Saturday, April 8, 2017

Shades of gray complicate the battle against elder abuse

As an entertainer, Mickey Rooney loved to leave ‘em laughing. But the Hollywood legend’s final act played out more like a tragedy — marred by the financial elder abuse he divulged in testimony before Congress.

A longtime Thousand Oaks resident, Rooney died in April three years ago at age 93. Although the original teen idol made more than 300 films and reportedly was pulling down $65,000 a week during the three-year Broadway run of “Sugar Babies” in the early 1980s, his net worth at his death totaled $18,000.

“If elder abuse happened to me, it can happen to anyone," Rooney told the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2011.

During his testimony the star alternated between head-in-hands despair and raised-fist defiance.

“I am now taking steps to right all the wrongs that were committed against me,” he told the senators.

But the plot thickened for Rooney, whose story shows the complexity of proving this crime against our most vulnerable citizens.

To use his own catchphrase, Rooney could put on a show when he was spotted out and about in Ventura County, whether he was spooning out frozen yogurt at his TCBY franchise, holding court at the counter in the old Lupe’s Mexican Restaurant on Thousand Oaks Boulevard or playing the ponies in the Derby Club at the county fairgrounds.

Acting luminary Sir Laurence Olivier called Rooney “the best single film actor America ever produced” and that might explain how he covered up turmoil in his personal life — some of his own making, what with the serial marriages and multiple addictions.

But in 2011, Rooney’s court-appointed conservator sought a restraining order against the actor’s stepson Christopher Aber, alleging financial elder abuse. Rooney entrusted his personal and business affairs to Aber, the son of his eighth wife, Jan.

Rooney later filed suit against Aber, alleging he cleaned out millions from Rooney’s accounts, left him in the dark about his finances and denied him food and medicine.

In October 2013, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement where Aber agreed to pay $2.8 million.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office investigated Rooney’s claims of financial abuse but never pressed charges. Aber denies any wrongdoing. He never paid the settlement, and Rooney’s conservator has yet to restore the assets that vanished.

“What is clear: One of the biggest stars of all time who remained aloft longer than anyone in Hollywood history was in the end brought down by those closest to him,” wrote Gary Baum and Scott Feinberg in their award-winning 2015 investigation into Rooney’s elder-abuse claims that ran in The Hollywood Reporter.

Rooney’s is far from the only case where allegations of financial elder abuse proved tough to pin down. I recently wrote about a Thousand Oaks couple in their 80s who lost their home when their grandson allegedly borrowed heavily against it, defaulted on the payments and tried to sell it out from under them. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating but no charges have been filed.

Getting the elderly even to report abuse is complicated by emotions because their abusers are almost always someone in their circle of trust, said Deborah Sutherland-Hocamp, a long-time volunteer for Grey Law, which provides free legal services to people older than 60.

“I’d hear ‘I don’t want my son to get into trouble,’” she said.

Financial elder abuse can be as serious as physical violence, Sutherland-Hocamp maintains.

“Loss of money is a death warrant in Ventura County,” she said.

With the sky-high cost of housing here, the average Social Security benefit of $1,100 to $1,200 gets eaten up on rent. If a senior is robbed of other assets, nothing remains to buy food or medicine.

It is estimated by 2030 more than 28 percent of Ventura County’s population will be 60 or older; that’s way up from nearly 17 percent in 2011.

Ventura County already has one of the state’s highest rates of domestic violence in all age groups — twice the state average — based on the number of 9-1-1 calls residents place for protection from abuse by someone close to them.

A coalition of law enforcement officers, county agencies and nonprofits propose creating the Ventura County Family Justice Center to streamline services to victims, The Star reported last week.

The elderly, who tend to be less mobile, especially could benefit from the convenience of accessing services under one roof.

It’s going to take money and will to get the center up and running. But if we are to help seniors who are suffering in silence as you read this, we are going to have to put on more than a show.

Full Article & Source:
Shades of gray complicate the battle against elder abuse

3 comments:

Kathyanne said...

I've never heard of Grey Law,thank you. Also, I know Mickey Rooney was financially exploited by his family and then conserved. Has anyone looked into whether the conservatorship exploited him?

Jean said...

Mikey's conservator didn't conserve. He didn't live long enough to know it though.

kathleen riney said...

Financial loss is sad...However,$$$$ can be replaced to a degree. But there are Worse things that can & do happen."CharacterAssassination"
Done by a close Family member, can have endless repercussions, in many & unforseen ways! I'm living through it now! A proven Lie (told to garner sympathy!) has caused recurrent personal upsets, & now, Legal problems!
Perpetrator has Never acknowledged the wrongdoing, or apologised for the Ugly,Untrue, & Hurtful Lie...And that 35+yr old Lie,has surfaced again...This time,causing trouble in the Court System...At 75 this IS a "big deal"for me!