Attorney under scrutiny over elderly sisters’ life savings

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Supreme Court Disciplinary Board has decided to suspend a Providence attorney in a three-year legal battle over what is left of the life savings of two Cranston sisters, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Yolanda D’Amore was 99 and her sister Ida was 93 when the dispute involving more than $133,000 and attorney Martin S. Malinou surfaced in 2014.

The two women have since passed away, according to their niece Barbara Neri.

“We are frustrated,” Neri said. “And we are hurt by this. It seems like it’s been going on forever.”

Malinou would not offer any details about his side of the case, saying, “It’s not appropriate at this point.”

“This matter is still before the courts,” Malinou said. “This will be handled with additional court filings.”

The suspension from the practice of law is “for a minimum of ninety days” according to an order filed in federal court Monday.

In the middle of the dispute is $133,107 that was in the D’Amore sisters’ joint account when this case started three years ago.

At the time, Neri and the sisters’ nephew Donald D’Amore were appointed co-guardians for their aunts’ finances.

According to Monday’s filing, Malinou did not disclose the sisters’ account with the $133,107 in it, but it was eventually discovered with a subpoena after Neri and Donald D’Amore were appointed co-guardians.

The document states Malinou “did not advise the co-guardians or the probate court that these funds had come into his possession.”

After a number of motions, Malinou returned $100,000 to the registry of the superior court account in 2015, where it remains today.

He was ordered in state court to pay a $100 penalty per day until he returned the rest of the money.

He still hasn’t done that, according to the document.

That potential penalty has added up to about $76,000.

Malinou has not been charged.

Rhode Island State Police Director of Public Information Laura Meade Kirk said the agency has received a complaint and is investigating.

Neri said despite the stress the never-ending case has caused, she has some empathy for Malinou, who is now in his 80’s. But she’s also angry.

“Part of me feels bad for him because of his age,” she said, “but the other part of me thinks he’s done a lot of damage.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau