Saturday, September 19, 2009

Still Fighting for Her Husband

A Horseheads woman continued her battle Thursday for guardianship of her husband, who has been in a persistent vegetative state since an accident nearly four years ago.

Sara Harvey said she is fighting for legal guardianship of Gary Harvey -- who suffered a severe brain injury in a January 2006 accident -- so he can get better medical care.

She said her husband is suffering under significantly inadequate care provided by the Chemung County Nursing Facility.

"I see stuff go on with him, and I get no answers," she told state Supreme Court Judge Judith O'Shea during oral arguments made Thursday by Assistant County Attorney Donald Thomson and Ithaca lawyer William Shaw, who represents Sara Harvey.

Shaw said there had been stonewalling by the county in releasing the medical records that are crucial to his case. Those documents either sustain or refute accusations against Sara Harvey, and he cannot proceed without them, he said.

Thomson said the county opposed the release of Gary Harvey's medical records because Sara Harvey has no legal right to them.

O'Shea asked about Sara Harvey's plans for her husband.

Shaw said they include seeking alternative medical services, including Veterans Affairs programs.

Full Article and Source:
Wife Seeks Rights to Comatose Husband

See also:
The Brainwashing of an Unsuspecting People: Continuing to Deny Death Panels

Behind Closed Doors: The Gary Harvey Story

Follow Up: The Gary Harvey Story

Elderly Woman Testifies in Grand Theft Case

Time has taken away some of Eloise Mudway's physical and mental abilities.

She has difficulty recalling names, dates and times; struggles to hear and gets around only with the help of a wheelchair. Fortunately, she has retained a healthy sense of humor.

Eloise Mudway, 92, needed it today as she spent more than three hours on the witness stand answering a barrage of questions from Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis and defense attorneys Dean Livermore and Mark Goettel.

"God help me," she said during one break in her testimony.

Livermore and Goettel represent Cynthia and Joseph Clancy, a local couple prosecutors contend swindled Mudway out of her $370,000 house and other assets between 2001 and 2005.

The Clancys are each charged with one count of grand theft from a person over 65 and both face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Friday but jury deliberations and a verdict will likely not come until Monday.

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Woman Testifies in Pasco Grand Theft Case

See also:
Who's Right?

CA Increases Fines for Elder Abuse

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill by state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, that increases elder abuse penalties.

When it takes effect Jan. 1, 2010, Senate Bill 18 will increase California fines from $6,000 to $10,000 for those found guilty of placing an elder or dependent adult in situations where great bodily harm or death is likely.

In addition, the new law will increase fines from $2,000 to $5,000 for those found guilty of placing an elder or dependent adult in dangerous situations not likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.

SB 18 is aimed at protecting those ages 65 and older. It does not change sentencing guidelines for elder abusers who are imprisoned for their actions.

"California's senior citizens and their families will rest easier knowing that my new law will help protect them from abuse," Oropeza said in a statement.

"Elder abuse for far too long has been a hidden, pervasive and deadly crime where out of 5 million recent cases, a shocking 84 percent went unreported."

Full Article and Source:
New Law Raises Elder Abuse Penalties

Charged With Swindling From Autistic Man

A woman has been charged with swindling more than $300,000 from a man with autism over whom she was given power of attorney.

According to charges filed in Dakota County, the victim's mother had saved up a large amount of money while working as a librarian in the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis.

The man, who is not named in the charges but was born in 1959, lived with his parents in Eagan from 1976 through 2004, when the alleged swindling began.

The victim's mother had saved the funds through the bank's "thrift plan," according to the charges. The funds were meant to support the victim and his father after she died in 1997.

The victim's father fell ill in 2003. The charges allege Katherine Louise Rosenthal and her husband, who lived in the same apartment building in Eagan, befriended the victim and his father, who eventually allowed Rosenthal power of attorney over the man due to his autism.

When the victim's father died the following year, Rosenthal began withdrawing funds from an account owned jointly between the victim and his father, the charges allege.

Bank records indicated Rosenthal had been added as an account holder. According to the charges, she withdrew $9,000 the first month after the victim's father's death, $8,000 the second month, $30,000 the third month.

As an attorney informed authorities, those funds had allegedly been used to pay off Rosenthal's student loans.
In fall 2004, the charges state Rosenthal cashed out 17 savings bonds each carrying a face value of $10,000.

The attorney had Rosenthal's power of attorney revoked and confronted her about the alleged swindling. She told the attorney, "That's my money," according to charges.

Full Article and Source:
Charges: Woman Swindles $300K From Man With Autism

Senior Investment Protection Enchancement Act

Senior citizens are being scammed, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who announced a plan Tuesday to protect against financial abuses.

"Research shows that our seniors face serious risks from fraudulent salesmen,'' Gillibrand said during a conference call with reporters from throughout the state. "Seniors account for more than half of all investor complaints being investigated by securities regulators.

"So to protect these seniors from fraud," Gillibrand continued, "I've introduced the Senior Investment Protection Enhancement Act - legislation that would target those who commit securities violations against seniors."

Full Article and Source:
Gillibrand Introduces Act to Protect Area Seniors

Friday, September 18, 2009

Betrayed by Crooked Attorneys

They called him Jack.

They didn't think of him as a lawyer. They thought of him as a trusted family friend.

So when thousands of dollars went missing and the paper trail led to attorney John "Jack" Roberts of Dennis, they were at first shocked, then hurt and finally angry.

Roberts, now disbarred, pleaded guilty to stealing $137,000 from the estate of Alice May of Sandwich and was sentenced to house arrest. On Friday, he was arraigned on a charge of larceny by a single scheme in the theft of $650,000 from Norm Sasville, a Middleboro builder. Prosecutors said they plan to seek jail time if Roberts is convicted again.

"He pulled the carpet out from me," Sasville said in an interview before Roberts was indicted. "He was a good friend. He was a goombah."

Roberts was released on $1,000 bail after his arraignment in Barnstable Superior Court on Friday.

But Roberts is not alone.

In recent years, the Cape has had its share of high-profile cases involving lawyers bilking clients out of thousands.

In 2006, Anthony Bott, an Orleans attorney, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $350,000 in insurance settlements from 12 clients.

He was sentenced to 2½ years in Barnstable County Correctional Facility and 10 years of probation.

And plenty of ink has been spilled on the ongoing tangle of former Orleans attorney Richard Birchall. Birchall has been jailed on contempt charges, a judge finding that he is capable of repaying the $2.7 million he owes to his former client Suzanne D'Amour of Brewster.

But while that case has the added intrigue of D'Amour once spending time in jail on perjury charges for lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of her husband, the other Cape cases involve regular Joes or elderly people looking for legal help from someone they trusted.

"It really is disgusting," said Adele Lundquist, an 83-year-old Brewster woman who was a victim of Bott. "It's like your house getting broke into. It's a violation."

Lundquist was seriously injured in a car accident. Her car was sideswiped by a woman who blew through a stop sign. Her family attorney recommended Bott, who at the time was considered one of the Lower Cape's top personal injury attorneys.

Months passed and Bott kept putting Lundquist off telling her settlements could take years. It turned out he got her an $85,000 settlement within months, but like 11 other clients, he had fraudulently signed her name and pocketed the cash.

"You go through stages where you feel betrayed, you feel hurt, you feel angry," Lundquist said.

Nancy Allen, whose inheritance was partially stolen by Roberts, expressed similar feelings. Her mother, Alice May, had considered Roberts a friend. She said it felt like she had been "physically assaulted" when she figured out Roberts had grabbed the money to feed his gambling habit.

So are these high-profile cases a trend or just a strange coincidence?

Michael Frederickson, a spokesman for the state's Board of Bar Overseers, said it's the latter.

The percentage of bad lawyers is actually very small, he said, with only about one-quarter of 1 percent of the state's 80,000 lawyers convicted of stealing from a client. But like other professions involving the public, it's the bad attorneys who get the attention, he said.

Full Article and Source:
Cape Cod Betrayed by Crooked Attorneys

Former Dallas Judge Gets Jail

A former Dallas municipal judge will serve 60 days in the Tarrant County Jail as a condition of her probation for spending money awarded to a client in a 2003 probate case that she handled while practicing law in Arlington.

A jury had already been seated in Criminal District Court No. 3 when Tiffany Lewis pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to misapplication of fiduciary property. Lewis used a $58,000 probate settlement awarded to a Dallas woman and her daughter to buy a motorcycle for her baby’s father, cover office expenses, and cover bad checks in other clients’ accounts, Tarrant County prosecutor Lori Varnell said.

Lewis, 41, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation by visiting Judge David Cleveland, who ordered her to serve 60 days in jail and repay the money.

Lewis, who was disbarred in 2005, was also forbidden to hold herself out as an attorney or to act as a fiduciary, someone who handles money for other people.

The Texas Bar Association had stripped Lewis of her license to practice law in April 2005 because of the probate case. But Tarrant County prosecutors learned that she was continuing to represent clients in Tarrant County, Varnell said.

Her disbarment was based on a Dallas woman’s 2004 complaint to the bar that the attorney had taken $58,000 of her Dallas County probate settlement.

Lewis took most of the money in cash, which could not be traced, Varnell said. It took nearly five years for a forensic accountant to track the money from the probate account to Lewis’ Bedford bank to her expenditures, which depleted the account in 134 days, Varnell said.

Varnell said she and co-counsel Sabrina Sabin were prepared to try the case but accepted the plea to get restitution for the victims. "They’re very poor people who don’t have a lot of means," Varnell said. "She stole from the weakest members of our society."

Randall said Lewis, who is a single mother, took the last-minute plea to ensure that she would remain free to raise her daughter. She will serve her 60-day jail term on weekends and, as required by probation rules, seek a job, he said.

"She does have restitution to pay back, and she will be doing that," Randall said.

Full Article and Source:
Former Dallas Judge Gets Jail Time for Spending Woman's Probate Money

Women Accused of Neglecting a Patient to Death

Two women accused of neglecting an elderly woman so badly she died were charged in court Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors say that Effie Tutor and Patti Goodwill ignored a patient's bedsores to the point it lead to the woman's death.

Tutor was charged with criminal mistreatment in the death of her patient, Jean Rudolph. Rudolph had dementia and was staying in the Houghton Lakeview Adult Family Home in Kirkland. Rudolph's family visited her there often, but they say they couldn't see that underneath her clothes she had developed deep bedsores.

Prosecutors say Tutor was in charge of monitoring the wheelchair-bound Rudolph for pressure sores. They believe Tutor knew about the wounds for close to a month, but didn't get additional medical care for Rudolph.

By the time Rudolph went to the hospital she had seven sores, some so deep they went to the bone. She died shortly after from a combination of pneumonia and bone infection.

Rudolph's son says what happened to his mother still haunts him.

"A lot of sleepless nights - the conditions that were discovered were so terrifying. You can't sleep a full night," said the victim's son.

Tutor is behind bars on $75,000 bail.

Full Article and Source:
Women Accused of Neglecting a Patient to Death

Public Guardianship Program Saves FL Taxpayers $1.9 Billion

A new study shows that Florida’s public guardian programs saved the State of Florida almost $1.9 million last year, mostly by helping incapacitated persons move from costly hospitals to more affordable living options, such as assisted living facilities. Public guardians serve as legal representatives for indigent elders and others who cannot make their own decisions and have no one else to assist them.

The cost-savings determination is part of a University of Kentucky study conducted at the request of Florida’s Statewide Public Guardianship Office, which is a unit of the Department of Elder Affairs.

The research team examined the 15 public guardianship programs that serve 20 Florida counties, reviewing the period from June to December 2008 and then calculating full-year savings. The researchers found that the program served 1,916 incapacitated persons at a savings of $3,940,456. Once the statewide program’s operating expenses were subtracted, the annual savings was $1,883,043, according to the independent researchers.

The researchers also concluded that Florida’s public guardian programs produce “significant quality of life savings” for incapacitated persons, ranging from emotional support and improved socialization to reconnecting with family, friends and religious institutions.

“It’s gratifying to know that independent experts recognize the value public guardianship provides, both financially and socially,” said Michelle Hollister, executive director of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office. “We are proud of the way public guardians help those who have nowhere else to turn.”

Full Article and Source:
Study: Public Guardianship Program Save Florida Taxpayers $1.9 million

University of KY study

Woman Arrested in Inheritance Swindling Case

Police arrested Katharine Rosenthal, the former Eagan woman accused of stealing nearly $400,000 from the inheritance of an autistic neighbor, early Tuesday at a motel in Baxter, Minn.

She will be arraigned in Dakota County this morning on four counts of theft by swindle, four counts of theft and four counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, all felonies.

Rosenthal allegedly stole at least $387,000 from the inheritance of Kevin Farley, a 49-year-old Eagan man with high-functioning autism. Rosenthal and her husband, Aaron, were granted general power of attorney by Farley's father, Bill, before his death in May 2004.

According to the criminal complaint, Rosenthal withdrew thousands from Farley's account, cashed in savings bonds in Bill Farley's name and moved Farley's money to an account she shared with her husband when Farley revoked the power of attorney.

Full Article and Source:
Baxter Police Arrest Woman in Inheritance Swindling Case


The 49-year-old mother of a severely handicapped 31-year-old man was shocked with a Taser after a pair of standoffs with Levy County Sheriff's Office deputies this week.

The woman was resisting a judge's order to turn over custody of her son to another family member.

The handicapped man's father was also arrested for reportedly assisting his wife in resisting deputies.

The change in guardianship appears to be the result of unanswered financial questions.

William Bennett, 50, and his wife, Lori Bennett were each charged with interference of custody for their son Daniel Bennett and resisting arrest following incidents at their home on Monday and Tuesday.

According to Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Evan Sullivan, Circuit Court Judge Stanley H. Griffis III ordered that Daniel be turned over to the custody of his adult brother, Christopher Bennett. Court records show that the judge also named Ronald Stevens, a Bronson attorney, as guardian of Daniel's property.

Court records also show that the formal change in custody and guardianship was made after William Bennett did not respond to four orders to appear in court since July and has not filed the 2008 annual guardianship report for Daniel as required by state laws.

Full Article and Source:
Levy Woman Tasered, Arrested With Husband in Standoff With Police

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NASGA Member Attends Hearings

Formerly of Luzerne County, NASGA Member Mary Connors attended Tuesday’s arraignment for ex-judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella.

Judge Michael Conahan was the presiding judge in the guardianship of Mary's mother, Grace Connors.

Grace died from starvation and dehydration in 2006, after five years incarcerated in a nursing facility against her will. She was virtually isolated from her family and friends. Mary was rarely permitted to visit her. Those sparse visits were always under guard - until the end when the guardian lifted the supervision to allow Mary to see her mother die.

Grace Connors - California/Pennyslvania Victim

In Memoriam: Grace Connors - July 17, 1921 – October 13, 2006

Ex-Jurists Plea, Still Free

Former judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella will remain free pending trial on corruption charges despite concerns raised by federal prosecutors that the men are a flight risk and are depleting assets that could be seized if they’re convicted, a federal magistrate judge ruled Tuesday.

The former judges appeared before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt and entered pleas of not guilty to a 48-count indictment issued against them last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Houser requested that Conahan and Ciavarella’s bail be increased to $500,000, arguing the chance the men would flee had increased given they face significantly more time in prison than was negotiated in plea agreements that were rejected by the court.

The plea agreements, which have been withdrawn, called for the judges to serve 87 months in prison. The charges in the indictment – racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion – carry a combined total maximum sentence of 689 years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Jurists Plea, Still Free

See also:
Ciavarella Plea
Ciavarella Bond
Ciavarella Release
Conahan Plea
Conahan Bond
Conahan Release

Director of San Bernardino-Area Group Home Arrested

Investigators looking into charges of abuse at a collection of San Bernardino-area group homes arrested the director of one of the homes on Friday after discovering he was on probation for elder abuse and had been ordered to stay away from such facilities, officials said today.

Tony Dalton, 40, was taken into custody for violating conditions of his probation after initially refusing entry to investigators checking on conditions of the house, said San Bernardino City Atty. James Penman.

Dalton is the son of Pensri Sophar Dalton, 61, who was arrested Sept. 5 on 16 charges of elder abuse after police raided an unlicensed board and care facility where 22 elderly and mentally ill tenants lived in squalor. They had no plumbing, lived in converted backyard chicken coops and some used buckets for toilets. One man reported being physically abused by the staff.

Authorities are now looking into conditions at seven other group homes owned by Pensri Sophar Dalton in and around San Bernardino.

Dalton was convicted last year of causing great bodily harm to an elderly or dependent person and served three months in jail, Penman said. The probation department would not comment on the nature of the crime, but Dalton was forbidden to work as a caretaker for the elderly or dependent adults.

Pensri Dalton is also the target of a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who drowned in a pool while living in one of her group homes.

Full Article and Source:
Director of San Bernardino-Area Group Home Arrested

See also:
Seniors Found Living In Dire Conditions

PA Judges Plead Not Guilty

Two former Pennsylvania judges implicated in a “kids-for-cash” scandal on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges.

Former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan are accused of taking millions of dollars in payments related to the construction of two juvenile detention facilities.

They had agreed to plead guilty in February to honest services fraud and tax evasion in a deal with prosecutors that called for 87-month prison sentences, far below federal guidelines.

But a federal judge rejected the deal last month, saying Conahan, 57, and Ciavarella, 59, hadn’t fully accepted responsibility for the crimes. They switched their pleas to not guilty, and prosecutors secured a 48-count indictment that includes racketeering, bribery and extortion charges.

At their arraignment Tuesday, prosecutors also asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt to tighten bail conditions for both former judges, claiming they had tried to protect assets and are now more likely to flee.

Full Article and Source:
Former PA Judges Implicated in "Kids for Cash" Plead Not Guilty to 48 Counts

See also:
Ex-Judges Facing Wrath of RICO

Judged Indicted in Fraud-Scheme

Judges Plead Guilty

Class Action Against Judges

When Judges Stain Our Kids

Kickback Scheme Judges Sued

Alleged Public Corruption

Winding Down of the Astor Trial

Brooke Astor's son stole millions of dollars and artwork from his philanthropist mother in the last years of her life to enrich himself and his wife, a prosecutor told jurors at the end of a four-month trial.

Anthony Marshall, 85, is accused of taking advantage of his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, partly by trying to obtain millions of dollars she intended for charities. Lawyer Francis Morrissey is also on trial on charges he forged Astor’s name on an amendment to her will. Astor died in 2007 at age 105.

The “disturbing” evidence showed “how a son, an only son, could stoop so low as to steal from his own mother in the sunset years of her life in order to line his own pockets and the pockets of his wife,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann told the jury in New York State court today.

Full Article and Source:
Astor's Son Stole Artwork, Millions, Prosecutor Says

See also:
Brooke Astor's Lasting Legacy

Lawyer Indicted on Charges of Felony Theft by Conversion

An Early County lawyer is indicted for stealing more than $100,000 from the trust fund of an incapacitated girl he was hired to protect.

44-year old Thomas Sasser the Third was indicted by the Early County grand jury Tuesday afternoon on charges of felony theft by conversion.

Prosecutors say Sasser was stealing money from the trust fund of 14 year old Ashley James who was burned in a murder attempt when she was three years old.

Dougherty D.A. Greg Edwards said "It was noticed by persons who were also involved with maintaining the child's welfare."

Full Article and Source:
Early County Lawyer Indicted

Who's Right?

Prosecutors call it a case of deceit, deception and greed.

Defense attorneys say it's simply a case of an elderly woman who spent her way into financial ruin and had to be rescued.

Who's right?

A jury will answer that question during the trial of Joseph and Cynthia Clancy, who are accused of bilking Eloise Mudway, now 92, out of her house and assets between 2001 and 2005.

The Clancys are charged with one count each of grand theft from a person over the age of 65 and face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.

The case went to a non-jury trial a year ago but ended prematurely when Circuit Judge Jack Day received a fax from state Sen. Mike Fasano condemning the Clancys. Defense attorneys asked Day to recuse himself, arguing that the fax might have prejudiced him against their clients. Day agreed.

This time around, the Clancys opted for a jury trial.

Much of the state's case rests on the contention that the couple stole Mudway's 2,900-square-foot home out from under her by having her unknowingly sign a quit-claim deed in May 2004.

Full Article and Source:
Trial Begins Pasco Couple Accused of Bilking Woman

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brooke Astor's Lasting Legacy

Remember the Astor trial? The ongoing case raised questions about whether noted philanthropist Brooke Astor, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, understood what she was doing when she changed her will in 2004, diverting millions that had long been promised to charities to her son, Anthony Marshall. Allegations also arose that her son and a co-defendant — charged with conspiracy, fraud, larceny and forgery — manipulated a confused centenarian into parting with her treasured $10 million painting.

The trial has lasted 18 weeks, twice as long as the judge originally estimated, but closing arguments finally began in a downtown Manhattan courtroom today. They’re expected to continue through Wednesday.

Headlines heralded the trial’s start last spring. Spectators, eager to see celebrity witnesses like Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger and intrigued by the backstage glimpses into the life of a New York icon, crowded the courtroom.

Those of us who pay attention to issues affecting older Americans were fascinated, too, as alleged financial exploitation of the elderly — an abuse that also plays out among ordinary families in ordinary towns — got a national spotlight.

Then came a parade of more than 70 prosecution witnesses: Mrs. Astor’s famous friends, her doctor, home nurses and aides, housekeepers and maids, lawyers and handwriting experts, her two grandsons testifying against their father.

Summer arrived and ebbed, jurors were seen dozing or rolling their eyes, the courtroom grew emptier. We paid more attention to health care reform dramas, Iran’s election and Jaycee Dugard than to the question of what Brooke Astor, who died in 2007 at 105, truly wanted to do with her $180 million estate, and her lucidity or lack thereof.

But the issues the trial raises still matter. All forms of elder abuse are substantially underreported, experts say, and financial abuse — less apt to leave visible scars — is particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute.

Caregivers often worry that strangers may scam their elderly relatives, when family members themselves appear the more common culprits. And uncertainty about whether an old person is legally competent, and competent to do what, will surely intensify as lives lengthen and dementia rates climb.Mrs. Astor devoted her attention, and her fortune, to many causes; preventing elder abuse was never one of them. Maybe it will inadvertently benefit, nonetheless.

Full Article and Source:
Brooke Astor's Lasting Legacy

See also:
Marshall Falls at Trial

Astor Died Early

Closer to Freedom

The Richardson couple, who says they are being held against their will , is a step closer to their freedom. A new lawyer has been assigned to their case but there are still serious questions about why some of the rules were not followed

In 2005, the Texas legislature decided the elderly needed protection, so the Texas Guardianship Certification Board was set up. Michael Taylor is the Kidd’s financial guardian. Collin County Judge Weldon Copeland approved Taylor, who is an accountant in Greenville. There is just one problem
“The probate code says specifically that you are not eligible to be appointed as a guardian unless you are certified properly by the Guardianship Certification Board,” said Don Ford. Ford is a probate lawyer and serves on the Certification Board.

He says the rules are clear. Guardians in Texas must pass a test, clear a criminal background check and meet the qualifications to be a guardian. Michael Taylor is not certified by the board.

We called Taylor numerous times, even went to his office in Greenville.

“If you want to make an appointment, we can set you one up,” said a woman in Taylor’s office.

At first it appeared we would get to talk to Taylor but that changed when someone learned it was Fox 4 asking for his time.

“I can’t make an appointment. You will have to go through the attorney,” the woman responded.

We tried attorney Joe Aston. He represents Taylor the Guardian. No response from him.

The Kidds say they are living at the Countryside Nursing Home against their will . The state argued the Richardson couple was incapacitated, unable to care for themselves, after Michael broke his hip and required surgery. Eugenia suffers from memory loss.

The Kidd’s Richardson house was scheduled to be auctioned off in a foreclosure sale but the home was pulled from the auction list . It cannot be sold unless the judge signs off on it. Ford says a wards home should never go into foreclosure if there is equity in the house. The guardian’s job is to protect the assets. The judge’s job is to ensure the best course of action is always taken.

“We are supposed to consider the least restrictive alternative, not go all the way to the most restrictive,” Ford said. “If a person needs a little bit of assistance, then what can we do to make that little bit of assistance happen without having to completely strip away all of their rights?” Ford asked.

The Kidd’s case is costing taxpayers. Bert Starr’s four thousand dollar bill was picked up by Collin County taxpayers. There is also a state attorney and an attorney for the guardian. Melinda Hartnett says she does not know who will be paying her to represent the Jean and Michael Kidd. She says she may take the case pro bono or the county could pick up the tab.

Full Article and Source:
The Kidds Closer to Freedom

See also:
Elderly Couple Won't Lose House

Elderly Couple Forced Into State Custody

Ex-Judges Facing Wrath of RICO

Former Luzerne County judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. face a bleak future now that they've been indicted under the federal RICO statute, according to the University of Notre Dame law professor who wrote it.

"They're going to go to jail for a long time and they're going to be broke," said G. Robert Blakey, who drafted the Organized Crime Control Act, which includes RICO, while serving as chief counsel to a U.S. Senate subcommittee in the early 1970s.

RICO, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, allows prosecutors to bundle crimes committed by members of a group and show a pattern of wrongdoing when presenting their case to a jury.

"What it allows is diverse crimes to be joined in one proceeding," said Mr. Blakey, considered the foremost authority on RICO. "It changes the rules of evidence. They have to prove more than just one charge. They're permitted to prove more."

RICO also gives prosecutors enhanced powers to seize defendants' assets.

"Normally, the government doesn't try to seize what you stole, the banks do. In this situation, every dime you made illicitly is going to belong to the government," Mr. Blakey said. "If they can't find it, they can get a judgment against your general assets.

"Those guys are going to be wiped out and they deserve to be," Mr. Blakey said of the former judges.

Former Luzerne County judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. face a bleak future now that they've been indicted under the federal RICO statute, according to the University of Notre Dame law professor who wrote it.

"They're going to go to jail for a long time and they're going to be broke," said G. Robert Blakey, who drafted the Organized Crime Control Act, which includes RICO, while serving as chief counsel to a U.S. Senate subcommittee in the early 1970s.

RICO, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, allows prosecutors to bundle crimes committed by members of a group and show a pattern of wrongdoing when presenting their case to a jury.

"What it allows is diverse crimes to be joined in one proceeding," said Mr. Blakey, considered the foremost authority on RICO. "It changes the rules of evidence. They have to prove more than just one charge. They're permitted to prove more."

RICO also gives prosecutors enhanced powers to seize defendants' assets.

"Normally, the government doesn't try to seize what you stole, the banks do. In this situation, every dime you made illicitly is going to belong to the government," Mr. Blakey said. "If they can't find it, they can get a judgment against your general assets.

"Those guys are going to be wiped out and they deserve to be," Mr. Blakey said of the former judges.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Judges Facing Wrath of RICO

See also:
Judged Indicted in Fraud-Scheme

Judges Plead Guilty

Class Action Against Judges

When Judges Stain Our Kids

Kickback Scheme Judges Sued

Alleged Public Corruption

Suspicions Panned Out

It’s easy to criticize former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan now that the criminal charges against them are out, but they were still the kings of the courthouse when then-county controller Steve Flood challenged them over the detention center.

“Steve Flood was surrounded by corruption and stood up to it, and they did everything they could to hurt him,” said West Chester attorney Sam Stretton, who was Flood’s solicitor when he unsuccessfully attempted to subpoena the judges and others to obtain answers about the PA Child Care juvenile detention center.

Some lawyers privately supported Flood’s efforts but acted like they didn’t know him in public, saying they were afraid of retribution from the two judges, Stretton said. Many county employees and politicians tried to portray him as a nut case who spun wild conspiracy theories, he said.

“They were trying to make him look like a fool,” said county minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban, one of the few county officials who publicly supported Flood’s efforts to get to the truth about the center.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyers: Flood's Suspisions Panned Out

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Legal Protections for the Elderly

Misappropriation of an elderly person's assets by someone legally authorized to oversee them may now be a lot tougher to pull off in the State of New York. New legislation that went into effect Sept. 1 — in the form of a radically changed power-of-attorney (POA) document — couldn't have come at a better time. "Financial abuse is one of the fastest growing areas of elder abuse," says Andrea Lowenthal, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York. "Older people are a growing segment of society and are among the most vulnerable, often because of their misplaced trust." But if seniors are the prey, then they often choose their predators — people they've empowered to act on their behalf, as agents, in financial matters, though a POA.

To be granted the rights associated with a POA was pretty uncomplicated under the old document. Only one signature was required — that of the principal assigning POA to the agent. In some cases, the agent — usually an offspring — didn't even know he or she had been named in the document until the principal became unable to take care of day-to-day financial affairs. Such secrecy generally led to confusion down the road, with the appointee often woefully ignorant of the principal's state of affairs. In other instances, a health-care aide or housekeeper with ulterior motives might procure a POA and persuade a gullible senior to sign it. The signature of the principal was basically all that mattered then.

Now things are different.

"The new power of attorney has teeth," says Ronald Fatoullah, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York.

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New Protetions for the Elderly

Still Needs Care, but Where?

Larry Brazil has been a patient at University Community Hospital for nearly 1,000 days.

He has racked up a hospital bill — in addition to his doctors' fees — of more than $1.7 million, his family says.

His mind is alert, but he can't walk or talk and must use a ventilator to breathe 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But soon the 77-year-old retired printer and dump truck driver will be discharged under a court order, ending the hospital's unprecedented two-year effort to move him and taking his family into uncertain territory as they attempt to care for him at home.

Lengthy stays and million-dollar hospital bills are not unheard of. But Brazil's case raises serious questions about health care access and costs. How can one patient remain in the hospital for so long — likely at taxpayers' expense — at a time when millions of others struggle to get health care?

And why is it so difficult for families like the Brazils to find good options for long-term care outside the hospital?

Brazil's case "is an anomaly, but it's an expensive anomaly," said Jay Wolfson, an expert on health policy at the University of South Florida.

Full Article and Source:
Patient Runs Out of Hospital Time but Options are Slim

Task Force Refines Ways to Protect Seniors

As the wave of Baby Boomers hits 65 — and many retire to the Rogue Valley — they can become vulnerable to financial abuse by relatives, caretakers, housekeepers and a range of handymen and helpers.

In response, the Southern Oregon Financial Fraud and Security Team, a consortium of social service workers, bankers and police detectives are honing methods for early detection and intervention and, if needed, for prosecuting the abuse as a crime, rather than a civil matter to be pursued by the victim.

Ways to protect seniors
Experts in preventing financial exploitation of elders suggest the following safeguards:

•Never advertise for a caretaker, handyman or driver. Find them through senior centers or other trusted sources.
•Get references and call them. Hire a company to do a background check.
•Make a plan as you age to find someone you trust, who can be "there for you" with your finances.
•Consider getting a professional conservator, who has a financial plan that is registered with a judge and who must check in with the judge regularly.
•Be careful with sudden intimacy of newfound friends.
•Guard against salespeople winning your trust with goods and services or "scaring you into buying" something at seemingly extravagant prices, as they often return with bigger scams.

"The barriers that have been thrown up to impede prosecution and investigation are coming down," said elder abuse expert Paul Greenwood, a deputy district attorney in San Diego and the main speaker Friday at an Elder Abuse Seminar for professionals at Rogue Valley Medical Center.

"There are a lot of stereotypes out there, such as that elders would not be good witnesses because their memory may be shot," said Greenwood in an interview. "OK, their memory may be shot. Testifying will show that's why they took advantage of them."

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Task Force Refines Ways to Protect Seniors

Monday, September 14, 2009

Judges Indicted in Fraud Scheme

Two former Pennsylvania judges were indicted yesterday on federal racketeering charges in connection with a scheme to place juvenile offenders in privately owned detention centers.

A federal grand jury in Harrisburg returned a 48-count indictment against former Luzerne County judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr., who are accused of taking millions of dollars in kickbacks related to the construction of two youth detention facilities.

Conahan and Ciavarella had pleaded guilty in February to honest services fraud and tax evasion in a deal with prosecutors that called for a sentence of 87 months in prison, far below federal guidelines.

But the deal was rejected last month by Senior US District Judge Edward M. Kosik, who said the two hadn’t fully accepted responsibility for the crimes, and the former judges switched their pleas to not guilty.

Yesterday’s indictment marked a dramatic escalation in the government’s pursuit of the disgraced judges. The charges include racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations and could bring decades in prison. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of at least $2.8 million, “which is alleged to be the proceeds of the charged criminal activity,’’ according to a news release issued by the US attorney’s office in Harrisburg.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-PA Judges Endicted in Fraud Scheme

See also:
Judges Plead Guilty

Class Action Against Judges

When Judges Stain Our Kids

Kickback Scheme Judges Sued

Alleged Public Corruption

State Lawyer Chastises Lokuta

Former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta's discussion of a confidential 2006 ethics complaint against former President Judge Michael T. Conahan appeared as a "blatant maneuver to muddy the water and manipulate public opinion," an attorney for the state Judicial Conduct Board said Thursday.

The anonymous complaint accused Mr. Conahan of packing the court staff with relatives and political allies, hearing cases involving lawyers with whom he had personal or professional ties and manipulating the assignment of cases to other judges.

Frank Puskas, deputy chief counsel for the conduct board, chastised Ms. Lokuta and her attorney, Ron Santora, for referencing the complaint during a hearing in May and in a court filing last month.

Mr. Puskas included the criticism in a 23-page filing urging a state discipline court to deny Ms. Lokuta a new hearing on the misconduct charges that led to her removal from the bench last December.

Efforts to reach Mr. Santora were unsuccessful Thursday.

Under state law, recently submitted evidence of alleged wrongdoing by several panel witnesses, including Mr. Conahan and his co-defendant, former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., does not merit a new hearing if it is used only to impeach the credibility of a witness, Mr. Puskas said.

Mr. Conahan and Mr. Ciavarella were indicted Wednesday on 48 counts related to their alleged involvement in a kids-for-cash corruption scheme, including racketeering, bribery, extortion and money laundering.

Last month, Ms. Lokuta submitted statements from four witnesses, including three current or former courthouse employees, by Mr. Conahan and Mr. Ciavarella in an attempt to erode their credibility and that of two other witnesses who testified at her misconduct hearing, former prothonotary Jill A. Moran and former Court Administrator William T. Sharkey Sr.

The statements should have been submitted during Ms. Lokuta's misconduct hearing and the witnesses should have testified about their claims, Mr. Puskas said.

Mr. Puskas said Ms. Lokuta's claims Mr. Conahan retaliated against her for going to federal authorities were contradicted by the timing of the federal corruption investigation. The investigation commenced in the summer of 2006, Mr. Puskas said, more than two years after the Judicial Conduct Board receive a complaint against Ms. Lokuta from her former executive secretary.

Full Article and Source:
State Lawyer Chastises Lokuta

See also:
Lokuta Files Petition

Lokuta Not Entitled to New Trial

"Life Settlements"

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

Full Article and Source:
Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance

Lilly Paid Doctors to Prescribe Zyprexa

Eli Lilly & Co. paid doctors in South Carolina for participating in a speakers’ program in exchange for prescribing the antipsychotic Zyprexa, and used golf bets to get more patients on the drug, according to notes by sales representatives.

During a golf game, one doctor agreed to start new patients on Zyprexa for each time a sales representative parred, or put the ball in a hole within a predetermined number of strokes, according to the notes.

“I got four pars out of nine holes,” Lilly salesman Vince Sullivan said in a February 2002 note. “I said I wanted my four new patients.”

The notes were made public for the first time in a court hearing today in South Carolina in the state’s lawsuit against Lilly over Zyprexa marketing practices. State officials contend Indianapolis-based Lilly marketed the drug for unapproved uses. A trial is set to begin Sept. 14.

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Lilly Paid Doctors to Prescribe Zyprexa

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Milford Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

A Milford woman has pleaded guilty to tax fraud, theft and perjury.

The Division of Revenue announced Thursday that 46-year-old Georgeina Ranshaw pleaded guilty in Kent County Superior Court.

Ranshaw owned Nurses on the Go, which served elderly and disabled individuals needing personal care, and operated Littleman's Cleaning Service. Officials say she grossed $600,000 in earnings from the two businesses, but failed to file a tax return.

Officials say Ranshaw admitted that she used her grandson's Social Security number on a business license application for the cleaning business, concealing her ownership.

As a result of the plea, officials say Ranshaw was ordered not to be involved at all in the home health care business or the care or guardianship of the elderly.

Renshaw's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27.

Milford Woman Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Former Cop Sentenced For Fraud

A former police officer has been sentenced to consecutive prison terms for defrauding his mother-in-law while using her credit to run his business.

Ryan Gary Hogensen, 43, had been charged with nine counts of felony fraud over two years dating back to the 2003 startup of his trucking company in West Haven.

They included three counts of exploitation of an elderly adult for scamming his 77-year-old mother-in-law.

Allegations included a $26,000 phony insurance claim in the woman's name, as well as inducing her to sign what he portrayed as a document vouching for his background that was actually a loan document for $21,000 still owed today.

He was also accused of forging her name to purchase $4,470 worth of tires.

Total amount owed tied to the frauds charged by the Utah Attorney General's Office involving three vendors could reach six figures, with one estimate as high as $248,000, officials said.

Hogensen pleaded guilty in June to one forgery count and one exploitation count in return for dismissal of the remaining charges in a plea bargain.

On Sept. 3, 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda sentenced Hogensen to consecutive five-year prison terms, and ordered him to pay restitution of $8,502 to his mother-in-law.

Restitution to the three suppliers Hogensen worked with will be worked out and become part of Hogensen's terms of parole, DiReda ordered.

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Former Cop Sentenced For Fraud

Couple Pleads Not Guilty

A Rancho Cucamonga couple accused of stealing money intended for three children in their care pleaded not guilty to all counts against them Thursday.

Richard Reyes, 50, and Yvonne Reyes, 49, were arrested in April on suspicion of grand theft of guardianship funds intended for the care of the three juveniles.

Richard Reyes faces seven different charges and Yvonne Reyes faces three.

The couple was also assigned separate attorneys during their arraignment in the West Valley Superior Court.

Richard Reyes will be back in court Oct. 19 for a jury trial. Yvonne Reyes will have a pre-trial Oct. 2.

Over an 18-month period, prosecutors said the couple drained accounts of $750,000 that was set up for the minors.

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Couple Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Stealing From Children in Their Care

Children and Friends Can Drain a Senior's Savings

Most elderly Americans don’t have any reason to worry about being swindled by the likes of Bernie Madoff. Rather, there may be more of a need to keep an eye on family — grown sons, daughters and acquaintances who could steal their life savings.

That’s the unfortunate truth. And there are signs the problem is getting worse.

Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion a year, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute, a research arm of the MetLife insurance organization. But those are just rough estimates of obvious losses, the researchers say.

Those dollar losses often lead to further financial calamities such as credit problems, depression, suddenly unaffordable health care and the loss of independence, which push the total incalculably higher.

“Elder abuse is a tragic crime that affects our most vulnerable citizens,” says Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who also serves as the state’s official senior advocate.

Full Article and Source:
Children and Friends Can Drain a Senior's Savings: Tips to Avoid Financial Elder Abuse

Charged With Embezzlement and More

An embezzlement case involving a Grand Blanc Township man has also become a child pornography investigation.

According to investigators, Rickie Woodring, 50, stole nearly $190,000 from his elderly mother. He's accused of using the money to buy and sell coins, sports collectibles and even KISS concert tickets on eBay.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell says this investigation uncovered something that's even more disturbing.

What led investigators to Woodring in the first place was a complaint from his mother's court-appointed legal guardian. Pickell says that guardian was suspicious of withdrawals made by Woodring from accounts jointly held with his mother.

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Ricky Woodring Charged With Embezzlement, Child Abuse