Sentencing Looms for Man Twice Convicted in Phony Trust Scams

BOSTON, July 29, 2013—A Massachusetts man faces sentencing tomorrow after his conviction for attempting to use a fake trust to obtain unclaimed assets, less than a month after he was sentenced to prison for another conviction in a similar scheme, state prosecutors announced today.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, and Attorney General Martha Coakley said KEVIN L. UPSHAW (D.O.B. 10/6/68) has now been convicted of two separate fraudulent attempts to obtain abandoned property, including $1.6 million from a dead woman’s estate that has now been distributed to charitable organizations in accordance with her wishes.

“This defendant sought to steal assets of the deceased that weren’t his to take,” DA Conley said. “Whether those assets were claimed or unclaimed is irrelevant. Estate planning shouldn’t include worrying about scam artists gaining access to your savings against your final wishes.”

An Essex Superior Court jury on July 25 convicted Upshaw of uttering a false trust and perjury by false written statement in his bid to steal more than $130,000 held by the Iowa State Treasurer until the rightful owner could be identified. The case was prosecuted in Massachusetts because Upshaw committed the fraud in Lynn; it was prosecuted by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Goldberger of Conley’s Special Prosecutions Unit, whom Blodgett appointed as a Special Essex ADA because of his familiarity with Upshaw and his methods based on the investigation of a nearly identical Suffolk County case.

“Prosecuting fraud cases can be difficult and time-consuming, especially when the victims are deceased and there are no clear heirs,” DA Blodgett said. “I am particularly pleased that we were able to rely on ADA Goldberger’s expertise and familiarity with this defendant to successfully resolve this case.”

The Suffolk County case reached its close in late June.  A Suffolk Superior Court jury on June 26 found Upshaw guilty of three counts of uttering and one count each of perjury by false written statement and attempting to commit a crime. Goldberger recommended a sentence of eight to 10 years in state prison.  Judge Carol S. Ball sentenced Upshaw to prison term of four to five years.

Goldberger presented evidence and testimony in the Suffolk case to prove that, in 2010, Upshaw presented a falsified will and trust agreement of the late Dr. Rose Jannini of Winthrop to the Abandoned Property Division of the Massachusetts Treasurer’s office, claiming to be the beneficiary of Jannini’s $1.6 million estate.  The fraudulent document named Upshaw as the successor trustee to a primary trustee who was deceased.

Jannini, who passed away in 1986, had left her money to a trust for charitable, religious, and educational purposes.  The appointed trustees failed to carry out her wishes, and the funds were eventually transferred to the Abandoned Property Division.

Upshaw was asked to provide a Probate Court decree naming him the successor trustee, which he obtained after filing falsified documentation with the probate court.

Employees of the Treasurer’s Office contacted law enforcement after they discovered several suspect features of the documents – including the strikingly similar signatures of Jannini and two witnesses.

Further investigation revealed that the documents were dated Nov. 10, 1984, but were notarized and bore the raised seal of a notary public who was not appointed until four years later in 1988.  State Police investigators recovered the notary seal used to forge the documents from Upshaw’s then-home in Millbury.

Upshaw was arrested on Oct. 28, 2010 in the Suffolk case.  Goldberger proved that – while Upshaw was out on bail in the Suffolk case – Upshaw went on to make a similar attempt to claim the contents of an abandoned bank account belonging to an Iowa man who died in 2005.

The Iowa State Treasurer’s Office received a forged trust agreement in November 2011 naming Upshaw as trustee and the beneficiary of approximately $134,000 held in the man’s bank account at the time of his death.  Employees of the Iowa Treasurer’s Office were suspicious of the document and sent a letter to the Lynn, Massachusetts, address Upshaw provided to request additional information.  Upshaw responded by sending a certification that the trust was genuine, signed by Upshaw under the pains and penalties of perjury.

He was indicted in Essex County in June 2012.

Upshaw was never able to access the funds left behind by either of the deceased.  However, none of the causes that Jannini, the deceased Winthrop doctor, sought to support had yet to benefit from the abandoned charitable trust, either.  With the guidance of Jannini’s descendants, Coakley’s office was able to distribute the $1.6 million trust in accordance with Jannini’s wishes.  Jannini’s longtime parish – Saint John the Evangelist Church in Winthrop – received $15,000.  The remaining funds were split evenly between Brandeis University in order to provide pre-med scholarships and the Crittenton Women’s Union, where they will be used to assist young single mothers to achieve financial independence.

“This defendant sought to defraud the estate of Dr. Jannini and steal from worthy causes,” AG Coakley said. “We are pleased that due to this collaborative effort, those funds have now been donated for charitable, religious, and educational purposes consistent with Dr. Jannini’s interests and values.”

In addition to efforts by staff assigned to the offices of the Suffolk County and Essex County district attorneys and the Attorney General, the Iowa Treasurer’s Office; Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office in Iowa; Polk County, Iowa, District Attorney; and Massachusetts State troopers assigned to the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit all played a role in the successful cases against Upshaw.

Upshaw was represented in Suffolk County by attorney John Moss, Jr., and in Essex County by Chris Norris.  He will return to Lawrence Superior Court on Tuesday for sentencing before Judge Robert Ullmann.

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All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.