CHARLES TOWN – A lawsuit seeking more than a million dollars from the Jefferson County Clerk alleges she bonded an estate at a mere fraction of the statutorily required value, allowing a Washington, D.C. man to loot the estate and leave its heirs without a way to collect their inheritance.
The civil complaint, filed by the heirs of John Warfield, claims that Clerk Jennifer Maghan only required the estate’s administrator, James Packard-Gomez, to post a $90,000 bond on an estate valued at $2.3 million in 2008. Packard-Gomez, a former business partner of Warfield’s and the owner of a failed Georgetown hair and makeup salon, was an out-of-state resident and so state law requires a bond of twice the value of the estate.
The $90,000 policy that was posted was less than 2 percent of the $5.6 million bond the estate claims was legally required.
Both Maghan and her defense lawyers, Tracy Eberling, said it would be inappropriate for them to comment on pending litigation.
Packard-Gomez also faces civil and criminal charges in Jefferson County for looting the estate. He is currently a fugitive from justice. A Maryland court ruled in April 2011 that he owes the heirs about $1.4 million.
According to the civil complaint filed against him, Packard-Gomez used Warfield’s investment account as collateral for a $1.1 million short-term loan to complete renovations on a building they had jointly acquired. However, the loan was never repaid and PNC Bank foreclosed on the investment account, which was supposed to be divided among several of Warfield’s heirs, according to his will.
But because the estate was only bonded with a $90,000 Traveler’s Insurance policy, Warfield’s inheritors were largely left empty-handed.
“The procedures that should have been in place to prevent this guy from looting the estate didn’t work,” said Stephen Skinner, the heirs’ attorney. “The number one issue here is that the bond should have been required for the right amount. We can’t have probate function this way. If someone can just walk in off the street and become the administrator of the estate and write checks – if we don’t have protections for the beneficiaries that actually work – then our whole system collapses.”
Skinner said they are still trying to figure out the total amount that Packard-Gomez looted from the estate, but that the figure is probably larger than the $1.1 million loan he defaulted on.
In her response to the civil complaint, Maghan denies any wrongdoing and says she “acted reasonably and in good faith.” It also states that she had no information on the value of the estate beyond that which was provided by Packard-Gomez.
|Packard-Gomez prominent in D.C. life
James Packard-Gomez, the man accused of pillaging the estate of John Warfield, and his former husband, Erwin Gomez-Packard, a makeup artist, were prominent figures in Washington high society. They have been featured in the Washingtonian and Washington Post, and their now-defunct business, Erwin Gomez Salon and Spa, had a client list that reportedly included Barbara and Jenna Bush.