Saturday, December 31, 2016

Cops Pretend They're on a Walk and Gently Lead Elderly Woman With Dementia Home

Every day, 81-year-old Roberta takes a stroll down her driveway and back to her Charles County, Maryland home. It was business as usual for Roberta last Friday, but instead of stopping at the end of the driveway, she just kept going.

Roberta and her daughter live together, so when the daughter realized her mother had been gone for far too long, she called 911. Her daughter informed officers that her mother had dementia, and was assured they would find her soon. After about 40 minutes, a small team of officers found Roberta walking along a wooded path near her home.

Instead of embarrassing the sweet lady by informing her of her mishap, they pretended to be out for a walk too, hoping to guide her back in the process. And so, Officer Morrison was captured walking hand in hand with his new friend Roberta… gently leading her home.

Source:
Cops Pretend They're on a Walk and Take Elderly Woman With Dementia Home

Santa Clara County Bar Association Family Law Section Holiday Luncheon

Santa Clara County Bar Association Family Law Section holiday luncheon held in San Jose on December 2, 2016. Attended by Santa Clara County Superior Court judges, court clerks and court employees. For entertainment, divorce lawyer carolers sang songs mocking clients and pro per litigants, and boasting about the significant income of family law attorneys.

Santa Clara County judges include James Towery, Mary Ann Grilli, Rise Jones Pichon, Aaron Persky, Mark Pierce, Vincent Chiarello, Michael Clark and Erica Yew.





Sources:
YouTube:  Judges and Lawyers Caught at Holiday Sing; Public Outraged

Santa Clara County Superior Court Holiday Party with Divorce Attorneys, Judges, and Court Employees

See Also:
JaneAndJohnQPublic: Santa Clara County Bar Association Luncheon Song Lyrics Released- Public Demands Removal of All Judges Attending the Holiday Event

Friday, December 30, 2016

Police tase 91-year-old Alzheimer’s patient

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OTTAWAY COUNTY — Police release bodycam video of officers tasing 91-year-old Alzheimer’s patient at a local nursing home.

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Police tase 91-year-old Alzheimer’s patient

Attorney General Frosh Files Lawsuit Against Nursing Home Operator

Attorney  General  Frosh  Files Lawsuit  Against  Nursing  Home Operator
for  Resident  Dumping  and  Submission  of False Claims  to Medicaid
Program Company Unlawfully and Unsafely Evicted Dozens of Frail and Disabled
Residents to Homeless Shelters and Unlicensed Assisted Living Facilities

BALTIMORE,  MD (December 21, 2016)
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today announced that his office has filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County against Neiswanger Management Services, LLC (“NMS”), the operator of five Maryland nursing homes, for unsafely and unlawfully evicting frail and disabled people from its facilities, and for submitting false claims to the Maryland Medicaid program.

The complaint filed today alleges that NMS, among other unlawful conduct, dumps evicted residents in homeless shelters and trafficks others to unlicensed, sham assisted living facilities, which have no capacity to provide care to people with complex medical needs, and which sustain themselves by extracting social security payments and other public benefits from vulnerable people.  The complaint further alleges that NMS often dumps its evicted residents far from their home communities, in places where they know no one.  Evicted NMS residents frequently appear in hospital emergency rooms within days or weeks of their eviction.

“NMS and its leadership have compromised the health and safety of hundreds of vulnerable people with whose care they have been entrusted,” said Attorney General Frosh . “My office will fight to put a stop to NMS’s unsafe and inhumane practices.  We will also seek to recover from NMS the public funds that the Medicaid program paid to NMS while it was engaging in this unlawful conduct, as well as the amounts that the Medicaid program paid to hospitals and other medical providers that cared for former NMS residents after they were evicted.”

NMS operates nursing facilities in Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Washington County. The complaint alleges that, in violation of the Maryland Patient’s Bill of Rights, NMS has unsafely evicted hundreds of frail, infirm, mentally ill, and physically and intellectually disabled people. During a 17-month period, from January 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016, NMS issued at least 1,061 eviction notices to residents of its facilities.  Maryland’s 225 other licensed nursing facilities, all together, issued a combined total of less than half that number during the same period. The complaint further alleges that NMS identifies residents for eviction based on the status of their public health insurance benefits, in order to maximize reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Because the Medicare program typically reimburses nursing facilities at a higher rate than Medicaid, NMS often seeks to evict residents, according to the complaint, when its facilities are at full capacity and when Medicaid long term care recipients can be replaced with prospective residents whose care will be paid for by Medicare.

Maryland nursing facilities are required to provide social work and discharge planning services to residents whenever discharge is anticipated.  When nursing facilities bill Medicaid, they are seeking reimbursement for providing social work and discharge planning services, and they are certifying that they comply with the basic protections afforded to residents under the Maryland Patient’s Bill of Rights.  The complaint filed today alleges that, in violation of the Maryland False Health Claims Act, NMS often did not provide the social work and discharge planning services for which it billed Medicaid, and that, by submitting claims to Medicaid, NMS falsely certified its compliance with the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

In the complaint, the Attorney General requests that the court prohibit NMS from unsafely evicting residents and from engaging in other unlawful practices, and that the court impose civil penalties and award treble damages to the State.

Source:
Attorney General Frosh Files Lawsuit Against Nursing Home Operator

Lee County man accused of stealing from elderly parents

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LEE COUNTY - A Lee County man has been arrested, accused of taking more than $80,000 from his own parents.

State investigators said it continued even after his father died.

Ryan Powers had power of attorney when he sold his parents' home and pocketed the money, according to investigators.

They also said he was using up their social security income but never paid his father's funeral costs.

John Provencar knew the couple well.

"We went to go see Rusty at the hospital a few times... but I feel really bad for Janet because she's the one left with all the problems," Provencar said.

He lived next door to the Powers in Alva, and can't believe their 40-year-old son would steal from his ailing parents.

"People should earn their own way and not take it away from somebody else that's in need."

The attorney general's office and Lee County deputies said that's exactly what happened. After Powers gained power of attorney last year, he opened up a fraudulent bank account and deposited his parents' social security checks. He then used debit cards to spend more than $6,000.

"It's sad, but it happens a lot down here. More than a lot of people know," said Debbie Phillips, a professional guardian who works with seniors.

"They're an easy target," she said.

Powers' parents told him to sell their mobile home and use the money to remodel a home in Lehigh, a home they bought him, hoping they could move in.

Instead, they ended up in a nursing home, and Powers pocketed $72,000.

"I never thought he would be doing something like that to his parents," Provencar said.

Powers' father died in July. Investigators said Powers didn't even pay the funeral costs, letting the body cremated with taxpayer money.

"It flies under the radar because people think that it's a family matter and nobody wants to get involved."

Deputies were tipped off after Powers didn't pay for his parents' nursing home care.

He's accused of stealing more than $82,000 and was arrested after a 10-month investigation. He faces two counts of exploitation of an elderly person.

Full Article & Source:
Lee County man accused of stealing from elderly parents

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Calley compares disability-rights movement to civil-rights movement

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley
Lt Gov, Brian Calley compared the raising the rights of the disabled to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, at a gathering Tuesday to promote disabled rights.

“I want you to think about this as civil rights. That this is the next important step, next great step in the civil rights movement in America,” Calley said a news conference at the Macomb Oakland Regional Center in Clinton Township. “We’re not anywhere close to finished. Unfortunately, we’re probably still closer to the beginning than to the end.”

Calley, an advocate for the disabled, spoke in the aftermath of what Calley called the worst comments he has ever heard, allegedly made by Warren Mayor James Fouts, who, according to audio recordings of a speaker who sounds like Fouts, referred to disabled people as “retards” and said they aren’t human and should be kept in a cage.

Fouts has denied making the comments, claiming the speaker is not him.

“They’re comments at a whole different level,” Calley said. “I’ve never heard someone talk about not being human or caging, or reference to Dr. Kevorkian. It’s so way beyond anything I’ve ever heard.”

Some have called for Fouts to resign. Calley, however, said voters should determine Fouts’ future.

“It isn’t about the mayor. It’s about comments that were made,” he said. “So how can we use this negative energy and turn it into positive energy and then to do something sustainable over the long term?”

Calley said he hopes the widespread negative reaction to the comments will produce a positive “silver lining” of improving the rights of the disabled.

Calley, whose daughter has been diagnosed with autism, set up a GoFundMe account to raise $250,000 for an anti-stigma campaign to defend those with developmental disabilities, following the Dec. 15 release of the audio recordings allegedly of Fouts.

Calley’s mention of Fouts’ $500 donation to Calley’s GoFundMe account drew some chuckles from some of the more than two dozens advocates who attended at the news conference.

Several advocates also spoke.

Calley’s campaign is being conducted through The Arc of Michigan, which advocates for those with developmental disabilities, Lisa Lepine, executive director of the Macomb County chapter of The Arc, said she has talked to Fouts, and said he wants to “put together a meeting that I’m hoping will lead to additional education and information for his so we can continue to work on this.”

Lepine and Dennis Bott, chief executive office of MORC, said they will release statements about the comments in the near future.

Fouts’ alleged comments came in reference to a Special Olympics event he was to attend.

Lois Arnold, president and CEO of Special Olympics Michigan, said she views the comments, including the use of the word, “retard,” as “hate speech.”

“The ‘r-word’ is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur,” she said last week. “We see this as a teachable moment and an opportunity to once again remind people that our athletes need to be seen for their skills and abilities and not their disabilities.”

Also speaking at Tuesday’s event was disabled person and advocate Stephanie Laird of Oakland County, who said, “People with disabilities should be referred to as a person, not by their disability.”

Officials also noted the state Legislature’s recent passage of a bill that prohibit school district staffers from the “seclusion and restraint” of disabled students. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill, according to Tom Watkins, president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

Among the recorded comments allegedly made by Fouts, he calls disabled people “dysfunctional human beings. They’re not even human beings, and I don’t want to be around them. I wish them well in a cage.”

The person purported as Fouts also refers to disabled people going to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who staged an assisted suicide campaign in the 1990s.

Fouts on Tuesday repeated his denials in a posting on his Facebook page:

“That tape is a phony tape and has obviously been altered and manipulated with. It’s horrific but it’s not me!” he says.

In writing “a few thoughts” about what has transpired, he says he has “helped ‘special needs’ persons in a variety of ways. I will discuss this later.

“I know that I need to do more and will devote time and effort to this issue. I want to make things better going forward.

“If anything positive comes out of this, it is that there is more public attention on the needs of the special needs community. I will certainly do my part!”

Fouts was fired this week from his weekly show on radio station WFDF 910-AM.

The recordings escalate a feud between Fouts and County Executive Mark Hackel. The recordings were given to Hackel, who released them by Hackel two days after Fouts asked state Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate what he calls illegal dumping at Freedom Hill County Park in Sterling Heights.

Full Article & Source:
Calley compares disability-rights movement to civil-rights movement

Holiday visits can uncover elder financial exploitation

About 37% of active caregivers said the senior they care for has experienced financial abuse. Experts say loved ones must talk often to spot trouble before seniors lose thousands of dollars are lost.

Financial stress during the holidays isn't limited to overspending on gifts. Too often, stress builds after those extended visits with family where you start wondering just what's happening with Mom and Dad's cash.

As we host holiday dinners or visit more frequently with elderly parents and relatives, sometimes we spot signs that a loved one's financial decision-making has been declining.

Maybe it's constant talk about winning the lottery. Maybe it's a garage full of unopened boxes from QVC. Maybe it's a much smaller checking account balance than you'd expect for retirees who have a fairly good pension.

"You don't have to reach the level of dementia before your financial decision-making is impacted," said Peter A. Lichtenberg, director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Lichtenberg has created a Financial Decision Screening Scale that's being used by professionals who work with seniors to discuss their financial decisions.

Did they buy a new car? Put a new roof on the house? Buy a condo for a daughter to live in nearby?

The survey asks a series of additional questions: Was this your idea or did someone suggest it or accompany you? What was the goal when you made the move with your money?

How much risk to your financial well-being is involved? Who benefits most from the financial decision? You? Your family? A caregiver? A friend?

To what extent did you talk with anyone regarding this decision?

The idea is to start out by having a general conversation about goals and challenges that older consumers are facing. No one wants to be put on the defensive about how they're spending their money. But the general list of questions can help people engage in a conversation and set a baseline.

"There seems to be something about financial decision-making that really is sensitive to early declines," Lichtenberg said.

Full Article & Source:
Holiday visits can uncover elder financial exploitation

Lehigh Acres man arrested, accused of exploiting elderly mother


LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — A 40-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on allegations he exploited his elderly mother, the Florida attorney general’s office announced.

Ryan Powers, of 710 North Ave., unlawfully obtained money from his mother, who was suffering from physical limitations and living in a nursing home, according to a state investigation.

Powers hired a lawyer to give him power of attorney over her affairs and used it to access the money, according to the attorney general’s office.

Powers is facing two counts of exploitation of an elderly person for less than $10,000, a third-degree felony. He faces up to 10 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines and restitution.

The State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit will prosecute this case.

Full Article & Source:
Lehigh Acres man arrested, accused of exploiting elderly mother

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Families say local realtor, attorney cashing in on estates of their recently passed loved ones

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(WXYZ) - When you lose a loved one, often the last thing on your mind is what to do with the home they once lived in. But several local families say before they could do anything with their relatives’ estates, some realtors and attorneys are swooping in to cash in.

“It’s really shady,” said Kristin Bobier Rekowski. Rekowski tells the 7 Investigators that her late father would be furious if he knew what had happened with his home.

When Richard Bobier died last year, Kristin says she had been told his Warren house was worth far less than what he owed on it.

“I was just working on getting his belongings out of the house and just trying to salvage what could be salvaged,” said Rekowski.

After the foreclosure process started, Rekowski and her siblings talked about trying to redeem the house and put it up for sale. But before they could do that, somebody else stepped in.

“We were summoned to the court. Someone opened a probate case in his name,” said Rekowski.

That someone is attorney Cecil St. Pierre. St. Pierre is also the Warren City Council President, and he’s a state-appointed Public Administrator who’s authorized to open estates, like Richard Bobier’s, in Probate Court.

An estate is everything you own, such as your house, and your bank account, which are known as your assets.

An estate is also everything you owe, including things like your mortgage, or credit card debts.

And when someone dies, even if you have a will, in Michigan the probate courts are in charge of making sure your heirs get what they’re due from your estate.

But if the heirs don’t take certain steps when a loved one dies – after 42 days a Public Administrator attorney can put themselves in charge of the estate.

And that’s what several lawyers and heirs say Cecil St. Pierre has been doing in Macomb County at a rate they’ve never seen before. And he’s not doing it alone. A company called Probate Asset Recovery, or PAR, is often paying the $150 filing fee so St. Pierre can open the estates – a practice other Public Administrators and lawyers call unusual.

When Rekowski received notice from the court announcing that St. Pierre was becoming the Personal Representative of her dad’s estate, she says she had no idea what to do – so she did not fight St. Pierre taking over the estate. She says that meant St. Pierre could dictate which realtor would sell the home. Rekowski says she told him Ralph Roberts Realty would be handling the sale.

Roberts is a Macomb County realtor who literally wrote the book on flipping houses in foreclosure, “Flipping Houses for Dummies.” Roberts sold the Bobier house for a $31,729.52 profit.

Now court records show, one of Roberts’ companies is set to get $3,390 from the estate. But here’s what Kristin wasn’t told about until recently: another company, Probate Asset Recovery, is getting the biggest cut of $10,576.53.

So who owns PAR? That’s exactly what the judge wanted to know at Kristin’s last hearing.

“Is there an owner,” asked Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Kathryn George.

“Yes. Ralph Roberts is the owner,” answered PAR Manger Steve Mogdis during that hearing.

That means, between Robert’s other company and PAR, nearly $14,000 will ultimately end up in Ralph Robert’s pocket. Kristin Rekowski and her brothers (after she’s reimbursed for funeral expenses she already paid) will only net $3158.71 each.

“It’s really not fair,” said Rekowski.

Moments after Rekowski’s court hearing last week, I asked Cecil St. Pierre why he’s using a private company’s money to open so many estates.

“I deal with Probate Asset Recovery because they work with Ralph Roberts Realty in order to sell the house on the multi-list and get the top dollar for the asset. We don’t deal with any investors, or do anything other than what’s on the multi-list,” said St. Pierre.

“Well of course they work with Ralph Roberts Realty – they’re owned by the same person,” said 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

“I don’t know – I don’t know who owns PAR,” said St. Pierre.

But the PAR manager had just admitted that Roberts is the owner in court, with St. Pierre present.

In fact, St. Pierre and Ralph Roberts go way back – all the way to middle school – and they even once owned property together.

“I’m very fortunate to have Cecil as one of my best friends,” said Ralph Roberts.

“Is he your attorney,” asked Catallo.

“He’s represented us in the past,” said Roberts.

Roberts says he’s helping people in southeast Michigan, by finding assets they didn’t know about. He says he’s brought $4.5 million dollars into probate estates since 2013.

“You get 1/3 correct,” asked Catallo.

“25[%] to a third, depending on what the case is,” said Roberts. “I used to buy these houses and I would get 100% of the profit. And I don’t need to make money anymore, I want to do good for the community.”

“It needs to be stopped,” said attorney Gary Allen. Allen says Robert’s company paid for Cecil St. Pierre to petition to open an estate without contacting his clients (the heirs) first, even though his clients don’t want to sell their late mother’s condo.

Allen says one of the heirs had already been named personal representative in the will.

“I called the public admin almost every day from July 27th through August the 3rd, sometimes twice a day. And he never returned my calls,” said Allen “Not once. Never spoke with him. And so then I was forced to go to court, and my client who lives in Brooklyn, she came in from Brooklyn so that she could appear at the hearing. When we got to the hearing, the Public Admin did not show up for an hour.”

Allen says all that extra time and expense was unnecessary for his client. He said St. Pierre did let his client take over the estate, but then he sent them a bill for $892 to come from the estate, including $187 in filing fees – even though Ralph Roberts company had already paid those costs.
“I think it’s a huge problem,” said Allen.

St. Pierre is also asking the court to grant him $4196.25 in fiduciary and attorney fees on the Bobier estate.

“We follow the law to the T. Dot the I’s and cross the T’s. There’s nothing being done wrong,” said Roberts.

“I haven’t said it was illegal – I asked you if it was the right thing to do,” asked Catallo.

“It’s absolutely the right thing. I’m doing great things for thousands of people. I’m getting them money. I’m going to take this across the country. And I’m going to make probate great again,” said Roberts.

Since the 7 Action News started investigating this back in August, the State Attorney General has stepped in to issue new guidelines for Public Administrators.

“The allegations and associated case will be reviewed in a thorough and exacting fashion,” said spokeswoman Andrea Bitely.

Both Roberts and St. Pierre insist they’re helping these estates, by turning around the properties to make money for the estate. Roberts also says by selling empty homes, he’s getting the properties back on the tax rolls and fighting blight.

St. Pierre says if an heir wants to take over the estate they can. But estate lawyers tell 7 Action News if the estate is opened formally like this without an heir realizing it, heirs could end up with a bunch of legal fees.

The Attorney General regulates Public Administrators in Michigan:
https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

Full Article & Source:
Families say local realtor, attorney cashing in on estates of their recently passed loved ones

Ethics board dismisses complaint, cautions judge about disclosing conflict of interest

Board finds district judge made necessary disclosures about properties in St. Cloud.

A state oversight board has dismissed a complaint filed against a district judge by St. Cloud residents who accused her of a conflict of interest in her real estate dealings.

While finding no cause to discipline Judge Vicki Landwehr, the board also cautioned her to disclose whenever someone she does business with appears in her courtroom. Landwehr and her husband, Don Landwehr, own about 20 residential properties in the St. Cloud area. Neighbors and city leaders say some of the properties are unsightly magnets for crime.

More than a dozen neighbors asked the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards to investigate a potential conflict of interest in instances where occupants of houses co-owned by the judge also stood before her in court.

On Dec. 21, the board sent a letter to one of the complaining neighbors saying it found “no reasonable cause to believe” the judge’s actions “warranted discipline.” The board determined that Landwehr made the necessary disclosures in court about her real estate involvements.

The board also notes that Landwehr “was fully cooperative” with its investigation.

“My goal is always to make whatever disclosures I think are required,” Landwehr said in an interview Monday.

Ongoing concern

The board’s letter, provided to the Star Tribune by St. Cloud resident Patti Goke, responds in part to concern over a property at 934 Longview Drive — the site of multiple police raids this year. The property’s occupant has also appeared in Landwehr’s courtroom.

Goke, who lives two doors away on Longview Drive, said the now boarded-up home has made her block feel unsafe, spurring residents to write the board about their concerns.

“We were tired of what our block was having to put up with,” Goke said.

The Landwehrs sell many of these properties through contracts for deed, where tenants make payments to the couple and only gain ownership once the house is paid off. It’s a model city officials say they’re now working to better regulate.

The city has had two meetings to discuss concerns about Landwehr properties across St. Cloud. Don Landwehr said he and his wife weren’t informed about either gathering.

“An attack by ambush is what it turned out to be,” Don Landwehr said Monday.

He said he’s in the process of canceling contracts at two “problem houses” — including the home on Longview Drive.

Once the properties revert to the Landwehrs, they said they plan to address neighbors’ worries and make some needed spruce ups.

“These houses were not kept in very good repair,” Don Landwehr said, adding that the couple is willing to do “whatever is necessary to bring them into standards that comply with the neighborhood.”

In the meantime, residents like Goke have turned to social media to air their grievances about the Landwehr properties in two separate St. Cloud Facebook groups.

More than 100 residents have banded together so far, Goke said. The group has also written to the Internal Revenue Service and the Minnesota Department of Revenue requesting investigations into the couple’s business dealings, Goke said.

“We are committed to see this through so that all of these neighborhoods are safe,” Goke said.

Full Article & Source:
Ethics board dismisses complaint, cautions judge about disclosing conflict of interest

Woman pleads guilty in nursing home abuse case

CHILLICOTHE - A Laurelville woman has pleaded guilty to abusing one of her patients in March at a Chillicothe nursing home.

Kali Jo Craiglow, of 26834 Tarlton-Adelphi Road in Laurelville, pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of patient abuse, a fourth-degree felony. The prosecution requested a 14-month sentence and asked the judge to consider victim impact statements.

Reports on the incident stated the 85-year-old female victim was found with injuries and tears to her clothing, as well as with a bloody pillowcase on the floor of her room, on March 12 at Westmoreland Place after Craiglow, who was a state tested nursing assistant, had been in her room. The Chillicothe police report noted Craiglow had claimed the victim had been belligerent toward her and calling her names.

Officials at Westmoreland Place told investigators the STNA should not have been alone with the resident and was fired the same day. Within days of the incident, Craiglow was jailed in Pickaway County on charges in an unrelated incident.

In an inspection report by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Medicare's website, investigators found Westmoreland Place "failed to ensure residents were protected from physical abuse resulting in actual harm by facility staff during the provision of direct care by a State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA)." Two of three residents questioned reported being abused by the same STNA.

While names were redacted in the report, details are consistent with the details from the Chillicothe police investigation, which was done in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Craiglow, who was indicted by a Ross County grand jury in September, is serving time in a community-based correctional facility on a burglary conviction out of Pickaway County. She is set to be sentenced in the Ross County case at 1 p.m. Feb. 6.

Full Article & Source:
Woman pleads guilty in nursing home abuse case

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ex-employees allege nursing home tried to mislead inspectors on abuse


Two social workers allege they were fired from a suburban nursing home after refusing to fabricate medical records related to incidents of patient abuse, according to their pending lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court.

Some of their patient-abuse allegations were investigated separately by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which cited the facility for safety breaches, government records show.

Once called Burnham Healthcare but now known as Bria of River Oaks, the 309-bed home serves geriatric and bed-bound patients alongside younger adults with mental illness, substance abusers and convicted felons.

"There was no structure. It was dangerous," one of the social workers, Kenneth Allen, told the Tribune in an interview.

Avrum Weinfeld, CEO of the nursing home, declined to comment on specific incidents but called the allegations made by social workers in the lawsuit and in Tribune interviews baseless.

Weinfeld told the Tribune that administrators never attempted to mislead state inspectors. "There was no directive (to alter records), nor was there any proof of that," Weinfeld said. "Nothing has been proven and nothing will be proven."

The unadorned three-story brick building in Burnham has withstood years of state citations for violence, patient neglect and filth. Last year it received $16.5 million from Medicaid and Medicare while reporting $1.38 million in profits.

Records show that some of those federal health-care dollars went to Weinfeld's uncle, nursing home magnate Morris Esformes, whose son and close business partner, Philip Esformes, is being held without bond in a Miami federal detention cell on charges that he orchestrated a $1 billion Medicaid kickback scheme in Florida.

Morris and Philip Esformes in 2012 sold the Burnham home and three other Chicago-area facilities to companies run by Weinfeld and Weinfeld's brother-in-law, Daniel Weiss, but those homes continued to pay consulting and real estate fees to companies managed by Morris Esformes, state records show.

The Burnham facility faced allegations of violence both before and after that sale. The Chicago Tribune's 2009 "Compromised Care" investigation revealed the death of Thomas Donovan, who used a wheelchair. Donovan died in the home after a fellow resident allegedly beat Donovan, 63, with a chair. Preliminary Burnham police reports list 16 alleged assaults and batteries inside the facility since 2013, as well as two criminal sexual assault reports. None of those cases resulted in a prosecution, those records show.

The civil court allegations made by Allen and Olufunmibi Ogunyipe date to 2011 and continue into 2013, after Weinfeld took over. Paid roughly $13 per hour, the two social workers shared a second-floor office and each handled a caseload of 35 patients, according to court records and their interviews with the Tribune.

Among the accusations in their lawsuit, filed last year:

•Allen alleges that a supervisor told him to falsify the medical chart of a female resident who was hospitalized in 2012 with facial bruises and black eyes. Allen said he believes the woman was beaten by a fellow resident, but he was told to write that she had fallen. A state inspection report later found that the facility failed to properly investigate her family's complaint that she was assaulted.

•Allen alleges that after he documented a resident's rape complaint, a supervisor ripped Allen's report out of the medical file and tore it up. The state health department inspection concluded the facility had failed to thoroughly investigate the sexual assault allegation and to notify authorities.

•Ogunyipe alleges that, in the case of a 60-year-old resident who had repeatedly requested a discharge, a supervisor told him in 2013 to write up medical notes falsely stating that Ogunyipe had tried repeatedly to transfer the man but couldn't find a program with an open bed. A state health department inspection cited the facility for failing to assist the resident's request for a discharge.

About four days after that incident in summer 2013, Ogunyipe was terminated, records show. The facility alleged in its answer to the pending lawsuit that he failed to complete job duties and abandoned his post during work hours. Ogunyipe, initially hired as a security guard, started working at Burnham in 2009.

Allen worked at the facility from February to November 2012. The facility said Allen was not rehired in the transition of operational control from the Esformeses to their relatives.

In the lawsuit, Ogunyipe alleges that a supervisor tried to deceive state inspectors by removing disheveled residents who might trigger state scrutiny because they appeared neglected.

A supervisor gave him $30 to $50 to take the residents out of the building, buy them cigarettes, feed them at a McDonald's and claim they were going on a field trip, saying: "They can't be in the building," the suit states.

The facility denied the allegation in court papers.

Ogunyipe said in an interview that the administration wanted to conceal residents with untrimmed hair and soiled clothes because "you would know that they were not being cared for."

He also told the Tribune he witnessed fellow guards entice physically aggressive residents back to their rooms with a cigarette or snack, then punish them. "They would just close the door and — boom, boom, boom! Deal with the resident. Beat him up. Spit on his face and then walk out, close the door," Ogunyipe said.

In an interview, Weinfeld said: "Making up these kinds of allegations is horrible. We categorically say, no, those things did not happen."

The allegation about guards punishing residents is not mentioned in the lawsuit.

A 2012 state inspection report said two residents alleged guards beat or roughed them up in separate incidents. The report says that at least one guard at the home was fired as a result.

State inspectors have cited the facility for abuse-related incidents after Ogunyipe and Allen were terminated.

In 2014, a male resident entered a woman's room and exposed himself, saying, "I got to have that," then jumped on her bed, according to a state inspection report. She fought off the man and he was subsequently arrested, the state report said. The report said the facility could provide "no written evidence" that it immediately notified the state of the incident as required when residents are in jeopardy of harm.

That year the facility also failed to properly investigate or report altercations in which one resident suffered a black eye and another had an abrasion on his nose, state inspections say.

Amid these allegations of violence came citations for loose and peeling floor tiles, brown-stained ceiling panels and a buildup of dirt, dust and grime around air vents. "It would be nice to have a dresser that is not missing a drawer," a longtime resident told a state inspector in July 2015.

The inspector also reported that a bathroom shared by four residents "had a strong urine odor. The lights to the bathroom did not work and the tiles were cracked and in disrepair. The surrounding tile around the toilet area had a thick encrusted layer of unidentifiable stains."

In a corridor, the inspector noted an exposed, rusted ceiling pipe wrapped with an incontinence pad.

Weinfeld said these citations came amid repairs following a 2015 fire and added that his team has improved facility conditions by raising workers' wages, reducing the number of aggressive residents and investing "tremendous amounts of dollars" in upgrades and refurbishments.

"Today, you'd see a calmer place," he said. "It is a different building."

The home also switched to an electronic record-keeping system that can identify workers who try to alter or backdate records, he said.

Weinfeld worked his way up through the Esformes organization starting in 2001, serving as a registered agent and financial officer of their Chicago-area facilities before he teamed up with Weiss to purchase the four former Esformes homes.

According to state records, the Esformeses continued to manage a company that kept title to the home's underlying real estate after they sold the Burnham operation to Weinfeld's firm. That company drew $7.5 million in rent payments during the three years from 2013 through 2015, the records show.

But Weinfeld, who is a registered agent of the Esformes' real estate company, said he erroneously listed Philip Esformes as a manager of the firm in records he filed with the state.

He said the company is managed by Morris Esformes. Philip Esformes sold his interest in the company in 2012 and does not take a share of the rent, Weinfeld told the Tribune. "It was an oversight," Weinfeld said of the records.

Morris Esformes' attorney Harvey Tettlebaum said the rent payments were proper and standard for the industry.

Two of Morris Esformes' companies separately received $275,000 in consulting and administrative fees from the Burnham home in those three years, state records show. Weinfeld told the Tribune he bought one of those companies last year and stopped using the other.

The rent and back office expenses paid to the Esformes companies were necessary to patient care, Weinfeld added. "We're cognizant of the fact that it's taxpayer dollars," Weinfeld said. "It is a fair use of the money."

Weinfeld holds a 1.5 percent ownership interest in Harmony Health Center, one of the Miami-area facilities named in Philip Esformes' alleged kickback and fraud scheme, according to Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reports. Weinfeld said he is a "silent partner" who has no role in that facility's operations.

Federal prosecutors allege that Philip Esformes shuttled disabled patients through two dozen of the Esformeses' Florida facilities, billing the government for services never delivered. The Justice Department says it is the largest health-care fraud case against an individual in U.S. history. Morris Esformes, who co-owns several of the Florida homes named in the indictment, has not been charged in the case.

"Philip Esformes continues to strenuously assert his innocence," his attorney Michael Pasano told the Tribune. "He is fighting these charges and looking to clear his name and the reputation of his nursing homes, which he insists deliver high-quality care."

Full Article & Source:
Ex-employees allege nursing home tried to mislead inspectors on abuse

See Also:
Nursing home operator from Chicago jailed as feds allege $1 billion scheme

Lawyer charged after alleged $70M Ponzi scheme faces court date

Attorney Steven Scudder is scheduled for an arraignment and change of plea hearing on a federal charge related to an alleged $70 million Ponzi scheme run by William and Connie Apostelos.

Scudder was charged by bill of information with wire fraud, according to documents filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.

Scudder’s plea hearing originally was scheduled for June but was continued after a request by federal prosecutors, who said there was a chance of a plea in the case.

Scudder’s hearing now is scheduled for Wednesday in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose. Attorney Keith Yeazel, who represents Scudder, declined to comment about the case.

Apostelos and his wife, Connie, were indicted on 27 counts alleging that the Springboro couple bilked nearly 500 investors out of tens of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme during at least a five-year period from 2009 to 2014.

The information about Scudder states that from July 2013 until July 2014, Scudder served as the trustee of the WMA Trust, a land trust that secured funds from WMA Enterprises, a purported investment firm.

Scudder resigned from his position in mid-2014 but held himself out as trustee of the WMA Trust through September 2014, the document alleged:

“Steven Scudder and others known to the United States Attorney, acting with intent to defraud, knowingly and intentionally devised, executed, and participated in a scheme to defraud investors and to obtain money and property owned by and under the custody and control of investors.”

The information includes a record of a September 2014 interstate phone call from Scudder to another person as proof of wire fraud.

William Apostelos’ sister and her daughter — Rebekah E. Fairchild and Rebekah L. Riddell, respectively — each pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy.

A 30-page complaint alleged that William Apostelos “portrayed himself as a sophisticated investor and businessman, and he exploited his network of clients, business associates, and friends to attract new investors.”

William and Connie Apostelos’ trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 6.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer charged after alleged $70M Ponzi scheme faces court date

Monday, December 26, 2016

Missteps mar family’s guardianship experience

A former Stanley woman has gained a new perspective on the importance of medical directives after spending more than a year under guardianships that she says worsened her health.

Kathy Miller, now of Wisconsin, said she prepared power of attorney documents, but failure to secure those documents in event of emergency triggered a series of events that she looks back on now as a tragedy.

Her ex-husband, Paul Miller of Billings, Mont., said the family’s lack of legal knowledge about guardianships contributed to the missteps that put Kathy in an unfortunate position.

“If I had to do it over again, I would have consulted a lawyer,” he said. “There are things I could have done.”

Kathy Miller, who has multiple sclerosis, said she was hospitalized in March 2015 in Stanley after a fall. She also was found to be seriously ill with an infection. A friend inquired with the local social services agency about obtaining guardianship.

Paul Miller, who then was separated but not divorced from Kathy, said he objected to the friend having guardianship but asked social services to locate a nurse to care for Kathy once released from the hospital. The county social service director at the time, Bryan Quigley, obtained guardianship on March 5, 2015, from the court, which had received input from him, from Kathy’s friend and from Kathy’s mother.

Because of medical and other privacy issues, people and facilities associated with Kathy’s guardianship and care weren’t able to publicly comment. However, court records show the emergency, 60-day guardianship allowed Quigley to terminate Kathy’s financial accounts, evict people from her property and restrict her contact with other people, if deemed necessary.

Kathy Miller said she had paperwork giving a friend – not the friend who sought guardianship  – durable power of attorney. However, he was unable to locate his document for several months and was barred from entering her home to obtain her copy.

Paul Miller said the family trusted the guardian and believed it was in Kathy’s best interest when her guardian moved her for a short time into a nursing home and then into an assisted-living apartment with a caregiver. Last month, the caregiver received a jail sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia and was ordered to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation. While she had been under his care, Kathy Miller said, a blood test showed methamphetamine in her system, although she says she has never used the drug.

Miller was sent to the State Hospital in Jamestown. The doctor gave her medicine for a bipolar mental illness, a diagnosis Kathy insists was inaccurate. Her stay was limited by the court to 45 days, so upon her release, she was placed in a nursing home in that part of the state.

“There was no therapy. I was in a locked ward, and I was allowed out for meals,” she said. Phone calls to and from family, including her son and daughter, were restricted. Paul Miller said when his phone calls were allowed, they were restricted to 15 minutes once a week.

“One of the reasons why I was not allowed to talk to her more is I was ‘interfering with her rehabilitation,’ which basically, from what I understand, was nonexistent,” Paul Miller said.

Miller said he began to develop concerns about Kathy’s care in September 2015. He said Kathy’s situation wasn’t the “least restrictive” environment required by law, and a judge directed Kathy be removed from the locked ward as soon as possible. Although the family had vehemently opposed Quigley’s continuation as guardian at the September hearing, the judge ruled in December to continue the guardianship.

Paul Miller said Quigley had offered to step down and allow him to assume guardianship. However, he was unfamiliar with what needed to be done before he went into court in September, and the arrangement he proposed was rejected as unsuitable.

Initially, the family was unaware that Kathy could ask for a review to have guardianship removed.

“Quigley and the judge never made Kathy aware of that option and we were told in court on September 22 that it could not be reviewed for one year and Quigley had the control,” Paul Miller said. The attorney hired by the family fought a good fight in court but declined to fight further once the judge made his decision, Miller said.

“I begged for us to put in for a change, and everyone acted as though it could not be done,” he said.

Objecting to the rules and medical decisions, Kathy Miller admits she wasn’t a compliant nursing home resident, but she can’t say for sure what prompted her guardian to return her to the State Hospital last February.

That also was about the time that Paul Miller’s research of guardianship law and investigation of Kathy’s case discovered an error that he believes should have disqualified the guardianship. From June through December 2015, decisions about Kathy’s care had been made despite a fictitious “Joe Schmow” listed as the dependent in the paperwork. Some decisions also were being made on Kathy’s behalf during a period in which the guardianship had lapsed and not yet been renewed, Paul Miller said.

Last February, a relative in Wisconsin stepped forward to offer to assume guardianship and provide care. Eager to release Kathy from her existing guardianship, the family agreed to the plan, which was approved by the court last April.

Kathy said the arrangement in Wisconsin proved to be ill-advised. Conditions and care were such that she was hospitalized about six weeks later with e coli, life-threatening blood clots and other ailments. Hospital medical staff declined to recognize the guardianship, citing technical issues with the filing in Wisconsin, and turned medical decisions over to Kathy’s son.

A competency test was conducted that found her to be neither bipolar nor requiring guardianship, Kathy Miller said. She now lives in a Wisconsin apartment with full-time caregivers.

Her health has declined since 2015, though.

“My MS has gotten really, really aggressive,” she said.

Also due to costs associated with the past year and a half of medical care, she lost her house in Stanley and saw her financial accounts drained. Paul Miller said his health insurance would have covered some of her care had it been tapped. An application was made to cover her second stay in the State Hospital but it was denied as medically unnecessary, he said.

The Millers believe their trials of the past year were unnecessary and might never have happened had they better educated themselves about their options early on.

“She was competent the entire time and never should have been placed in guardianship,” Paul Miller said. “All that was ever really needed was for me to have a power of attorney when we were married.”

Full Article & Source:
Missteps mar family’s guardianship experience

Man Sneaks Up Behind Mother-in-Law...

"This is Sharon, my mother-in-law.

She taught me it’s important work to see someone for who they are and not what you expect.

When I first met my mother-in-law, I had a hard time understanding her thick southern Virginia accent. And she seemed a little bossy in that southern passive aggressive polite way. But I knew she was important to the love of my life, so I accepted her begrudgingly, as some of us do when family is forced on us.

After 7 years, I still don’t really know her.

When my wife got leukemia at 30, when they gave her a 10% chance to live, when our world was shattered and changed forever, Sharon very quietly and very firmly stepped into the role she was born for. She moved, with her dependent Vietnam vet husband, into our house and became my wife’s caretaker too.

Over a period of two years, she bought most of the groceries, cooked almost every meal, did most of the laundry and cleaning, drove both dependents to almost every one of the 300+ doctor appointments , sorted tens of thousands of pills, and made sure they were all taken on time at every hour, every day.

And she did this when she herself was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of caring for everyone else. When she was getting a mastectomy. When she is going through chemo.

She hums when she works. She talks to herself when there’s no one to listen, and she goes about every day with humility and grace.

I took this photo (seen above) before I left for work one day. She didn’t know I was there.

This, friends, is what greatness looks like in a quiet moment. Waiting on oatmeal to cook for her daughter for the 300th time since she got sick. Her hair was gone from her own chemo. She refused to quit caring against all odds.

Not everyone gets to have a real-world superhero in their lives. And for this I was filled with gratitude every day.

The real heroes don’t wear capes. Sometimes, they wear bathrobes in kitchens making oatmeal."

Source:
Man Sneaks Behind Mother in Law

Florida Woman Buys Back House After Neighbor, 89, Evicted

When a Florida woman was evicted from the house she had lived in for decades, neighbors rallied to help, including one who gave her the ultimate gift: she bought back the house.

Angie Tyma moved back into her longtime home in Hudson, Florida, last Tuesday, which happened to be her 89th birthday, after three weeks of staying at a Days Inn hotel. She told TODAY that losing the house was a scary time, but she was glad to be home.

"I went through hell and back," she said. "I've lived in this house for 35 years."

Tyma was evicted last month after learning the person she had sold the house to several years earlier, who lives in Europe, had stopped paying the mortgage, and the house went into foreclosure. Despite a warning, Tyma, whose husband died nearly 20 years ago, didn't think she would be tossed onto the streets.

"They threw me out," she said. "I couldn't believe it."

Once the neighborhood saw Tyma’s belongings being taken out of the house, they jumped to help. But it was Danielle Calder, who lives a few houses away, who made the decision to buy back the house.

She contacted the company that had purchased it at auction and bought it back for $167,500. Now she’s Tyma’s new landlord.

"Quite honestly, I didn't need another house," Calder, 65, told TODAY. "But I needed her. I couldn't see her living in a motel room... she's been here so long. Everyone looks out for her."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from NASGA

Enjoy this magical rendition of “Hallelujah,” sung by Kaylee Rogers, a remarkable and talented 10 year-old girl with autism and ADHD,   Her voice is a Christmas gift in itself.



Source:
Killard House Special School Choir Singing Hallelujah

"Wonder What Jesus Thinks About Christmas?

written and performed by one our members, Danny Tate:

Source:
Wonder What Jesus Thinks About Christmas

See Also:
Court Ordered Hell

NASGA:  Danny Tate, TN Victim

Cops Walk in 79 Year-Old's Home, They Go Straight to the Fridge

A 79-year-old man from Tennessee called his local police station with an emergency that will break your heart.

He was alone, hadn’t eaten in two days, and had been robbed by the very person who was supposed to be taking care of him. With no money, no food and harsh winter conditions keeping him indoors, the desperate man didn’t know where else to turn.

He phoned the Mount Pleasant dispatch with a simple and urgent request: could someone please bring some food to his apartment?

Four police officers immediately rose to the occasion, fulfilling their promise to protect and serve their community. Officers Brian Gray, Nathan Bolton, Buddy Odom and Adam Runions pulled money from their own pockets and purchased enough food to stock the man’s pantry for a month.

Full Article and Source:
Cops Walk in 79 Year Old's Home - They Go Straight to the Fridge

2 Men See Their 93 Year-Old Neighbor Mowing Lawn, Offer to Mow it for Free

On April 23, 2016, Rodney Smith Jr. uploaded a photo of him, his friend Terence, and their 93-year-old neighbor to Facebook. He never expected the photo to go viral and be shared over 235,000 times.
AdWe did this sweet lady's lawn today. She is 93, the neighbors told us that she been out their trying to cut her own lawn 😳. Have no fear, raising men lawn care is going to make sure her lawn is done every two weeks ! Making a difference in our community ! Terrence Stroy
Smith references Raising Men Lawn Care in his post. It’s an organization he founded, and they are dedicated to helping neighbors in the community in need. Smith, a student at Alabama A&M University, launched Raising Men Lawn Care so those who do not “have the time, resources and/or money to manicure their yards” could maintain their yards free of charge.

Since founding Raising Men Lawn Care Service in December 2015, the organization has mowed over 300 yards. With 20 committed volunteers, these men are on a mission to “restore the importance and understanding of giving back to the community. I want to show our children (our future) that by helping others they too will receive a sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, moral value, and purpose in themselves.”

Full Article and Source:
2 Men Mow 93-Year-Old Neighbor's Lawn

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Boy Worried His Autism Would Put Him on Santa's Naughty List

Landon and his family was visiting Santa at the RiverTown Crossings mall in Michigan when the little six-year-old approached the Big Man with a very important question.

Landon's Secret
After his family photo was complete, Landon ran back up to Santa. His arms were twitching in anticipation and pure adrenaline. He was going to ask something that made him very nervous.

"Will my autism put me on the naughty list?"

Landon was concerned that his mental condition was going to rub Santa and the elves the wrong way, but he couldn't have been more wrong!

Exactly What He Needed To Hear
Without hesitation, Santa responded with an amazing answer, WOOD-TV reported.

“You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy. You’re a good boy, you know?”

The nervous energy left Landon immediately and his mom Naomi sat there and watched in amazement as Santa calmed her son. She shared that Santa flawlessly explained what she's been trying to teach her son since he was born - he is not any better or worse than a person simply due to his mental condition. He is a good person and Santa made that clear. With only five words Santa made everything right again: “It’s OK to be you!”

Full Article and Source:
Boy Worried His Autism Would Put Him on the Naughty List

Telling Their Life Stories; Older Folks Find Peace in Looking Back

Photo Credit:  Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
ISABELLA S. BICK’S parents, both Jewish physicians, never talked about the past after the family moved from Fascist Italy to the United States in 1939. She was 8 at the time and quickly learned it was best to keep her feelings of loss and loneliness to herself.

Her silence ended — and those emotions broke free — when Ms. Bick, now 84 and a psychotherapist living in Sharon, Conn., began writing bits and pieces of her life story a few years ago. In one vignette, she describes the trauma of moving with her parents and younger brother into a cramped apartment with her father’s Russian family in Troy, N.Y.

Her parents dealt with their grief by refusing to speak Italian at home or to reminisce about their life in Europe. So young Isabella did not tell them about the schoolmates who taunted her or the teacher who shouted at her. She was determined “to invent an American little girl” as quickly as possible, reading poems aloud each night until she lost her accent.

In bed, though, she slept with the brown lambskin coat that she had worn on the ocean voyage to America. Ms. Bick writes that she had “endowed Coat with very special magical qualities” and that she dreamed of returning to her home in Tuscany and her beloved nanny. “With Coat close to me, I felt I could hide my Italian self, not yet totally lost, and not yet reveal my still unformed American self — I could hold on precariously to both — for a little while longer.”

Like many older people who write their life stories, Ms. Bick found some peace in looking back. “Writing is painful because it brings back memories,” she said in a recent interview. But when she began writing, Ms. Bick said, she recognized “that there was this joyous little girl” whom she could finally “reclaim.” And she described “an awe that I survived some of the things I went through.”

Ms. Bick, who has three children and three grandchildren, considers her stories a gift to future generations — and to past ones. “I am keeping my parents and grandparents alive,” she said. “And, as an egotist, I am keeping myself alive. I am remembered.”

Full Article and Source:
Telling Their Life Stories; Older Folks Find Peace in Looking Back

Friday, December 23, 2016

Supreme Court Orders Public Reprimand of Lawyer Whose Wife Stole $2M From Firm Account

The Supreme Court of Georgia issued the following disciplinary decision on December 15:

In the Supreme Court of Georgia
Decided: December 15, 2016
S16Y0825. IN THE MATTER OF MICHAEL ANTHONY EDDINGS.
PER CURIAM.

This disciplinary matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Review Panel recommending that Michael Anthony Eddings ("Eddings") (State Bar No. 238751) be disbarred for several violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct arising out of the theft of $2.3 million from his law firm's trust account by his wife (now ex wife), Sonya Eddings ("Sonya"), while she was the law firm's financial manager. Eddings, in response, contends that a public reprimand or suspension is more appropriate under the circumstances, as Eddings did not participate in the theft and was unaware of Sonya's wrongful actions. After a review of the extensive record and detailed fact finding provided by the special master, Katherine L. McArthur, we reject the Review Panel's recommendation that Eddings be disbarred, and we agree with Eddings that a public reprimand is the more appropriate level of discipline to impose in this case.

The special master and Review Panel contend that Eddings violated Rules

1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b) and Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct found in Bar Rule 4 102 (d), based on the following facts: Eddings, who was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 2002 and initially worked for a plaintiffs' personal injury firm, opened his own practice in 2003, the Law Office of Michael Eddings, PC ("the Firm"), concentrating in real estate law. Sonya served as the Firm's financial manager. Sonya had a bachelor's degree in accounting, a master's degree in business administration, and substantial work experience in banking, including seven years with Columbus Bank & Trust/Synovus ("CB&T"), which was also the Firm's financial institution.

In 2006, Eddings and Sonya established Eddings Holdings for the purchasing and holding of a franchise of The Coffee Beanery with two stores. Sonya handled all of the operations related to the franchise, and told Eddings, falsely, that the franchise was breaking even. However, in March 2007, without telling Eddings, Sonya began diverting money from the Firm's IOLTA account to cover losses from the franchise. Between 2007 and October 2011, she stole over $2.3 million.

The record shows that Sonya used her inside knowledge of CB&T's technology and technological vulnerabilities to accomplish the theft. Because she had been a top professional at CB&T, the bank did not question her as closely as others might have been questioned when questions arose about the Firm's accounts. For example, just before Sonya's scheme came to light, she admitted to a CB&T employee that she had created a fake wire confirmation to present to a client, but claimed she did so because she had not sent the wire transfer when she should have. The CB&T employee accepted this explanation and did not inform Eddings.

Although Eddings and Sonya had monthly financial meetings to review the Firm's account reconciliations, Sonya presented bank statements that she had altered to remove any negative balance information. Additionally, over the course of Sonya's criminal activities, CB&T, without notice to Eddings, ceased providing notifications of overdrafts and placed the Firm's IOLTA account on automatic overdraft protection. As a result, CB&T provided notice to the State Bar on only a few of the multiple times the IOLTA account was overdrawn . On four occasions, Sonya also intercepted letters from the Bar's Trust Account Overdraft Notification Coordinator regarding checks presented against insufficient funds in the Firm's IOLTA account, and responded, to the Bar's satisfaction, without Eddings' knowledge or consent. When Eddings did receive information about minor irregularities during this time, Sonya was able to resolve or explain the issues to his satisfaction. And, when Eddings subsequently instituted new firm policies to address the issues, Sonya simply increased her level of deception to get around the new policies.

Finally, in October 2011, after a late payoff, the Firm's title insurance company conducted an audit which showed that between October 2007 and October 2011, the Firm's IOLTA account had a negative balance 50 times. Sonya then admitted her wrongdoing, and CB&T seized the Firm's funds and closed the Firm's accounts. The Firm's insurance company provided coverage for most of the losses; however, the parties agree that $65,618.22 in losses to clients and mortgage holders remains uncompensated.

The special master also found that there was no evidence that the money that was diverted went anywhere except the account of Eddings Holdings to run or cover losses for the coffee shops, finding that there was no evidence that the diverted funds went to pay personal bills or expenses for Eddings or Sonya, that there was no evidence presented that Eddings' lifestyle was one that could not have been maintained based on his own income, and that there was no evidence that Eddings was aware of the transfers from the Firm's account to the Eddings Holdings account. The special master found by clear and convincing evidence that Eddings did not know of the diversion of funds from the trust account by Sonya between 2007 and 2011, and therefore, that he had not knowingly violated the Rules. Nevertheless, the special master concluded that Eddings' failure to supervise Sonya and his failure to maintain his trust account constituted violations of Rules 1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b) and Rule 5.3 (a) and (b). For the reasons that follow, while we agree that Eddings violated Rules 1.15 (I) (c) and 1.15 (II) (b), we do not agree with the special master's conclusion that Eddings violated Rule 5.3 (a) and (b).

In this regard, the facts here point to the conclusion that Eddings was the victim of an elaborate con perpetrated by his wife, Sonya–a con that even bank officials unwittingly helped Sonya commit and in one case even helped her cover up–and not the conclusion that it was unreasonable for Eddings not to have done anything more to have prevented Sonya from misappropriating the funds that she stole. Eddings reviewed bank statements from CB&T, but had no reason to believe that Sonya had altered them; received information from an audit in February 2010 that did not find any suspected embezzlement activity; was unaware of correspondence that Sonya had deliberately intercepted to ensure that her deceit would not be discovered; and, even when Eddings implemented new office procedures in November 2010 in an effort to prevent future account irregularities and make sure that all wire transfers would be made properly, Sonya was able to use her banking skills and relationships to circumvent these policies (and even convince bank officials to hide from Eddings the fact that she had created a fake wire transfer in connection with one of the law firm's real estate closings). Sonya was so convincing in her con that no one from CB&T believed that any deceit was occurring, let alone to the tune of $2.3 million, and Eddings was given no information upon which to base a reasonable belief that any deceit was occurring. Indeed, no one discovered Sonya's deception until October 27, 2011, when Sonya herself confessed in writing during the audit by First American Title Insurance Company that she had been misappropriating funds from the law firm's trust account since 2007. In short, none of the activity here shows the type of misconduct on the attorney's part that this Court would generally look for to justify a suspension from the practice of law. See, e.g., In the Matter of Jones, 280 Ga. 302 (627 SE2d 24) (2006).

Additionally, as the special master noted, this is not a case where Eddings should have noticed a change in his lifestyle or that of his wife. To the contrary, Sonya diverted money from the IOLTA account to cover losses from the two coffee shops that she operated independently from Eddings and that she was eventually forced to close. Eddings had no knowledge that the coffee shops were failing.

Based on the above, the special master has not provided any solid reasoning to support the conclusion that Eddings violated Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) relating to his duty to make reasonable efforts to supervise Sonya under the facts of this case. Eddings therefore cannot be disciplined for any alleged violation of this Rule. Specifically, Rule 5.3 (a) and (b) provides that:

With respect to a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer . . . a lawyer who ... possesses managerial authority in a law firm[] shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer; [and] a lawyer having direct supervisory authority over the nonlawyer shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Supreme Court Orders Public Reprimand of Lawyer Whose Wife Stole $2M From Firm Account

Indianapolis Attorney, Special Needs Trust Fund Trustee Arrested On Lawrence County Theft Warrant

(BEDFORD) - An arrest has been made after the launch of an investigation late last September at the request of the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office. Indianapolis Attorney Kenneth Shane Service, 43 of Indianapolis was arrested Thursday by Indiana State Police Detectives and charged with theft, a Level 5 felony.

He was transported to the Marion County Jail, where he is waiting to be transported to Lawrence County.

The initial investigation was launched in Lawrence County when PNC Bank filed complaints with the Department of Adult Protective Services and the Prosecutor's Office. Those complaints alleged that Service was acting as a Trust Fund Trustee and that large amounts of fraudulent loss had appeared in Trust Fund bank accounts that were under his management.

The actual owners of the Trust Fund accounts were not aware of the theft until notified by ISP Detective Stacy Brown.

According to a Lawrence Superior I Court probable cause affidavit, Detective Stacy Brown found Service was writing checks payable to himself, using debit cards to withdraw large sums of money and purchasing personal items and services, all without the approval of the Trust Fund Account owners.

Those items included a car, casino trips and major dental surgery and other items.

Detectives believe Service had access to several other Trust Fund accounts throughout Indiana, West Virginia and Florida.

According to Lawyer.com, Service license has been suspended.

Full Article & Source:
Indianapolis Attorney, Special Needs Trust Fund Trustee Arrested On Lawrence County Theft Warrant

Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – About one in ten Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.

We found out before now, there wasn’t an organized system to prosecute abusers, and many of these cases fell through the cracks.

Of the millions of elderly adults abused each year, one study estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Now because of a new state law, district attorneys throughout Tennessee are going after these cases more aggressively than ever before, and trying to make sure when abuse happens it’s reported

“It’s very sad to see these,” Amy Hinkle said. She is a Sullivan County assistant district attorney and the chief prosecutor for vulnerable adults cases.

“We’ve had cases where people have been allowed to fall out of the bed and laid for 12 hours or longer,” Hinkle said.

She said though these types of cases are not in the public spotlight often, it’s something she sees every day.

“We have had cases where family members have exploited which means financially taken advantage of these people who are left at home no food, no medicine, sitting in their own urine and feces,” Hinkle said.

Now district attorneys are working on a new initiative called VAPIT, Vunerable Adult Protective Investigative Team, made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, and protective services. Its goal is to seek justice for vulnerable adults including the elderly and adults with disabilities.

“Prosecuting those cases that we find that there’s criminal activity and helping and assisting and providing resources for the victims and also educating the public and asking the public if they suspect abuse to report it,” Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said.

One change with this new law is prosecutors now have access to closed Adult Protective Services cases.

“We could have a case in which the victim has been removed from the home, placed in a nursing facility. That would close an Adult Protective Services case,” Hinkle said.

But now prosecutors can reopen that case and make sure the offender is prosecuted.

Hinkle said since taking steps to coordinate with the other agencies, she is seeing more instances reported.

“There are some days I get ten or more a day, there are some days I get maybe one to two, but it’s very rare that there’s not even one reported on a day,” Hinkle said.

Another change,  law enforcement officers are now trained on how to spot and handle these types of cases.

The law requiring the VAPIT initiative goes in to effect January 1st.

This isn’t the only recent change related to elder abuse, after a 2013 WJHL Community Watchdog investigation into the state’s abuse problem, lawmakers stiffened penalties for people guilty of elder abuse and approved the creation of a task force.

Full Article & Source:
Prosecutors in Tri-Cities trying to stop growing cases of elder abuse