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Family: attorney stole $367,000 from elderly mother

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GOODLETTSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Middle Tennessee woman is suing the disbarred attorney, whom she believes stole $367,000 from her elderly mother's bank accounts.

Teresa Lyle is still grieving the death of her mother, Nannie Malone, who died in a nursing home in October.

Now the family is even more upset, after seeing canceled checks that indicate Malone's court-appointed conservator, John E. Clemmons, wrote some 60 unauthorized checks from Malone's account to himself.

That, all while Clemmons was telling the family that Malone was out of money, and could not pay for the cancer drugs she needed.

"The medicine wouldn't have cured her, I'm not that naive. But it would have helped to keep it at bay," said Teresa Lyle, Malone's daughter.

"He said she didn't have any money," Lyle said.

Bank records from Malone's account show that Clemmons wrote checks to himself beginning in 2008, just two days after he was appointed by Judge Randy Kennedy to be Malone's conservator.

Clemmons was obligated to turn in annual accounting statements to the Probate Master's office. That office is charged with looking over the accounting sheets, and checking them for accuracy.

The Malone family wonders why no one questioned Clemmons' checks to himself.

Probate Master Bob Bradshaw admits the oversight is embarrassing.

"I hate that happened," Bradshaw said.

"Apparently, it just didn't catch my attention when it came through," he said.

Malone's family hired attorney Michael Hoskins to sue Clemmons.

Hoskins called this a catastrophic failure of the Probate Court system.

"Had the clerk looked at the bank statements, it would have been clear he was stealing money, right from the very beginning," Hoskins said.

Clemmons was filing hand-written ledgers with Probate Court, which are purported to be an accounting of what happened to Malone's million-dollar estate.

The hand-written ledgers don't list the checks Clemmons wrote to himself.

Hoskins says had the Probate Master compared the ledgers to the actual bank statements, the fraud could have been stopped in 2008.

"This could have been caught when he filed his first accounting, which would have saved the Malone estate more than $250,000," Hoskins said.

Malone's daughters are suing Clemmons; but they also blame the system that let this happen.

"We never knew where a penny of that money went. We weren't allowed to," Lyle said.

"The reports that he turned in, even I, who have no business sense at all, I could have caught it myself," she said.

The allegations against Clemmons have been turned over to the Davidson County District Attorney's office. Clemmons is already being prosecuted in Rutherford County in a similar conservatorship case.

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