Thursday, June 21, 2018

Guardianship system reforms ‘a foot in the door’

Patricia Smith, second from left, waits to testify before the guardianship commission last year. The state Supreme Court appointed the commission. (Colleen Heild/Albuquerque Journal)
Patricia Smith’s father was dying of Alzheimer’s in 2007 when dementia took hold of her 87-year-old mother.

The older woman began driving on the wrong side of the road and was so paranoid she believed her daughter Patricia was exploiting her. And, an ex-convict on parole had ingratiated himself into her mother’s life.

Smith needed help, she said last year. “I realized I could not protect my mother. She wouldn’t let me.”

Like others who have aired their personal stories about the dysfunction of New Mexico’s guardianship system, Smith recounted for a Supreme Court commission in April 2017 how she finally went to court to obtain a professional legal guardian/conservator for her mother, only to discover the firm treated her mother as a “cash cow.”

“It behooved the whole interest of that company for the guardians to amp up their care to burn off my dad’s estate as fast as possible.”

They started charging $19,000 a month, Smith told the commission looking into guardianship reform, but wouldn’t pay for her mother to get a replacement for her inch-thin coat. It took eight months and $20,000 in legal fees before Smith and her sister could “disengage” her mother from the corporate guardian firm and recruit a separate guardian and conservator, with whom they had no complaints.

Heeding calls from family members like Smith, district courts in New Mexico come July 1 will operate under a new openness and greater accountability mandated by a new guardianship/conservatorship law approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

The state Supreme Court took the reforms a step further last week by requiring enhanced financial and background information from those who are legally appointed by judges to manage the affairs of the incapacitated.

For the first time, under the new Supreme Court rules and reporting forms, court-appointed guardians and conservators will have to regularly report the fees they charge the incapacitated person’s estate and, in the case of conservators, how the fees were calculated.

They must also provide specific bank account information about the incapacitated person, including bank account balances, in a format that will permit an auditor to detect misappropriation or mismanagement of funds. To that end, a pilot project involving the State Auditor’s Office is in the works, said state District Judge Shannon Bacon of Albuquerque, who has spearheaded the reform effort for the judiciary.

In another new disclosure, guardians and conservators must annually advise the court on their own status – if they had declared bankruptcy, been arrested or investigated by state Adult Protective Services, for instance. None of the annual reports filed with the court will be available to the public.

New law

Whether the new measures will fix New Mexico’s troubled guardianship system is unclear, Smith told the Journal last week. “But it’s a foot in the door,” said Smith, who has spent the last year contacting public officials, including Gov. Susana Martinez, to press for change.

In testifying before the now-disbanded commission last year, Smith cited the inadequate reporting forms required of guardians and conservators. Smith, a retired respiratory therapist, also advocated more openness in the system.

“We could really get more accountability and sunlight into the system so it wouldn’t be such a setup for abuse and exploitation of our elders,” she told the commission appointed by the Supreme Court.

In fact, the new law passed unanimously by the Legislature this year will require that hearings in such cases be open to the public, although filings will remain confidential unless a judge authorizes disclosure.

Two other changes give family members greater visitation rights and expand notification to relatives of court proceedings for an incapacitated loved one.

Not all critics are satisfied. Lorraine Mendiola, whose adult son has a professional guardian, told the Journal last week, “There’s no state agency for family members to voice their concerns if a corporate guardian is negligent or committing criminal actions.”

She said she has had no luck approaching the judge on her son’s case with her grievances.

As for the enhanced reporting, Mendiola said, “Who is going to provide accountability to make sure that the correct information (on the new forms) is reported?”

The new law requires professional conservators to post bonds upon appointment, but Mendiola questioned why the cost will be borne by the incapacitated person instead of the conservator.

Gaelle McConnell, an Albuquerque attorney who headed the Supreme Court committee that proposed the eight new forms and five new guardianship/conservatorship rules, told the Journal the bond “protects the (incapacitated) person” so it makes sense to deduct the surety fee from the assets, rather than charge the conservator. She noted that a judge can make an alternative asset protection arrangement under the new law or decide a bond isn’t necessary.

New forms

The new reporting forms are 12 pages long for guardians, and 15 pages for conservators – compared to the current forms that ask 17 questions of guardians and a mere 10 questions of conservators every year.

Bacon told the Journal the changes “will make it easier for judges to get a handle on the details (of a continuing guardianship or conservatorship).” In her Albuquerque court, she schedules a hearing if she has questions or sees discrepancies in reports filed by a guardians or conservator.

“Not all judges ask those questions,” Bacon conceded. “This (new reporting mandate) forces the information to be put in front of them.”

She said the state Auditor’s Office helped design the questions asked of conservators “to make sure we have a picture of assets and liabilities and to inform the judge and to be useful to an auditor. We wanted to be very careful that it (the disclosure) works if somebody audits the case.”

Meanwhile, district judges around the state have undergone training about the new law and rules.

McConnell also served on last year’s Supreme Court commission that spent nine months studying the issue before issuing its own recommendations.

“Frankly, from hearing the public testimony, it was clear to me that something had to happen,” McConnell said.

The Supreme Court rules committee, appointed earlier this year, isn’t finished with its work, McConnell said. Her group will explore issues the guardianship commission last year recommended for further study – such as certification of guardians, and improving the court appointment process for guardians ad litem and court visitors. By law, those two professionals advise the judge on whether a guardianship is needed and whether the guardian proposed is appropriate.

But the process has been criticized as lacking objectivity, because judges typically appoint whomever is nominated by the attorney seeking the guardianship or conservatorship.

Smith, whose mother died in 2012, said dealing with an incapacitated loved one is “always inherently painful but it’s necessary and it’s going to become more necessary as baby boomers come down the pike.”

“More of us are going to be facing it – either for ourselves or our loved ones.”

 More information
The new forms and information about guardianship system changes are available on the Judiciary’s website at: adultguardianship.nmcourts.gov.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship system reforms ‘a foot in the door’

W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry Is Charged With 22 Counts, Including Fraud

Allen Loughry
A federal grand jury has indicted West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry on a number of serious charges, from fraud to making false statements and witness tampering.

The indictment says the FBI investigated Loughry under suspicion that for years, he had engaged in a scheme to defraud the government of West Virginia — and that he lied to FBI agents when he was questioned in March.

Loughry, 47, has been suspended without pay, the state Supreme Court says.

West Virginia has five Supreme Court justices, who are elected to 12-year terms. Loughry took office in 2012 and became the court's chief justice – a rotating position — in January of 2017.

In addition to being a judge, Loughry wrote a book about political corruption in West Virginia; it was published in 2006.

Federal charges against the judge were unsealed on Wednesday, more than three months after that interview. The indictment says that Loughry:
  • Falsely claimed mileage for car trips in which he had actually used a Supreme Court vehicle "and used a government credit card for gasoline."
  • Used official vehicles and credit cards for personal use under false pretenses, and "lied to other Justices of the Supreme Court about his vehicle usage."
  • Illegally "converted to his own personal use, a valuable and historic desk that belonged to he Supreme Court," taking it home to his own office.
  • Lied about his actions to government investigators and tried to mislead them by "accusing others of malfeasance, and engaging in other fraudulent conduct."
In addition, the indictment says, Loughry tried to influence a Supreme Court employee's testimony, after questions arose last October about the costs of renovating and furnishing his office.

Full Article & Source:
W.Va. Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry Is Charged With 22 Counts, Including Fraud

Florida man indicted for bilking elderly Rochester woman

DOVER — A Florida man was indicted in Strafford County Superior Court on five charges of stealing or attempting to steal over $1.5 million from an elderly Rochester woman.

Assistant Attorney General Brandon Garod obtained the grand jury indictments that allege Michael R. Smith, 55, of Bohland Street in Avon Park, Florida, committed five Class A crimes, which could come with enhanced penalties because of the victim’s age, physical or mental condition.

The victim, identified only as M.K., has died since at the age of 98 after the alleged crimes occurred, according to the AG’s office.

Two of the indictments allege that Smith obtained or exercised unauthorized control of the victim’s money by transferring the money into his account, having unauthorized checks issued to himself, and making multiple purchases and ATM withdrawals. These events were alleged to have occurred between Oct. 24 and Nov. 30, 2017, according to the indictments. The total amount of the alleged theft was over $488,000, the AG said.

Smith was also indicted on three counts of attempted theft by unauthorized taking. The indictments allege that between Sept. 7 and Oct. 24, 2017, Smith provided three different financial institutions with forged documents in attempts to steal $1.1 million, according to AG.

If convicted, each charge comes with a maximum prison sentence of 7 1/2-15 years. If convicted with the enhanced penalties, each charge could be punishable by up to 10-30 years in prison.

The charges and allegations in the indictments are merely accusations and do not constitute guilt.

Full Article & Source:
Florida man indicted for bilking elderly Rochester woman

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

D.C. Senior Freed from Guardianship in Favor of Supported Decision-Making

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2018

Washington, D.C. – For the first time in the District of Columbia, a guardianship of an older adult has been terminated in favor of Supported Decision-Making.

Sarah Miller,* a woman in her 80s, was placed under guardianship in 2015 because she had fallen behind on her rent and faced eviction. The landlord offered to work out a payment plan only if Ms. Miller had a court-appointed guardian. Faced with the difficult choice of losing either her home or her decision-making rights, Ms. Miller consented to guardianship. However, Ms. Miller is an independent person with a robust network of family members, friends, and professionals to help her, and she shortly realized that guardianship was more restrictive than she had thought it would be. She wanted to enroll in a local program that helps older adults with memory loss manage their finances and pay bills, but was unable to do so because of the guardianship. Ms. Miller wanted to regain the right to legally make her own decisions, just like every other citizen.

Ms. Miller came to Quality Trust’s Jenny Hatch Justice Project (“JHJP”) for help. This project is funded by the D.C. Bar Foundation to assist low-income District residents with disabilities facing overbroad or undue guardianship. Working with JHJP Staff Attorney Jessica Bronson, Ms. Miller presented the judge with evidence of her history of making decisions and directing her own life using Supported Decision-Making. When people use Supported Decision-Making, they work with friends, family members, and others they trust to help them understand the situations they face, so they can make their own decisions without the need for a guardian. Ms. Miller also presented a case reviewer report and capacity assessment that supported terminating the guardianship. After reviewing this material and hearing from Ms. Miller, the Court agreed and restored Ms. Miller’s rights by ending the guardianship.

Ms. Miller is elated by the decision. “Thanks to Ms. Bronson and Quality Trust, I have my legal rights back,” she says. “I am now working with them on an Advance Directive and Durable Power of Attorney, so that I can plan for my future and avoid ending up in court again.”

“Quality Trust is committed to defending the right of District residents with disabilities to make their own decisions, receive the support they want and need, and direct their own lives,” says Tina M. Campanella, Chief Executive Officer of Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities.

“We are honored to work with people like [Ms. Miller] and are so pleased with the outcome of her case. Her story is a perfect example of how Supported Decision-Making can also work for older adults – getting them the help they need while preserving their decision-making rights.”

For more information on Supported Decision-Making, please visit:

www.DCQualityTrust.org
www.JennyHatchJusticeProject.org
www.SupportedDecision-Making.org

Contact:
Morgan K. Whitlatch, Legal Director, 202-459-4004,
MWhitlatch@DCQualityTrust.org

W.Va. AG Secures $257K Elder Abuse Settlement, Shuts Down Meat Wholesaler

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey secured a $257,500 settlement against a door-to-door meat wholesaler, along with a court order that permanently prohibits it and its owner from engaging in similar business activities.
 
Members of the Attorney General’s elder abuse litigation and prevention unit alleged Thaxton Wholesale Meats LLC and its owner, Steven A. Thaxton, exploited elderly and vulnerable West Virginians. Both stood accused of coercing elderly consumers to purchase meat they could not afford and in quantities they could not possibly consume.
 
“No one should be pressured into buying goods they do not need at unreasonable prices,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This settlement exemplifies our office’s diligent work to protect the elderly, and all West Virginia consumers, from fraud or financial exploitation.”
 
The settlement requires Thaxton Wholesale Meats to pay the state $250,000, while requiring that its owner Steven Thaxton pay $7,500. Both defendants are required to cease the sale of meat and any other goods or services to consumers at their homes in West Virginia or any other state.
 
The October 2016 lawsuit alleged that Thaxton defrauded and deceived consumers through door-to-door sales of beef, poultry, pork, seafood and other perishable foods. The company engaged in thousands of sales, many without a contract and virtually all without giving consumers notice of their unconditional right to cancel orders within three days.
 
The most extreme example involved an 83-year-old woman from Walton in Roane County. She purchased more than $12,000 in meat and two deep freezers from Thaxton between December 2013 and October 2014.
 
Other victims identified in the lawsuit lived in Parkersburg, in addition to Roanoke, Lewis County; French Creek, Upshur County; and Durbin, Pocahontas County. One’s fear prompted him to post no trespassing signs and place his credit card with a trustworthy neighbor to prevent further purchases.
 
The Attorney General contended Thaxton was responsible for the unlawful actions of his salespeople. Thaxton claimed they were independent contractors, but the Attorney General’s investigation revealed ample evidence to prove Thaxton controlled their actions on behalf of the company, which was headquartered at his Millwood residence in Jackson County.
 
The lawsuit accused Thaxton of violating the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act by financially exploiting elderly and vulnerable consumers. It also alleged fraudulent and deceptive schemes, obstruction of the consumers’ right to cancel and violation of the implied warranty of merchantability.
 
Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Joanna I. Tabit entered the agreed upon settlement in February. It recently received final approval in federal bankruptcy court.
 
The Attorney General’s elder abuse litigation and prevention unit includes a dedicated team of seasoned civil prosecutors to hold accountable anyone who exploits, abuses or neglects West Virginia’s senior citizens. Anyone needing its expertise can contact 304-558-1155 or HelpForSeniors@wvago.gov.
 
Read a copy of the Thaxton settlement at http://bit.ly/2GtNeDk.​

Full Article & Source:
W.Va. AG Secures $257K Elder Abuse Settlement, Shuts Down Meat Wholesaler

Man suffering from dementia found hours after walking away from local care home

When Thomas Granger was found at a Bloomfield coffee shop Sunday, his grandson, Shawn Granger, said the 88-year-old was confused and unsure of how he got there.

Shawn said his grandfather left his residence at Schenley Gardens four hours earlier. He said a camera on the hotel next door showed him walking out at 7:58 a.m., and that that was the third time in less than two weeks that the staff couldn't find Granger.

"Thomas Granger is free to come and go as needed," said Jason Childers, executive vice president of Blue Harbor Senior Living, the management company for Schenley Gardens. "He is in a personal care apartment."

Childers said Granger does not live in the secure section of the facility, but in light of what happened, he has been placed on 24-hour monitoring while they move him to the memory care section of the home.

Granger's grandson said the staff promised to watch him more closely after the last time he went missing. He said he is currently searching for a new home for his grandfather.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Schenley Gardens is operating under its fourth provisional license after repeated violations that include fire doors that don't latch, internal doors left unlocked, long wait periods for residents in need of assistance and sanitary issues.State records reveal that this is their final provisional license, and if corrections aren't in place by July 4, the facility's license will expire.

Full Article & Source:
Man suffering from dementia found hours after walking away from local care home

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Hospice Survivors and Victims with Carly Walden

5:00 pm PST…
6:00 pm MST...
7:00 pm CST...
8:00 pm EST

Please tune in tonight to Hospice Survivors and Victims premiering at 8:00 EST call into 917-388-4520 or click the link and listen as we have Mrs. Barbara Latham on to tell the world how her mother was murdered in a hospice under a guardianship. We will also hear from Barbara’s attorney Candace Schwager. This case was so terrifying we need to all learn and protect our loved ones!

We are giving Mrs. Barbara’s mother a voice today as she was unable to escape the guardianship.

If you would like to share a story about Hospice with us, please send an email to this address:

victimsandwhistleblowers@outlook.com

Also, you must have adequate documentation to be a guest.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Fraud in the Family

Jonathan Bartlett
When you think of the villains who defraud older people, you might picture crooks hacking into bank accounts or selling bogus stocks. But don’t be misled.

The real scoundrels might be sitting at your next family gathering, looking as innocent as folks in a Norman Rockwell painting. Roughly 6 out of 10 cases of elder financial abuse are committed by relatives, according to a large-scale 2014 study. And about 3 out of 10 instances can be traced to friends, neighbors or home care aides. In other words, 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.

Even scarier: The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.

Maybe you thought such thefts occurred only among the rich and famous — think of Brooke Astor, the New York heiress whose son was convicted of swindling her.

But elder-abuse experts say this crime infects a wide range of households. You just don’t hear about it. Only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse get reported, estimates the National Adult Protective Services Association. Why? Victims are embarrassed. Families don’t want to air conflicts. People doubt money will be recovered. They also fear the perpetrator.

What follows is an attempt to spotlight this scourge — with true stories of exploitation, plus advice for preventing and remedying it. Our narratives are based on witness interviews, legal records and other documents. Due to some sources’ fear of retaliation, some identities have been disguised.

The Distant Son


In 2005, 88-year-old Francine Maloney was suffering from dementia and about to move to an Orange County, California, assisted living facility. (All names in this family have been changed.) Maloney had given her daughter, Amy, power of attorney to handle her affairs in 2000, a year after Francine’s husband had died. Amy, also from California, put her mother’s home up for sale.

Then Amy’s only sibling, Randy, got involved. His relationship with their parents had always been strained, and he had an alcohol problem they were slow to recognize, Amy says. In 2005, Randy was living with his wife, Madeline, in Westchester County, New York, and hadn’t been around much. But when he learned the house had to be sold, he became attentive—fast, Amy recalls. Unbeknownst to Amy, he flew west and got Francine to sign a new power of attorney giving him total control over her finances. Amy consulted a lawyer about fighting back, but the $10,000 retainer was too much. She and her brother stopped talking.

Once the house was sold, the $450,000 proceeds went into a trust for Francine’s benefit, controlled by Randy. In theory, Francine had plenty of money. Amy, however, suspected something was amiss. Yet a lawyer was too expensive, and she doubted social service agencies could help. So she communicated her concerns to Randy via his attorney and left it at that.

That is, until she visited her mother in May 2010 and found a fraud-alert notice for a Bank of America credit card in her mother's name. The letter listed more than two dozen suspicious charges, including $1,135 from a Boston hotel, a $372 Boston car rental and a $250 dry cleaning bill in Maryland where Randy then lived. Amy later determined that Randy had additionally revived a dormant Citibank credit card of Francine’s and was using it to pay for his living expenses. Payments to that account, Amy concluded, were coming from her mother’s trust account. By mid-2010, the account that had been seeded with $450,000 from the sale of Francine’s home had dwindled to $158.51—and the assisted living facility was owed nearly $9,500. Francine was broke.

After Amy filed a police report in June 2010, the local California sheriff’s office subpoenaed checks drawn on the trust account. One expenditure: $9,100 to a luxury-car dealer. Checks made out to Randy’s wife totaled $35,000.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Amy says.

Contacted for this article, Randy said he is 14 years sober. He disputed the overall amount Amy alleges he took from Francine’s account, asserting it was in the “low-six-figure range.” But he admitted via email that he took the money for his personal expenses and expressed remorse, terming his behavior “the most regrettable thing in my life.” He wrote, “I was under some financial pressures that I was too weak to stand up to. … The intention was always that the money would be returned from future realized gains.”

In the end, he got away with it. The sheriff in California told Amy the prosecutor had declined to pursue the case; the D.A., contacted for this article, has no record of the sheriff's referral. Prosecutors in Maryland passed as well, suggesting Francine wouldn’t be able to fly east to testify. The FBI said no, too. Amy could not afford to file a civil suit against her brother. “He is dead to me,” she says. “How can you do that — steal from your mother for luxuries?”

Eventually, Francine had to leave the assisted living facility. Because she couldn’t afford a nursing home, Amy placed her mother in a Social Security–financed small-scale custodial-care facility, a converted private home. Care was barely adequate. Francine died in February 2016, at age 99. “None of us would want to live like that,” Amy says.

Fraud Tainted by Emotion

Elder financial abuse, as in Francine’s case, doesn’t appear out of the blue, experts say. It may be the result of long-

festering family issues. Sometimes a big dose of rationalization is involved. “One of the things I’ve heard is, ‘It’s OK to steal or take this money from Mom and Dad because it’s my inheritance,’ ” says Jilenne Gunther, director of AARP’s BankSafe initiative.

Substance abuse may also play a role, Gunther says. The perpetrator may be a child or friend with a drug addiction.

Once someone close to you gets over the moral hurdles, the logistics are easy. A relative or friend, unlike a larcenous stranger, knows or can quickly find out exactly what you own and where it is. Most important, that person has your trust. Once a fraudster has that, experts say, getting you to agree to requests is relatively simple.

“This is the easiest crime to commit,” says Karen Sundstrom, who works for the Lexington County, South Carolina, Recreation and Aging Commission as an advocate for older adults who experience abuse. “It’s a piece of cake.”

The Family Friend


Ethel Simmons, now 87, expected to live out her life in comfort. She had pension income, Social Security and money in the bank. And, above all, a home.

She and her late husband, Elgie, bought their house in 1962 and raised their three sons there. It’s a green one-story dwelling with a large detached garage, located in south-central Los Angeles. Ethel was a full-time homemaker; Elgie worked as a mechanic in a factory. Johanna Holmes, whose parents were friends with the Simmonses, remembers the two families picnicking together when she was a kid. Johanna’s “Aunt Ethel” was active in the Church of God in Christ; she was, Johanna says, “fun loving, kind and caring.”

After Elgie died, in 2011, Ethel continued to live in the house, which had three rental units. One was occupied by her middle son, Wayne. (Ethel’s oldest child, who was born disabled, lives in a group home; her youngest son doesn’t figure in this story.) Wayne, who Johanna says was Ethel’s favorite, had been in trouble with the law over the years — a conviction for car theft, for one, and convictions or guilty pleas for drug possession and possession with intent to sell. “He was an addict,” says Johanna.

Wayne also had some worrisome friends, including one we’ll call Alfred.

Alfred grew close to Ethel after Elgie died. He shopped for her groceries. Ethel grew to trust him. Johanna didn’t. Around 2012, Ethel told her that Alfred wanted to buy her house for $200,000. Johanna, who suspected that Wayne was involved, was stunned. “I said, ‘How is he going to afford $200,000 when he doesn’t even have a job?’ ” she remembers. Ethel declined the offer.

illustration of a boy stealing the wallet of an older man
Jonathan Bartlett

In 2015, Alfred moved onto the property. He soon went with Ethel to the bank and became joint owner of her only account. The balance wasn’t high — maybe $2,500 — notes Nicholas Levenhagen, a lawyer with Bet Tzedek Legal Services who later got involved in Ethel’s case. Money, however, was flowing in from Social Security and Elgie’s pension.

Early in 2016, after a stroke put Ethel in the hospital, Alfred had her meet with a man he said was an attorney, supposedly to discuss what Ethel understood were tax and insurance issues. Ethel didn’t remember signing a thing. It’s not clear even now who the “attorney” was, according to subsequent litigation. But somehow Alfred got the title to Ethel’s home, and Ethel never got a penny.

Ethel didn’t tell Johanna about any of this. But by March 2016, Alfred had begun intercepting Johanna’s calls to Ethel, making excuses for why she wasn’t available. Once, when Johanna got through, Ethel sounded frightened. “Why are you whispering? This is your phone,” Johanna recalls saying. By this time, according to court documents, Alfred controlled Ethel’s life, physically and financially. He used the joint account as a piggy bank, spending Ethel’s money for restaurant meals and gas bills. He drove around in a Mercedes. The City of Los Angeles alleged that narcotics were being sold out of Ethel’s garage.

Johanna, increasingly worried, recalls that on Good Friday, March 25, 2016, she drove over to the now-shabby house and barged in. She was shocked to find drug addicts in the front room. Ethel’s room was filthy, and she had been defecating in a pot.

Eventually, Los Angeles Adult Protective Services intervened, after Ethel was hospitalized following another stroke. She was placed in a nursing home, and an APS caseworker put Ethel and Johanna in touch with Bet Tzedek Legal Services, which filed suit to reverse the property transfer. Alfred did not contest the suit.

Ethel said, “I have money in the bank,” Johanna recalls. But Alfred had taken it all. Ethel didn’t even have any clothing. Hers were so foul that they had to be thrown out when she went to the hospital, Johanna says.

The house, with the title reverted back to Ethel, was sold in July for $440,000, which can be used for Ethel’s care. Johanna closely monitors the nursing home: “I have them on their toes when it comes to her.”

Ethel is not pursuing further legal action. Alfred cannot be located. As for Wayne’s role in what happened, Johanna is clear: “God forgive me, but I can’t stand him,” she says. “No way would I let anyone violate my parents.”

Where’s Justice?

Financial elder abuse is a crime. It’s theft. Yet people who complain to law enforcement are frequently told that it’s a “family” or “civil” matter or that the older person “won’t press charges.” These aren’t valid reasons to avoid action, says Paul R. Greenwood, head of the San Diego District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit. Child-abuse victims, he notes, don’t decide whether abusers are charged.

Another excuse for not prosecuting is a victim’s inability to testify. But Peter A. Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit, says that elder-abuse cases rely on forensic examination of financial records more than they do on witness testimony.

An added hurdle: Police and prosecutors may be suspicious about those who make accusations. “I often get these calls from adult family members who want me to prosecute the other sibling,” Greenwood says. “I interrupt and say, ‘Now, where were you when all this was going on?’ ”

Plus, a victim might say the money was a gift, says Greenwood: “ ‘He’s a nice boy, and he’s been helping me around the house.’ Those arguments are very difficult to overcome.”

There’s one more reason these crimes are rarely prosecuted. People who have been robbed won’t admit it. “It’s hard to get victims of elder abuse to talk,” says Lori Delagrammatikas, a longtime specialist in elder abuse and the incoming president of the National Adult Protective Services Association. “They’re so embarrassed.”

The Housekeeper


Lori Delagrammatikas is quite familiar with the embarrassment caused by elder financial abuse. It happened to her mother. Janet Dermy had a doctorate in education and spent her life as a teacher, at one time running a small technical college. She was a tough, hardheaded woman. She was perfectly fine — self-sufficient and healthy — when, at 76, she moved into an independent-living facility north of Phoenix in 2009.

Janet, like other residents, had an apartment with a small kitchen. On-staff housekeepers tidied up every day. While residents could get rides to local places, Janet drove herself in a late-model four-door sedan.

chart about Fraud in the Family
AARP

One day in 2012, Janet told Lori — who lived a seven-hour drive away — that she had a new car. Janet also told Lori that months before, she had sold the previous car to her housekeeper. The housekeeper (let’s call her Mary) had been chatting daily with Janet about her marriage. “She said she was a victim of domestic violence, her husband didn’t work, and he was pushing her to work more and more hours,” Lori says. Mary told Janet that she needed a car because her old one wasn’t working.

Janet, taking pity on Mary, sold her car to her for monthly payments of about $100. Lori never learned how much Mary promised to pay in total. There was no paperwork. All she discovered was that not long after Mary made her first (and only) payment, she vanished. She was dismissed for borrowing money from residents.

Janet had been conned. “I see it so much at work that I wasn’t surprised,” Lori admits. “But I was frustrated my mom wasn’t willing to do anything about it,” such as file a complaint. Janet died last year. “It’s humiliating when you get ripped off,” Lori adds. “It hits people in the deepest level of their self-image.”

Lori was developing a training program for protective services workers when her mother was swindled. “I talked to my mom a lot about the work I do — ‘Oh, let me tell you about the latest scam that’s happening,’ ” Lori says. “Didn’t make a bit of difference.”

Full Article & Source:
Fraud in the Family

Ex-judge, who helped husband hide money, fights for pension

Former Judge Patricia Coffey
CONCORD — Eleven years after resigning as a Rockingham County Superior Court judge, after helping her disbarred lawyer-husband hide money from the state, Patricia Coffey is suing for an annual $89,604 pension, more than $400,000 in back-pension pay and health insurance.

Coffey resigned in 2008 after the Supreme Court suspended her for three years without pay, for helping her husband John Coffey create a trust to hide assets, while he was being disbarred for the financial exploitation of an elderly Rye woman. Coffey was also investigated for 2006 allegations that she fell asleep while presiding over Superior Court cases, was ordered to seek a confidential medical examination and be subject to random monitoring of her courtroom.

Now represented by Portsmouth attorney Russell Hillard, Coffey on Friday filed a four-count federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire contending the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan voted in 2015 to deny her pension application.

Her lawsuit reports she’s now 64, lives in California and was a superior court judge for 16½ years. During that time, Coffey claims in her suit, she made mandatory pension contributions and under terms of the plan, is entitled to a pension of 71 percent of her final year’s salary.

Coffey’s suit states her final year’s salary was $126,203, so she’s entitled to an annual pension of $89,604. She’s asking for a jury trial, a finding that the board violated law by denying her pension and that her pension be paid, with back pay. She’s seeking compensation for lost health benefits for the past four years, enrollment in the judicial health plan and reimbursement for legal costs and attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit states Coffey was denied the pension because the board found she was not employed as a judge at the time of her retirement age, while Coffey disputes that interpretation of applicable law. Coffey claims in her suit that she was vested in the retirement plan because she had the 15 years of minimum service when she reached age 60.

The suit was just filed Friday and the Board of Trustees for the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan has 30 days to respond.

Six months after she resigned as a Superior Court judge, Coffey was again the subject of judicial reprimand. Then the N.H. Supreme Court’s Judicial Conduct Committee found she violated judicial code of conduct by drawing a salary from a private company, while also collecting full judicial pay, while suspended and under investigation for previous impropriety.

In a statement, the JCC announced Coffey violated three canons of the judicial code of conduct by collecting full-time pay for document retrieval services for a New York City firm at the same time she collected her judge’s pay. Coffey signed a document accepting the JCC’s findings and agreed she would be the subject of censure, a public reprimand, for the violations.

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Ex-judge, who helped husband hide money, fights for pension