In addition to forgery and fraud three additional charges have been filed against a local attorney.
On July 28 local Hobbs defense attorney Ross Bettis was charged with forgery, a fourth-degree felony; and fraud, a misdemeanor after allegedly forging a probate document.
On Monday three additional charges were filed alleging he made several ATM transfers to his own personal bank account using the victim’s ATM card. With the additional charges he now faces forgery, and larceny, both third-degree felonies; forgery, and remote financial units (unlawful use of a debit card), both fourth-degree felonies and fraud, a petty misdemeanor.
On June 16, Lovington Police officers took a report from a Don Kilman, who alleged his name was forged on a probate document filed in the Lea County Probate Court Bettis, according to Kilman, filed the probate document for Ron Kilman’s estate, Don’s father.
Bettis’ history with the Kilmans began when he represented Ron Kilman for almost killing his wife the report states.
According to the redacted criminal complaint, phone calls between Bettis, Kilman and/or members of Bettis’ staff were obtained from the New Mexico Department of Corrections where it was found one of Bettis’ assistants told Ron he had $10,714 in his bank account.
These phone calls were allegedly placed three months before Kilman’s death and there were a total of 58 calls between Ron Kilman and Bettis and/or members of Bettis’ law firm.
Bettis put money in Ron Kilman’s (account) at the Lea County Detention Center, according to the report. Ron’s PERA retirement benefits were originally going to a joint account between Ron Kilman and his wife, but had stopped going to that account.
When Ron Kilman divorced his wife in February 2019, the criminal complaint said Bettis was supposed to make a full accounting of Ron Kilman’s funds but never did. By early 2021, Bettis allegedly told Don Kilman, “I don’t think there was very much – (Bettis’ assistant) will give you a detailed billing and accounting.”
According to the complaint, Bettis allegedly told Don Kilman via text on June 2019, “Your dad did another will in which he left you most of what he has.” Three months later Bettis again stated via text “If anything happens to him (Ron), you’ll get all that he has.”
Bettis allegedly met Don Kilman near Abilene, Texas, where he delivered Ron Kilman’s effects along with his ashes, the report stated. Bettis had received the ashes and effects from the prison.
The redacted complaint states on Sept. 1, 2021 LPD detectives spoke with the office manager of Direct Funeral and Cremation Services in Albuquerque where Ron was cremated.
The office manager told detectives she remembered speaking with Bettis and had documents authorizing the cremation of Ron, which was reportedly signed by Don. When detectives spoke with Don he had no recollection of signing any documents to have his father cremated.
The alleged forged documents have a “Don Kilman” signature on them, which is believed to be forged.
The office manager told detectives she spoke with one of Bettis’ staff in April of 2020 and confirmed that Bettis paid the $1,546 for the cost of Ron’s cremation via Ron’s own credit card (which at that time Bettis was not authorized to use).
“…(the office manager) did not deal with Don Kilman directly, but only received his ‘authorization’ via fax-after she had emailed the cremation authorizing documents to Bettis’ office (Bettis’ staff handled this transaction),” the redacted complaint states. “She then faxed back the forms, with Don Kilman’s supposed signature on them. After viewing samples of Don Kilman’s signature in the search warrant, she stated that in her opinion, she didn’t believe they were similar to those on the authorization forms she received back from Bettis’ law office.”
Bettis’ staff ’s name was noted three times in various areas on Ron’s cremation folder by staff from the Direct Funeral and Cremation Services which reflects the staff handled most of Ron’s cremation details, according to the redacted complaint,.
When Don Kilman received his father’s ashes and effects, he discovered a folded-up letter at the bottom of the box which contradicted Bettis’ claim of there not being much left of the father’s estate.
The letter Don Kilman found was from Bettis’ office to Ron and stated, “Enclosed is a social security form … for your review and signature. The reason for our request for reconsideration is that my calculations and your recent repayment do not add up. Your payments ended in August 2017 and your regular benefits began again on July 2019. The social security issued a payment of $6,688 and $4,028 used for overpayments which is a total of $10,716. … $30,362 balance still owed by social security.”
“After listening to the calls, (LPD detectives) believes there was $10,714 in Ron’s account on the day of his death and that the defendant (Bettis) had access to those funds through a power of attorney,” the amended complaint states. “This information was specifically given to Ron by a member of the defendant’s office staff during a call from 03/04/20.”
According to the complaint, Bettis also allegedly visited Ron Kilman in the LCDC on the same day the letter was mailed. The report said the family speculates Bet-tis had Ron Kilman sign the Social Security form, authorizing Bettis to collect the Social Security benefits.
According to the complaint, Dan Farley, Ron Kilman’s stepson and a paralegal, got involved on his mother’s behalf to search for a probate that was filed on Ron Kilman’s estate.
Farley discovered there was a probate filed by Bettis on May 6, 2020, with Bettis naming himself as the “personal representative of the estate of the descendant (Don Kilman).” Bettis then allegedly asked the court to appoint him “personal representative of the estate of the descendant,” with Bettis signing his name in cursive. The probate document also had the alleged name, address, and signature of Don Kilman on it.
According to Farley, the family has no idea what is left of the estate. The family says they never received any documentation from Bettis at any point during his representation of Ron Kilman.
“We never received a single document,” Farley said. “We filed a claim against the state, which (Bettis) should’ve responded to, but he never did. Based on the criminal complaint, I don’t know what has become of the estate. Unfortunately right now, without Bettis’ cooperation, Don’s not going to get anywhere as far as the probate case is concerned. Until (Bettis) is removed from the case.”
The complaint further states on May 6, Lea County Probate Judge Sandra Goad signed and declared the “Order of Informal Appointment of Personal Representative (no Will)” with Ross Bettis as the personal representative of the descendant.
On Sept. 1, Bettis’ bank records were obtained along with the deceased, Ron Kilman’s.
Those records, according to the report, show that after Ron’s passing several transactions were allegedly done by Bettis who had access to Ron Kilman’s account through a power of attorney.
The power of attorney terminated the day of Ron Kilman’s passing and therefore Bettis should not have been allowed access to the bank account.
Ron Kilman’s bank account also did not have a Payable on Death feature which would have allowed the bank to distribute money to Bettis.