Family secures court protection for Aspen elder |

Family secures court protection for Aspen elder

A judge Tuesday extended a protection order sought by the son and daughter of an 80-year-old Aspen woman they said was victimized by a younger man who seized control of her finances and posed a threat to her safety and health. 

Pitkin County Judge Ashley Andrews on Tuesday set Feb. 1 as a show-cause hearing for Nikolay Goronav, who is challenging the alleged victim’s family members’ attempt to make the protection order permanent. 

“Of course, I’m contesting it, and I’m getting a lawyer,” he said when reached Tuesday. He declined to comment further.

Earlier in the day, he appeared in court for a scheduled show-cause hearing but asked for a postponement so he could find counsel. Andrews allowed the continuance and extended the protection order until next month’s hearing.  

Under the order, Goronav is not allowed to enter the woman’s residence, and he must stay at least 50 feet away from her at all times. He also can have no contact with her in person, electronically, over the phone, and other means.

The order received Andrews’ approval the day after the woman’s two children filed a complaint Dec. 21 that accused Goronav of committing domestic violence and elder abuse on their mother since 2021. The complaint said he and the woman had a romantic relationship and had lived together in her Aspen house, and he had become her caretaker “by force.” The complaint accused Goronav of inflicting emotional abuse on the mother. While not citing any instances of physical violence toward the mother, the complaint alleged he withheld medical prescriptions from her.

The complaint emphasized the urgency for a protection order because Goronav allegedly used the mother’s money to buy them two plane tickets for a trip to Cuba. Wednesday was the scheduled departure date. Instead it was a court date.

“(The mother) does not have the capacity to understand the safety risks involved in traveling internationally with Mr. Goronav and does not have control over her own finances to protect herself if she was to be left alone at any time in Cuba,” the complaint said. 

The complaint included a letter from the mother’s neurologist who expressed concern for the mother’s safety and well being. The neurologist visited with the mother on Dec. 12, resulting in the doctor’s Dec. 14 letter that said, (Goronav’s) behaviors continue to put her in immediate danger, and he should be removed from her home immediately.”

The children were concerned about their mother’s traveling partly because of a September incident when she “attempted to drive to Santa Fe, left her cell phone at home, got lost for three days, and called for assistance but was unaware of what city she was in when she called. When Mr. Goronav was asked about (the mother’s) whereabouts, he assured (the mother’s) children that she was at home, and that she was fine, when in fact, she was lost in an unknown city,” the complaint said.

Goronav had been a negative force in the mother’s life since 2021, the complaint said, when he took control of the mother’s financial accounts, passwords, and would only allow her to access her accounts in his presence, and padlocked one her home’s bedrooms.

The complaint said, “Examples of Mr. Goranov’s neglect of (the mother) include him not allowing her to take her medications as prescribed due to his distrust of Western medicine, leaving her in the town of Aspen, and failing to transport her back to her home in Aspen due to his extreme intoxication, and exerting control over her identity documents and her sensitive information as previously noted.”

Bank employees in recent years took note of suspicious activity, reporting to authorities they were concerned that Goronav “regularly attempts to interfere with (the mother’s) financial transactions. Due to (the mother’s) lack of capacity, she is unaware of thousands of dollars that have been transferred over the last few years from her bank accounts to Bulgaria, where Mr. Goronov’s family is located,” the complaint said.

On Dec. 27, the son and daughter were court-appointed “emergency co-guardians” in order to have control over the mother’s living and travel decisions, according to court papers. Stephanie Kelly Bergner of Carbondale is counsel for the mother’s children in their protection-order action.

Goranov told the judge he is working with a lawyer whom he declined to identify.

“I think within 30 days I will have an attorney to represent me, and we can continue,” he said.