship Hillary Hogue said. "She is still free to go. She has not been held accountable.”
Hogue also served on the Florida Guardianship Improvement Task Force.
Investigators allege Hudson used her ill-gotten gains to make payments on a 4,888 square-foot Riverview home, buy Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets and go on shopping sprees.
Investigators identify red flags leading to charges
“That case that she’s charged with is a power of attorney case, so totally different than our guardianship cases,” Pinellas County Probate Judge Pam Campbell said in a Nov. 2019 hearing a few days after Hudson’s arrest. “If there are any red flags that are brought to our attention, then we’ll address that at that point in time."
On February 14, 2020, Campbell ordered the Pinellas County Inspector General's Office to investigate all of Hudson's 45 guardianship cases and identify any concerns involving the healthcare or financial matters related to wards under her care.
It turns out there were lots of red flags.
The IG’s Office identified criminal activity in three other cases, leading to 17 new felony charges last year.
One of the alleged victims was Robert Moore.
“She totally destroyed my family,” Moore’s son Ryan Moore said in an interview last year.
Ryan Moore said while acting as his dad's guardian, Hudson limited his ability to see his father.
Investigators said she sold Moore's guns at pawn shops, didn’t include them in an inventory of his property and kept the money.
“I asked her about the guns and she said all of the guns were stolen except for one and it was in a police evidence room somewhere,” Ryan Moore said.
“It just destroyed us”
“It was a tough, tough lesson,” Gedi Pakalnis said of the five years he spent fighting the guardianship system.
His great-aunt Genyte Dirse was put into guardianship after selling Pakalnis part of a St. Pete Beach hotel at a below-market rate.
A realtor, who previously asked Dirse to list or sell her property, petitioned the court to have Dirse put into guardianship.
Hudson was appointed her guardian by the court.
Pakalnis said during the guardianship, Dirse was abused by a caregiver Hudson hired, then moved into an assisted living facility where she later died due to COVID-19.
Hudson obtained a court order preventing Pakalnis from seeing or talking to his great aunt.
“It just destroyed us,"Pakalnis said. "Not only destroyed our family but physically cost us health-wise, and of course financially."
After interviewing dozens of people and reviewing more than 1,700 pages of bank records, real estate transactions and other transactions, investigators drafted reports on 19 of 21 Hudson’s cases they reviewed.
“Fortunately we have someone who’s working to stay on top of this and digging into this and we’re glad to have the people doing their job,” Pakalnis said.
More than a thousand pieces of wards’ mail abandoned
According to the report, investigators collected and delivered 933 pieces of mail belonging to former wards that were delivered to a PO box at a UPS store in St. Petersburg that Hudson abandoned.
Hudson's criminal attorney, Richard McKyton, told us his client was not allowed to access her PO box after she was removed from her cases, which lead to a mix-up in mail being forwarded to the wards' new guardians.
That mail could have included bills, medical documents, tax information and other important items necessary to provide appropriate care for the wards.
The report says 86 mail items were delivered to the home of another ward but never collected.
“If you have almost a thousand pieces of mail you haven’t retrieved from your PO box, it says you haven’t been doing much,” Hillary Hogue said.
“If I could just say one thing to the community at large… please don't even think about initiating a guardianship concerning your loved ones. And if you hear the word guardianship, run,” she said.
Hudson received money from libel judgment, property sale
The I-Team learned while Hudson was out on bond she continued to make money.
In February, Hudson’s attorney John Hayter took possession of Lesa Martino's home to satisfy a $240,000 libel lawsuit judgment.
Hudson was the guardian of Lesa’s father Roland Martino.
Hudson sued Lesa Martino after she reported allegations of abuse and neglect to state agencies and wrote disparaging remarks about Hudson on websites and social media.
Hudson was arrested on the original felony charges months after she received a summary judgment against Martino.
“It’s just so unfair because all I was doing… I was a whistleblower to the corruption and then I get punished,” Martino said.
She is now homeless, living in a motel while she appeals her foreclosure case.
Hudson sold her own home last month for $849,900, which was $256,000 over the amount Hudson paid for it in 2019.
Her attorney attributes the sale to her recent divorce.
A status hearing in Hudson's criminal case has been scheduled for next month.
No trial date has been set in the case.
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