Thursday, March 21, 2019

After $2M-plus stolen from New Orleans lawyer Bernard 'Bunny' Charbonnet, couple pleads guilty

Money used on Saints tickets, vacations, a lease payments for a Mercedes-Benz, among other things 


A north shore woman recently pleaded guilty to stealing more than $2 million from the law firm of prominent New Orleans attorney Bernard “Bunny” Charbonnet Jr., and her husband admitted to laundering some of the money.

Latanya Arnold, 49, began serving a three-year prison sentence on March 8, a little more than a month after pleading guilty to a charge of felony theft, according to St. Tammany Parish court records. District Attorney Warren Montgomery's office handled the case.

Then, last week, her husband, 50-year-old Raymond Arnold, received five years of probation shortly after pleading guilty to a charge of money laundering.

Judge Scott Gardner of 22nd Judicial District Court ordered both Arnolds to pay restitution, with Latanya’s being more than $2.2 million and Raymond’s roughly $272,000.

Charbonnet didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But, in a statement from Montgomery’s office, he described how the theft “devastated the financial stability of his business (and) shattered his trust in the humanity of people.”

Charbonnet, 67, is a well-known figure in local political circles, having held roles such as general counsel for the New Orleans Aviation Board and Orleans Parish School Board while sitting on the city’s port and public library boards.

He was a key supporter of the 2017 mayoral bid of his sister, Desiree Charbonnet, who lost to LaToya Cantrell.

The case against the Arnolds dates back to early May 2017, when — a few days after Latanya Arnold left the firm — Charbonnet noticed a $25,000 withdrawal from a bank account that only he and she could access.

A warrant filed by the New Orleans Police Department said she had used the money to bail her son, Malcolm, out of jail following his arrest in St. Charles Parish on drug possession counts.

When Charbonnet confronted Arnold, she said she would repay the money, police said at the time. But police said she later forged Charbonnet’s signature on a check drawing money from another of his law office’s bank accounts, which she couldn’t access.

A worried Charbonnet then had all of his firm’s accounts audited, dating back to Arnold’s hiring in 2008. That audit identified $2,240,534 in unauthorized expenditures from six bank accounts associated with Charbonnet’s firm and related entities, authorities said.

Authorities said Arnold used the money for a Mercedes-Benz, tuition, vacations, clothes, salon services, tickets to Saints games and loan payments.

Police also found evidence that some of the money covered operating expenses for two companies that the Arnolds ran out of their home in Slidell. One sold tobacco products; the other was involved in the trucking business.

Investigators in New Orleans arrested the Arnolds on July 21, and they posted bail shortly afterward.

Ultimately, it was Montgomery who filed charges in the case. Both Arnolds were charged with theft, with Raymond Arnold facing an additional count of money laundering.

Latanya Arnold, who moves around with the help of a wheelchair, pleaded guilty as charged in Gardner’s courtroom on Feb. 6 rather than stand trial. She received a 10-year prison sentence March 1, with seven of those years suspended. She will serve three years of probation upon her release.

Raymond Arnold pleaded guilty to money laundering on March 11; Montgomery’s office dismissed the theft count. He received a 10-year prison sentence that was entirely suspended but faces five years of probation.

Raymond Arnold’s position was that “he didn’t know everything that his wife was doing,” his attorney, Jerry Fontenot, said Tuesday. “He admitted to knowing about a portion of the money but was unaware of the full extent.”

An attorney for Latanya Arnold, Aaron Rives, said he and his client believed the outcome of the case was reasonable. He said it had been “a hard time for her and her family.”

Full Article & Source:
After $2M-plus stolen from New Orleans lawyer Bernard 'Bunny' Charbonnet, couple pleads guilty

Former nurse accused of sexually assaulting senior at Caroline rehabilitation center

Gene Paul Brown
A former nurse at a rehabilitation facility in Caroline County has been charged with multiple felony offenses for allegedly sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman in September, court records show.

Gene Paul Brown, 58, of Fredericksburg, is charged with rape, sodomy, object sexual penetration and abduction with the intent to defile. Brown was working at the Bowling Green Health & Rehabilitation Center at the time of the alleged incidents, but has since been fired.

Caroline Sheriff Tony Lippa said the Bowling Green Police Department got the initial call about the allegations last week but quickly turned the investigation over to the much-larger Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. K.H. Eichenmiller is heading the investigation.

Brown was arrested Wednesday and placed in the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford County, online records show. He has since been transferred to the Pamunkey Regional Jail, where most Caroline offenders are held.

Lippa would not discuss any details about the alleged offenses or how they came to light. “It’s in the court’s hands now,” Lippa said.

Brown was arraigned Friday in Caroline General District Court, where a preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 26.

Full Article & Source: 
Former nurse accused of sexually assaulting senior at Caroline rehabilitation center

Fired employee charged with client theft

A former employee of Twin Ports Guardianship and Payee Services who allegedly stole more than $12,000 from a client's account waived her preliminary hearing in Douglas County Circuit Court on March 12.

Kathy Sue Nelson, 47, of Superior faces 11 counts of felony theft, 11 counts of misdemeanor theft, two counts of identity theft for financial gain and one count of unauthorized use of an entity's identifying information or documents. Cash bail of $5,000 was set for Nelson, who was ordered to have no contact with the client.

According to the criminal complaint, Nelson was an employee of Twin Ports Guardianship and Payee from November 2015 to August 2018. Her employment was terminated after administrators found unaccounted for funds removed from client accounts, according to Jan Cummings of Twin Ports Guardianship.

The thefts took place from an account under Nelson's control over a 10-month period from October 2017 to July 2018. Nelson had the ability to take cash directly out of the client's account, fill out checks and obtain credit cards from the bank to be used on purchases for the client.

An audit showed Nelson had reportedly taken $12,350 in cash from the client's account and purchased about $5,000 worth of clothing from a retailer in Nelson's size, which is too small for the client.

The reported thefts included cash withdrawals, change from approved purchases that was never returned to the client and the purchase of gift cards, books, jewelry and other merchandise without the client's knowledge or permission. Many of the gift cards were used at Superior and Duluth businesses.

Cummings said the purchases could not have been made by the client, who lives in an Ashland nursing home and does not travel to Superior.

She told Officer Jeff Felton of the Superior Police Department that they had become suspicious of Nelson's spending habits before the audit. Nelson reportedly had taken at least seven destination vacations in the year prior to her termination.

The felony counts, all class H, carry a maximum penalty of six years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Nelson's next court appearance was set for April 17.

Full Article & Source:
Fired employee charged with client theft

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

CEO of guardianship company indicted

Attorney General Hector Balderas
The CEO of Guardian Angels Representative Payee Services, a private company that managed the finances for special needs or infirm people, has been indicted on charges of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from clients.

According to the indictment filed in 2nd Judicial District Court on Tuesday, between June and November of last year, 56-year-old Pamela Crumpler “did convert to her own use money belonging to her clients,” and it was “with intent at the time of conversion to fraudulently deprive the owner of his/her property.”

She then put the money back into her clients’ bank accounts to avoid getting caught, according to the indictment.

“No one should take advantage of vulnerable individuals in our community,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a news release. “We are prepared to present this case at trial.”

Crumpler is charged with embezzlement over $20,000 and tampering with evidence.

The Journal could not reach her for comment.

Representative payee and guardianship companies operate by taking control of their clients’ Social Security or other government benefits, annuity payments or settlement proceeds and paying their clients’ expenses for food, housing and other needs.

This is the third instance in the past two years where such a company has been charged with embezzling funds from clients.

The other two companies, Ayudando Guardians Inc. and Desert State Life Management, were accused of taking millions of dollars from clients and have since been shut down.

In fact, Balderas said, many of the clients Crumpler is accused of siphoning money from came to her from the now-defunct Ayudando Guardians.

Ayudando Guardians Inc., one of the state’s largest guardian and representative payee services firms, was shuttered in August 2017. Its chief financial officer, president, the president’s son and the president’s husband were federally charged in a $4 million embezzlement scheme that prosecutors say supported their lavish spending habits on luxury cruises and vacations.

The four are awaiting trial.

After Ayudando shut down, its estimated 1,400 clients were transferred to other guardians or firms – including the nonprofit Guardian Angels.

Balderas said Crumpler’s scheme began in 2018 when BBVA Compass Bank began running a promotion that would deposit $200 into new accounts that met certain requirements.

According to a letter Balderas sent to the bank, Crumpler took advantage of this promotion and shifted 247 of her clients’ accounts to the bank. Then, he said, she withdrew the bonus money and deposited it into her own account.

“In total, the CEO of GARP embezzled nearly $50,000 of funds designed to go specifically to the benefit of these vulnerable persons,” Balderas wrote in the letter.

Crumpler could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

The indictment comes less than three weeks after Paul Donisthorpe, the CEO of another nonprofit trust company, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for stealing $4.8 million from more than 70 clients.

Desert State Life Management is now closed, but it had acted as a conservator and fiduciary for developmentally or physically disabled and elderly individuals.

In early February, Balderas asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for assistance in combatting what he called a guardianship crisis in the state. He said the current lack of state regulation and oversight of the process has led to repeated exploitation of a vulnerable population.

A bill being considered by lawmakers would add additional safeguards to help prevent such vulnerable people from being exploited by their money managers and guardians.

Full Article & Source:
CEO of guardianship company indicted

Judge nullifies mentally incompetent San Antonio man’s adult adoptions, scolds lawyer for misleading him

Laura Martinez, 54, center and her adult children, Joe Martinez Thrash, 27, left, and Brittany Martinez Thrash, 25, right, listen to their attorney, Phil Ross outside the Bexar County 73rd District Court, Tuesday during a break in an adoption hearing, March 19, 2019. Martinez’ March 4th marriage to Charlie Thrash, 81, was annulled in court
After a quick court hearing Tuesday, Joe and Brittany Thrash became Joe and Brittany Martinez again.

The reversal came two weeks after they were adopted by Charlie Thrash, 81, a wealthy San Antonio man who in 2017 was found to be mentally incapacitated.

Joe, 27, and Brittany, 25, are the children of Thrash’s girlfriend Laura Martinez, who married him on March 4.

That short-lived union was annulled last week in Bexar Probate Court, where Thrash is under the protection of court-appointed guardians.

Because of his incapacity, Thrash has been under standing court orders to not marry, vote, drive a car or make any important personal decisions, including, apparently adoptions.

On Tuesday, State District Judge David Canales nullified the adoptions that he had approved a week earlier. It came at the request of Thrash’s guardians, who claimed that the adoptions were “a fraud on the court.”

The judge scolded lawyer Phil Ross, who represents Laura Martinez, and was involved in the adoptions, for misleading him and not alerting him to Thrash’s legal status.

“It sounds like a lot of information that would have been helpful to me was not presented,” Canales said.

Barrett Shipp, the lawyer for Thrash’s guardian Mary Werner, said these omissions “completely robbed this court of being able to enter a proper order.”

Ross objected to the motion to void the adoptions even being heard, claiming that Canales lacked jurisdiction and that Thrash should have been present Tuesday at the hearing.

Ross said Thrash had the right to adopt the two Martinez children, despite the standing order from probate court.

Canales saw it otherwise and restored the siblings to their former status.

“The adoptions have been set aside. It starts all over again,” said Laura Cavaretta, a lawyer for Tonya Barina, guardian of Thrash’s estate, worth more than $3 million.

Tharsh, who operated a specialty auto repair shop on West Avenue for decades, has not been seen publicly in two weeks.

On March 6, Werner arrived at his home in Shavano Park with police officers and took him away. She said Thrash is now staying with a relative and doing well.

Laura Martinez, 54, who said she is the sole beneficiary of Thrash’s will, said she loves him and wants him back.

“I have a lot of faith. I have many religious people contacting me and they are not happy about the annulment and the questions about the adoptions,” she said. “The kids love him, that’s why they want to be adopted by him.”

Martinez has denied mistreating or financially exploiting Thrash, whom she says she began dating in August 2012.

Thrash had been married and divorced twice, and did not have children of his own.

A report by a court-appointed investigator, as well as statements by adult protective services officials, painted Thrash as being controlled and manipulated by Martinez and her family.

According to Elaine Damian, investigator for Bexar Probate Court No. 1, Thrash did not want to get married and gets along well with his guardians. She also concluded that Thrash was vulnerable to suggestion and intimidation, and stated the guardianships are necessary.

In a lengthy rebuttal to the court investigator’s report, Ross took issue with claims he was being controlled and isolated, and attacked the guardian’s conduct as interfering unnecessarily with Thrash’s personal and business affairs.

“Damian’s report is inadequate, biased and unreliable because it fails to report investigation of important facts including hostile and malicious actions of Barina, guardian of estate, and Werner, guardian of the person,” Ross asserted, going on to list numerous alleged hostile acts.

Among them, according to Ross, was Barina’s closing of Thrash’s bank accounts, locking him out of his business, failing to arrange for his financial support and ignoring medical claims that his mental capacity has been restored.

He accused Werner, Thash’s personal guardian, of “conspiring with Shavano Park Police Department … on the pretext of a welfare check to abduct Charlie from his home against this will on March 4, 2019, and facilitating his false imprisonment.”

Werner said she was forced to remove Thrash for his own safety, and because Martinez was uncooperative and manipulative.

Full Article & Source:
Judge nullifies mentally incompetent San Antonio man’s adult adoptions, scolds lawyer for misleading him

Lauderdale: 5 common myths about powers of attorney

Mitzi Lauderdale
While most of us have heard of a power of attorney, many have misconceptions about them.

A few common myths:

1. There is one uniform power of attorney document. Definitely not. There are many types that can be further complicated by state-by-state variations. Some states recognize other states’ documents while others do not. Texas has a statutory power of attorney form available online that might be acceptable to address simple needs. However, it is essential to work with an attorney to draft a document to meet your specific needs.

2. I can sign a power of attorney even if I lack mental capacity. A power of attorney is a contract that grants rights to a third party (the agent) to act on our behalf. To be valid, the person granting the rights (the principal) must have mental capacity to execute the document. A power of attorney cannot be used in lieu of a guardianship for individuals with mental incapacity. A power of attorney can be valid for a person with mental incapacity as long as the document was executed prior to the occurrence. In fact, this is one of the key reasons everyone should have a durable power of attorney in place.

3. A durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney are the same. A durable power of attorney grants rights to an agent to act on your behalf regarding your assets. Limited or general? These rights can be general to all assets for an unlimited time or can be limited in scope regarding the time frame and assets included. A medical power of attorney grants a trusted loved one the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf.

4. Senior citizens are the only people who need a power of attorney. Accidents and unforeseen illness can sadly strike at any age. Having a plan in place can ease the burden of one aspect of an already stressful and complicated circumstance. Assuming your spouse has automatic power to make decisions on your behalf is not a safe assumption. It can be much more complicated unless you have granted them the power of attorney.

5. A power of attorney can be used to handle my loved one’s estate upon death. Sadly, I have had to be the bearer of bad news for families who thought this could simplify or avoid the probate process. While there are other ways to structure an estate to avoid probate, a power of attorney is not one of them. A power of attorney allows the agent to stand in the shoes of the principal to make decisions. The power of attorney does not continue beyond the death of the principal. Many times, the agent is also the named executor, but most business for the estate cannot be conducted until letters testamentary have been issued by the court through the probate process.

As long as you avoid the common misconceptions, a power of attorney can be an extremely useful tool to meet our needs ranging from simple to complex. Simple – to allow a friend to close on a house on our behalf because we are out of the state. Complex – in the event we become mentally incompetent due to an accident or illness, we have chosen our agent to serve as our fiduciary - to act in our best interest while making decisions on our behalf. Failing to have a power of attorney can lead to the need for a complicated, lengthy, and costly process to obtain guardianship.

In the end, I want my simple and complex wishes satisfied. With a properly executed power of attorney, the odds are much greater they will be fulfilled. I wish the same for you and your loved ones.

Mitzi Lauderdale is a Certified Financial Planner and associate professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech.

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Lauderdale: 5 common myths about powers of attorney

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Amid tears, bowed heads, Maryland House of Delegates approves legalizing medically assisted suicide

The Maryland House of Delegates has approved a bill that would  allow terminally ill adults to obtain prescription drugs to end their lives. The vote was 74-66, three votes more than the 71 votes required for passage. A companion bill is pending in the state Senate. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun video)
Following an intense and emotional debate that brought some lawmakers to tears, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would allow terminally ill adults to obtain prescription drugs they could take to end their lives.

It was the fourth attempt to pass the bill; it has failed in three past General Assembly sessions. Thursday’s vote was 74-66 — three votes more than the 71 votes required for passage.

Del. Eric Luedtke choked up as he described how he moved from being an opponent of the idea to a supporter.

The Montgomery County Democrat said he was long opposed to suicide, having had three relatives attempt it. But then his mother fell ill with esophageal cancer in 2014 and lost her independence and control of her body. A few days before she died, he found her in the kitchen, drinking a bottle of liquid morphine in an attempt to end her life.

“I began to ask myself what right I had, as a government official, and even as her son, to dictate to her how her life should end? What right do any of us have to determine that for another individual?”

Struggling to hold back tears, Luedtke said he was voting for the bill because it represented “restoring to people like my mother the ability to make a decision for themselves. A final decision for themselves.”

Luedtke was among several delegates who gave heartfelt, wrenching testimony during the somber debate that lasted nearly 90 minutes. Several shared stories of loved ones who died painful deaths or their own experiences with serious diseases. Others invoked their faith, saying that it’s not up to humans to decide when they die.

At times, delegates wiped away tears. Others bowed their heads or looked skyward in contemplation.

“This is an intensely painful issue for all of us,” said Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Prince George’s County Democrat who spoke against the bill.

After the vote was taken, Del. Shane Pendergrass, the bill’s sponsor, smiled and fist-bumped Del. Kumar Barve.

“I think that the quote that ‘Every person is one bad death away from supporting this bill’ was prophetic. It has been the thing that has resonated most with me over the years,” Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat, said in an interview.

A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Will Smith is pending in the state Senate.

The legislation would allow a doctor to prescribe drugs to a patient that the person could take to end his or her life. The patient must be at least 18 years old and have a terminal illness with a prognosis of less than six months to live. The patient must request the prescription on three occasions, including once in private and once in writing — provisions meant to prevent patients from being coerced.

Supporters said having the option of medically assisted suicide would allow people to maintain control and die without suffering.

Del. Sandy Bartlett described the excruciating pain she suffered while in treatment for bilateral breast cancer. Having confronted her mortality, Bartlett, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said she doesn’t want to suffer in death.

“I do not want anyone forcing me to live in pain or in a drugged state or die humanely in starvation in hospice,” she said.

Some delegates used their personal stories to argue the opposite point — that it’s not appropriate to end anyone’s life prematurely.

Del. Cheryl Glenn recounted her sister’s final days after a stroke, when she thinks her sister might have ended her life if she had had the option.

But living a few days longer allowed her sister’s estranged son to travel from overseas, and the two reconciled. Had her sister killed herself, “she would have left this world without making peace with her only son,” said Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat.

Glenn said the experience reminded her: “We don’t know what tomorrow holds, we really don’t.”

Others cited their faith, saying that they believe that life and death are in the hands of God, not human beings.

“Are we becoming above God?” asked Del. Ric Metzgar, a Baltimore County Republican.

Del. Jay Walker recalled the gospel song lyrics: “Lord, lift us up where we belong.”

“It doesn’t say, ‘Doctor, take us where we belong’ or ‘Nurse, lift us up where we belong,’ ” Walker said. “It says, ‘Lord, lift us up where we belong.’ ”

Walker, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said allowing people to end their lives amounts to “overstepping our bounds.”

As on the House floor, the bill has been the subject of lengthy committee hearings full of intimate stories on both sides of the issue. Several hundred people demonstrated against the bill Monday during a March for Life in Annapolis.

Jennifer Briemann, director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, issued a statement praising delegates who had the “courage to stand up to the out-of-state interests pushing this predatory agenda.”

She called on state senators and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to prevent “this dangerously flawed bill” from becoming law.

Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices, an Oregon-based organization that promotes such legislation, observed the debate from the House balcony. She said with baby boomers beginning to reach retirement age, they are dealing with deaths of their parents and peers, causing them to rethink their views on death experiences.

A recent poll from Goucher College found 62 percent of Marylanders support allowing terminally ill patients to obtain medication to end their lives.

Six states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to qualifying patients. Seventeen states are considering similar legislation, according to state analysts.

Doctors, too, are becoming more supportive of the bills, Callinan said. MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, previously opposed the bill but took a neutral stance this year.

Smith, the lead Senate bill sponsor and a Montgomery County Democrat, said he was optimistic about the legislation’s chances after the House vote.

“It gives us a lot of momentum in the Senate,” he said. “I suspect that the Senate floor will be a very close vote.”

Hogan, a Republican, has not committed to a position on the bill. He has said that it is “one that I really wrestle with from a personal basis” and that he would give it careful consideration if it reaches his desk.

Full Article & Source:
Amid tears, bowed heads, Maryland House of Delegates approves legalizing medically assisted suicide

Police: Caretaker went on spending spree using elderly couple's credit cards

BILLERICA, Mass. - A woman accused of stealing credit cards from a 91-year-old man and his deceased wife was the couple's caretaker and neighbor.

Christine Wojcik had stolen the cards and made several purchases at local Market Baskets and CVS locations - and even going to Foxwoods casino - racking up nearly $5,500 in debt in a month, according to the police report.

Wojcik, who was a trusted family friend, was arraigned on theft charges on Tuesday.

"I couldn’t believe she did a thing like that," said nonagenarian Ralph Rizzo.

It's been an emotional few months for Rizzo, who lost his wife, Marie, last year. 

"That was the toughest, after 69 years," he said.

And then, while grieving, the caretaker he trusted for four years was arrested, accused of stealing their credit cards.

"She seemed like a very honest person," Rizzo said. "She was going in the bedroom, fishing around until she got the charge cards."

Rosanne Campbell, the victims’ daughter, said the theft and betrayal have taken a toll on the family.

"The past month has been horrible. I haven’t been able to sleep or anything thinking about it," Campbell said.

Campbell said she was away and her Dad was likely in his recliner in their Billerica home, out of view of what was happening in the bedroom next door. 
"We always kept that door shut. She had no reason in the world to go in that door," Campbell said.

Campbell got the bill last month.

"I opened it and I’m looking at it, and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ she said.

Several charges were at Foxwoods casino, police said.

"What the bingo was to me, was I looked at it and I saw Foxwoods” on the same day she’s down there, Campbell said.

Wojcik was arrested and charged with larceny, receiving stolen credit cards and misleading police.

Rizzo and his daughter are trying to move on.

"I wouldn’t trust anyone again. You know what I mean? She really threw me for a loop," Campbell said.

Police reports state there's video evidence of Wojcik using the cards in multiple locations.

Attempts to reach Wojcik at her home were unsuccessful.

She is due back in court in April. 

Full Article & Source:
Police: Caretaker went on spending spree using elderly couple's credit cards

Public safety: Woman accused of financially exploiting elderly victims

Financial exploitation — A Gridley woman is charged with financial exploitation of two elderly victims.
Angela Sparks, 53, is charged with misappropriation of more than $15,000 from a man and $5,000 from an elderly woman, both over 70 years old. The offenses occurred between August 2017 and September 2018, according to charges. Sparks was jailed in lieu of posting $2,535.

Full Article & Source:
Public safety: Woman accused of financially exploiting elderly victims

Monday, March 18, 2019

Suit alleges nursing home's negligence caused patient's death

EDWARDSVILLE — A granddaughter is suing after her grandmother allegedly died from sepsis and infections.

Jennifer Fish, granddaughter of Maria L. Stiles, deceased, filed a complaint March 5 in Madison County Circuit Court  against Larry Parker, Petersen Health Care Inc., Robings LLC, Peterson Health Business LLC, Senior Services Plus Inc, Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association, Duane Pingsterhaus and Shannon Markus, alleging wrongful death and negligence.

According to the complaint, on March 6, 2017, Stiles died at St. Anthony's Health Center in Alton from sepsis and infections. The suit states that Stiles was not cared for appropriately by Senior Services Plus and the other defendants.

Fish seeks at least $50,000, plus punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs, expenses and all further just relief. She is represented by attorney Bryan J. Schrempf of Schrempf, Kelly & Napp LTD in Alton.

Madison County Circuit Court Case number 19-L-301

Full Article & Source:
Suit alleges nursing home's negligence caused patient's death

Insurer Loses to Wells Fargo Over Fort Lauderdale Attorney's Trust Account Theft

A federal district court in Florida has dismissed an insurance company’s lawsuit against a bank to recover losses it suffered when a personal injury attorney forged a client’s name on a settlement check, deposited the check and stole the funds.

The Case

Philip Bradford filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, Robert Williams Moving & Storage Inc. and Fisher Action Co. Inc.

Bradford’s attorney, Scott Rovenger, entered into a settlement agreement with the orchestra pursuant to which its liability insurer, Gulf Insurance Co., agreed to pay $280,000 to resolve Bradford’s claim against the orchestra.

Gulf issued a check for the settlement amount to Bradford and Rovenger’s law firm, which Rovenger deposited at Wells Fargo by forging Bradford’s signature.

Thereafter, Rovenger absconded with the settlement money. Rovenger subsequently pleaded guilty to defrauding clients and was sentenced to prison.

Bradford’s lawsuit was reinstated, and the orchestra and Bradford entered into a settlement agreement at the end of 2017 pursuant to which Gulf paid Bradford $500,000 in full settlement of his claims against the orchestra.

Gulf then sued Wells Fargo for negligence, asserting the bank wrongfully allowed Rovenger to deposit the initial settlement check in contravention of its own policies and procedures regarding check depositing.

Wells Fargo moved to dismiss. It argued, among other things, that whatever claim Gulf may have had against Wells Fargo was barred by the statute of limitations.

The District Court’s Decision

The district court granted the bank’s motion.

In its decision, the district court explained that, under applicable Florida law, a negligence action had to be filed without four years from the time the cause of action accrued. The district court pointed out that Florida courts have found that the limitations period did not begin to run until a plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury. Accordingly, the district court continued, “the determination of when Gulf knew or should have known that the settlement was fraudulent, and thus that it had sustained damages,” was “critical to its claim.”

The district court reasoned that once the initial settlement with Bradford had been vacated based on Rovenger’s fraud, Gulf had been damaged. This was true, the district court continued, regardless of whether Bradford’s case resolved by settlement or ultimate judgment, either for Bradford or the orchestra, because once it was established that the first settlement was a product of fraud, Gulf knew that it had paid $280,000 it otherwise would not have paid.

The district court noted that Bradford, through new counsel, moved to set aside the settlement and to vacate the dismissal based on the fraudulent settlement on August 16, 2012, and that the state court granted the motion on Dec. 31, 2012.

Thus, the district court found, as of Dec. 31, 2012 at the latest, Gulf knew or should have known that it had paid $280,000 it otherwise would not have, and it was damaged. As a result, the district court concluded, the four year statute of limitations for any claim based on negligence expired on Dec. 31, 2016 at the latest, nearly two years before Gulf filed its case against Wells Fargo, and its claim was time-barred.

The case is Gulf Insurance v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 19-cv-60027-BLOOM/Valle (S.D. Fla. March 12, 2019). Attorneys involved include: For GULF INSURANCE, Plaintiff: Craig Mitchell Greene, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kramer Green Zuckerman Greene & Buchsbaum, Hollywood; Ryan Evan Michaels, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kramer,Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum P.A., Hollywood. For WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant: Amy S. Rubin, LEAD ATTORNEY, David Andrew Greene, Fox Rothschild LLP, West Palm Beach

Full Article & Source:
Insurer Loses to Wells Fargo Over Fort Lauderdale Attorney's Trust Account Theft

Stuarts Draft woman pleads guilty to financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated adult

Terry L. Lohr
STAUNTON - A Stuarts Draft woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing thousands of dollars from her incapacitated father.

How much was stolen? Authorities are still trying to nail down a monetary figure.

In June, the Augusta County Sheriff's Office arrested Terry L. Lohr, 56, on a charge of financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated adult amid allegations she fleeced her 82-year-old father out of nearly $20,000.

According to Augusta County Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Alexandra Meador, Lohr had been granted power of attorney for her father, giving her access to his funds. In 2017, her father sold his home and Lohr took some of the proceeds from the sale, Meador said.

Lohr bought herself a recreational vehicle, new tires and a shed. Meador said the money from the house sale was supposed to go to Lohr's father for his personal needs.

"It wasn't spent down properly," she said of the proceeds. "Some of it was spent down on her."

Because of Lohr's actions, her father lost his Medicaid support for several months, Meador said.

Lohr initially claimed she took the money because it was owed to her from past loans, according to Meador.

Asked how much money was stolen, Meador said there are a number of "complicated factors" that are still being sorted out but noted the amount was over $10,000. Once a final figure is determined, Lohr must pay restitution to the Department of Medical Assistance Services, Meador said.

In Augusta County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Lohr pleaded guilty to the single felony charge of financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated adult. She was sentenced to two years in prison but both years were suspended, giving her no time to serve. She was also placed on probation for two years.

Lohr's guilty plea nixed a scheduled jury trial for Friday. 

Full Article & Source:
Stuarts Draft woman pleads guilty to financial exploitation of a mentally incapacitated adult

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Attorney General Says 225 Charged in Elder Fraud Sweep

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, flanked by top law enforcement officials from the FBI and other agencies, announces the largest-ever sweep of elder fraud cases. He spoke Thursday, March 7, from the Justice Department.
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En espaƱol | The nation’s top law enforcement official on Thursday announced the largest-ever crackdown on fraud against older Americans, highlighting a yearlong effort that led to criminal charges against 225 people here and abroad.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the cases, combined with civil actions taken against dozens of other people, involved more than 2 million victims in the U.S. with losses totaling more than $750 million. Altogether, more than 260 criminal and civil defendants were caught in the enforcement effort, he said.

“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Barr said, addressing reporters at a news conference at the Department of Justice.

Double-barreled approach

Barr, flanked by officials from the FBI, Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other agencies, described a double-barreled approach to root out elder fraud, which according to conservative estimates costs older Americans about $3 billion a year.

Barr called elder fraud a “despicable problem” and promised his department would ratchet up efforts to wage an “all-out attack” against such crimes.

Barr was also the attorney general from 1991 to 1993 and noted that his old official portrait was used two years ago by fraudsters on Facebook in a scam promising help obtaining government grants.

“I was a lure, if you can believe that,” he said, describing being besieged with calls at the law firm where he worked from people who wanted him to fulfill his purported promise to send them money.

A Georgia woman told him she’d lost her life savings of $40,000 to the con, according to Barr, who said a TV station broke the story of his image being appropriated and helped him get the portrait off Facebook.

Federal and state authorities focused largely on computer tech support cases, he said. In these, criminals, through a phone call or a pop-up warning on victims’ computers, con them into believing the computer has a virus or has been hacked. Often the bad actors, many from transnational crime groups, masquerade as representatives of legitimate firms, such as Microsoft, Apple or Amazon, according to DOJ.

Victims are persuaded to give the fraudsters remote access to their computers, ostensibly for technical help, then the fraudsters demand quick payment or even steal money or personal information from them.

Separately, investigators and prosecutors singled out more than 600 people nationwide who allegedly helped fraudsters by acting as “money mules.” A mule is someone who transfers money acquired from illicit acts and forwards it to perpetrators or ringleaders of fraud schemes — or their associates in the U.S. acting as middlemen — either by mail or electronically.

The mules, in the vast majority of cases, avoided civil or criminal sanctions and instead received warning letters since they did not know they were facilitating a fraud, according to a senior Justice Department official.

Addressing how overseas fraudsters target victims, the official said many work from call centers based in India, and these range in size from small operations to large-scale call rooms with more than 500 workers operating on day and night shifts that make calls 24 hours a day.

He and a second senior Justice Department official spoke on condition that they not be identified by name.

Nationwide scourge

“We realize, look, this is a nationwide problem,” the second senior official from the Justice Department said. “This affects every single [federal] district: rural, urban, tribal, big cities, small towns. No one is immune to this.”

Family members, friends, faith leaders — even hairstylists — should keep a close watch for possible signs that an older person is caught up in a fraud or scam, the official said.

 “If a senior falls victims to these scams — say they lose their life savings — what happens next? They lose their house, right?” the official continued. “They lose their car. They have nowhere to go. Their health starts to fail and everything spirals, right? And by the time they ask for help, it’s almost too late.”

The sweep involved alleged fraudsters charged criminally and extradited from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Poland, officials said.

Fraud prevention tips

In announcing the sweep, DOJ released tips to prevent elder fraud, saying:
  • If you get a call, be wary of anyone who demands money in a hurry, particularly if he insists you go to a store and purchase gift cards as a means of payment.
  • If you are a caregiver or relative of an older American, pay attention to letters they receive in the mail. Ask about phone calls from strangers and people purporting to provide tech support or to represent the government.
  • File complaints about suspected fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (, to the FBI ( or to a state attorney general.
The DOJ said its sweep involved cases that dated to March 2018.  Some of the scams targeted people who were age 60 or older; others were cases in which more than half of the victims were in that age group.

Attorneys general in four states — Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and Texas — were involved, according to the DOJ. The United States also got help in the cases from Europol, which fights crime in the European Union, and from authorities in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

William Webster, 95, who formerly led the FBI and CIA, addressed the news conference with his wife and detailed their 2014 experience being threatened by a Jamaican lottery scammer — a saga the two shared in an AARP story.

“Our elder fellow citizens deserve our support … and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that they are not defrauded, and they are protected,” he said

Full Article & Source:
Attorney General Says 225 Charged in Elder Fraud Sweep

Allegations Of Abuse Marred Stan Lee’s Last Years — A Guardianship Might Have Protected Him

Stan Lee was revered as the genius behind the creation of a pantheon of superheroes who righted wrongs and defended the weak. But he turned out to be the one who might have needed rescuing in his final years.

Lee, the former head of the Marvel Comics empire, who personally co-created pop culture icons including Spider-Man, Black Panther, the X-Men and the Hulk, died on November 12, 2018, at 95. His estate has been valued at approximately $50 million. However Lee's legacy has been clouded by accusations of financial mismanagement and elder abuse, levied against his daughter, friends, and business associates.

The most carefully planned estate doesn't protect someone before he or she dies. But in Lee's case, a guardianship might have protected his assets and quality of life.

In his last years, Lee was ill and grieving the loss of his wife, Joan, who died in 2017 after nearly 70 years of marriage. He had a contentious relationship with a changing roster of attorneys and business managers. He also had a volatile relationship with his only child.

Months before Lee died, attorneys representing his daughter and former manager were in court fighting over who represented the Lee family interests. The court also granted an elder abuse restraining order against the former manager, according to The Associated Press.

An increasing number of people are living well into their 90s and beyond, but accompanying health and memory problems make them very vulnerable to exploitation, giving rise to elder abuse and financial power of attorney abuse. While a family member may be the official or unofficial caretaker for the individual, many people can't or shouldn't rely on family to help manage their personal and financial affairs.

While guardianship is the most restrictive means of providing for the care of an individual with mental incapacities, other alternatives, including powers of attorney, are not always the solution to the problem. While many practitioners recommend powers of attorney as a means of avoiding guardianship, significant elder abuse can and does occur through the use of a power of attorney, particularly financial abuse.

In most states, an agent under a durable power of attorney has no obligation or duty to report to anyone but the principal. In the case of incapacitated principals or principals with diminished mental capabilities, the agent's actions are likely not monitored at all because the principal is incapable of doing so.  In those cases, the financial abuse may continue for years before it is eventually discovered and in some instances, it may not be discovered until after the principal's death.

Guardians, on the other hand, are appointed by and monitored by the court and are subject to court oversight and various court reporting requirements, which is why many instances of power of attorney abuse eventually lead to the institution of court supervised guardianships.

An estimated 1.3 million adults are under the care of guardians --- either family members or professionals, according to the Senate Aging Committee. A guardian can have significant authority over the individual's life, deciding when and where to seek medical care, how retirement savings will be spent, and who can visit the individual.

In Lee's case, with so many people vying for his attention and assets, appointing an independent professional guardian might have helped to reduce the turmoil of his later years.

But guardianships are only as effective as the people appointed as guardians and the system supporting them.

In November 2018, the Senate Aging Committee issued a report recommending ways to improve the guardianship program, including:
  • Enhanced monitoring of guardianship arrangements;
  • Criminal background checks on all prospective guardians;
  • Improved collaboration among government agencies, community organizations, and the courts; and
  • Training for guardians, family members, and court staff on guardianship responsibilities and on how to spot signs of abuse.
To facilitate its recommendations, the committee announced the introduction of a bill called the Guardianship Accountability Act. The proposed bipartisan legislation would also expand the availability of federal grants to improve the guardianship system.

As an example, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted a new Rule 501 to the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Administration on August 31, 2018, which implemented a new statewide Guardianship Tracking System (GTS). The GTS tracks all data pertaining to adult guardianship cases and is the exclusive electronic filing system with which guardians report to the court. The GTS includes the filing of inventories and reports, and its goal is to allow for increased monitoring of guardian activity while streamlining and improving the guardianship filing process.

Lee's unfortunate and widely publicized situation can hopefully serve as a wake-up call to individuals and their families when planning for their end-of-life care.

Full Article & Source:
Allegations Of Abuse Marred Stan Lee’s Last Years — A Guardianship Might Have Protected Him

See Also:
Stan Lee Needs Saving, Not By A Superhero, But By A Conservator

Stan Lee Needs a Hero: Elder Abuse Claims and a Battle Over the Aging Marvel Creator

Judge Dismisses Restraining Order Protecting Stan Lee

Power of Attorney, Guardianship and Additional Issues in 'Gray Divorces'

Donna M. Marcus
Donna M. Marcus
By Donna M. Marcus

The number of people over 50 years of age filing for divorce has been increasing in recent years. It has become so prevalent that the term “gray divorce” is now used to describe such divorces. There are many reasons for this trend. Increased longevity, more social acceptance of divorce and the increase of both spouses working and being more financially independent are all likely factors contributing to couples over 50 years of age filing for divorce.

All divorces, including those of people over 50 years old, have to address numerous issues such as support and equitable distribution of the marital estate. When drafting the property settlement agreement, it is always a good idea to plan ahead to such things as retirement and health insurance. These issues become that much more important, though, the older we get. There are also additional concerns and issues that may arise more frequently when dealing with aging parties.

Before you address any economic issues, the most significant issue of all may be staring you in the face and you don’t even realize it. What if you are dealing with diminished capacity of a spouse?  As divorce among older couples continues to increase it is likely that we will be seeing capacity issues of the parties more often. With this as the future, it is important to know who needs to be appointed to represent the incapacitated party.

An incapacitated person is defined by 20 Pa. C.S. Section 5501 as, “an adult whose ability to receive and evaluate information effectively and communicate decisions in any way is impaired to such a significant extent that he is partially or totally unable to manage his financial resources or to meet essential requirements for his physical health and safety.” An incapacitated person is not able to make “any contract or gift or any instrument in writing.” Both powers of attorney and guardians can be used to represent incapacitated persons in different circumstances. What is the difference between them, though, and how do you know when to use each of them?

Oftentimes as people age, they will appoint a power of attorney. This is the easiest and cheapest way for an aging individual to appoint someone to act on their behalf in their financial, legal and personal affairs. The person appointing the power of attorney is referred to as the principal and the person named power of attorney is known as the agent. It is common for a parent to appoint a child as their power of attorney, but there does not need to be a familial relationship. The duties of a power of attorney are to act on the principal’s behalf. The different forms of power of attorney are defined in 20 Pa. C.S. Section 5602. A power of attorney may be limited in scope as listed in 20 Pa. C.S. Section 5602(a). To the contrary, it may instead be general and assign the agent with more comprehensive responsibilities. A general power of attorney would have all the rights and duties as the principal and would be able to do such basic tasks for the principal as writing checks and signing documents on the principal’s behalf.

Perhaps the most important and overlooked form is the durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is defined in 20 Pa. C.S. Section 5604(a) as, “a power of attorney by which a principal designates another his agent in writing. The authority conferred shall be exercisable notwithstanding the principals’ subsequent disability or incapacity. A principal may provide in the power of attorney that the power shall become effective at a specified future time or upon the occurrence of a specified contingency, including the disability or incapacity of the principal.”

A durable power of attorney can be of great assistance for those who are aging and is a useful tool. It is a proactive step people can take to protect themselves and their assets before they are incapacitated and not in a position to do so. While a durable power of attorney gives the agent a great deal of authority, there are times when a guardian must still be appointed.  Additionally, one complication of any form of power of attorney is that the principal needs to have sufficient mental capacity to even appoint an agent.

Should you have a client you feel may be mentally challenged to the point of being legally incapacitated, you may be forced to have either a guardian ad litem or full guardian appointed under Title 20, the probate, estates and fiduciaries code. More specifically, when an incapacitated person is a party to a lawsuit, they must be represented by a guardian pursuant to Pa R.C.P. Rule 2053. Upon petition, the court can appoint a guardian ad litem if it finds a party is incapacitated after a hearing and a showing of clear and convincing evidence. 20 Pa. C.S. Section 5511(f) defines who may be appointed as guardian as, “any qualified individual, a corporate fiduciary, a nonprofit corporation, a guardianship support agency under Subchapter F (relating to guardianship support) or a county agency.” Similar to the power of attorney, a guardianship may be limited or more inclusive.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court first addressed the issue of whether an incapacitated person can file for divorce in Syno v.  Syno, 406 Pa. Super. 218 (1991).  The court in Syno held that being incompetent is not an outright bar to filing for divorce, but in such a case the court must appoint a guardian to represent the incapacitated person.

The issue of divorce and an incapacitated party was again before the Superior Court more recently. In Berry v. Berry, 197 A.3d 788 (2018), the court made it clear that if the capacity of either party is raised or questioned, the court must investigate further to determine if the party/parties are able to proceed or if a guardian needs to be appointed.

In Berry, the wife filed for divorce after 63 years of marriage. The wife’s decision to file was based on the husband’s noncompliance with taking his dementia medication causing his behavior to become irrational and the wife was attempting to protect her assets. At one point, the husband filed a motion with the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for the wife. The court did not further investigate the wife’s capacity and, instead, denied the motion once it was presented with documentation that the parties’ daughter was power of attorney for the wife. Later in the proceedings, the husband was too ill to be present in court and the court proceeded with the parties’ son acting as the husband’s power of attorney even though there was no documentation of his power of attorney presented. Ultimately, a divorce decree was entered without the court ever having a hearing on either party’s mental capacity. The wife appealed to challenging the equitable distribution award. The Superior Court never got so far as to address the wife’s issue, though. Rather, the court determined that the decree should never have been entered since the parties’ mental capacity had been raised as an issue, but the lower court did not do anything to determine if the parties were, in fact, capable of proceeding. It should be noted that the husband passed away before the case was heard by the Superior Court. As such, the court could not send the case back for further investigation and, instead, the court vacated the divorce decree.

There are other issues other than capacity that also must be considered when dealing with a gray divorce. One such issue involves savings and retirement assets. The parties may have worked for 30 years and thought they accumulated enough for retirement, but then are faced with supporting two households, a financially dependent spouse and possible health care issues. Careful consideration must be taken when dividing the marital estate and these issues must be contemplated when doing so.

Additionally, especially if one spouse stayed home to care for the children allowing the other spouse to work and focus on career, it is important to consider an extended award of alimony. The parties may also have additional responsibilities and costs to consider, such as paying for their children’s education and caring for aging parents.

Health insurance is another issue to consider. While it is important for everyone to have health insurance, it is even more necessary as health issues arise as the parties age. Costs of health insurance after divorce need to be considered before finalizing a divorce.

As people continue to live longer and no longer feel they need to be trapped in a joyless marriage, it is likely we will continue to see an increase in gray divorces. Couples may have raised families together, but simply fell out of love or no longer feel the need to remain married with their children out of the house and starting their own lives. If you are one of those people considering divorce over 50, make sure you talk to a lawyer to protect yourself and your future.

Donna M. Marcus is an associate attorney in the Norristown office of Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby. She concentrates her practice on family law including divorce, child support and custody matters.

Full Article & Source:
Power of Attorney, Guardianship and Additional Issues in 'Gray Divorces'

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sisters arrested in Florida after admitting they 'euthanized' father in 2015, sheriff says

Mary-Beth Tomaselli, left, and her sister, Linda Roberts, right, allegedly confessed to killing their father, Anthony Tomaselli, in 2015 after he refused to enter an assisted living facility, officials said on Tuesday. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office)
Two sisters were arrested in Florida on Tuesday for allegedly admitting to law enforcement that they killed their father as part of a "premeditated" act four years ago because he refused to enter an assisted living facility.

Mary-Beth Tomaselli, 63, and Linda Roberts, 62, were taken into custody after they detailed to a male confidant whom they befriended in recent months what they had seemingly done, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters on Tuesday.

Roberts told the man — who recorded his conversations with her — that she and Tomaselli "euthanized" their father, Anthony Tomaselli, in March 2015, when he was 85 years old. The sheriff said that "Linda gave very specific details about how she and Mary-Beth killed their father."

The women said "they had killed their father, and had, quote, 'euthanized' him because he had been ill" and refused to go to an assisted living facility, according to the sheriff. He added, "They knew he would die sometime in the next couple of months, so they decided to euthanize him."

The sisters allegedly gave their father a concoction of alcohol and an "excessive" amount of sleeping pills "with the hope that it would kill him." However, the sheriff said Tomaselli put too much alcohol in the drink, which diluted it.

Their father was laying on the couch with labored breathing, but it didn't appear that he would die.

That's when, according to officials, "Linda tried to suffocate him by placing a pillow over his face, and when that didn’t work, Linda took a rag and stuffed the rag down his throat." At that point, the sheriff said, "Mary-Beth then pinched his nose close and held his arms until he stopped breathing and died."

Tomaselli told authorities that the situation was "weird" because after they allegedly killed their father, he "still had a pulse due to having a pacemaker despite being dead."

During this time, Tomaselli allegedly drugged her adult daughter who was in the house with sleeping pills, too, so she wouldn't have to be awake as her grandfather was "euthanized."

Once their father was dead, the daughters sold the home and split a $120,000 profit with their brother, who the sheriff's office said wasn't involved in the father's murder.

Both Tomaselli and Roberts were arrested and charged with first-degree murder, officials said.

Full Article & Source:
Sisters arrested in Florida after admitting they 'euthanized' father in 2015, sheriff says

Attorney charged with stealing clients' investments back in South Bend for court appearance

Eric Marshall
SOUTH BEND — Eric Marshall, the local attorney who appeared to have skipped town amid fraud allegations and charges last year, is back in South Bend and made his first court appearance Monday.

Marshall, 61, closed his office without notice and stopped communicating with clients at the beginning of last year. Not long after, two civil lawsuits were filed against Marshall by former clients accusing him of running a Ponzi scheme and stealing their investments.

In December, he was charged in federal court with five counts of mail fraud in what the U.S. Attorney called an “elder abuse scam.” In January, Marshall was arrested in Clearwater, Fla. After being extradited, Marshall was booked into the St. Joseph County Jail at the end of last week.

Monday, Marshall was arraigned on his federal charges before Magistrate Michael Gotsch. Marshall pleaded not guilty on all counts. Judge Gotsch denied bond and ordered Marshall to remain in pre-trial detention. A jury trial has been scheduled for April 29.

Between two civil suits, Marshall has been ordered to pay roughly $2.5 million. His wife, Kathleen Marshall, is named in one of the suits, but recently had the default judgement against her vacated. She said she had no knowledge of her husband’s alleged crimes and she didn’t know she was being sued.

This doesn’t completely remove her from the lawsuit, but she will now be able to raise a defense in court against the allegations. The default judgement against Eric Marshall still stands.

Full Article & Source: 

How Your Elderly Parent Will Become a Ward of the State (part 1)

Make no mistake - state-imposed "guardianship" of senior citizens is a seizure of assets, and a violation of family rights.

A so-called "senior services" agency can go to court and get an emergency order of guardianship - simply by CLAIMING incompetency, abuse, or neglect. The family has no opportunity to refute the charges (if they even live in the same state!).

The older person is then taken from his/her home by POLICE - and delivered to a long-term care facility with no recourse. There they are usually diagnosed with dementia and medicated against their will. You can't even visit them unsupervised; somebody's always watching you.

They are "dead in the law."

These events often happen after being widowed or other upsetting event. Tragically, the elder person often made the mistake of reaching out for "help."

How Your Elderly Parent Will Become a Ward of the State (part 1)

Friday, March 15, 2019

He Wanted His Wife’s Fortune. So He Killed Her, Then Tried Framing His Daughter.

© Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times Roderick Covlin appeared in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday where a jury found him guilty of murdering his wife, Shele Danishefsky Covlin in 2009.
by Jan Ransom

The 9-year-old girl woke up early one morning in December 2009 and found her mother facedown in a bathtub filled with bloody water inside their Manhattan apartment. Above the tub, a cabinet door had been nearly pulled off the hinges.

The girl’s father, who was estranged from her mother and lived across the hall, said the panicked girl had called him, and he had called 911. He told the police that he had tried to revive his wife. Investigators initially determined that her death was an accident. Within days, she was buried, without an autopsy, per the wishes of her Orthodox Jewish family.

But on Wednesday, nine years after the woman, Shele Danishefsky Covlin, 47, was discovered dead, a jury found her husband, Roderick Covlin, 45, guilty of her murder.

The verdict came after a yearslong investigation and an eight-week trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Prosecutors portrayed Mr. Covlin as a heartless schemer who would stop at nothing to collect his wife’s money, who used his children as pawns in his machinations and even took steps to frame his daughter for the murder.

As the verdict was read, Mr. Covlin dropped his head and closed his eyes. The victim’s siblings and their spouses, who had attended the trial every day, embraced each other and wept.

“The wheels of justice turn very slowly, and we always had confidence that ultimately this day would come,” Ms. Danishefsky Covlin’s brother-in-law, Marc Karstaedt, said. “Finally, after nine years, we have justice for our beloved Shele.”

Mr. Covlin’s lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said he would appeal the verdict.

The trial turned largely on circumstantial evidence that pointed to Mr. Covlin as the only person with a key to the apartment who had a motive to kill Ms. Danishefsky Covlin, a wealthy finance executive. Prosecutors said that Mr. Covlin strangled her to death because he wanted to inherit her fortune, then staged the crime scene to look like an accidental drowning. She had planned to cut him out of her will that same day.

“His primary motive was pure, unadulterated greed,” the lead prosecutor, Matthew Bogdanos, told jurors in his opening statement.

Still, jurors were challenged in determining what happened on New Year’s Eve 2009 inside Ms. Danishefsky Colvin’s apartment at the Dorchester Towers, a luxury building on West 68th Street, a few blocks from Lincoln Center.

The police, who initially thought it was an accidental death, did not immediately dust for fingerprints, or collect DNA. Nor did they secure items in the bathroom for evidence. They took no notes and spoke to only a few neighbors. They never searched Mr. Covlin’s apartment or the building’s common areas for evidence. They even allowed the family’s rabbi to clean the bathroom with peroxide, eliminating any evidence of blood.

© Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times Eve Karstaedt (right in red), Ms. Danishefsky Covlin’s sister, cries in reaction to the verdict on Wednesday. 

Mr. Gottlieb said in closing arguments on Monday that there was no way to determine who had murdered his client’s wife, largely because detectives had botched the investigation.

“It is impossible to know beyond a reasonable doubt what happened to Shele Covlin, how it happened and why it happened,” he said.

Because Ms. Danishefsky Covlin was buried without an autopsy, the cause of death was undetermined for several months. But as suspicions grew regarding Mr. Covlin, the family had her body exhumed, and in April 2010, a medical examiner determined that she had been strangled, her neck squeezed with such force it fractured the hyoid bone, causing bleeding in her right eye.

Still, it took five more years before prosecutors had enough evidence to arrest and charge Mr. Covlin, a self-proclaimed martial arts expert, with her murder.

Ms. Danishefsky Covlin had been married to Mr. Covlin for 11 years, and before her death had confided in family members and close friends about his erratic and abusive behavior, according to testimony and evidence presented at trial.

She wrote to her sister, Eve Karstaedt, in January 2009 that she was “very scared that at some point in the future all his anger and rage may result in something bad happening — he really can’t control his temper.”

The children’s babysitter, Hyacinth Reid, testified that one day Mr. Covlin was screaming at Ms. Danishefsky Covlin so loudly inside their apartment that he could be heard in the hallway. Later, Ms. Reid said, Ms. Danishefsky Covlin told her Mr. Covlin had thrown her to the floor.

Ms. Danishefsky Covlin filed for divorce in May 2009 and was planning to remove him from her will. That angered Mr. Covlin, who prosecutors say was often unemployed, and dependent on his wife and her family’s largess.

Prosecutors described Mr. Covlin as an impecunious professional backgammon player who risked losing his children and his lavish lifestyle if the divorce was approved. He wanted his wife dead, Mr. Bogdanos said, because he was set to receive about $5 million from her estate.

Ms. Danishefsky Covlin met Mr. Covlin at a Jewish singles party at Le Bar Bat, a bar in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in February 1998, prosecutors said. They were engaged in a matter of weeks, despite an age difference of 11 years. Two years later, they had their first child, Anna.

Ms. Danishefsky Covlin was a senior vice president for private wealth management at UBS, while Mr. Covlin was an unsuccessful stockbroker who went to school, traveled for backgammon tournaments and had tried his luck in a number of financial ventures that Ms. Danishefsky Covlin helped fund, court records show. He also spent countless hours pursuing women for sex, prosecutors said.

On their 10th anniversary, Mr. Covlin told Ms. Danishefsky Covlin that he wanted an open marriage, and she objected, prosecutors said.

They separated in April 2009. She rented the apartment directly across the hall from hers for him because she did not want to disrupt the children’s lives — they had a second child, a son, by then. She also gave Mr. Covlin a set of keys to her apartment, a decision prosecutors said cost her her life.

For the rest of the year, the divorce and custody battle became increasingly bitter. Mr. Covlin, who had lost his job at Pragma Securities, a financial consulting firm, told a Family Court judge that he could no longer afford to pay child support. In response, the judge forbade him to spend money to attend backgammon tournaments. “All of which led to his growing, obsessive, all-consuming hatred of her,” Mr. Bogdanos said.

A month after they separated, Mr. Covlin tried to sabotage his wife, according to court records, telling her employer that she used drugs and had stolen money from their joint account. Two months later, he coached their 3-year-old son, Myles, to falsely accuse Ms. Danishefsky Covlin of sexual abuse, prosecutors said.

Patricia Swenson, a woman Mr. Covlin met online, testified that he had told her in August of that year that he wanted to kill his wife or to have her die some other way.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Covlin followed through on his word, but his attempts to obtain his wife’s money after her death stalled after he became mired in a legal battle with her brother, along with a custody dispute over the children.

For Mr. Covlin, custody of the children meant access to the millions of dollars his wife had left for them. In the end, however, his parents, David and Carol Covlin, of Scarsdale, became the children’s guardians.

Mr. Covlin, who moved in with his parents, assaulted his mother in September 2011, slamming her headfirst into a wall, and attacked his father two months later, according to court records. He also took $84,000 from his children’s college fund.

By the fall of 2012, Mr. Covlin had laid out several plans to kill his parents but didn’t carry them out, according to testimony and court records. “His anger and rage was uncontrollable,” another girlfriend, Debra Oles, testified, saying Mr. Covlin had tried to recruit her to help with his schemes.

In January 2013, Mr. Covlin instructed his daughter, Anna, who was then 12, to accuse her grandfather of rape, according to court records. But the girl balked.

Later that year, Mr. Covlin plotted to kidnap Anna and take her to Mexico, where he would pay someone $10,000 to marry her in order to emancipate her from her grandparents, prosecutors said in court papers. That plan also never came to pass.

While Mr. Covlin continued to concoct plans to get his children back and to regain access to their inheritance, he was the primary suspect in the ongoing murder investigation.

In one of his final acts before being arrested, court papers say, Mr. Covlin devised a plan to frame his daughter for Ms. Danishefsky Covlin’s murder. In June 2013, he composed a false murder confession in her email account as if it were written by her.

“I lied,” Mr. Covlin wrote, pretending to be his daughter. “She didn’t just slip.”

Full Article & Source:
He Wanted His Wife’s Fortune. So He Killed Her, Then Tried Framing His Daughter.