Nichelle Nichols’ sister is asking Star Trek fans to help her protect Nichols from alleged elder abuse.
Marian Smothers set up the GoFundMe campaign “Shields Up, Nichelle Nichols!” to raise money to offset “ongoing legal fees to defend her and ensure the continuing conservatorship by her son” Kyle Johnson, the permanent conservator of Nichols and her estate, as reported by the LA Sentinel.
Johnson and Nichols’ manager Gilbert Bell, have been in a legal fight regarding the care of Nichols, who suffers from dementia. In 2019, CBS 46 reported that Nichols’ manager, Gilbert Bell, was awarded a temporary restraining order against Johnson after alleging that Johnson gave him verbal death threats.
The LA Sentinel reports that Bell, who has been Nichols’ manager since 2010, also alleged that Johnson was trying to remove him and Nichols from their LA homes so he could sell them. His suit against Johnson included intentional infliction of emotional distress, denial of utility services, elder abuse, assault and breach of contract.
As of Aug. 12, Johnson has filed a countersuit against Bell with the law firm Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Diggs. Johnson has accused Bell of elder abuse, fraud, theft and other charges regarding allegations of Bell swindling “Nichols of significant assets including appearance fees, her pension, Social Security and her Woodland Hills, CA home,” as stated in a release received by Shadow and Act.
“The countersuit charges Bell with consistent, tortious, malfeasant, and callous conduct as he ‘took advantage of a highly respected woman when she was vulnerable’ and continued as her health and circumstances declined,” as stated in the release. “The countersuit alleges that in 2012, Bell temporarily moved into a second house on Nichols’ property and continues to live in the house under a fraudulent lease and a succeeding fraudulent reverse mortgage.”
“Bell exerted influence and assumed control over Nichols’ assets and personal life by telling Ms. Nichols lies, fabricating documents, and establishing legal entities controlled by Bell in order to profit from Ms. Nichols’ personal affairs,” the statement continues.
These allegations are similar to the tone Smothers has in her GoFundMe, in which she writes that Nichols is being taken advantage of by Bell. Court documents are also linked on the GoFundMe.
“In 2010, she first encountered Gilbert Bell. He said he was a producer and that he was developing a feature film in which he hoped to have Nichelle co-star as well as be a 50-50 partner in the enterprise and its profits,” she wrote. “Slowly, deliberately, and methodically, Bell insinuated himself into her life. He convinced her to allow him to move into the second house on her property adjacent to her residence as they worked on the project that never happened. Bell still lives in the house under a fraudulent lease essentially paying nothing while compelling Nichelle to pay all his utilities, and he continues to fight his removal.”
“In 2013 Nichelle was in a very weakened state following a hospitalization. Knowing that her immediate family members mostly lived outside of California, Bell took advantage of the situation to obtain her signature on medical and general Powers of Attorney,” Smothers continued. “Over time, as he continued to gain influence, fees from her many personal appearances, and even her pension and Social Security, began to disappear. He later deeded her personal residence into his name, which was the final act that triggered the Petition for Conservatorship eventually granted to her son, Kyle Johnson.”
Smothers and Nichols’ family believe Nichols has been defrauded of over a million dollars, and that Bell has been committing a smear campaign against Johnson in order to regain control of Nichols’ second property.
Walter Koenig, Nichols’ Star Trek co-star who played Ensign Pavel Chekov, has also contributed a message to the GoFundMe, writing, “Nichelle Nichols has been a true and loyal friend of over fifty years. She has been financially abused by a person pretending to protect her interests. I urge everyone who knows what a beautiful person she is to support the GoFundMe established in her name. It is a cause very much worth contributing to. She is one of the really great people out there.”
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