Saturday, October 25, 2008

System Seriously Flawed

The state's system of investigating abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults is seriously flawed, from sloppily done investigations -- or none at all -- to finding that mistreatment occurred in only 10 percent or fewer of cases, says a new report by a federally mandated watchdog group.

The report, by Disability Rights Washington, described serious problems with all three of the state investigatory units that respond to abuse and neglect, including the state's failure to punish facilities that don't report abuse and cases where victims were left in the care of suspects until a complaint was resolved.

The report cites many examples of the system's failure to protect adults with disabilities including:

* A state official investigating a report of suspicious injuries to a 93-year-old nursing home resident did not review photos or talk to witnesses before clearing the facility. When the woman died unexpectedly a few weeks later, her death was not investigated.

* A report was made to Adult Protective Services that a developmentally disabled adult was living in filthy conditions and had unrestricted access to medications despite being suicidal. The investigator did not review photos or talk to witnesses before dismissing the matter.

DSHS oversees two of the units that investigate complaints of abuse and neglect: Adult Protective Services responds when the suspect is a private citizen; and Residential Care Services investigates allegations against employees of nursing homes, adult family homes or other facilities licensed by the state. The Health Professions Quality Assurance office, part of the Health Department, investigates complaints of misconduct against 23 categories of licensed professionals.

The report found that all three investigatory units have been hampered by a lack of staff and not enough training.

Since so few complaints are substantiated, victims are left at risk of abuse and neglect.

Full Article and Source:
System failing abuse victims

Failing Child Welfare System

In January 2008, the federal government released a final report on its review of Oregon's child and family services, and found the state failed in 11 of 14 areas crucial to the safety and well-being of children in foster care.

They are entrusted to a historically underfunded statewide child welfare system that critics say has struggled with the same issues for years and years.

Among the most critical:

* A lack of placement stability for foster children, who move from place to place because of behavior problems, foster parent turnover, or unsuccessful attempts at reunifying with their families.

* Long waiting lists for addiction and mental-health treatment that parents need to complete in order to win their children back, extending the time kids spend in care. Foster children, too, have trouble getting needed services.

* Low reimbursements and a lack of support for foster parents, leading to high turnover rates and crowded homes. The review found that, in many areas of the state, homes are operating beyond capacity.

* Caseworkers who are inexperienced and overworked, making it nearly impossible for them to see each child every 30 days, as required by state policy.

* A high percentage of children who spend their entire childhoods in foster care, with inadequate planning or support for their transition to adulthood.

Judy Stiegler, chairwoman of the state Child Welfare Advisory Committee: "It takes a lot more dollars than what we have sometimes to do a good job."

Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau: "They are squeezed into a system incapable of managing mass casualties, with little community support for these families."

Jim Seymour, the executive director of Catholic Community Services: "The system is always on the verge of bankruptcy."

About 15,000 children were in foster care statewide at some point last year. They stay in foster care for an average of 2.2 years.

The Oregon Department of Human Services, the state's largest agency, is responsible for their care.

Full Article and Source:
Oregon foster children often end up lost in the system

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lawyer in Contempt

Michael M. Tobin was suspended for 90 days because he failed to file the required annual guardianship report in a probate case.

From May 1998 until the present, Tobin represented a client, the guardian of her minor daughter, in a guardianship case. Since the inception of the proceedings and every year thereafter, Tobin has failed to file the required annual guardianship report with the court in a timely manner. On at least three separate occasions, Tobin was found in contempt of court and assessed a fine, because of his failure to comply. Tobin has been reprimanded four times in the past. He was suspended for 45 days in 1996.
Latest discipline list void of local attorneys

From the Report of Referee:
From on or about May 20, 1998 through the present, Respondent represented Ms. Delia Marie Benavides, the guardian of her minor daughter, Estefanie Benavides, in guardianship Case Number 1998-2246-GD-02. B. Since the inception of the proceedings and every year thereafter, Respondent has failed to file the required annual guardianship report with the court in a timely manner, which resulted in the issuance of numerous Orders to Show Cause
directing Respondent to file the annual reports and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court.

On at least three (3) separate occasions, Respondent failed to comply with the Order to Show Cause, which failure resulted in the issuance of an Order of Contempt, finding Respondent in contempt of court and assessing a fine against Respondent.

Florida Supreme Court

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guardian Charged with Child Abuse

Mary Heath and her live-in boyfriend, Sekoa Aiono, were arrested on suspicion of second-degree felony child abuse neglect. Aiono told police they beat the children with a leather belt, let them go hungry and frequently locked them in the bathroom, where they were also forced to sleep.

A 9-year-old girl, 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl were taken into protective custody after the oldest girl escaped from a locked bathroom in the house. She had climbed out of a window and fell 12 feet to the ground to get out of the house. Someone saw the nude, bruised child and called police.

The boy was near death when police found him, and was "still struggling" in a hospital. The youngest girl had not apparently been abused, though she also was taken into custody.

Heath became their legal guardian about a year ago.

To become a legal guardian, family members must go through the same legal process as any other foster parent, which includes qualification like background checks and home inspections, said Division of Child and Family Services spokeswoman Liz Sollis.

A Utah court records check shows no criminal background for either Heath or Aiono.

Full Article and Source:
Mother of malnourished children found

See also:
Eagle Mtn. caretakers charged with sexual abuse

E.M. couple each face 10 counts of abuse charges

Child abuse suspects now accused of sexual abuse

Charges filed against couple accused of abusing 2 children

Indictment: $500K to $1M Stolen

Karyn McConnell Hancock, an ex-lawyer and former Toledo councilman who has been the focus of a long investigation was charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her former clients.

A county grand jury indicted Ms. McConnell Hancock on one count of aggravated theft for allegedly taking funds from her clients over a six-year period. The indictment alleged that between Jan. 1, 2002, and Nov. 30, 2007, she stole between $500,000 and $1 million.

The prosecutor's office has identified a total of 23 alleged victims. At least 12 of the alleged victims have been identified as Ms. McConnell Hancock's clients in Lucas County Probate Court. In July, a report released by the court indicated that Ms. McConnell Hancock stole nearly $335,000 from estates she represented.

According to the reports involving the alleged victims in probate court, Ms. McConnell Hancock used her legal escrow account, or Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, to inappropriately deposit and withdraw funds. The investigation revealed that Ms. McConnell Hancock would deposit money from her clients' estates into the account but only legally paid out small portions of it.

The reports labeled the rest of the funds as "missing."

Full Article and Source:
McConnell charged with 1 count of theft; amount stolen put at $500,000-$1M

More information:
McConnell Hancock indicted on felony theft

McConnell-Hancock indicted on felony theft charges

See also:
Missing Money From Estates

Missing Money Over 300K

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parental Rights

Parental rights win out, even if the children's best interest might best be served by other guardians, according to a Nebraska Supreme Court decision reaffirming the constitutional right of parents.

The high court overturned a Perkins County District Court decision that two children should remain with grandparents who had been raising them for several years.

The Supreme Court gave custody of the two boys to the father because the relationship between parent and child is constitutionally protected.

The high court said in a unanimous decision:
“Under the parental preference principle, a parent's natural right to the custody of his or her children trumps the interest of strangers to the parent-child relationship and the preferences of the child."

In fact, the “right of a parent to the care, custody and management of his or her children is considered one of the most basic rights of man," according to the opinion.

Full Article and Source:
High court: So-so parents win over good grandparents

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lawyer Charged with Will Fraud

Federal authorities have charged that a prominent criminal lawyer cut from his brother's will helped produce fakes after the brother and sister-in-law died in a plane crash.

According to the indictment, John Karoly and his brother, Peter, disbanded their law practice in an acrimonious 1986 split. A year earlier, Peter Karoly and his wife, Lauren Angstadt, had signed wills leaving their estate to various siblings, except John.

On Feb. 2, 2007, the couple died along with a pilot when their small plane crashed in bed weather trying to land at an airport in New Bedford, Mass. They had no children.

Karoly, along with his son, John "J.P." Karoly III, and Dr. John J. Shane, a family friend, later conspired to create phony wills that included John Karoly, J.P. Karoly, and several other nieces and nephews as heirs.

A related civil suit over the disputed wills is already pending in civil court.

Full Article and Source:
Feds: Pa. lawyer faked will after brother's death

See also:
Prominent Attorney, Two Others Indicted for Alleged Fraud

Attorney John Karoly, others charged with fraud over brother's will

Indictment gives timeline

Prominent Lehigh Valley lawyer John Karoly Jr. scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Allentown federal court on will fraud charges

Lawyer pleads not guilty in will-forging case

Undue Influence

Jack S. Carey was a successful lawyer and former City Council member whose philanthropic activities earned him much respect.

But Carey's solid reputation is now in jeopardy after a judge decided recently that he inappropriately persuaded an elderly client to will him and his legal assistant more than $7 million of her estate.

Virginia Murphy retained Carey as her lawyer for almost 25 years. She suffered from several frailties in her later years, including senile dementia, cataracts, hearing loss, depression, hypertension and heart problems. She died in 2006 at the age of 107.

While in her 90s, Murphy executed a new will six times. Each time, Carey and his assistant, Gloria DuBois, were named as beneficiaries.

After Murphy's death, her second cousin protested the will.

In an Aug. 1 ruling, a Pinellas Circuit Judge wrote that she had never seen a case in which it was so apparent that someone had unduly influenced another person during the execution of a will.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Attorney Gets 15 Years

A state district judge sentenced a disbarred lawyer to 15 years in prison for what prosecutors described as a two-decade practice of stealing from the estates of elderly clients after they died.

According to lawsuits and arrest affidavits, Terry Erwin Stork systematically mismanaged or stole from three estates worth more than $800,000 over two decades. The records said Stork lived in the home of a deceased client from 1987 to 2002 and deposited money from the sale of the home into his own bank account.

In another case, he was accused of letting the home of a client sit empty, driving the woman's Buick LeSabre to disrepair and using her money to add to his rare china collection. He was also accused of failing to pass along inheritances to people and organizations that were supposed to get them.

Stork pleaded guilty.

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred lawyer sentenced to 15 years

See also:
In The Matter of Terry Erwin Stork