Saturday, January 9, 2010

Triple Damages

In a rarity, an arbitrator last month cited elder abuse in tripling the damages a discount securities firm must pay a 95-year-old client.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel awarded the elderly investor, David Wolfson, $1.6 million in a case involving StockCross Financial Services Inc. of Beverley Hills, Calif. Mr. Wolfson accused StockCross, along with two of its brokers, of misconduct and self dealing. He claimed the brokers recommended and solicited unsuitable and overly risky investments that were actively traded on margin.

The claim, which was filed in March, also alleged that StockCross and the two brokers, Thomas B. Cooper and Peter L. Boorn, put Mr. Wolfson’s home at risk. According to the complaint, they “encouraged and invited Mr. Wolfson to leverage the equity in his home with a reverse-mortgage transaction to utilize as investment capital.”

While many arbitration claims charge elder abuse, it is extremely rare for Finra panel to cite such abuse in an award, said David Liebrader, an attorney that represents both investors and brokers against securities firm. Under California law, elder abuse entitles plaintiffs triple the damages.

Full Article and Source:
Discount Broker Slapped With Triple Damages in Rare Elder Abuse Award

Maryland's Discipline Record for the Past 6 Months

Nineteen lawyers were disbarred in Maryland in the second half of 2009, according to a report by the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.

Of the 19, two were convicted of crimes, and another took a plea deal after being indicted for theft.

By accepting disbarment, one of the lawyers, Harold Joseph Tulley of Harford County, avoided prosecution for theft and conspiracy to commit theft.

Four other lawyers were suspended, and 11 were reprimanded in the six-month period, according to a summary supplied by the grievance commission.

In all, 34 lawyers were sanctioned. Their offenses included lying, incompetence, unauthorized practice, misappropriating and misusing clients' funds, and failing to adhere to required accounting, reporting and management procedures.

Full Article and Source:
Nineteen Lawyers Disbarred in State in Past Six Months

Sentenced to 3 Years and Ordered to Pay Restitution

An in-home caregiver was sentenced to three years in state prison Thursday for embezzling more than $80,000 from the retired Fairfax couple who hired her.

Jane Macam McClellan, a 47-year-old mother of eight, was also ordered to pay $83,099 in restitution to the couple, who are in their 90s.

McClellan, also known as Jane Macam Deleon, was sentenced by Judge James Ritchie after two days of hearings over the amount of money she owed. Prosecutors and McClellan's lawyer disagreed on whether certain funds were borrowed, stolen or used for legitimate expenses and services.

"The judge felt he had to trust the numbers that were provided by the family," said Anthony Lowenstein, McClellan's defense attorney. "This is a very hard case where no one really wins. It was a very emotional court hearing."

McClellan worked for the Fairfax couple, a 98-year-old woman and her 92-year-old husband, for about six months. She was fired in August when the couple's family discovered financial irregularities.

Full Article and Source:
Fairfax Couple's Caregiver Gets Prison for Embezzlement

Friday, January 8, 2010

New York State Court Reform Appears Stalled

The most ambitious efforts in decades to reform New York State’s vast network of small-town courts — where sessions can be held in a garage, and where more than 1,450 judges who are not lawyers conduct trials — have stalled in Albany. Even a seemingly modest compromise, one that would allow a defendant to request that the judge be a lawyer, seems doomed, its sponsor says.

Just a few years ago, critics of the courts said major changes seemed possible after nearly 100 years of failed efforts. The Legislature and a judicial commission held hearings, and state court officials instituted reforms.

But efforts toward more extensive changes have recently slowed to a crawl. The seemingly simple idea that the local justices should have law degrees went nowhere. Now, even a compromise legislative proposal that would give people facing jail the option of having their cases transferred to a judge who is a lawyer is failing in Albany.

The proposal has been angrily opposed by the justices, who, in addition to conducting trials, also rule on search warrants and send people to jail. But it has also been opposed, though more quietly, by the state’s top court administrators, who often walk a tightrope as they work to keep the courts running.

Just a few years ago, critics of the courts said major changes seemed possible after nearly 100 years of failed efforts. The Legislature and a judicial commission held hearings, and state court officials instituted reforms.

But efforts toward more extensive changes have recently slowed to a crawl. The seemingly simple idea that the local justices should have law degrees went nowhere. Now, even a compromise legislative proposal that would give people facing jail the option of having their cases transferred to a judge who is a lawyer is failing in Albany.

The proposal has been angrily opposed by the justices. But it has also been opposed, though more quietly, by the state’s top court administrators, who often walk a tightrope as they work to keep the courts running. A sponsor, Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat, said it was unlikely to pass this year. He said colleagues had told him that it threatened the stature of the justices, who are often tightly woven into local politics.

“They say, ‘I’m getting a whole lot of pressure about a bill you have,’ ” Mr. O’Donnell said. Critics of the courts say the bill’s failure would signal an end to the latest effort to change the courts.

“If this minimal legislative initiative can’t succeed, the possibility of strong, efficient, constitutionally protective local courts will never happen in this state in my lifetime,” said Eve Burton, a lawyer who was a member of a state commission that studied the town and village courts in 2007.

Full Article and Source:
Reform of New York's Small Town Courts Stalls

Former Attorney Pleads Not Guilty to 119 Elder Abuse Charges

A former Clovis attorney pleaded not guilty on Monday to 119 elder-abuse charges that could put him behind bars for 122 years.

James Saccheri is charged with embezzling more than $100,000 from an elderly client.

He resigned from the state bar nine years ago after being suspended for incompetence.

Former Clovis Attorney Pleads Not Guilty

Washington State AG Vows to Crack Down on Criminals

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna will outline new steps in his 2010 agenda to protect us against what he calls the "most dangerous of criminals."

"The first group are serial domestic violence abusers. They end up spending a month or two in county jail on a misdemeanor or conviction and then they go right back to their old behavior. The second group are the pedophiles who are using the internet to spread child pornography. And the third group are individual who abuse the elderly, whether it's physical abuse or financial exploitation," McKenna told KIRO Radio.

Full Article and Source:
State AG to Crack Down on Criminals

Scott Rothstein to Plead Guilty

A disbarred South Florida attorney agreed Wednesday to plead guilty later this month to charges arising from an alleged Ponzi scheme that cheated thousands of investors out of $1.2 billion.

Scott Rothstein is charged in a five-count indictment with racketeering, conspiracy and fraud in a scheme that ran from 2005 to 2009.

Rothstein attorney Marc Nurik said his client, who has been jailed without bail since his Dec. 1 arrest, is focused on returning as much money as possible to investors. Nurik said Rothstein's seized assets - two dozen pieces of real estate, numerous luxury cars, jewelry, bank accounts and more - are worth between $60 million and $100 million.

"He said from the very get-go he is going to accept responsibility for his actions," Nurik said. "My goal is getting money back to legitimate investors and determining who the legitimate investors are."

Full Article and Source:
Alleged Florida Ponzi Schemer Will Plead Guilty

See Also:
Editorial: Charities Will Suffer

Thursday, January 7, 2010

3 Nursing Facility Patients Killed by 'Chemical Restraints'

California Attorney General Says Nursing Director Drugged Patients to Control Them.

What happened in a bucolic nursing home nestled in the California mountains starting in 2003 shocked investigators. When residents at the Kern Valley Nursing Home complained or annoyed nursing director Gwen Hughes, prosecutors say she chemically restrained them with powerful anti-psychotic drugs. Her methods were so severe, three residents died.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown says that Hughes ordered one patient drugged just for glaring at her, and another for throwing a carton of milk. Some residents were left drooling, dehydrated, and dangerously thin.

According to Brown, "In a couple cases, elderly people were actually held down, restrained against their will, and given excessive amounts of medicine to keep them quiet."

Even more shocking -- Hughes had been fired for over-drugging once before, from a nursing home in nearby Fresno, Calif. The administrator of that nursing home said they told her next employer only the dates she worked there, out of fear of lawsuits.

On Tuesday, three nursing home officials appeared at a hearing on charges of elder abuse at the Kern Valley facility from 2003 to 2007 -- Gwen Hughes, as well as administrator Pamela Ott and staff physician, Dr. Hoshang Pormir. The three defendants each face up to 11 years in prison, and all have pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing is set for March 9, 2010.

Additionally, a former pharmacist at the facility, Debbi Gayle Hayes, accepted a plea bargain on the condition that she testifies for the prosecution.

What happened in the rural California nursing home may be an extreme case, but experts say over-drugging is common nationwide, and the number of nursing home residents who are given these drugs is rising.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Three Nursing Home Patients Killed by 'Chemical Restraints'

Jeffrey Gordon Butler Gets 90 Years

A San Juan Capistrano man convicted last year of bilking 124 elderly investors of more than $11 million in a Ponzi scheme was sentenced to 90 years and eight months in prison.

Jeffrey Gordon Butler, 51, was convicted in June of 694 felony counts of stealing from elderly investors through the illegal sale of unqualified securities and filing false tax returns.

The case is one of the largest elder-abuse cases ever prosecuted in the history of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

The final sentence – handed down over a period of days by Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler – likely means that Butler will not live long enough to become eligible for parole.

Stotler later sentenced Butler's wife, Peggy Warmath Butler, 49, to one year in jail, to be served during seven years probation on her convictions of aiding another in the preparation of a false tax return and three counts of filing false tax returns. Stotler warned her that if she could be sent to prison later if she violates any conditions of probation.

The judge sentenced Jeffrey Butler to consecutive terms in prison on dozens of counts after he heard emotional victim-impact statements last month from victims who said they lost most of their retirement savings to a man they had trusted.

"I've never known a man who can look you straight in the eye and lie," victim Larry Schiel told the judge. "He didn't show any compassion for his victims or what they've been through."

Full Article and Source:
Man Gets 90 Years for Bilking Elderly Investors of $11 Million

See Also:
Jeffrey Gordon Butler Victims Give Impact Statements

Family Not Happy With Plea Bargain

A family dispute writ large has Eloise Russo looking at up to 10 years in prison.

Russo pleaded guilty Monday before Ottawa County Circuit Judge Calvin Bosman to a reduced charge of embezzling more than $20,000 from her elderly parents, Ada Sherwin and the late Thomas Sherwin. Russo said she used the money for a variety of activities, including gambling at casinos.

"I became Mom and Dad's guardian," Russo said of her mother, 83, and her father, who died in October at age 90. "I took some money from Mom and Dad."

Ottawa County Sheriff's Department investigators were able to document an alleged $107,500 embezzled around the fall of 2007 by Russo from the savings her father amassed as a coal miner.

But Russo paid back all but about $19,500, which was a factor in her favor, said Assistant Prosecutor Lee Fisher. The prosecution offered to drop the original charge of embezzlement of more than $100,000, a 20-year felony, in exchange for her pleading to the 10-year felony.

Because Russo, 53, has no criminal record, the minimum jail guidelines differed by only three months, Fisher said. For the charge of embezzling more than $100,000, she was looking at guidelines calling for zero to 12 months; for the charge she pled to, guidelines call for zero to nine months.

But some of the Sherwin relatives are not embracing the plea deal. Son-in-law Nick Unger said Russo should have been brought to trial on the original charge. He said his wife, Janet Unger, now is the guardian for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. They believe Russo should have to pay triple damages and spend at least three years in prison, Nick Unger said.

Unger said he believes Russo took at least $166,000 from her parents and knew that what she was doing was wrong.

"We're not happy," he said of the plea deal. "I think they (prosecutors) took the easy road."

Full Article and Source:
Some Family Members Upset With Plea Bargain
For Woman Accused With Embezzling $107,500 From Parents

See Also:
Former Guardian Waives Hearing

Lokuta Vows to Continue to Fight

Attorneys for former Judge Ann H. Lokuta vowed Tuesday to fight on in their battle to return her to the Luzerne County bench, one day after a state discipline court narrowly refused to hear new testimony in her case.

A 4-3 majority on the state Court of Judicial Discipline rejected Lokuta's arguments that she deserves a new hearing because four witnesses who testified for the prosecution at her trial two years ago were subsequently implicated in a corruption scandal.

Read the Opinion

Full Article and Source:
Lokuta Moves Forward After Court's Split Ruling

See Also:
Court of Judicial Discipline Votes Against Lokuta

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Court of Judicial Discipline Votes Against Lokuta

The state Court of Judicial Discipline has voted to uphold its decision to remove former Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta from the bench, according to one of her attorneys.

Attorney Ronald Santora said he was advised that a deeply divided court voted 4-3 Monday to uphold the sanction it imposed in December 2008. The ruling is a setback, Santora said, but he vowed it does not end the case as Lokuta will continue her appeal with the state Supreme Court.

“We are a long way from over,” Santora said when reached at home late Monday night. “We still think how the Judicial Conduct Board and how the (court of judicial discipline) handled this was an absolute travesty.”

Full Article and Source:
PA Panel Upholds Lokuta's Removal

See Also:
Procedural Issue in Lokuta Case

Disgraced Judge Reports to Federal Prison

Bobby DeLaughter, a former Mississippi prosecutor and judge whose legal conquests became the subject of books and a movie, reported to federal prison Monday for lying to the FBI in a judicial bribery investigation.

The next chapter of DeLaughter's life, as inmate No. 12930-042, marks a long fall from the height of his legal career in 1994 when he was a prosecutor who helped convict a civil rights-era assassin for the 30-year-old murder of NAACP leader Medgar Evers.

The 55-year-old DeLaughter reported to a federal prison camp in Pine Knot, Ky., before his 2 p.m. deadline, said Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce.

The prison has a medium-security facility and minimum-security camp, though Ponce said she did not know how DeLaughter would be classified. All inmates in the federal system must work if they are physically able, with jobs ranging from cooks to groundskeepers, she said.

Prisoners make from 12 cents to 40 cents an hour depending on the job and their experience.

DeLaughter was sentenced to 18 months in November after pleading guilty to lying about secret conversations he had with a lawyer while presiding over a dispute between wealthy attorneys over legal fees. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

Full Article and Source:
Disgraced Miss. Judge Reports to Federal Prison

Nevada Supreme Court Revises Code of Judicial Conduct

The Nevada Supreme Court has approved a revised code of judicial conduct, providing the first major overhaul of instructions in 18 years on how judges should behave.

The regulations, which take effect Jan. 19, are the result of a study by a commission.

Judges will now have an obligation to report the misconduct of another judge or lawyer if he or she has information indicating a there is a “substantial likelihood” of a violation. The commission said the new rule “mandates that a judge take appropriate action when he or she believe that a judge or lawyer’s performance is impaired by drugs or alcohol or by a mental, emotional, or physical condition.”

The current rule requires a judge to report the misconduct only if he or she had knowledge of “known misconduct.”

There was disagreement between the court and its study commission on the issue of disqualification of a judge. The commission, headed by retired Chief Justice William Maupin, recommended the disqualification of a judge in the case if he or she received financial or electoral campaign support of $50,000 or more within six years from one of the parties or lawyers in the case.

The court did not adopt that recommendation.

In another area, the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that a judge has duty to stay on the case where there is a close call for disqualification.

The commission unanimously recommended that the Supreme Court scrap that “duty to sit” ruling.

Laura Fitzsimmons, a Las Vegas lawyer and member of the commission, said the court accepted all the recommendations except three. She said this “duty to sit” doctrine hurts the clients of an attorney who may have criticized a judge who doesn’t want to step aside in the case. Or it may hurt the clients if the attorney on the other side has been too close to the judge who won’t disqualify himself.

“Lawyers are afraid to criticize judges,” said Fitzsimmons, because “their clients are going to pay the price.” And judges have more power in this “duty to sit” system. She said the proposed new regulation would have eliminated the prior decisions of the Supreme Court.

Full Article and Source:
Supreme Court OK's Overhaul of Judicial Conduct Code

Judge's Absence Felt

Business in the 12th Judicial District is going on as usual despite the absence over the last four months of Judge Glenn Camerer, attorneys and judges said.

Camerer suffered a fall and possibly a stroke while in Kentucky over the Labor Day weekend. He suffered a brain injury in the fall and underwent emergency brain surgery.

Camerer, who was incapacitated as a result of his injuries, had been hospitalized at the University of Kentucky’s AB Chandler Medical Center until Oct. 1 when he was moved to a rehabilitative facility. There, he had been undergoing rehabilitative therapy for aphasia, a disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language.

Camerer has suffered difficulty speaking and reading and writing, according to records in a probate case filed on Camerer’s behalf shortly after his injury. In November, he was moved to a second rehabilitative hospital in Kentucky. His sister, Judy Grimm of Lincoln, was awarded temporary guardianship and a decision on permanent guardianship for Camerer is expected to be made during a court hearing in mid-January.

Decisions about Camerer’s seat on the bench are also expected to be made in January.

Full Article and Source:
County Court Cases Keep Going, but Judge's Absence Felt

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lack of Judicial Discipline in Tennessee

An investigation into how Tennessee judges are disciplined reveals less than 1 percent of complaints against judges over the past decade has led to public reprimand. In addition, most of the reprimands are done privately, even though most judges are elected officials.

Clint Brewer of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research used Tennessee's Open Records Act to obtain every formal complaint against a Tennessee judge in the past decade, and while there were nearly 3,000 complaints against Tennessee judges, those judges were only publicly reprimanded 23 times.

"It's probably a shock for the average person not only how infrequently actions are taken against judges but also how little of that information is open to the public," said Brewer. "You can't get the record on most of these cases. It's not open to the public."

Don Ash is the presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary, the body that investigates complaints against judges. While the group publicly reprimanded judges 23 times, they privately reprimanded judges 100 times. But what they said, did and demanded are all secret.

"They're accountable to the voters, and their record should be open to the voters," said Brewer.

Tennessee has not impeached a judge in 50 years and hasn't removed a judge in 16 years.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Investigation Reveals Lack of Judicial Discipline

PA Judicial Conduct Board Draws Heat

A state agency Wednesday escalated a clash over the confidentiality of misconduct complaints against two former Luzerne County judges, asking the state Supreme Court to block a state panel from questioning the agency and its witnesses about the complaints.

The agency, the state Judicial Conduct Board, received an anonymous complaint accusing former judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan of nepotism, cronyism and case-fixing, but kept it secret for nearly two years, until federal prosecutors requested a copy in June or July 2008, board member Edwin L. Klett told the panel earlier this month.

When pressed for detail, Klett and the board's chief counsel, Joseph A. Massa Jr., hid behind a constitutional stonewall - invoking a state mandate that keeps complaints under a veil of confidentiality until misconduct charges are filed. Specific answers, they said, would jeopardize the anonymity of the complainants and cast a shadow of suspicion on the accused judges.

The state panel, the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, has requested copies of board documents and repeatedly asked questions about board proceedings in which "no formal charges have been filed and where the subjects of the investigations have expressly preserved the right to confidentiality," Judicial Conduct Board attorney Paul H. Titus said in the filing.

Full Article and Source:
State Judicial Conduct Board Draws Heat

See Also:
"Kids-For-Cash" Judges Ask for Delay

Iowa in Need of Public Guardianship Program

For three decades, Iowa workers with mental retardation were paid pennies an hour, plus room and board, to work for Henry's Turkey Service. The men lived in a 106-year-old Atalissa bunkhouse, complete with boarded-up windows and space heaters for warmth. They were awakened at 2:30 a.m. to pluck feathers and pull guts from turkeys before returning to the cockroach-infested bunkhouse.

The entire situation was an embarrassment to Iowa. Equally embarrassing: The government didn't close the bunkhouse and relocate the men until after a Des Moines Register investigation publicly exposed the problems.

Instead, Iowa is one of only three states without a public guardianship program. And Iowa needs such a program. In the two years it was in existence, the office conducted training around the state on substitute decision making. It intervened in court cases involving Iowans who were exploited.

Murphy said the staff of two took "all kinds of questions" from Iowans who had family members with mental retardation or elderly parents with dementia or children diagnosed with autism.

"Now, there's no central point for people to go with those types of questions," she said.

Its closure moves Iowa in the wrong direction - particularly at this point in history.

Iowa ranks second in the nation in the percentage of residents over age 85 and at high risk for dementia, yet many have no nearby family members to help them make decisions. While Iowans with mental disabilities once lived in institutions, most now live in community-based settings, including boarding houses.

Full Article and Source:
Revive State Office to Help Vulnerable Iowans

See Also:
Accused of Exploiting Mentally Retarded Workers

Monday, January 4, 2010

Peggy Greer Still Hopeful About Recovering Funds

Peggy Greer's story helped bolster the rights of people living under court-appointed guardians in Minnesota, but her legal effort to regain her lost money has foundered.

In February, the Star Tribune reported how a professional guardian and conservator appointed by a judge had spent $672,808 of Greer's money over the objections of family members that the spending was excessive and unjustified. Greer won back the power to make decisions for herself in July 2007, but by then her assets were exhausted and the guardian and conservator no longer opposed their dismissal.

The story got the attention of the Minnesota Legislature, which passed a law that created a bill of rights for wards and protected persons, improved their ability to challenge decisions made on their behalf, and required guardians and conservators to register with the state courts starting in 2013. Greer also got the help of two attorneys who filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court alleging that her former guardian and conservator failed to protect her assets or act in her best interest.

In November, Judge Marilyn Kaman threw out the heart of the lawsuit, accepting the arguments of Professional Fiduciary Inc. (PFI) and Wells Fargo that Greer should have filed her objections during her now-settled guardianship and conservatorship, which ended in 2007. The ruling also dismissed all claims against PFI attorney Ruth Ostrom. One claim remains alive, that the guardian improperly released private information about Greer before and after the Star Tribune article, and the earliest possible trial date would be the fall of 2010.

Full Article and Source:
Whistleblower Update, Part 2

See Also:
Greer Files Suit

NV: "House Calls" Help Seniors Stay at Home

Many seniors have no family or friends to turn to for help, and can't afford in home assistance. For more than a decade, House Calls has been helping the elderly in our community.

Director Shelly Egbert and her family noticed many older folks have difficulty remembering which medications to take and when to take them. Even simple tasks, such as locking doors and turning off stoves, may be forgotten. That's why she started House Calls, to provide daily reminders, assurance and care.

Shelly Egbert uses computerized and personal telephone messages, to serve the needs of many elderly clients, House Calls makes reminder calls, sends uplifting notes and prepares emergency kits funded through grants and donations, offering services free of charge to those who need it.

House Calls is designed for seniors struggling with memory loss who need assistance with daily tasks through friendly phone calls. The program also helps seniors combat loneliness and depression by sending cards on special occasions.

Seniors who depend on House Calls say, it's like having a guardian angel. The program serves about two hundred seniors in Northern Nevada. The cost is about $1,000 per person.

Right now, House Calls is meeting the need, but is down about 25% in funding. Director Shelly Egbert hopes the new year brings new funding to the organization. If you'd like to help, visit

Full Article, Video, and Source:
House Calls Help Seniors Stay in Their Homes

No Charges for PA Judge Willis W. Berry, Jr.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. -- suspended until Jan. 4 and owing $180,000 in a civil fraud verdict -- will not face criminal charges for operating a real estate business out of his chambers.

Accusing the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline of "passing the buck to prosecutors," District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham yesterday announced that she could not justify criminal charges when the court refused to remove Berry despite having "the evidence and the authority to do so."

Berry, 67, was suspended in July after the Court of Judicial Discipline found that he had violated judicial ethical rules by running a real estate business out of his chambers for more than a decade. The court could have removed Berry from the judgeship he has held since 1995.

The Philadelphia Bar Association called on Berry to resign, saying his presence on the bench undermined public confidence in the criminal-justice system.

Berry did not resign, and his lawyer, Samuel C. Stretton, has said the disciplinary ruling will be appealed.

Full Article and Source:
No Charges for Judge Who Ran Business From His Office

Judge Backs Lawsuit by Disabled Couple

A federal judge Monday prohibited the state and a local mental health management office from cutting services to two Wilson-area people with mental illness and developmental disabilities until they get a full hearing on their lawsuit seeking to continue independent living.

U.S. District Judge Terrence . Boyle said it's likely that two residents identified in the lawsuit as Marlo M., 39, and Durwood W., 49, would suffer irreparable harm if a local mental health office went through with a money-saving plan to move them from their apartments.

Their lawyers contend the two would end up in institutions, though a lawyer for the local mental health office disagreed with that conclusion.

State programs and funding should conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Boyle said. The federal law requires that public entities provide their services in "the most integrated setting appropriate" to the needs of people with disabilities.

Relatives of the two residents said they were relieved that any moves are on hold.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Backs Lawsuit by Disabled Pair for Independent Living

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Documentary "Be Wise, Be Aware: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse" Airs Tonight

Elder Financial Protection Network (EFPN), an award winning non-profit organization, has teamed up with Bank of the West and NBC Bay Area to produce a special 30-minute TV documentary entitled: "Be Wise, Be Aware: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse." The program will air on NBC 11, Sunday, January 3 at 9:00 pm.

The half-hour program explores the many facets of elder financial abuse including fraud and scams by strangers and family members that target elders, and features the stories of victims and survivors of this rapidly growing crime.

"Elder financial abuse is a very serious issue in our community that can have devastating financial and emotional consequences for victims, who sometimes lose their lifesavings," said Joe Ford, Chief Security Officer at Bank of the West, which sponsored the documentary. "This documentary will raise awareness and educate all of us on how to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this crime."

Full Article and Source:
Elder Financial Protection Network Announces "Be Wise, Be Aware: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse"

Six Indictments in Scam Allegedly Targeting Nursing Home Residents

State officials recently arrested six people suspected in a scam that allegedly bilked Jackson nursing home residents out of more than $25,000.

The arrests include a former administrator and social worker at Belhaven Senior Care, where all of the victims lived, according to Attorney General Jim Hood.
Ponchie McCollough, the 36-year-old Belhaven Senior Care social worker, allegedly got residents and their families to write checks to her and others ranging from $400 to $2,500, according to the indictment.

"This is a good example of why it is so important to watch closely over your elderly loved ones," said Hood, whose office is investigating the case. "Get to know their caregivers, ask questions and check their finances regularly to make sure no one is stealing from them."

McCollough is charged with 19 counts of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of conspiracy exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Also indicted were:

•Former administrator Brad Burt, 35, of Brookhaven, charged with one count of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult and 14 counts of accessory after the fact.

•Jessica McKinney, 21, of Jackson, charged with two counts of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one conspiracy count.

•Madeline Floyd, 23, of Jackson, charged with one count of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one conspiracy count.

Two employees with Natchez-based Trend Consultants, the company that owns Belhaven Senior Care, were also indicted. They are operations director Justin Johnson, 30, of Natchez, and billing specialist Tina Brewer, 43, of Vidalia, La. Both are charged with 14 felony counts of accessory after the fact in the exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

The indictment alleges the acts occurred from August 2008 to May 2009.

Full Article and Source:
Alleged Scam Targets Elderly Residents

"Legalized" Elder Abuse

The American legal system has established “guardianships” for the specific purpose of protecting vulnerable individuals–called “wards”–when a judge or judicial officer determines that the ward’s decisionmaking capability is so impaired that another person–the “guardian”—needs to be given the right to make these decisions. A guardianship is particularly appropriate for wards who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, as well as advanced alcoholism and similar afflictions that render the person unable to care for his or her health and other needs. A “conservatorship,” twin to the guardianship, is set up to conserve the ward’s assets; the conservator acts as a custodian.

The legal obligations of the guardian and conservator. As defined above, these legal vehicles seem completely sensible and necessary. After all, people who are so incapacitated that their decisionmaking is unreliable obviously need professional assistance; left unprotected, their health and wealth are at risk. The law considers the connection between the guardian (or conservator) and the ward to be “fiduciary” in nature, a legal relationship of confidence or trust between two or more parties. Indeed, for legal purposes, a “fiduciary” duty requires the highest possible standard of care. It recognizes that the ward needs to have utmost confidence, reliance and trust in the guardian or conservator, whose aid or protection is essential. The fiduciary, therefore, is required to act at all times for the sole benefit and interests of the ward, with absolute loyalty to those interests.

The reality of guardianships and conservatorships. Unfortunately, vulnerable individuals are easy targets for the unscrupulous. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the legal system, having established these processes, frequently fails to supervise how they actually work.

Full Article and Source:
Legalized Elder Abuse: Guardianships and Conservatorships