Saturday, July 18, 2009

Speakes Family Conservatorship Battle

Larry Speakes had one of those classic Washington careers. A small-town guy with a Mississippi drawl who was promoted amid crisis into a top White House job, he served longer than any other press secretary of the past half-century, wrote a controversial memoir -- then receded into quiet corporate life.

Now 69 and suffering the effects of Alzheimer's disease, the veteran Reagan aide is at the center of a bitter family feud. His third wife is battling two of his children from an earlier marriage over who should oversee his estate and take responsibility for his care -- one side slinging allegations of abduction, the other side claiming neglect.

The two sides faced off in a courtroom, where his wife of eight years, Aleta Sindelar Speakes sought to overturn the conservatorship a judge granted last year to Larry Speakes's daughter, Sondra Speakes Huerta. Not in court: Speakes, who now lives in a nearby assisted-living home not far from his daughter, and 1,000 miles away from his wife. His children, their lawyer Jamie Jacks decided "it was not necessary for him to be present."

Full Article and Source:
The Speakes Family Battle Goes South

Helping Your Aging Parents

Some 41 percent of baby boomers with a living parent are helping to care for them, according to a recent USA Today/ABC News/Gallup Poll, and nearly half of those who aren't worry about being able to do so in the future.

The price tag isn't cheap: MetLife says the average price for in-home non medical help runs about $20 an hour, an assisted-living residence costs roughly $36,000 a year, and a private room in a nursing home goes for over $77,000 annually.

But you can help aging parents get the assistance they need without burning through family finances.

1. Have the Conversation

2. Get the Right Help

3. What to do if your parents are less independent -- and how to pay for it

4. How to Save Money

5. How to deal with Alzheimer's or Dementia

6. Find out the financial documents and medication information you need from your parents

Full Article and Source:
How to Help Your Aging Parents Without Going Broke

Still Fighting to Gain Control

In 2006, Sharona Dagani's mother hired a part-time caregiver from an agency. Within two months, Sharona informed her mom in a letter that she was moving out. More shocking was that she decided to leave the Jewish faith. Albstein suspects the caregiver, Ms. Perez, of planting the seeds and for an ancient motive.

A malpractice settlement put nearly $2 million into a trust for Sharona's care. Not long after she moved out with Ms. Perez, Sharona went to court to try and gain control of the trust.

Attorney Scott Cantor: "I think the caregiver was trying to influence Sharona away from her mom with the idea that she would step in as primary caregiver and have access to her money. Because Sharona believed that at 18 the money was going to be handed to her. But there was a guardianship in place. She was telling Sharona that Joan did not have her interests at heart that she was the guardian just for her money, that Joan did not love her."

Joan Albstein says she used cell phone records to find out that, through Perez, Sharona had become deeply involved with the International Church of Las Vegas and was attending services three or four days a week to the exclusion of everything else. When Joan tried to visit her daughter at a residence, she was informed her name was on a no-visit list. Sharona's girlfriends got the same treatment. Sharona was cut off, even when she came to court.

Full Article and Source:
Las Vegas Woman Fights Religious Group to Save Her Daughter

See also:
Battle to Control Money

Judge Sides With Ward

Friday, July 17, 2009

At least 6 Years in Prison

Former Jackson County lawyer Richard McQuillan said he considers it a "lifelong obligation" to pay back the heirs of an estate he said he plundered to help people in the Dominican Republic.

McQuillan earlier pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzling more than $20,000 from the estate of Robert Howard, who died in December 2006 at age 84.

First, McQuillan is to serve at least six years in prison.

Jackson County Circuit Judge John McBain went well beyond state sentencing guidelines, which called for 10 to 23 months in prison or jail, and sentenced McQuillan on Thursday to six to 10 years in prison.

McBain said the guidelines did not adequately reflect the amount of money stolen — more than $800,000 — and McQuillan's abuse of his position of trust.

McBain: "Action of an attorney like you, it damages the reputation of every attorney in the country."

Full Article and Source:
Former Jackson County attorney will serve at least six years in prison for embezzlement

See also:
Estates Bled Dry

Attorney Plundered $1Million Estate

"Easy" For Attorney or Guardian

In-Home Services Cut

Senior citizens who need home care may have to wait. The Passport program designed to keep the elderly out of nursing homes has been cut in the governor's new budget; that could affect 2,000 people in the area.

Full Article and Source:
Ohio budget restricts in-home services

More information:
Agencies serving older Ohioans say new budget means fewer seniors will receive in-home care

Agencies: Ohio budget restricts in-home services

Lawsuit Against State Facility

A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. Federal District Court alleging abuse at a state mental health treatment facility.

The suit alleges that the Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in Cambridge, Minnesota, routinely restrained patients using metal handcuffs and shackles without cause.

The suit also contends the facility secluded patients for extended periods and deprived them of family visits. The facility is run by the state Department of Human Services.

Full Article and Source:
Lawsuit alleges abuse at state-run mental health facility

More information:
Abuses Alleged at State-Run Mental Center

Improper Restraint Common At Minnesota Hospital, Suit Says

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mother Fled With Children

The Sun Valley mother of six who was the focus of an Amber Alert has been involved with child welfare workers since at least 2001, court records show.

Claire Camille Tourand may be on her way to Mexico with four of her six children, authorities said. An arrest warrant has been issued, charging her with unlawful detention, concealment or removal of a child from its lawful custodian.

Social workers declared Tourand a danger to her children, and that they were in an “immediate risk” in her care.

Records show Tourand recently finished a term in the Washoe County Jail related to her 2008 guilty plea to child neglect related to squalid conditions of her home. She pleaded guilty to allowing her children to live in a home where the feces and urine of nine cats and eight dogs saturated her children’s bed and clothing, and where rotted food was scattered around the home. Two rabbits were also in the home.

When she fled the area, her children had been in foster care and social workers were trying to reunite the family, authorities said.

Full Article and Source:
Amber Alert subject investigated for years

Family Files Suit Against Nursing Home

The family of a disabled man and woman filed a lawsuit against a Norridge nursing home claiming the woman was physically assaulted multiple times during her stay at the northwest suburban facility.

The four-count lawsuit also claims the man was given incorrect medications.

Francisca and Arcadio Arce, both disabled, were both admitted to Central Baptist Village, Inc. in June 2004, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit court by the Arce's guardian Wilfredo Arce.

The lawsuit claims that Francisca Arce was physically abused and assaulted in her room, the shower or the bathroom at various times between December of 2008 and February 2009.

The lawsuit claims Arcadio Arce was given incorrect medication from October 2008 to February.

Full Article and Source:
Family accuses Norridge nursing home of abuse

Editorial Critical of Report

Grand jury criticism of little-known county agency is itself open to some criticism

An Orange County Register editorial


Most Orange County residents probably know little or nothing about the county's public administrator/public guardian. So it is odd to have seen this obscure office the subject of various headlines after the Orange County grand jury issued two scathing reports about management procedures there.

Because of the scathing tone of the reports and the nature of the work, which deals with the government's handling of personal assets, we expected the investigation to be filled with allegations of abuse. Instead, the reports focus on detailed complaints about the agency's management structure.

We're not usually given to accepting the "political vendetta" argument, but we do find some things fishy about the double-barreled reports, which complain about excessive management growth, pension spiking and excessively large caseloads by conservators responsible for handling the assets of the clients. For starters, we can't figure out why the grand jury took the unusual step of releasing a second report before the legal deadline had expired for Mr. Williams to respond to the first one.

But how could anything have changed even before the deadline had expired to even respond to the allegations? The second report, which supposedly contained new information, read to us like a rehashing of the first report. Our guess is the grand jury received a leaked copy of Mr. Williams' initial rebuttal to the Board of Supervisors, and lashed out again because they didn't like that he disputed each of their recommendations.

Full Article and Source:
Editorial: The watchdog vs. the guardian

See also:
Senior Tsunami

Egregious Mismanagement at Public Guardian's Office

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rowe Denies Jackson Payoff

A lawyer for Debbie Rowe is denying a new report that she plans to relinquish parental rights to her children with Michael Jackson in exchange for $4 million from the Jackson family.

The New York Post claimed on Tuesday that Rowe was agreeing to forfeit her parental rights to Prince Michael, 12, and Paris Michael Katherine, 11, to the children’s grandmother, Katherine Jackson, in exchange for the hefty sum.

According to a source who spoke to the paper, “This would be it. This takes away any rights she has to challenge custody at any given time.”

However, an attorney for Rowe told Access Hollywood that the New York Post story is “completely false.”

Full Article and Source:
Debbie Rowe won’t trade kids for $4 million

More information:
Jackson's ex-wife denies attempt to sell off parental rights

Lawyer Says "No Deal" with Jacksons and Debbie Rowe; British Paper States Two United Against "Bullying" Joe Jackson

EXCLUSIVE: No Deal For Debbie Rowe!

Preying On Elderly For Money

TX - Cayce police are searching for a man they believe is preying on the elderly in an effort to get money.

Officers are searching for 37-year-old James Lynell Ridgeway, Jr.

Investigators think Ridgeway took money in advance from at least one elderly victim, then did little or no work in return. Officers say the man offered to pressure wash a home and perform other maintenance.

Investigators warned the public not to enter into any agreements with Ridgeway.

Officers say he scammed a woman who doesn't want to be identified. Investigators say Ridgeway pressure washed the woman's home, but promised a number of other services that he did not provide.

On June 30th, the victim says Ridgeway knocked on her door around 7 p.m. with no shirt or shoes.

The elderly woman said: "He said, could you possibly let me clean your house, because I have two little children and I don't have any work."

She says he handed her a flyer and said he could do a number of home repairs, but he needed the money upfront.

"Right then, I was a bit suspicious, but I didn't stop talking to him," she said, "I was stupid enough to give him the money."

But the victim did make him sign a contract and Ridgeway returned the next day with a helper to pressure wash the driveway and house.

"All the time, he was asking me for the money, his friend was out there working on the thing, so, I really didn't have a reason to suspect he wasn't going to do everything else," said the victim.

But when she noticed the contracts were missing off her kitchen table one night, then she knew she'd been scammed.

The victim called the number on the flyer that had worked the day before, and she says it'd been disconnected. But Ridgeway called her, asking to borrow $400 to get his truck out of the shop, and he'd pay her back $550.

Now, she's out $1,300, but not out of advice for others who may come across Ridgeway.

"Don't let him get your sympathy, because he will prey on your sympathy," said the victim.

Ridgeway is 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighs 160 pounds.

Anyone with information should call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC, or e-mail a tip in to You can also text information in by texting "TIPSC" plus your message to CRIMES (274637). Either way you choose, your identity will remain anonymous, and you could be eligible for a cash reward.

Police Believe Man Preys on Elderly for Money

Elderly Missing From Nursing Home

NM - Authorities continue to search for a 77-year-old man missing from a Las Cruces nursing home for over a week.

The family of Brayton Smoot is now offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to his safe return.

Police said Smoot walked away from the Golden Mesa Assisted Living Center around 6:30 p.m. on July 3. He is experiencing the onset of Alzheimer's disease and becomes confused.

Smoot is white with blue eyes and thick, grayish salt-and-pepper hair. He is six feet tall and weighs 185 lbs. He wears glasses and he was last seen wearing khaki pants, a plaid shirt and black boots.

Smoot's daughter, Kathy Smoot, told ABC-7 that her father can respond to his name. She said he was last seen on July 6 on Doniphan in West El Paso when he talked to a police officer. New Mexico state police said Smoot has also reportedly been seen near the Hotel Encanto at Telshor/Foothills, at the corner of El Paseo and Idaho and at the Bridge of the Americas.

Kathy said she believes sudden hard times may have caused her father to leave the nursing home. His wife suffered a heart attack in June and is still being treated, and one of his sons died on July 3. The funeral for his son was Saturday.

Kathy says the family is heartbroken and desperately wants their father back.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Brayton Smoot is asked to call Las Cruces Crime Stoppers at (575) 526-8000 or outside the Las Cruces area at 1-800-897-2746. You can also contact the Las Cruces Police Department at (575) 526-0795.

Elderly LC man still missing; family offers reward money

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In The Hands of Strangers

by Carrie K. Hutchens

In early June, I learned about the Gary Harvey case via the Hospice Patient’s Alliance and the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA).

This is a case where a 55 year old man had a heart attack, fell down the basement stairs, and ended up severely brain damaged. It is a case where still another so-called ethics committee felt it had some sort of god-like wisdom and right to determine life or death for a stranger. It is a case where a so-called ethics committee decided, behind closed doors, that it was perfectly okay to starve and dehydrate this man — Gary Harvey — to death by termination of his Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) feeding tube.

It’s difficult not to be surprised by people so coldly dismissing the life of another human being, and the willingness to put them down (to sleep) in such a calculating fashion as we now see all too often happening through, and at the hands of, so-called ethics committees. It is difficult not to be surprised, but I always am.

Full Article and Source:
In the Hands of Strangers: The Fight for Gary Harvey

Carrie Hutchens is a former law enforcement officer and a freelance writer who is active in fighting against the death culture movement and the injustices within the judicial and law enforcement systems.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Class Action Against Law Examiners

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has launched a class action against that state's board of law examiners, asserting that inquiries into the mental health of those seeking a law license violate federal disabilities law.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of a woman licensed in Illinois who is seeking admission to the Indiana State Bar Association. Identified as "Jane Doe" in the action, the plaintiff seeks an injunction prohibiting the Indiana State Board of Law Examiners from asking certain questions about mental fitness. She also seeks a declaratory judgment that the questions on the application and the board's follow-up procedures violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case mirrors actions in other states that have challenged certain questions regarding mental health on professional license applications. Similar challenges have resulted in the removal or modification of such questions in Maine, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Full Article and Source:
Lawsuit Claims Indiana Law Examiners Violate the ADA

Theft From Client Trust Fund

A disbarred lawyer admitted that he stole more than $45,000 from a client's trust account.

Russell Cheek made the admission before Superior Court Francis R. Hodgson.

In pleading guilty to one count of theft, Cheek admitted he stole $45,600 from Ralph W. Hulmin, a client for whom he was handling an estate.

Cheek said he made a series of withdrawals from the client's trust account between Dec. 10, 2004, and Feb. 2, 2007, and used the money for his own purposes.

The victim was reimbursed from the state bar association's client-security fund, and Cheek has since made full restitution to the bar association.

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred Lakewood lawyer admits theft from trust account

Deal Reached in Will Fraud Case

John P. Karoly Jr. pleaded guilty to charges of dodging $1.9 million in federal taxes by hiding more than $5 million in income.

In return, prosecutors agreed to drop all charges relating to an alleged fraud scheme in which Karoly, 59, was accused of fabricating wills after his brother and sister-in-law died in a plane crash.

But under the terms of the guilty plea, Karoly also promised that he would drop his claims in the state court battle over the couple's estates and renounce any share in those estates.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Weber said Karoly has also agreed to a non-jury trial to resolve a third category of charges in which Karoly is accused of scheming to get a $500,000 tax deduction for charity by laundering money through a church.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer Charged With Forging Brother's Will Pleads Guilty to Tax Charges

See also:
Lawyer Charged with Will Fraud

Under the Watchful Eye of Probate

When Marshall Grear's young granddaughter received $42,000 in an accident settlement several years ago, he assumed the money would be waiting for her when she turned 18.

The stock market has changed that.

The money seemed safe because it is controlled by a Genesee County Probate Court-appointed conservator -- not a cent can be touched without a court order.

Grear figured he had no need to worry. That is until he took a look at a statement earlier this year when he gained custody of his now 15-year-old granddaughter.

Grear: "She lost about $17,000 last year when the stock market crashed. Someone should be responsible for that money."

His granddaughter's money, like many other Probate Court funds for minors, had been invested in the market through the years to yield higher returns.

When the market tanked last year as the economy worsened, dozens of conservatorship accounts took a dive, such as Grear's granddaughter's.

Some lost close to $100,000.

But court officials and local attorneys who act as conservators said there is nothing illegal about investing the funds in the market -- even if there are big losses.

Full Article and Source:
Stock drops hurt kids' funds under watchful eye of Probate Court

Second Delay in Guardianship Hearing

A court official says a guardianship hearing for Michael Jackson's kids has been delayed for a week.

A court spokeswoman says the hearing was granted at the request of Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson and the singer's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe.

L. Londell McMillan, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, says the delay will give both sides time to work out a private and amicable resolution.

Rowe has not yet indicated in court filings whether she intends to seek custody of Jackson's three children, who range in ages from 7 to 12.

It is the second time that Rowe and Katherine Jackson have sought a delay in the guardianship case. The hearing will now be held July 20.

One week delay in Jackson guardianship case

More information:
Court delays hearing in Jackson guardianship case

See also:
Guardianship Hearing Postponed

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trust Fund For Pets

Governor M. Jodi Rell signed a bill that allows pet owners to set up enforceable trusts to care for their animals, ensuring that the animals are not neglected or euthanized if they die before their pets.

Governor Rell: "Those who derive joy from the companionship of their devoted pets can now have peace of mind knowing their pets will be properly cared for when they are no longer around. Pets ask nothing of us but kindness and, in turn, reward us with unconditional love."

Senate Bill 650, An Act Concerning the Creation of a Trust for the Care of An Animal, requires that the pet owner designate a “trust protector,” someone whose sole duty is to act on behalf of the animal, ensuring the pet receives the proper care.

A Superior Court or probate court would have jurisdiction over the trust, which terminates when the last surviving animal dies. The trust protector can seek legal action in either court to remove or replace a trustee, the individual overseeing the fund, if the money was spent on anything other than its intended use.

Full Article and Source:
Bill to allow pet owners to set up trusts for animals

Charging Mom For Caregiving

A corporation formed by two brothers will be allowed to charge their mother more than $5,200 per month to care for her in her own home.

The ruling was made by David Mouton, Jasper County probate judge, in a dispute involving brothers Charles, Larry and Dale Chrisman over issues including the care of their mother, Dorothy Chrisman.

In addition to approving the charge assessed by Larry and Dale Chrisman, Mouton also approved payments of nearly $42,000 that had been taken by the brothers’ company without prior authorization by the court. Larry Chrisman must report to the court on expenditures from his mother’s estate because he was named her guardian and conservator June 12, 2008, after she was found by the court to be disabled and incompetent.

Mouton: "In an ideal world, no one would charge to take care of their mother. But in-home care is expensive, and I agree she should be kept in her home."

Full Article and Source:
Probate court allows charges prompting brother’s challenge

Support Group For Parents

Since moving to Patterson in October, Bettina Mays has come to love her new home and community. But there’s a part of her that feels isolated, and she hopes a support group she’s organizing will help with that.

On Tuesday, July 14, Mays will host a support group for parents of children with developmental disabilities. She plans to offer meetings once a month.

Mays: "It’s supportive and comforting to find people like yourself."

Mays’ 19-year-old son has autism, a developmental disability that effects a person’s communication skills and interactions with others, according to the Autism Society of America. That means along with the typical challenges of being a mother, Mays has to care for her son’s additional needs.

She’s committed to that task, but it’s not without its stresses. Compounding that stress, she said, is the fact other parents often have a hard time relating.

Government agencies provide some support, but Mays doesn’t believe those agencies always have the family’s best interest in mind. She worries the agencies often push giving guardianship of the child to the state, she said.

Full Article and Source:
Support group started for parents of disabled children