The firm we hired to investigate Harold Ganz was located in Washington DC and had been involved in the probe into Watergate twenty years earlier. Vivi and I were both nervous wrecks: first about the safety of our mother, and second about whether or not we’d be able to nail this guy. While we were on the phone daily with detectives, Franyo returned safe and sound from Paris. Predictably, all she could talk about was the wonderful time she’d had with Harold – he’d gone with her to the milliner, to the Louvre, to her favorite bistros and restaurants. If he’d been her hero before, he was now elevated to the status of practically a god.
It didn’t take long for the detectives to find several cases pending against Harold Ganz for fiduciary misconduct. Three or four lawsuits. A history of questionable behavior. Excellent. We had proof the guy was a con man and crook. Now we had to go about the not inconsiderable task of convincing Franyo that her friend was untrustworthy – she’d been duped.
We arrived at her apartment one day late in the spring of 1993 armed with case files against Harold Ganz. We’d already consulted an estate lawyer known for his bravado with ladies like Franyo. To ease matters, he had compiled a very simple bullet list of what could go wrong with an unscrupulous executor. Thank god we had that list because what ensued was a bloodbath. Franyo shouted and screamed, stormed in and out of the room, slammed doors. She would not accept what we had to say. She would not have her friend maligned. Finally I had to take her by the shoulders and in my sternest voice tell her that A) she had a responsibility to manage funds she’d inherited from my father properly, and B) she had a meeting with the new lawyer we’d hired for her that afternoon. And that was it, case closed, no argument.
The new lawyer had her eating out of his hands in five minutes. The most important thing he did that afternoon was write a codicil removing Harold Ganz from Franyo’s will. We left his office with a mother who was diminished in spirit, but at least we knew she was safe… for the time being anyway because, as we learned, there were always dangers surrounding elderly women with looks, money, a nice apartment.
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