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Police, D.A. join inquiry into possible financial exploitation of heiress

Detectives in Palos Verdes Estates and prosecutors in the district attorney's elder abuse unit are examining the handling of Susan Strong Davis' finances by a Hollywood money manager.

April 14, 2012|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times

Police and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office have joined the investigation into the possible financial exploitation of an heiress by a Hollywood business manager.

Detectives from Palos Verdes Estates, where 87-year-old Susan Strong Davis lives, met with prosecutors in the district attorney's elder abuse unit Thursday to discuss potential criminal aspects in the handling of her finances.

The management of her affairs by John E. Larkin, a veteran entertainment money manager, was already the subject of a probe by social workers from the county's Adult Protective Services.

The investigations came in response to a Times article detailing how Davis, housebound and suffering from what relatives said was dementia, spent millions in recent years to buy a vacant lot in Beverly Hills and begin construction of a four-bedroom home. Larkin, who lives two blocks from the site, sold her the land at a $300,000 profit and is supervising the project.

Palos Verdes Estates police visited Davis' residence and later met with prosecutors. "We've been in contact with [the police], but it is in the initial stages of investigation," said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Larkin did not return a message seeking comment. He is one of two trustees in charge of Davis' family trust fund, valued last year at about $11 million, and manages her personal finances. In 2005, she gave $600,000 to a charity connected to the Kabbalah Centre, an L.A.-based spiritual organization under IRS investigation.

Davis' relatives said she was lucid at the time of the gift. They said she never mentioned the center or expressed any interest in religion. Larkin is a devout student of the center's brand of ancient Jewish mysticism and serves on a committee overseeing its finances.

Davis' trust fund provided her with a substantial annual income — nearly $1 million in 2010. Public records show steps taken in her name to secure access to millions in additional funds.

She used her Palos Verdes Estates home to get a $1.7-million line of credit in 2006, according to real estate filings. A year earlier, she and Larkin got a $500,000 line of credit using a waterside home they co-owned in Oxnard as collateral, the filings show. It was unclear if any money was borrowed.

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