Jefferson Co. clerk accused of not following state law

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 6, 2012


CHARLES TOWN – The Jefferson County Clerk is accused of failing to adequately bond the administrator of a late Washington, D.C., businessman's estate which allowed him to squander nearly half the estate's value.

Jennifer Maghan is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the estate of John J. Warfield. The suit filed July 27 in Jefferson Circuit Court accuses Maghan, 40, of allowing James Packard-Gomez, 43, of Bethesda, Md., who was partners with Warfield in a now-defunct Georgetown salon and spa, to post a bond for significantly less than the full value of the estate as required by state law.

As a result, the suit alleges Packard-Gomez has been to embezzle over $1 million from the estate, and faces related criminal charges.

Exploiting the initiative

According to the suit, Warfield, who previously was from Nauvoo, Ill., died on Feb. 26, 2006, at age 62. In his will dated July 11, 1997, Warfield appointed Henry C. Knox-Dick, a Florida resident to be his estate's executor.

Because Knox-Dick declined to serve as executor, Packard-Gomez asked that he serve as the estate's administrator. Though Warfield's estate was valued at over $2 million and state law requires that executors and administrators post bond "in an amount equal to the full value of the personal estate" and the county clerks confirm they are bonded "at an amount at least double the value of the estate regardless if the assets are in West Virginia," Maghan required Packard-Gomez to post one for $90,000.

According to the suit, after he was able to obtain surety insurance from Traveler's Casualty and Surety Company to cover the bond two days following Warfield's death, the Jefferson County Commission appointed Packard-Gomez administrator on March 3, 2006. Though the suit does not provide specifics, it alleges that shortly following his appointment Packard-Gomez "began misappropriating funds and squandering the estates assets."

In his will, Warfield directed the executor to aid Packard-Gomez in "purchas[ing] my portion of that business in a manner which is both orderly and which preserves the fair market value of those business interests at the time of my death. Along with instructing him to work with Packard-Gomez for up to two years to buy-out his share, Warfield, in his will also instructs the executor "to oversee the management of these business affairs until such time as they have been completely liquidated."

According to Washingtonian magazine, Warfield and Packard-Gomez were partners in J.J. Development, a real estate company. In 2005, Packard-Gomez convinced Warfield to buy a Wisconsin Avenue building as the new location for a salon and spa operated by Edwin Gomez, a celebrity make-up artist, and Packard-Gomez's partner.

However, in October 2010, Packard-Gomez fired Gomez, who was minority partner and creative director of the salon and spa that bore his name, and closed its doors the following January.

According to the suit, by law, Packard-Gomez was to submit an appraisement of the estate within 90 days of qualifying as administrator and Maghan was to send Packard-Gomez notice within six months of his failure to submit the appraisement. Neither occurred.

After three unidentified beneficiaries filed a petition in October 2007 alleging wrongdoing by Packard-Gomez, the Commission referred the matter to David A. DeJarnett, the county's fiduciary supervisor. An appraisement of the estate he conducted on Jan. 18, 2008, identified assets totaling $2,314,832.15.

When the beneficiaries filed objections to the accounting, and renewed their allegations of wrongdoing, DeJarnett held hearings in March and May 2008, and January 2009 before submitting his final report on July 6, 2010. After examining DeJarnett's report on Sept. 7, 2010, the Commission on Oct. 21 ordered Packard-Gomez removed as administrator, and him to repay the estate $1,117,030.09 plus interest.

Also, the Commission appointed Sheriff Robert Shirley as interim administrator. On Nov. 4, 2010, he was replaced by the Bank of Charles Town.

On an unspecified date, Packard-Gomez appealed the Commission's ruling to Jefferson Circuit Court. Finding an "'outrageous breaches of [his] fiduciary duty," Judge David Saunders on June 7, 2011, affirmed the Commission's decision.

According to the suit, following the Commission's Oct. 21, 2010 meeting, the beneficiaries first noticed that Packard-Gomez had not posted bond equal to or in excess of the value of the estate. Immediately, they demanded the $90,000.

Nearly a year later on Sept. 27, Traveler's paid the money to the estate.

Warfield's estate, the suit alleges was damaged as a result of Maghan failing to ensure Packard-Gomez was sufficiently bonded. The estate seeks unspecified damages and interest.

It is represented by Charles Town attorney Stephen G. Skinner. The case is assigned to Saunders.

According to the Jefferson Magistrate Clerk's Office, Packard-Gomez was charged March 2, 2011, on one count of destroying or concealing a will/embezzlement, a felony. He has yet to be arrested since, following closure of the salon and spa, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Maghan, a Republican, was elected to a second term as clerk in 2010.

Jefferson Circuit Court case number 12-C-281, Jefferson Magistrate Court, case number 11-F-250 (Packard-Gomez criminal)

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