Richard Rampell, the accountant for nearly three decades to legendary litigator Robert Montgomery, said one of the main concerns of the Palm Beach philanthropist as he battled cancer was that his wife, Mary, would be exploited after his death.
Rampell said those fears were realized this month when Minnesota authorities charged his oft-troubled daughter, Courtnay Montgomery, with five counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult by siphoning off more than $188,000 from her mother, who suffers from dementia.
“This is a very sad state of affairs,” Rampell said. “This is exactly what was worried about and that he had to protect Mary. Things have unravelled just as he feared.”
Montgomery is scheduled to appear Sept. 7 in court in Rochester, Minn., to answer the charges, but prosecutors could face a daunting task of proving intent of a woman who has lived off her wealthy parents her whole life, according to a source close to the case.
Mary Montgomery receives more than $1.5 million every four months from tobacco-fee payments stemming from one of her husband’s crowning courtroom achievements, the landmark case that forced tobacco companies to pay $11.3 billion to Florida. Robert Montgomery died in 2008 at age 78.
His widow is a renowned socialite and was still a fixture on the island until this past year when she went to visit her daughter in Minnesota. Courtnay Montgomery abruptly fired her mother’s two travelling caregivers, as well as the staff at her mother’s Palm Beach mansion, and kept her mother in Minnesota.
Rampell’s concern brought Olmsted County Sheriff deputies out to check on the well-being of the 85-year-old on Oct. 27.
Courtnay ended up arrested after a tussle with a sheriff investigator in which she kicked, screamed and tried to bite him. Deputies at the time said they were trepidatious because Courtnay was known to possess firearms. “If you enter without authorization, I will stand my ground,” she told deputies armed with a search warrant, according to a charging complaint.
Following the incident, Courtnay ended up sentenced to two years of probation and Mary was put in a temporary protective guardianship. Mother and daughter headed back to Palm Beach in December, living on the island and seen dining at The Breakers.
In March, in a proceeding closed to the public, Mary Montgomery was found to be incapacitated by a Palm Beach County judge and put in a protective guardianship yet again.
Courtnay did not return phone calls for comment on Tuesday, but she contacted The Palm Beach Post this past month to complain about the professional guardian moving her mother out of the mansion. She also disputed reports that she was adopted by the influential couple.
A source close to the guardianship said that Mary Montgomery was moved out of her mansion this summer after disputes with Courtnay over her mother’s care, and is doing well. Under Mary Montgomery’s will, her fortune is to go to her daughter when she passes, so efforts to recoup the $188,000 would only be temporary.
Olmsted County Sheriff Investigator David Rikhus, the law enforcement officer who arrested Courtnay in October, said in a probable cause statement that Mary Montgomery in November was found to have been “severely cognitively impaired for some time.” He saw 16 vehicles at Courtnay’s Rochester home, all of which appeared to be in new and excellent condition.
The financial exploitation allegedly started in August when Courtnay, using her mother’s power of attorney, closed several bank accounts and moved the money into one under her control, Rikhus wrote. Courtnay told bank officers that the move was necessary because a former caregiver had stolen money from her mother.
Courtnay made a complaint to Palm Beach police about the stolen money, but investigators said she could not produce any documentation or evidence to corroborate her allegations, Rikhus stated.
The Minnesota sheriff’s investigator cites checks written out of Mary Montgomery’s accounts to car and motorcycle dealers for $136,642. The vehicles include a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Cadillac Escalade.
Investigators also found that Mary Montgomery’s credit card bill for January 2016 was in excess of $900,000, including payment for private charter jet flights between Palm Beach and Rochester of more than $52,000.
Courtnay’s first arrest occurred in 1995, when Palm Beach police found her passed out in her Cadillac, holding 24 rocks of crack cocaine.
She moved to Minnesota after her father started receiving regular treatment at the Mayo Clinic for cancer.