Saturday, March 23, 2019

Woman charged after her 96-year-old father is found living in filthy house infested with upto 700 rats


                            Woman charged after her 96-year-old father is found living in filthy house infested with upto 700 rats
Law enforcement arrested a Southern California woman after discovering her 96-year-old father living in a contaminated house infested with over 700 rats.

Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and animal neglect, according to a press release from the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, People reports.
Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and animal neglect. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, 65, was arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and animal neglect. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
The Ventura County Adult Protective Services (APS) summoned authorities on March 13, who said Vandermaesen was initially “suspected of not properly caring for her 74-year old sister,” per the news release. However, deputies realized the problem ran deeper than previously suspected after having a conversation with the two sisters.

“Once the deputies made contact with Vandermaesen and her sister, they did not want deputies to enter the residence, and insisted all occupants at the location were fine,” the statement continues. “When the deputies requested to see their 96-year-old father, both daughters said they would bring him out in a wheelchair, but refused to allow deputies access into their residence.”
A sheriff's task force returned the following day after authorities suspected the home's living conditions were inexcusable. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
A sheriff's task force returned the following day after authorities suspected the home's living conditions were inexcusable.(Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
A sheriff's task force returned the following day after authorities suspected the home's living conditions were inexcusable.

“As deputies responded to the residence, the ammonia smell associated with urine was detected 20 feet from the residence,” the statement reads. “Once the task force had assessed the overall situation, they learned that Vandermaesen had allowed her elderly father to reside in conditions not fit for human living and willfully caused or permitted the health of her elderly father to suffer under the specific living conditions noted on scene.”

Animal Control estimated that "200 to 700 wild rats were still loose and residing within the two bedrooms dwelling, walls, garage and garbage located throughout the residence." (Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
Animal Control estimated that "200 to 700 wild rats were still loose and residing within the two bedrooms dwelling, walls, garage and garbage located throughout the residence."(Ventura County Sheriff's Office)
Rescuers had to remove eight dogs, a cat, a parrot, two rabbits, and 55 pet rats from the home, with Animal Control estimating “another 200 to 700 wild rats were still loose and residing within the two bedrooms dwelling, walls, garage and garbage located throughout the residence.”

Vandermaesen's elderly father and her 74-year-old sister, a "possible victim", were rushed to a nearby hospital via ambulance. While Vandermaesen has been released on bond after being arrested on suspicion of felony elder abuse and misdemeanor animal neglect, she is now set to appear in court on April 2.

That said, both the father and sister have been taken under the care of Ventura County Adult Protection Services, who helped them secure a temporary housing arrangement.


Full Article & Source:
Woman charged after her 96-year-old father is found living in filthy house infested with upto 700 rats

A caller tried to scam a 90-year-old man. The former FBI and CIA director orchestrated a reverse sting

The Jamaican man didn't know that William Webster would call him back the next day with the FBI listening in

Former FBI Director William Webster at Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters in Washington, DC, October 28, 2013.SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The caller with the Jamaican accent told the 90-year-old Washington man he had won $72 million and a new Mercedes Benz in the Mega Millions lottery, but the man needed to send $50,000 in taxes and fees to get his money. He also told the Washington man he’d done his research on the top winner.

“You’re a great man,” the Jamaican man cajoled. “You was a judge, you was an attorney, you was a basketball player, you were in the U.S. Navy, homeland security. I know everything about you. I even seen your photograph, and I seen your precious wife.”

The Jamaican’s research didn’t research everything. He didn’t learn that the man he was calling was the former director of the FBI and the CIA, the only person ever to hold both jobs. And he didn’t know that William Webster would call him back the next day with the FBI listening in. In that reverse sting, Webster obtained the man’s real name and email address, while stringing him along and never quite committing to sending the $50,000.

“It’s going to take me a few weeks to come up with it,” said Webster, also a former federal district and appeals court judge. “I’m as anxious as you are to get the money, but it’s going to take me a while to do it.”

“You can pay a part in the meantime,” parried the caller, later identified as Keniel Thomas.

“How much is a part?” asked Webster.

“You can come with about $20,000 in the meantime,” Thomas said in the recorded call that is part of the court record.

The conversation was one of many calls that Thomas made to Webster or his wife, Lynda, in 2014, including one in which he promised a bullet “straight to the head” of Lynda. Thomas was then charged in 2014 with attempted extortion. But Thomas wasn’t arrested until late 2017, after he landed in New York on a flight from Jamaica. He pleaded guilty in October and faced a prison term of 33 to 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But with Webster and his wife in the courtroom, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday added another two and a half years to Thomas’ sentence, giving him nearly six years to serve. Howell said that the scam qualified as “organized criminal activity” and that Thomas posed “a threat to a family member of the victim.”

“The threat of death to another person is a most serious crime,” Webster told the judge, “for which Mr. Thomas is about to pay. . . . We truly hope that word has spread into the criminal community of scammers that our Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies are clamping down on such predatory behaviors.”



Jamaican-based telephone scams have mushroomed in recent years, often targeting older or vulnerable Americans and sometimes destroying victims’ lives. Inevitably, the caller promises large winnings in exchange for a payment of taxes or fees by the American. In Alexandria, Virginia, an 85-year-old man lost his home and his life savings. A woman in North Dakota lost more than $300,000. A man in Knoxville, Tennessee, committed suicide after sending thousands to a Jamaican group, according to CNN, which first reported Webster’s role in the Thomas case. Federal authorities pursue the scammers when they can, but extradition from other countries is difficult and prosecution can take years.

The FBI was able to document that Thomas, 29, from St. James Parish in the Montego Bay area, collected at least $300,000 with his scam from about three dozen victims, according to court records. One victim estimated that he sent Thomas more than $600,000. In order to cover his tracks, Thomas sometimes laundered money through different victims, having one American send money to a second American before it was sent to him in Jamaica. He provided Webster with the name and address of a man in California to whom Thomas wanted Webster to send the money, according to the recorded call Webster made.

The scammers often pass around or sell “lead lists” of potential targets in America, prosecutors told The Washington Post last year, and Lynda Webster said they have continued to receive calls even after Thomas’ arrest. The Websters were unlikely to fall for such fraud, “but it’s frightening when they talk about putting a bullet in your head,” she said Monday.

The calls to the Webster home started in March 2014, with various men calling to tell William Webster he had won the lottery. In June, Thomas began calling, identifying himself as “David Morgan,” a manager with Mega Millions. However, Webster saw that he had an email address of keniel.thomas@outlook.com. He asked “Morgan” to stop calling, but Thomas not only continued to call but also sent more than 20 emails to Webster. At one point in July 2014, Thomas called Lynda Webster and told her that he knew no one was at her home the previous night. In another call, Thomas told Lynda Webster, “So easy that we go set your house ablaze, how is that? . . . You can be taken care of that easy.”

The FBI was able to link the Websters to other victims who had reported sending funds to Thomas or interacting with “David Morgan,” or who had sent funds to American middlemen who were also victims. Agents tracked payments through Western Union and MoneyGram to Thomas or members of his family, court records show. One California man reported receiving certified checks in exchange for sending “fees” to Jamaica, and wound up sending $85,000 to the scammers even though the certified checks all bounced.

Franz Jobson, Thomas’ attorney, said Thomas was disappointed that Howell had added 30 months to the sentence reached in the plea agreement with the government, and is considering an appeal.

Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of a similar scam may contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

Full Article & Source:
A caller tried to scam a 90-year-old man. The former FBI and CIA director orchestrated a reverse sting

Older Americans Are Awash in Antibiotics

The drugs are not just overprescribed. They often pose special risks to older patients, including tendon problems, nerve damage and mental health issues.

Last month, Caryn Isaacs went to see her primary care doctor for her annual Medicare wellness visit. A patient advocate who lives in Manhattan, Ms. Isaacs, 68, felt perfectly fine and expected a clean bill of health.

But her doctor, who’d ordered a variety of blood and urine tests, said she had a urinary tract infection and prescribed an antibiotic.

“The nurse said, ‘Can you take Cipro?’” Ms. Isaacs recalled. “I didn’t have any reason not to, so I said yes.”

There are actually plenty of reasons for older people to avoid Cipro and other antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, which have prompted warnings from the Food and Drug Administration about their risks of serious side effects.

And there are good reasons to avoid any antibiotic when bacteria are detected in a urine culture in a patient who has no other signs of infection. So-called asymptomatic bacteriuria increases with age, but these women are not sick and don’t need drugs, so medical guidelines recommend against routine screening or treatment.

Yet Ms. Isaac’s prescription was hardly unusual. Despite ongoing campaigns by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health groups, older Americans still take too many antibiotics.

Patients over age 65 have the highest rate of outpatient prescribing of any age group. A new C.D.C. study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, points out that doctors write enough antibiotic prescriptions annually — nearly 52 million in 2014 — for every older person to get at least one.

Because the researchers used a national pharmacy database that tracked only outpatients, the study likely underestimates the problem. “The volume would be higher if you included hospitals and nursing homes and other long-term care settings,” said Katherine Fleming-Dutra, deputy director of the C.D.C.’s Office of Antibiotic Stewardship.

Glass-half-full types might be pleased to see that after climbing 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, antibiotic prescriptions for older adults leveled off between 2011 and 2014. “That’s potentially good news,” said Dr. Sarah Kabbani, an infectious disease specialist at the C.D.C. and lead author of the study.

But what public health advocates want to see is a decline, as has happened with young children, once the group most likely to use antibiotics.

“It’s hard to feel heartened about a plateau when overuse remains so prevalent,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “It’s as perennial as the grass.”

Antibiotic overuse contributes to a serious public health threat by creating drug resistance, as infectious bacteria adapt to the medications. Drugs then lose their effectiveness, forcing doctors to resort to more toxic, less potent, often costlier options. Two million Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections annually, the C.D.C. has reported, and 23,000 die from them. 

Moreover, antibiotics interact badly with many of the other drugs older adults take, including such widely used medications as statins, blood thinners, kidney and heart medications. “The number of potential drug-drug interactions with antibiotics are vast,” Dr. Alexander cautioned.

Some antibiotics also have dismaying, even alarming, side effects in themselves. In 2013, the F.D.A. issued a warning about azithromycin, which in rare cases leads to dangerous heart arrhythmias

But for more than a decade, the agency’s most frequent target has been fluoroquinolones.

It has warned that this class of antibiotics (including Cipro and Levaquin) increases the risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture, particularly in older adults; that it can cause the nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy; and that it can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

“One of the most common problems for older adults are changes in mental status — getting anxious, getting loopy,” said Dr. Sara Cosgrove, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Adult Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. “These drugs get into the brain.” The F.D.A. also warned of the problem in July

In fact, the agency advised in 2016 that fluoroquinolones’ potential side effects outweighed their benefits for several common infections. Last year, it added still another warning about ruptures or tears in the aorta, a rare but serious condition for which older people are at greater risk.

Fluoroquinolones are also most implicated in the rampant, difficult-to-cure infection called C. difficile, along with an earlier antibiotic, clindamycin. C. difficile, too, occurs more frequently in older people

Yet what class of antibiotics did the C.D.C. team determine was most commonly prescribed for older adults? Fluoroquinolones. (The most used single drug was azithromycin, marketed as Zithromax, which isn’t a quinolone.)

More troublingly, doctors often prescribe these medications unnecessarily, studies repeatedly show. Upper respiratory infections — colds, sinus infections, bronchitis — trigger most prescriptions, but those infections are typically viral, not bacterial, and thus impervious to antibiotics.

Nonetheless, a large 2017 study of older adults in Ontario found that almost half were prescribed antibiotics for nonbacterial upper respiratory infections that likely would have cleared up in a few days without them. “Patients usually get better in spite of the drugs, not because of them,” Dr. Alexander said.

As Dr. Kabbani pointed out, “when antibiotics are needed, they are lifesaving drugs.” But because they are so widely misused, with resistance such a menace, the C.D.C. has pushed for more prudent practices for consumers and for hospitals. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, similarly, is phasing in policies for wiser antibiotic use in nursing homes.

“We want patients to get antibiotics when they need them — the right drug at the right time and the right dose — and not when they don’t,” said Dr. Fleming-Dutra. Even when antibiotics prove necessary, she noted, patients may get the wrong ones or take them for too long

(Fluoroquinolones, for instance, can be useful for hospitalized patients but aren’t first- or even second-line treatments for uncomplicated urinary tract infections; older antibiotics like Bactrim, Septra and Macrobid are.)

Getting this right will mean breaking longstanding habits among providers, including dentists (who may unnecessarily tell patients to take antibiotics before appointments if they’ve had certain surgeries).

Sometimes, though, patients are the ones demanding a pill to end a cold’s miseries, even when there is no such pill.

“We encourage patients not to pressure their physicians to prescribe antibiotics,” Dr. Kabbani advised. And when doctors do prescribe them, “Have a conversation about why. Do I really need it? What else can I do to feel better? What do I watch out for in terms of side effects?”

Caryn Isaacs didn’t do well on Cipro. She suffered severe chest pain — “I thought I was having a heart attack” — and felt anxious and irritable. 

She finished the weeklong course of the drug anyway and her personality changes have receded, she said. But occasional twinges of chest pain persist, along with a sense of weakness.

She does worry about urinary tract infections; she has seen the delirium they sometimes cause in her older clients. But she may approach the issue differently next time.

“I probably would take something,” she said. “But I won’t take Cipro.”

Full Article & Source: 
Older Americans Are Awash in Antibiotics

Friday, March 22, 2019

AG: Longmeadow nursing home among 7 found in state to have deadly negligence, abuse


BOSTON (WWLP) - After a multi-year investigation, Attorney General Maura Healey found 7 nursing homes in Massachusetts that were responsible for patient negligence or death.

In a report released by the Attorney General's office Wednesday, seven Massachusetts nursing homes reached a $500,000 settlement, $85,000 of that settlement will be paid by JGS LifeCare of Longmeadow after a patient got caught in bed rails and died.

Others had similar tragic stories.

"Our mother Betty Ford Crane, affectionately called Betsy would not want anyone to die in the manner that she did," Candi Hitchcock said.

Two sisters, Sammy and Candy shared the story of their mother who did not receive the care she needed during a staffing change, which resulted in her death.

"Long-term care facilities must be accountable to the public and to the commitments made to residents and family members," AG Healey said.

With more than 76,000 baby boomers living and growing older in Massachusetts, the Attorney General's teaming up with the Department of Public Health to prevent future instances of abuse.

The nursing home settlement money will go into a fund to implement strict policy changes.

The Attorney General said that funding and staffing problems were factors of the negligence, but corners were also cut which, in many cases, resulted in death. 

Full Article & Source:
AG: Longmeadow nursing home among 7 found in state to have deadly negligence, abuse

Only on 4: Disbarred attorney caught trying to practice law at Oklahoma County Courthouse


OKLAHOMA CITY - News 4 ran into a disbarred attorney trying to practice law in Oklahoma County Friday morning.

In Alex Bednar's disciplinary trial, the trial panel held he's unfit to be an attorney.

Then on Tuesday, the Supreme Court disbarred him, but that didn't stop him from showing up to court.

In a scathing opinion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said Bednar tried to justify some of the "most egregious behaviors the court has encountered" and found that he violated over and over the rules of professional conduct attorneys must follow.

Disbarred, he still tried to represent a client in Judge Tim Henderson's courtroom Friday morning.

"Judge Henderson set a hearing for 10:00 this morning. I filed motions early in the week," Bednar said.

That hearing never happened.

Bednar got into an argument with a prosecutor behind closed doors, then told us he wanted Judge Henderson off the case.

"Last week I asked him to recuse because I filed a federal lawsuit against him. He has systematically, knowingly and willfully abused his office to prevent me as a human being, me as a party, access to the courts," Bednar said.

One of the violations for disbarment in the Supreme Court's opinion is for filing frivolous lawsuits against judges.

Allegations of fraud and deceit pour through the Supreme Court opinion, finding Bednar failed to competently represent his clients, harming numerous people, and costing them money.Bednar still denies all of it.

"It's very disturbing, some of the things that happened to me, in that trial and what led up to it," Bednar said.

Bednar says he'll be back in court Wednesday with his client, who is 10 days away from jury trial.

The judge told News 4 Bednar will not be practicing in his courtroom.

As part of his disbarment, the Supreme Court also ordered him to pay more than $20,000 to cover his court proceedings.

The court clerk at the Supreme Court told News 4 Bednar has 20 days to file a petition for rehearing.

Bednar says he plans to do that.

Full Article & Source:
Only on 4: Disbarred attorney caught trying to practice law at Oklahoma County Courthouse

RAW: Man accused of impregnating incapacitated woman appears in court


Source:
RAW: Man accused of impregnating incapacitated woman appears in court

See Also:
Arizona care unit where incapacitated woman gave birth to stay open

Hacienda HealthCare to cease operation at South Phoenix facility

Arizona governor calls for stronger protections after incapacitated woman’s pregnancy

Ex-nurse accused of impregnating a severely disabled Arizona woman pleads not guilty 

Lawyer: No proof nurse raped Arizona patient who had baby

Nurse arrested in rape of woman in vegetative state who gave birth at care facility

Center where comatose woman had baby faced criminal probe

Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma

Patient alleges abuse at Hacienda Healthcare, two staff members placed on leave

Facility CEO resigns after woman in vegetative state gives birth; new allegations emerge

Patient in vegetative state gives birth, sex abuse investigation underway: report

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 
 Photo: Jerry Lara / Staff photographer
by John MacCormack, San Antonio Express-News

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.

Full Article & Source:
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.
Click to Watch Video
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 (ftccomplaintassistant.gov), to the FBI (ic3.gov) 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