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Inlow heirs accuse Fifth Third, Hall Render of fraud

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A bitter battle between the heirs of former Conseco Inc. executive Lawrence Inlow and the bank and attorneys overseeing his estate will get a hearing Friday in Hamilton County Court.

The Inlow children and their attorneys say they’re being defrauded by Fifth Third Bank, the fiduciary of the estate, and its law firm, Indianapolis-based Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman P.C., “who strive endlessly to drain the Estate of every last dime,” according to a petition filed in June.

According to that document, Fifth Third has paid itself and Hall Render about $1.5 million in fees since Fifth Third was selected by the Inlow children in 2000. Hall Render has filed petitions claiming it is owed another $760,873 for work performed since 2004.

But the Inlows and their law firm, Indianapolis-based Frank & Kraft, have challenged the release of those funds for six years. Marvin Frank, one of the attorneys that represents Jason, Jeremy and Sarah Inlow, and their sister Heather Johnson, declined to comment.

Inlow was chief counsel for Carmel-based Conseco when he was killed by a helicopter rotor in a 1997 accident. His estate was valued at $180 million when he died, and the heirs all received distributions of money following an April 2004 agreement. The Inlows now believe only $600,000 remains in the estate -- more than the fees sought by Hall Render.

But Hall Render attorney David Honig said the fault lies with the Inlows and their lawyers, who have filed a string of legal actions against Fifth Third while at the same time refusing to pay.

“Other than fee petitions, neither Hall Render or Fifth Third have initiated any of the litigation that has extended this case for the past three years,” Honig said in an interview.

At the 9 a.m. hearing Friday before Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation, Honig plans to argue that the Inlows’ latest claims have already been decided by a December ruling in Marion County Court, where legal issues about the Inlow heirs’ trusts were decided.

On Dec. 31, 2009, then-Marion Superior Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that some of Hall Render’s disputed legal work was legitimate and deserved reimbursement.

“We do not like being accused of theft and fraud, particularly when those accusations have been heard in open court and found to be false,” Honig said.

The Inlow heirs and Frank & Kraft have been formally trying to remove Fifth Third as the estate’s representative since April 2009, according to documents that had been under seal in Hamilton County Court.

They argued that Fifth Third had failed to post a required bond and had become a different company after it merged with other banks following its selection by the Inlows. Those arguments were rejected by Judge Nation last year.

But before they were, the Inlows filed a new claim, saying that Fifth Third had proved itself unsuitable as a fiduciary of the estate because it failed to file proper accounting of the estate’s assets and had obtained fees under false pretenses.

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