Galina Baron, 65, married Charlie Juzumas, 89, with the promise that he’d never have to go to a nursing home. He didn’t know it yet, but he had just become entangled in a predatory marriage.
She promised to be a caring bride who’d keep him out of a nursing home.
When the wedding was done, Galina Baron left her 89-year-old husband at a Toronto subway stop.
Charlie Juzumas took the TTC home, alone. He didn’t know it yet, but he had just become entangled in a predatory marriage.
Juzumas was Baron’s sixth or maybe eighth husband. She had trouble remembering them all, according to a 2012 Ontario Superior Court judgment filed after Juzumas tried to reclaim the house she took from him.
This story is based on Justice Susan Lang’s court judgment, an affidavit and interviews. Baron and her son, Yevgeni, refused to comment.
Juzumas was the husband who got away, but it was a precarious escape.
When Baron married him on Sept. 27, 2007, the 65-year-old bride had been offering caretaking to vulnerable widowers with the expectation of a mention in their will, according to the judgment.
Age was not Juzumas’ weakness. He did yard work, planted flowers and seemed entirely self-sufficient, although he once accepted a tenant’s offer to climb a ladder and remove storm windows. His vulnerability came from a fear of dying in a nursing home.
It’s unclear if Baron knew this when she knocked on his door in 2006. Both were born in Lithuania, 24 years apart. Baron spoke the language of his home country and offered housework.
He was reluctant but she kept coming back. As her visits increased to three times a week, he started to see her as a saviour who’d keep him at home.
Juzumas’ wife, Malvina, died a decade earlier and they had no children, but his memories lived in this house. It was a three-storey Victorian, with stained-glass windows near the west Toronto neighbourhood of Beaconsfield.
Baron pushed for marriage, saying she merely wanted a widow’s pension. She clinched the deal by promising he’d never go to a nursing home.
The day before they married, Baron and Juzumas went to see a lawyer named Stan Mamak in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. The court judgment detailed Mamak’s actions.
In a recent interview, Mamak said he did his best to independently represent Juzumas’ interests and believed the elderly man was a willing participant. “Just because someone is old doesn’t mean they are infirm,” he said.
Without meeting Juzumas separately to ask his wishes, Mamak wrote a will making Baron the sole executor and beneficiary of his estate, the judgment found.
Baron never did move in, but she spent her daytime visits berating him, according to witness testimony, the judgment said. She got joint access to his bank account. He paid her $800 a month for housekeeping and she took all but $100 of his tenants’ $1,300 monthly rent, said the judgment, which found Baron had “unclean hands.”
According to her affidavit, his new tenant, Pamela Detlor, studied Juzumas’ reaction to Baron. The moment Baron marched through his front door, Juzumas’ shoulders slumped, Detlor said. He was so afraid to speak that she initially thought he was mute. Later, he’d confide his troubles in Detlor saying, “I am a stupid old man,” according to the judgment.
Two years after the wedding, Juzumas realized he’d made a mistake, both in marriage and in the will that gave Baron his estate. He went to a different lawyer who wrote a new will. (The judgment doesn’t say why he didn’t choose Mamak, the original lawyer who wrote the first will of their marriage.) Baron would now inherit $10,000. The rest was bequeathed to his niece in Lithuania. The bulk of his estate came from his home, worth roughly $600,000 in 2009.
Baron soon discovered this act of rebellion. She went to see Mamak. The judgment states that Mamak believed it was Baron who was the victim, a “wronged, vulnerable spouse/caregiver.”
Mamak told the Star that Baron described Juzumas as a violent man, saying she claimed he threatened to cut her in half with a sword.
“In retrospect, I feel she was probably trying to manipulate my image of her — that she was an innocent victim,” Mamak said.
Together, Baron and Mamak came up with the idea to transfer the title of the house to her son, Yevgeni, the judgment found. Mamak said he improved the agreement, letting Juzumas live in the house with his name on title until his death.
A meeting was arranged to add Baron’s son Yevgeni to the house title. That morning, 91-year-old Juzumas ate a bowl of Baron’s soup, becoming “dizzy, as if I’d taken a strong drink,” he later told court.
Tired and disoriented, Juzumas signed the papers, giving away his financial security to a young man he disliked. The judgment later found there was no evidence Mamak spoke to Juzumas without Baron in the room, nor did he tell him the new agreement was “virtually eviscerating” his recent will. (Mamak said he believes he spoke to Juzumas independently but has no notes to prove it.)
When Juzumas learned of Baron’s ruse through a legal followup letter two weeks later, Juzumas’ long-time neighbour, Ferne Sinkins, drove him to the lawyer’s office. Baron arrived a few minutes later, but was told to wait. Juzumas emerged from his meeting with Mamak saying he was told the transfer was “in the computer; it can’t be changed,” the judgment said.
He returned the following week with the same request. Again, Baron appeared — an “unexplained coincidence,” the judge found. (Mamak denied tipping off Baron, saying she was probably following Juzumas.) This time, she demanded a new will and power of attorney over his medical care.
At home, his tenant thought he was “doped up.” His neighbour questioned the large gash on his forehead. Juzumas said he passed out, adding that Baron told him he fell down the stairs. He didn’t want to go to the hospital, fearing he’d be taken to a nursing home. During a rare evening visit, Baron called an ambulance claiming Juzumas was sick. His tenant, Detlor, told the attendants of Baron’s abuse.
Questioned by hospital staff, Baron called Juzumas a violent, pathological liar who should be sent to a nursing home. Instead, staff sent him home where helpful tenant Detlor insisted he change the locks. The day Baron came to get a few possessions left on the porch, Juzumas lay flat on the couch so she couldn’t see him.
Juzumas took his case to court. Baron fought back. The judge gave him a divorce and reversed the transfer of his house, blaming it on Baron and Yevgeni’s “undue influence of a vulnerable elder.”
Two years later, Juzumas sold his home for $910,000 and, neighbours said, returned to Lithuania with his niece.
Source: Toronto Star Moira Welsh Investigative News reporter, Published on Sun Apr 17 2016