Saturday, June 27, 2015

Guardianship judge allows daughter back into dad's life



Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- In a case that's been called a matter of greed versus love, one family says love has prevailed.

It's a battle over guardianship of a father that Darcy Spears has been investigating for nine months.
Contact 13 was there as the family got the news they've been fighting for.

"I'm going to take the step of having Mrs. Black be co-guardian of the person at this juncture."

Judge Cynthia Diann Steel's words from the bench were more than music to Terri Black's ears.

"It was what I hoped for," Black after the court hearing.  "It was what I prayed for."

Her family has spent nearly $700,000 fighting the Clark County guardianship system over the past two years.

"And today, for the first time in two years, our voices have finally been heard and it's a big, big day for us," said Terri's husband, Rick.

An only child, Terri has been fighting for what should be simple.

The ability to help take care of her own father, Del Mencarelli, who's been under a court-appointed guardianship since 2013.

"It's a happy day!" Terri exclaimed.  "I can care for my father the way it was meant to be, the way that he desired and the way that I told him I would."

Her reaction is a stark contrast to the one we got from Del's guardian, Helen Natko, as we followed her out of the courthouse.

"What are your feelings on sharing the guardianship?" Darcy Spears asked.  "Why look at me and turn away?  Don't you have something to say?"

Natko said nothing after Judge Steel ordered her to share guardianship over Del with Terri.

In another court, Natko is facing felony charges for fraud and exploitation of Del.

Despite that, former guardianship hearing master Jon Norheim left Natko in charge of Del and his money.

"I do have some very grave concerns about things that have happened since that time," Judge Steel said in court.

In addition to Alzheimer's, Del has diabetes.

He recently developed an infection shortly after Natko took him for a pedicure.

Gangrene set in and he's expected to lose most of his toes.

"There's enough new concern going on with regard to the ward here that I am concerned for his health, primarily," Steel said.

There's also concern that Natko may have removed Del from a recent hospital visit against medical advice.

"Walking away from the camera doesn't look very good," Spears said to Natko.  "Why not share your perspective?"

"If it would be in any way beneficial for my client to talk to the press, I would talk to the press.  But it's not," answered Dan Foley, Natko's lawyer in both the guardianship and criminal cases.

Although he and his clients are staying tight-lipped, Terri and Rick black can't stop talking about the change they're seeing in our guardianship system.

"What has occurred in this courtroom is unbelievable!" said Rick.  "Now, finally, people are going to be held accountable to evidence.  Be held accountable to truth.  And be held accountable to Nevada law.  That hasn't happened in this court, with wealthy, contested adult guardianship cases, in a long, long time."

Terri can help care for her dad, but Helen Natko is still in charge of his money.

She's due to answer the criminal charges in a preliminary hearing in August.

Contact 13 will be there.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court of Nevada released a new order Thursday just after 4pm. Upon further review the court determined it needed to expand the State Guardianship Commission to 30 members from 20.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship judge allows daughter back into dad's life

See Also:
NASGA:  Del Mencarelli, Nevada Victim

Grand jury indicts Henderson lawyer on theft, exploitation charges


Henderson personal injury lawyer William K. Errico has been indicted on dozens of charges in connection with the theft of more than a half-million dollars from his clients, prosecutors said Friday.

A Clark County grand jury indicted Errico, who is free on $100,000 bail, on 17 counts of theft and 17 counts of exploitation of the elderly and/or vulnerable.

Between July 2007 and May 2011, prosecutor J.P. Raman said, Errico stole $162,062.70 out of a $300,000 insurance settlement he won for Deeann Clark, an elderly woman.

The complaint and a Las Vegas police report of the investigation into Errico’s activities also detailed the theft of more than $462,166.15 from another client, Wilfred Bosserman, who was severely injured and institutionalized following an automobile accident. The money was stolen between July 2009 and February 2012 from a $1 million settlement Errico had obtained for Bosserman.

During the investigation, Bosserman’s mother secretly recorded a meeting she had with Errico at his law office to complain about his handling of the insurance settlement. Metro police Intelligence detectives followed her to the office and remained nearby until she came outside.

Errico was initially arrested in May 2014 on two counts of theft, one count of elderly explotation and one count of explotation of a vulnerable person. Raman said prosecutors since found more money that they believe Errico stole.

Full Article & Source:
Grand jury indicts Henderson lawyer on theft, exploitation charges

Judge leaves BB King's estate in hands of longtime business manager



BB King’s longtime business manager has been named sole executor of his estate Thursday despite objections from a lawyer for four of the late blues musician’s daughters.

Clark county District Judge Gloria Sturman first refused to let attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jose Baez contest King’s will on behalf of daughters Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington and Barbara Winfree.

The will, filed in January 2007, puts Laverne Toney alone in charge of administering King’s assets, his property and his trust. The trust documents have not been filed publicly.

The judge then rejected efforts by Las Vegas attorney Larissa Drohobyczer to cast Toney as having misused her power of attorney while BB King was alive to move about $1m from personal to joint bank accounts to which she had access, and to block relatives from visiting King in his dying days.

“A million dollars is a big deal,” Sturman said, but she left the argument for another day.

“I’m not saying there may not be other issues or that we may not need outside assistance,” she said.

“But he had a plan. I don’t see anything before me at this point in time that he wanted that changed.”

Attorney Brent Bryson, lawyer for the estate and Toney, said claims by the daughters that Toney stole from their father, isolated him and poisoned him before his 14 May death at age 89 had no basis in fact. The family members had provided no evidence that a competing will existed, he said.

“There has to be more to the objections than hollow allegations and innuendo,” Bryson said.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Judge leaves BB King's estate in hands of longtime business manager

See Also:
BB King: coroner says there is no immediate evidence of poisoning

Guardianship for Blues Great BB King Rejected

Friday, June 26, 2015

Press Release: [Nevada] Supreme Court Names Guardianship Commission Members

Nevada Appellate Courts/Administrative Office of the Courts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Michael S. Sommermeyer
msommermeyer@nvcourts.nv.gov | (702) 486-3232

Supreme Court Names Guardianship Commission Members

Carson City, June 26, 2015 – Chief Justice James W. Hardesty has appointed 25 members of a Commission created by the Nevada Supreme Court in May to study guardianships in the state.

Between now and the end of December, the Commission to Study the Administration of Guardianships in Nevada's Courts will review the processes for creating guardianships and conservatorships in Nevada, stakeholder accountability, judicial training, court documentation and tracking, and any resources available or needed to assist Nevada's courts in administrating guardianships.

Chief Justice Hardesty will serve as chairperson and was authorized by the Supreme Court to appoint up to 30 Commission members who speak for the guardianship system. The Commission membership is as follows:

Members

James W. Hardesty, Chief Justice

Nevada Supreme Court


Frances Doherty, Judge

Second Judicial District Court

Department 12


Cynthia Dianne Steel, Judge

Eighth Judicial District Court

Department G
Egan Walker, Judge

Second Judicial District Court

Department 2


Michael C. Sprinkle, Assemblyman

Nevada Legislature


Trudy Andrews

Pacifica Senior Living

Deborah Bookout

Legal Aid of Southern Nevada


Rana Goodman

The Vegas Voice


Jay P. Raman

Clark County District Attorney’s Office


Terri Russell

KOLO Channel 8


Kim Spoon

Guardianship Services of Nevada, Inc.


Susan Sweikert

Victim’s Advocate


Michael Gibbons, Chief Judge

Nevada Court of Appeals


Nancy Porter, Judge

Fourth Judicial District Court

Department 1


William Voy, Judge

Eighth Judicial District

Department A


Becky Harris, Senator

Nevada Legislature

Glenn E. Trowbridge, Assemblyman

Nevada Legislature


Julie Arnold

Southern Nevada Senior Law Program

Kathleen Buchanan

Clark County Public Guardian


Susan Hoy

National Guardian Services, LLC


Kim Rowe

Maupin, Cox, and Legoy


David Spitzer

Washoe Legal Services


Timothy Sutton

Nye County District Attorney’s Office


Elyse Tyrell

Private Attorney


Ex Officio Member

Christine Smith

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

William S. Boyd School of Law


The first meeting of the Commission is expected to be held in mid-July. Commission members will listen to public testimony, write proposed rules, and develop a new model for Nevada guardianships within Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter (NRS) 159 and court rules, policies, and procedures.

The Commission is expected to make its recommendations to the Supreme Court by December 31, 2015.

###

Michael S. Sommermeyer
Office of Public Information
Administrative Office of the Courts
Supreme Court of Nevada
200 Lewis Avenue, 17th Floor
Las Vegas, NV, 89101-6204
Phone: 702/486-3232
Mobile: 702/727-6731
Fax: 702/486-3877

Portsmouth Police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin fired


Aaron Goodwin
 PORTSMOUTH — Subject of a disputed $2.7 million inheritance, police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin was fired Wednesday, announced Police Chief Stephen DuBois and Police Commission Chairman John Golumb.
Goodwin was terminated from his position with the Portsmouth Police Department by DuBois, "with the full support of the Portsmouth Police Commission," it was announced in a press release to the community and area media.  
"The decision comes after extensive review of the findings of the Roberts Report and careful deliberation over six meetings beginning on June 2," it was announced.
"This termination is only one of many changes that we have made and will continue to make as we seek to close what has been an unfortunate chapter in the otherwise proud history of the Portsmouth Police Department," DuBois and the commission announced. "We wish to thank the citizens of Portsmouth and the men and women of the Portsmouth Police Department for everyone's patience."
Goodwin is accused in the Strafford County probate court of exerting undue influence over the late Geraldine Webber, while she was impaired by dementia, to inherit most of her valuable estate. The Roberts Report referenced by the chief was published earlier this month by a panel led by retired Judge Stephen Roberts and funded with $20,000 approved by the City Council. 
The report noted that Goodwin violated three regulations in the Police Department's Duty Manual and three regulations in the city's Code of Ethics, all pertaining to his inheritance.
Goodwin denied the allegations during a two-week hearing in the probate court last month and said he provided Webber with comfort and care during the end of her life. He said he never told his elderly benefactor that he couldn't accept her house, car, stocks and bonds because he's a police officer. Instead, Goodwin testified, "My long stance with her was to just do whatever makes her happy."
He testified that he told Webber he'd help her find a lawyer to change her will if it made her happy and that if it made her happy to leave him her valuable stocks and bonds, then she should do that.
Goodwin's contested inheritance diminished inheritances to two medical charities and the city's police and fire departments, which were each one-quarter beneficiaries in Webber's prior will.
During the probate hearing, Goodwin confirmed that he referred to his relationship with Webber as like a mother and son. But he said he also knew that Webber told an investigator with the attorney general's office, on Feb. 1, 2011, that he "could move in with me anytime" and that she was "in love with him" so she wanted to give him her house.
Evidence presented during the probate hearing showed that Goodwin met Webber while he was on duty and that he had 6,328 minutes worth of phone calls with Webber, on his cellphone only, from the time he met her in 2010, until her death in December 2012. Goodwin said he took Webber out for cocktails and to casinos and during a previous deposition, said he regularly buttered Webber's banana-bread toast and helped her count cash she kept in her waterfront home. 
Goodwin said that in January 2011, he told former police chief Lou Ferland that Webber wanted to give him her house and Ferland responded by telling him to keep their relationship off-duty. But Ferland testified during the probate hearing that he didn't learn about the inheritance until after Webber's death.
Full Article & Source:
Portsmouth Police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin fired

See Also:
Police officer: 'I was watching a crime'

Conflict of Interest? Explanations Needed! 

Portsmouth officer to be deposed about $2.7M inheritance

Police Commission Authorizes Probe of Shady Inheritance

Police brass caught in cop's disputed inheritance case

Working to stop senior exploitation


Brokers and other financial professionals have been added to the list of those charged with watching for suspected exploitation of older and vulnerable people.

They were included in AB51, joining a long list of professionals from law enforcement to medical providers and even bankers in an effort to stop the growing problem of seniors in particular being exploited by everyone from caregivers to scam artists, so-called friends and, most disturbingly, their own children and other family members. 

“Often the children have the power of attorney and mom or dad trusts them,” said Carrie Embree, Elder Rights Chief for the Nevada Division of Aging Services. “We see it happen for all sorts of reasons and we don’t understand.” 

While the division is concerned with a laundry list of abuses ranging from simple neglect to sexual abuse, financial exploitation is the most common. And, according to a Journal of General Medicine study in 2014, more often than not, the perpetrator was a relative. 

The problem isn’t rare either. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has reported up to 77 percent of their members say they have experience with a senior subjected to financial exploitation. 

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, whose staff will set up and monitor the training now required of financial advisers, managers and brokers, said financial abuse costs victims an estimated $2.9 billion a year nationwide. She said those brokers, like other financial professionals such as bankers, must now attend training to learn the warning signs of exploitation and what to do if they are suspicious.
Diana Foley, securities administrator for the Secretary of State, said there was “kind of a hole” in the list of those who have to report suspected abuse.” 

Embree said they were added to the list because those financial managers and advisers often have a long-standing relationship with the potential victims and were in a position to spot something wrong.
“They are in a unique position where they can see if when there are some uncharacteristic financial transactions happening,” she said. 

She said that could be anything from a series of withdrawals, showing the senior may be starting to give away large amounts of money. 

“If they’ve known them for six or eight years then suddenly they start doing that, it could be a red flag,” she said. 

A report by the National Center on Elder Abuse said financial exploitation can take many forms including cashing a vulnerable person’s checks without permission, forging their signature on documents, stealing possessions or coercing a senior into signing documents such as contracts, a will or power of attorney. 

Financial theft, the report states, is typically between $1,000 and $5,000 per transaction but can be more extensive ranging up to real estate transactions. 

And it’s far more common than most believe. 

A study by Met Life Insurance estimated there are as many as a million victims a year in the U.S.
In Fiscal 2014, there were 6,033 allegations of exploitation and abuse in Nevada, according to Embree. She said 1,262 of them were confirmed cases. 

In that total were 272 reports in Carson City, 130 in Douglas and 115 in Churchill counties. Substantiated reports total 108 in Carson, 42 in Douglas and 50 in Churchill. 

More disturbingly, she said, experts believe for every case reported another 23 go unreported, often because senior victims are embarrassed or just don’t want to accuse a loved one. 

Sometimes, she said, they just don’t know who to call for help. 

Nationally, according to Adult Protective Services, the typical victim is 79-89 years old, white, female, frail and cognitively impaired. 

“She is trusting of others and may be lonely or isolated,” the agency report states. 

Embree said the social isolation is a key risk factor. 

If an elder is socially isolated or withdrawn, they’re by themselves,” she said. 

That opens the door for any one from a long time friend to a family member or neighbor to gain their trust. 

She said poor physical health, dementia and even substance abuse are risk factors that make those seniors even more vulnerable. 

Family members, especially children, are often the perpetrators and Embree said it’s often because the child involved has “issues going on.” 

“Substance abuse issues can really intensify the exploitation,” she said. 

They need the money to pay for their drug habit or a gambling habit or something similar. As a result, 1,288 of the 5,667 case reports involved the victim’s child, 507 their spouse and 562 another relative.
But caregivers are also high on the list, accounting for 636 of those complaints. 

Caregivers, some licensed but others not — like a friend or neighbor who volunteers to help out — too often take advantage of the senior victim. 

The key, according to Embree, is to be aware when something involving a senior or other vulnerable person you know just doesn’t look right and report it. 

That report can be made either to the Aging and Disability Services Division at 888-729-0571 or to local law enforcement. 

That prompts Elder Protective Services to send a social worker to check the allegations out and see if there’s enough evidence to believe something is happening. 

“Even if you don’t know, we encourage people to report,” she said.

Full Article & Source:
Working to stop senior exploitation

California Court Says No More Nursing Home Death Panels


The Alameda County Superior Court has ruled nursing homes that give mind-altering drugs and withdraw life-sustaining treatment to “unrepresented” residents are violating the state constitution and must stop immediately. The case, CANHR v. Chapman, was brought by Professor Mort Cohen of Golden Gate University Law School on behalf of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and several nursing home residents against the California Department of Public Health (DPH).

Since 1992, California nursing homes have used Health and Safety Code §1418.8, a law allowing nursing homes to make routine medical decisions for residents who lack mental capacity and do not have family or other surrogate decision-makers, to drastically limit the lives and liberty of their residents. DPH has interpreted this law to permit facilities to tie residents to their beds, force them to take antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints, and authorize the withdrawal of treatment necessary to sustain life.

The Court found Section 1418.8 facially unconstitutional for its failure to provide residents with any notice they had been determined “incapacitated” or that medical decisions were being considered without their input. The Court also held that the state constitution prohibits nursing homes from drugging residents or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment without more due process than Section 1418.8 provides.

According to Professor Cohen, “The judge understood that what is convenient for nursing homes turns out to be highly intrusive to residents. This decision recognizes that people do not lose their rights to life and liberty simply because they live in a nursing home.”

Pat McGinnis, Executive Director of CANHR stated “This is an amazing victory for nursing home residents and all Californians. The decision will ensure that residents are protected from poorly considered treatment and are given the full respect that our constitution affords.”

The Court recognized that its ruling “will likely create problems in how many skilled nursing facilities operate” but “the court has considered this burden and weighed it against due process concerns, and finds that the due process rights of these patients is more compelling.” [emphasis added]

Click here to see the court’s full decision...

Full Article & Source:
California Court Says No More Nursing Home Death Panels

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Surrey County justice is the ruin of William Neal Shelton


MOUNT AIRY, N.C., June 22, 2015 — Five years ago, William Neal Shelton was a successful entrepreneur. He had a nice home, a wife, a child, and another child on the way. Today, Shelton is unemployed, unemployable and divorced, and he hasn’t seen his children in three years.

Shelton’s ruin was fast and furious, which he says was aided by a vindictive attorney and a perfect storm of bad luck.

The embezzlement

Shelton’s problems started in 2010. At that time, he had a successful business buying and selling high-end cars. In July 2010, checks on his business account began to bounce. Shelton’s wife, an accountant, examined the account and found 117 checks totaling about $100,000 made out to “cash.”
The checks appeared to have been forged.

Shelton also realized that some of his personal property was missing from his office.

Shelton said he and his wife identified Jody Inman, an employee who washed his cars, as the likely perpetrator. Some of the checks were signed with Inman’s name, and Inman and Shelton were the only employees with keys to the office where the checks were kept.

Shelton did not know that Inman had previously been convicted of embezzlement in 2005.




On July 24, 2010, Shelton went to the Mount Airy Police Department to file a formal complaint regarding the forged checks and theft of personal property. Police officials told Shelton he needed an affidavit from the bank for each forged check before he could file a complaint.

Shelton then took the suspected forged checks to his bank, Surrey Bank, to obtain the affidavits.
Shelton remembers the bank manager proclaiming, “Oh my God. Those are clearly not your signatures. We have to turn this over to the operations department. An affidavit has to be done for each forged check and due to the large number of checks it will probably be Monday before they are done.”

However, Shelton said that instead of returning the affidavits promptly, the bank stalled. This delay resulted in more bounced checks for his business, which ultimately forced Shelton to close his business.

Shelton said over the next several months he tried with no success to get affidavits from Surrey Bank so he could file formal charges with the police department.

Shelton’s situation deteriorated after that incident.

On July 29, 2010, Shelton was arrested for the first time. He says that on that day, he arrived at the lot where he kept his car and found the car doors chained and padlocked together with one of his chains. Shelton began cutting the chain when two officers from the Mount Airy Police Department arrived. After a short conversation with Shelton, he was arrested for breaking and entering, larceny for the chain and possession of larceny tools.

In August 2010, Shelton said he went to First Citizen’s Bank, where he had a small business account, to inquire about a few checks totaling $175, which he also believed were forged. Shelton told Crime Magazine that First Citizen’s immediately identified the forged checks and provided affidavits for all forged checks the same day.

However, First Citizen’s said Shelton would have to pursue his own action to recoup the funds.
On August 5, 2010, Shelton was again arrested by the Mount Airy Police Department. Shelton said his arrest took place after the police department called and said he could pick up some of the items he had reported stolen.

Shelton said he then met a Mount Airy police officer and Jody Inman. Inman had some of the items Shelton had reported stolen and took them from his own car and placed them into Shelton’s car with the officer present.

Minutes later, the officer told Shelton to go into the police station, where Shelton remembers the officer saying, “Mr. Shelton, I am placing you under arrest for two charges of felony attempting to obtain property by false pretense and two charges of filing false reports as well as two charges for felony attempting to obtain property by false pretense from the DMV.”

Shelton said the officer had affidavits signed by Inman and others about the missing items and alleged forged checks in which Inman stated that Shelton had given him permission to remove the items and use the checks.

Over the next year, Shelton was charged with four more felonies: two felony writing worthless checks and two felony paying property under false pretenses.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Surrey County justice is the ruin of William Neal Shelton

Senate Passes Elder Financial Abuse Legislation


David J. Valesky
(Albany, NY – June 2015) Legislation sponsored by state Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) protecting seniors from financial abuse passed the Senate June 15, which was also World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

People over the age of 65 are the fastest growing segment of the American population. While senior citizens constituted only 4 percent of the total population in 1900, by 1994 the proportion of seniors in the United States had grown to 12.5 percent.

By 2050 almost 25 percent of all Americans will be over age 65. Evidence suggests that there may be a surprisingly high percentage of senior citizens who are, either intentionally or unintentionally, mistreated by family members or institutional caregivers or who, of their own volition, are neglecting their own basic custodial needs. This maltreatment can take many forms, ranging from physical and psychological abuse to neglect to financial abuse and exploitation. The loss of one’s financial assets can have a severe long-term impact on a senior’s well-being and quality of life. Data obtained by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services project a surge in the number of cases of financial abuse by the year 2030, with nearly 200,000 incidents predicted to occur.

In order to combat these rising trends and to protect even more elderly individuals from becoming future victims themselves, Valesky proposed legislation that will, among other things: authorize banks to refuse suspicious transactions; expand the definition of “caregiver;” and allow a prosecutor to obtain medical records under certain circumstances.

“We are seeing increasing incidences of elder abuse, and we must do all we can to stop this disturbing trend,” Valesky said. “These bills will establish new protections for our elderly citizens and give law enforcement officials additional tools to pursue and prosecute those who would take advantage of and harm adults who are unable to protect themselves.”

“Vera House is so grateful for the work Senator Valesky is doing to advance legislation to protect vulnerable adults. Elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation are growing problems, and are best addressed with community collaboration. The proposed legislation makes it easier for financial institutions, social service agencies, law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue these cases, reduce financial losses and protect seniors in our community,” said Randi Bregman, Executive Director, Vera House.

The bills include:
S.639, which authorizes banks to refuse any transaction of moneys if the banking institution, social services official, or law enforcement agency reasonably believes that financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult has occurred or may occur.

S.641, which expands the definition of “caregiver” under the penal law to include a person who voluntarily, or otherwise by operation of law (such as an appointed guardian or power of attorney), assumes responsibility of an elderly person so that they would be tried under the “endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person” law.

S.624, which proposes to allow a prosecutor to obtain medical records, without a privilege waiver, with a subpoena, endorsed by the court, based upon a showing that the patient suffers from a mental disability, and that the patient has been a victim of a crime.

Financial elder abuse manifests itself in many ways. Often, the perpetrators are family members of or have a close relationship with the victim, who may depend on them for care, depressing the number of reported cases. If you or anyone you suspect may be a victim of abuse, you should contact the authorities, or call Vera House’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 315-468-3260.

Full Article & Source:
Senate Passes Elder Financial Abuse Legislation

State House panel OKs bill to help protect senior citizens from scams


State Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Dist. 78) said the House Aging and Older Adult Committee has voted unanimously to advance legislation that would increase cooperation among state agencies to protect the state's senior citizens from scam artists.

To enhance protection for senior citizens from unwanted phone calls made for the purpose of financial exploitation, House Bill 271 would require the state Office of the Attorney General to notify the Pennsylvania Department of Aging on a regular basis regarding any investigation conducted under the state’s Telemarketer Registration Act involving anyone age 60 or older.

With built-in cooperation, local agencies can more easily identify and even observe potential scams or fraud. Current regulations limit detailed reports of such activity to the preceding fiscal year.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an increase in cases of senior abuse and fraud across the Commonwealth,” Topper said. “House Bill 271 is a common-sense solution which will help our agencies gain more information about how people are falling victim to financial exploitation. By learning more about these incidents, we can learn what can be done to prevent them.”

The bill, which amends the 1996 Telemarketer Registration Act, now goes to the full House for consideration.

Full Article & Source:
State House panel OKs bill to help protect senior citizens from scams

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Health Care Fraud Takedown


Attorney General Lynch, FBI Director Comey, and HHS Secretary Burwell at Health Care Fraud Takedown Press Conference Attorney General Loretta Lynch—joined by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell (left) and FBI Director James B. Comey—speaks at a press conference announcing charges in the largest-ever health care fraud takedown in terms of both loss amounts and arrests.

243 Arrested, Charged with $712 Million in False Medicare Billings

 
06/18/15
More than 240 individuals—including doctors, nurses, and other licensed professionals—were arrested this week for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $712 million in false billings.

The arrests, which began Tuesday, were part of a coordinated operation in 17 cities by Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams, which include personnel from the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and local law enforcement. The Strike Force’s mission is to combat health care fraud, waste, and abuse.

At a press conference today at DOJ Headquarters in Washington, D.C., officials said the arrests constituted the largest-ever health care fraud takedown in terms of both loss amount and arrests.

“These are extraordinary figures,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “They billed for equipment that wasn’t provided, for care that wasn’t needed, and for services that weren’t rendered.”

The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving medical treatments and services. According to court documents, the schemes included submitting claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often not provided. In many of the cases, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were allegedly paid cash kickbacks for supplying beneficiary information so providers could submit fraudulent bills to Medicare. Forty-four of the defendants were charged in schemes related to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit program, which is the fastest growing component of Medicare and a growing target for criminals.

“There is a lot of money there, so there are a lot of criminals,” said FBI Director James B. Comey. He described how investigations leveraged technology to collect and analyze data, and rapid response teams to surge where the data showed the schemes were operating. “In these cases, we followed the money and found criminals who were attracted to doctors offices, clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes in search of what they viewed as an ATM.”

Since their inception in 2007, Strike Force teams in the nine cites where they operate have charged more than 2,300 defendants who collectively falsely billed Medicare more than $7 billion. Today’s announcement marked the first time that districts outside Strike Force locations have participated in a national takedown; those districts accounted for 82 of the arrests this week.

Here’s a look at some of the cases:
  • In Miami, 73 were charged in schemes involving about $263 million in false billings for pharmacy, home health care, and mental health services.
  • In Houston and McAllen, 22 were charged in cases involving more than $38 million. In one case, the defendant coached beneficiaries on what to tell doctors to make them appear eligible for Medicare services and then received payment for those who qualified. The defendant was paid more than $4 million in fraudulent claims.
  • In New Orleans, 11 people were charged in connection with home health care and psychotherapy schemes. In one case, four defendants from two companies sent talking glucose monitors across the country to Medicare beneficiaries regardless of whether they were needed or requested. The companies billed Medicare $38 million and were paid $22 million.
“We will not stop here,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “We will work tirelessly to prevent these programs from becoming targets and fight fraud wherever we find it.”

More than 900 law enforcement officials participated in the three-day sweep. Those arrested include 46 licensed medical professionals, including 19 doctors. Since 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has prosecuted more than 200 doctors and more than 400 medical professionals.

In fiscal year 2014, DOJ and HHS health care fraud and prevention efforts recovered nearly $3.3 billion. Over the past five years, DOJ specifically has recovered more than $15 billion in cases involving health care fraud. The average prison sentence in Strike Force cases in fiscal year 2014 was more than four years, though some prosecutions in recent years resulted have in sentences of 50 years.

Resources:
- Press release
- More on the Medicare Fraud Strike Force

- More on the FBI’s efforts to combat health care fraud- FBI, This Week podcast: The Medicare Fraud Strike Force

Full Article & Source:
Health Care Fraud Takedown

Senators Seek Attorney Ad Litem Payment Data


Debbie Salinas Valdez of the advocacy group Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly said that no one watches what attorneys ad litem do in a case, and fees can climb to hundreds of thousands.

Reports about improprieties in the attorney ad litem system—the target of allegations of favoritism and nepotism for decades—prompted a senator to take action to further scrutinize attorney fee payments.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said that, last year, reports showed that attorneys ad litem received nearly $26 million, but they probably received much more. A 1994 Texas Supreme Court rule requires clerks to report payments monthly, but only 40 percent of clerks filed reports in 2014. Senate Bill 1369 aims to increase compliance by writing the high court's rule into law, Zaffirini told members of the Senate State Affairs Committee on March 30.


Judges appoint attorneys ad litem to represent people who cannot represent themselves, such as children, the elderly or disabled people.


SB 1369 is a work in progress, and Zaffirini said she plans to introduce a new version later. She explained that the current draft would require clerks to issue an annual report showing payments and the name of the judge who appointed an attorney ad litem, the date of orders approving payments and the style of each case involved. If a clerk failed to issue the annual report, a court would face the consequence of losing its eligibility for state grant money.


Debbie Salinas Valdez of the advocacy group Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly said that no one watches what attorneys ad litem do in a case. Many times, attorney fees climb to hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said.


"We see in certain courts, it's the same ad litems, the same guardians who are attached to those ad litems," Valdez said.


Steve Bresnen, a lobbyist for the Texas Family Law Foundation, told committee members that he's convinced that—whether it occurs or not—there is suspicion about abuse among attorneys ad litem. He said the bill should make attorneys ad litem responsible for filing payment reports so that clerks have complete data for their reports. He said that it's easier to find information when public money pays the bill, and harder when the money comes from a private party.


Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman said that he's concerned the bill might burden judges, who don't have enough staff. He blamed the Supreme Court for the low reporting rate because it's not enforcing its own rule. The high court could get clerks' attention through a letter, he said.


Chambers County Clerk Patty Henry said that she discussed SB 1369 with fellow clerks to find out why compliance rates are so low.


"This is simply an education issue on our part; it's nothing purposeful," Henry said. "Now that we've been made aware of this, we are going to address this issue and make sure that we are compliant."


Full Article & Source: 
Senators Seek Attorney Ad Litem Payment Data

The Dark Side Of Caregiving: Elder Abuse News


By Sherri Snelling
Two recent, high profile news stories shed light on the dark side of caregiving known as elder abuse, a fate that affects one in 10 seniors every year, according to the National Institute of Justice.

In May, Jean Kasem, married for 34 years to American Top 40 radio DJ Casey Kasem, escaped criminal charges of elder abuse sought by her adult stepchildren. The Los Angeles County District Attorney found there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The beloved DJ passed away last year after reportedly suffering years with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Kasem’s children from his first marriage accused Jean Kasem of preventing them from seeing him. His oldest daughter, Kerri, filed for temporary conservatorship when — against medical advice — Jean Kasem moved her husband from a convalescent home in Los Angeles, Calif. A court document filed by the district attorney said Jean took Casey Kasem to Las Vegas, Nev., and then Seattle, Wash., where she had him evaluated at a local hospital. Physicians there reported he suffered from a Stage III (second-to-worst level) bedsore and a urinary tract infection.

Kerri attests this neglect hastened her father’s demise, but prosecutors said Casey Kasem’s “longstanding profound health issues” made it impossible to prove abuse or neglect.

A Guilty Plea

While Jean Kasem escaped charges, another caregiver, Linda Maureen Raye, pleaded guilty earlier this year to elder abuse after being initially charged with murdering her mother, Yolanda Farrell, according to an investigative report published by Kaiser Health News.

Raye, who was homeless, persuaded her ill mother to move from a nursing home into a one-bedroom apartment so she could care for her. They lived off her mother’s Social Security benefit.

In a period of two years, Raye became the agent of her mother’s death through overwhelming neglect, refusing in-home professional nursing help and allowing her mother’s unattended bedsores to lead to septic shock, according to police and court records.

In her mother’s last year, Raye benefited not just from the Social Security income but also collected $900 a month from California’s In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. The state program allows low-income qualifying seniors and persons with disabilities to hire a family member to care for them and be compensated through taxpayer dollars.

After her guilty plea, Raye was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Predator or Pressured to Care?

These caregiving situations are different in the caregivers’ means and actions. But both show the complex relationships and pressures that can exist within families and the potential for neglect.
By 2050, one in five Americans will be over age 65 — double the number in 2012 — and the population over age 85 will more than triple, based on the latest U.S. Census studies. With more older citizens to care for, the ranks of family caregivers, currently 44 million caring for someone over age 50, is growing daily.

Some caregivers believe caring for a parent or other loved one is a labor of love. Others feel pressured into their caregiving role, creating anger, frustration, depression and other emotional issues that can play a part in future abuse. In fact, the University of California, Irvine, Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect reports 47% of dementia caregivers mistreated their loved one; factors like anxiety, depressive symptoms, social contacts and perceived burden played a role.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse, defined by the National Center on Elder Abuse, is a series of intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable senior. Statistics show that older women seem to suffer more abuse than their male counterparts, and as age increases, so does the risk for abuse.

Although Adult Protective Services agencies throughout the country report that there has been an increase in the reporting of elder abuse cases, only one in 14 cases ever comes to the attention of the authorities. Sometimes the lack of reporting is because the caregiver is the abuser.

There are horrific stories of elder abuse from “gray market” services that are found through Craigslist, local newspapers and agencies that don’t have important liability insurance coverage or conduct criminal background checks. But the reality is 90% of elder abuse cases are perpetrated by family members. Even the rich and famous don’t escape the abuse, as witnessed in recent years with cases involving family members of Mickey Rooney and Brooke Astor.

Lack of Training May Be Fueling Crisis

Whether intentional or not, the elder abuse crisis for our growing aging society is aided by lack of caregiver training. A 2012 AARP study found 46% of family caregivers perform medical or nursing tasks and 35% are providing wound care. Most caregivers have received little or no training to conduct these para-professional services.

While training is not a requirement to care for an aging loved one at home, there are several organizations that provide training services for family caregivers.

The Savvy Caregiver program is a seven-week course of two-hour training sessions weekly, either online or in-person. The lessons cover the spectrum of caregiving needs including understanding the emotional challenges of caring for an older loved one. This program is offered through several organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association, Family Caregiver Alliance, Healthcare Interactive and the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving.

Another program, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, is a self-care education program that includes tools and resources to help family members become more effective caregivers.

Paying Attention to Transitions

Recognizing the problems in care transitions for patients being discharged from hospitals to home or long-term care facilities, United Hospital Fund along with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and several other organizations developed Next Step in Care. The online tools include videos, checklists and how-to information to help make the transition from hospital to home or long-term care facility easier for caregivers and safer for patients.

In fact, care transitions are getting a hard look by policymakers. The hand-off of patient care from hospital professionals to family members is becoming the focus of legislation supported by AARP, currently making its way into law in Oklahoma and New Jersey and pending in Hawaii, Illinois and several other states.

Known as the CARE Act (Caregiver, Advice, Record, Enable Act), the proposed legislation includes a requirement that hospitals or long-term care facilities record a family caregiver’s name when a loved one is admitted; notify the family caregiver when a loved one is to be discharged and most importantly, require hospitals and rehabilitation facilities to explain and provide live instruction for family caregivers on medical tasks, treatment and other important long-term care needs.

This training includes how to safely transfer a loved one who is in a wheelchair, how to properly give medications and how to care for wounds.

As many of us become caregivers to our older loved ones helping them age with dignity in the peace and sanctuary of their own home, we owe it to them and ourselves to seek the training needed to keep them as safe and as healthy as possible.

Full Article & Source:
The Dark Side Of Caregiving: Elder Abuse News

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Commission To Investigate Elder Guardianship



RENO, NV - If we are lucky we hope to live a long life. But there is a chance you may run into health problems and need help. That's where hopefully someone trusted can come in and assist with your personal welfare as well as take care managing your finances. That doesn't always happen. Nevada's Supreme Court hopes by examining the guardianship system in our state, improvements can be made with more accountability.

In 2008 in a Reno apartment complex, Reno police found 70-year-old Leonard Gunderson dead.

“He looked like a prisoner of war when he was dead, just skin and bones," says Roy Stralla, Washoe County Deputy District Attorney

Stralla says the investigation led to 43-year-old Sharnel Silvey, to whom Gunderson signed over power of attorney.

"That was the biggest mistake he could make because, basically, she took all of his money. She was supposed to take care of him. She let him die on his couch in his apartment in his own feces,” says Stralla.

He says when Silvey found Gunderson dead, she cleared the remaining money out of his bank account she had not yet spent-- went to a spa, shopping spree, and paid off her car.

The judge ordered her to serve up to five years in prison.

"That case was one of the most satisfying I've had as a prosecutor in my 20 years. Because I think in her own mind, she believed she didn't do anything wrong. And the jury disagreed with that,” says Stralla.

Gunderson's power of attorney was handled privately. Most guardian-type cases are handled this way and unfortunately while the Silvey case is extreme, there can be abuse. That's even if the guardianship is handled and overseen by courts.

Judges decide if a person is appropriate for such a task; systems are set up to account for money and the ultimate care of the elderly person. But in Clark County, so-called guardians for hire have skirted the court system, gained control of homes and all of the possessions, leaving family members out of any decision making.

How big a problem is this statewide? Are judges adequately trained in this area? What will guardianship case loads be in the future?

That's what Chief Justice James Hardesty intends to find out with the Supreme Court Guardianship Commission.

“The statues are actually pretty effective in our state. They provide effective accountability. But is the system making those participants in this process accountable?” says Hardesty

Hardesty may appoint up to 20 members from the public and private guardianship system. Public hearings will also be scheduled.

Commission findings should be released by the end of December 2015.

Full Article & Source:
Commission To Investigate Elder Guardianship

Chemical Restraints: Anti-psychotic meds given to elderly despite warnings

45 area nursing homes rate below average for the use of antipsychotic drugs

It's estimated one out of every three elderly nursing home residents diagnosed with dementia is prescribed antipsychotic medication. That's according to studies by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Government Accountability Office. The drugs continue to be given to older adults in the facilities despite FDA warnings over the past decade that certain types of the drugs can be deadly.

Marisa Conover, of Fair Oaks, said her mother Genine Zizzo was given antipsychotic medication at a nursing home in 2012, even though she was promised the drug would not be used to treat Zizzo.

As documented in a coroner's investigative report, Conover also said she thinks the drugs contributed to her mom's death just 12 days after she was admitted to Roseville Point Health and Wellness Center.

That investigative report, as well as medical records from Kaiser, said Zizzo went into Roseville Point needing physical therapy after she fell at her home. The report goes on to say Zizzio left less than two weeks later after slipping into a "vegetative state" and then a "coma." Zizzo's death certificate reports she had "multiple organ failures."


Fighting for Change

A Sacramento County elders rights watchdog group, largely funded by private donations, said its seen cases like this before. Carole Herman's Foundation Aiding the Elderly represents nursing home abuse and neglect victims.

Carole Herman 
Herman has accumulated a 20-foot by 20-foot storage room full of cases since she founded the non-profit in 1982. She said medicare and medicaid pay for a vast majority of all nursing home treatment for the elderly.

"Our tax dollars are what's paying for this shoddy care," Herman said. "And for making all of these nursing home operators very wealthy."

The antipsychotic drugs are classified as heavy tranquilizers and have been linked to heart failure, according to the FDA. The agency placed a warning label on the drug Haldol. That's the same medication that Roseville Point injected into Zizzo.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Chemical Restraints: Anti-psychotic meds given to elderly despite warnings

Judges find accounting irregularities, prompting review at Public Guardian.


Monterey County resident James Green is what’s known as a “dependent adult,” someone with a medical condition along the lines of dementia or Alzheimer’s that renders him unable to handle his own needs. He is under the care of the Monterey County Public Guardian’s Office, the agency tasked with caring for those adults who through mental illness or medical issues are unable to care for themselves. Many of these people have no families, or families who are unable or unwilling to step up. The deputy public guardians tasked with looking after Green and those like him are supposed to ensure the client receives adequate medical care, food and shelter, and that nobody’s mistreating or taking advantage of them.

Green’s case was one of several recently flagged by a pair of Monterey County Superior Court judges who are questioning whether the Public Guardian’s office is doing its job, or just failing to do the strict accounting and paperwork required as a routine part of the job.

It’s resulted in an internal investigation at the Public Guardian’s office in which cases are being examined, accounting practices questioned and new checks and balances are being put into place.

In Green’s case, Judge Efren Iglesia issued an order on April 15 noting the Public Guardian had made errors in requesting fees. But he also noted the Public Guardian had only spent 4.5 hours on Green’s case over a two-year period.

One insider tells me 4.5 hours isn’t enough time to deal with Green’s bills, much less make sure he has proper care.

“The court wonders if the conservatee has been visited at all,” Iglesia wrote, “and finds this is not acceptable.”

Iglesia ordered more frequent visits, and plans to review the case in six months to make sure that’s happening.

But what launched the internal investigation began in February, when Judge Thomas Wills issued an order in the case of Richard Stanley Fleming, a successful agriculture inspector who was stricken by dementia and became unable to care for his own needs. Fleming was placed under conservatorship in 2005. Because Fleming had financial resources, the Public Guardian billed his estate for its time. (If he didn’t have resources, the office would charge a nominal fee at taxpayer expense.)

Fleming died in 2011. His case was still under review when Wills noted the accounting from Fleming’s deputy public guardian was seriously inaccurate.

What happened, apparently, is the deputy assigned to Fleming copied and pasted months of time records, typos included, as if they were new. There’s no implication of nefarious intent – just serious sloppiness that, at least in part, the Public Guardian attributes to a confusing change in software.

“The court finds this is a very serious matter,” Wills wrote. He ordered the Public Guardian to show why it shouldn’t have to return fees in the Fleming case.

Wills ordered that hearing to take place on May 13. Monterey County Director of Health Ray Bullick, who also acts as chief public guardian, filed a declaration and agreed to waive attorney and guardian fees in the Fleming case totaling $5,235.

Bullick revealed the Public Guardian’s office had launched the investigation, including an audit of time entries of all deputies. Each deputy carries upwards of 100 cases; the audit sampled 20 clients per deputy. Based on the audit results, Bullick said he was confident the accounting of other deputies happened properly.

Wills asked questions, listened attentively and then asked Bullick and Deputy County Counsel Cathleen Giovannini if they had their pencils ready.

Then he rattled off the names and numbers of five other cases, including Green’s, court investigators found that contained similar accounting errors.

Bullick tells me, “It’s basically a great reminder that as public fiduciaries, we need to have absolute accountability,” he said.

James Green, Iglesia noted, is unable to fill out a voter registration card. For those like him under guardianship, that accountability is the most important thing of all.

Full Article & Source: 
Judges find accounting irregularities, prompting review at Public Guardian.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Judge sets date for Reichert probate hearing


District Judge Joe Loving ruled on three motions in the Reichert probate case Wednesday and set a bench trial date.

In a morning hearing yesterday in the Titus County courthouse, Loving signed an order granting a motion filed by Brandi Michelle Reichert to withdraw her application for temporary administration of the estate of the late Dr. Oscar M. Reichert.

Brandi Reichert made the application as the oldest daughter of the deceased from Oscar M. Reichert’s first marriage. The motion she filed read that, “Due to recent unexpected events in Applicants life which have caused tremendous emotional stress, Applicant does not believe she is emotionally strong enough to perform the functions of the Temporary Administrator.”

Loving also signed an order calling for genetic testing to determine whether Brandi Reichert is the biological child of Oscar M. Reichert.  That order provides that Brandi Reichert submit to genetic testing within 30 days and provide necessary samples of her blood, body fluid and/or tissue for testing. With the order, Loving granted the motion filed with the court June 10 - by Oscar M. Reichert’s ex-wife from his second marriage, Denise Harper Reichert, and their daughter from that marriage, Maegan Reichert Hotaling - calling for the genetic testing. 

Also stated in the order, American Forensics shall conduct the genetic testing from the samples of blood body fluid and tissue obtained from the deceased during a court-ordered autopsy on his body. That autopsy was ordered by Loving in a hearing May 22, when he granted a motion calling for an autopsy filed by Brandi Reichert.

Wednesday, Loving granted a third motion filed in the case by Pittsburg lawyer Tedde Blunck, who has been representing Brandi Reichert in the guardianship and the probate causes regarding Dr. Oscar M. Reichert, his death and his estate.

Blunck had filed a motion June 4 to withdraw as counsel for Brandi Reichert.  In court Wednesday he told the judge that he had received Brandi Reichert’s consent to withdraw. 

The order Loving signed on the matter allows Blunck’s withdrawal and states that Brandi Reichert receive all notices in this cause by certified and regular first-class mail; and that Blunck immediately provide written notification to her of any additional settings or deadlines now known to him of which she has not already been notified.

In court, the judge said Brandi Reichert could represent herself as long as she does not seek a fiduciary relationship in the case.

Blunck said he did not know if she had been able to obtain other counsel representation for the case matters.

Loving on Wednesday tabled a ruling on transferring a case filed in Hunt County by American National Bank to Titus County into the Reichert estate case. 

According to the court documents filed on behalf of Denise Harper Reichert and Hotaling, after Michael Taylor was appointed as the guardian of the estate in September of 2014, he deposited money belonging to Reichert in an account at American National Bank in Greenville. After Taylor’s guardianship of the estate was voided in a court order March 19, 2015, Denise Harper Reichert, acting as her ex-husband’s power of attorney, requested the bank release the funds to her. 

Subsequently, the bank filed an original interpleader petition and request for discharge in the 354th District Court of Hunt County.

In court Wednesday, Don Ford of Houston, the attorney for Denise Harper Reichert and Hotaling, told the judge he would work out a non-suit with the lawyers of the bank to transfer the funds to Titus County. 

Loving set a bench trial date of December 7 to hear the probate of Reichert’s estate.

Three motions filed regarding the estate, reportedly valued at more than $3 million, have not been ruled on.

On May 7, three days after Reichert died in a Rockwall hospital, Denise Reichert filed an application to probate the will dated June 24, 2013.

On May 20, Brandi Reichert filed a contest of will claiming the will was invalid because her father did not have testamentary capacity at the time of the will’s execution and had suffered dementia for two years preceding his death; and that the will was made after Denise was divorced from Reichert.

That June 24, 2013 will names Denise Reichert as the sole executrix of the will and refers to her as Reichert’s “spouse.” 

A motion filed June 10 by Denise Reichert and Hotaling requests that should the June 24, 2013, will be determined invalid, the court follow the will dated August 21, 1992, which appoints Denise Reichert as the independent executrix, Dr. Gary B. Taylor, a former business partner of the deceased Reichert, as the first alternate independent executor, and, if neither of those two can serve, the will calls for Kerry Wootten to serve as independent executor.

The court is still waiting on the autopsy report of Reichert’s body, Loving told counsel at the bench Wednesday.

Full Article & Source: 
Judge sets date for Reichert probate hearing

See Also:
Legal battle continues over late doctor’s remains, estate

KXAN investigation into abuse report at assisted living center results in new law



AUSTIN (KXAN) — A year and a half long KXAN investigation resulted in a change in Texas law.

KXAN uncovered how the state agency responsible for protecting elderly patients at assisted living facilities did not do its job and broke the law by not reporting 78 percent of abuse allegations to law enforcement.

A local lawmaker saw our original report and promised to help with legislation. This week Gov. Greg Abbott signed his bill into law.

The investigation started with allegations that a male resident of an Austin assisted living facility sexually assaulted a woman there who had dementia and a court ordered guardianship in place.  The investigator didn’t take note of her guardianship order which stated she could not make decisions on her own.

But the new law, which was authored by State Rep. Elliott Naishtat and goes into effect Sept. 1, requires facilities to keep guardianship orders on file and also requires investigators at the Department of Aging and Disability Services to check for that document before completing their investigation.

“I promise you that the agency will be following up on this and making sure that the new law is complied with,” Naishtat told KXAN.

Full Article & Source:
KXAN investigation into abuse report at assisted living center results in new law

Miami Nursing Home To Pay Record $17M in Whistleblower Suit



A Miami-based nursing home network agreed Tuesday to pay a record $17 million to settle a False Claims Act suit brought by its former CFO, accusing it of running a kickback scheme. The case is United States of America et al v. Plaza Health Network et al., aka Hebrew Homes.

From 2006 through 2013, Hebrew Homes allegedly hired physicians as medical directors —really “ghost positions” — at its facilities, who had to perform few or no contractual job duties.  Instead, these physicians were paid to refer patients to Hebrew Homes facilities, dramatically increasing the number of referrals. Each facility had several of these medical directors, who were paid thousands monthly.  Hebrew Homes did not admit to liability with the settlement.

“Illegal inducements paid to physicians in exchange for patient referrals will not be tolerated,” Benjamin C. Mizer, principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's Civil Division, said in a statement. “Medicare funds should be used to provide care for our senior citizens, not as an inducement to physicians to refer business.”

The settlement is the largest in U.S. history for a nursing home allegedly violating the Anti-Kickback Statute. The company entered a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General and agreed to alter its policies regarding how it will hire and maintain medical directors. The former CFO will receive more than $4 million from the settlement.

This decision underscores the need for employers in the health care industry to rigorously comply with the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits the exchange (or offer to exchange), of anything of value, in an effort to induce (or reward) the referral of federal health care program business. It is broadly drafted and establishes penalties for individuals and entities on both sides of the prohibited transaction. Conviction for a single violation may result in a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to five years. In addition, conviction results in mandatory exclusion from participation in federal health care programs. Absent a conviction, individuals who violate the Anti-Kickback Statute may still face exclusion from federal health care programs. The government may also assess substantial civil money penalties. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers may bring “qui tam” actions alleging violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute.  If the Federal government brings a successful action as a result of the qui tam action, the whistleblower receives a percentage of the ultimate recovery.

Employers should regularly audit their practices to look for any signs of inappropriate financial transactions in exchange for referrals. Their employment agreements and policies should expressly forbid such conduct, and employers should also establish internal procedures through which employees who wish to raise complaints are encouraged to come forward. Establishing an office of an ombudsperson to handle complaints can provide employees with a vehicle to have their voices heard. Further, individuals who come forward should be informed that they have the right to make complaints without fear of retaliation. By taking proactive steps, health care industry employers can reduce the risk that the first time they learn about a kickback issue is upon receipt of a whistleblower lawsuit.  

Full Article & Source:
Miami Nursing Home To Pay Record $17M in Whistleblower Suit