Betty J. Coleman is free on bail and is working on a plea deal, according to court records, after allegedly lying about her criminal past in order to be named guardian of her granddaughter’s estate – a $50,000 life insurance inheritance.
The court case raises concerns around how minor’s estates are handled and the fiduciary duties of their guardians.
According to civil and criminal charges, within five months, Coleman had spent all the money, on alcohol, cigarettes, wigs, back rent and dozens of cash withdrawals.
All the while, her granddaughter was sleeping on an uninflated air mattress and living in an unfurnished room with another relative.
In 2013, Coleman applied to Milwaukee County Probate Court to be appointed guardian of the girl's new estate and admitted under oath she was convicted of using her parents' credit card without their consent.
However, she failed to mention four convictions for theft, forgery and identity theft she had under another name.
In April, she was appointed guardian and received two cheques a month later totaling $50,000.
She was ordered to deposit $20,000 that wasn’t to be touched until the girl turned 18, with the rest of the funds managed in the girl’s interests.
But Coleman began spending the money on herself immediately and tried to buy time with the probate court by forging bank records.
Coleman’s transgressions were first punished in 2013 in probate court. A year later her granddaughter won a judgment for $150,000 on claims of theft, conversion, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and other claims.
Now Coleman is facing embezzlement and contempt of court charges.
A woman has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and contempt of court on allegations she stole $50,000 from her granddaughter.