Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship ProgramAn investigative team uncovers rampant abuse and fraud by court appointed guardians
WFTS-TV’s ABC Action News I-Team zealously followed up on a tip by launching an in-depth
investigation into Florida’s court-appointed guardianship program, which affects tens of thousands of people. The resulting series of reports exposed astonishing stories of elderly people stripped of their rights and property by self-serving “guardians.” Their homes, personal property and vehicles were often sold for a small percentage of their actual worth and then resold by guardians’ friends for huge profits. The team first followed 99-year-old Willi Berchau, who had been locked into a dementia ward after being determined “incapacitated’ three times by panels hired by the court. It was immediately clear that Berchau was not incapacitated, but was an intelligent, alert remarkable man. The reporters searched through records, spoke with family members and confronted some of the guardians with clear evidence of their misdeeds. As a result, this summer a new guardianship reform bill led to legislative changes to help protect others.
2015 DuPont Awards
Note: NASGA congratulates Investigative Reporter Adam Walser and the fantastic staff of the ABC Action News I-Team for this prestigious award and we extend our deepest gratitude for their hard-hitting investigative series on the subject of guardianship abuse.
The power of the press not only freed wrongfully guardianized Willi Berchau, but it informed the unwary public who may not have ever heard of adult guardianship abuse, and now - thanks to this fine reporting, can take measures to protect themselves. Thank you, ABC Action News I-Team!