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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

DA may have let "guardian" Patience Bristol
take the rap for her ex-boss Jared Shafer

Was there a secret quid pro quo contained in Bristol's plea bargain?
Was Bristol coerced into not incriminating her ex-boss in
exchange for dropping twenty felony charges?

"The District Attorney recommended less than
maximum sentence" - Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez

         DA Steve Wolfson                          "guardian" Patience Bristol                  "guardian" Jared Shafer

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
June 2, 2014

LAS VEGAS - When for-hire guardian Patience Bristol was handcuffed and led out of court last Wednesday morning, it may have been one of the luckiest days of her life! Instead of spending dozens of years in prison, a deal was cut so she can get out in three years or less.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez had her hands tied by a plea bargain cut by Bristol's attorney Warran Geller with DA Steve Wolfson who dropped twenty of twenty-one felony charges requested by Las Vegas Metro Police. At the end, Judge Gonzalez gave Bristol the harshest sentence she could - three to eight years in the Nevada Women's Correctional Center in North Las Vegas - based on the one remaining category B felony count of Exploitation of Older or Vulnerable Person that Wolfson allowed in his stipulated sentence.  Courts are usually bound by valid stipulations and are required to enforce them.

However, Patience Bristol did not exploit just one older or vulnerable person. She ripped off dozens during the ten years she was employed by Jared Shafer, the owner of Professional Fiduciaries of Southern Nevada, Inc. (PFSN), the company given full power of attorney by certain Clark County Family Court judges to control the persons and property of well-to-do wards of the court who have no relatives living in Nevada to provide them care and manage their assets.

Jared Shafer has not yet been charged with a crime.

Bristol was a case worker for Shafer as well as a certified guardian. At the beginning of an unnecessary guardianship, Rebecca Schultz, the daughter of then-91 year old Guadalupe Olvera, in 2010 tried to warn Bristol about her job when she realized her WW2 hero father was being financially exploited by Shafer and Bristol. Schultz told INSIDE VEGAS  "I was aware that Bristol was over billing my father, but she was only 34 at the time, I tried to save her before things got out of hand.  I felt bad for her young son if something should happen to his mom." Schultz told Bristol; ?You're still young, get out of this business while you still can before its too late.? Bristol didn't heed her words.

In the plea bargain stage of Bristol's case, DA Wolfson dropped eight felony counts of burglary in the 1st degree, three felony counts of obtaining money under false pretenses, and four felony counts of embezzlement of elderly or vulnerable persons, crimes that police requested Bristol be prosecuted for committing.

Courts look with favor on stipulations because they save time and simplify matters that must be resolved, i.e., stipulations save taxpayer's money. Also, prison crowding, sentence reductions for satisfactory prison behavior, and earned time may result in the early release of prisoners. However, it seemed to many that Bristol was stipulated a suspiciously light sentence for robbing literally dozens of PFSN's elderly and disabled "wards," many who were veterans, mercilessly converting their life savings, pensions, personal possessions, and family's inheritances, all happening right under the nose of Jared Shafer. (Check out the bizarre reactions of Shafer and his Family Court Judge in this 1 minute 27 second court video when attorneys for a PFSN victim ask the whereabouts of over $400,000.00 missing from their client's account: )

Conspicuously missing from the courtroom Wednesday was Shafer, and DA Steve Wolfson who had not taken the time to interview victims.

Judge Gonzalez listened intensely for almost an hour as victims told their emotion filled stories of how Bristol stole their loved one's valuables, often times while the ward was sleeping. Three included Shafer and PFSN in their statements as being a party to the thievery. Several testified about being threatened if they complained to local, state, or federal authorities including the Veterans Administration, that family members would be cut off from visiting their loved one. The representative of one victim said that the ward was completely isolated from her family and told that they no longer loved her. Another victim described Bristol eating her food, sleeping on her couch, and stealing her birthday and Christmas presents. She later discovered that her check book and jewelry were missing.

All victims interviewed by INSIDE VEGAS stated that they were either referred to PFSN, Inc. by attorney John Dawson with the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm, or by Clark County Family Court Judges Jon Norheim, William Voy, Charles Hoskins, or their secretaries.  In several instances, court officials reportedly supplied family members with Shafer's unlisted home phone number. For a court official to recommend a private business is a violation of Nevada Law, but the state Attorney General refused to take action when informed.  In Dawson's case, he conducts regular seminars in two local Sun City club houses, and there finds out who in the audience have sizable estates and no relatives living in Nevada. That's when the alleged "death watch" begins. After the passing of a spouse, Dawson is known to refer the wealthy widow or widower directly to PFSN, Inc., or to certain Family Court Judges who recommend PFSN, Inc for "temporary guardianship" during their time of grief.  Again, in the event the survivor has no relative living in Nevada who can provide care for them, the law mandating a private guardian be appointed by a Family Court Judge comes into play, a law custom written by Shafer years ago when he was the elected Clark County Public Guardian. The PFSN "temporary" guardianship usually lasts until the surviving spouse passes away, during which time many family members report that their loved one's assets were secretly and illegally converted to Shafer's use while he was court appointed with the full power of attorney over his ward's person and fortune. If the ward's family tries to terminate a PFSN guardianship, the court invariably refuses their request after Shafer accuses the family member of being either "unfit," or an "exploiter."

After the final victim spoke at Bristol's sentencing, the Judge handed down the harshest possible sentence she could within the constraints imposed by the DA. Had the twenty additional charges not been dropped, Bristol could have faced decades in prison.

Was there a secret quid pro quo contained in Bristol's plea bargain? Was she coerced into not incriminating her politically connected ex-boss in exchange for dropping twenty felony charges? Or was Wolfson mainly concerned for Bristol's safety while in prison knowing how persons convicted of abusing children, the elderly, or the disabled are treated by their fellow inmates.

My suspicions piqued when Judge Gonzalez impulsively stated: "The DA requested a less than maximum sentence."   The Judge let loose the statement after three of four victims spoke, each incriminating Bristol's employer Shafer and his PFSN firm, and asking for a maximum sentence for Bristol.  The Judge's statement about Wolfson's request made her appear to be apologizing for being in the awkward position of having to honor a stipulated sentence, especially after hearing victim's sworn testimony about such heartless crimes.

Dr. Ron Dutton tearfully told the court that Bristol stole assets from his brother Jean Dutton that were intended to pay for his living in a group home, but Jean is now forced to be on welfare at taxpayer's expense.  "I thought she was going to be my brother's guardian angel." Dr. Dutton then described Bristol's Mercedes Benz paid for from money she stole, and asked the court to render a maximum sentence.

Victim and ward Kristina Berger testified that Bristol told her "I love you. I will be with you always. You will never have to worry."

Later when Berger discovered that Bristol had stolen over $400,000.00 of her assets, Berger said Bristol threatened her, and said "No one will ever believe you. I'm the only one you can trust." Berger testified that she feared Bristol could put her in a mental institution if she complained about the missing $400,000.00.

Then Berger told the court "She threatened me," and that she feared for her life. "She frightens me. I feared they are going to kill me if I don't get better." "They took everything I had." Berger also asked for the maximum sentence. (Berger has sued Shafer to recover her funds.)

At the end of the victim's statements, the Judge handed down the light sentence. Judge Gonzalez also ordered Bristol to pay $160,480.00 in restitution that may never be paid.

So far, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto have failed to investigate any citizen complaints concerning ongoing abuse of elderly and vulnerable clients of PFSN Inc. and Jared Shafer. Then after police conducted an exhaustive investigation and presented Wolfson with 21 valid charges, the DA draconically discounted their efforts. But because most of the crimes involve civil rights violations, this serious case is expected to supersede local politics and draw the attention of federal law enforcement officials in the near future.

Jared Shafer has not responded to repeated requests by INSIDE VEGAS to tell his side of this story.

Minutes of Bristol's sentencing hearing:

05/28/2014 9:00 AM
Mr. Geller informed the Court this is a stipulated sentence. Victim Speakers Sworn & Testified. Exhibits presented and admitted (see worksheet). DEFT. BRISTOL ADJUDGED GUILTY of EXPLOITATION OF ELDERLY/VULNERABLE PERSON (F). COURT ORDERED, in addition to the $25.00 Administrative Assessment fee, a $3.00 DNA Collection fee, a $150.00 DNA Analysis fee including testing to determine genetic markers and Pay Restitution of $160,480.19 total, Deft. SENTENCED to a MAXIMUM of EIGHT (8) YEARS and MINIMUM of THREE (3) YEARS in the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDC). Deft to receive 86 DAYS credit time served. RESTITUTION BREAKDOWN: $102,511.19 to AHN TI LY & LUNG VAN NGUYEN, $38,494.00 to JEAN DUTTON, $19,475.00 to KRISTINA BERGER BOND, if any, EXONERATED.



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