Saturday, November 7, 2009

Disbarred Atty Pleads Guilty to Guardian Thefts

A former Brooklyn, N.Y., lawyer has pleaded guilty to fleecing millions of dollars from guardianship accounts he oversaw for incapacitated seniors and children.

Steven T. Rondos and his law firm, Raia & Rondos, were indicted in January on money laundering and grand larceny charges for stealing more than $4 million. On Wednesday, Rondos pleaded guilty to all 19 counts of the indictment, said his lawyer, Franklin A. Rothman.

Rondos, who has been free on bail, "acknowledged fully that he committed some wrongful takings," Rothman said, but added that the amount taken was "very much in dispute." He said Rondos had paid back around $1 million before any probes had begun. It was later discovered that at least 16 court examiners who oversaw Rondos had signed off on his reports without detecting any red flags. Five examiners resigned in the wake of the investigation and one was suspended.

Rondos, who has since been disbarred, faces six to 18 years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 22.

The law firm has pleaded not guilty; its case is on the calendar for Dec. 3.

Disbarred Attorney Pleads Guilty to Guardian Account Thefts

Daniel Gross: The Fight Continues

From the grave, Daniel Gross is still shaking up Connecticut's probate court system.

Gross, readers of my newspaper columns will recall, was the elderly Long Island man imprisoned in a Waterbury nursing home by a probate court judge for 10 months beginning in 2005, after falling ill while visiting his daughter.

After an outraged superior court judge freed Gross in 2006, he eventually returned to his New York home. He died in November of 2008, free.

The Gross case eventually led to changes that spurred the legislature's decision this year to radically downsize the courts from 117 to 54. Significantly, judges in the future will have to be lawyers who will have to undergo more training and work longer and more regular hours.

Now, a federal appeals court has taken up one of the remaining probate court outrages - conservators who overstep their authority and whether they are immune from lawsuits.

It's about time.

In Gross's case, a court-appointed conservator - who was supposed to be looking after his best interests - forcibly kept the elderly man in a nursing home. A court-appointed lawyer disregarded Gross's wishes to return home to Long Island.

Gross has been dead for two years, but a long-simmering lawsuit by his daughter has resulted in what could be a significant decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit judges have asked Connecticut's top court to "explain the role and function" of both court appointed lawyers and conservators.

Probate judges tell me that these court-appointed "agents" must be immune from lawsuits or else they will never be able to find lawyers willing to take these jobs. I can understand that.

But I also remember a heartbroken old man who wanted to go home but was unable to leave a nursing home because a couple of lawyers thought they knew better.

Full Article and Source:
Daniel Gross v. Probate: The Fight Continues

Former Guardian Brings Unloaded Gun to Court

A 35-year-old former Washoe County legal guardian, under investigation for allegedly defrauding her elderly wards, was arrested for bringing an unloaded gun into a Reno court.

Angela Cheri Dottei, also known as Angela Cheri Sommers, was booked into Washoe County Jail on Tuesday on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. She is being held there in lieu of $25,000 cash bail.

Authorities said she was going to a hearing in Family Court when the handgun was found in her purse as it went through a screening station. She also had an empty magazine.

Washoe County Deputy Brooke Keast said Dottei was cooperative and said she did not realize the gun was in her purse.

In the last two months, the family court has sanctioned Dottei on allegations she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly wards, whom she was entrusted to make decisions on their estates and finances. Her license to work as a guardian has also been suspended.

Full Article and Source:
Former Guardian Held for Alleged Gun in Court

Note: Despite the suspension of her license, Angela Dottei is currently listed as a national "Master Guardian" with the National Guardianship Association

Vietnam Vet Gets Probation

A mentally ill Vietnam veteran was sentenced Friday to five years of probation for making repeated threats to kill his Veterans Affairs financial guardian and blow up the agency's office building.

Ronald Franklin Barnes, 59 of Wildwood, had already spent close to 15 months in custody following his arrest. He pleaded guilty in August to making the threats, and U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich granted a defense motion to vary from the sentencing range of 15 to 21 months, based on the amount of time Barnes has already served.

Barnes admitted to making several phone calls to the VA's St. Petersburg office threatening to bomb the building and kill his fiduciary guardian.

Barnes told the judge that he had stopped taking his medication because he didn't like the side effects.

"If I'm on my meds, I don't act like this," Barnes said, promising to stay on them.

Full Article and Source:
Mentally Ill Vietnam Vet Gets Probation for Threatening a Veterans' Affairs Employee

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free National Silver Alert On Line Registration

National Silver Alert Launches Free Online Registration Program for All Senior Citizens And Individuals With Alzheimer’s Disease And Other Cognitive Disorders.

Time is of the Essence when individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders wander off or become lost. Statistics show that at least 50% of those with Alzheimer’s will wander, and up to 70% of wanderers will do so repeatedly. Approximately 50% of those who wander away will suffer serious injury or death if not found within 24 hours.

TheNational Silver Alert program was developed to provide vital information to authorities to assist in the search and safe recovery of these individuals, and quickly reunite them with their loved ones and/or caregivers.

The free online registration program captures the following information and stores it in a secure, online database:
* Vital, personal information
* Caregiver information
* Primary physician information
* Vehicle information
* Color photograph
* Unique Silver Alert ID number

For more information, please visit

Full Article, Video, and Source:
National Silver Alert Launches Free On Line Registration Program

Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., is one of three co-sponsors of the Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009.

The bill — which was introduced Oct. 21 — seeks to protect seniors by establishing specialized elder abuse prosecution, research programs and activities to aid victims. It would also establish emergency crisis-response teams to combat elder abuse.

“The growing number of older Americans demands we have enough programs and law enforcement services in place to protect our seniors,” LeMieux said. “This measure is aimed at preventing situations where abuse could occur, as well as giving our justice system the tools it needs to prosecute offenders who mistreat or try to defraud the elderly.”

Senate Bill 1821 is sponsored by Sen. Herbert Kolh, D-Wis., and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary for review.

“People are living longer; this helps to address the expected increased in crimes committed upon the elderly,” said Ken Lundberg, LeMieux’s communication director. “Many of the grant opportunities are for states and localities that don’t have access to adequate resources to focus on the issue.”

A companion bill, HR 488, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., earlier this year and passed the House on Feb. 11. "

Full Article and Source:
Proposed Law Seeks to Protect Senior Citizens

See Also:
Proposed Elder Abuse Victims Act

Former Lawyer & Admitted Embezzler Sentenced for Tax Crime

Steven Krell, a 61 year old ex-accountant and Los Angeles lawyer who pleaded no contest to state grand theft charges in 2008, was sentenced on Monday to probation and house arrest. Krell was sentenced for filing federal false tax returns after embezzling nearly $1.5 million from two of his clients, including an elderly woman with dementia.

Krell, a former partner in the Los Angeles firm of Green, Hasson and Janks, pleaded guilty in June.

Krell admitted in his plea agreement that he embezzled $1,476,900 from the elderly woman, her trust and a physician starting in 1997 and continuing through 2003, says Michael Moriarty of the Internal Revenue Service.

Anderson sentenced Krell on Monday in downtown Los Angeles to three years of probation, including 30 hours of community service per month and eight months of house arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Rochmes said.

Krell’s attorney, Michael Proctor, told the court his client had already paid about $500,000 in restitution.

In February 2008, Krell was sentenced in Los Angeles Superior Court to seven years and four months behind bars for the same underlying conduct – grand theft.

The judge stayed the prison term on the condition that Krell comply with the terms of his probation and continue long-term psychiatric treatment after he made “significant” restitution payments, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Krell also served less than a year in county jail and was placed on supervised release for seven years.

In the state case, Krell, who was also once a licensed attorney, admitted helping himself to nearly $1 million from the trust of a 90-year-old woman, who was mentally incapacitated, and looting about $400,000 from the physician’s account he was managing.

As part of his plea, Krell agreed to file amended tax returns, reflecting $514,125 in illegally obtained proceeds, Moriarty said. In addition to the tax due, Krell is liable for the fraud penalty, which amounts to 75 percent of the tax due on the proceeds he embezzled.

Full Article and Source:
Former Los Angelas Lawyer Embezzles $1.5 Million Sentenced for Tax Crime

Crimes Against Aging Parents

Officials say the downturn in the economy has led to far greater exploitation of the elderly as younger family members prey upon older relatives.

More and more, adult children are moving in with aging parents because of the tough economic times and then victimizing them. What can start as using some of their parents' money for gas can escalate into totally wiping out their parents' assets, according to area officials.

A hurting economy can make whatever funds are coming in all that more tempting for others, said Ellen Brooks, Montgomery County district attorney.

Full Article and Source:
Exploiting Their Elders: Crimes Against Aging Parents Rise as Economy Falters

Thursday, November 5, 2009

City Council Shows Support for Elouise James

Clemson City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night with one noticeable absence — suspended member Elouise James.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended James, arrested in September on criminal charges resulting from a joint investigation conducted by the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and SLED over several months, late Friday afternoon. The executive order said the suspension, effective immediately, came following James’ Oct. 20 indictment by a Pickens County Grand Jury and South Carolina law regarding fraud.

James was charged in September with two counts of obtaining goods by false pretenses and one count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in Pickens County and two counts of forgery and one count of obstruction of Justice in Greenville County.

“Essentially, Elouise James still holds her City Council seat,” said Rodney Allen, director of Registrations and Elections in Pickens County, when asked to explain the suspension. “However, she has been relieved of her powers and responsibilities of the office until she is either found guilty or acquitted.”

Clemson Mayor Larry Abernathy, seated next to the placard displaying James’ name, said on Monday night he was “very, very sad” about the governor’s decision.

“I don’t believe it diminishes Mrs. James’ contribution to the council or her commitment to the city,” Abernathy said.

Full Article and Source:
Clemson Council Shows Support for Elouise James

See Also:
Clemson City Council Woman Arrested

Victim Families on Vulnerable Adult Justice Project

The families of the alleged abuse victims at Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea — under their organization Families Against Nursing Home Abuse Support & Advocacy Group — have been given a seat on the Vulnerable Adult Justice Project, which aims to reform Minnesota’s Vulnerable Adult Act and other related laws.

The project, which began in 2007, brings together expertise from more than 50 different perspectives, including the state ombudsman for long-term care; elder and disability organizations such as AARP, Alzheimer’s Association and ElderCare Rights Alliance; the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office; the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services; and health care providers, to name a few.

In light of the high profile assault cases in nursing homes — of which Albert Lea was a part — the group sought to raise public awareness of protecting vulnerable adults.

Full Article and Source:
Locals on Panel for Elder Abuse Law

See Also:
Contested Omnibus Hearing

Support Group Formed

Community Outrage

For more information on The Families Against Nursing Home Abuse Support & Advocacy Group, visit

England: The Court of Protection

There have been 3,000 complaints about the Court of Protection since its inception two years ago, over the seizing of assets of elderly and mentally impaired people against their relatives’ wishes.

According to a report in the Mail on Sunday the court has taken control of over £3.2 billion of assets and heard 23,000 cases involving people who are no longer able to look after their own affairs.The Office of the Public Guardian – which is required to act when a person does not have a lasting power of attorney – also took £23 million in fees from the bank accounts of those they seized money from.

According to the paper, there were 3,000 complaints in the first 18 months of operation – with allegation that relatives were not being consulted, large fees being imposed and that officials ‘raided’ elderly people’s homes for documents.

Full Article and Source:
Protection Court Seizes Billions From Elderly

Not All Cash-For-Kids Cases Thrown Out

From her perch as Luzerne County district attorney, Jacqueline Musto Carroll agreed that juvenile defendants convicted as part of a corrupt "cash-for-kids" scandal ought to have their cases thrown out.

But not all of them.

Under Thursday's sweeping Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, about 6,500 juveniles convicted over a five-year period by former Luzerne County Court Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. will have their records expunged.

That leaves about 100 cases that may be reopened - serious offenses in which the defendant was represented by counsel, and is either still incarcerated or involved in the juvenile justice system through probation, treatment, or unpaid fines or restitution.

Citing "a travesty of justice," the state's highest court followed the recommendation of Judge Arthur Grim of Berks County, whom it appointed in February to review all cases involving Ciavarella under the cash-for-kids scheme.

Prosecutors argue that the former judge deprived young defendants of their right to counsel, ordered them into detention even when probation officers did not recommend it, pressured those officers to change their recommendations, and then institutionalized youths for offenses as minor as fighting with other students in school.

The Luzerne County District Attorney's Office has 30 days to identify the defendants it wants to prosecute again. It must then submit the list to Grim, who will determine case by case which should go forward.

Full Article and Source:
Luzerne DA to Reopen Some "Cash-For-Kids Cases"

See Also:
Thousands of Juvenile Convictions Overturned

Panel May Cut Number of Probate Judges

One recommendation being considered by a commission created by the Legislature to review the state’s judicial system is to reduce the number of probate judges in southern Vermont from five to one.

Later this week, the commission will vote on whether to recommend to the Legislature that Vermont’s probate judge count be reduced from 17 to five.

The commission was charged with the task of finding inefficiencies in the court system and recommending ways to eliminate them in order to reduce the judiciary’s budget.

The proposed recommendations have been met with objections from probate judges and trust administrators around the state who contend the changes would inconvenience petitioners, make the courts less familiar with the needs of the populace and overload the remaining judges with too much work.

In an article in the Fall 2009 Vermont Bar Journal, Probate Judges Joanne Ertel and George Belcher wrote that the process behind the commission’s deliberations are of a "flawed nature," the data it relied on were inaccurate and it failed to "adequately weigh the consequences of the recommendations."

Ertel told the Reformer that their article speaks for itself.

"We are speaking from the heart," she said.

Full Article and Source:
Panel Would Cut Windham Probate Judges From 5 to 1

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Judges Helping the Community

Two local judges were serving more than just warrants and jail sentences this past week by taking some time out to serve their community.

Both state District Judge Paul White and County Court-at-Law No. 1 Judge Bob Inselmann participated in service projects to show the lighter side of a judge's role.

On Thursday, White demonstrated his cooking experience by teaching the ladies at the Mosaic Center how to make marshmallows from scratch.

White's Drug Court program has partnered with the Mosaic Center since its inception a few years ago.

"A lot can be learned from making homemade marshmallows. It's not difficult, yet not something the everyday person ever thinks about," White said.

The judge said he sees a link between making marshmallows and following the right path in one's own life.

"Life is not difficult, either. We need to have faith in our abilities and take one step at a time, making sure it's the right step in the right order, similar to following a recipe for success," he said.

On Saturday, Inselmann led a group of more than 50 probationers at 8 a.m. to work on a restoration project at the Dawn of Light Lodge No. 79 on Leach Street.

The building was the site for the meetings of Lufkin's black Masons, constructed more than 85 years ago, a press release stated.

"Community Service projects are usually required as a sanction for most misdemeanors, but working on a project such as this not only teaches discipline, but about preserving Lufkin's heritage," Inselmann said.

Full Article and Source:
Judges Take to the Streets (and Kitchen) to Help Community

A Family That Refused to Give Up

Laurene Transue thought the teenagers were kidding.

15-year-old daughter, Hillary, had been charged with harassment for creating a fake MySpace page that mocked an assistant principal at her school.

“When Hillary was getting ready to go to court, other kids were teasing her, ‘You’re going to get sent away to Camp Adams,’ ” Transue said. “I said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ That is absolutely the last resort. You were never in trouble before. You didn’t do anything harmful. I thought they were teasing her.”

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

On April 17, 2007 Hillary appeared before Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ciavarella. Following a hearing that lasted less than three minutes, she was shackled and led out of the courtroom to await transport to Camp Adams, a residential juvenile treatment facility near Jim Thorpe.

It took a month, but Laurene Transue won her daughter’s release based on the fact she had not been afforded her constitutional rights in the hearing before Ciavarella.

The story could very well have ended there for the Transues. Hillary was safe at home.

“We felt so betrayed by authority and our own government and justice system,” Laurene Transue, 47, said in an interview Friday from her White Haven home. “I knew something was terribly wrong. My motive was to get justice for my daughter. But when we found out how many other children and families were going through what we went through, we felt we had to do something.”

Full Article and Source:
Bringing Justice to Them All

Ex Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty

Authorities say a former real estate agent has pleaded guilty to felony charges for defrauding an elderly Tucson resident.

At a hearing in Pima County Superior Court, prosecutors say 46-year-old Ammar Dean Halloum pleaded guilty to one count of theft/financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices. He will be sentenced Dec. 1. Halloum, of Phoenix, also agreed to pay more than $200,000 in restitution to the victim and more than $30,000 to the Arizona Attorney General's Office for prosecution costs.

Halloum admitted that while working as a licensed real estate agent, he obtained the title to a Gilbert home through misrepresentations and omissions.

Full Article and Source:
Ex Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty of Fraud

Accused of Scamming Elderly Man

Gina Y. Robinson, 38, of 1412 Eighth St., South Pekin, was arrested for financial exploitation of the elderly, forgery and altering titles, according to Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Sanders.

In August the son of an 83-year-old Pekin man called police saying he feared his elderly father had been the victim of forgery by the father’s power of attorney, Robinson. The power of attorney was revoked in September and the son appointed to the position. The victim owned several properties in Pekin and one of the properties had been foreclosed on in May. The elderly man had been renting the house to Robinson, said Sanders.

The son noticed that his father never seemed to have any money and that Robinson, who had convinced the victim in March to make her his power of attorney, was always writing checks on his father’s account.

During the investigation, police learned that Robinson had also convinced the victim to make her his beneficiary at the time of his death.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Allegedly Scams Elderly Man

Elderly Couple Accused of Scamming Friend

An elderly couple is arrested, accused of scamming a friend out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

RI State police say that Jaime Resende, 62, and Maria Resende, 69, of Warren took a total of $360,850 dollars from the victim. The couple received the cash over the course of nearly two years.

Capt. James Swanberg says the couple received exorbitant amounts of cash to run simple errands for the victim; such as taking her to the doctor's office.

State police say the victim's mental state is diminishing. The case was brought to their attention by the victim's power of attorney.

Both suspects were arraigned on charges including obtaining money under false pretenses, and exploitation of an elder. Both have been released on personal recognizance.

Full Article and Source:
RI Elderly Woman Scammed Out of 300+K

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jail Instead of Bail

Rejecting a bail amount acceptable to prosecutors and the financial adviser accused of bilking an elderly woman out of $1 million, a Nassau judge ordered the suspected swindler jailed last week on more than seven times that amount.

With a bail bondwoman in the courtroom Friday ready to sign off on his release, suspected swindler John Mondello instead went off to jail, his family unable to post the $750,000 set by Judge Donald H. Birnbaum. Prosecutors asked for bail of $100,000.

"I'm very concerned about the exploitation of [the] . . . elderly," Birnbaum told Mondello, who pleaded not guilty to first-degree grand larceny and other charges in the alleged fleecing of the 84-year-old from Queens.

The judge rebuffed an impassioned argument by Mondello's defense attorney, David Scott Smith of Uniondale, that his 61-year-old client showed he's not a flight risk by staying in town during the police investigation and then voluntarily surrendering to detectives.

Said the judge: "At his age, I don't know if any amount of bail would be sufficient," especially given that the grand larceny charge alone could carry mandatory jail time.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Drives Up Bail of Suspected Swindler of Woman, 84

Former Attorney Pleads Guilty to Two County of Unlawful Dealing of Property by a Fiduciary

Matthew T. Graff, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary in 5th District Court Friday morning in a room full of former clients who are owed restitution by the suspended Utah attorney.

Graff, who gave up his Utah State Bar license, his passport and $450,000 to hold as restitution back in May, also pleaded guilty to a communication fraud charge out of Washington County.

Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett said the 30 victims his office is in contact with are owed a total of $1,925,835, but added that if other victims come forward with legitimate claims under the same crime, they are also promised restitution under the plea agreement.

Graff's attorney Gregory Skordas said his party believes the amount owed, as given by Garrett, is too high, but the total will still be more than $1 million.

"The plea agreement has a lengthy probation period of 60 months as opposed to a usual 36 months, and the reason for that was we thought it would take longer than three years to pay restitution," Skordas said.

Skordas said there is a plan to bring $250,000 in restitution to the court during sentencing, with the rest being collected by Graff during his probationary period.

Full Article and Source:
Attorney Pleads Guilty to Charges

Two Indicted for Neglect of Tara O'Leary

A private caretaker and a New Jersey caseworker have been indicted on charges that they neglected a developmentally disabled woman who died last year after her weight dwindled to less than 50 pounds.

Debra Sloan, who cared for developmentally disabled adults for 28 years under a contract with the state, was charged with crimes that include aggravated assault, neglect of an elderly or disabled person, theft and criminal restraint.

State habilitation plan coordinator Bridget Grimes of Phillipsburg was charged with the same crimes, plus official misconduct in an indictment filed Friday by a Hunterdon County grand jury. She was responsible for monitoring clients' care and condition.

Tara O'Leary, a 28-year-old woman born with brain deformities, scoliosis and other medical problems, had for at least five years lived in the Alexandria Township home of Sloan, who had a contract with New Jersey's Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Sloan's home was one of about 600 that provide care for more than 1,200 adults under the system. The state says Sloan was paid more than $51,000 per year to care for three women.

According to medical records, O'Leary weighed 95 pounds in September 2007 — thin, but not alarmingly so for a woman only 4 feet 10.

Eleven months later, her aunt, Patricia O'Leary, visited her and found her niece to be gaunt, with unwashed hair and shoes on the wrong feet. She was so upset that she asked to be named legal guardian for her niece, who had not had one since her father died in 2005.

In September 2008, the state removed Tara O'Leary — who then weighed less than 50 pounds — and the two other women from Sloan's home. One of the other women, Erin Germaine, also had lost half her body weight.

In a hospital, Germaine recovered. O'Leary regained some weight, but did not fully recover. She died on Nov. 10. Neither Grimes nor Sloan were charged with her death.

The indictment accuses Sloan of keeping O'Leary and Germaine in conditions "manifesting extreme indifference to human life," improperly confining them to their rooms and exploiting the third woman, Lydia Joy Perry, by making her serve as caregiver to O'Leary.

Sloan also is accused of stealing from O'Leary and Germaine by using their money as her own.

Full Article and Source:
2 Charged in the Death of Disabled NJ Woman

See Also:
Tara's Law

Tara's Law - Legislation

Ronnie's Law

There is, as the saying goes, a special place in hell for the person who made this new law necessary.

It's called "Ronnie's Law," after former Audubon resident Ronnie Mich, who is autistic. In 2003, Mich was the beneficiary of $1.2 million estate left to him by his father. But the executor of the will stole the money - and Ronnie Mich's home had to be sold to pay debts.

The developmentally disabled face difficult enough lives. The fact that they also run the risk of someone stealing an inheritance is shocking and disturbing ... but, we suppose, not particularly surprising given human nature. So the additional safeguards in Ronnie's Law are welcome.

The measure, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, addresses situations where a developmentally disabled person who does not have a legal guardian is named as a beneficiary of an estate. Under such circumstances, the executor of the estate will be required to file a bond, an initial inventory and a final accounting with the Superior Court to ensure the estate is properly distributed. The court will determine the amount and conditions of the bond.

In the event the estate is a drawn-out affair, the executor will be required to provide an accounting every five years.

Under the new law, any executor of such an estate who does not post a bond and the required accounting can be replaced by the court. The law also requires that all of the estate information must be provided to the state Public Advocate, who will have the authority to intervene on behalf of disabled beneficiaries.

Full Article and Source:
Stealing From the Disabled/Law Adds Protection

Accused of Exploiting Mentally Retarded Workers

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has completed its investigation into Henry's Turkey Service and its alleged exploitation of mentally retarded processing-plant workers.

The agency's findings have been passed on to the Muscatine County attorney's office for review. Prosecutor Dana Christensen says the findings are contained in "about 15 pounds worth of reports" that he plans to examine in the weeks ahead.

More than eight months have passed since county, state and federal authorities descended on the eastern Iowa town of Atalissa and evacuated the aging bunkhouse where dozens of disabled workers had lived over the past 34 years.

The bunkhouse was shut down shortly after The Des Moines Register asked state regulators why 21 mentally retarded men were living in what appeared to be an unlicensed care facility or group home.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies have been looking into allegations that the Atalissa men were paid as little as 40 cents an hour for working in the West Liberty Foods plant.

Full Article and Source:
State Sends Prosecutor its Findings on Atalissa

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gary Harvey Court Records Sealed!

State Supreme Court Judge Judith O'Shea has sealed the court records in connection with a Horseheads woman's battle for guardianship of her husband.

Sara Harvey appeared before O'Shea in September in her continued efforts to obtain legal guardianship of Gary Harvey, who was severely brain injured in a January 2006 accident and has been in a persistent vegetative state.

Sara Harvey said her husband is suffering under significantly inadequate care provided by the Chemung County Nursing Facility and wants to get better medical care for him.

Following the September court appearance, a decision was anticipated from O'Shea within 60 days on whether there was enough evidence to schedule a hearing.

On Friday, the court clerk's office said the record on the case has been sealed and no information could be released.

Harvey said Friday that she could not disclose what the judge said because the records were sealed.

Full Article and Source:
Court Records Sealed in Horseheads Guardianship Dispute

See Also:
Time for Gary Harvey to Go Home

Upcoming Hearing for Former Judge Ann Lokuta

Former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta will have a hearing before the state Court of Judicial Discipline in Harrisburg on Nov. 17 in her ongoing bid to regain her seat on the county bench.

The court removed Lokuta from office in December on charges that she abused lawyers and court staffers and used county employees to perform personal household duties.

She has argued the charges were orchestrated by former president judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who face federal racketeering charges, in retaliation for her cooperation with federal investigators. The court will hearing arguments on whether it should consider four statements recently submitted to the court by Lokuta in which three current or former courthouse employees and one private citizen made allegations against Conahan and Ciavarella.

Lokuta to Appear Before Judicial Conduct Board Nov. 17

See Also:
State Lawyer Chastises Lokuta

Lokuta Files Petition

Lokuta Not Entitled to New Trial

Convicted of Bilking and Drugging Elderly Woman

A Decatur caregiver, convicted of drugging and then bilking her 97-year-old client, was sent to prison Thursday for crimes a judge called "horrifying."

For the second time this year, Felicia Harvey, 36, pleaded guilty to defrauding an elderly client. At a sentencing hearing Thursday, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger said Harvey might have killed her client if her fraud had not been uncovered.

"This was close to being attempted murder," Seeliger said. "That's what makes this case so horrifying to me."

Following the prosecution's recommendation, Seeliger sentenced Harvey to eight years in prison followed by 12 years on probation. He also forbade Harvey from working with the elderly in any capacity for the duration of the sentence.

The judge said he was not happy to learn that while Harvey was defrauding the 97-year-old DeKalb woman, she was negotiating a Gwinnett County case in which she pleaded guilty to stealing almost $17,000 from a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer's.

Full Article and Source:
Caregiver Guilty of Bilking, Drugging Elderly Woman

Accused of Stealing $200K

A 61-year-old Bartow woman was arrested Thursday on charges that she stole about $200,000 from an elderly woman with dementia.

A State Attorney's Office investigation concluded Phyllis Walden King took advantage of 87-year-old Lucile Bassett.

King faces first-degree felony charges of exploitation of elderly, grand theft of more than $100,000, money laundering and criminal use of personal identification.

If convicted as charged, she could receive a maximum of 120 years in prison.

Full Article and Source:
Bartow Woman Accused of Stealing $200,000


Prosecutor says victims lost over $400,000

Kimberly Hickman, 49, was found guilty by a jury in September of charges that she stole more than $25,000 from Andrew and Opal Morabeto.

In what County Attorney Jace Zack called a classic case of the financial exploitation of the elderly, Hickman was accused of taking more than $75,000 from the Morabetos during a one-year period beginning in 2007.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Guilty of Defrauding Elderly Couple

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thousands of Juvenile Convictions Overturned

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday overturned thousands of juvenile-offender convictions handed down by a judge now charged in a corruption scandal.

The judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, and Michael T. Conahan, a fellow judge who for a time was the chief of that court, are charged with taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from the owner of two privately run youth detention centers in exchange for their sending teenagers there.

The Supreme Court said the conviction of any juvenile who appeared before Judge Ciavarella after Jan. 1, 2003, was invalid. The justices barred the retrial of all but an estimated 100 of those cases.

The decision followed advice the court received from Arthur Grim, a Berks County judge whom it appointed in February to review juvenile cases involving Judges Ciavarella and Conahan.

Judge Ciavarella, who along with Judge Conahan awaits federal trial on charges of income-tax and wire fraud, routinely held juvenile hearings that lasted just minutes, failing to ask the youths before him whether they understood the consequences of waiving their right to a lawyer and pleading guilty.

“We concluded,” the justices wrote Thursday, “that the record supports Judge Grim’s determination that Ciavarella knew he was violating both the law and the procedural rules promulgated by this court applicable when adjudicating the merits of juvenile cases without the knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of counsel by the juveniles.”

Full Article and Source:
Pennsylvania Overturns Many Youths Convictions

See Also:
Two Luzerne Ex-Judges Ask For Relief From Civil Suits

Lawyers in Civil Lawsuit Pull No Punches

Sara Harvey Interviews on Family Life News

Sara Harvey's husband Gary had a heart attack and fell down the basement steps -- and became brain damaged. But she got into a tiff with the Chemung County home he was in over a fish line, and lost custody of her husband. But a small victory was recently won in court.

Listen to Sara's Interview with Sara Harnish of FLN

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Time for Gary Harvey to Go Home

State to Probe DHS

The state’s Department of Human Services will investigate why its workers failed to help a struggling Southfield woman take care of her bedridden mother, a woman who eventually died of bedsores, malnutrition and neglect.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Douglas Williams, the director of Oakland County’s Department of Human Service said, “We regret this terrible tragedy. Ms. Cooper’s death calls attention to the need for additional support for people caring for vulnerable family members.”

“We’ve reopened this case and will take any warranted and appropriate action, if necessary, against personnel involved,” Williams said.

His statement came the same day a furious Oakland County Circuit Court judge blasted DHS workers for failing to help Stephanie Cooper take care of her mother, Agnes Cooper, 63, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and disabilities as a result of strokes. She died in November 2007 of sepsis and raging bedsores.

The daughter, Stephanie Cooper, eventually pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, and faced up to five years in prison when she appeared for sentencing before Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Nanci Grant on Wednesday morning.

But Grant refused to send Cooper, 40, a clerical worker, to jail or prison, noting that DHS workers had investigated the family home at least five times, noting bedsores on Agnes Cooper, 63, in a filthy bed and malnourished.

Stephanie Cooper, a single mother suffering from clinical depression and diabetes, repeatedly sought help from the state and local agencies, but was placed on "waiting lists.”

Full Article and Source:
State to Probe DHS After Judge Blasts Woman's Care

See Also:
Judge Blasts MI Dept. of Human Services

NASGA Poll Results

"What do you think is the biggest category of financial abusers of the elderly?"

The results put guardians/conservators at the top of the list, followed closely by family members.

Guardians/Conservators: 51%
Family Members: 47%
Attorneys: 44%
Financial Advisors: 12%
Scammers: 9%
Other: 8%

Arrested for Operating Unlicensed Care Facilities

Mary Alexander, 43, is currently under arrest for operating an unlicensed care facility, but investigators say more charges and more arrests could be on the way

"There is a lot of a information, documentation, evidence for us to look through and people to speak with," said investigator Andrea Chilton.

Investigators say clients would drop their patients off at a very professional looking facility, but as soon as those family and friends left, the patients were taken out the back door and to another place down the road.

Investigators say Alexander used as many as five other houses, each within 10 minutes of her home. The problem is those extra patients were taken care of by unlicensed providers unable to provide the type of care patients needed.

The facility was busted after authorities received complaints and tips to an elderly abuse hotline.

Apparently when people came to pick patients up, many times they weren't there.

Full Article,Video, and Source:
Caretaker Charged With Running Unlicensed Facilities

Formal Charges Filed Against Judge

A Nashville judge is in hot water with the court that regulates Tennessee judges.

That court, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, announced Monday that it has filed formal charges against General Sessions Judge Gloria Dumas.

At the center of the complaint are questions about Dumas' persistent tardiness -- a problem first exposed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

The nine-page complaint lays out what we discovered: a judge who had great difficulty being on-time and, according to the charges, didn't seem to care when she was told she wasn't following state law.

Full Article and Source:
Disciplinary Charges Leveled Against Judge Dumas

Read Disciplinary Charges Filed Against Judge Gloria Dumas