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Glendale philanthropist at center of dispute over will

The owner of a Glendale BMW dealership and the children of a deceased man who once owned a portion of the property on Brand Boulevard on which it sits are embroiled in multiple legal battles relating to his wills as well as alleged elder abuse.

A San Bernardino Superior Court judge recently invalidated a 2009 will that gave the land to Pacific BMW owner and prominent philanthropist David Ho, Jr. The two sides are scheduled to meet for a mandatory settlement conference next week to hash out disagreements over previous wills.

Judge Tara Reilly found that Julius Shartsis was delusional and incapacitated around the time he signed the 2009 will that cut out his children and gave his property, including the land at 716-722 S. Brand Blvd., family photographs, silver, and other items to Ho.

Ho has filed an appeal of the decision.

A 2013 elder-abuse lawsuit filed by the children alleging Ho committed fraud and financial abuse, was moved to San Bernardino Superior Court last month from Los Angeles. In court documents, Ho has denied the claims.

"What [the children] want is to defend their father," said Melissa Fox, an attorney for Shartsis' daughter, Linda Shartsis-Bronken. "He was manipulated for so many years, but the only thing you can get out of the court system is the money and the property. You can't fix things in any other way."

Ho's attorney, Jerry Kay, declined to comment on the court cases.

Shartsis committed suicide in his Victorville home on Sept. 29, 2011. He was 79.

Shartsis told others he was co-owner of Pacific BMW, though he never was, court documents show.

According to his wills, he had three children, but only two, Shartsis-Bronken and Gary Shartsis, are involved in the pending legal issues. He said he was estranged from the two, though he spent holidays with them and kept regular contact. In the days before his death, Shartsis' daughter emailed him multiple times to check in, court transcripts show.

In his suicide note, Julius Shartsis asked that Ho be called upon his death and "no one else." "I am his partner," he wrote.

Ho, in a court deposition, said Julius Shartsis was his friend, but never his business partner.

Ho is on the advisory board of Ascencia, Glendale's largest homeless services provider, and the nonprofit's intake center is named after Ho's grandfather. Ho's dealership has also supported the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, according to news reports.

After Julius Shartsis died, Ho went to his Victorville home and removed valuables before notifying the children, Ho said during a court deposition. Ho notified Gary Shartsis of his father's death four days later.

Gary Shartsis of Tujunga and Shartsis-Bronken of Lake Tahoe alleged during the will proceedings that Ho manipulated their father and committed fraud, but those claims were dismissed in 2012. The children plan to appeal that decision, Fox said.

In legal documents, Ho said Julius Shartsis was "displeased" with his children. In a handwritten letter, he told Ho he did not understand "all of the contents" of his will, but he wanted to exclude his children. They "are not honest and are my friends only for what they can get when I die," Shartsis wrote.

But the judge found Julius Shartsis had delusional beliefs about his children, Ho and his role at Pacific BMW.

"There is absolutely no evidence that you were vultures," she told the children during a court hearing last year, adding that Julius Shartsis' top priorities were his business, property and money.

He was suicidal at least three times, claustrophobic, neurotic, obsessive compulsive and severely paranoid, Reilly said. He exhibited signs of bizarre behavior, such as lining the walls of his home with photos of himself and of his computer, she said.

But Ho, in court documents, attributed the oddities to Julius Shartsis' "quirky nature" not mental health problems.

The two met in 1982 when Ho opened Pacific BMW next to Julius Shartsis' auto repair business, court records show. Ho began leasing land from Julius Shartsis in 1986. In 2002, the two men agreed to a 99-year lease with monthly payments of $7,500 with no annual increases. When Julius Shartsis died, the lease stated, the land would go to Ho.

In 2008, the dealership owner hosted a grand opening celebrating a roughly $20-million renovation that crossed property lines.

Ho was included in wills stretching back to 1986. At that time, Julius Shartsis gave Ho the opportunity to purchase the leased land when he died as well as giving him a significant portion of his remaining property. Ten years later, another will had similar provisions. Around that time, Pacific BMW began paying for a leased BMW for Julius Shartsis, according to court documents.

Wills from 2001 and 2002 gave the Brand Boulevard land to Ho and 85% of the estate to him, too. The remaining 15% was to be divided equally between Julius Shartsis' children.

All the wills required Julius Shartsis be buried in a waterproof vault with a can of Budweiser beer, a carton of Pall Mall cigarettes and a spinning fishing rod.

Julius Shartsis would complain that he had no money to pay for medical treatments — he had knee and back pain — even though in 2006, he gave Ho an unguaranteed loan of $850,000 with a 5.5% annual interest rate. That increased two years later to a $1-million loan with a 3.75% annual interest rate.

According to court documents, the children said Julius Shartsis gave Ho the unguaranteed loan because he was convinced that Pacific BMW was in financial trouble, but Ho said that Julius Shartsis requested the loan because his bank wouldn't give him a high enough interest rate.

"Sit down and talk," the judge told both sides, according to court transcripts. "Because where you go from here if you do not is to continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars litigating this."

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