Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lawyer found guilty of stealing $850,000 from deceased estates to pay mortgage and wages

By Meagan Dillon

Photo: Stephen McNamara stole from the second
estate in order to cover up the original thefts.
(ABC News: Rebecca Opie)
An Adelaide lawyer has been found guilty of stealing $850,000 from two deceased estates and fabricating documents claiming the money had been invested in Australian opal in order to cover his tracks.

District Court judge Michael Boylan found Stephen Patrick McNamara — who has been a lawyer for more than 35 years — guilty of 33 charges of theft and fabricating evidence in court proceedings.

His associate, Philip John Pitman, was acquitted of one count of using fabricated evidence in a judicial proceeding.

Judge Boylan found parts of McNamara's evidence to be "implausible".

In his judgement, he said the case had an "unfortunate history" after two previous trials by jury miscarried.

McNamara was the director of his law firm Commercial and General Law, and Mr Pitman was a trustee of the Andamooka Opal Stone Unit Trust (AOSUT), which owns a large quantity of Australian opal valued at almost $300 million.

Over an 18-month period, McNamara drained funds from the first estate, worth $480,000, and used the money to pay off his mortgage, personal credit cards and staff wages.

Judge Boylan said pressure from the four beneficiaries — the children of the deceased — to get their entitlements then started to mount.
"Because he had exhausted the estate funds in that way, McNamara was unable to distribute the estate among the beneficiaries," he said.
He then siphoned money from a second estate, worth $500,000, to pay the beneficiaries of the first estate he had stolen from.

It was the beneficiaries of the second estate who made a complaint to the Law Society of South Australia, which triggered an investigation.

"As a result of their complaint, the Law Society decided to appoint a supervisor to McNamara's trust account," Judge Boylan said.

"In an attempt to prevent the appointment, McNamara issued injunctive proceedings in the Supreme Court."

As part of those proceedings, McNamara and Mr Pitman provided signed affidavits and a letter to the court stating the estate funds had been invested.

"The prosecution case is that, having stolen the estates' funds from his trust account, Mr McNamara tried to cover his tracks by pretending to have invested those funds in AOSUT," Judge Boylan said.

Associate may have been a 'puppet'

Prosecutors relied on a series of Skype and text messages, emails and letters found on McNamara's phone and computer to argue that he, Mr Pitman and other AOSUT associates "were engaged in creating a false set of records to hide McNamara's thefts".

In one message to the AOSUT secretary, McNamara said: "Anyway what will stop all this is money coming from the Andamooka Opal Stone Unit Trust. In the first instance the $460K is needed".
"If the trust can arrange this in any way it would certainly diffuse the pressure. The solution is money. In the scheme of things, it is not a large amount. It just has to be raised," McNamara said.
Judge Boylan found no money from either estate had been invested with AOSUT.

"I find that he stole $385,000 from the [first] estate and $465,000 from the [second] estate," he said.

But Judge Boylan said he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Pitman knew the money had not been invested with AOSUT.

He said it was possible Mr Pitman was used as a "puppet".

McNamara will be sentenced at a later date.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer found guilty of stealing $850,000 from deceased estates to pay mortgage and wages

Troubled Rastelle Manor assisted living facility in Daytona Beach will change ownership

Rastelle Manor in Daytona Beach
CIJ Ventures & Properties LLC began to take over the assisted-living facility after Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration issued a final order in July to the former owners.

After five years of “deplorable” conditions and multiple calls to local law enforcement regarding dangerous residents and other issues, Rastelle Manor in Daytona Beach may soon be getting a new owner after the state told the current owners they had to sell.

But records show the troubled assisted living facility’s current owner once shared an address with the prospective new owner. Documents from the Florida Secretary of State office show that the facility’s current owners and the people who want to buy Rastelle Manor once shared an address for separate businesses in 2009.

According to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations, Jeffery Gasmena is listed as the owner of CIJ Ventures & Properties, the company wanting to take over Rastelle Manor, the 25-bed facility at 934 S. Ridgewood Ave. Rastelle Manor’s current owner is Bersonn LLC, which has owned the facility since 2005.

In April 2009, state records show Gasmena was the owner of Holy Hands Assisted Living and Care Services. That company shared an address — 815 W. Daughtery Road, Lakeland — with New Era Assisted Living Facility, which is also owned by Bersonn LLC.

Bersonn LLC, owned by Cheryl and Winston Bernabe, took over the New Era facility in Lakeland in August 2009, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Holy Hands, which is not listed with AHCA, had the same address as New Era until changing their address in April 2010, according to state records.

But Jhuelian Gasmena, who will now serve as an administrator for Rastelle Manor with Robyne Gasmena and Cherwai Jan Gasmena, told The News-Journal he does not know anything about Holy Hands and he’s had no previous interaction with the Bernabes. Cheryl Bernabe also said does not know the Gasmena family.

Brian Lee has seen many assisted-living facilities change ownership over to acquaintances during the nearly 20 years he’s been executive director of Families for Better Care, a national non-profit citizen advocacy group dedicated to bringing awareness to the conditions of assisted-living facilities. His experience makes him wonder about the shared address.

“A shared address, that is more than just a coincidence,” Lee said.

But nothing is set in stone yet. In July, AHCA issued a final order to the Bernabe’s that required them to pay a $36,000 fine, restricted them from renewing or applying for another license to operate an assisted-living facility and required them to find a buyer for Rastelle Manor or shut the doors for good by Sept. 13.

Then, last week, AHCA decided to extend the Bernabe’s licence for another month because the change of ownership application is still pending. This will give the agency time to complete a final inspection to make sure the outstanding reporteed issues — such as unsanitary bathrooms, bug infestations lack of social and leisure activities, lack of medication monitoring and background screenings for employees — have been corrected.

Asked if the past shared mailing address between the Bernabes and the Gasmenas presented any issue, ACHA replied in an emailed statement that “CIJ Ventures & Properties does not have a regulatory record that would disqualify them from purchasing this facility.”

Jhuelian Gasmena said he looks forward to turning the troubled facility around.

“I’m aware of the history with the place and I’m very much wanting to get involved in turning that around and hopefully improving its overall image,” Gasmena said. “We actually hired a contractor to come by and give us a quote on renovations that we may be doing.”

But the issues at the facility seem to go deeper than the conditions AHCA has highlighted after recent inspections. A News-Journal investigation into the facility’s history found that from January 1, 2016 until Aug. 15, 2019 there were 108 calls to police about assaults, suspicious activity, civil complaints and disturbances at Rastelle Manor.

Since 2016, 22 incident reports have been filed about the facility with the Daytona Beach Police Department. The complaints included missing residents, residents beating each other, residents throwing chairs through windows, residents threatening employees, suicide attempts, Baker Acts due to suicidal or threatening behavior, death and former residents trespassing on the property.

Three arrest warrants were issued against residents in the same time period for domestic violence charges and failing to appear in court. Many of the residents listed in the incident reports and arrest warrants have been arrested in Volusia County multiple times.

Lee said while it’s good for police to intervene in possibly dangerous situations, the amount of calls made in the almost four-year time period at Rastelle Manor is disturbing.

“It’s frightening to think there’s a regular presence of law enforcement at a facility because of significant criminal issues occurring,” Lee said. “We don’t want to see that. We want to make sure the residents are safe.”

There are currently 23 residents at Rastelle Manor, which determines a monthly payment based on income and is receives Medicaid reimbursement. The lowest monthly payment is $775 a month, according to the Bernabe’s.

“It wasn’t my plan to have to give it up,” Cheryl Bernabe said last week.

Full Article & Source:
Troubled Rastelle Manor assisted living facility in Daytona Beach will change ownership

The Hidden Suicide Epidemic Among Long-Term Care Residents

Experts point to loneliness, disability and lack of proper care as reasons

By Melissa Bailey

Retired Seattle minister Milt Andrews, 90, ended his life on Valentine’s Day 2013 at his assisted living center, leaving behind a note written in black marker on the cover of his laptop computer.
(This article appeared previously in Kaiser Health News. This is an abridged version of the story. Click here to see the entire story.)

When Larry Anders moved into the Bay at Burlington nursing home in late 2017, he wasn’t supposed to be there long. At 77, the stoic Wisconsin machinist had just endured the death of his wife of 51 years and a grim new diagnosis: throat cancer, stage 4.

His son and daughter expected him to stay two weeks, tops, before going home to begin chemotherapy. From the start, they were alarmed by the lack of care at the center, where, they said, staff seemed indifferent, if not incompetent — failing to check on him promptly, handing pills to a man who couldn’t swallow.

Anders never mentioned suicide to his children, who camped out day and night by his bedside to monitor his care.

But two days after Christmas, alone in his nursing home room, Anders killed himself. He didn’t leave a note.

The act stunned his family. His daughter, Lorie Juno, 50, was so distressed that, a year later, she still refused to learn the details of her father’s death. The official cause was asphyxiation.

“It’s sad he was feeling in such a desperate place in the end,” Juno said.

Suicides in Long-Term Care:  Often Overlooked

In a nation where suicide continues to climb, claiming more than 47,000 lives in 2017, such deaths among older adults — including the 2.2 million who live in long-term care settings — are often overlooked. A six-month investigation by Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour finds that older Americans are quietly killing themselves in nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult care homes.

Poor documentation makes it difficult to tell exactly how often such deaths occur. But a KHN analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows.

Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as “rational suicide.”

Tracking suicides in long-term care is difficult. No federal regulations require reporting of such deaths and most states either don’t count — or won’t divulge — how many people end their own lives in those settings.

Is There Adequate Supervision?

Briana Mezuk, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, found in 2015 that the rate of suicide in older adults in nursing homes in Virginia was nearly the same as the rate in the general population, despite the greater supervision the facilities provide.

In research they presented at the 2018 Gerontological Society of America annual meeting, Mezuk’s team looked at nearly 50,000 suicides among people 55 and older in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) from 2003 to 2015 in 27 states. They found that 2.2% of those suicides were related to long-term care. The people who died were either people living in or transitioning to long-term care, or caregivers of people in those circumstances.

KHN extrapolated the finding to the entire U.S., where 16,500 suicides were reported among people 55 and older in 2017, according to federal figures. That suggests that at least 364 suicides a year occur among people living in or moving to long-term care settings, or among their caregivers. The numbers are likely higher, Mezuk said, since the NVDRS data did not include such states as California and Florida, which have large populations of elders living in long-term care sites.

Industry Says It’s Not the Facilities

But representatives of the long-term care industry point out that by any measure, such suicides are rare.

The deaths are “horrifically tragic” when they occur, said Dr. David Gifford of the American Health Care Association. But, he added, the facilities offer “a very supervised environment,” and settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required to assess and monitor patients for suicidal behavior.

“I think the industry is pretty attuned to it and paying attention to it,” Gifford said, noting that mental health issues among older adults, in general, must be addressed. “I don’t see this data as pointing to a problem in the facilities.”

KHN examined over 500 attempted and completed suicides in long-term care settings from 2012 to 2017 by analyzing thousands of death records, medical examiner reports, state inspections, court cases and incident reports.

Even in supervised settings, records show, older people find ways to end their own lives. Many used guns, sometimes in places where firearms weren’t allowed or should have been securely stored.

Others hanged themselves, jumped from windows, overdosed on pills or suffocated themselves with plastic bags. (The analysis did not examine medical aid-in-dying, a rare and restricted method by which people who are terminally ill and mentally competent can get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That is legal only in seven states and the District of Columbia.)

Despair, Loneliness, Longevity

Descriptions KHN unearthed in public records shed light on residents’ despair: Some told nursing home staff they were depressed or lonely; some felt that their families had abandoned them or that they had nothing to live for. Others said they had just lived long enough: “I am too old to still be living,” one patient told staff. In some cases, state inspectors found nursing homes to blame for failing to heed suicidal warning signs or evicting patients who tried to kill themselves.

A better understanding is crucial: Experts agree that late-life suicide is an under-recognized problem that is poised to grow.

By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than 65 and 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be of retirement age, according to census data. Of those who reach 65, two-thirds can expect to need some type of long-term care. And, for poorly understood reasons, that generation has had higher rates of suicide at every stage, said Dr. Yeates Conwell, director of the Office for Aging Research and Health Services at the University of Rochester.

“The rise in rates in people in middle age is going to be carried with them into older adulthood,” he said.

Long-term care settings could be a critical place to intervene to avert suicide — and to help people find meaning, purpose and quality of life, Mezuk said. “There’s so much more that can be done. It would be hard for us to be doing less,” he said.

If You Need Help

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at (800) 971-0016. The Institute on Aging also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.

Full Article & Source:
The Hidden Suicide Epidemic Among Long-Term Care Residents

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Nursing home mogul Philip Esformes sentenced to 20 years for $1.3 billion Medicaid fraud

Chicago Tribune reporter David Jackson explains how wealthy nursing home operator Philip Esformes allegedly became the orchestrator of a $1 billion Medicaid and Medicare bribery and kickback scheme. Oct. 4, 2016.
Former Illinois and Florida nursing home mogul Philip Esformes wept and pleaded for mercy Thursday before being sentenced to 20 years in prison for what the U.S. Justice Department called the largest single health care bribery and kickback scheme in American history.

A separate hearing will be held in November to determine the amount of money and property Esformes may be required to forfeit.

Esformes, who once controlled a network of more than two dozen health care facilities that stretched from Chicago to Miami, garnered $1.3 billion Medicaid revenues by bribing medical professionals who referred patients to his Florida facilities then paid off government regulators as vulnerable residents were injured by their peers, prosecutors said.

He housed elderly patients alongside younger adults who suffered from mental illness and drug addiction — sometimes with fatal results. In Esformes’ Oceanside Extended Care Center in Miami Beach, “an elderly patient was attacked and beaten to death by a younger mental health patient who never should have been at (a nursing facility) in the first place,” prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing memo.

As he handed down the sentence, Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said the length and scope of Esformes’ criminal conduct were “unmatched in our community. ... Mr. Esformes violated the trust of Medicare and Medicaid in epic proportions."

But Scola meted out a punishment significantly less than the 30 years prosecutors requested, saying Esformes also had an extraordinary history of helping people in need. Attorneys for Esformes had described him as a selfless philanthropist who had donated more than $15 million to synagogues, schools and needy individuals, often anonymously.

Said Scola: “I think he should get some consideration for his philanthropy, although it’s dangerous to say because he was stealing money from Medicare, so people might say he was giving that money to charity. But the vast majority of the money he made, he made legitimately. More importantly he was a true friend to people known and unknown to him, and that is worthy of mitigation."

In arguing for a 30-year sentence, prosecutors said his yearslong bribes-for-patients schemes involved the corruption of medical professionals and government regulators, and entailed grievous injuries to a massive number of elderly patients.

“Miami is the epicenter of health care fraud, there was no one like Philip Esformes, he was king,” prosecutor Allan J. Medina told the judge in court Thursday.

Many of his younger, drug-addicted patients spent the daylight hours wandering the streets of Miami while he collected government payments for services that were never delivered, prosecutors said.

“Phillip Esformes used deceptive and calculated means to orchestrate a fraud of the magnitude that we have not seen before,” Medina said. “People who needed to get better, who wanted to get better, they had no shot.”

“His fraud involved thousands of patients, 16 nursing homes, the systematic payment of bribes, a complex web of bank accounts, and brazen obstruction of justice to try to prevent it all from coming to light,” prosecutor Elizabeth Young wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court this week.

Esformes, who has been in maximum security detention for 37 months since his 2016 arrest, called himself a shattered, repentant man when he stood before the judge. His shoulders drooped beneath his baggy khaki prison shirt as he began rocking back and forth.

“I want to apologize to, your honor, the United States. Sorry. And my community.” As Esformes began to recite the names of his children, he briefly became incoherent. Groans and cries of “Oh God!” escaped from his family and supporters in the gallery.

“I’ve lost everything I love and cared about with the utmost intensity," he said. "There is no one to blame but myself, me.”

While preparing his defense, Esformes told the judge, he had listened repeatedly to wiretapped conversations that revealed him arranging bribes. “I am disgusted by what I heard,” he said, at one point pounding a courtroom podium with his fist. “The Phil Esformes you heard was reckless ... an arrogant man.”

Esformes said he was studying the Torah and praying for redemption. “I won’t miss that opportunity,” he said.

Prosecutors said Esformes should be forced to pay $207 million in restitution to Medicaid and Medicare; attorneys for Esformes sharply questioned that amount in court Thursday.

Judge Scola closely questioned prosecutors about how they calculated the value of the Medicaid proceeds Esformes stole over the years, ultimately finding the loss to be between $4.8 million and $8.3 million.

Federal authorities arrested Esformes at one of his $2 million estates on the Miami Beach waterfront in 2016 and immediately placed him in the Miami Federal Detention Center.

At the time, he had a net worth of $78.9 million in bank accounts and investments, and hardly any debts, according to court papers filed by prosecutors. He maintained a Chicago Water Tower penthouse and a mansion in Los Angeles.

Esformes was deemed an extraordinary flight risk in part because he had been caught on a wiretap offering to help his business partner Guillermo Delgado flee from the U.S. to avoid prosecution as the federal investigators closed in on them.

Delgado, who helped Esformes defraud Medicare for mental health and prescription drug services, instead helped federal investigators bring Esformes to justice. He and his brother Gabriel Delgado are now serving prison time.

In one of Esformes’ crimes, prosecutors said, he used some $300,000 in stolen Medicare and Medicaid proceeds to bribe the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania to admit Esformes’ son to the school.

That coach, Jerome Allen, pleaded guilty in October to a money-laundering charge related to the Esformes bribes. He testified as a government witness against Esformes at the Miami trial. Allen received a probationary sentence and is now in his third season as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.

The dozens of nursing facilities Esformes ran with his father and business partner Morris Esformes for decades earned millions of Medicaid and Medicare dollars annually despite repeated federal law enforcement probes and Chicago Tribune investigations alleging substandard care and incidents when disabled patients were assaulted by fellow residents.

“Instead of changing his ways or expressing remorse after these settlements, Esformes simply altered his criminal scheme to avoid detection,” prosecutor Young wrote in the court filing.

Esformes sold his Illinois nursing facilities in about 2012 but kept offices in the Chicago suburbs as he continued to operate homes in Florida with his father, government records and Tribune interviews show.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home mogul Philip Esformes sentenced to 20 years for $1.3 billion Medicaid fraud

Two Louisiana Caregivers Arrested After Elderly Woman Was Found With Maggots in Wounds

Police have arrested two men in Louisiana after an elderly woman in their care was found with maggots in her wounds.

The victim, whose name and age were not clear, was being cared for by Raymond Hoffpauir, 57, and Dustin Welch, 27, who lived at her home in Crowley, southwest Louisiana, Fox affiliate News 15 reported.

The woman's condition came to light after an extended family member visited her at her home, which they found to be infested with roaches. The relative told police the woman was very weak. Her ankles and legs were bandaged.

When the family member removed the dressing to look at her lesions, she found them to be extremely discolored. Maggots were crawling in some of her sores. The woman is also believed to have been bitten by a rat.

The victim was taken to Acadia General Hospital, where police were alerted to the alleged abuse.

Crowley Police officers questioned Hoffpauir and Welch. Initially, they denied their involvement, but later admitted they had not looked after the woman in weeks, ABC affiliate KATC reported. 

The carers told police they had not changed the woman's dressings in days. They also failed to give her the insulin injections she required for weeks. The hormone is generally used to treat diabetes.

Police told KATC the victim is in hospital, and the Adult Protective Services have been alerted.

Hoffpauir and Welch were charged with cruelty to the infirm. Their bonds have been set at $25,000.

Elder abuse is a "significant public health problem," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states. One in 10 people aged 60 and over suffer abuse including neglect and exploitation, according to the agency. That amounts to hundreds of thousands of people a year.

Elder abuse is defined as "an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult."

Abuse can range from the physical, psychological, financial, sexual, as well as neglect.

The charity Action on Elder Abuse advises those who believe someone is abused to try sensitively bring up the topic, and to provide help and support.

"Whether you are a practitioner, friend or relative, you should always be honest and never make false promises—sometimes the abuse might affect more than one person and you will have a responsibility to other people too," the organization states.

Full Article & Source:
Two Louisiana Caregivers Arrested After Elderly Woman Was Found With Maggots in Wounds

Gulf Breeze nursing home employee accused of abusing elderly man

A certified nursing assistant in Gulf Breeze has been arrested.

27-year-old Kayla Oeth is facing felony charges after she was accused of abusing an elderly man.

The alleged incident happened on August 10 at Bay Breeze Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center.

Sergeant Rich Aloy with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office confirmed a warrant was issued on September 16 - more than one month after the incident.

Oeth was arrested hours later.

"The allegation is that this individual put their hands on a senior citizen, to the point where there were some injuries," said Aloy.

According to a report from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, the victim's arms were bloodied and bruised from his wrists to his elbows.

The victim described Oeth as "violent and mean", and said he feared she would hurt him again, so he stayed in his wheelchair next to the nurses' station all night.

"It's zero tolerance for this kind of activity," said Aloy. "When you're dealing with an individual in an assisted living facility, they need help. They're looking to their caretakers for help."

Oeth claims the victim was in a "horrible mood" and his injuries were sustained as she was trying to help him into bed. She says he fought with her and spit in her face.

Another Bay Breeze employee was present at the time.

He told a deputy Oeth did not follow protocol. He says she failed to tell the victim what she was doing, causing him to become confused then "freak out", "flailing his arms".

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille says it appears to be an isolated incident, but they do not take these cases lightly.

"One sanction that we would clearly seek is that that individual not be allowed to work in a health care facility in the future," said Marcille.

Marcille says they will be recommending the maximum sentence.

"The circumstances of this particular case, the maximum sentence is up to five years in state prison," said Marcille.

Justin Gibson, an administrator at Bay Breeze Senior Living and Rehabilitation Center, confirmed Oeth no longer works at the facility.

"We all have parents, we all have folks who we care for or may live with who are elderly and they look to us for assistance, and when something like this happens, it's very angering and it's also very sad," said Aloy.

Oeth is scheduled to appear in court on October 3.

Full Article & Source:
Gulf Breeze nursing home employee accused of abusing elderly man

Friday, September 20, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: IN THE MIX WITH COZ AND MARTI "LET'S TALK" Court Appointed Serial Killers and Others Who Stalk the Elderly

5:00 pm PST…6:00 pm MST…7:00 pm CST…8:00 pm EST...

It is becoming increasingly apparent that many so-called “professional guardians” are in actuality serial killers. Two recent examples of this were Rebecca Fierle in Florida, and April Parks in Las Vegas. Both were found to have stored and kept the cremated ashes of their victims just as other serial killers keep trophies from their kills to help them relive their pleasure in their crimes. How many other “professional guardians” are keeping trophies?

Cohorts in Crime:
Referred to as “Angels of Death”, many nurses and caregivers are serial killers who are sadistic and take pleasure in ending the lives of the elderly and others. Lacking any sense of compassion or regard for human life, they kill with efficiency. Hiding behind professional titles or, working one on one in a care setting, these people cause untold numbers of deaths.

Claiming their victims are suffering and that toxic drugs are needed in massive doses, the patient is rendered unable to complain. Soft sounding words to the family and friends includes phrases such as, “They have dementia…they forgot how to swallow”. Or how about, …”You don;t want them to suffer do you?” (Now there’s a guilt trip for you!) never mind that the person telling you that is the same person who contributed to the suffering.

These individuals appear to have a pathological interest in their perceived power over life and death. They most always situate themselves in the medical or care giving fields. This not only provides them with the perfect cover, it also provides them a steady supply of victims. The total lack of compassion towards their intended victim is on display as they move from room to room, victim to victim. It is this lack of compassion and the sheer number of victims that defines them as an angel of death.

Do they kill for some sense of power? Is it money? Or do they do it simply because they can?

LISTEN TO THE SHOW LIVE or listen to the archive later

Nessel: Macomb County Probate judge's guardianship appointment violated law

Macomb County Probate Court Judge Kathryn George
By Jameson Cook

A Macomb County judge violated state law when she appointed a guardian-and-conservator company that reaped financial benefits from the appointment, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel.

State Public Administrator Michael Moody, on Nessel’s behalf, argues in a legal document Friday that Probate Judge Kathryn George created a law violation by appointing Clinton township-based Caring Hearts of Michigan Inc. as guardian and conservator for Robert Mitchell and Barbara Delbridge last November, over a daughter and stepdaughter of the couple.

Caring Hearts hired Executive Care to perform the care for the couple, according to the state. Both companies are owned by Cathy Kirk. In addition, Caring Hearts employed the firm of her husband Robert Kirk -- Kirk, Huth, Lange and Badalamenti -- for legal services. The trio of companies share the same address on Hall Road, east of Romeo Plank Road.

Caring Hearts charged more than $250,000 for about six months of care.

George through a spokeswoman declined to comment Monday, referring the matter to court officials.

The Attorney General in the filing Friday seeks to intervene in the Probate case, saying that all prior transactions are “voidable” due to the arrangement.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
The law in question says, the “Court shall not appoint as guard an agency, public or private, that financially benefits from directly providing housing, medical, mental health or social services to the legally incapacitated individual.”

Moody comments in the brief, “The intention behind this provision is to prevent conflicts of interest.”

“All of these financial transactions set forth in Caring Hearts’ Final Account are presume to be affected by a conflict between personal and fiduciary interests, and therefore voidable,” Moody adds.

Caring Hearts attorney Edward Nahat disputed Nessel's claims Monday, saying state attorneys misapplied the law and should not have sought to enter the case.

"The Attorney General's petition ... misapplied the statute to these circumstances and is over-reaching by trying to intervene in a case she shouldn't be involved in," Nahat said.

He said the law quoted by state lawyers applies to investments and housing transactions, neither of which Caring Hearts and Executive Services were involved.

He said George knew of the arrangement.

Nahat called Nessel's involvement "heavy handed," noting that it has drawn publicity.

He said Caring Hearts supports a review of the accounting and charges in the case.

"A remedy is already available to the family," he said. "They can get their own day in court. They don't need the Attorney General's help."

Probate Court in September 2018 instituted a policy that requires a company or fudiciary must reveal whether a person related to the company or fudiciary is performing a service for the fudiciary or company, according to John Brennan, deputy court administrator.

Brennan said he does not believe the relationships were disclosed in the Mitchell and Delbridge cases.

Expenditures will be reviewed over the next several months. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Nessel issued a news release on the matter Monday.

“It is absolutely incumbent on the courts to ensure that the state’s guardianship system is providing properly for the vulnerable and that the court-appointed conservators fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to those in their custody,” she said. “That does not appear to be happening in the case of Caring Hearts, which was appointed by Judge Kathryn George as guardian and conservator for Robert Lee Mitchell and Barbara Delbridge.”

Nessel added that the "Estates and Protected Individuals Code specifically prohibits certain financial self-dealing by the guardian with respect to the ward.”

Nessel announced in May that George was under investigation for her role in the case involving the couple following reports initiated by WXYZ-TV (Channel 7).

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Macomb Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. at that time of the announcement released a joint statement in support of the probe.

Family members of the couple said George should have appointed them as guardians and conservators to watch over the care and finances of the couple, both 70 or older and in declining health.

Robert Mitchell and Barbara Delbridge
Mitchell’s daughter, Marcie, and other family members complained their visits were limited and that caregivers installed a 6-foot fence around the property near Hall Road and Van Dyke Avenue that blocked the vision of family members who resided next door. The said the couple were virtual prisoners in their home.

They also raised questions about the guardian and conservator company's spending from the couple's more than $2.5 million in assets.

Caring Hearts and Executive Services in early June withdrew from serving as guardian and conservator. Attorney Terry Gilsenan was named temporary guardian, and attorney Martin Brosnan was name temporary conservator.

On June 26, Judge Biernat, who had taken over the case, granted Marcie Mitchell guardianship over her father, Robert, and Anita Little gained guardianship over her sister, Delbridge.

The pair on Friday also were named conservators, although each has to file a bond and paperwork in order to take over.

Attorney Frank Cusumano said Monday he plans to file a legal action on Little's behalf "to unwind the transactions" involving Caring Hearts, Executive Services and the law firm.

"Anita Little wants to do her part to make sure that this activity does not occur and injure another family," Cusumano said.

The older couple are currently residing in a facility in Genesee County, closer Marcie Mitchell’s Clarkston home.

The case developed as Nessel has been vowing to crack down on elder abuse. She formed Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force earlier this year shortly after she took office. This summer, she conducted a statewide “listening tour” to hear complaints about elder abuse and complaints about Probate Court, which oversees will and estates of incapacitated and deceased individuals.

Marcie Mitchell and cousing Gretchen Sommers
Robert Kirk last month was removed as a state Public Administrator for appointment to certain Probate cases.

George has served as a Macomb Probate Judge since 2003. More than a decade ago, George came under the scrutiny of state officials and removed as chief probate judge for her relationship with a now-defunct guardianship company, conflict with the second probate judge and dysfunction at the court.

Full Article & Source:
Nessel: Macomb County Probate judge's guardianship appointment violated law

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Judicial Ethics Office Investigating Judge Who Issued Warrant for Mother of Adult Disabled Daughter

The state’s judicial ethics office is investigating a Greenville circuit judge who issued an arrest warrant for a Lexington County woman who says she has been living as a fugitive since April 2012 in connection with her legal battle for guardianship of her adult disabled daughter.

And, in a related development, Brenda Bryant, who contends she has been forced to live out of state because of the active warrant, has sent letters to the S.C. House and Senate asking lawmakers not to vote for 13th Circuit Judge Edward “Ned” Miller in the judicial election tentatively scheduled for Feb. 4, according to copies of the letter she provided this week to The Nerve. She also said she has notified Gov. Nikki Haley’s and Lt. Gov.-elect Henry McMaster’s offices.

South Carolina and Virginia are the only states where their legislatures play primary roles in electing judges.

“I cannot begin to tell you how this abuse of justice has affected our lives,” wrote the 60-year-old Bryant, who has been jailed twice after being found in contempt of court, in her letters to the Legislature. “I have a home but cannot come back (;) if I do I could go to jail.”

The Nerve profiled Bryant’s case in October. She referenced The Nerve story with her packet of information she sent to the House and Senate this week.

The Nerve this week left written and phone messages for Miller, who has been on the bench since 2002 and serves as the chief administrative general-sessions court judge for Greenville and Pickens counties, but did not receive a response.

Miller on April 2, 2012, issued a bench warrant for Bryant’s “immediate arrest” after finding her in contempt of court for ignoring previous court orders to pay $9,639 to Rodney Pillsbury, an attorney for Tracy Parsons, a court-appointed guardian for Bryant’s intellectually disabled daughter. Bryant contended Parsons, a licensed professional counselor, didn’t do enough to protect her daughter, now 40, from being sexually and physically abused during her stay in a Greenville County group home.

Bryant in 2010 sued Parsons, the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN), the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, and others. In issuing the bench warrant for Bryant’s arrest, Miller described her lawsuit as “patently frivolous … to the extent that it included Defendant Tracy Parsons.”

Bryant was initially jailed in September 2011 in Greenville County after Greenville County Associate Probate Judge Edward Sauvain found her in contempt for refusing to pay Parsons $9,338 in court-ordered fees. She told The Nerve she was jailed for 30 days but was released after paying the fees, though she said she made the payment under protest.

After Miller issued his bench warrant, Bryant was arrested and jailed in Asheville, N.C; she told The Nerve she spent six days in jail before being released. A magistrate’s order noted that Bryant “feloniously” fled South Carolina, and that her offense was punishable by “death/1 yr in prison.”

Most of the legal actions against Bryant, who for years had legal guardianship of her daughter before it was stripped by the courts, occurred after she won a major legal victory in 2006 in the S.C. Supreme Court. The state’s top court ruled that DDSN and the Babcock Center, a private, nonprofit service provider in Richland County, owed a duty of care to Bryant’s daughter, who Bryant alleged was raped by several men while in the care of Babcock during the 1990s.

Few Judges Sanctioned

In a letter this month to Bryant, Joseph Turner, assistant disciplinary counsel in the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) – an arm of the Supreme Court that investigates ethics complaints against judges and lawyers – acknowledged his office had received Bryant’s complaint against Miller, noting, “We will conduct an investigation into the matters you have reported.”

“Where misconduct is found, sanctions may be imposed ranging from a confidential letter of caution or admonition, public reprimand, or removal from office,” Turner said in the Dec. 10 letter. “If our investigation does not reveal evidence of judicial misconduct, your complaint will be dismissed.”

“It is often many months after receipt of a complaint before a final decision is made,” Turner added.

The ODC typically dismisses most complaints without an investigation, often ruling that the issues raised are appellate in nature as opposed to ethical violations. Of 317 pending and received complaints last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 193, or nearly 61 percent, were dismissed after initial review, according to a year-end report. In comparison, the office last fiscal year dismissed 27 complaints after an investigation, and another 54 complaints were dismissed by an investigative panel of the 26-member state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Only 19 complaints against judges last fiscal year resulted in any discipline, according to the report. Most of the sanctions were private letters of caution; just one public reprimand was issued. No judges were suspended or removed from office.

Legislatively Controlled Screening Panel

Turner’s letter was sent just over a month after a legislatively controlled screening panel, known as the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC), qualified Miller for another six-year term on the bench, according to Bryant. Miller is running unopposed for his re-election to his seat.

Under state law, the House speaker appoints five members of the 10-member commission; the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, three members; and the Senate president pro tempore, two members. Only candidates nominated by the commission are eligible for election by the General Assembly.

The law requires that six of the 10 members of the JMSC be lawmakers, which two national legal organizations have said doesn’t meet their standards because the panel and selection of its members are dominated by legislators, as The Nerve previously has reported. The commission’s chairman this year was Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, who was appointed to the panel in 2008 by then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, who resigned from office in October after pleading guilty to spending campaign funds on personal expenses.

Harrell’s plea and resignation stemmed from a 2013 public-corruption complaint filed by the South Carolina Policy Council, The Nerve’s parent organization, with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Because Bryant said she couldn’t return to South Carolina to testify at Miller’s screening hearing in November for fear of arrest on the outstanding bench warrant, she had her husband of 39 years, Rickey Bryant, testify on her behalf. She said she also provided the commission with court records on her case.

In an affidavit provided for the hearing, a copy of which Bryant provided to The Nerve, Bryant said Miller issued the bench warrant without having legal jurisdiction, noting, among other things, that she previously had filed a notice of appeal in her case with the state Court of Appeals.

The JMSC has not yet issued its official nomination report to the Legislature, though Bryant said the panel qualified Miller despite her husband’s testimony. The commission typically requalifies and renominates unopposed incumbent judges; efforts by The Nerve this week to reach commission staff were unsuccessful.

Besides Clemmons, the other lawmakers on the JMSC include Reps. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville and the House majority leader; and David Mack, D-Charleston; and Sens. Larry Martin, R-Pickens and the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman; Chip Campsen, R-Charleston; and Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. Clemmons, Bannister, Campsen and Malloy are attorneys.

Bryant told The Nerve she sent letters this week to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, and Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, R-York; as well as to Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, who also is the Senate Finance Committee chairman, asking them to copy her letter and attachments to all lawmakers. In her letter, Bryant asks lawmakers to “please vote against Judge Edward Miller.”

“We need judicial reform in S.C.,” Bryant wrote, concluding, “I will not be home for Christmas this year but I pray to be home soon. God bless you and Merry Christmas.”

Full Article & Source:
Judicial Ethics Office Investigating Judge Who Issued Warrant for Mother of Adult Disabled Daughter