Real life fraudster behind Rosamund Pike film character who conned and robbed elderly

Actress Rosamund Pike ruffled feathers talking about America’s “broken legal system” while accepting her Golden Globe – yet she hit the nail right on the head.

The British star referred to private guardianship, which allows officials to take charge of the affairs of the elderly.

Rosamund has learned first hand how the system has led to shocking exploitation of the elderly.

Her character in hit Netflix movie I Care A Lot is based on one of the worst offenders – a monstrous fraudster called April Parks.

The profiteering guardian ruined thousands of lives by taking elderly people from their homes under duress then robbing them blind.

April Lynn Parks was a private, professional guardian appointed by Clark County Family Court to protect hundreds of vulnerable people

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Families later said their parents were effectively kidnapped.

Parks, 55, would consign her victims to care homes, where they were heavily sedated to ensure compliance.

Then she would steal their worldly possessions – often priceless heirlooms – and access hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.

Parks got super rich off her exploits and drove a flashy Pontiac G6 convertible with the personalised plate CRTGRDN – court guardian.

Rosamund Pike's character is based on April Parks, who robbed thousands of vulnerable old people
(Image: Netflix)

And she did it all under the cover of a system that allows legal professionals to take over the lives of those deemed “incompetent” – as Rosamund, 42, referenced in her speech.

The crimes were only exposed after mum-of-three Julie Belshe and her husband Scott, 60, fought a two-year court battle to release her parents from Parks’ iron grip.

Rudy North, then 76, and his wife Rennie, 74, were forced from their plush Las Vegas home and driven 26 miles to the Lakeview Terrace assisted-living facility after Parks forged a document stating they were suffering from dementia.

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Former private guardian April Parks appeared in a Las Vegas courtroom

In an exclusive interview, Julie, 56, revealed: “That scene in the movie is exactly what happened to us except five people took them instead of the two you see in the film.

“Dad kept saying, ‘Where is the court order?’ while Mum broke down in tears. Parks did not have a court order but she told them, ‘Either you come with us to an assisted living facility or we’re going to call the police’.

“She said, ‘You might be arrested or you will go to hospital and be put in the psych ward where you will be separated’.

Julie Belshe’s parents were sent to a care home by Parks
(Image: Julie Belshe/My Story Media)

“My parents could not stand the idea of being apart so they reluctantly agreed. I woke up and called my parents and when they did not answer I called again and again but there was no response.

“I went to their house and my heart went into my stomach because the blinds were down and they weren’t there. I used to talk to my parents every day and they were very happy and in love, so I could not understand why they had disappeared.

"Mum was in a wheelchair and recovering from cancer but they lived like anyone else and by no means had dementia. They lived in a nice house on a golf course and would make breakfast together every morning before Dad read his morning newspaper.

Parks, right, and pals pose in flash cars for a Christmas card

“Their whole world was each other and they had been together since high school. It took me four days to find them and it was agonising – I had no idea whether they were alive or dead.”

Tragically, the Norths were far from her only victims. Parks was one of the most prolific guardians in the US and had over 400 elderly people in her care over 12 years, often juggling 50 to 100 cases at a time.

In public she masqueraded as a caring legal professional – hence the title I Care A Lot – but in reality she was motivated by pure greed.

A crooked physician’s assistant would sign documents showing that her targets could not manage their own affairs, so should be made temporary wards of Clark County Court in Nevada.

A friendly judge then signed off the orders, giving Parks
full control of their finances, estates and medical decisions.

She would start the process of selling their homes and possessions – and even transferring their life savings – moments after they had been bundled into a car and driven to a care home.

Anything she did not consider valuable, including paintings by the Norths’ son Randy, who died in a motorcycle accident aged 33, were dumped in bin bags.

Relatives were often barred from visiting – so grandparents were robbed of vital time with loved ones before passing away.

Urns containing the remains of her dead wards were locked away in a storage container… showing that even death was no escape.

Julie believes her parents would have died in a care home, too, if it had not been for the probing of a local newspaper, the Vegas Voice.

Its interest sparked a media firestorm and in 2015 – 22 months after the Norths were taken – Parks was stripped of her guardianship duties and investigated.

She initially faced 200 charges but eventually pleaded guilty to perjury and a handful of thefts and was jailed for a minimum 16 years.

Her husband Gary Neal Taylor got two years.

Rosamund Pike at the Golden Globes
(Image: Getty)

The pair and business partner Mark Simmons were ordered to repay £300,000 to victims. Clark County official Karen Kelly said at Parks’ 2019 sentencing: “She didn’t see them as people. They were paychecks.”

Blind Herman Mesloh was one of scores of elderly victims to attend her trial and said: “There are some evil people in this world and April Parks is a predator of the worst kind.”

Tragically, Rennie’s health never recovered
and she died in 2019. Rudy died in January after contracting Covid-19.

Julie is now writing a book about the family’s ordeal, raising awareness of the fact that 1.5 million seniors with $273billion in assets are under the control of guardians in the US.

It is statistics like these that inspired Rosamund to say at the Globes: “Finally, maybe I have to thank America’s broken legal system for making it possible to make stories like this.”

Julie said of the actress: “She does a really good job showing how April thought she was this mini-god who ran the world. She treated me like a peasant and I hated her guts, but I have come to realise that she was just one part of a racket that goes all the way to the top.

“Once in a care home, the elderly have less rights than prisoners.

“I couldn’t sleep while this was going on and I just couldn’t believe I was living in a world where people were willing to let this happen. We live in an ageist culture in the US and it’s frustrating because the elderly are seen as disposable here.”