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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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