Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fighting Malnutrition and Dehydration

YouTube Video

County Judge With Everyman Touch Retiring

Hennepin County Judge Peter Albrecht, known for his humor and compassion, says he will miss people, not cases.

Two lines snake through separate security checkpoints every day in the Hennepin County Government Center. One is for employees who flash badges and breeze through. The longer, slower line is for the public.

District Judge Peter Albrecht made a habit of getting in the public line, pocketing his badge and patiently enduring the wait. Albrecht says he believes employees should be subject to the same weapons screening as everyone else.

The 65-year-old judge, who formally retires at the end of the month, brought that same sense of equality to his courtroom. Since first handling misdemeanors after he was elected at 32 in 1976 to what was then the municipal court, Albrecht has earned a reputation for two things: an unfailingly gentle demeanor in the courtroom and unrelenting practical jokes outside of it.

His neighbor on the 16th floor and best friend, Judge Gary Larson, has been a frequent target.

Albrecht once sneaked fake ants into Larson's mouthwash bottle in the judicial bathroom. He secreted a Halloween "mummy" into Larson's office to scare him (it worked -- twice in a day).

He repeatedly crept into Larson's courtroom when it was empty and ever so gradually moved the piece of duct tape on the floor closer and closer to the judge's bench. The tape marks the place Larson tells defendants to stand.

Newer Judge Robert Small said that when he moved onto the 16th floor, he "knew there would be something. The place has a reputation."

There was. Albrecht placed Small's nameplate on his door -- a foot off the floor. Small is considerably shorter than Albrecht.

Full Article and Source:
Hennepin County Judge With Everyman Touch Calls It a Career

Fmr. Luzerne Co. Judge Accepts Punishment

Michael T. Toole walked into the federal courthouse a judge on Tuesday morning. He walked out four-and-a-half hours later an admitted case-fixer and tax cheat facing more than three years in prison.

One of the U.S. marshals who passed the contents of Toole's pockets through an X-ray machine as the judge arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning apologized sheepishly after asking for Toole's ID and realizing he was dealing with a judge.

"We don't see you up here enough," he said, smiling weakly.

Toole did not return the smile as he plodded toward his appearance in a fourth-floor courtroom to plead guilty to fraud and filing a false tax return.

The judge, who had kept up a cheerful and amiable front for months as rumors of impending federal charges swept the county courthouse, wore a grim and stoic visage all through his plea hearing Tuesday, telling U.S. District Judge Richard P. Conaboy:

"With the strength of my faith and the support of my family and friends, I am here to accept responsibility for what I've done and accept whatever punishment the court imposes."

Only after the hearing concluded did Toole break into a broad grin, turning toward his brother, Patrick, in the gallery, and saying: "I have to go get my mug shot now" as federal marshals and probation officials led him away for processing before releasing him on his own recognizance.

Full Article and Source:
Toole Accepts "Whatever Punishment the Court Imposes"

See Also:
Judge's Beaches Made of Quicksand

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Secrecy Behind the Judicial Conduct Board

The Judicial Conduct Board, created to protect citizens from errant judges, is criticized as doing just the opposite.

One of state government's most secretive agencies is housed near the end of a hallway on the third floor of the Pennsylvania Judicial Center, just across Commonwealth Avenue from the Capitol.
A piece of ordinary white bond paper, tucked into a protective plastic sleeve and taped to a window at the entrance, says "Judicial Conduct Board" in half-inch letters.

There is a small waiting room in Suite 3500, but the door leading to the inner offices is marked with two signs: "Confidential Area. Do Not Enter Beyond This Point" and "The Procedures of the JCB Are Confidential. The Use of Cameras and All Recording Devices Is Prohibited."

The board was created in 1993 to protect Pennsylvania citizens from judges who abuse their power, either ethically or criminally. But recent revelations about its procedures and activities have led some critics to suggest a role reversal in which the JCB's focus is to look after the interests of Pennsylvania's 1,200 judges.

"The outrage is that the JCB believes it is more important to protect members of the judiciary than to protect the citizens the judiciary is supposed to serve," says Tim Potts, executive director of Democracy Rising PA, a nonprofit governmental-reform group.

"The judges don't need protection," adds Robert L. Byer, a former Commonwealth Court judge. "They already have lots of that. They're even immune from being sued for almost anything they do in the courtroom. It's the public that needs protection from rogue judges."

Full Article and Source:
Oversight of PA Judges is Wrapped in Secrecy

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

OH: Judge Seeks Standards for Court Guardians

Attorneys who hold in their hands the lives of the addled, elderly and disabled soon will get a set of common-sense rules, partly inspired by a man wrongly stripped of his freedom and property.

Franklin County Probate Judge Eric Brown is asking for public comment on 46 standards to govern attorneys who serve as guardians to wards of his court.

"These are the most vulnerable citizens in our community," Brown said. "We can do better."

Brown was the Common Pleas judge appointed to hear the case of Milous Keith after the previous Franklin County Probate judge recused himself. Keith, then 76, fought a court-appointed guardian for two years to regain control of his life.

"My learning experience with the handling of that case certainly caused me to be concerned about the issues that arose," Brown said.

Keith still lives in fear "at an undisclosed location," said his sister, Etta Brown. "They took Milous out of his house in handcuffs and put him in a police car and locked him in an Alzheimer's ward for nearly two years."

The former city housing administrator had assets of more than $600,000, court records say. Today, Etta Brown figures, her brother has less than $150,000. Keith is suing his former guardian's law firm, alleging that guardian Jim Hughes sold assets at a loss, hired his father-in-law as a real-estate agent and failed to inventory safe-deposit boxes.

Brown found Keith competent in February 2006. He removed the guardianship.

Brown's standards will apply only to attorneys, but he hopes family, volunteer and other guardians will find them helpful. He's sending his draft to attorneys, other guardians, nursing homes and fellow probate judges, among others.

Proposed rules include requiring attorneys to attend training, visit wards personally at least quarterly, not hire relatives without permission, and designate someone to take over if the guardian dies or quits.

"There are some guardians who have one or two or three wards," Brown said. "Some have hundreds. Those may have trouble meeting the standards."

But the rules, he said, are to protect wards.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Seeks Standards for Court Guardians

See Also:
Proposed Standards for Attorney Guardians

Investigating "Serious Financial Irregularities"

Police are investigating the handling of $4 million during 18 years at a Lafayette agency that serves the mentally disabled.

One subject of the probe is the Wabash Center Inc.'s former chief financial officer, who died this fall during the audit.

Lafayette police Detective B.T. Brown said the name of Stephen McAninch "has come up during our investigation multiple times. We have not ruled out other suspects."

Tippecanoe County Sheriff Tracy Brown said his department was called to investigate McAninch's death Oct. 30. Police did not say how McAninch died.

A statement released by Wabash Center said he died "suddenly during the financial audit."

McAninch had worked at the nonprofit center as CFO since 1986, the Journal & Courier of Lafayette reported.

The center said in its statement that "serious financial irregularities" involving improper payments to vendors had been detected during the facility's annual audit in October. The improper payments totaling more than $4 million allegedly occurred between 1991 and 2009, the statement said.

The most recent audit, filed by an outside accounting firm approved by the State Board of Accounts, did not refer to missing money but noted a lack of documentation for certain billing and "significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting."

Full Article and Source:
Police Review Handling of $4M at Lafayette Agency

Monday, December 28, 2009

Former NYS Supreme Court Justice Sentenced

A former state Supreme Court justice was sentenced to 27 months in prison after being convicted of attempted extortion and bribery charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe handed down the sentence to Thomas Spargo following his conviction on the charges in August.

At the sentencing, Sharpe told Spargo that “for a judge there is nothing more reprehensible,” according to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Fair and impartial judgment by those entrusted to carry out the laws is the bedrock of our legal system,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “When those sworn to uphold the law violate it, they will be held accountable.”

“We cannot and will not allow the public’s faith in our legal system to be shaken by judicial corruption,” Breuer added.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Judge Gets 27 Months in Prison

Rothstein's Firm Gave Over $6M to Charities and Nonprofits

A defunct South Florida law firm run by an attorney now charged with operating a huge Ponzi scheme gave more than $6 million in the past year to charities and nonprofit groups.

A federal bankruptcy court filing details contributions by the firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler to more than 100 organizations.

The biggest amount was more than $2.5 million to Rothstein's own Rothstein Family Foundation. Big donations also went to Boys and Girls Clubs, arts groups, Jewish organizations and several groups affiliated with professional athletes.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Charged in Fraud Gave $6M to Nonprofits

See Also:
Editorial: Charities Will Suffer

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lawyer Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Facility

A lawyer representing AAA Warmcare, a Potomac assisted living facility shut down by the state after allegations of resident abuse, has moved to dismiss a lawsuit against the facility.

Among other points of contention, at issue is whether former AAA Warmcare resident and plaintiff Elizabeth Tully — who has been described by her lawyer as someone in the advanced stages of dementia — is competent to sue.

The lawyer, Alexander Vincent of the Potomac firm Shulman Rogers, appeared in Montgomery County Circuit Court for a scheduling hearing. William Askinazi of Germantown, who is representing Tully and her husband Raymond, who both alleged to have been abused while living at the facility, also appeared at [the] hearing. In court, Judge David Boynton set a hearing date of Jan. 19 to address the motion to dismiss the Tullys' claims.

Askinazi filed the $10 million suit for the Potomac residents, both in their 80s, Sept. 25. The move followed the August closure of the Gainsborough Road facility by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after an unannounced investigation. Residents were removed from the eight-bed facility and Montgomery County police launched an elder abuse investigation.

The lawsuit was filed for Raymond and Elizabeth Tully along with Tully's daughter, Mary Ann Shanesy. The lawsuit alleged that Elizabeth Tully had tape and a rag tied over her mouth and was tied to her wheelchair numerous times; she was belted and gagged "with food on her plate at the dinner table but was not allowed to eat," was "often allowed to wallow in her fecal waste" and was "slapped and pummeled" by a caregiver. The lawsuit also alleged that Raymond Tully was "scorned and ridiculed" by staff and forced to urinate in his pants on several occasions.

The suit alleges that the abuse came from a caregiver who was hired after being improperly screened by the facility's owner, Sreedevi Datla. The lawsuit claims the caregiver was illiterate, gave medication to the couple without knowing the prescription and had "a violent background." The suit also alleges that the caregiver called for decreasing food rations to residents.

Datla, according to the suit, knew about cases of physical and emotional abuse but didn't move to correct or better the circumstances. Some of the alleged violations were captured in photographs by concerned staff members who reported the situation, Askinazi said.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Potomac Closed Assisted Living Facility

Legislator Calls on AG to Investigate Division of Developmental Disabilities

State Sen. Jennifer Beck is calling on the state attorney general to investigate the state Division of Developmental Disabilities' oversight of disabled individuals who are placed with caretakers in the community.

In a letter to New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram dated Dec. 9, Beck called for a "complete and thorough investigation into the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) by your office."

Beck said there are some 1,200 individuals currently in Community Care Residences (CCRs) and that she has good reason to believe these problems pervade the system and are not unique to a case in which two caregivers of a developmentally disabled woman were arraigned after a woman died from neglect in a state-licensed sponsor home.

Tara O'Leary, a 29-year-old developmentally disabled woman who had been living in a sponsor home run by Debra Sloan, of Bloomsbury, Hunterdon County, for several years weighed just 43 pounds when she died in November 2008.

Sloan, the sponsor responsible for O'Leary's daily care, and Bridget Grimes, of Phillipsburg, O'Leary's habilitation coordinator with the Division of the Developmentally Disabled (DDD), a section of the New Jersey Department of Human Services DHS) tasked with ensuring that O'Leary received appropriate care, were arraigned at the Warren County Courthouse on Dec. 11.

Beck attended the Dec. 11 arraignment in the courtroom of Judge John J. Coyle in Warren County.

"Today's arraignment of Bridget Grimes and Debra Sloan is a call to action for the entire state of New Jersey to make sure that no one else suffers Tara's fate," Beck said. "I do believe that these two women should be held accountable for the role they [allegedly] played in allowing Tara O'Leary to starve to death under the care of a state caseworker and a state-sanctioned sponsor home, and the state must investigate deeper to assure that this is never permitted to happen again."

Full Article and Source:
Beck Faults State Oversight of Caretakers of Disabled

See Also:
Two Indicted for Neglect of Tara O'Leary

L'Oreal Heiress Refuses Court-Ordered Testing

A lawyer for France's richest woman says his client, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, has refused to undergo medical tests aimed at determining whether she was in a weak state when she lavished a friend with $1.44 billion in gifts and cash.

A judge ordered 87-year-old Bettencourt to undergo the tests before the April trial of her friend, Francois-Marie Barnier. The 62-year-old photographer faces exploitation charges stemming from allegations by Bettencourt's daughter that Barnier took advantage of the elderly billionaire's fragility to bilk her.

Bettencourt's attorney, Georges Kiejman, said she will not undergo the medical tests, which were supposed to be carried out before March 10.

L'Oreal Heiress Refusing Medical Treatment

See Also:
Accused of Bilking France's Richest Woman

Saturday, December 26, 2009

WI: Incompetent Have Right to Presence of Counsel

A guardian ad litem cannot meet with a represented ward unless the ward’s adversary counsel is present.

On Dec. 22, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed a non-final order that required a ward in guardianship to meet with the GAL alone.

Patricia M. Cavey, an attorney with Milwaukee Disability Law Center, who represents the ward, praised the holding as necessary to protect incompetent persons’ right to counsel and to hold GALs to the same standards as other attorneys.

Too many GALS, Cavey said, act like they are “the king of the courthouse.”

Jennifer M. is an adult woman subject to a limited guardianship. Her father is her guardian, and her parents are divorced. The circuit court has appointed an attorney to be her GAL, and she has also retained her own adversary counsel.

After Jennifer’s mother petitioned to remove the father as guardian, Jennifer moved to dismiss the petition, and to replace the GAL. The circuit court denied Jennifer’s motions, and also entered the following order:

“[Jennifer M.] is ordered to meet with Attorney Franz Maurer, her Guardian ad Litem, one-on-one … within 21 days of this order, to discuss [her] position regarding future contact with her maternal family. The Guardian ad Litem is ordered to report to the Court regarding the best interests of [Jennifer] regarding such future contact, as well as any participation by [Jennifer] in the mediation process initiated by the Guardian and [her] mother.”

The Court of Appeals’ granted Jennifer’s petition for interlocutory review, and reversed, in an opinion by Judge Edward R. Brunner.

Full Article and Source:
GAL Can't Meet Ward Without Attorney - Incompetent Have Right to Presence of Counsel

Former DHS Employee Avoids Jail Time

A former Department of Human Services employee received a three-year probation for two Tulsa County offenses of financially exploiting vulnerable adults.

Debra Roberts, 51, pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to two felony exploitation counts.

She had no agreement with prosecutors to govern her punishment.

District Judge Kurt Glassco made a finding of guilt, giving Roberts a felony conviction in each of the cases.

Glassco imposed a three-year suspended sentence that does not require her to serve any jail or prison time.

Roberts was free on bond while awaiting sentencing in the cases, which were filed in 2008.

Roberts was a DHS Adult Protective Services specialist. She was charged in one case with taking nearly $4,500 from an 84-year-old man.

She had been a temporary guardian for the man after a court decided that he lacked the mental capacity to consent to necessary protective services. As his guardian, Roberts had the authority to use his money to pay for residential care and daily living expenses, an investigator’s affidavit states.

Prosecutors maintained that his nursing home bills went unpaid and that checks signed by Roberts on the man’s guardian account were written for cash.

In the other case, Roberts was charged with financially exploiting a 74-year-old mentally disabled man by converting about $5,900 of his money to her own use. She had been his temporary guardian.

Defense lawyer Jack Gordon said Roberts made restitution covering both cases. No restitution requirement was imposed as part of sentencing.

Full Article and Source:
Former DHS Employee Avoids Jail Time in Exploitation

Illinois Couple Gets Prison Time

A Batavia couple who bilked an elderly female relative out of more than $40,000 and then used the money to buy drugs were sentenced to prison.

Michael Waters, 49, and his wife, Brenda Waters, 48, pleaded guilty to financial exploitation of an elderly person, and were sentenced to four years and three years, respectively, in prison.

As part of the plea, they were also ordered to make restitution of $41,705 to the 80-year-old woman.

According to Kane County prosecutors, the couple used a combination of deception and coercion to induce the woman to withdraw the money from Batavia-area automated teller machines throughout 2008.

When the victim discovered that the couple had been forging her name on checks, she went to police.

Full Article and Source:
Batavia Couple Sentenced for Bilking Relatives

Friday, December 25, 2009

All She Wants For Christmas is Her Parents

All Denise Vozzella wants for Christmas is her two parents.

But the 54-year-old North Naples woman won’t be allowed to spend Christmas Day with them at Windsor Place assisted-living facility in Naples.

Harold A. Foy, a legal guardian assigned to care for her parents, who both suffer from dementia, has refused her request, which she outlined in a letter.

Denise Vozzella hasn’t seen 81-year-old Marcel Vozzella and her mother, Jacqueline, 83, since Dec. 1, when she was asked to leave after the guardian contended her visits upset her parents and Windsor Place staff, who don’t want her within 100 feet of the home without being accompanied by a legal guardian.

On Dec. 10, Foy filed an emergency petition, seeking an order to further restrict her two-hour, twice-weekly supervised visitations. He contended Denise Vozzella curses at nurses, aides, and other staff, repeatedly tells her parents she’s broke to get money, and that the guardian is trying to kick her out of their house and spending all their money.

Foy said her visits upset her parents and cause her father’s blood pressure to rise, so he wanted to temporarily eliminate visitation to “stabilize” their anxiety and “maintain” their health.

“I’ve taken care of them, bathed them, clothed them and fed them,” Vozzella testified, sobbing as she detailed the last 14 years. “... I promised my parents I would do everything I could to take care of them.”

Denise Vozzella testified they cry when she leaves. And her father doesn’t like a supervisor listening to their conversations and tries to get them to leave. She called the supervised visits unfair, noting these could be the last days of her parents’ lives.

“They should be at home with their daughter ... not with people who don’t love them,” Vozzella testified, her voice choking with emotion as she wiped away tears.

Full Article and Source:
North Naples Woman Says She's Being Denied Christmas With Parents in Nursing Home

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Sisters Bring Christmas Cheer to Wards of the State

While a Christmas present of plain white socks would prompt groans from any child, the gift brought a delighted smile to 72-year-old Samuel Reed.

A stunned Reed, whose thoughts and speech are slowed by a 2004 stroke and subsequent dementia, turned the package over in amazement.

“Good dog, y'all,” Reed said.

Then, suddenly, several women's hands flew in front of him, trying to gently pull the socks away from him. In their place, more gifts.

“There's more,” Twylah Jenkins told him as he sat in his wheelchair at the Beechnut Harbour nursing home. “Look at this,” urged Lashunda Walker.

The two were joined by their Zeta Phi Beta sorority sisters, all gleefully pulling out from the boxes things he needed but couldn't dare afford. All but $60 a month he receives in Social Security and other benefits goes to his care at the Beechnut Manor nursing home in southwest Houston.

From the gift boxes emerged a blanket, more socks and sweatpants the way he likes them, without elastic at the ankles. And then the one thing he wanted: a Navy winter jacket.

“I'll be,” he said, his eyes and smile widening. “You did real good here.”

While other groups concentrate on gift drives for children and nursing home residents, the Zeta Phi Beta sorority looked this year for a service project to help a group of individuals who literally have little more than a roof over their heads: adults who have been made wards of the state.

“They are the forgotten,” said Jenkins, president of the sorority's local chapter, which started their Adopt-A-Ward program this year.

These individuals have no close family or friends who can care for them. As a result, the probate courts take over, officially declaring them incapacitated and a guardian is appointed.

Full Article and Source:
Sorority Ensures Adult Wards Aren't Forgotten

Just What the World Needed...

For Sale: Scott Rothstein Toilet Paper

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Behind the Black Robes: Failed Justice

About the Book:
Behind the Black Robes: Failed Justice /is about a very serious problem, the need for court reform and the abolishment of judicial and quasi-judicial immunity.

Marinated with the makings of sizzle, the book is filled with the courts' tricks and traps for the unwary---to alert the readers both why their law cases failed and what must be done to effect court reform. Each chapter introduces the background of the subject of that chapter and then presents a series of illustrative anecdotes intended to teach the readers by example how to avoid those court tricks and traps people are likely to encounter in their existing or potential court cases.

About the Author:
Johnson lives life her way. An unconventional 74-year-old, she has long been a fierce advocate for fathers' rights in family courts. She is an outspoken critic of the Massachusetts court system, which she says is rife with corruption. In 2002, she ran a quixotic campaign for governor, campaigning in an antique fire truck and promising to use creativity, compassion, and a willingness to listen to the People to mend an ailing government. In 2006, Johnson was barred from practicing law in Massachusetts. "The disbarment by a kangaroo court was an effort to silence my criticism of the courts," she said, adding laughingly, "I'll have to write a series of judicial murder mysteries and kill off a judge in the prologue of every one." A newspaper wrote, "While we don't fully agree with either her politics or her methods, Johnson is a character in a humdrum world sorely in need of more characters. She's the thorn in the side, the thumbtack on the chair. . . . Johnson speaks her mind, and loudly."


Note: Also available through and

"The Biggest Swindle That Elder Abuse ...Has Handled"

A caretaker is accused of stealing as much as $3 million from a prominent local rheumatologist who also served as assistant dean at the Michigan State University Medical School.

Police believe it is the largest case of alleged financial exploitation ever investigated by the elder abuse task force.

Andrea R. Neil, 30, of Flint Township is accused of scamming Dr. Dorothy Mulkey, 73, of Flushing out of the funds after the doctor was diagnosed with dementia, said Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell.

Neil had worked as an office assistant for Mulkey’s private practice and was hired as her caretaker after her retirement in 2006.

“I expect it to be the biggest swindle that elder abuse ... has handled,” said Pickell.

Pickell said Mulkey was worth about $4 million when she retired and planned to leave those funds to the University of Michigan.

Now, about $3 million is missing, said Pickell.

In addition to the $2,200 weekly Mulkey paid Neil and her husband for care, Neil allegedly convinced Mulkey to cash in an IRA worth $898,000 — which cost Mulkey about $365,000 in penalties — so Neil and her husband could buy a home in California, Pickell said.

The couple also had $78,000 worth of precious metals and coins that belonged to the doctor in their home, said Pickell.

“I’m sure they would have taken this entire estate,” he said.

Mulkey now has a court-appointed guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Largest Elder Exploitation Case: Andrea Neil Allegedly Scammed as Much as $3 Million From Dorothy Mulkey, 73

Indicted County Judge Still Paid Salary

The LaPorte County judge suspended in May after being indicted has been getting paid ever since.

According to our reporting partners at the Herald Argus, the state has paid 34-year-old Jennifer Evans-Koethe almost $70,000 in salary since her suspension.

Evans-Koethe is facing criminal charges for obstruction of justice and judicial misconduct.

She's accused of lying about a shooting in her home last year.

If convicted, Evans-Koethe could be removed from the bench by the state Supreme Court.

Her trial will start in Lake County in January.

Full Article and Source:
LaPorte County Judge Still Paid Salary After Being Indicted

Britney Spears' Conservatorship Extended

Britney Spears will remain under the watchful eye of her father --

The judge didn't specify how long the conservatorship will remain in place, but lawyers involved in the matter tell TMZ they expect it to last somewhere between six months to a year.

Britney's dad, Jamie Spears, will continue to receive a $16,000-a-month payment for his duties. Andrew Wallet -- the co-conservator -- was also granted a $174,569.10 payment for services rendered between July 2009 and November 2009.

The judge also authorized Britney's conservatorship to kick out close to $300,000 in attorney's fees.

The next hearing is set for January 14th.

Full Article and Source:
Britney Spears Will Stay Put for Now

Editorial: Charities Will Suffer

Whoa! Whoa! People, we need to put things in perspective — right now. While the Sun Sentinel newspaper and others have been informing us in excruciating and mind-numbing detail about the disgusting horrors of Scott Rothstein's actions, on Nov. 26, we read articles that the Miami-Dade County senior judge directed that charities return monies that Rothstein donated to them within 10 days or face lawsuits.

After the charities scramble to return the money, we all know that it will sit in someone's bank account — for years — as the litigation process lumbers through the courts. To me, this information is like a call to action for us who merely read about this to stand up and make our feelings known.

There is absolutely no doubt that the money must be returned, but who are we hurting most in the rush to satisfaction? We are hurting the most vulnerable in our community. The evidence presented seems to show that Scott Rothstein got money via illegal means. At the same time, is there not someone out there who can inject some legal and charitable sanity into this almost rabid "clawback" demand? Stop with the maltreatment of our most vulnerable.

There should be dialogue with the charities to find less devastating ways to refund every penny. The charities, which always undergo fiscal scrutiny, should be given more breathing room to repay. The analogy is perfect for this situation: If they do not breathe, they die. So, by extension, who are "the suits" and "robes" hurting but those who can least afford it — especially at this time?

Full Editorial and Source:
Charities Will Suffer From Scott Rothstein's Antics

See Also:
Scott Rothstein Sued by Car Dealer

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Living Somewhere Between Hope and Despair

There has been no life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for my Mother and me because of the way her guardianship has been mishandled.

I was pulled away from my Mother just after my Father had passed away - after 60 years of marriage.

My Mother is denied her right to see her only living child who has taken care of her entire family over the last 30 years. Who could be a better advocate for my Mother than her daughter ?

Where are my Mother’s Human and Civil Rights as she sits alone in a nursing home - dying - when this is not necessary?

This whole case has been tainted by judicial and prosecutorial misconduct involving judges, attorneys and court officials showing us how greed and corruption shattered not only our financial world but the democracy in the court room. The court and state system are irretrievably broken.

There is a human story behind these court decisions and it needs to be told. I am my Mother’s daughter - tough and resolute - and I won’t stop until the truth comes out.

There is not one justifiable reason why this daughter has not seen her Mother in three years - broken court system, broken ombudsman program and broken state system - or not!

Helen Mogus

Why Wills Won't Work

Where will your money go?

Without reading this book, where will all your money go? Maybe not where you think. Traditional estate planning isn't as secure as you might think.

Wills, Revocable Living Trusts, Joint and Beneficiary Ownership don't work in today's world. Welcome to 21st century estate planning— SAFE Planning.

For most people who draw up a will, ensuring that their estate is secure for their spouse, children and grandchildren, or other family members is a top priority. However, while they may think they're taking care of their loved ones' future with the traditional planning a will offers, the reality is that down the line their designated heirs may never see a dime.

As Attorney and estate-planning expert Armond Budish explains in Why Wills Won't Work, good estate planning in the twenty-first century requires more than the old one-size-fits-all approach of filling out a few legal documents. In this book, he details his customized SAFE method — the only solution that will Safeguard Assets for your Family Exclusively. Beginning with an assessment quiz that helps readers determine their particular needs, risks, and goals, along with the options available, Why Wills Won't Work addresses:

•how to protect a child's inheritance in a divorce or settlement;
•the necessary steps to take now to avoid taxes later;
•how to safeguard an inheritance for grandchildren;
•how to keep probate court, creditors, and potential lawsuits from depleting an inheritance;
•how to plan in advance for a disabled child or one who can't manage money;
•what documents you really need; and
•how to choose a lawyer.


Gov. Crist: "I'll Return Donations"

With polls showing his U.S. Senate rival on his heels, Gov. Charlie Crist reversed course and said he would return all campaign donations from people who worked at alleged swindler Scott Rothstein's law firm in Fort Lauderdale.

In a meeting with the The Miami Herald's editorial board, Crist was asked about Republican Senate President Jeff Atwater's pledge to give back contributions -- not just from Rothstein himself but also from his associates at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.

"I am doing the same," Crist said. Later Friday, Crist's campaign said he was "in the process'' of returning $76,250 from 35 employees of Rothstein's firm.

Crist had previously returned money from Rothstein and his wife, but had refused to do the same with the money from the firm.

Full Article and Source:
I'll Return Donations From Scott Rothstein's Firm, Gov. Charlie Crist Says

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NASGA Affiliate Tom Fields Addresses Ohio Elder Abuse Commission

The YouTube videos shown below (shown in nine parts) present a complete, uncut, unedited 30-minute video from the September 21, 2009 Meeting of the Ohio Elder Abuse Commission that was recorded as part of a project conducted by the National Coalition of Aging (NCOA), the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC), and the international human rights group WITNESS, Inc.

It records a discussion of legal reforms needed to protect Alzheimer sufferers, stroke victims and others against fraud, undue influence and negligence when signing financial/legal documents (Wills, Trusts, Deeds, POAs etc.).

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 1

See Also:
YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 2

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 3

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 4

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 5

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 6

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 7

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 8

YouTube Video, Discussion of Proposed Legal Reforms, Part 9

Additional Links:
Minutes of the September 21, 2009 Meeting of the Ohio Attorney General Elder Abuse Commission

Mr. Fields' Handouts

Public Comments Regarding the Meeting

Tom Fields' Website: Infirmed Seniors, Elder Abuse, Estate Fraud and Legal Reform

Contact Tom Fields @

Anthony Marshall Sentenced to 1-3 years

Anthony D. Marshall, who was convicted of siphoning millions from his mother, Brooke Astor, was sentenced Monday to one to three years in prison.

Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. said Mr. Marshall, who is 85, must report to prison on Jan. 19.

The sentence was for the most serious of 14 counts on which Mr. Marshall was convicted: first-degree grand larceny, for giving himself a retroactive lump-sum raise of about $1 million for managing his mother’s finances. Justice Bartley also sentenced Mr. Marshall to one year on each of the 13 other charges he was convicted of, to run at the same time as the longer sentence.

If Mr. Marshall has a good record in prison, he is likely to serve roughly eight months behind bars. He showed no response as Justice Bartley read the sentence, although his wife, Charlene, was heard to sob from her seat in the courtroom.

Full Article and Source:
Brooke Astor's Son Sentenced to Prison

See Also:
Tony Marshall Sentencing Today

PoA Can Create Headaches

Have you agreed to serve as "power of attorney" for a close friend or relative if he or she becomes incapacitated?

If so, you might regret it.

I've endured untold hassles in this capacity. So I cheered when Stuart attorney William R. Ponsoldt Jr. obtained a $64,000 judgment against Bank of America for failing to honor a power of attorney agreement.

Bank of America has said it plans to appeal the Martin County Circuit Court decision in favor of Clarence H. Smith Jr.

This court suit, which began in 2007, illustrates problems if you take on this task — even though a durable power of attorney is a basic estate planning tool that virtually everybody needs. Financial institutions cite widespread fraud for their sometimes impossible requirements.

Under Florida law, a financial institution that "unreasonably" fails to honor the power of attorney is responsible for all the damages the person has sustained, according to Ponsoldt.

A bank may review the document to be sure it lets the power-holder do what he or she wants to do. Plus, it may seek identification, and demand an affidavit or written, notarized statement.

A financial institution in your local area may ask to view the original document.

However, requiring you to fill out its own form is "unreasonable" (in violation of Florida law), Ponsoldt contends.

Other acts by financial institutions that Ponsoldt says are "unreasonable" include requiring a new document, or to meet with the person who appointed you.

Full Article and Source:
Power of Attorney Can Create Headaches, So Know Your Rights"

Former DA Indicted

After presiding over Kimble County grand juries for three decades, former District Attorney Ron Sutton has been indicted there on two charges of misapplication of fiduciary property, a third-degree felony, officials said.

Sutton, lead prosecutor in the 198th judicial district from 1976 until last year, declined to comment when reached at his Junction home.

Special prosecutor Bill Turner said the indictment issued Wednesday concerns expenditures of seized funds for travel and staff bonuses, in “a continuing course of conduct,” from January 2002 until Dec. 31, 2008, when Sutton retired.

Sutton was served with arrest warrants at the Kimble County Jail Thursday afternoon, then booked and released on a personal recognizance bond, officials said.

Turner, the district attorney in Brazos County who was appointed special prosecutor on the case in August, said: “The investigation is complete, from our end.”

Sutton previously defended his use of the forfeiture account funded by seizures from criminal suspects, which statutes say must go for law enforcement purposes. He dismissed criticism as “much ado about nothing.”

Full Article and Source:
Former Hill County DA Indicted"

Monday, December 21, 2009

AZ Woman Could Use A Lot Less Court "Protection"

Marie Long was officially declared indigent by Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Lindsay Ellis.

Ellis ought to know. She's been there the whole time, presiding over the case of this 88-year-old lady who just four years ago was worth $1.3 million.

Ellis is the probate judge who stood by and did nothing as hundreds of thousands of dollars of Marie's money was drained away, much of it spent on guardian fees and lawyers. Marie's court-appointed attorney Jon Kitchel warned Ellis a year ago what was happening and practically begged her to do something about it.

Unfortunately, it took Ellis a year to consider Kitchel's request. By last month, when she finally got around to holding a hearing, the money was gone and the trustee and guardian – along with their attorneys -- were heading for the exit.

On Thursday, Ellis appointed a new guardian to look after Marie but announced that if she tries to sue to get any of the old lady's money back, she'll be taken off the case.

If this is what we call court protection of the vulnerable, I'm pretty sure that Marie could use a lot less of it.

Full Aricle and Source:
Old Lady Could Use A Lot Less Court "Protection"

County Official Charged With Theft, Exploitation

The Union County Director of Public Works, Recycling and Litter Control turned herself into authorities Friday afternoon. According to WBCU Radio in Union, Lisa Ward is charged with Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult and Theft of a Controlled Substance.

According to warrants obtained by the station, Ward allegedly took an elderly woman to a local doctor, received a prescription for hydrocodone, drove to a local pharmacy and filled the prescription. She then kept the hydrocodone.

The identity and connection of the elderly woman to Ward has not been released.

Full Article and Source:
Union County Official Charged with Theft, Exploitation of Vulnerable Adult

Tony Marshall Sentencing Today

If come Monday, Judge A. Kirke Bartley Jr. decides to sentence Tony Marshall, Brooke Astor's son, to prison for stealing from his mother, by law the 85 year old Marshall will have at least one year -- and as many as 25 years -- in the solitude of a jail cell (or hospital ward if his health is as precarious as his lawyer says it is) to contemplate where things went so wrong.

The People vs. Anthony Marshall and Francis Morrissey is a textbook case in how not to defraud your incredibly rich, famous and beloved mother's estate if you don't want to get caught.

Full Article and Source:
The People vs. Anthony Marshall and Francis Morrissey: The Butler Gives Notice

Facing 38 Charges of Grand Theft & Financial Elder Abuse

A Utah man was arrested by California authorities, who worked for more than a year to secure his return from the Republic of the Philippines to face charges for allegedly taking $270,000 in annuity distributions from a senior citizen.

Donald Martin Steffensen, 70, of Saint George, Utah, was recently arrested by California Department of Insurance (CDI) investigators and members of the Madera County District Attorney’s Office.

Steffensen faces 38 felony counts of grand theft and financial elder abuse.

California insurance department investigators learned that Steffensen, between 2002 and 2005, used his position of trust as a life agent for a senior citizen (now deceased) to embezzle and convert for his own use more than $270,000 from an annuity owned by the senior. Authorities say some of the annuity distributions were allegedly stolen by Steffensen after his victim had passed away.

Full Article and Source:
Former Utah Life Insurance Agent Returned to U.S. to Face 38 Charges

Florida Woman Charged With Exploitation

A Gainesville woman was arrested on charges of exploiting an 84-year-old dementia patient by taking $2,700 from him.

According to an arrest report by Gainesville police Officer Matthew Goeckel, on Dec. 8 Powell convinced the elderly man that if he gave her $2,700, she would use the money to pay a bill on his behalf.

Powell is accused of driving the victim to his bank, where he withdrew the money. She then apparently drove him to the Thomas Center at 306 N.E. Sixth Ave. Powell reportedly told the man that she would go inside and pay the bill.

The man's son discovered what had happened and called police. Powell reportedly confessed while being questioned and told Goeckel that she spent the money on herself and her children.

Full Article and Source:
Gainesville Woman Charged With Exploiting Dementia Patient

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jeffrey Gordon Butler Victims Give Impact Statements

The sentencing for a San Juan Capistrano man convicted of bilking 124 elderly investors of more than $11 million in a Ponzi scheme will continue Jan. 4 in Orange County Superior Court.

Jeffrey Gordon Butler, 51, was convicted in June of 694 felony counts of stealing from elderly investors through the illegal sale of unqualified securities and filing false tax returns, according to court records. The case is considered one of the largest elder-abuse cases in the history of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

His wife, Peggy Warmath Butler, 49, was convicted of one felony count of aiding another in the preparation of a false tax return and three counts of filing false tax returns. She is being sentenced simultaneously.

Sentencing started Friday, but it is taking multiple days partly because of the number of defrauded investors who made victim-impact statements.

Senior Deputy District Attorney William Overtoom said the case was about "fraud, deceit and lies."

"The part I think is most important is who he was targeting each and every time," he said.

Most of the victims, the majority of them over 70 and the eldest 100 from Fullerton, lost their life savings, Overtoom said. About 59 of them have passed away.

Overtoom asked the judge to impose some prison time for each victim who lost money.

Judge Stotler started imposing sentence on Jeffrey Butler on Tuesday afternoon, but the sentencing hearing is scheduled to continue Jan. 4 and may take several days.

"I'm asking the judge to make an order that the defendants repay each victim with interest from the day of the loss," Overtoom said. "That is the next argument to come."

Jeffrey Butler has been at Orange County Men's Jail since being arrested at his home in February 2006. He is being held in lieu of $10 million bail. Peggy Butler was released after posting $150,000 bail.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Victims Confront Man Who Ran $11 Million Dollar Fraud

Indicted for Felony Abuse of Vulnerable Adult

A Brandon resident has been indicted by a Hinds County Grand Jury for felony abuse of a vulnerable adult, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Scott Roberson, age 51, was indicted in Hinds County on one count of felony abuse of a vulnerable adult. He is set for arraignment on January 8, 2010, before Judge Swan Yerger. Roberson is currently being held in Rankin County on unrelated charges.

If found guilty, Roberson could face up to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and up to $10,000 in fines.

This case was investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Unit of the Attorney General’s Office.

Full Article and Source:
Brandon Man Indicted for Abuse of Vulnerable Adult

Couple Charged With $138K Theft

A Lakeland couple is accused of stealing more than $138,000 from an elderly woman with dementia.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested Jo Marie and Eric Weeks, accusing them of taking advantage of Jo Marie Weeks' 88-year-old aunt, Lelia Boyd of Winter Haven.

During a first appearance hearing for the couple Tuesday, Polk County Judge Robert L. Williams Jr. set bail at $150,000 for each of them.

They face charges of elderly exploitation, swindling or obtaining property of $50,000 or more, and theft of $50,000 or more from a person 65 years old or older.

Arrest reports provide the following account:

Jo Marie Weeks, 32, was serving as power of attorney for her aunt and was able to write checks from her aunt's bank account.

In October 2008, she moved her aunt from a Missouri assisted-living facility to another facility in Winter Haven.

"Since this move, Mrs. Weeks was suspected of buying a new vehicle, expensive presents and moving into a new home," reports state.

Deputies began investigating in January 2009 after the Florida Department of Children & Families reported suspicions of elderly exploitation. A court-appointed guardian for Lelia Boyd provided financial records to investigators showing Jo Marie Weeks had made checks payable to herself and her husband throughout 2008.

Deputies were also provided depositions in which Jo Marie Weeks spoke about using her aunt's money to purchase a 2008 Chevrolet Suburban and pay rent for her family's residence at 5971 Charloma Drive in Lakeland.

Full Article and Source:
Couple Charged in $138K From Elderly Woman

Accused of Exploiting 91-Year-Old

A 61-year-old man was arrested, accused of exploiting a 91-year-old Alzheimer's patient for whom he had power of attorney.

Donald R. Stewart Jr. was arrested by a Pasco County Sheriff's Office detective on a charge of exploitation of the elderly.

Stewart, according to sheriff's office reports, used the woman's money since July to pay his bills, including his electric, utilities, cable and credit card bills. He spent $6,000 on her Discover Card without her permission and transferred more than $18,000 from her bank account to his, according to reports.

When questioned, Stewart told a detective he's known the woman for seven or eight years and met her through her boyfriend who died. He said he was her power of attorney and handles all of her business for her.

The woman is in a retirement home and when a detective tried to question her it was clear she wasn't in any mental condition to respond. She said she didn't know who Stewart was, according to the report.

Full Article and Source:
Police Say Man Exploited Woman With Alzheimer's

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Family Members Speak Out in Harvey Case

Sara Harvey has been battling with Chemung County over legal guardianship of her husband, Gary, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2006 fall.

State Supreme Court Judge Robert Mulvey determined that Sara Harvey was not a suitable guardian for her husband, and designated the county as legal guardian instead.

Since that time, Sara Harvey has been restricted to supervised visits only with her husband following several unusual incidents, according to county attorney Bryan Maggs.

At the same time, Sara Harvey claims Gary has received inadequate care in the county nursing facility and later St. Joseph's Hospital. She is pursuing legal action to win guardianship and bring him home.

But other members of Gary Harvey's family now say that Sara Harvey is slanting the story, and that it's time for the public to know the whole truth.

"It's all about Sara, not what my dad would want. He would not want this to be publicized like this," said Heather Harvey of Elmira, Gary Harvey's daughter from a previous marriage. "If she actually loved him, she would put what he wants first.
"We're very happy with his care. I appreciate the nursing staff and doctors," Heather Harvey said. "We believe he's gotten the best care he can. I just want what's best for him. It's all about him."

Full Article and Source:
Family Members Speak Out in Dispute of Treatment of Comatose Man

If Apathy Wins in Corruption Fight, We All Lose

So much for masses with pitchforks storming the Broward Governmental Center and screaming, "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore."

To get a sense of the apathy that has allowed corruption to flourish across South Florida, all you needed to do was count the audience at the latest meeting of the Broward Ethics Commission on Wednesday.

It only took one hand.

Just four members of the public turned out, and that's including the executive director of the Broward Workshop, a business group that's been monitoring the proceedings.

The temporary ethics panel, approved by voters last year, is crafting new guidelines for county government. Its recommendations will be sent to the County Commission in March. If the County Commission doesn't enact them voters will get final say in the fall.

Only two citizens spoke on Wednesday. One was from Palm Beach County.

The sole Broward resident to give his two cents -- Jim Weldon, 74, of Fort Lauderdale, a retired union official who has lived in South Florida since 1957.

"There ought to be more people here," Weldon said afterward. "This goes to the heart of faith in government."

"We have a public corruption crisis in the state," said Latour Lafferty, an attorney from Tampa and former Florida Ethics Commissioner who wants to see stronger state ethics rules. "I think people are fed up. They're ready to say we want more and we expect more."

But judging by the empty seats and chirping crickets at county hall on Wednesday, don't be surprised if we get more of the same.

Full Article and Source:
If Apathy Wins in Corruption Fight, We'll All Lose

Lawyer Accused of Theft

An Amarillo attorney is accused of bilking a dozen clients out of at least $200,000.

A Randall County grand jury recently indicted David Neal Duncan, 40, who practiced law and lived in Amarillo, but now lists a Lakeview address. It's the latest in a series of criminal charges against the attorney since 2008.

Randall County Criminal District Attorney James Farren said Wednesday that additional charges could be possible as the investigation progresses.

According to the indictment, Duncan is alleged to have stolen money from 12 people.

"The people that are listed (in the indictment) are clients," he said. "They are people we are alleging had the right to those funds."

In August, Duncan was indicted for allegedly stealing more than $20,000 from a woman; the same woman also was listed in the Dec. 7 indictment. That same month, Duncan was charged with forgery after he allegedly added his name to a $100,000 check presented to Happy State Bank.

Prosecutors also are seeking to have revoked a deferred sentence of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Duncan was given 10 years' deferred adjudication in April for hitting a man with his hand and "repeatedly" slamming the unconscious man's head into a concrete floor at a PetSmart in 2008.

Duncan also is serving three years' federal probation for taking a gun into Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport in his luggage in February. It was the second time he was detained for carrying a weapon there.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Accused of Theft

Former Conservator Could Get 5 Years

A Torrington woman embezzled thousands of dollars when she worked as a health aid and a conservator could be sentenced up to five years in prison for her crimes.

Audrey Curtis, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree larceny, one count of second-degree larceny and possession of marijuana in Litchfield Superior Court on Tuesday. Curtis held back tears as Judge James P. Ginocchio discussed the plea agreement, in which Curtis faces between 18 months and five years in prison with five years probation. She is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26. and the judge said based on his review of the file, Curtis could “very well” get the five-year sentence.

Curtis reportedly admitted to police that while she served as a conservator for a 73-year-old Goshen woman, she liberally used the woman’s bank accounts to pay her own bills and fund a lifestyle that included drugs, gambling and tattoo parties.

It’s the second time Curtis has been arrested for stealing from an estate. She also stole from the estate of her deceased ex-boyfriend forging his name and taking $35,650 his estate. “None of that money is going to be returned,” Gallo said.Curtis also stole several items amounting to $5,562.58 from a bar she leased in Torrington which she admitted doing later, Gallo told the court.

Full Article and Source:
Embezzler Pleads Guilty, Could Get Five Years in Jail

See Also:
No Deal

Friday, December 18, 2009

Family of Terri Schiavo Support Sara Harvey

Family of Terri Schiavo Join Custody Fight

See Also:
Schiavo Family Supports Sara Harvey

A Probate Matter: Who Should Speak?

Who should make the life-or-death decision for Girts Zukovs, a 33-year-old Latvian immigrant who lies in a permanent vegetative state in Hartford Hospital?

Zukovs, critically injured in a motorcycle accident last summer and comatose since his surgery went awry shortly after that, has little chance of recovery.

Should it be a girlfriend from years ago, a woman who has already hired lawyers to sue in a potential malpractice case — and who has said she wants Zukovs shipped back to Latvia, where hospitals say they are unable to care for him?

Or should it be his mother and sister, who live overseas, but who bitterly oppose the ex-girlfriend, Hartford Hospital and the cabal of lawyers crowding around this potentially lucrative case?

It seems clear to me. The courts should respect the family in a life-or-death situation like this.

The question is now before probate court, where Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian will attempt to sort out the mess that began when Zukovs' motorcycle collided with a car last June 25.

These are the sort of life-and-death decisions that come before probate. It's why the legislature and Gov. Rell did the right thing this year when they required that new judges (but not the old ones!) be lawyers and receive professional training. But it also illustrates why more needs to be done: judges should be appointed based on merit, like Superior Court judges, not elected.

Full Article and Source:
A Probate Matter: Who Should Speak For A Comatose Latvian Immigrant?

Guardianship Abuse in Australia

The Guardianship Board of any state or country has been mandated by law to help protect the vulnerable seniors. Unfortunately, there have been so many cases of mismanagement, fraud and acts of injustice perpetrated by these so called “protectors of the elderly” that it is beyond belief.

In the USA, many family members of those who experienced this sort of abuses, had to resort to putting up a web site to tell their experiences. There is even a National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

Media do not find this sort of cases “sexy” enough to want to write about.

There are no Guardianship Abuse in Australia?

WRONG! It is just that the country do not want to acknowledge that such cases exist in their sunny country.

Blog Source:
Guardianship Abuse: Who Guards the Guardians, 12/15/2009

Charged With Felony Theft by Swindle

Kathy Ann Weimar was supposed to take care of two sisters, ages 90 and 79.

Instead, she used their debit and credit cards to pay her bills and withdraw cash and wrote extravagant checks on their accounts to herself and to pay a friend to do maintenance and repairs on their townhouse, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.

Weimar, 52, of Oakdale, is charged with one count of felony theft by swindle. The criminal complaint said she took more than $17,000 from the sisters while serving as a home health-care aide. Her first court appearance is Jan. 6.

"That is just not true at all," Weimar said Friday. "All those things went to them. They gave me that card to use. The money that was taken out was used to replace a deck on their townhouse. They wanted it before winter."

Full Article and Source:
Oakdale Health Care Worker Charged With Bilking Elderly Sisters

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Investigation Discovery Documentary Airs Tonight: "The Will: Family Secrets Revealed"


Steeped in circumstances, legal complexities and raw family emotion, a will has the ability to tear families apart or bring them together. In THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED, Investigation Discovery invites viewers on an emotional and intimate journey as the final wishes of the deceased are revealed to the family members left behind. Expressed in dollars and cents, heirlooms and even last words of wisdom, a person's will is often a telling reflection of what they perceived of their loved ones. But, what happens when there's room for interpretation to the final will? Or worse - what if a person leaves no will at all?

Presenting a unique documentary that explores family intrigue and legal wrangling, Investigation Discovery will air a pilot of THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED on Thursday, December 17 at 9 PM ET.

"As we continue to expand the scope of ID's investigative programming, THE WILL: FAMILY SECRETS REVEALED examines the compelling stories of family dynamics in the wake...of a wake," said Henry Schleiff, president and general manager, Investigation Discovery. "We believe this show, along with future episodes, will allow us to explore explores a part of the human condition often overlooked in both life and death - greed."

Full Article and Source:
The Will: Family Secrets Revealed

Backlogged Court Calendars Can be Treated as Judicial Misconduct

The state's top court ruled Tuesday that backlogged court calendars can be treated as judicial misconduct, ordering a hearing for a former Kingston City Court judge who was publicly reprimanded by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct this year.

The decision by the Court of Appeals said a judge's failure to move cases in a timely way is primarily something for administrators to correct. But the decision also said, “it is not workable to exclude completely the possibility of more formal discipline for such behavior, in cases where the delays are lengthy and without valid excuse.”

Kingston City Court Judge James Gilpatric's lawyer, James E. Long, said he welcomes the hearing before the state commission, adding that “we're confident that we will show that he didn't commit misconduct.” But he predicted the decision will have serious consequences in other cases, because delays that were once resolved by an administrator could lead to allegations of misconduct.

“It basically opens the floodgates for the commission to investigate judges,” he said. “Each case is going to require a hearing.”

Full Article and Source:
Appeals Court Orders Hearing for Kingston Judge Who Was Reprimanded for Court Backlogs

Alleged $1.9 Mil Scheme Targeting Elderly

Federal prosecutors are seeking more than $1.9 million from a Trenton man who they say gained the money through a Ponzi scheme that targeted elderly people.

Lavern Huelsmann, 44, was indicted on charges of mail fraud and engaging in a financial transaction in excess of $10,000 from property derived from mail fraud.

The indictment accuses Huelsmann of selling fraudulent investments to elderly people. The charges were issued by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis.

The charges contain a forfeiture allegation, seeking $1.93 million in "funds representing the value of criminally obtained proceeds."

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.

According to the indictment, Huelsmann has been operating under the business named Senior Retirement Services and was licensed to sell only approved life insurance and fixed-annuity products.

He allegedly convinced elderly people to invest in a "cash management account" with Senior Retirement Services, but didn't tell them he was the owner of Senior Retirement Services.

Full Article and Source:
Trenton Man Faces Fraud Charges; $1.9 Million Scheme Targeted the Elderly

Charged With Embezzlement and Elder Abuse of Brother

A Mid-Michigan woman is facing charges after she was accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from an ailing family member and using the cash for everything from vet bills to lawyer fees.

Authorities said [78-year old Donald] Turpin suffers from dementia and relies solely on others to take care of his needs.

Detectives with the Genessee County Elder Abuse task force said they have gathered box after box of evidence against Donald’s sister, 66-year-old Mt. Morris resident Mary Jo Davis.

Davis is facing 18 counts of embezzlement, 15 counts of fraud and one count of vulnerable adult abuse.

Investigators said she siphoned anywhere between $100,000 and $1.4 million from her ailing brother over a period of 10 years.

Full Article and Source:
Mt. Morris Woman Charged With Elder Abuse

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Schiavo Family Supports Sara Harvey

The family of Terry Schiavo, the comatose Florida woman whose case drew national attention, is intervening on behalf of a Chemung County resident whose husband is in a similar state.

Sara Harvey of Horseheads has been battling with Chemung County over guardianship of her husband, Gary, who suffered a severe brain injury in a 2006 fall.

Schiavo was at the center of a legal battle between her husband, Michael, who said he wanted her to die with dignity, and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who wanted her to be kept alive.

Schiavo died in March 2005 after she was disconnected from life support.

Monday, Mary Schindler and Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler visited Gary Harvey at St. Joseph's Hospital and said they would offer Sara any support they could.

"We're looking out for the best interest of Sara. She wants to bring her husband home," Bobby Schindler said.

"She wants guardianship of her husband, and it doesn't make sense to us or her why she's being denied that right, and why they've taken away her visitation rights and won't allow her to visit her husband.

"It's horrible how they're treating this woman when she simply wants to care for her husband," he said.

Full Article and Source:
Schiavo Family Supports Horseheads Woman's Battle for Guardianship of Comatose Husband

"Procedural Issue" in Lokuta Case

A state discipline court left attorneys for former Judge Ann H. Lokuta with two options Monday: refile a brief accusing her prosecutors of keeping a witness' misconduct complaint and criminal investigation secret, or save the allegations for a potential appeal.

Those choices manifested after the state Court of Judicial Discipline volleyed the brief back to Lokuta's attorneys Monday because they had submitted it without the court's "authorization."

The court was acting to enforce a haphazardly applied rule that requires attorneys to obtain the court's permission before making certain filings, Lokuta's attorney, George Michak, said.

Lokuta's attorneys filed their brief last Friday - five weeks after the court began deliberating whether to return Lokuta to the Luzerne County bench.

"It's a procedural issue," Michak said. "It's not a decision on the merits, and it's not a setback by any stretch."

Lokuta and her attorneys will spend "a day or two" considering whether to refile the brief with the necessary permission or use it as ammunition for an appeal if the court denies her reinstatement.

Full Article and Source:
Court: Lokuta Lawyers Not Authorized to Submit Filing

See Also:
Shocking Fraud in Lokuta Case

98-Year-Old Woman Charged with Murder

Charges have been filed in connection with a September death at a Dartmouth nursing home.

Laura Lundquist, 98, the victim's roommate, was charged with second degree murder.

In September, 100-year-old Elizabeth Barrow was found dead in her bed during a routine check of patients at the Brandon Woods Nursing Home. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was strangulation and suffocation.

[District Attorney] Sutter said he wrestled with whether he should bring murder charges against a 98-year-old woman, but in the end, believes it is the right thing to do.

"We're confident those were the right decisions. They were made after great thought and great deliberation.

Sutter said the defendant has a history of paranoia and dementia, so the murder could not have been premeditated, a prerequisite for a first degree murder charge.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd MacDonald ordered that Lundquist be sent to Taunton State Hospital for a competency evaluation prior to being arraigned.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Woman Charged In Nursing Home Murder

Appellate Court Upholds Fee Awards

A probate court had authority to charge approximately $226,000 in attorney fees generated defending a trustee’s proposed sale of an asset solely against the shares of the minority of beneficiaries who brought the challenge in bad faith, the Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

Reasoning that a Kern County judge had the equitable power to make the award, the court on Thursday upheld an order reducing the shares of three beneficiaries who sought to keep the trustee from closing the $48 million sale of a ranch on time.

Kern Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tafoya made the award against Philip Rudnick, Robert Rudnick and Milton Rudnick after concluding it was unfair to burden the majority of beneficiaries who approved the sale by a vote of 60 percent.

The three beneficiaries claimed that the Rudnick Estates Trust’s principal asset—the 68,000-acre Onyx Ranch, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just outside of Bakersfield—was worth substantially more than $48 million, that the trustee violated his fiduciary duty and that the transaction violated the terms of the RET.

But Tafoya determined that their opposition was primarily for the purpose of causing unnecessary delay and in bad faith.

The case is Rudnick v. Rudnick, 09 S.O.S. 6928.

Full Article and Source:
Court of Appeal Upholds Fee Award Against Disgruntled Beneficiaries

Courtney Love's Daughter in Guardianship

The only daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love has been placed in a temporary guardianship. A Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner granted control over Frances Bean Cobain, 17, to Kurt Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor, and his sister Kimberly Dawn Cobain.

The court filing does not mention Love or give a reason for the guardianship. Geraldine Wyle, the lawyer handling the case for the mother and sister, called it a private family matter and said no other comment would be issued.

Full Article and Source:
Cobain Guardianship