Saturday, March 14, 2015

Going Home: Linda Kaye Bous

Thanks to the sunshine of the Sarasota-Herald Tribune, Linda Bous was freed from guardianship and got to go home - unsure what she find when she got there, but knowing she wouldn't find her beloved pets, which were taken from her when she became a ward of the State of Florida:

Source:
Going Home:  Linda Kaye Bous"

See Also:
Woman in Guardianship Series "The Kindness of Strangers - Inside Florida's Guardianship Program" - is Freed!

Florida Bill, SB1226, Seeks to Stop "Cockroaches" From Preying on the Elderly

A Senate panel on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at protecting Florida seniors from predatory “professional guardians,” described by one lawmaker as “cockroaches.”

The bill (SB 1226), filed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would expand the Statewide Public Guardianship Office at the Department of Elder Affairs, with an eye to tightening oversight of people who assume control of a senior citizens’ finances.

A recent series by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that while Florida has an efficient system of identifying and caring for fragile elders, “tapping their assets is a growth business.” In 2003, there were 23 registered professional guardians on Florida. Today, the number has grown to more than 440.

“Those little cracks in the law are allowing cockroaches to crawl through and take advantage of people who are elderly,” Detert told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “Let’s face it. The elderly are today’s invisible people, who are not given much credence when they complain.”

The bill would charge the Department of Elder Affairs with certifying, overseeing and —- if necessary — investigating and disciplining professional guardians who abuse their trust. It would also create a registry of professional guardians in each judicial circuit.

Currently, Detert said, the Department of Elder Affairs is responsible for public guardians, who are assigned to indigent seniors, but there is little to stop unscrupulous “professional guardians” from charging exorbitant rates for services they provide and running through their wards’ assets.

“When you are turning somebody’s entire life over to a guardian, they have access to every asset that you have, and your own family is blocked from participating,” Detert said.

Ernestine Franks
Douglas Franks, who spoke in favor of the measure, said his mother, Ernestine, is a case in point.

Now 93, Ernestine Franks has lived in Pensacola all her life. She and her late husband, Charles, both worked at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and saved their money. Douglas said he and his two brothers agreed to a guardian for Ernestine in 2011 because they lived out of town and her health was becoming more of a concern.

However, he told the committee, the guardianship has cost his mother $1,000 per day since June 2012.

“It is over $1 million that my mom has spent,” Franks said. “We’re trying to bring awareness so people know what’s going on and how this is a lucrative cottage industry.”

Detert said the courts are so overwhelmed with foreclosures and other backlogged cases that they aren’t able to investigate guardianship expenditures that are unreasonably large.

Her proposal comes as several other lawmakers also are offering measures aimed at curbing abusive guardianships.

On Tuesday, for instance, a bill by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Diaz de la Portilla chairs. The measure (SB 318) would require a hearing to be held before the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, meanwhile, are sponsoring measures (SB 366/HB 5) that would require the reporting of incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of a ward by a guardian.

Detert said the Department of Elder Affairs estimates the cost of her proposal at $3 million for 40 full-time employees, which she thought was a little high.

Full Article and Source:
Florida Bill Seeks to Stop Cockroaches From Preying on Seniors

See Also:
NASGA:  Ernestine Franks, Florida Victim

Elder care lawyer warns seniors of rising financial scams


Baby Boomers are getting older and, unfortunately, are targets of financial scams, said attorney Martin Fogarty, a specialist in elder law and estate planning.

"Senior financial abuse is on the rise and entering the public consciousness," said Fogarty, of Heartland Law Firm in Glenview. "About 20 or 30 years ago it was spousal abuse. The same is happening now with financial scams of the elderly."

Fogarty recently spoke at Vi at The Glen, a retirement community in Glenview.
The free presentation to residents and employees provided tools for avoiding, identifying and responding to financial abuse of senior citizens.

Social workers and nurses at Vi were eligible to receive certified education units for attending the discussion.

Fogarty said "the family trust factor" often enters the scams, meaning people close to an elder instigate the swindle.

"It's the ultimate trust factor with a family member," he said. "An elderly person's shield is down, but then a son or nephew is influencing and defrauding them."

The average loss to a senior is $95,000 when perpetrated by a stranger, compared to $145,000 by a family member or caregiver, Fogarty said.

"It's also the classic kind of unreported situation. Only one in 44 cases get reported because it could be someone's kid doing the scam to a parent," he said. "They don't want their child going to jail, and there's a fear of losing their independence — like getting put in a home — if people know about the scam."

He defined scams of the elderly as the illegal or improper use of funds, property or assets of people 60 years and older.

The rip-offs included bank withdrawals without a senior's consent and unauthorized use of credit cards.

"Seventy percent of our nation's wealth belongs to people 60 and over," Fogarty said.

Other signs of misuse are forging signatures, sale of inappropriate products to seniors, adding names to their bank accounts and emails that trick them into entering personal information.

In all, $2.9 billion a year is lost in financial exploitation, he noted, and often scammers take advantage of seniors' limited mobility, confusion and isolation.

Fogarty advised the families of seniors to set up teams of professional financial overseers, certified public accountants and appropriate family members as "checks and balances."

For seniors, he also said direct bank deposits and automated bill paying should be arranged.

"These crimes are more prevalent now and can be financially and emotionally devastating," he said.

Full Article & Source:
Elder care lawyer warns seniors of rising financial scams

Rochester man pleads guilty to $80,000 financial exploitation


A Rochester man accused of spending about $80,000 of a woman's money without her permission has pleaded guilty in the case.

Terry Joe Ruesink, 57, was charged in August in Olmsted County District Court with four counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He pleaded guilty Monday to one of the counts; in exchange for the plea, the other counts are expected to be dismissed.

A sentencing date has not been set.

The investigation began when Olmsted County Adult Protection officials received a report of possible exploitation. The 82-year-old victim has been classified as a vulnerable adult after a 2009 diagnosis with dementia, court documents say. Ruesink was appointed as her power of attorney on Aug. 30, 2013.

According to the criminal complaint, on Oct. 15 of that year, Ruesink cashed a certificate of deposit worth about $86,000 that belonged to the woman, and deposited the entire amount into her money market account.

From Nov. 13, 2013, through Jan. 2, 2014, Ruesink allegedly spent a total of $70,113 on multiple items, including more than $51,000 on a lake home, $11,500 on a truck, about $4,000 to a roofing company and about $4,000 in cash to himself.

The woman's checking account records reportedly indicated Ruesink spent more than $8,000 of those funds, writing checks to himself, a carpet store and a furniture store, among others.

Ruesink told a family member he was going to pay the woman back, the complaint says.

Investigators spoke to Ruesink, who told them the victim gave him the money for the lake home, wanted him to put a new roof on it and said she'd buy him a new vehicle. According to the complaint, Ruesink said the victim's memory is "fine," though a bank employee told officials Ruesink told her in December he was concerned about the woman's state of mind.

Full Article & Source: 
Rochester man pleads guilty to $80,000 financial exploitation

Friday, March 13, 2015

Drugging dementia: Are antipsychotics killing nursing home patients?




MISSION VIEJO, Calif. – When Gerry Gilgan left the hospital after brain surgery in February 2013, the 78-year-old went into hospice care at Irvine Cottages, south of Los Angeles. He had dementia, but was in good spirits and lucid when he arrived.

The next day, daughter Patrice Gilgan’s cellphone video shows a different man.

“Daddy, wake up! Daddy, wake up!” Patrice Gilgan says, unable to rouse her father, a retired New York City firefighter, who has since died.

Gerry Gilgan’s widow, Marie, was shocked by the sudden change.

“We took him into this home thinking this would be the best place for him,” she said. “[After] a day or two, he’s a different person. It was like he was a vegetable. There was nothing to him. Staring in space, drugged out.”

Within hours of his arrival, records show Gerry Gilgan began receiving the powerful antipsychotic medications Haldol and Seroquel.

Nursing homes justify the use of antipsychotics, saying they calm agitated, anxious or combative residents. According to the facility, Gerry Gilgan was “combative,” though closed-circuit cameras in the nursing home show no evidence of belligerent behavior.

Antipsychotic drugs are approved for patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, not for dementia. In fact, the FDA has given its strongest warning – a so-called black box warning – telling physicians not to prescribe antipsychotics to people with dementia because they can cause heart failure, infection and death.

Despite the FDA warning, a Government Accountability Office report released this month found one-third of long-term nursing home residents with dementia have received antipsychotics.

‘Zonked out’

Antipsychotics are often given to patients for the benefit of the officials at the facility, in order to control them, said Carole Herman, founder of the Foundation Aiding the Elderly in Sacramento.

“The patient can’t walk anymore. The patient can’t talk anymore, and so there’s less care because basically the patient is incapacitated,” she said. “They’re zonked out all the time, so you don’t have to be bothered with them.”

Gerry Gilgan’s prescription for Haldol was "as needed," as frequently as every six hours.

St. Joseph Health managed Gerry Gilgan’s care, which was paid for by Medicare. St. Joseph declined to speak with “America Tonight” but released a statement:

“Each patient’s condition is unique and often has many factors to consider in determining the appropriate medications. We place high priority on a patient’s right to privacy, and out of respect for that privacy we are unable to discuss the specifics of this case.”
(Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Drugging dementia: Are antipsychotics killing nursing home patients?

State Judicial Conduct Board says Indiana County district judge charged in hit-and-run violated rule


The state Judicial Conduct Board said an Indiana County district judge accused in a September hit-and-run violated one of its rules, but has since dismissed complaints against her.

Police said Jennifer J. Rega, 41, of Blairsville drove her SUV erratically Sept. 13 on Route 286 in Cherry Hill, sideswiped an oncoming vehicle containing three people, and fled.

The board said in a statement it investigated “a number of complaints” against Judge Rega and voted to resolve those by issuing a Letter of Counsel, dated Feb. 10, rather than filing formal charges in the Court of Judicial Discipline. A letter is issued in “an isolated incident or first-time infraction” of judicial misconduct.

Judge Rega ran afoul of the board’s rule, “impropriety and appearance of impropriety to be avoided,” which states district judges must follow the law. The board said her case would be resolved if she agreed to make the letter public. She signed a consent to dismiss the complaints on Tuesday.

Judge Rega entered an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program for non-violent, first-time offenders, and if she completes it by Dec. 1, she can file to have charges -- including obstruction of justice and accident involving damage to an attended vehicle -- withdrawn and her record expunged.

She has been on paid suspension since September and would resume some duties Jan. 5, the county president judge said in December.

Full Article & Source:
State Judicial Conduct Board says Indiana County district judge charged in hit-and-run violated rule

Listening to Those Rarely Heard



This video is part of a training package developed for a group of people who know someone with a severe to profound intellectual disability well. It is designed to be focused around someone who may be facing a particular decision, either now, or into the future. Embedded within this package is a framework used to guide supporters through a process of supported decision making with people with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disabilities (Watson, 2010).

The package has been developed by Jo Watson and Rhonda Joseph from Scope Victoria, Australia and has been funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services (Disability Services). It has been filmed, scripted and directed by McClure Multimedia. The package consists of a PowerPoint presentation (Watson & Joseph, 2011) which includes facilitators notes, this training video (Watson & Joseph, 2011) and a workshop booklet.
The package has been piloted over 6 months with various families, and is now published. It can be obtained from Scope.

Source:
Listening to Those Rarely Heard

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Disabled Nevada Victim Takes a Stand on Guardianship Abuse

When Contact 13 started asking questions, the court started admitting errors, like accepting court filings after the court had lost jurisdiction, which they call "unfortunate."

As for treating Jason as an "adult ward" they say they don't know whether that was a clerical error or misunderstanding by the attorneys or an intention to mislead the court.

In Jason's case, no one caught it for seven years until Contact 13 got involved and the case was suddenly closed.

While it was open, private guardian and former Clark County Public Administrator Jared Shafer was appointed Trustee from July 2009 through January 2014. A special needs trust was created so Jason could qualify for social security benefits. "

I never asked for Jared Shafer to be appointed," said Jason. "He was court-appointed."

Shafer is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit accusing him of embezzlement, fraud, racketeering and negligence in another case where he was the guardian. Valley Man Wrestles With Guardianship System

Man Sentenced to 18 Years for Stealing From His Mother

Craig Cordell Ralston was sentenced to 18 years in prison for stealing from his elderly mother. Ralston was on parole at the time of the offense and living with his 76-year-old mother in Lakewood.

In 2012, Ralston paroled to his mother’s house in Lakewood, after serving a portion of a 20 year prison sentence for aggravated robbery.  His mother, Jodi Ralston-Jones, told investigators that she knethat her son had done some things wrong, but she wanted to help him. She let him live with her when he was released on parole, hoping that he had changed.

Between October and December, 2013, Ralston began taking his mother’s ATM card and credit cards and using them without authorization.  After maxing out one of her credit cards, he convinced her to raise the limit on the card. He stole $2,765 from his mother’s accounts.

After Ralston was arrested he attempted to get a witness to sign an affidavit saying that he’d had his mother’s permission to use her accounts. The witness refused because it was not true.

"This is a victory for our Elder Abuse Unit. While this case doesn’t involve an extraordinary financial loss, our focus is the impact on Mrs. Ralston-Jones, which cannot be ignored,” said District Attorney Pete Weir, “She tried to help her troubled son and he repaid that by taking advantage of her vulnerability for his own benefit, with no regard for her needs.”

Ralston pled guilty to Theft of and At-Risk Adult (F3) and Tampering with a Witness (F4).  He pled guilty and was sentenced on March 3, 2015. This was his 6th felony conviction.  

Florida Man Accused of Selling Ailing Father's Home Without Permission

A man sold his ailing father's home without his permission while he was staying at an assisted living facility, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. 

Deputies arrested Willie Lang Jr., 50, Thursday.

Deputies said investigators from the Florida Department of Children and Families was investigating a complaint that Lang Jr.'s father was being exploited at the home in 2012. The home where he and his father were living was dirty and not suitable for them to live in.

Investigators removed the father from the house, but said he could be returned if the property was cleaned. Through further investigation, the state determined his father was mentally incapacitated and they appointed him a guardian. His father was showing signs of Alzheimer's disease, according to the arrest report.

The home had fallen into disrepair and was unkempt, according to the state, so the father's appointed guardian moved to have the home vacated by Lang Jr., his brother and his brother's wife, and then to have it sold in January 2015. But the guardian discovered that the property was no longer in her client's name.

She discovered that Lang Jr. had sold the home in July 2014 for $50,000 acting as his father's power of attorney. However, he was not authorized to do so, according to the report. Further investigation showed that Lang Jr. transferred the house over to a title company by producing a document his father had signed authorizing the sale.

Full Article and Source:
Man Accused of Selling Ailing Father's Home Without Permission

Nursing Home Watch List

The country has a problem! Over 90% of Nursing Homes in the United States have had some kind of violation or confirmed complaint in the last 3 years.

Some of these issues are minor and some are life threatening. So, how do you know which nursing homes you can trust. As you are browsing nursing homes on this site, check the reviews at the bottom of each listing as many have warnings about potential problems. We have created administrative reviews for nursing homes with outstanding issues. Many of these problems may be minor so please check medicare.gov or your local Ombudsmen for the latest information.

The nursing homes on this list were flagged as some the worst facilities in the country.

Source:
Nursing Home Watch List

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Guardianship Abuse Spreads to Pennsylvania

As part of an ongoing series on guardianship abuse, Rebel Pundit will present a three part series on Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. 

Taisha Lee said her grandmother’s guardianship case was Kafkaesque, lacked due process, and one she believes was pre-determined.

Lee said trouble for her grandmother, Jannie Myers started, when her grandfather, Isaiah Myers, was near death and both her grandparents moved in with her and her husband in September 2012.

Lee said prior to her grandfather’s death, he changed the will and wrote all his children out, leaving their estate, worth a bit more than $300,000, to Lee and another grandchild.

Her grandparents made Lee their power of attorney at about this time.

Lee’s grandfather died in October 2012. On January 11, 2013, Lee’s aunt, Gloria Myers filed a petition with the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court for her mother to be put into guardianship, alleging she was incapacitated and unable to take care of herself.

A call was left at Bowman’s office but was not returned.

Lee said she knew there would be problems right away when the Judge Stanley Ott refused to allow her grandmother to use her own attorney, instead assigned to her Diane Zabowski.

Lee said in August 2013, her then attorney Saul Langsom emerged from a meeting in the judge’s chambers with Judge Ott, Bowman, and Zabowski, and an area attorney named Erin McDevitt, who’d be named guardian, and informed Lee that a deal had been made to place her grandmother into guardianship.

“I was shocked,” Lee told Rebel Pundit, adding that she expected evidence to be heard before taking away her grandmother’s freedom.

Elaine Renoire, of the National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse (NASGA), said that while such deals are of questionable constitutionality and almost never in the ward’s best interest they are common. In the case of her grandmother, her own lawyer made a deal in a bathroom with the judge to put her grandmother into guardianship.

Lee said the deal only fell apart when her aunt objected to Lee being named guardian of the person, a bureaucratic title which would have allowed Lee to make some decisions though the bulk of the decisions would be left to McDevitt.

Lee said a hearing was finally scheduled on September 17, 2013, but before then Zabowski warned her that if she continued to obstruct the court’s attempts to guardianize her grandmother that Zabowski would attempt to jail her.

“We’ll just say she was always incapacitated,” Lee recalled Zabowski telling her, and suggested she’d get the court to say Lee stole money she spent during the previous year as their power of attorney.

According to the transcripts of the hearing, there were several red flags.....

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship Abuse Moves to Pennsylvania

Elder Abuse Caught on Tape



Warning - this video is very difficult to watch.  Please watch it anyway. Awareness is key to reform!

From Gerald's family:  "GERALD had dementia. GERALD had surgery to remove a brain tumor but his long-term prognosis was not good. He recovers well and post-surgery video shows he is alert and oriented and physically pretty robust. GERALD moves to a Board & Care Facility in Mission Viejo, Ca where his brother is already a resident.

The video shows within days of his admission GERALD has been drugged near the point of unconsciousness and has a fall and is treated horribly by the facility staff.

GERALD eventually had to be sent to the hospital to clear up from his drug-induced haze. From the hospital, GERALD goes to a nursing home where he is again over drugged and has to be hospitalized for an overdose.

In both the Board & Care home, GERALD had hospice care.

Both hospice agencies were sold to the family as an extra set of helping hands but it turned out to be a wall of pain and psych meds. The second hospice company had GERALD on seven (!) psych drugs.

GERALD has passed and all findings of wrongdoing from all the relevant licensing agencies reports are in.

There are many issues, from the caretakers in the video are still working in another facility. The issue we have is the MASSIVE drugging by hospice and caretakers. We are convinced the main goal of care was not quality of life or even palliation. The main goal of care appears to be GERALD'S DEATH.

We want to bring awareness so this doesn't happen to any other person.

GERALD retired 2 times. He was a LT NYFD ladder 149 engine 284, he also was a special advent for the Dept of Defense. He also served his Country. Army"

Source:
Elder Abuse Caught on Tape

R.I.P. Dad, Justice Will Be Served

My father was the victim of being overly drugged in nursing facilities using psychotropic drugs, and antipsychotic medication, RIP GERALD.


Source:
RIP Dad, Justice Will Be Served

NJ Bill to Help Curb Fraud and Explotation of Elderly Gains Assembly Approval

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Joseph Lagana, Gabriela Mosquera and Tim Eustace to revise current law in an effort to train agents of money transmitters on how to properly recognize financial abuse and exploitation of elderly residents gained approval from the General Assembly on Monday.

The bill (A-3948) revises the “New Jersey Money Transmitters Act” to require money transmitters to provide to their authorized delegated training materials on how to also respond appropriately if the delegate suspects that the delegate is being asked to engage in the business of money transmission for a transaction in which an elder adult is the victim of financial abuse or exploitation.

Any agent handling financial transactions for elderly clients should be vigilant of scams and abuse aimed to entrap seniors,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “These crimes are the most devastating to the peace of mind, health and sometimes welfare of New Jersey’s seniors.”

“This legislation adds another level of protection for seniors against unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of their kindness,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic).

Financial crimes against seniors and vulnerable adults have increasingly become a concern of states. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia introduced legislation addressing fraud and exploitation of the elderly last year. Maryland has passed similar legislation.

Full Article and Source:
Bill to Help Curb Fraud and Exploitation of Elderly Gains Assembly Approval

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Detert files bill to reform elder guardianship system


Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice
TALLAHASSEE - A new bill designed to reform Florida's elder guardianship system has been filed, this one aimed at better regulating the people appointed by courts to make decisions for wards whose civil rights have been removed by the state.

Currently, guardians are required to file annual financial reports, which can be audited by clerks of court. But the amount of oversight varies from one county to the next. There is rarely any additional monitoring of adult wards' welfare once the guardianship is in place.

And no formal avenue exists for wards or their families to complain about unsatisfactory guardianships.

But a bill filed by state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would establish an Office of Public and Professional Guardians to certify and supervise the court-appointed guardians. 

Detert's bill (SB1226) came as a surprise to some critics and defenders of the guardianship system. It follows two other reform bills making their way through committees in advance of the 2015 state legislative session, which begins Tuesday.

Problems with Florida's guardianship system were the basis of a series published in December by the Herald-Tribune, “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Florida's Elder Guardianship System.” Case studies told the stories of wards and their families who felt trapped in a legal process they did not understand.

Detert is expected to join Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and other panelists in a forum today on elder guardianship at Gulf Gate Library, sponsored by the Herald-Tribune and Sarasota County Libraries. All seats are reserved, but live coverage will begin at 10:15 a.m. at heraldtribune.com.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Detert files bill to reform elder guardianship system

Pope Says There’s ‘No Future for the Young’ If Elderly Aren’t Respected

“A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death"

Pope Francis urged crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday to show respect for the elderly, saying people will be judged by how they treat their older counterparts.

“Where the elderly are not honored, there is no future for the young,” Pope Francis told the 12,000 followers who attended his weekly address, Vatican Radio reports.“A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death.”

The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff denounced the lack of care with which people treat their elders, even as life expectancy has increased. “If we do not learn to look after and to respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” he warned. “The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life.”

Full Article & Source:
Pope Says There’s ‘No Future for the Young’ If Elderly Aren’t Respected

S.C. House Approves Jail Time for Filing ‘Groundless’ Complaints against Judges


Anyone who “wilfully” files a “groundless” ethics complaint against a South Carolina judge could face a maximum one-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of the criminal misdemeanor charge, under a state House bill now in the Senate.

There currently is no such criminal charge covering "groundless" complaints filed with the S.C. Commission on Judicial Conduct, a 26-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court that can authorize ethics charges against judges and conduct hearings.

On top of the criminal penalty, H. 3184, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York and a former solicitor, would allow a reconfigured Commission of Judicial Conduct to impose a maximum $1,000 civil fine against a person who filed a complaint that was "groundless, wilful and without just cause or with malice" - something which is not specified in current law or court rules.

Judges in the Palmetto State rarely face any discipline - public or private - despite several hundred complaints filed yearly, The Nerve found in a review of court statistics over the past five fiscal years. And the disciplinary process is largely secret under court rules.

Under those rules, anyone filing complaints against judges can publicly reveal their allegations whether or not formal ethics charges are authorized by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, though H. 3184 would keep complaints secret unless charges are issued. Under the bill, the “wilful release of confidential information" would be a criminal misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by a maximum one-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $1,000.

Contacted Friday, a retired Colorado appellate judge and former executive director of the American Judicature Society, a national judicial research organization that dissolved last year, told The Nerve that the language in H. 3184 could have a chilling effect on citizens filing legitimate ethics complaints against S.C. judges.

“It’s like going through a red traffic light - you just have to go through the traffic light to get a ticket,” said Russell Carparelli, who served on the Colorado Court of Appeals from 2003 to 2013. “That’s what they seem to be saying here (in H. 3184) - you just have to do it. There’s no criminal intent.”

Neither the terms “wilful” nor “groundless” are defined the bill, which Carparelli said would give S.C. authorities wide discretion in interpreting it, adding, “If you make it too wide in the beginning, it can have far more unintended consequences.”

Pope, who is the House speaker pro tempore, told The Nerve when initially contacted last week that he thought the bill’s language was copied from existing state ethics law covering state lawmakers and other public officials.

“I’m thinking it’s to mirror that,” said Pope, a former longtime solicitor for York and Union counties.

Under current ethics law, the House and Senate Ethics committees have sole jurisdiction over House and Senate members, respectively, while the State Ethics Commission polices other state and local public officials for ethics violations. Pope’s bill would give a reconfigured State Ethics Commission - which would be made up of members appointed by the governor, Supreme Court and Legislature - the authority to investigate state lawmakers.

Current law allows for a civil fine in lieu of, or in place of, the criminal penalty for the “wilful” filing of a “groundless” complaint against lawmakers or other elected public officials. In contrast, H. 3184 would allow for a civil fine in addition to the criminal penalty for "wilful" and "groundless" complaints against judges.

Under the bill, if the State Ethics Commission found that a "complaining party wilfully filed a groundless complaint, the finding must be reported to the Attorney General and to the Commission on Judicial Conduct." The reconfigured judicial commission would be made up of 24 members, with the Supreme Court, governor and Legislature each appointing eight members.

The Nerve in a written follow-up message asked Pope, who previously served on the House Ethics Committee, whether he believed potential criminal and civil penalties for filing ethics complaints against judges and politicians would have a chilling effect on citizens’ free-speech rights. No response was given by publication of this story.

Lee Coggiola, who heads the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which screens ethics complaints against judges and conducts investigations on behalf of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, was surprised when contacted last week by The Nerve about the bill’s language concerning judicial complaints.

“I really thought that had come out (of the bill),” she said.

Pope included criminal and civil penalties for "wilfully" filing "groundless" complaints against judges when he initially introduced his bill on Dec. 18, though that section later was taken out by the House Judiciary Committee. But on Jan. 28 on the House floor, Reps. James Smith, D-Richland, and Doug Brannon, R-Spartanburg - both of whom are attorneys - successfully sponsored an amendment reinserting the sanctions and allowing the civil fine to be in addition to the criminal penalty instead of "in lieu of" as written in Pope's original version, according to the House Journal.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by 39 House Republicans and Democrats, including House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington and an attorney, is part of a package of House bills aimed at reforming various parts of state ethics law. Pope’s bill passed the House on Jan. 29 and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens. Freshman Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson, was the only House member to vote against the bill on the final reading.

Martin, who is chairman this year of the legislatively controlled judicial screening commission, was the main sponsor of an omnibus ethics bill (S. 1), which failed earlier this month on the Senate floor after an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry and the Senate Ethics Committee chairman, was added that would have kept lawmakers involved with investigating themselves for alleged ethics violations.

Under current law, neither the House or Senate Ethics committees nor State Ethics Commission has jurisdiction over judges for violations of the state’s judicial code of conduct. Discipline of judges rests with the S.C. Supreme Court; the Commission of Judicial Conduct - made up of 14 judges, four lawyers who have never held a judgeship and eight public members - is responsible for investigations and hearings, with assistance from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC), an arm of the Supreme Court.

One of the judicial conduct commission’s members - Greenville County Circuit Judge Edward “Ned” Miller, whom the Legislature re-elected earlier this month - is under investigation by the ODC for alleged ethics violations filed by Brenda Bryant of Lexington County in connection with her legal battle involving guardianship of her adult intellectually disabled daughter, as The Nerve has chronicled since October.

South Carolina and Virginia are the only states where their legislatures play primary roles in electing judges.

Few Judges Disciplined
The Nerve’s review of annual statistical reports by the Commission on Judicial Conduct found that the vast majority of complaints against judges are dismissed, and there are few public sanctions of judges.

Over the past five fiscal years, the commission received a total of 1,473 complaints against judges, plus handled a collective 180 complaints that were pending at the beginning of those fiscal years. The vast majority of complaints - 1,365, or nearly 83 percent of the total 1,653 received and pending complaints - were dismissed, mainly by the ODC after initial review.

Specifics about the dismissal reasons were not given in the reports. Court officials previously have told The Nerve that complaints typically are dismissed because they raise appellate issues rather than ethical allegations, though the public usually has no way of reviewing those complaints because they are kept secret under court rules.

The vast majority of complaints that were not dismissed over the five-year period were handled with private sanctions or other private actions - 120, or nearly 88 percent, out of 137 complaints, The Nerve’s review found.

Of 17 public sanctions issued over the period, according to commission reports, 14, or 82 percent, were public reprimands - generally the least-severe public sanction available under court rules. Two judges were suspended, and one was removed from office, records show.

No disciplined judges are identified in the reports. The Nerve’s review of online Supreme Court disciplinary orders over the past five fiscal years found no public sanctions of any family, circuit, master-in-equity or appellate judges, though a total of 725 complaints were filed against judges in those categories over the period, commission reports show.

Virtually all of the judges identified in the disciplinary orders were lower-level magistrates, also known as summary court judges, which include municipal judges. The only sanctioned judge during the period besides a summary court judge was an associate probate judge. Most of the disciplined judges received public reprimands.

The only jurist removed from office by the Supreme Court during the period was a municipal judge; several magistrates resigned or retired from office before receiving public reprimands, The Nerve’s review found.

Full Article & Source:
S.C. House Approves Jail Time for Filing ‘Groundless’ Complaints against Judges

Monday, March 9, 2015

Psychiatric Drug Overuse Is Cited by Federal Study


WASHINGTON — Federal investigators say they have found evidence of widespread overuse of psychiatric drugs by older Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, and are recommending that Medicare officials take immediate action to reduce unnecessary prescriptions.

The findings will be released Monday by the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, and come as the Obama administration has already been working with nursing homes to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications like Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa and clozapine. But in the study, investigators said officials also needed to focus on overuse of such drugs by people with dementia who live at home or in assisted living facilities.

The Department of Health and Human Services “has taken little action” to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs by older adults living outside nursing homes, the report said. Doctors sometimes prescribe antipsychotic drugs to calm patients with dementia who display disruptive behavior like hitting, yelling or screaming, the report said. Researchers said this was often the case in nursing homes that had inadequate numbers of employees.

Dementia is most commonly associated with a decline in memory, but doctors say it can also cause changes in mood or personality and, at times, agitation or aggression. Experts have raised concern about the use of antipsychotic drugs to address behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The Food and Drug Administration says antipsychotic drugs are often associated with an increased risk of death when used to treat older adults with dementia who also have psychosis.

Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the report showed that “many seniors with dementia are receiving risky mind-altering medications,” financed in many cases by taxpayers and the Medicare program.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who with Mr. Carper requested the study, said, “The report raises many red flags concerning the potential misuse and excessive use of antipsychotic drugs for patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

Toby S. Edelman, who represents patients as a lawyer at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said, “We could save money and provide better care if nursing homes reduced the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs.”

A Chicago psychiatrist pleaded guilty last month to taking illegal kickbacks of nearly $600,000 to prescribe an antipsychotic drug for his patients. The doctor, Michael J. Reinstein, also agreed to pay $3.79 million to the federal government and the State of Illinois to settle a lawsuit asserting that he had been involved in the submission of at least 140,000 false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Law enforcement officials said he had prescribed clozapine for thousands of older and indigent mentally ill patients at 30 nursing homes and other sites.

The lawsuit said drug companies had paid kickbacks, consulting fees and entertainment expenses for Dr. Reinstein as part of an effort to induce him to write prescriptions for clozapine.

Last March, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries and a subsidiary, IVAX Pharmaceuticals, agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle allegations that they had violated federal and state False Claims Acts by making payments to Dr. Reinstein.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office said in 2011 that Medicare officials were doing little to monitor the use of prescription drugs by Medicare patients. But Medicare also designates antipsychotic medications as one of six “protected classes,” meaning that drug insurance plans must cover all or substantially all drugs in that therapeutic class.

The American Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, says antipsychotic drugs can help some patients with dementia who have hallucinations or delusions, but it has supported efforts to reduce their inappropriate use.

“Antipsychotic drugs are expensive, costing hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars,” the association says. “They also increase the risk of death, falls with fractures, hospitalizations and other complications.”

Full Article & Source:
Psychiatric Drug Overuse Is Cited by Federal Study

8 more sentenced in Maverick County public corruption probe linked to bribes, rigged bids


DEL RIO, Texas — Three former commissioners of a corruption-plagued South Texas county have now received maximum 10-year prison sentences after admitting they took bribes.

Former Maverick County Precinct 4 Commissioner Cesar Flores was sentenced in Del Rio on Wednesday, one day after former Commissioner Eliaz Maldonado got 10 years in prison for a similar guilty plea to taking a bribe.

On Monday, former Maverick County Commissioner Rodolfo Bainet Heredia was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his guilty plea to taking a bribe. The 10-year terms were the maximum that U.S. District Judge Alia Moses of Del Rio could assess.

At least 16 people have been convicted and sentenced in the latest investigation into Maverick County losing more than $1.3 million.

Full Article & Source: 
8 more sentenced in Maverick County public corruption probe linked to bribes, rigged bids

Keith Monia waives preliminary hearing, will appear again March 9


Keith Monia is escorted into the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse
A Cape Girardeau man accused of defrauding nine people of more than $560,000 appeared in court Thursday in Cape Girardeau County.

Keith Monia, who is charged with several counts of financial exploitation of the elderly, theft by deceit and forgery, waived his preliminary hearing Tuesday before Judge Robert Barney, who is filling in for Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp.

Monia, represented by assistant public defender Leslie Hazel, requested a reduction in his $30,000 bail and asked it be changed from cash only to cash or surety bond, which would have allowed him to use the services of a bail bondsman. Barney denied both requests.

Monia has been charged with 15 felonies in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties stemming from an investigation into his financial dealings. The transactions date to 2007.

In Cape Girardeau County, Monia is charged with six counts of financial exploitation of the elderly, one count of forgery and one count of theft of property or services in the amount of $25,000 or more.

In most of the cases, Monia is alleged to have taken clients' money, promising to invest it in annuities plans and failing to do so.

In one case, Monia is accused of keeping $7,500 he was supposed to apply toward the purchase of a modular home for a client.

The original criminal case against Monia was filed in April 2013 in Scott County.

In that case, he is accused of taking more than $220,000 from a Scott City couple. He is charged with two counts each of forgery and financial exploitation of the elderly in connection with the case. In August 2013, Judge Scott Horman sent the case from Scott County to Stoddard County on a change of venue, online court records show.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in the case states Monia promised the couple he would invest their money in annuities, but most of it went to Cape Girardeau day trader George Joseph, who told investigators he was running an "investment club" of which Monia at one time had been a member.

Joseph is facing charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the May 30, 2013, shooting deaths of his wife and son.

In June, Wayne County Circuit Judge Kelly W. Parker ordered Monia to pay more than $212,000 to Paul Bollinger, who sued Monia in 2010.

Bollinger alleged Monia took money from him to invest in annuities but instead pocketed the money. Monia later said he believed the money had been a gift.

A state investigation into Monia's activities in late July and early August 2013 led to the Cape Girardeau County charges and three additional financial exploitation charges in Scott County.

Monia remains in custody at the Stoddard County Jail. His next court appearance will be March 9.

Hazel and assistant prosecuting attorney Angel Woodruff declined to comment on the case.

Full Article & Source:
Monia waives preliminary hearing, will appear again March 9

See Also:
Man Arrested for Financial Exploitation and Forgery

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Rally at Conneticut Capitol Against Ongoing Corruption and Racketeering

Our guest:  Samantha/spokesperson for Corrupt CT

The rally at CT Capitol DCF family court a success, the family court and DCF corruption was brought to light for all to see. Although it was cold, there was a large turnout. People from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut came to  support the rally against the corruption within the DCF and family courts. There were dozens of people that showed, thankful for all the people that came out to show support.

Ct DCF and CT family courts are ruining GOOD families. Ct DCF are removing good children from loving homes. Even worse, targeting fragile children, medically kidnapping children. Such as Weston and Jaxon both children were torn from their loving homes.

Signs displaying – STOP FAMILY COURT CORRUPTION IN CONNECTICUT, STOP DCF FROM MEDICALLY KIDNAPPING OUR CHILDREN, CHILDREN ARE NOT FOR SALE, CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURTS  ARE CORRUPT, BRING BABY WESTON HOME, BRING JAXON NAVARRO GILMORE HOME, CT DCF STOP MAKING MONEY OFF OF OUR CHILDREN, MY KIDS WERE KIDNAPPED BY THE STATE, OUR KIDS ARE NOT FOR SALE, DCF STEALS CHILDREN FOR FEDERAL PROFIT, CONNECTICUT FAMILY COURTS AND JUDGES CORRUPT, DCF = STATE SPONSORED KIDNAPPING, DCF IS A CORRUPT RACKETEERING ORGANIZATION, MEDICAL KIDNAPPING IS GIVING DCF MORE FEDERAL FUNDING, STOP TEARING FAMILIES APART, CORRUPT FAMILY COURT JUDGES MONEY BEFORE CHILDREN, ALL CHILDREN DESERVE TO BE UNDER THE PROTECTIVE UMBRELLA OF A LOVING FAMILY.

There must be a FEDERAL INVESTIGATION ON THE FAMILY COURTS. To the FBI in Connecticut to clean up the corruption, go sit at the family courts, all you need to do is watch. 

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Valley Man Wrestles With Guardianship System

Jason Hanson
Mistake, misunderstanding or intention to mislead? No matter what, one man's life was dramatically changed forever.

Contact 13 shows how a system intended to guard and protect could be causing more harm than good.

When you look at Jason Hanson, you might think he can't take care of himself, but when you talk to him, you learn otherwise.

"I'm clearly lucid. I'm very intelligent. Someone needs to speak up. Someone needs to take a stand."

Jason is speaking out about what happened to him in adult guardianship court, a system Contact 13 discovered he never should have been caught up in.

When Contact 13 started asking questions, the court started admitting errors, like accepting court filings after the court had lost jurisdiction, which they call "unfortunate."

As for treating Jason as an "adult ward" they say they don't know whether that was a clerical error or misunderstanding by the attorneys or an intention to mislead the court.

In Jason's case, no one caught it for seven years until Contact 13 got involved and the case was suddenly closed. While it was open, private guardian and former Clark County Public Administrator Jared Shafer was appointed Trustee from July 2009 through January 2014. A special needs trust was created so Jason could qualify for social security benefits.

"I never asked for Jared Shafer to be appointed," said Jason. "He was court-appointed."

Shafer is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit accusing him of embezzlement, fraud, racketeering and negligence in another case where he was the guardian.

Full Article, Video and Source:
Valley Man Wrestles With Guardianship System

See Also:
The Jason Hanson  - Jared E. Shafer - Story, "Special Administrator" Jared E. Shafer Takes Home and Inheritance from 24 Year-Old Man With Cerebral Palsy

Jared E. Shafer

Patience Bristol
 

Former COO Of Hospice Company Indicted For Fraud, Allegedly Put People In Hospice Who Were Not Terminally Ill



Mary Ann Stewart, the former Chief Operations Officer for the Pittsburgh-area Horizons Hospice LLC, has been indicted by a federal grand jury after she allegedly both orchestrated a health fraud scheme in which people were put into a hospice center when they were not terminally ill and for making false declarations in front of a grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Stewart, who now lives in Bossier City, Louisiana, allegedly also provided untrue testimony to a series of four questions in front of a grand jury. Mary Ann Stewart is the sole defendant in a five-count indictment, according to the FBI.
“Stewart was the chief operations officer for Horizons Hospice LLC, which provided end-of-life hospice care to eligible patients. A significant number of patients were eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. The indictment alleges Stewart orchestrated a scheme whereby she caused her staff to place non-qualifying patients into hospice care that were not appropriate, and then recertified the patients for continued hospice care.”
The alleged fraud took place from January, 2008, until August, 2012. She is accused of conspiring with “others known to the grand jury,” according to the Washington Times.

A former medical director at the Horizons Hospice, Oliver Herndon, pleaded guilty to similar charges last fall according to Healthcare Finance News. Stewart was the second charged in the hospice fraud scheme, which according to WCED, allegedly resulted in the collections of millions of dollars in false billing as people who were not dying were sent to hospice care.

The case began with an investigation into Herndon after 26 Pittsburgh-area pharmacy workers tipped DEA agents off about a large number of narcotic pain killers like oxycodone and oxymorphone coming from Herndon’s own private practice in an upscale suburb. Herndon provided so many painkillers to the area that the feds said the street price for the narcotics doubled after he was arrested. Once that investigation exposed wrong doing, the reportedly disturbing hospice fraud was uncovered after that.

According to the U.S. Attorney‘s indictment, a “significant number of patients” on Medicaid and Medicare were affected by the hospice fraud scheme. She is accused of having her staff members admit patients who she knew were not actually near the end of their lives into the hospice facility. According to the Washington Times, hospice care usually involves only pain management and comfort measures.

The maximum sentence for the health care fraud charge is 10 years. For each count of making a false declaration before a grand jury, Stewart potentially faces five years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000, according to the FBI, which made sure to point out that an indictment is an accusation and Stewart is assumed innocent unless she is proven guilty.

Stewart will be arraigned on March 19 for the hospice-related fraud charge and the false declarations charges.

Full Article & Source:
Former COO Of Hospice Company Indicted For Fraud, Allegedly Put People In Hospice Who Were Not Terminally Ill

New Reports Shine Light on Long-Term Care Problems


For a couple decades now, advocates for seniors and aging Californians have warned that long-term care problems will get larger and more numerous if government and health industry officials don't make some policy changes.

Three new reports are turning up the pressure on policymakers:

A study published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests the country's health care system is getting worse rather than better at dealing with patients in the last year of life. The number of U.S. residents who experienced pain in the last year of life increased by nearly 12% and reports of depression and periodic confusion during that period increased by about 26% between 1998 and 2010, according to the study.

A new study from UC-San Francisco predicts the long-term care industry will experience substantial growth in coming years but notes that more people are leaving long-term care jobs than entering them.

A report titled, " A Shattered System: Reforming Long-Term Care in California," from the state Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long Term Care said California's fragmented system for caring for aging residents needs to be overhauled soon. The critical assessment makes several policy recommendations, including consolidating programs and improving workforce and training efforts.

"A lot of us have been yammering about all this for decades," said Bonnie Burns, veteran training and policy consultant for California Health Advocates, a not-for-profit advocacy and education program for Medicare and long-term care.

"We have a huge number of people heading into the part of their lives when they're going to need long-term care and we're really not ready for it," Burns said.

Ten thousand people a day will turn 65 over the next 17 years in the U.S., according to Pew Research Center projections. By the year 2030, 24% of California's population will be 60 or older.

"It's not like anybody didn't see this coming," Burns said. "But everybody's been kicking the can down the road for years."

The comprehensive 211-page state Senate committee report makes several concrete suggestions for improving California's long-term care system, but the committee does not suggest how the state might pay for making changes.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has repeatedly demonstrated resistance to new spending and many legislators agree with him.

Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale), chair of the committee, said she's confident legislators and the governor are willing to talk about ways to pay for improving the system.

"The state budget is finally getting better, and recent forecasts from the Legislative Analyst's Office indicate that revenues for the upcoming fiscal year will be even larger than anticipated," Liu said. "And most forecasts expect the economic recovery to continue for several years."

"I think there is room for discussion about implementing the recommendations. We are all getting older, and we need to have an honest talk about how to improve services to our aging population," Liu said.

While all Californians face similar challenges involving health care for themselves or family members as they age, the hurdles for low-income people tend to be higher and more numerous than those for middle-class and wealthy people.

"Upper- and middle-income families already have more options to provide care for their aging family members. The harder burdens fall on the poor, and that's not right," Liu said.

Full Article & Source:
New Reports Shine Light on Long-Term Care Problems