An elderly widow claims in court that a Catholic priest defrauded her of $284,000 after her husband died.
Michalena Jones, 79, sued The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles and Father Peter Valdez, in Superior Court.
Jones claims that Valdez befriended her after her husband died in 2003, then “enticed her” to give him $160,000 to buy himself a house.
That done, she says, “Valdez wrongfully placed his name [on] various checking accounts in which Jones had funds” and paid his mortgage out of those joint accounts until 2010.
The complaint continues: “Additionally, Valdez at various times would place his name on, and take his name off, the title of the property. This was done for purposes of re-financing the property at which time Valdez would secret, appropriate and retain the money from the re-finance. Defendant Valdez was given additional sums [of] money over the course of years from 2003 to 2010, in an amount in excess of $284,000.00.”
Jones says she met Valdez after her husband died, when she volunteered to work at her church, St. Mary’s in Palmdale. “Valdez, in his capacity as Jones’ Catholic priest, and in his official capacity as Catholic priest and under color of authority, made certain representations to plaintiff and enticed her to give money to Valdez in part for the purchase of a home for Valdez,” in Downey.
Jones says he handed over $160,000 to Valdez for the house, in the form of two cashier’s checks.
Jones describes herself in the complaint as a “devout Catholic,” who “developed a great admiration, trust, reverence, respect and obedience to, Roman Catholic clergy, who occupied positions of great influence and persuasion as holy men and authority figures. Plaintiff therefore was encouraged to trust, respect and obey Catholic priests, including defendant Valdez.”
Jones claims that the “defendant Archdiocese was aware of Valdez’s activity and condoned and otherwise approved of Valdez’s activity. Defendant Archdiocese was at all times aware of defendant Valdez’s activity and was specifically made aware of these activities by another Catholic priest who complained to the office of the Clergy in Los Angeles. Defendant Archdiocese, knowing that these events took place from 2003 through 2010 acted recklessly in failing to stop such wrongful activities and in failing to warn plaintiff and her family.” Jones seeks compensatory and punitive damages for elder financial abuse, fraud, conversion and negligent hiring, supervision and retention.
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