Saturday, June 25, 2016

Former Mississippi Judge Sentenced for Simple Assault

Bill Weisenberger, a former Madison County justice court judge, was sentenced Wednesday for simple assault after pleading guilty earlier.

Weisenberger was given a six months suspended sentence, three months of supervised probation and three months of unsupervised probation, according to a release from state Attorney General Jim Hood.

In addition, the former judge must pay a $500 fine, $500 to the Crime Victims Fund and must serve 100 community service hours at Our Daily Bread Ministry, a feeding program for low-income families, in Canton.

In February 2015, Weisenberger was indicted for misdemeanor simple assault on a vulnerable adult. The indictment stems from a May 2014 incident at the Canton Flea Market where Weisenberger allegedly struck a 20-year-old African-American man and yelled, “Run, n-----, run.”

Full Article and Source:
Former Mississippi Judge Sentenced for Simple Assault

Friday, June 24, 2016

National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against 301 Individuals for Approximately $900m in False Billing

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced today an unprecedented nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 36 federal districts, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings. Twenty-three state Medicaid Fraud Control Units also participated in today’s arrests. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is suspending payment to a number of providers using its suspension authority provided in the Affordable Care Act. This coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount.

Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Burwell were joined in the announcement by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, FBI Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich, Inspector General Daniel Levinson of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), Acting Director Dermot O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Deputy Administrator and Director of CMS Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal M.D.

The defendants announced today are charged with various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services, including home health care, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and prescription drugs. More than 60 of the defendants arrested are charged with fraud related to the Medicare prescription drug benefit program known as Part D, which is the fastest-growing component of the Medicare program overall.

“As this takedown should make clear, health care fraud is not an abstract violation or benign offense – It is a serious crime,” said Attorney General Lynch. “The wrongdoers that we pursue in these operations seek to use public funds for private enrichment. They target real people – many of them in need of significant medical care. They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none. Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust – between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government – and pervert them to their own ends. The Department of Justice is determined to continue working to ensure that the American people know that their health care system works for them – and them alone.”

Full Article and Source:
National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against 301 Individuals for Approximately $900m in False Billing

Elder Justice Task Force Announced to Deal With Scams Targeting the Elderly of Iowa

In the past fiscal year, the Heritage Area Agency on Aging’s Elder Abuse and Awareness program has taken 100 referrals throughout its seven county coverage area.

But Jill Gleason, Heritage’s associate director, said elder abuse — such as neglect, mistreatment or exploitation — said the problem is actually much more extensive.

“There are many, many more who are embarrassed to come forward,” Gleason said.

But, Gleason said she was hopeful that elder abuse and scams targeting the elderly will be brought to light by a collaboration of federal, state and local officials whose mission is to tackle those issues. On Monday, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau announced the formation of the Elder Justice Task Force in the northern district. Techau said the mission of the task force is to hold accountable nursing homes, long-term care providers and potential fraudsters and scammers.

“We’re all working together because we believe our most vulnerable citizens require our attention,” Techau said.

The task force was announced at the Oakhill Jackson Community Church. Techau was joined by other partners, including Gleason, Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler, Cedar Rapids FBI resident agent in charge Gabriel Poling and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Jacob Schunk who Techau said will “quarterback” the task force.

Schunk said the task force will ensure Medicare and Medicaid funds are being appropriately spent by nursing homes and long-term care providers and will go after scammers who target the elderly. He said 20-30 partners will be part of the task force.

The U.S. Northern District of Iowa is one of only 10 nationwide districts designated to form an elder justice task force.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Justice Task Force Announced to Deal With Scams Targeting the Elderly of Iowa

Colorado Aid In Dying Ballot Effort Kicks Off

Proponents of allowing terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication officially launched a ballot effort in Colorado on Tuesday.

The initiative comes after the state Legislature failed two years in a row to act.

Proponents have been collecting signatures, but on Tuesday, they held a news conference and launched a website, coendoflifeoptions.org. They must collect 98,492 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Legislation made it through a House committee this year, but it did not have the votes to pass through the full House, so the legislation never came up for a full vote.

In the Senate, a separate bill was killed in committee. Another bill met a similar fate last year.

All hearings drew several hours of emotional testimony.

Similar to the legislation, the ballot effort asks voters to offer options to terminally ill adult patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Two physicians would need to confirm the prognosis, patients would need to be mentally capable, the medication would need to be self-administered, two oral requests separated by 15 days and a third written request would be needed, and patients would have the right to rescind the request at any time.

Colorado would join five states with medical aid-in-dying laws.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Florida: Sanctions Motion Filed Against Lawyers in Bitter Guardianship Case

David Gersten
Former Third District Court of Appeal Chief Judge David Gersten is among three attorneys facing sanctions in a bitter probate case that has also engulfed a fourth lawyer in a criminal investigation.

Gersten is now a partner at Gordon & Rees. He and Miami attorneys Terry Fogel and Scott Rubin, of Fogel Rubin & Fogel, represent Jorge and Alina Lopez, the adult children of multimillionaire Jose Lopez Sr., who want to annul their father's marriage to his third wife, Mercy Flores.

The attorneys are all subject to a motion for sanctions by Flores' attorney, Michael Schlesinger of Schlesinger & Associates, under Florida Statute 57.105, which punishes parties for frivolous court filings.

Dismissing the allegations, Gersten said lawyers increasingly abuse the statute.

"I'm not worried at all about the 57.105. It's something that seems to be going on in our community quite a bit where lawyers seem to be trying to intimidate you into backing off a case," he said. "I want to state emphatically we are not intimidated at all, and I would be shocked if any court found any merit in any of their allegations."

A fourth lawyer, Miami tax attorney Edward Guttenmacher, may also be in the hot seat with the State Attorney's Office over allegations of elder abuse. Guttenmacher has been the senior Lopez's attorney for about 30 years and serves as his trustee, according to court records.

Guardianship questions

The elder Lopez has a history of marrying significantly younger brides. His first wife, the mother of the adult siblings involved in the probate litigation, died in 2000. His second wife, whom he later divorced, was decades his junior. He married Flores, now 55, in 2014 after years of friendship and two months of negotiating a prenuptial agreement, according to her attorneys.

Under the settlement, Flores surrendered any rights from the pre-need document in exchange for exclusive use of the marital home and daily visitation with her husband, among other conditions.

But the wife petitioned the court to set aside the settlement, claiming the siblings defrauded her and never intended to honor it.

"A few months after they got appointed as guardians, they moved to annul the marriage and exclude her from visitation," Schlesinger said.

The siblings' attorneys fired back, as did David Goldberg, a court-appointed lawyer representing the elder Lopez. Each filed motions to dismiss Flores' action.

"I don't have a dog in the fight in the annulment; I don't have a dog in the fight in the trust case," Goldberg said. "What my client wanted was that his children should be the guardians."

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bernard Shapiro Tuesday denied their requests and cleared the way for the wife to push forward with her claims.

Fees take center stage

Attorneys on each side alleged their adversaries were drawing out the dispute for bigger paydays and acting in their own best interest, rather than that of Jose Lopez.

The siblings' attorneys pointed to Guttenmacher's creation of a trust that would compensate his firm for more than 60 years, as well as his greenlighting of the trust's reimbursement of Flores' litigation costs. But Schlesinger maintains that Lopez's living trust gave the trustee discretion in covering Flores' expenses and therefore allowed reimbursement of her litigation bills.

"You have a trustee who's paying for litigation against his own client," Gersten alleged during oral arguments. "Against his own client. I say it twice because I need it for the record for the appellate court."

Both judges at Monday's hearings voiced concerns over depletion of the estate's funds to cover litigation.

"I could easily see this costing $1 million," Miller said, requesting the litigants secure budgets from their lawyers to outline all expenses.

Court records show the trust paid Goldberg, Lopez's court-appointed lawyer, $42,154 for attorney's fees and expenses from April 3 to Dec. 17, 2015. Gersten is a legal heavyweight who commands $750 per hour for meditations. Schlesinger charges $585 per hour.

Full Article and Source:
Sanctions, Motions Filed Against Lawyers in Bitter Guardianship Case

Fees in Bitter Family Dispute Prompt Judge's Call for Litigation Budget

A family law judge is recommending a litigation budget to detail all costs in an acrimonious family dispute gearing to rack up more than a million dollars in attorney fees and costs.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David Miller on Monday said he was "about a nanosecond away" from requiring attorneys on both sides to draw up budgets for their clients in a case pitting a millionaire's adult children against his third wife.

"If your clients knew they were going to be $2 million light … they might reconsider the wisdom of this case," Miller said toward the end of a contentious hearing to annul the marriage of Jose Lopez and Mercy Flores, who married in 2014. "I could easily see this costing $1 million."

Lopez's children suggest Flores manipulated their elderly father, an Alzheimer's patient more than 20 years her senior, into marriage after allegedly having a sexual relationship with his son. They won the right to serve as guardians of his estate, estimated to be worth more than $30 million.

The ongoing case spawned motions for sanctions against the guardians' attorneys and a reported criminal investigation against Lopez's longtime friend and trustee, Ed Guttenmacher.

Full Article and Source:
Fees in Bitter Family Dispute Prompt Judge's Call for Litigation Budget

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NASGA Florida Member, Doug Franks, on the Cobb Co. Elder Abuse Task Force

I have lived in the Great State of GA for 23 years now. It is not perfect but I'm proud of how they are addressing Elder Abuse.

 I met Vic Reynolds the Cobb county DA. He has formed a Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force that Ensures Safeguards for Seniors.

Florida needs to follow the Peach States lead and protect their Seniors.

Q&A: Liz Horvath, Senior Advocate: Sometimes a Conservatorship is the Right Answer

Q I read all your columns and am in a quandary. My mother, age 89, is showing some signs of memory loss. She wants to make changes to her trust because my brother has been using drugs and has stolen money from her, and she wants him out as a beneficiary of her estate. My attorney says the best thing to do is have my mother voluntarily go into a court conservatorship and have her new trust approved by the judge. In one of your columns you said, “Avoid conservatorship at all costs.” What should I do?

A Oh, boy, I wish my writing were sweeter — it would make it a great deal easier to eat my words! Your attorney is right; this action is usually called a “petition for substituted judgment,” and is a great tool for just this kind of situation.

However, before delving into the specific procedure, let me provide some general information about conservatorships.

A conservatorship is a legal process that takes place in the probate court. When an adult cannot take care of themselves or manage their finances, the court may appoint another person to take on the responsibility of helping and protecting the adult. Once conserved, the adult is called a conservatee.

Your attorney recommends that your mother “voluntarily” enter a conservatorship, which means she will be interviewed by the court investigator and, after a proper noticing period, a spouse, domestic partner, family member, close friend or hired professional will be appointed as her conservator.

In the situation you describe, let us say you are appointed as her conservator. Your attorney will then file a petition with the court stating that you are seeking approval to change your mother’s trust and are asking the court to approve this action.

The court should be given enough information to understand why your mother wants to change her document, but be careful about totally besmirching your brother’s reputation. These are generally public records so be sensitive to what you want in the open court record. Your attorney will no doubt be skilled at presenting enough information so the court will understand why the changes are needed but not so much to expose you to the potential of a defamation lawsuit.

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Liz Horvath, Senior Advocate: Sometimes a Conservatorship is the Right Answer

Editorial: There is no such thing as neutrality with assisted suicide

The assisted suicide lobby is once again pressuring medical association's to become neutral on assisted suicide.

Last Monday, the American Medical Association (AMA) reacted to pressure from the Oregon Medical Association, to change the AMA stance on assisted suicide to neutral (Resolution 015) by establishing a Study on aid in dying.

Tomorrow, the British Medical Association (BMA) will vote on two motions.

The first motion (79 on the agenda): affirms that: ‘it is not appropriate at this time to debate whether or not to change existing BMA policy’.

If the first motion is not passed they will debate a second motion (80) which states: ‘that this meeting believes that the BMA should adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying’.

Physicians need to recognize that neutrality on euthanasia or assisted suicide does not exist. Either you support physicians lethally injecting patients (euthanasia) or writing prescriptions for lethal drugs (assisted suicide) or you don't.

Full Article and Source:
There is No Such Thing as Neutrality With Assisted Suicide