Last week we launched Undue Influence, the Series. Here’s Episode 2. It’s the story of Lawrence Moretti and his lifelong friend, Rita Casoni, and the close knit neighborhood that is Boston’s North End. When we left them last week, Lawrence, in his late seventies, had begun to suffer some health problems . . .
. . . Rita pitched in to help. Lawrence was lucky, while he had no remaining family, he had a close group of friends around him, all people he had known for decades. Beside Rita and her extended family, he had Teresa Antonelli who had lived in his building for ages and dropped in all the time. He had a close friend, a nun, Mary Bergazzi, who visited, hung out, and handled all his financial affairs. He had a neighborhood attorney, a man he met in a garden party down the street. He had handled the estates of Lawrence’s siblings and did all the legal work necessary for the apartment building. He regularly visited Lawrence outside of work. As did Rena Bucchino who lived around the corner and had visited Lawrence regularly for over twenty years.
In 1989, the lawyer drew up a will that left the apartment building to Rita and set up a life estate in one of the apartments for Teresa. Power of attorney was granted to Rita. Lawrence took care of his great neighborhood family.
As the court put it later, “Moretti enjoyed warm relationships with the members of this trusted circle, conversing comfortably with them and joking with them during their visits.”
In 1990, Lawrence the health problems worsened. He did not want to go into a nursing home, the group of friends pulled together to help … in every way.
We pick up with Rita hiring someone she had counseled at the health center she worked at, Romano Pagliarani, to move in with Lawrence and see to his everyday needs. She thought that it would be good for both men. Romano moved into a spare bedroom, bought groceries, cleaned the house and very quickly, very systematically began to see to it that no one else got in to see Lawrence.
“He’s not feeling well”; “Sorry, he’s sleeping”; “Headed out out his doctor’s office”; excuses slowly became, “He doesn’t want company today”; and finally, “He doesn’t want to see you … I don’t know why, but he doesn’t.”
Lawrence’s friends were cut off from visits and phone calls. Completely. At one point, Pagliarani called the police to come and remove two friends that dropped in and insisted on seeing Lawrence. They left before the police arrived.
Pagliarani began to look for lawyers to change Lawrence’s power of attorney. At least one turned him down. When he finally found one who would meet with him and Lawrence he introduced himself as Lawrence’s interpreter and conducted the interview in Italian – despite the fact that Lawrence was born in the United States and Italian was his second language.
Over a period of weeks, Pagliarani edited documents the lawyer sent over for Lawrence’s approval. They were frequently returned with Pagliarani’s notes all over the margins. When all was said and done, Lawrence executed a new power of attorney, naming, of course, Pagliarani in lieu of Rita. Pagliarani immediately fired Sister Mary and took over all of Lawrence’s finances.
He received a raise.
When Lawrence died in late 1993, it was discovered that he had executed a new will. Everything was left to Pagliarani. Then things got really interesting.