Saturday, April 18, 2009

Secrets In America

Elder Abuse is Taking a Tragic Toll on Seniors

From big cities to small towns, seniors are vulnerable to physical, emotional and financial abuse. Experts estimate there up to 2 million cases of abuse each year in the U.S, and with the number of seniors in the United States estimated to grow to more than 70 million by the year 2030. Seniors are at great risk.

Secrets in America brings you experts from across the United States and people whose lives have been forever changed as a result of this crime.

Secrets In America - The Crisis of Elder Abuse

Attorneys Detail Case

When Monrovia fire Capt. Fernando Rodriguez killed his wife and then himself in June 2006, the couple had about $750,000 in inheritance money for their three children. In a suicide note, Rodriguez said he wanted his friends, Richard and Yvonne Reyes, who he met through his kids' youth sports, to raise the children.

The deceased mother's family agreed, as did an attorney for the children. The Reyeses were granted temporary guardianship of the children in September 2006.

Over the next 18 months, the Reyeses used the children's $750,000 inheritance - from their parents' pension benefits, life insurance and Social Security - as a personal discretionary fund, said Casey Hull, an attorney who represents Fernando Rodriguez's parents.

In single visits to the bank, Richard and Yvonne Reyes would withdraw tens of thousands of dollars in cash from the kids' accounts, Hull said.

By last June or July, the $750,000 was all but drained.

The Reyeses have refused to answer questions about what happened to the money.

When they were hauled into court on it, they basically said they had no more left.

Prosecutors charged Richard Reyes with seven felony counts, including three counts of grand theft and two counts each of forgery and using a forged instrument for filing. Yvonne Reyes is charged with three counts of grand theft.

Full Article and Source:
Attorneys detail alleged RC theft

See also:
Theft of Guardianship Funds

CPS Overruled Efforts

Two attorneys tasked with managing the FLDS child-custody case severed their ties with the state after being overruled in their efforts to terminate the parental rights of Warren Jeffs and other residents of the polygamous YFZ Ranch.

Charles G. Childress and Jeff Schmidt in separate interviews described frustration with the state's Child Protective Services agency that led both men to leave the case.

As the state's investigation continued, both men said they saw evidence to warrant filing motions seeking termination of parental rights on a number of cases - at least 10 and perhaps more, the attorneys said.

Instead, they said, they were overruled by leaders of the Department of Family and Protective Services, which runs the agency.

Full Article and Source:
Attorneys: CPS overruled efforts to end rights for some FLDS parents

See also:
CPS Drops Case

Stealing From Patients

NC – Police need help identifying a woman caught on a surveillance camera stealing from hospital patients.

Police say the woman has been walking into rooms at Carolinas Medical Center and other hospitals taking credit cards and other possessions from patients.

If you know who she is, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Woman accused of stealing from hospital patients

Guardianship Taught Me ---

--- to mistrust people.

--- to disrespect attorneys and judges.

--- to feel threatened.

--- to believe that Nazism does exist.

No Conservatorship for Falk

A judge refused to establish a conservatorship for Peter Falk, but has scheduled testimony to decide whether court intervention is necessary to allow visits between the ailing actor and his daughter.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aviva K. Bobb scheduled an evidentiary hearing on May 27 to try to determine how close the "Columbo" star was to his adopted daughter, Catherine, before falling ill.

For much of the hearing, Bobb seemed inclined to rule against Catherine Falk and allow the actor's wife of more than 32 years to continue to manage his care and affairs.

Full Article and Source:
Judge leans against Falk conservatorship

See also:
Conservatorship Spat Continues

Judgement Against Seller of Living Trusts

Shortly after certifying a class action against The Estate Plan, a company accused of preying on senior citizens in Texas and Arkansas, U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes granted plaintiffs a default judgment for more than $16 million.

The Estate Plan and other living trust sellers are facing allegations of "masquerading as qualified financial advisers, estate planners, lawyers, and paralegals" to "exploit and prey" upon senior citizens with the creation and selling of "unnecessary and often useless" living trusts.

The original class action was filed against 12 defendants in the Circuit Court of Miller County, Ark., on Dec. 19, 2007, and transferred to the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas on Feb. 5, 2008.

Plaintiffs allege the defendants created and sold living trusts as part of a scheme to gain access to senior citizens' financial information in order to then sell annuities and other financial products.

Defendants are accused of fraud, unauthorized practice of law, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy.

One of the defendants, The Estate Plan, was severed from the original lawsuit on June 12, 2008, after failing to answer the complaint which resulted in the default judgment.

The final judgment orders The Estate Plan to pay approximately $2.5 million in compensatory damages, $10 million in exemplary damages, $4.16 million in attorney fees, non -taxable costs, and post-judgment interest.

Full Article and Source:
$16 M default judgment entered against seller of living trust

Friday, April 17, 2009

Probate Court Guardian Charged

Police say a 37-year-old woman serving as a guardian appointed by the probate court is being charged with embezzlement.

Montpelier police says Debbie Hickory used more than $13,000 designated for a ward of the court for her own use.

Full Article and Source:
Probate court guardian facing embezzlement charge

Intense Personal Reactions

The Herald received intensively personal reactions to the story about how the guardian system works. They used the case of William Nagle.

Attorney Bob McKinley represents the corporate guardian for William Nagle, Chippewa Family Services, Inc. of Chippewa Falls. He thought it was unfair mentioning his client in the same story that also mentioned the Minnesota case. "There are abuses in the system. The problem in this case is not the guardian."

A woman who identified herself as Chuck’s sister: "My problem is the way you presented the information about Chuck being barred from any communications with CFS makes it appear as though all of the Nagle family behave childishly. That is soooooooo far from the truth. Chuck is the only one behaving in an irrational and childish manner."

A man identifying himself as Chuck’s brother: "Chuck Nagle’s statement that ‘family members couldn’t agree what should happen next’ could have been better stated that he didn’t agree with other family members’ agreed-upon plan."

But the article was always intended to be more than what he and the Nagle family have encountered dealing with the courts and each other.

Wisconsin’s guardian system is a secret system designed to protect the vulnerable. But it is secrecy that carries a price.

There are good and bad guardians. But families of people being protected by the secret system deserve more than a once-a-year disclosure of how their loved ones’ finances are being spent.

Guardians should be required to provide an accounting to the courts of how the money is being spent at least twice a year, if not quarterly.

A better accounting by guardians of the initial assessment of the vulnerable person’s assets is also necessary, so that potential financial problems would become apparent early on in the process.

Full Article and Source:
Column: Personal reactions follow guardian story

See also:
Pitfalls of The Guardian System

More information:
The court's answer to a family feud is a forced guardianship/conservatorship!
Stop Guardian Abuse - An Open Door

Trading Crooks

In 1997 my mother just wanted nothing to do with me.

I am an only child and she is an only child.

She surrounded herself with nothing but a set of crooks and people that she never liked.

So I took her into court.

All I did was trade one set of crooks for another.

The conservator had me barred from the house.

She had a housekeeper that took my mother to a check cashier and then stole a check that was going to the house.

I spent a lot of money to protect my mother.

I had to protect my mother against the crooks and the people representing the courts.

I did legally fight the conservator and got her money cut by 75 percent.

However, this was very costly and my life was just put on hold.

I will never be the same person.

Fierce Fight Over Multimillionaire Will

Harvey Strother was a multimillionaire with a small empire of car dealerships, but when his mistress wheeled him into his lawyer's office to change his will one last time, he was a wine-soaked shell of his former self.

Less than a month from death, he was chugging a gallon and a half of wine each day, court records say. But his mistress, Anne Melican, contends he knew what he was doing when he changed his will in December 2003 to guarantee her about $6 million of his $37 million estate, including a condo in Cape Cod, Mass., and boat slip in Marco Island, Fla.

The last-minute changes are the focus of a fierce legal fight involving some of Georgia's most powerful attorneys. On Monday it landed before the Georgia Supreme Court for the second time.

A two-week trial in July 2008 satisfied no one. The jury sided with Melican on two of the three amendments and with Strother's family on the third. Both sides appealed, leading to Monday's return trip to the state's top court, where they sparred over the finer points of Georgia estate law.

Full Article and Source:
Millionaire's mistress battles his kin over estate

Wanted on Aggravated Sexual Assault

TX - Crime Stoppers is rewarding up to $5,000 for tips leading to the arrest of a 48-year-old man wanted on child-related charges.

Marcus Paul Jones is wanted on Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and Indecency with a Child charges, according to a Crime Stoppers statement. Charges were filed against him after Harris County detectives investigated allegations he inappropriately touched and sexually assaulted a then 6-year-old boy.

The boy, who is now 14, allegedly told investigators the incidents occurred on several occasions, according to the statement.

Jones is described as a white male with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. His last known address is near the 13000 block of Woodforest Boulevard in Houston.

Anyone with information regarding Jones' whereabouts is encouraged to call the Crime Stoppers hot line at 713-222-8477 or submit an online tip at

All tipsters remain anonymous.

Man Wanted on Child Sex Assault Charge

Too Many Placed in Foster Care

A task force has concluded the same thing several judges have been saying about Michigan's child welfare system: The state is too quick to permanently terminate parental rights, throwing too many children into foster care. That was among the deficiencies cited in a draft report by the Michigan Child Welfare Task Force.

The task force, established by Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed, said a disproportionate level of state funding goes to programs such as foster care or group living that pull children from their homes. Not enough is being spent on programs to quell abuse or delinquency.

Judge Kenneth Tacoma: "The foster care system can't handle the influx of additional children made "legal orphans" under a 1996 law change that increased parental terminations."

Judge Milton Mack and others have recommend that terminations be slowed and judges be given more discretion. Judges should be able to appoint temporary guardians, they say, and if the parents can be rehabilitated, the children could be returned to them.

Full Article and Source:
Too many children are unnecessarily placed in foster care

Thursday, April 16, 2009


National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse

For immediate release

April 16, 2009
For more information contact:
Annie McKenna
NASGA Media Liaison

National Healthcare Decisions Day
April 16, 2009

Today is a day devoted to truth, reality, protection and intimacy.

The truth is: every one of us will be physically or mentally vulnerable at some point in our lifetime. We don’t want to think about it for ourselves, or even worse, for our cherished parents, grandparents, or even our children.

The reality is: we are all human beings who, despite our best efforts to stay young and/or healthy, will one day have to face the inevitable.

When that happens, we may not be able to speak for ourselves or even make our wishes known; and we could even be totally helpless.

Today, National Healthcare Decisions Day, should remind you of the opportunity to arrange for future protection to avoid the day when that will not be possible.

“Aging With Dignity” ( offers “Five Wishes” – an intimate discussion with your family/loved ones, and physician - of your personal, emotional, spiritual and medical needs, stating specifically:
1. Which person you want to make health care decisions for you when
you can't make them;
2. The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want;
3. How comfortable you want to be;
4. How you want people to treat you; and
5. What you want your loved ones to know.

NASGA is a civil rights organization comprised of victims and families working to expose and end unlawful and abusive guardianships/conservatorships. Uncaring or corrupt courts have rendered many of our members powerless to protect their loved ones at their end of life. They have been shut out of medical decisions and medical records; unable to free their loved ones from forced incarceration in nursing homes and forced chemical restraints. And they have been fighting tirelessly for their loved ones’ rights and liberties, most often to no avail.

While our members know firsthand that executed advance directives are often disregarded in favor of unlawful and abusive guardianship/conservatorships, nonetheless, it is for that very reason we attempt to educate people that they must take every preventive measure to protect themselves for the future. We must do this for ourselves and our family members.

NASGA wholeheartedly endorses “Five Wishes” on this important day, and we hope people of all generations will honor their family and caregivers with an intimate discussion of their own “Five Wishes.”

For more information on unlawful and abusive guardianships/conservatorships, visit NASGA’s website at and the NASGA blog at

See also:
National Healthcare Decisions Day

Lawyer Agrees to Repay Estate

A lawyer who has refused to account for his use of a deceased person's money agreed to pay back $63,075 missing from the estate.

John F. Pawloski is "very upset about what happened, and contrite," his attorney, Jim Williams said. Pawloski did not appear with Williams in court, and when reached by phone, he declined to comment.

Pawloski was administrator of the estate when the money went missing. Williams would not say what Pawloski did with the missing money.

Another Pawloski attorney, Van-Lear Eckert, has said that accounting for the use of the funds in that case, one other estate case, and a guardianship case would violate Pawloski's Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. He has appealed a judge's demand that he do so anyway.

The appeal is pending in the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

Williams said Pawloski has entered a repayment program for the $63,075, but he would not say how long he has to pay back the money.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer repays $63,075 to estate of deceased man

See also:
Lawyer Appeals Judge's Demand

Ten Days to Produce Documents

John Pawloski Case

Lawyer Says Ward Can Testify

A lawyer who previously attempted to get Britney Spears out of her conservatorship has asked for the pop star to appear in court on his behalf, now that he has been targeted with a restraining order by the singer’s conservatorship.

Jon J. Eardley filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court asking that the pop star appear at an April 21 hearing in Los Angeles.

A judge previously granted the conservatorship’s request for a restraining order against Eardley, Spears’ former manager Sam Lutfi and ex-boyfriend, paparazzo Adnan Ghalib.

In his latest filing, Eardley suggests that because Spears is able to appear at several concerts in Los Angeles later this week, she is well enough to submit to a deposition, despite being under a conservatorship.

The filing reads: “If Britney Spears is well enough to put on two concerts in Los Angeles, she is certainly well enough to attend a trial where attorneys on her behalf have falsely accused Jon Eardley of harassment and elder abuse.”

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer wants Spears to testify on his behalf

See also:
Legal Fees Top $2.7 Million

Conservatorship is "Officially Made Permanent"

Astor "Happy" Pooches

As Brooke Astor's son stands trial in a drab Manhattan courtroom on charges he looted the famed philanthropist's $200 million fortune, her beloved dachshunds, Boysie and Girlsie, are living it up in Vermont.

"They're safe, they're happy, but they miss Mrs. Astor," said Molly Flint, kennel manager for Astor confidant and Guggenheim heiress Iris Love.

The pooches played a prominent role in a 2006 guardianship case in which Anthony Marshall was accused of neglecting his ailing mother, including barring her from seeing the pups and locking them in her Park Ave. apartment's once-lavish dining room, where Astor once entertained heads of state.

After Astor's 2007 death at age 105, socialite Annette de la Renta, who was her court-appointed guardian, placed the dogs with Love, who is a breeder of champion dachshunds.

The civil case, which accused Marshall of leaving Astor to lie on a urine-soaked couch, resulted in criminal charges against Marshall. He strongly denies mistreating his fragile mother and her pets.

Full Article and Source:
Brooke Astor's beloved dachshunds lap up luxury at Vermont home

See also:
Marshall's Criminal Trial

Budget Cuts For Child-Welfare

Tough economic times create a classic catch-22 for state government: With people struggling to get by, there's more demand than ever for government aid, from health care to child welfare. But the recession also means the state has less money available to provide that aid.

More people need food stamps, yet the agency that oversees the program is closing 17 offices around the state. While increased child abuse is a concern, money for guardianship and adoption is being cut at the state's child-welfare agency. People are turning to community organizations for help just as the state is cutting support for those groups.

Full Article and Source:
Less money, more demand for government aid

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Web of Link$

Here is an astounding list of more than two dozen agencies and individuals involved in the life of Ray Sandford, the Minnesota citizen receiving ongoing forced outpatient electroshock. All are receiving taxpayer funding directly or indirectly. A few are speaking out for Ray, and should be thanked. But most are not helping Ray say "no" to his forced shock. Some directly profit from it.

Allina Hospitals and Clinics - Owns clinic where Ray is given taxpayer-funded forced electroshock.

George F. Borer - Attorney for taxpayer-funded Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN) who issued letters attempting to stop alerts and videos supporting Ray.

Terri Bradley - Ray's taxpayer-funded Guardian ad Litem directly in charge of his forced electroshock.

Satveer S. Chaudhary - Ray's elected state senator has been contacted about Ray: No comment.

Bernard M. Coelho, MD - Ray's electroshock doctor who administers the procedure, paid for by taxpayers.

Marybeth Dorn - Judge who continued Ray's forced electroshock

Jon Duckstad - Attorney paid with public funds who Ray said did a terrible job representing him.

Keith Ellison - Ray's elected US representative has been contacted about Ray: No comment.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - ELCA's Minnesota Synods own LSSMN, which is taxpayer-funded.

Bishop Mark Hanson, ELCA - Refuses any "supervision" of taxpayer funds used by LSSMN.

Pamela Hoopes, MDLC - This attorney started an "ECT Work Group" to explore changing laws to help Ray.

Eric Jonsgaard, Senior Director, LSS Guardianship Options - LSSMN, using taxpayer funds, has put up obstacles to Ray's campaign.

Amy Klobuchar - Ray's elected US Senate has been contacted about Ray: No comment.

Dean K. Knudson, MD, psychiatrist - Oversees Ray's case, including his taxpayer-funded forced electroshock.

Carolyn Laine - Ray's elected state representative has been contacted about Ray: No comment.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN) - General guardians for Ray who have put up obstacles to his campaign using public funds.

Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Network of Minnesota - Joined ECT Work Group to change laws in order to help people like Ray.

Mercy Hospital - The Coon Rapids, Minnesota clinic where Ray receives his taxpayer-funded forced electroshock.

Metropolitan Center for Independent Living in Minnesota - Has met with Ray and appointed informational liaison.

Minnesota Disability Law Center - MDLC has started an ECT Work Group to explore new laws to help people like Ray.

Brian Nystrom - Owns Nystrom & Associates which employs Ray's psychiatrist Dean Knudson.

Roberta Opheim, Ombudsman - Joined the ECT Work Group to explore new laws to help people like Ray.

Governor Tim Pawlenty - His public affairs office said the Governor believes Ray's forced electroshock is "safe and legal." Has appointed Brian Nystrom (CEO of agency employing Ray's psychiatrist) to state counseling board.

Richard R. Pettingill, CEO of Allina, which owns the clinic where Ray is forcibly electroshocked using public funds.

Victory House - Ray's group home in Columbia Heights has put up obstacles to Ray's campaign using taxpayer funds.

Teresa R. Warner - Judge who signed Ray's forced electroshock order.

Tonya Wilhelm of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota - Using public funds, Ms. Wilhelm has put up obstacles to Ray's campaign.

Web of Link$ Around Ray Sandford: Survivor of Electroconvulsive Therapy

See also:
Remember Ray

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Eric Jonsgaard are registered with National Guardianship Association

Tonya Wilhelm is registered with Center for Guardianship Certification, an allied foundation of the National Guardianship Association

I Believed

Before rescuing my parent from an abusive guardianship...

I believed that people involved in elder issues were basically good.

I believed that the written law was always followed by those claiming to help the elderly and always upheld with honor.

I believed that the system would hold accountable any person or agency that abused, neglected or exploited an elderly.

I believed that a guardianship was a last resort designed to protect people and only for their best interest.

I now believe that I believed a pack of lies.

Opening the Floodgates

Canada - Though it’s already been passed by the legislature, an Alberta advocacy group is calling for repeal of the province’s new Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.

The group, the Elder Advocates of Alberta, is planning an information session April 16 in Lethbridge. It’s set for 1 p.m. at the local Legion.

Ruth Maria Adria, a spokesperson for the Edmonton-based organization: “Once you have had your rights taken away from you, you are totally powerless. You become a non-person.”

She warns that’s one of the impacts of the new law, recently proclaimed in effect after receiving approval in the Alberta legislature. It replaces former “Dependent Adult” law. “Because we receive and investigate complaints, we are grassroots people who understand the legislation through the eyes of persons who have been aggrieved by Dependent Adult legislation.”

The new law, she believes, is unjust because it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. People of any age can be placed under guardianship, she points out, and they’ll lose control of all finances and property.

The organization predicts the proclamation of this act will open the floodgates of the financial abuse of thousands of Alberta citizens, and human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale.

New law not in seniors’ best interest, group says

Measure to Raise Fees

A measure working its way through the Florida Legislature would increase by thousands of dollars the filing fee for guardianship of an elderly or disabled adult.

The proposal (SB 1718, HB 5117) deals with court funding and would create new filing fees in probate cases that would range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the value of the estate of the person being protected.

Elder-law attorney Twyla Sketchley: "If the measure passes, it would greatly reduce the number of family members and friends able to act as guardians of vulnerable elders or disabled people. That person, out of their own pocket, to do a Good Samaritan act, would have to pay that astronomical filing fee just to protect their loved one.”

The increase in filing fees is linked to probate cases but includes all guardianship proceedings. In addition to the current fee of $280, the additional fees will be tied to the person’s estate. Depending on the value of the estate and whether the House or Senate version of the legislation prevails, the additional cost could range from $1,000, to as high as $5,000 if the person being cared for has a large estate.

LuMarie Polivka-West, chief of clinical services for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents the majority of the state’s nursing homes: “This would definitely be a barrier to persons who are in need of guardianship being able to access that right in the court.”

Sketchley said the bill will also negatively impact nursing homes and hospitals, which frequently must implement guardianship proceedings to get people to make health care decisions or pay bills for an incapacitated adult in long-term care.

Sketchley: “So those thousands of dollars in filing fees will be paid by those facility providers and like family and friends, I don’t think facility providers have the ability to pay what is the equivalent of at least a third of their monthly bill to institute a guardianship against an individual.”

Full Article and Source:
Higher Filing Fees Could Hit Guardians of Incapacitated Adults

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pitfalls of The Guardian System

Chuck Nagle says his father will want to write a check to donate to his church. But he won’t be allowed to write that check. “He has zero authority now to do anything. He can’t even subscribe to the newspaper.”

That’s because a non-profit corporate guardian has been appointed to represent William Nagle, whom Chuck said has early stages of Alzheimer’s. A guardian was appointed because of his medical condition.

The guardian system in Wisconsin is one where little information reaches the public, and sometimes even family members. "In Wisconsin, guardianship cases are considered to be closed. Even family cannot get information." It’s a system that he contends is broken.

Otis Woods is administrator for the Division of Quality Assurance of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, the agency that oversees the regulation of guardians. The state uses 13 criteria for those guardians, Woods said. If they violate any one of those 13, he said they can be removed as a guardian. But complaints are relatively rare. Woods: “We don’t receive very many. Maybe five a year.”

A second category, of for-profit guardians, are unregulated by the state. Woods said the state is in the early stages of reviewing that and possibly rewriting rules to include regulation.

Chuck Nagle says relatives can be shut out of receiving updated financial information on a regular basis. That decision is up to a corporate guardian and can be upheld by a judge. “The only information the guardians have to report is to the court, once a year.”

Rep. Scott Suder who represents the state’s 69th Assembly District: “Once a year, for any type of reporting, is clearly not enough.” He said perhaps the Legislative Audit Bureau could audit the state’s guardian program to see if changes need to be made.

State Rep. Kirsten Dexter who represents the 68th District where William Nagle lives, is also considering forcing guardians to report financial information more frequently.

About the case:
After William Nagle’s wife died in May 2007, family members couldn’t agree what should happen next. Chuck Nagle asked in June 2008 for a limited, temporary guardian be appointed for his father, which was done in October. The next month a permanent guardian from Chippewa Family Services, Inc. in Chippewa Falls was appointed.

Chuck Nagle now is restricted in his posing of questions of the guardian, according a March 6 letter from Chippewa Falls attorney Robert W. McKinley, who represents Chippewa Family Services and the guardian. "You are not to contact my client again absent a bona fide emergency concerning your father. If my client hears from you for any other reason, all contacts will be terminated,” the letter states.

Nagle said he is appealing decisions in his father’s case to the Wisconsin Third District Court of Appeals in Wausau.

And he’s warning others of the potential pitfalls of Wisconsin’s guardian system.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian system leaves questions

Robert McKinley is a certified guardian with The Center For Guardianship Certification, allied foundation of the National Guardianship Association (NGA)

Tentative Ruling to Seal Records

For the second time in a week, George Hearst Jr. asked San Luis Obispo Superior Court to seal information regarding his twin sister and his efforts to take conservatorship of her estimated $2 billion estate.

His first request, heard by Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney on March 26, sought to shut the public out from all hearings and access to the court file. That request was denied. His second attempt filed four days later was more successful. The judge made a tentative ruling that agrees to redact or seal from the public information on a case-by-case basis.

Hearst and his sister, Phoebe Hearst Cooke, are grandchildren of media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

About the case:
George Hearst Jr. and other family members, including Cooke’s daughter, Phoebe “Misty” Lipari want to place Cooke’s estate under George Hearst Jr.’s permanent control. They claim she is paranoid, irrational and incapable of handling her finances, which makes her prey to elder abuse.

The move to place Cooke’s estate under conservatorship began last July, when a petition was filed and granted to place Jeff Hamm, the county’s public guardian, as a temporary conservator of her estate.

Cooke, whose husband Jack died in September, has fought the actions to take over her estate, including the sale of her prized cattle and horses, saying her brother and the others do not have sufficient facts to prove she is mismanaging her assets or that she is being financially abused by others.

Cooke said her brother’s attempts to take over her estate are completely against her wishes — in part because of a long history of strained relations between the twins.

Full Article and Source:
Grandson of William Randolph Hearst aims to control sister's $2 billion estate, asks SLO court to seal records

See also:
$2 Billion Conservatorship Battle

"State License to Kill"

State officials have allowed nursing homes to operate without insurance in violation of state law, leaving vulnerable residents without recourse when they are abused and neglected, lawyers charged in a lawsuit.

John Holland, who filed the lawsuit with a team of lawyers, including Jay Reinan and Kathleen Mullen: "These people die, they get abused, and they have no redress. It's like a state license to kill without financial responsibility."

Howard Roitman, director of the health facilities division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Jo Donlin, director of external affairs for the Colorado insurance commissioner said they couldn't comment on pending litigation. Their departments are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawyers are seeking court authorization to sue as a class representing all disabled residents in nursing homes throughout the state. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the state to make sure the homes are properly insured and to revoke licenses of homes that are not.

Full Article and Source:
Suit says nursing homes get "state license to kill"

Third Party Not Required to Honor POA

Mark Griffis had tried to cash a certificate of deposit to pay for his dying father’s medical care but was told that he needed a more recent POA. Credit union officials wanted Griffis to have his 91-year-old father — who was in critical care and was not of clear mind — to call or write, verifying that Griffis was still authorized to act on his behalf.

The officials told Griffis that they were "safeguarding his parents’ money" and questioned the validity of Griffis’ 17-year-old document. Family First also has an unwritten policy that it doesn’t automatically accept powers of attorney.

Texas law doesn’t stipulate that a third party is required to honor a durable power of attorney, which allows individuals to authorize another person to engage in business or financial transactions on their behalf. The only way a principal’s agent can make a third party honor a POA, as in Griffis’ case, is to go to court.

Readers responded with outrage that a legal document — one that is supposed to last until the principal dies or it’s revoked — could be shrugged off so easily. One reader in particular, state Sen. Jane Nelson was outraged enough that she decided to initiate a change.

Nelson teamed up with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Wentworth to propose legislation requiring third parties to honor valid POAs.

Under SB1625, the senators have proposed amending Chapter XII of the Texas Probate Code by adding Sec. 489C, which would state that "a third party located in this state may not refuse, without reasonable cause, to honor a durable power of attorney properly executed in accordance with this chapter, including a statutory durable power of attorney."

Full Article and Source:
Watchdog: Senators aim to ensure that POAs are honored

Monday, April 13, 2009

Forum Shopping

Marshall v. Marshall, the decade-long litigation surrounding the estate of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II and Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith, is back in the news, and new questions are arising. Curiously, thanks to some clever manipulation by Howard K. Stern, Smith’s former lover and continual lawyer, the ruling that once settled the case right here in Harris County may now, it seems, ultimately be decided by federal bankruptcy courts — in California.

After Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, sued Bonnie Stern (sister of Howard K. Stern) and others for defaming her in an orchestrated series of blog posts, Bonnie Stern may have avoided a defamation case in Harris County by filing for bankruptcy in California. Once again, Harris County’s courts and their search for justice are undercut by a leap to California bankruptcy court.

This practice, called “forum shopping,” uses jurisdictional peculiarities unique to a court or geographical locale as a basis for seeking out a court more likely to render a favorable verdict for one’s case.

In the first case — Smith attempted to undo her husband’s written will and estate plan after his death. After a 14-month marriage, Smith decided to challenge her husband’s will on the basis that Marshall had verbally promised to include her in his will. While the claim would fail abysmally in a Harris County probate court, Smith’s legal team was able to accomplish a remarkable feat. In a textbook case of forum shopping, they went to a bankruptcy court in the state of California, and there they got a federal bankruptcy judge to award her nearly half a billion dollars from her husband’s estate. While this judgment was dramatically reduced by a federal district court in California and later completely set aside by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, it was an audacious legal maneuver.

Full Article and Source:
Keep California out of Texas court cases

Inspections in Limbo

Each time Rebecca Murphy visits her 90-year-old mother at a Chagrin Falls nursing home, she doesn't like what she sees. Murphy: "Every time I've gone there, my mother has had feces on her fingernails. They've taken her shoes away. Her feet are so full of fungus it is unbelievable. She wears the same shirt and pair of pants. I've talked to everyone and their brother the last couple years and I can't get any help. She shouldn't have to live her golden years like this. These practices are sickening. But every time I call the state, they say they found my mother to be completely fine. And the nursing home says, 'Your mother is so happy here!' But I can't sleep at night knowing what they're doing to her."

Murphy's brother is her mother's legal guardian, and Murphy does not have enough money to file a lawsuit against the home.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved a rule in September that elderly advocates say has made it more difficult for people like Murphy to get key information about suspected abuse and neglect in the 16,000 U.S. long-term care facilities.

Under the new rule, nursing homes are no longer inspected by the state in which they are located, but by the federal government. State inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors are now designated federal employees, a group usually shielded from providing evidence from either side in private litigation.

The rule was justified as necessary to accommodate the hiring of new contractors to make Medicare payments to providers and perform other work for the program. But the change is forcing litigants to go to greater lengths — including seeking court orders — to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending.

Advocates for the elderly also claim the change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept secret by nursing homes and inspectors.

Lawyers on both sides of the issue are considering how to approach President Barack Obama's administration to get rid of the rule.

Full Article and Source:
Rule leaves nursing home inspections in limbo

See also:
New Rule Hurts Nursing-Home Residents

Reports of Fraud Going Without Investigation

Loose oversight and bureaucratic inertia have allowed fraud to fester in a rapidly expanding multibillion-dollar state program that provides personal caregivers to the impoverished elderly and disabled. Hundreds of reports of scams and swindles are going without investigation.

Prosecutors and program administrators across the state say they are alarmed by the ease with which people are taking advantage of the program, In Home Supportive Services.

The program is one of the fastest growing in state government. This year it is budgeted at $5.42 billion to provide care for some 440,000 Californians. The aim is to allow low-income and elderly incapacitated people to remain in their homes, saving the state the expense of costly nursing homes. Experts generally consider it a success.

But government funds are flowing in so quickly, with such limited oversight, that prosecutors say it is common for the state to send paychecks to scam artists claiming to be caring for someone who is dead. Or claiming to be caring for a relative or friend faking a disability. Or claiming to be providing care during the same hours they are working elsewhere.

Michael Ramsey, the district attorney in Butte County in Northern California, which disbanded its In Home Supportive Services fraud unit in 2007 because of budget cuts: "This program is very easy to abuse. It invites chicanery and fraud."

Some critics of the program say politics has blocked efforts to combat fraud. The program has become a steady source of revenue for the Service Employees International Union, among the most powerful interest groups in the Capitol, as well as a second union, the United Domestic Workers of America.

Full Article and Source:
Fraud infects state in-home care program

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Marathon-Mogul Accused of Fraud

Runners, vendors and business associates from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Chicago and New York for years have accused Devine Racing owner Chris Devine of failing to pay bills on time and reneging on deals.

Records show the 55-year-old Chicago resident, who also owns a home in Salt Lake City, has been taken to court at least four dozen times by unhappy businesses and individuals.

Now a new federal lawsuit filed in New York alleges the radio-station-owner-turned-marathon-mogul financed his complex web of troubled companies by defrauding isolated multimillionaire C. Robert Allen of nearly $70 million.

No criminal charges have been filed against Devine, who portrays himself as a hard-working and genuine man whose financial woes are the fault of "bad management" by others.

The family of the 78-year-old Allen, however, characterizes Devine in a much worse light. Their lawsuit accuses him and business partner Bruce Buzil of racketeering, fraud and embezzlement in their dealings with Allen, described as a "mentally and physically frail" man the pair took advantage of.

Nate Read, a New York City lawyer representing the Allens, including son Luke, who is now his father's legal guardian: "It is a sad story. It resonates with a lot of people. ... He has misled a lot of people to great tragedy."

Full Article and Source:
Salt Lake marathon owner accused of fraud, 'downright immoral' business practices

Theft of Guardianship Funds

Richard Reyes and Yvonne Reyes of Rancho Cucamonga were arrested on suspicion of grand theft of guardianship funds intended for the care of the three juveniles, according to a DA's news release.

Over an 18-month period, prosecutors said the couple drained accounts of $750,000 that was set up for the minors. The children were 16, 12 and 8 years old when the crime occurred, according to the release.

The money came from an insurance company, the Social Security Administration and death benefits intended for the benefit of the children.

The children were orphaned in 2006 after their parents died in a murder-suicide in Los Angeles County, said Jeff Neeley, senior investigator with the Specialized Prosecution Group.

Neeley: "The couple knew the parents of the children and were entrusted with their care. I know that $750,000 was in their hands and I know that money was used inappropriately."

The Reyeses managed to obtain temporary guardianship of the children and their deceased parents estate, Neeley said. They signed legal documents stating they would administer the funds in specific ways to benefit the children.

Full Article and Source:
Rancho couple arrested for bilking three children in their care

Arc Guardianship Seminar

Four speakers will address the topic of guardianship at The Arc/Rowan's monthly seminar on Tuesday, April 21.

Rowan County Clerk of Court Jeff Barger will speak along with attorney Douglas Smith and guardians Lori and Dean Ewart. The information to be presented is important for any family affected by developmental disabilities.

The seminar is free and will be held at the Easter Seals office at 620 W. Innes St. from 7 to 8:30 p.m. It is also an opportunity for teachers to earn CEU credits.

Anyone planning to attend is asked to call The Arc/Rowan office at 704-637-1521.

Guardianship to be topic at Arc meeting April 21