Sunday, December 3, 2023

Residents help 88-year-old man decorate tree he planted as sapling 40 years ago

By Jessica Goodman

MENTOR-ON-THE-LAKE, Ohio — A longtime resident of Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio, had a special start to the holiday season this year.

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Mentor-on-the-Lake Police Department said that a resident of 70 years named Gene was surprised by family members and community members.

Gene, 88, had planted a sapling 40 years ago at his house on Thunderbird Drive. His son brought that sapling home from school on Arbor Day, police said.

The sapling has been growing for about 40 years and is now around 40 feet tall, according to WOIO.

For decades, Gene had been dreaming about decorating the tree, the news outlet reported.

Donations were made for lighting and for the first time ever the tree was decorated and lit! Gene was overwhelmed with emotion seeing the tree strung with lights for the first time,” police said.

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Residents help 88-year-old man decorate tree he planted as sapling 40 years ago

From Tenant to Plaintiff: Elderly Woman's Lawsuit Exposes Housing Harassment in Christiansburg

Written by: Sam Orlando

CHRISTIANSBURG, VIRGINIA - In a significant legal development, Debra Long, an elderly and disabled resident of Christiansburg, Virginia, has filed a lawsuit against her former landlord, Marie March, and Big Bear Properties, LLC, alleging severe discrimination and harassment. The case, filed under case number 7:23-cv-00777 in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia, details a series of disturbing events that Long endured during her tenancy.

Background of the Case

Long, who is over sixty years old and suffers from disabilities, moved into an apartment owned by Big Bear Properties in March 2022, according to her complaint. Her disabilities necessitate a Medicaid-approved caregiver, a role fulfilled by her grandson. However, soon after moving in, Long faced harassment from a maintenance employee, Earnest Smith, who also lived in the same complex. Smith's behavior escalated from peeping to exposing himself and making threats, as detailed in the complaint.

Allegations of Negligence and Retaliation

Despite reporting these incidents to her landlord, March allegedly dismissed Long's concerns and took no action. The complaint further accuses March of retaliating against Long by filing trespassing charges against her grandson and refusing to change the locks on Long's apartment, leaving her vulnerable to Smith's access.

Violation of Tenancy Rights

The lawsuit outlines how March denied Long's request to have her grandson stay overnight, crucial for her care, despite allowing other non-disabled tenants similar privileges. This decision left Long alone and unable to care for herself adequately.

Severe Emotional and Physical Impact

The complaint states that Long was forced to leave her apartment due to the ongoing harassment and discrimination, leading to significant emotional distress, exacerbating her physical disabilities, and causing her to develop major depression disorder and PTSD.

Legal Action for Justice

Long, through her lawsuit, seeks justice for violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Virginia Fair Housing Law, and Virginia common law. She alleges that the defendants' actions were discriminatory against her age and disability.

A Call for Accountability

This lawsuit highlights critical issues of elder care, disability rights, and tenant protection. Long's case brings to light the challenges faced by vulnerable populations in securing safe and dignified living conditions.

Continuing Legal Battle

As the case progresses, it will undoubtedly shed light on the systemic issues surrounding tenant rights and the responsibilities of landlords towards elderly and disabled tenants. Breaking Through News will update this story when the defendant's respond.

The outcome of this case could set a precedent for future housing discrimination lawsuits.

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From Tenant to Plaintiff: Elderly Woman's Lawsuit Exposes Housing Harassment in Christiansburg

Saturday, December 2, 2023

MDPD investigate alleged elderly exploitation at assisted living facility in SW Miami-Dade

By Olivia DiVenti

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police executed a warrant at an assisted living facility in Southwest Miami-Dade that is at the center of a possible elderly exploitation investigation.

7News cameras captured Miami-Dade Police Medical Crimes units arriving at the assisted living facility on Southwest 122nd Avenue, Wednesday afternoon.

They claim that the home has been operating as an unlicensed assisted living facility.

“So you’re looking at 30 individuals that are living inside a home, where of course, it’s not certified by the state, it doesn’t have a license to be an adult living facility, it’s not meeting the proper protocols and procedures and guidelines that are brought forth in the State of Florida, and of course, Miami-Dade County ordinances,” said MDPD Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “It’s something that is unsafe and, of course, can be inhumane.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Health are also investigating the facility.

Police told 7News that the facility has been in business for quite a long time, adding that the patients inside are living in substandard conditions.

“Multiple rooms subdivided within the home. It’s got bunk beds on there, some locker rooms,” said Zabaleta.

The employees at the home are being accused of taking care of patients without a medical license.

“These individuals that are in here, that are employees, are not medically trained, they don’t ave the proper certifications necessary,” said Zabaleta.

Kimberly Baker lives and volunteers at the home. She said she was shocked when police showed up.

Neighbors told 7News those living inside would go around the neighborhood asking for different things.

But Baker said those claims are not accurate.

“They may beg for cigarettes, they’re always begging for cigarettes, ’cause they smoke them all up,” she said.

When asked whether patients at the facility have asked area residents for food, Baker replied, “No, no, not that I’m aware of.”

Fire rescue crews have responded to the facility many times this year for physical and mental illness.

Cameras showed crews as they placed several patients on stretchers into ambulances on Wednesday afternoon. Other patients were seen standing outside.

Detectives, meanwhile, were seen removing bags of evidence from the home.

Family members of those who live at the facility showed up.

“I hope the families and the police and the FBI can get together and help them, because this is a sad situation.” said a neighbor who asked not to be identified or show her face on camera. “Where are they going to live? They’ve been living in this place for such a long time.”

Police told 7News that they will be speaking to everyone at the assisted living facility and will ask them how they arrived at the home. From there, police will decide what charges the person running the operation will face.

As to what’s next for those who live there, Baker said she hopes she is allowed to stay.

“I’m hoping, I’m hoping I can stay here. I’ve been here so long,” she said.

Police said anyone not determined to be vulnerable is able to stay the facility until they find better living conditions.

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MDPD investigate alleged elderly exploitation at assisted living facility in SW Miami-Dade

Authorities: New Jersey couple scams elderly man who later dies by suicide

By: Samantha Marshak

A New Jersey couple is facing charges in Tennessee after they were accused of tricking an elderly man into believing he was in a relationship with a celebrity and scamming him out of more than $100,000. Police say the man later died by suicide.
The Washington County Sherriff’s Office (WSCO) in Tennessee worked with the Piscataway Township Police Department to arrest Chinagorom Onwumere, 34, and Salma Abdalkareem, 27.
Both suspects are charged with three counts of extortion, three counts of financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable person, two counts of theft over $60,000, and two counts of criminal impersonation, according to WSCO.
Sherriff Keith Sexton of WSCO said that they became aware of the scam in late October. The victim sent gift cards and checks totaling $87,500 to the suspects, who reportedly made threats to the victim and his family via email.
The suspects are still being held in Tennessee on $500,000 bail ahead of a detention hearing scheduled for Nov. 30, according to police.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.

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Authorities: New Jersey couple scams elderly man who later dies by suicide

Faux nurse who ripped off blind Villager back in jail after hit-and-run crash

A woman who pretended to be a nurse and ripped off a blind 86-year-old Villager is back behind bars after a hit-and-run crash.

Sharon Ward DeMarsh, 44, was booked without bond Tuesday at the Lake County Jail for violating her probation on charges of practicing nursing without a license and exploitation of the elderly.

DeMarsh had been lodged at the Hillsborough County Jail as the result of her arrest in connection with an Oct. 17 hit-and-run crash in Tampa. In that incident, she was driving a white Nissan at about 1:30 a.m. when she put the vehicle in reverse and struck a parked trailer, according to a Florida Department of Corrections probation violation report. DeMarsh was arrested about seven hours later. She had been driving on a suspended license.

Her arrest in Hillsborough County was considered a violation of her probation in Lake County, thus she has been transported back to the jail in Tavares.

DeMarsh lost her driver’s license after a June, 28, 2022 drunk driving arrest. That was also considered a violation of her Lake County probation and last year she was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

DeMarsh was convicted in 2017 in a case in which an elderly Villager’s family member noticed that the 86-year-old woman’s grocery bill had increased by $500 per month after DeMarsh had been assigned as the woman’s non-medical caregiver.

It was also discovered that DeMarsh had been driving the woman’s 2014 red Buick. DeMarsh claimed she had used the car to run the woman’s errands, but an investigation revealed DeMarsh had allowed her 17-year-old son to drive the car, unbeknownst to the owner. It also was revealed that DeMarsh fled to North Carolina in the Buick during Hurricane Matthew, without the elderly woman’s permission.

DeMarsh was later arrested on an additional charge of impersonating a registered nurse, misrepresenting herself to the elderly woman’s doctor.

DeMarsh was ordered to make restitution of $12,702 to her former client.

The most-recent probation violation report noted the DeMarsh is living with her son.

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Faux nurse who ripped off blind Villager back in jail after hit-and-run crash

Friday, December 1, 2023

Aretha Franklin’s Sons Awarded Real Estate, Thanks to a Will Found in a Couch

by Tomás Mier

A judge awarded Aretha Franklin’s sons the singer’s real estate after reviewing a handwritten 2014 will that was found between couch cushions, Associated Press reports.

The new decision comes four months after a jury decided that the document was valid despite being hard to read. The will was signed with the letter “A” and a smiley face. The handwritten document overrides a will from 2010 that was found in 2019.

The decision was a major victory for Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, who had been arguing in favor of the document’s validity as it seemed to suggest the Queen of Soul — who did not leave a formal will — wanted him to assume control over her estate.

Kecalf had the support of his brother and Franklin’s second eldest son, Edward. However, Kecalf’s efforts were opposed by Franklin’s third son, Ted White, as well as the guardian for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs.

Kecalf will inherit a $1.1 million property in the suburbs of Detroit, while Ted White II was given another house that was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the wills emerged. Edward was also awarded a separate property thanks to the 2014 will.

“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf, told the AP.

The document discovered in the couch (dated 2014) was one of two found in Franklin’s home in 2019, along with another 11-page document dated 2010. While all of Franklin’s sons agreed the 2010 document was a valid will, a contentious legal battle emerged over whether Franklin had actually signed the 2014 document, thus validating it so it would supersede the one from 2010.

While both documents appeared to indicate that Franklin wanted her four sons to split the income from her music and copyrights, there were some significantly different stipulations between the two. In the 2014 document, Franklin appeared to bequeath the $1.1 million home to Kecalf, while the 2010 will divided Franklin’s assets more evenly amongst her heirs.

Additionally, the 2010 doc included some conditions for Kecalf and Edward should they want to take control of Franklin’s estate: The two “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree,” Franklin wrote at the time — conditions she did not include in the 2014 document.

Franklin owned a total of four homes. She died in 2018 of pancreatic cancer.

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Aretha Franklin’s Sons Awarded Real Estate, Thanks to a Will Found in a Couch

Mainers with disabilities, and all Mainers, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote

by Opinion Contributor

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Molly Thompson is the Voting Access Advocate at Disability Rights Maine.

People placed under guardianship based on being diagnosed with a mental illness can vote in Maine and have been able to do so for the past 22 years. Voters’ rejection of Question 8 earlier this month does not change this fact.

In 2001, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine found that denying someone the right to vote was denying them a fundamental liberty. The court found that the provision within the Maine Constitution that automatically prohibits people under guardianship by reason of mental illness from registering to vote and from voting violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also said that this provision of the Maine Constitution violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This ballot question would have finally aligned Maine’s source document with this decision and removed discriminatory and unenforceable language. We are disheartened that voters failed to approve it.

Let us be clear: This rejection does not change the voting rights of any person under guardianship. People under guardianship already had the right to vote and continue to have that right. This right is not in jeopardy.

Mainers with disabilities, and all voters, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote.

In an effort to increase voting opportunities for people with disabilities and increase civic engagement, Disability Rights Maine recently formed the Maine Rev Up Coalition. The Rev Up Coalition — which stands for “Register, Educate, Vote, Use Your Power!” — is a project of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Comparable coalitions exist in 19 states and seek to increase turnout among voters with disabilities and election accessibility.

As the partner members of the Maine Rev Up Coalition, our goal is to substantially increase voter turnout among disabled voters. We will do so by addressing accessibility barriers at polling places, recruiting individuals with disabilities to become poll workers in their communities and ensuring voter education materials are accessible. Above all, we seek to center individuals with disabilities in our work. This also means we counter misinformation that may discourage disabled voters from voting.

As the state with the highest voter turnout in the country, we must do our part to ensure our elections are accessible to all community members.

If any individual or organization is interested in joining the Maine Rev Up Coalition, they can contact:

The Maine Rev Up Coalition is composed of representatives from the Consumer Council System of Maine, Disability Rights Maine, EqualityMaine, the League of Women Voters of Maine and Speaking Up For Us. This column is a joint statement of all parties.

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Mainers with disabilities, and all Mainers, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote

Floyd County caretaker arrested for elderly exploitation, sheriff’s office says

By Atlanta News First staff

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The caretaker of an elderly Rome resident was charged with defrauding the man out of thousands of dollars, according to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.

David Allen Jenkins was arrested on Nov. 17 on a felony charge of exploitation of an elderly person, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the arrest warrant, Jenkins is accused of “knowingly and willingly” exploiting the man, for whom “he was supposed to be a caretaker.”

The warrant also states Jenkins is accused of defrauding the man and stealing thousands of dollars from him between July 1 and Oct. 13, 2023, making online purchases and Cash App transactions and taking cash advances.

Several online banking apps were also “created without the knowledge of the victim,” according to the warrant.

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Floyd County caretaker arrested for elderly exploitation, sheriff’s office says

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Over $1 Million Stolen from Elderly in Philadelphia Region by Caretaker

by Ryan Dickinson

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Gloria Byars, 62, of Aldan, PA, and Carlton Rembert, 69, of Hampton, VA, were found guilty of defrauding over $1 million from elderly, incapacitated individuals. United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced the verdicts today. Byars pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud, while Rembert was found guilty of conspiracy, bank fraud, and wire fraud following a four-day trial.

From 2012 to 2018, Byars, while serving as a court-appointed guardian, along with co-conspirators, exploited her role to steal life savings from dozens of incapacitated wards. Initially an office manager for a Delaware County guardianship company and later operating her own company, Byars had access to the wards’ assets, including bank accounts and real estate. Byars, Rembert, and another co-conspirator, Alesha Mitchell, used shell companies to funnel and launder the stolen funds. Byars misused the money on personal luxuries, including vacations and vehicles.

In her plea agreement, Byars agreed to forfeit 36 gold Krugerrand coins, part of the assets she stole from her wards. She also misappropriated over $756,000 from a retired federal employee’s Thrift Savings Plan, contributing to the total theft of over $1 million from at least 120 victims.

The maximum sentences for the crimes include 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine for bank fraud, 20 years and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, 20 years and a $500,000 fine for money laundering, and 3 years and a $250,000 fine for filing a false tax return.

U.S. Attorney Romero condemned the exploitation of vulnerable individuals, vowing zero tolerance for such fraud. FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Langham emphasized the FBI’s dedication to protecting elders from fraud and abuse. IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty reiterated their commitment to investigating white-collar crimes.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer praised the collaborative efforts of local and federal authorities in securing the convictions, highlighting the importance of protecting vulnerable residents from guardianship fraud.

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Over $1 Million Stolen from Elderly in Philadelphia Region by Caretaker