For other former Graham clients, the missing money compounds the tragedy of earlier losses.
In August 2010, Micaela Miller, 9, Noah Miller, 5, and Madison Miller, 18 months, were in the back seat of their family’s F-350 pickup truck on their way to a cousin’s birthday party in Ontario, California. Their mother, Sheila Miller, 39, an accomplished musician and artist, was driving. Their father, Kenneth Miller, 37, a veteran iron worker and supervisor, was asleep in the front passenger seat.
As they headed to the California border near Primm, a tire blew out and the truck slammed into paving equipment on the side of Interstate 15.
Both parents died in the crash. Micaela suffered a punctured lung, lacerated liver, broken ribs and a perforated bowel. Noah wound up with a broken clavicle and little Madison escaped serious injury.
All three children recovered and were placed in the custody of their grandmother, Victoria Pappalardo, and her husband, Tony Pappalardo, who moved them into their modest home in Ontario. They turned to Graham to oversee the $1 million trust fund set up with insurance money from the parents.
The fund was supposed to help the Pappalardos raise the children and pay for their education. But almost from the start Graham balked at giving them the money they needed, the couple said.
When they sought money to buy a Ford Expedition with room for the children, Graham refused to give it to them, the Pappalardos said. Graham told them they needed to take out a loan, with the trust as collateral.
He gave the same advice when they asked for cash to add a fourth bedroom to their home, but the grandparents said they later learned the advice was phony and Graham should have given them access to the trust funds.
When they asked for $30,000 for expenses to take care of the children, Graham also found reason not to give them the money, the Pappalardos said. Even a court order failed to persuade Graham to turn over funds.
“I had to retire and apply for social security because we weren’t getting any money,” the 66-year-old Victoria Pappalardo said. “He was always giving us excuses.”
Then, she learned that Graham had shut down his office.
“I was numb. I was in absolute disbelief,” Pappalardo said. “Kenny and Sheila worked very hard to make sure their children were cared for. To have this man steal like this, it’s so hard to wrap your mind around something like this — that this man could do that.”
Pappalardo said the theft of her grandchildren’s trust was even harder to understand because Graham and his staff gave her the impression that he was concerned about the kids.
“They said you worry about taking care of the children,” she explained. “We’ll take care of your finances.”
But Tony Pappalardo, 55, said that was only a front.
“He said he was doing everything in the best interest of the children, but he did everything in his own best interest. He was only thinking about himself,” Pappalardo said.
Victoria Pappalardo said her disbelief turned into anger after she saw Graham quoted in a Review-Journal story portraying himself as a victim of a bad economy.
“He’s not a victim,” she said. “He embezzled from orphans and needy people just to sustain his lifestyle.”
Losing their parents has been tough on the children, the Pappalardos said. All three are in counseling to help them cope without their parents.
The sudden disappearance of money has robbed other victims of their sense of security.
This fund was set up at the request of readers to this article. We are so thankful for the Readers interest in helping our Grandchildren's continuing education.
Micaela has been accepted to the National Honors Society, Noah is an honor roll student and Madison is doing well in her studies. Their Mother Sheila Miller Taught Art at the Nevada school district. The children excel for her and their father Kenny Miller who got up every day and went to work sick or not to provide the best for his Family.
We miss them so much.