Former McDonough County sheriff candidate Justin Lundgren was back in court regarding his late mother's estate. Lundgren's siblings are asking a judge to remove him as executor, citing $76,000 in online bank transfers from the estate account to his personal account.
Lundgren's mother passed away in June, 2016. According to her will, her estate is to be divided between her four children: Justin, Jamie, Jon, and Jan Nell and one grandchild, Kenneth.
Justin Lundgren testified that money transfers were made to reimburse him for cat care and maintenance costs, including food and litter, for the five cats his mother left him.
Lundgren said that his mother loved the cats more than she loved her children and that he is taking care of them the way she would want him to. Lundgren testified that his siblings wanted him to get rid of the animals but that he has had a difficult time finding new homes for them.
Lundgren moved the cats to his former home in Tennessee (IL) where a couple of them live in a heated garage and the others live outside. Lundgren said he drives from Macomb to Tennessee to feed the cats three times a day and factors in gas costs when calculating his expenses. His attorney submitted into evidence photos of the cats outside eating cat food out of the can.
Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ewing from Fulton County is presiding over the case. He asked the lawyers for advisement about Lundgren’s fiduciary responsibility regarding the cats. Judge Ewing noted the cats were not mentioned in the will and Lundgren was left no direction about how to care for them.
Lundgren’s Attorney Sharbel Rantisi argued again that Lundgren was doing what his mother would have wanted.
The siblings' attorney, Liz Duvall, argued that Lundgren failed to follow his judiciary responsibility of accounting for every penny. She also said that if the cats were that important to the mother, she would have mentioned them in the will.
Duvall presented case law saying that the costs of animal care should be reasonable. She said spending $76,000 on five cats within a two year period is not reasonable.
Lundgren’s lawyer said Lundgren didn’t spend that much on cat care and maintenance. He cited a figure close to $16,000 based off of accounting Lundgren entered into evidence, although it only reference transfers made between January through June of 2017 and did not include corresponding receipts.
Judge Ewing said that $76,000 is an unreasonable expenditure for five cats and asked Lundgren and his attorney to provide documentation and explanation by the end of April as to what the money was spent on -- and he said it cannot be about the cats.
In the meantime, Lundgren remains the executor of his mother's will and a court order is in effect to stop any spending of estate assets.
Tri States Public Radio previously reported on the accusations made by Lundgren's siblings that he misappropriated funds because Lundgren was running for McDonough County sheriff and if elected would have managed the department’s $2.5 million budget.
Tri States Public Radio became aware of the estate battle during a routine background check of the candidates running for elected office which includes searching their name in court records.
Lundgren lost in the Republican primary. During the court hearing, Lundgren’s attorney argued that the complaints made by his siblings were politically motivated as a means of supporting one of his opponents, Nick Petitgout (who won the primary). His attorney also asked the siblings individually, while they were on the stand, which of them spoke to Tri States Public Radio regarding the estate battle.
The siblings denied their complaints were politically motivated and their attorney argued that their request is that Lundgren provide receipts detailing why the online bank transfers were made to his personal account.