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Does Elder Abuse Victim have Obligation of $25 Million Gift?

Regena Cole’s Long Beach Superior Court lawsuit alleged financial elder abuse, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. She seeks at least $500,000 in damages and a court order declaring the agreement to make a $25 million donation to music education at Cal State Long Beach void.

Press-Telegram’s recent article entitled “Woman, 95, disputes $25 million gift agreement to benefit CSULB” reports that Cole says those involved in allegedly deceiving her “used their relationship with her, her weakened physical and mental health and her dependence and trust in others, to intimidate and control Cole so that they could exert control and dominion over her and her property to gain an alleged irrevocable cash contribution of $25 million to CSULB.”

The agreement requires her to make the donation or have the sum considered a debt to her estate after she dies.

“Further, the alleged gift agreement was drafted and put forward solely by defendants for their direct benefit by isolating Cole from her family and friends, including long-time trusted financial advisors and attorneys… ” the suit states.

Over the past decade, Cole has gradually suffered from memory lapses and moments of confusion, especially after late morning, which cause her to be susceptible and vulnerable to manipulation and isolation, the lawsuit says.

The CSULB 49er Foundation is a nonprofit group that manages endowment funds, donation, and estate planning gifts to Cal State Long Beach. In 2020, Michele Cesca, who at the time served as an agent of the foundation and as vice president of university relations and development for CSULB, used her perceived friendship to gain access and control over Cole, the suit states. Over time, Cesca and others allegedly coerced the 95-year-old into signing the gift agreement. Cesca did not show the alleged donation to Cole’s attorneys until months after the signing, the suit details.

Because the signatures of three university representatives appear after the date of Cole’s alleged penning of her name on Aug. 19, 2020 —including that of CSULB President Jane Close Conoley — there is no sign that any of the alleged signings by representatives from CSULB and the 49er Foundation were executed on the same day, the suit states. The attorneys for Cole argue that there also is no indication that the donation was properly witnessed, notarized, and disclosed in full to Cole.

In November 2020, Cesca contacted Cole’s attorneys in an email that “completely misrepresented key facts in this matter,” the suit states. In addition, a confidential attorney-client communication produced by university attorneys purporting to document the donation was in fact only a draft outline of a preliminary discussion between the plaintiff and her lawyer regarding a matching gift agreement and does not state she agreed to an irrevocable cash contribution,” the suit states.

Not until recently were Cole’s attorneys able to “uncover the paper trail of fraud committed by Defendants and their actions to improperly cause the acts of elder abuse, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment against Cole through deception, manipulation, undue coercion, fraud and concealment,” the suit says.

Reference: Press-Telegram (Nov. 24, 2022) “Woman, 95, disputes $25 million gift agreement to benefit CSULB”