‘No more trusts:’ Fort Myers woman’s special needs trust drained, new trustee named for non-profit that’s missing $100M

‘No more trusts:’ Fort Myers woman’s special needs trust drained, new trustee named for non-profit that’s missing $100M

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal judge has appointed a trustee to manage a local non-profit facing bankruptcy and allegations of missing money.

The Center for Special Needs Trust Administration promised to safeguard money meant to help provide for disabled people throughout their lives. 8 On Your Side has revealed the center’s founder stands accused of loaning himself 100 million dollars and never repaying it.

A Fort Myers family said it was a battle to get the money to care for Sarah Hall to begin with.

“This is the most the most disabled you can be, there isn’t a degree beyond this,” said Theresa Schlosser, Sarah’s mom.

Sarah needs around-the-clock care. The expected year 2000 crash came unexpectedly for Schlosser.

“She was involved in a wreck in the year 2000 when everyone thought the world would crash; there’s didn’t, ours did,” said Schlosser.

Sarah was 18 years old and 10 weeks pregnant at the time.

“She was driven under a parked semi at 60 mph,” said Schlosser.

A miracle happened six and a half months later.

“She’s the first person in Florida to give birth naturally while in a coma. She pushed my grandson out like she was awake,” said Schlosser.

Sarah is a fighter who battled cancer, survived the crash, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Sarah is now 41, and he is 22.

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“He is the parent, and she is the child,” said Schlosser about her grandson. “He is the most loving, kind, gentle person that I know.”

“It pretty much means the world to me. I’ve done this since I was about 10,” said Sarahson Hall, Sarah’s son.

The car crash led to a lawsuit, which resulted in Sarah receiving a settlement and monthly annuity payments so her family could take care of her for the rest of her life.

“My lawyers advised me to put the money with the center, which I did in 2003,” said Schlosser. “I didn’t think twice about it. I trusted these people.”

Two months ago, Schlosser needed to buy a new wheelchair for Sarah, so she called the center.

“How much have I managed to save?” Schlosser recalls asking the center.

The center told her there was $192,000 in her daughter’s trust. Weeks later, Schlosser was in shock when she received a letter from the Center for Special Needs Trust Administration. That’s when she found out the center filed for bankruptcy on February 9.

“Out of 192,000, they took $181,000,” said Schlosser.

According to the bankruptcy filing, between 2009 and 2020, the center’s founder, Leo Govoni, got the center to loan 100 million dollars to his company, Boston Finance Group. The loan was to be repaid back by January 1, 2017, but the center said that never happened.

Records claim it wasn’t until Govoni’s daughter resigned and left an unsigned letter in April 2022 that the center’s board of directors found out about the loan. But two weeks ago, that same board resigned. Govoni was gone. The center had hired attorneys to find the money and initiate the bankruptcy.

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“I trusted them,” said Schlosser. “I gave them an open dollar for them to take my daughter’s money and do whatever they wanted to do with it and invest it in themselves.”

When it was known to the center, and they were taking action to protect the victims, somehow more money still went missing. Sarah was left with about $10,000.

“How in your conscience do you decide to take what is helping her to live every day the best that she can live and take it away? Where do you find that in your soul?” said Schlosser.

Last week, a federal judge appointed a Chapter 11 Trustee to run the center’s operations. Attorney Michel Goldberg of the Akerman law firm was named as the Trustee. According to the Akerman website, Goldberg chairs his firm’s Fraud and Recovery Practice, “an experienced team of lawyers focused on unraveling high-profile investor fraud, including Ponzi schemes.”

But Schlosser believes it’s too late.

“No more trusts,” she said. “This is a system that obviously does not work, and it is potentially harmful to the very people that was it was established for.”

According to the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, there is a hearing at the Federal Courthouse in Tampa on Thursday. This is the first time we’re expecting to see all the key players involved in this case in person.

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