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Millbury man charged in will scam

Lays claim to $1.5m of late doctor’s assets

By David Abel
Globe Staff / November 19, 2010

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A Suffolk County grand jury has indicted a Millbury man on charges he produced a bogus will and posed fraudulently as the rightful heir to nearly $1.5 million in the unclaimed assets of a dead Winthrop doctor, prosecutors said yesterday.

The grand jury indicted Kevin L. Upshaw, 42, this week on charges he presented the state treasurer’s abandoned property division with documents purporting to be the will and trust agreement of the late Dr. Rose Jannini. The charges include three counts of forgery, three counts of presenting false documents, and single counts of attempted larceny over $250 and giving a false statement under the penalties of perjury.

“We’re not aware of any connection linking Upshaw with Rose Jannini,’’ said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, which learned of the case from the state treasurer’s office. “As far as we can tell, these links were entirely fabricated by the defendant.’’

Michael Roitman, a Boston lawyer appointed to represent Upshaw, said he is waiting to see the evidence.

“Mr. Upshaw is presumed to be innocent,’’ Roitman said, “and I’m looking forward to seeing the evidence that the state has to prove the charges they have indicted him for.’’

Officials in the treasurer’s office said Jannini’s leftover bank accounts and securities are among more than 7 million property records and $1.8 billion in assets that the state is holding because officials have been unable to locate their rightful beneficiaries.

Last year, the treasurer’s office received about 80,000 new unclaimed property records. Officials were able to find the rightful owners of about 50 percent of those assets, returning nearly $60 million to their heirs.

Tom McAnespie, assistant treasurer for abandoned property, said he cannot recall a similar case of someone going so far to pass himself off as a rightful heir.

“We don’t see something this egregious very often,’’ he said. “This was very clear from the outset that there was fraudulent intent.’’

Prosecutors said Upshaw first sought the unclaimed assets March 15, when he presented the abandoned property division with the false documents and said he was claiming the property left by Jannini, who died in 1986.

The documents Upshaw gave named Ruth Greer as a personal representative and himself as the successor representative, prosecutors said. The documents said the assets from Jannini’s estate were to have gone into a trust, which named Greer and Upshaw as the beneficiaries and trustees.

Prosecutors said Upshaw also produced a death certificate for Greer.

But employees in the treasurer’s office sensed something was wrong when they noticed that the documents were notarized in Connecticut, rather than Massachusetts, and that they did not include the notary’s commission expiration date. They also found similarities in the signatures of Jannini and her two witnesses, authorities said.

Prosecutors said investigators later found Jannini’s will in Suffolk Probate Court records, which was two years after the document submitted by Upshaw, and it does not name Greer or Upshaw. They also pointed out that Jannini’s signature on her 1986 will was significantly different from the one on the 1984 documents Upshaw presented.

In addition, State Police detectives found the will and trusts Upshaw presented had the raised seal of a notary who was not appointed until 1988, four years after the date on the documents.

On March 29, Upshaw submitted a copy of the allegedly false trust in Suffolk Probate Court, along with a document stating that he was its sole living trustee and beneficiary, prosecutors said. Three months later, prosecutors said, the court issued a decree naming Upshaw the successor trustee, and in September of this year, he sent the decree to the treasurer’s office, with additional trust documents purportedly signed by Jannini in 1984, notarized by the same Connecticut notary public.

Last month, State Police arrested Upshaw on his way to the abandoned property division for a meeting. The same day, with a warrant to enter his home, they found the Connecticut seal used to notarize the documents he had presented to the treasurer’s office and probate court.

Prosecutors said they have sought Jannini’s relatives, but have yet to find any.

Upshaw was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court Oct. 29 and is being held at the Suffolk County Jail on $5,000 cash bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned next week on the new charges, issued by the grand jury Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court.

Jannini died at age 87, after working as a physician for 65 years and serving as a trustee of Winthrop Hospital. She was honored in 1980 by President Carter and the Massachusetts Medical Society for her years as a practicing family physician.

In explaining her devotion to medicine, she often stated that “helping people, bringing people into the world . . . seeing those patients married and having children of their own . . . it’s rewarding to know you have done some good and to know you have done the best you could,’’ according to an obituary in the Globe.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.