Bloomberg Law
March 6, 2023, 10:01 AM

Guardians’ Dark Side: Lax Rules Open the Vulnerable to Abuse

Ronnie Greene
Ronnie Greene
Chief Investigative Reporter
Holly Barker
Holly Barker
Legal Reporter

A Bloomberg Law investigation found the US guardianship industry in peril. The arrangements often are dogged by ripe greed, scant scrutiny, scattershot rules, and flimsy protections for the vulnerable people put under court-ordered control.

Read the full investigation: Guardians’ Dark Side: Lax Rules Open the Vulnerable to Abuse.

It’s big business, with guardians managing an estimated $50 billion-plus in assets. Experts estimate there are 1.5 million active adult guardianship and conservatorship cases.

“The insiders have no interest in optimizing this system. They love its dysfunction because in this dysfunction they make millions or billions of dollars,” said Rick Black, a former corporate executive who has become a full-time guardian reformer after helping expose abuse against his father-in-law in Nevada.

“The system is a profit center. It is not benevolent. It is not altruistic.”

Britney Spears’ conservatorship dispute brought the US guardianship industry to the public eye, but the system more frequently entraps thousands more Americans without a platform to fight back.

Lorraine Mendiola was desperate to help her adult son, an aspiring electrical engineer battling mental health demons that sent him spiraling through psychiatric hospitals. So in 2011, heeding advice from a psychiatrist, she sought to become his guardian.

When Mendiola got to court, her lawyer told her a private company, Ayudando Guardians, could oversee Matthew Mendiola’s well-being and finances. Ayudando put her son in a boarding home, where he was beaten in the face and swarmed by bedbugs. Later Mendiola found her son placed in an incomplete garage with exposed wiring, no shower, and no fire escape.

Matthew Mendiola spent years under guardianship of Ayudando Guardians. His mother’s attorney persuaded her Ayudando could handle the guardianship’s complexities, and “you can just be the mom.”
Photographer: Minesh Bacrania/Bloomberg

A Department of Justice investigation eventually unmasked Ayudando as a fraudulent house of cards and secured lengthy prison sentences for the company’s directors. Its collapse reveals the dark world of adult guardianships in the US. Judges, lawyers, and state officials ignored warning signs about a company the system long held in high esteem.

The full story is available here: Guardians’ Dark Side: Lax Rules Open the Vulnerable to Abuse.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ronnie Greene at; Holly Barker in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gary Harki at; Bernie Kohn at

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