Statement of Interest

According to a petition filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County by the Cook County Public Guardian, employees and others at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park “robbed” financial assets exceeding $600,000 from bank accounts belonging to Grace Watanabe, a 97-year-old Japanese American who had resided at the facility since 2010 (the amount has since been adjusted to over $750,000).

The Chicago Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League(JACL) is keenly interested in supporting efforts to seek restitution for Ms. Watanabe for the harm caused to her. JACL Chicago’s interest stems from our mission and history of protecting the welfare of members of our community. During the 1940s, JACL Chicago provided support to ease the transition of Japanese Americans from their confinement in concentration camps to their resettlement in Chicago. In the 1980s, JACL Chicago actively participated in a successful legislative campaign to provide an apology and monetary restitution to Japanese Americans who were detrimentally affected by the unjust actions of the federal government in 1942.

During World War II, Grace Watanabe was among 120,000 Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast and confined in American concentration camps. Racial prejudice and false government claims about the national security risk posed by Japanese Americans resulted in the denial of their due process rights and their liberty.

In 1942, Grace Watanabe was targeted because she belonged to a vulnerable group incapable of defending itself against a tide of racism and government hostility. At Symphony where she should have been cared for and protected, Grace Watanabe fell victim to those who targeted and took advantage of her because she was no longer capable of handling her own personal finances. JACL Chicago deplores the behavior of Symphony employees including its ownership and management.

JACL Chicago supports efforts to seek restitution and justice for Grace Watanabe. Members of JACL Chicago have met and will continue to meet with and support the actions of the Cook County Public Guardian, the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and
others associated with this case. We will continue to monitor progress in the case, provide advocacy when needed, interact with our organizational partners, and explore the long-term need for strengthening deficiencies in state laws and regulations that may have given rise to the abuse suffered by Grace Watanabe.

Overview of the Case

To inform our membership, JACL Chicago will be sharing updates regarding the Grace Watanabe Case.

Grace Watanabe, a 97 year old Japanese American survivor of the Poston incarceration camp with no living relatives, is the victim of an extensive financial exploitation scheme, allegedly perpetrated by employees of Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park (Symphony), whose role was to care for Ms. Watanabe, but instead robbed her of most of her estate. According to the Public Guardian’s office, five employees stole over $750,000 from Ms. Watanabe. These employees include Symphony’s Business Manager, Activities Director, Assistant Activities Director, receptionist, and hairdresser. The Public Guardian’s office described the situation at Symphony as “wholesale corruption, from top to bottom.” Symphony Post Acute Care Network operates a large chain of dozens of nursing homes in the Midwest. The civil case is currently in Probate Court and is in the discovery period. We have been informed that the investigation by the Chicago Police Department has concluded and findings have been submitted to the State’s Attorney’s Office.


What JACL Chicago is doing

JACL Chicago formed a committee following our annual meeting consisting of Bryan Hara, Mari Yamagiwa, Bill Yoshino, and Ross Harano. The goal of this committee is to stay up to date with the case, work with the Public Guardian’s Office to assist Grace Watanabe in any way, properly disseminate information and updates regarding the case to the community, and create the proper organizational strategy to aid in the restitution for Grace Watanabe.

What you can do

Read the latest press release regarding the case – 9.11.19 Press Release

Show up to the court case hearing:

Friday, September 20
Richard J. Daley Center
Courtroom 1810 (18th Floor)
50 W Washington St, Chicago

We ask that all community members wishing to support, stay up to date with this case and be ready to show up for Grace Watanabe when needed. In the meantime, with the new year and Ms. Watanabe not having any living relatives, community members are welcome to write letters to her. Letters may be addressed as:

Grace Watanabe

c/o JACL Chicago

5415 N Clark St

Chicago, IL 60640

The committee will deliver the letters to the Public Guardian’s office to give to Ms. Watanabe. This is a great way to support Grace Watanabe and show her that she has a large family that cares for her in the Japanese American community.