Sunday, March 18, 2012

When Civil Cases Turn Criminal: Trust Administrator Charged With Grand Theft, Perjury and Forgery In Ventura County California

We see numerous cases where there are allegations of wrongdoing in civil litigation.  However, a recent probate case turned criminal. 

On February 13, 2012, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office arrested Geoffrey Charles Sjostrom (DOB 09-25-1954), of Simi Valley, and charged him with nine felony charges, including grand theft, perjury, forgery, and the aggravated white collar crime enhancement. His bail was initially set at $200,000.

The criminal complaint alleges that Mr. Sjostrom was a friend of Francis J. Copland, who died in 2005. Before Mr. Copland died, he prepared a trust and a will, naming Mr. Sjostrom to administer both. In his estate documents, Mr. Copland left all of his property to family members. After Mr. Copland's death, it is alleged that Mr. Sjostrom failed to probate Mr. Copland's will and failed to properly account for Mr. Copland's trust property.

The probate court removed Mr. Sjostrom as trustee and ordered him to account for Mr. Copland's property. At that point, Mr. Sjostrom allegedly filed a sworn declaration claiming Mr. Copland had exhausted his bank accounts when he died. A successor trustee was appointed and discovered this information was false. 

The successor trustee found that Mr. Copland had money in various accounts when he died and that then trustee Mr. Sjostrom methodically took more than $250,000 from those accounts by means of check and ATM withdrawals. If convicted of all charges Sjostrom faces up to 11 years in state prison.

Attorney Commentary: Thus, it is critical to remember that basic criminal law can come in play in civil cases -- especially where there are allegations of misappropriation of funds or pleadings filed under the penalty of perjury. If at certain points in civil or probate litigation there is criminal exposure, it may be time to seek consultation from a criminal attorney and determine when it is time to exercise one's Fifth Amendment rights or attempt to resolve the litigation in order to minimize criminal exposure.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq. Please email Ms. Green at or call her at 213-233-2260 to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.
Any questions or comments  should be directed to Tracy Green, a very experienced criminal defense attorney and civil attorney who understands and is adept at the interplay between the two at

The firm focuses its practice on the representation of businesses and licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, administrative and criminal proceedings. Their website is:


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