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Phoenix News – As Helpless As Children

Phoenix New Times
by Paul Rubin

By most accounts, Legg and Mackey’s relationship was not one of equals. Mackey was about 15 years older than Legg, but he was in awe of the younger man. He referred to Legg as “Himself” and constantly fretted about how Legg would react to something.

Deborah Primock of the Probate Court says Mackey appeared to many to be an honest, caring man.

“I wouldn’t place my worst enemy with some of the private fiduciaries in this town,” Primock says. “I mean the cold-blooded ones who could care less about their wards. I didn’t feel that way about Mr. Mackey. I thought of him as a nice old man who happened to hook up with an attorney with clout.”
But New Times’ investigation shows that Mackey demonstrated allegiance first to Legg, not to the “protected” elderly under his legal care.

“Webber always made a statement,” says Philip Holmes’ wife, Geneva, who worked as an assistant to Mackey for three years. “Wayne is the goose that lays the golden egg.’”

@sub:The Contessa House
@body:It was 1987, and Webber Mackey was giving Wayne Legg a deposition about an elderly woman’s failing health.

“She just laid there with her mouth open and her tongue hanging out, and she couldn’t talk,” Mackey said of Delores Reichwein. “She was very pathetic.”
Wayne Legg had been the Reichweins’ lawyer for years. That March, he had drawn up the Reichweins’ wills, documents that named Mackey as executor of the couple’s estate.

Legg used the deposition to convince a judge to also appoint private fiduciary Mackey as Delores Reichwein’s guardian-conservator. A few months later, another judge appointed Mackey as guardian-conservator for Merlin Reichwein. Legg became the estate’s attorney.

The Reichweins were perfect victims: They had no children and, as far as Legg and Mackey knew, no close family members. (Delores Reichwein’s niece, Dorothy Richards, wouldn’t come into the picture for some time.) And the Reichweins had trusted Wayne Legg for years.

Legg and Mackey soon flooded the Reichwein estate with bills. The two traveled to Iowa together in September 1987 to meet the future beneficiaries at the Masonic lodge in Boone. The pair charged the estate $2,460 for that visit.

In June 1988, Legg and Mackey submitted their first annual set of bills in the Reichwein case. The numbers were astounding: Legg demanded almost $64,000 in fees–about $32,000 each for the two Reichweins. Mackey’s first bill came to $13,263.

The charges added up to far more than anything considered “reasonable” under Arizona law. A review of the itemized bills reveals a rash of double- and overbillings. Still, then-Pro Tem Commissioner Michael Jones approved the charges.

By this year, Jones and other Probate Court colleagues had given their seal of approval to almost $200,000 in attorney and fiduciary fees charged to the Reichwein estate.

“You wonder if those judges ever bothered to even look at the figures those men were charging,” says Dorothy Richards. “I don’t understand how they could go along with this. I told my daughter at one point, ‘They’re really getting to Aunt Delores.’”
In the fall of 1988, the bleeding of the Reichwein estate became more elaborate. That October, Webber Mackey purchased a duplex in the Reichweins’ names on East Contessa Street in Mesa. Legg told associates that Merlin Reichwein had suggested buying it as a way of keeping his wife out of a nursing home. Merlin Reichwein died in November 1988, three weeks after Mackey bought the home in the middle-class neighborhood.

In early 1989, workers tore down the main wall that partitioned the duplex. Legg and Mackey then moved five elderly women, including Delores Reichwein, into the Contessa House, as it was called, from their own homes or from nursing homes.

Several women and a few men moved in and out of the Contessa House over its three-year history; some died there. Legg was the attorney and Mackey the guardian-conservator for all of them.

“These women were lonely and old. They had to trust somebody,” says Betty Cuney, a Santa Paula, California, resident whose late aunt, Blanche Mulligan, moved to the Contessa House in 1989.

Care at the home was good enough that Wayne Legg moved his own mother, Ruth, there in 1991. But care was only part of it.

The group home presented a host of new financial opportunities for Legg and Mackey. They could charge what they wanted for room, board and other services, and they could pocket much of the proceeds. They didn’t have to explain their constant comings and goings, which they billed the estates for.

Many of the residents paid more there than they had at their previous residences–up to $3,200 per month. Even Delores Reichwein paid that amount each month to live in her own house.

In other words, Delores Reichwein was paying for Wayne Legg and Webber Mackey to run a business inside a home they had bought with her money. The Reichwein estate got the short end of the deal; only Legg and Mackey profited.

In 1989, fiduciary Webber Mackey credited the estate with $13,500 in rent from the other residents. That year, Legg and Mackey charged Delores Reichwein’s estate $22,718 for her to live in her own home. Her estate also paid $37,086 for taxes, electricity, cable television, telephone and other expenses.

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