In Nevada, exploitation of a vulnerable person gives rise to both civil and criminal liability. “…if an older person or a vulnerable person suffers a personal injury or death that is caused by abuse or neglect or suffers a loss of money or property caused by exploitation, the person who caused the injury, death or loss is liable to the older person or vulnerable person for two times the actual damages incurred by the older person or vulnerable person.” NRS 41.1395(1).
According to briefs filed by the District Attorney’s office, Del Mencarelli and Helen Natko were close friends who lived together on at least a part time basis. These are the allegations made by the District Attorney’s office in one of their briefs:
The allegations in the instant case are that between the dates of August 1, 2011 and August 31, 2013 Helen Natko exploited Delford Mencarelli of $25,000.00, and then another $195,000.00 later in the timeframe. The evidence has shown and will show the following circumstances.
Delford Mencarelli is the father of Terri Black. Terri Black is Delford Mencarelli’s only child. Terri Black is married to Richard Black, and they have a son named Daniel Black. Daniel Black is Delford Mencarelli’s grandson.
Delford Mencarelli’s wife passed in approximately 1980. Helen Natko’s husband similarly passed away in the same general timeframe. Both Delford Mencarelli and Helen Natko lived in Pennsylvania, but in different towns. Delford Mencarelli and Helen Natko never resided in the same home in Pennsylvania, but they were friends and dated each other between 1982 and 1992.
In 1992, Helen Natko moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. She sold her home in Pennsylvania and purchased a home in Las Vegas. Delford Mencarelli remained and continued to live in Pennsylvania.
Between 1992 and 2002 Delford Mencarelli travels every other year during the cold months of the year to Las Vegas and stays with Helen Natko. This accounts for 4 to 5 trips to Las Vegas during that decade span.
In 2000, Delford Mencarelli adds his daughter Terri Black as a joint account holder over his Citizen’s bank accounts. This is done as a precautionary measure as her father is advancing in age.
In 2002, Delford Mencarelli decides to move to Las Vegas and will reside with Helen Natko. Delford Mencarelli sells his Pennsylvania home, and arranges to pay rent to Helen Natko in the amount of $700/mo. Terri Black states that the Delford Mencarelli’s estate including the sale of the Pennsylvania home at that time was approximately $500,000.00.
At the time of the move, Delford Mencarelli is approximately 72 years old. In addition to his savings, he receives a pension from the Power Company, and social security. The pension is approximately $928.00, the social security payment is approximately $1211.00.
While Delford Mencarelli is living in Las Vegas, Nevada his daughter and family visit him about once a year, normally coinciding with Spring Break due to Terri’s son being in school. In addition to the visits, Terri speaks with her father normally once a week, usually on the weekends.
In 2008 a Plus Credit Union bank account is opened in Las Vegas by the Delford Mencarelli. From this point forward his pension check is deposited and cashed through this account, and the social security check still goes to Citizens Bank.
In April of 2011 Terri and Rick Black fly Delford Mencarelli and Helen Natko to visit them in North Carolina for Easter. Delford Mencarelli at this time was 80 years old, and was noticeably slowing down. Helen Natko claims that Delford Mencarelli needs hearing aids, and tries to make Delford Mencarelli wear them – Delford Mencarelli refuses and denies hearing issues.
During time alone with the Delford Mencarelli, Terri reiterates long term planning and care goals. She suggests that they (Rick and Terri) could purchase a condo for Delford Mencarelli and Helen Natko to live in in North Carolina so that they could be closer. Delford Mencarelli refuses the offer, as does Helen Natko when separately proposed to her.
As can be seen during the April 2011 visit, Helen Natko and Delford Mencarelli bicker and argue quite a bit.
On July 19,2011 Dr. Shauna Christiansen-Thistle conducts a Mini Mental Status exam on Delford Mencarelli. He scored a 12 out of 30. Dr. Christiansen-Thistle refers Delford Mencarelli to a Neurologist. Dr. Christiansen-Thistle said that Delford Mencarelli was not capable of balancing a checkbook, writing out bills, or being organized in a fashion that it would take to manage his financial condition.
On August 4,2011 $20,000.00 is transferred from Citizen’s bank to plus Credit Union, Terri Black is unaware and not made aware that this has occurred.
On August 15, 2011 $5,000.00 is withdrawn from Delford Mencarelli’s Plus Credit Union account. Terri Black is unaware and not made aware that this has occurred.
On October 14, 2011 Delford Mencarelli was seen by Dr. Howard Ehrenfeld, a Neurologist. Delford scored a 13 out of 30 on the Mini Mental Status Exam. Dr. Ehrenfeld notes that Delford Mencarelli has had difficulty with his memory for about three years, and that his significant other handles the finances.
On November 1,2011 $15,000.00 is withdrawn from Delford Mencarelli’s Plus Credit Union account. Terri Black is unaware and not made aware that this has occurred. In May of 2012 Delford Mencarelli and Helen Natko travel to Pittsburg to visit each other’s relatives. Delford Mencarelli is hospitalized during the stay due to complications with medication and his diabetes. Terri Black is only made aware of Delford Mencarelli’s hospitalization due to calling her Aunt. After several attempts to call Helen Natko, she finally answers and explains that he was in the hospital.
In July 2012 in Las Vegas, Delford Mencarelli is hospitalized in Las Vegas. Terri Black is never notified by Helen Natko that her father was in the hospital.
On July 23, 2012 $150,000.00 is transferred from Citizens Bank to the Plus Credit Union. On the same date, Helen Natko is added as joint account holder with Delford Mencarelli. On September 5, 2012 $5,000.00 is withdrawn from Delford Mencarelli’s Plus Credit Union account. Terri Black is unaware and not made aware that this has occurred.
In March of2013, Helen Natko calls Terri and says, ‘Come get your father – he hasn’t paid rent this month’. Terri finds this odd, because Helen Natko is known to bring Delford Mencarelli to the bank to cash his pension check, and he hands over the $700.00. Terri spoke to Helen Natko the next day, she explained that it was just a bad day – they are ok. Terri expressed that she was more than willing to take her father to live with her in North Carolina.
On April 26, 2013 $50,000.00 is transferred from Citizen’s Bank to Delford’s Plus Credit Union Account (now joint with Helen).
On June 4, 2013 a $500 check is received by Daniel Black allegedly from Delford Mencarelli for graduation from high school. Terri Black immediately recognizes that it is not Delford Mencarelli’s handwriting on the check. Terri was also puzzled because Delford always sent a card and cash, not a check.
On or around June 15,2013 Terri Black went to the Pittsburg area to attend a funeral. Because ofthe geographic location of Citizens bank, she is finally able to go to a branch and request statements. While viewing the statements from Citizens Bank, she discovers disbursements of $50,000 twice (one returned due to non-sufficient funds).
Upon reviewing earlier statements she discovers transactions of$20,000 and $150,000.
On June 22, 2013 Terri Black calls Delford Mencarelli. Terri spoke about the funeral and made other small talk with her father, and then approached the subject of the large
15 money transfers. Terri asks about the $200,000 leaving Citizen’s bank. Delford says emphatically and repeatedly “no, all my money is in Citizen’s Bank”. Helen Natko is also on the phone, and chimes in first ‘we moved the money’ suggesting it to Delford. Helen then accuses Terri, stating ‘why should you have it all?’ Helen Natko says, ‘come get your father, I am putting him on a plane’. Terri explained after several calls that she would come get her father the next day.
Still on June 22, 2013 Terri calls LVMPD after the events transpire to do a well check on Delford.
On June 23,2013 Terri and Richard Black arrive in Las Vegas with a one-way ticket for Delford to go to North Carolina with them. Helen Natko refuses to release Delford, and will not even allow Terri to speak in private with her father. Delford looks disheveled. The police are unable or unwilling to assist.
On June 27, 2013 Terri and Richard Black file a petition for appointment of guardian based upon the abovementioned conduct.
On July 5, 2013 Helen Natko transfers $195,000.00 from Delford Mencarelli’s Plus Credit Union Account to an account where the only account holder is Helen Natko.
On August 19, 2013 Delford Mencarelli is evaluated again by Dr. Ehrenfeld. He scores a 10 out of 30 on the Mini Mental Status Exam. On April 17, 2014 the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department begins an investigation into Elderly Exploitation regarding Helen Natko’s actions with the Delford Mencarelli’s finances.
Douglas Winters, CPA will testify that during the relevant years, Helen Natko’s gambling, and more importantly gambling losses far outpaced her income.
A guardianship trial started on Jun 5, 2014 and took place over the course of 11 non-consecutive days. During the guardianship trial the hearing master, Jon Noeheim, allowed hearsay evidence of the Delford Mencarelli’s wishes to be presented by Helen Natko and Denise Comastro (private professional guardian), but restricted Terri and Richard Black and Delford’s other relatives from presenting hearsay of the Delford Mencarelli’s wishes.
On July 11, 2014 the Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim issued a written decision ordering that Helen Natko to have sole guardianship over the person and estate of Delford Mencarelli. The order is finalized on August 5, 2014.
On June 1,2015 Commissioner Norheim is removed from all guardianship matters by the Eighth Judicial District Court. Subsequently, Judge Charles Hoskins is removed from being an alternate or appellate judge over guardianship cases. These changes were due to long standing complaints from the Blacks and others about the way Commissioner Norheim conducted proceedings, decisions, and many alleged frauds being perpetrated against wards by guardians. Guardianship cases were reassigned to Judge Cynthia Dianne Steele. Additionally, Chief Justice Hardesty sets up a commission to make improvements to the guardianship process in Nevada. On June 23,2015 Judge Steele held her first hearing in Delford Mencarelli guardianship case. Judge Steele reversed and changed the guardianship order to make Helen Natko and Terri Black co-guardians.
On July 3, 2015 Delford Mencarelli passed away.