Breach of trust
Attica family says court-appointed guardian took $32,000 in checks
February 13, 2008ATTICA — For the past several months Shannon Marie Pitcher has had three squares a day and a roof over her head without having to fork over a dime—which is more than Robert Field and his mom Tonya had been able to count on until recently.
Pitcher, 36, is currently a guest of the Robert Scott Correctional Facility in Plymouth, Michigan—serving 23 months to 10 years for embezzlement of a vulnerable adult.
Genesee county officials say Pitcher, an attorney, swindled more than $280,000 from clients she was appointed by the court to act as guardian or conservator. Just like she was supposed to do for the Fields when appointed by Lapeer County Com-munity Mental Health sometime in the mid-to late-summer of 2007.
"She was supposed to help us out with day-to-day needs and it ended up that we had bills that were going unpaid and because of her we went without," Robert, who turned 18 last week, says.
Today, the Fields believe Pitcher took $32,000 in Social Security payments that were due to Tonya from her father's death.
In addition, Robert says all of his and Tonya's Social Security income was funnelled through Pitcher's Flint office, which created problems for them that they didn't know about until it was too late.
"We ended up having bills that went unpaid," Robert says. "We had our heat and lights shut off, we went for five months without a phone and because of her we had to eat in soup kitchens."
Robert explains that they made several calls to Pitcher's office, which were ignored. As their guardian, Pitcher did give Robert her cell phone number, but when he called it he regretted doing so.
"It was pretty late, it was about 11:30 at night but I needed to ask her about these things and she got real mad at us," he says. "I called because we didn't have anything in the house to eat, bills were going unpaid and she said she wasn't going to handle our case anymore."
Robert says he and his mom paid a visit to Pitcher's office last August, shortly after she'd been assigned to their case. Right off the bat, he says he felt that something wasn't right.
"I thought it was strange that she had checkbooks laying around her office," he says. "Hundreds of them on the floors, chairs, boxes full of checkbooks. I didn't say anything to her but when we got back into the car I said something to my mom that something wasn't right."
As things worsened for the Fields—and Pitcher continued to ignore them—Robert says he contacted Community Mental Health.
"They said they really couldn't find out what was going on, that we had to call Shannon and get things straightened out."
Shortly thereafter, the Fields were contacted by law enforcement. Robert says Det. Sgt. Mark Reaves of the Lapeer State Police post let them know he was investigating a series of Social Security checks totalling $32,000 that were sent to Pitcher on behalf of the Fields.
"We didn't even know we had back pay," Robert says. "My mom mentioned something to Shannon about her father getting back pay from Social Security, but Shannon said she didn't know anything about it."
Reaves says his investigation is ongoing, but if there is any way he can get the Fields their money back, he intends to do so.
"I'm currently waiting for information from the Genesee County Prosecutor's office," Reaves says. "There were some (of Pitcher's) bank accounts seized but I have no idea what's in them and if anything will be left. Any-thing else is just speculation at this point."
As for Robert, he says he's left only to speculate one thing.
"I don't know how someone who is supposed to help someone, who has a degree in law and who's a lawyer and gets way more money than we do has to go take money from people living on Social Security," he says. "She was really nice in person. What it ends up is she was a bad person who tried to make it like she was nice."
Pitcher pleaded guilty to the Genesee County charges in November. As part of her sentence, she lost her law license and is forever banned from practicing law in Michigan or any other state.
Robert says they're still in debt, but things have improved greatly since guardianship has been granted to a relative.