$17 million in trust funds vanish, clients pissed

When 84-year-old John Oliver passed away, the Saratoga veterinarian’s life savings was meant to be divided among his family and several charities around the world.

However, the longtime boyfriend of Silicon Valley estate manager Christine Backhouse — former office controller Leo “Josh” Kennedy — is accused of having other plans. An FBI investigation into Kennedy is underway, who is suspected in dozens of unauthorized wire transfers totaling $17.3 million from 35 individual trust accounts.

According to court records, Backhouse insists she only learned in February about the unauthorized wire transfers allegedly completed by Kennedy in 2010 and 2011 after becoming suspicious about inconsistencies with her bank statements and her office’s internal record-keeping program.

Backhouse is cooperating with the investigation and has not been accused of a crime, according to the Merc.

The Oliver family have already lost roughly $1.5 million, while other victims are also trying to get back millions that disappeared from trust funds overseen by Backhouse. Karee Oliver told the Merc:

“They’ve stolen from my father’s legacy. He was trying to leave a bulk of his estate to Mother Teresa and Doctors Without Borders — that’s who they’ve stolen from.”

According to public records, Kennedy purchased a $1.2 million luxury home in Washington in 2010 —  the same year his name is alleged to have began appearing on unauthorized wire transfers from the Heritage Bank of Commerce in San Jose.

Shortly after Karee Oliver found out about the unauthorized wire transfers, she tracked them to a Bellevue, Wash. firm and visited the address, only to find an empty office.

Through all the issues and a pending FBI investigation, victims are puzzled at how Backhouse is still licensed to do business. Backhouse oversees a total of $104 million among dozens of clients.

Russ Heimrich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said there is currently not enough evidence to push officials to suspend her license.

However, Backhouse’s clients feel that more proactive measures could have been taken. Saratoga property manager Linda Houston told the Merc:

“In short order I’m going to be redoing my trust and I’m going to put it in the hands of one of my kids and then have them slug it out. I feel that she was hardworking and I’m going to use the word ‘honest’ — at the same time I feel her license should be pulled.”