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Couple guilty of stealing from Alzheimer's patient

The Safety Harbor woman had power of attorney over her uncle, who has since died.

By JACOB H. FRIES
Published February 13, 2007


CLEARWATER - A Safety Harbor couple has been found guilty of stealing more than $500,000 from a relative suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Susan and Jim Just, convicted Feb. 2 of exploitation of an elderly or disabled person, now face a maximum of 30 years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 23.

"Based on the amount of money here and the breach of trust ... it warrants a substantial prison sentence," Assistant State Attorney Evan Brodsky said.

Curtis Crider, a Clearwater attorney representing the Just couple, said they planned to appeal.

"It's not really a black-and-white type thing," he said. "It is a family feud over a wealthy uncle's estate."

Susan Just, 59, was given power of attorney over her uncle, Anthony Kishonas, in November 2001, when he began to show signs of dementia related to Alzheimer's, according to arrest documents. Unable to care for themselves, Kishonas and his wife, Genevieve, moved to Florida from Illinois.

Just and her husband then liquidated Kishonas' assets, including mutual funds and his house in Illinois, authorities said. Robert Ulmer, an investigator in the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, has said the couple converted his estate into about $800,000 and then loaned themselves about $300,000 for their head-hunting firm, Just Management Services Inc.

Ulmer traced another $400,000 to personal accounts opened in the couple's names, including $184,000 in a Merrill Lynch brokerage account and $34,000 for a house down payment.

Susan Just's mother, Adeline Piotrowski, reported the case to Clearwater police. Detective Greg Smith and his partner, Detective John Schmalzbauer, took up the investigation and followed the path of the money. Smith later interviewed Jim Just, 59, in August 2003.

Genevieve Kishonas died in April 2002, soon after relocating to Florida. Anthony Kishonas died in February 2004.

Susan Just's sister, Sandra Gonet, 49, of New Port Richey, testified at trial that she urged Susan not to take any money. Gonet says her sister ultimately fired her from Just Management after 22 years.

"We've lost our whole family over this," Gonet said.