Saturday, January 23, 2010

Farash Guardianship Litigation Continues

Farash Corp. and the trustees of assets belonging to real estate magnate Max Farash and his late wife charge in court papers that the couple’s daughter and grandnephew improperly diverted more than $12 million from the company and the ailing Farashes over a period of three years.

The allegations against Lynn Farash and Matthew Aroesty were laid out in two separate lawsuits filed in state Supreme Court on Tuesday by the company and the guardian of Max Farash in one case, and Canandaigua National Bank, the trustee of Marian Farash’s trust, in the other.

Speaking on behalf of Lynn Farash, her lawyer, Michael Wolford, said she was “disappointed” with the filing of the lawsuits because she believed the matters had been settled. He added that counterclaims would be filed against her parents’ trusts and the company.

The first lawsuit claims Lynn Farash and Aroesty, as self-appointed officers of the real estate company, squandered as much as $10 million by enriching themselves with excessive compensation packages, authorizing unnecessary work on company property, charging the company for non-business travel, and providing gifts, loans and other benefits to family and friends.

In the second lawsuit, the bank alleges that Farash and Aroesty abused their joint powers of attorney by improperly liquidating nearly $2.4 million in assets belonging to Marian Farash. The proceeds were transferred to an interest-bearing checking account in Marian’s name for which her daughter was the sole signatory, according to the lawsuit.

The court actions are the latest outgrowth of a protracted and contentious seesaw legal battle over the guardianship and wills of Max and Marian Farash since both were declared mentally incapacitated in April 2007. Max, 96, currently resides in a Webster nursing home. Marian died in July 2007.

In the last six months alone, a state judge sided with Lynn Farash’s bid to stop her father’s court-appointed guardian from selling off his Brighton estate and authorities brought criminal charges against Aroesty for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 from the company.

Full Article and Source:
Lawsuits Accuse 2 of Diverting $12M From Farasch Corp., Family Fortune

See Also:
Farash Daughter Fighting for Her Interitance

Mom Wins Child Back From Babysitter

On January 20, veteran family law attorneys Jeffery M. Leving and Arthur Kallow of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd. ( won an important victory for a mother who had lost guardianship of her toddler son to the child's babysitter. Leving successfully obtained the dismissal of the entire guardianship proceeding brought by the babysitter against the mother. Cook County Probate Court Judge Gregory O'Brien issued an order granting Leving's motion brought on behalf of Monica Naide, the child's mother, alleging that the court lacked jurisdiction to award guardianship (custody) to the babysitter when the mother was fully capable of caring for her child.

Judge O'Brien's ruling brings a decisive end to an unusual case. In October, the babysitter, Karen Smith, filed a petition for guardianship and custody of Naide's son, Rodney Dennis, Jr., claiming that the mother had disappeared, the father was unknown, and that the babysitter was the child's maternal aunt. The mother disputed each of these claims. On November 24, 2009, attorney Jeffery M. Leving successfully petitioned the court to vacate the order of guardianship and custody to the babysitter, which paved the way for today's resolution of the case.

"This is an important order," said attorney Arthur Kallow. "It reaffirms the superior rights of parents to raise their own children in America."

Full Press Release and Source:
Mom Wins Child Back From Babysitter

Social Services Approved Pimp as Guardian

The Prince George's County Department of Social Services approved a pimp to be the guardian of a 12-year-old girl three months after he started selling her for sex on the streets of Washington, court documents show.

Shelby Lewis has pleaded guilty to taking four girls from his Temple Hills home to D.C., where he made them to sell their bodies and then turn the cash over to him. Lewis has been jailed pending his March sentencing in D.C.'s federal court. The 42-year-old faces 15 to 20 years in prison.

Lewis admitted to starting his pimp business in March 2006. The first girl he sold for sex was a 12-year-old referred to only as "S.H."

In June 2006, Lewis "was officially permitted to serve as the guardian of S.H. by the Prince George's County Department of Social Services and her custodian, her paternal aunt, Gloria Sockwell," federal prosecutors wrote in court documents.

Full Article and Source:
Prince George's Social Services Approved Pimp as Foster Father

Friday, January 22, 2010

Press Release: Congressman Urges Investigation

P.O. Box 206 A, Derrick City, PA 16727
(814) 368-9165


BRADFORD, Pa. – U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (Rep.-7th District) is urging the Pennsylvania Department of Aging to investigate how a longtime Bradford resident has been held for nearly three years in an assisted-living facility in Florida against her wishes and those of her loved ones.

Rita Denmark, 79, who suffers from age-apparent dementia, is under a court-appointed Florida guardianship. However, she is a resident of Pennsylvania, and neither she nor her family wants her in Florida.

In a letter dated Jan. 12, 2010, Sestak urged Acting Department of Aging Secretary John M. Hall to “please also investigate this matter, since the question of residency appears to be an issue." Sestak further asked that he be informed of developments in the matter.

After exhausting her personal financial resources for legal fees and travel over the past three years, Denmark’s daughter, Holly L. Peffer of Derrick City outside Bradford, contacted the Congressman for help this month.

Peffer, herself certified by the National Guardianship Association Inc., said “There are currently pending motions and notices before both the Pennsylvania and Florida courts” arguing that the Florida court had no jurisdiction to appoint a guardian for a Pennsylvania resident.

A member of the National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse, Peffer said of the situation: “I would not wish this nightmare on my worst enemy... I would have never thought this could happen to an individual in this country."

“It has been quite a learning experience, and when the Congressman’s letter arrived in my mailbox on Saturday my heart was filled with joy to know that my mother really does matter.”

Peffer said she has come to realize that her family’s situation is only one, of thousands of cases in the United States where guardianship of an elderly person appears to benefit only a professional guardian. It appears, these professional guardians are accountable to no one. Currently legally prohibited from contact with her mother, Peffer says she and other friends and family are sincerely concerned for Denmark’s health and well-being under this guardian's care for a variety of reasons, including conditions found during on-site visits to the facility where Denmark is being held and whether that type of facility is appropriate for Denmark at all.

Now, however, Peffer hopes that the attention from Sestak and the Department of Aging will see her mother home by spring.

PLEASE NOTE: Peffer has detailed records of the case history, and may be contacted for further information or interviews at the phone or addresses above.

Cryin' Judge Seidlin Turns Author

Hear about the new book coming out from former Judge (and RRA client) Larry Seidlin? It is -- surprise -- about the Anna Nicole Smith case, and its provocative title can be seen on the cover above.

"In his first book, The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith, retired judge Larry Seidlin unveils the truth behind one of the most watched trials in television history. Based on eyewitness accounts, trial transcripts, and confidential files, his three-year, in-depth investigation reveals what really happened on February 8, 2007, the day Anna Nicole Smith passed away."

A three-year, in-depth investigation, eh? Yes, our own Lightning Larry has always been known for his probing intellect and depthy research, at least when he wasn't speeding through dockets, playing tennis on the taxpayers' dime, or fleecing elderly neighbor Barbara Kasler out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Full Article and Source:
Cryin' Judge Seidlin Turns Author

See Also:
Seidlin Lawsuit Expanded

Nursing Home Worker Charged With Financial Exploitation

Meredith A. Sharp, 37, a former employee of the Hitz Memorial Home in Alhambra, was charged Tuesday with financial exploitation of an elderly person in a case that officials said cost a resident more than $16,000. Sharp had been jailed in lieu of $75,000 bond.

She resigned from the nursing home in December. Staff contacted authorities on Dec. 17, after the resident received a credit card bill with unexplained purchases that included furniture and a TV.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Worker is Charged

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rita Hunter's Attorney Fees Appealed

Arguments before the Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday focused on fees charged by attorneys for Rita Hunter, former Jasper County public administrator, and whether the attorneys breached a responsibility to county wards.

R. Lynn Myers, representing Emma France and several other wards of the former administrator, contended that fees charged by Gayle Crane and then John Podleski were improper because there was no formal contract between the former administrator and the attorneys. Myers also contended that because wards’ money paid their fees, the attorneys had a duty to “represent” the wards that they did not fulfill.

Attorneys for Crane and Podleski argued that no written contract was required. And, they said attorneys would be guilty of a conflict of interest if they were expected to represent county wards along with the administrator.

Whether attorneys fees are reasonable, he said, is overseen by the probate judge.

Myers argued that the fact that attorney fees come from wards’ estates gives the attorney “some responsibility” to act for the benefit of that disabled person.

Reinbold said the payment of fees does not create an “attorney-client relationship.”

Full Article and Source:
Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Ex-Administrator's Attorneys Fees

See Also:
Ruling: Court Acted Properly

Limited Power, Resources Hampered PA Judicial Conduct Board

The state Judicial Conduct Board's decision to table an investigation into a misconduct complaint against two former Luzerne County judges came amid concerns about its staffing limitations and the notion that an outside law enforcement probe could lead to penalties stiffer than mere professional sanctions, an attorney for the board said in a court filing.

Still, the attorney, Paul H. Titus, failed to account for a nearly two-year vacuum of inaction from the time the board received its first anonymous complaint against the judges, Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and when it turned the document over to federal prosecutors.

Judicial Conduct Board member Edwin L. Klett told a state panel last month that the board received the complaint accusing Conahan and Ciavarella of nepotism, cronyism and case-fixing in September 2006, but failed to take action until federal prosecutors requested a copy in June or July 2008.

The Interbranch Commission has subpoenaed Judicial Conduct Board officials to testify at a hearing Feb. 2 in Harrisburg. The Commission's attorney, Arthur H. Stroyd Jr., said he had not received the filing, but noted Titus' contention that the complaints are confidential, "would be consistent with the position they've taken."

Full Article and Source:
Limited Power, Resources Hampered Judicial Misconduct Investigation

See Also:

Judge Defers Sentence

A former Carmel woman was sent to prison for a 90-day evaluation to determine if she should be sentenced to a longer term for bilking her elderly mother out of $300,000 worth cash and property and abandoning her.

Lisa MacAdams, 53, was remanded into custody by Judge Terrance Duncan. Prison officials and psychiatrists will recommend whether she should be sentenced to prison or probation and jail time.

MacAdams and her daughter, Christi Schoenbachler, the victim's 30-year-old granddaughter, were convicted in a nonjury trial before Judge Terrance Duncan in November. Schoenbachler will be sentenced Jan. 29. The women could be sentenced to more than four years in prison.

In 2002, the 72-year-old victim moved with MacAdams to Carmel to be near Schoenbachler, who was part-owner of a Pacific Grove Pilates studio. The victim had money from the sale of her mobile home, an annuity worth $90,000, furniture, art and jewelry worth up to $200,000. Two years later, it was gone and she was abandoned at a local nursing home.

Judge Defers Sentence in Elder Case

See Also:
Found Guilty of Bilking More Than $300K

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wisconsin Debating Effects of Judicial Donations

Forcing judges off cases because of campaign donations would impair the public's ability to participate in judicial elections, says a proposed order by the state Supreme Court that could be finalized Thursday.

"Disqualifying a judge from participating in a proceeding solely because the judge's campaign committee received a lawful contribution would create the impression that receipt of a contribution automatically impairs the judge's integrity. It would have the effect of discouraging 'the broadest possible participation in financing campaigns by all citizens of the state' through voluntary contributions . . . because it would deprive citizens who lawfully contribute to judicial campaigns, whether individually or through an organization, of access to the judges they help elect," says the proposed order, which quotes from state statutes.

On a 4-3 vote, the court in October voted to adopt a rule that said campaign contributions and endorsements alone do not require judges to step aside in cases. They also approved a rule that said ads run by groups independent of a judge's campaign in and of themselves were not enough to require the judge to step aside.

The October vote showed how the justices felt about the new rules in concept, but to put them into effect they need to issue a written order. That order, which includes a detailed rationale for the rules, will be debated Thursday and could be approved then.

Full Article and Source:
Proposed Order on Judicial Donations Remain Up for Debate

Editorial: Setting a Judicial Example

When the Louisiana Supreme Court kicked Orleans Parish District Court Judge C. Hunter King from the bench in 2003, there was hardly any dispute that he was unfit for the robe. Among other violations, Judge King had threatened to fire court staffers if they didn't sell tickets for a campaign fund-raiser. As the Supreme Court said in booting him out, "honesty is a minimum qualification expected from every judge."

Now the court has decided to permanently disbar Mr. King, and it's good to see that a majority of justices want to set a higher standard for people who hold a law license. To that end, the justices also should aggressively discipline other metro New Orleans judges who have broken the law and the Code of Judicial Conduct, as well as the numerous attorneys who enabled their corruption.

Louisiana has been plagued by numerous cases of judicial corruption in recent years, and tough sanctions are needed to help deter further corruption and to restore the judiciary's image.

The court should be as aggressive in disciplining former Plaquemines Parish Judge William Roe, who was convicted last year of pocketing $6,000 in improper judicial reimbursements, and former St. Bernard Parish Judge Wayne Cresap, who last year pleaded guilty to taking bribes. The justices suspended both judges when they were charged, and neither should be allowed to practice law again. The Supreme Court also should disbar U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous, who faces likely impeachment in Congress for taking cash from lawyers with cases in his court and lying under oath numerous times, among other offenses.

Corrupt judges, and the attorneys that enable them in violation of their code of conduct, have severely tarnished the judiciary's reputation in our state. Federal prosecutors have done their part in going after them. But systematic and relentless disciplinary action from the Supreme Court would go a long way in restoring Louisianians' confidence in our judicial system.

Full Editorial and Source:
Setting a Judical Example: An Editorial

See Also:
Former Judge Disbarred

Preying on the Elderly: An Age Old Problem Worsens

It's an old story with a couple of twists.

When we age, strength and memory decline and we depend more on others, who don't always do right by us.

What's new is that reports of abuse of senior citizens are increasing, and "abuse" has come to include theft.

Older people are being robbed by their children, grandchildren, caregivers, friends and strangers. It can be as devastating as physical abuse, since people on fixed incomes usually have little chance to recover from the loss of money and property.

It makes sense that seniors are targeted, since 70 percent of all the country's wealth belongs to people age 50 and older, said Marie Johnson, executive director of Senior Services of Stamford, a 101-year-old organization that helps seniors manage their money, offers financial aid and connects them to services.

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, half of those who steal from seniors are adult children and other relatives.

Full Article and Source:
Preying on Elderly: An Age-Old Problem Worsens

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More "Judge" Problems in Luzerne County

Luzerne County Senior Judge Charles Joseph Rehkamp on Sunday was arrested on assault and harassment charges.

District Judge Donald Whittaker issued an arrest warrant for Rehkamp, 61, early Sunday after state police at Wyoming responded to a reported assault at Rehkamp’s residence Saturday night, state police said.

According to court papers, Trooper Matthew Slacktish responded to Rehkamp’s home at about 8:56 p.m. and interviewed Rehkamp’s wife, Valerie, who told him that she and the judge returned from dinner at about 8:15 p.m. and that she told her husband that he had not acted appropriately at dinner and asked him to sleep elsewhere for the night.

Valerie Rehkamp told police her husband pushed her down and started to choke her, she screamed and told him to leave, according to the paperwork.

The judge then allegedly confronted his wife’s son, Lee Elliot Egenlauf, of the same address, and left the home in his dark blue Ford Crown Victoria in an unknown direction. Valerie Rehkamp added that the judge had been drinking that night, the paperwork said.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Faces 2 Charges

Johnson and Johnson Accused of Drug Kickbacks

Johnson & Johnson paid kickbacks to the nation’s largest nursing home pharmacy to increase the number of elderly patients taking the antipsychotic Risperdal and several other medications, according to a complaint filed by the office of the United States attorney in Boston.

The payments violated the federal anti-kickback statute and led Omnicare, a pharmacy company specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home residents, to submit false claims to Medicaid, the complaint charged.

The government’s civil complaint joins a whistle-blower suit against Johnson & Johnson brought by two former employees of Omnicare, which has headquarters in Covington, Ky.

Johnson & Johnson said it was reviewing the complaint and intended to address the government’s lawsuit in court. The complaint charges that Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, N.J., and two of its subsidiaries, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, paid tens of millions of dollars to induce Omnicare to buy and recommend Risperdal for elderly patients as well as the drug maker’s prescription pain relievers Duragesic and Ultram, and the antibiotic Levaquin.

The complaint charges that Omnicare’s pharmacists engaged in intensive efforts to persuade physicians to prescribe the drugs from 1999 to 2004, a period in which the pharmacy’s annual purchase of Johnson & Johnson medications nearly tripled to more than $280 million, from about $100 million. During the same period, the pharmacy’s annual purchase of Risperdal rose to more than $100 million, according to the complaint filed in United States District Court in Massachusetts.

“Kickbacks in the nursing home pharmacy context are particularly nefarious,” Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement.

Full Article and Source:
Johnson and Johnson Accused of Drug Kickbacks

CA: Sacramento County In-Home Care in Jeopardy

About 22,000 low-income elderly and disabled Sacramento County residents are in the middle of a fight over state finances.

As part of his budget plan, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating IHSS, the state's fastest growing social services program, which pays caregivers to help the disabled and the frail elderly.

With the graying of the population, IHSS enrollment has soared, and so has its price. Founded in 1973, the program serves 400,000 Californians and will cost an estimated $1.5 billion this year.

Sacramento County spent $23.5 million on the program in 2009, up from $5.9 million in 2001.

Last year the governor also proposed eliminating the program, but a political and legal fight instead resulted in deep cuts.

With more cuts, or the program's elimination, on the horizon, administrators are scrambling to find alternatives. So far they've found none.

Full Article and Source:
California's Proposed In-Home Care Cutoff Leaves Few Options

How Federal Census Helps Seniors

What value will the upcoming federal census have on seniors? According to the Web site census data on age help policy makers target approximately $200 billion in federal funds and services to senior citizens. For examples both state and county agencies will use the data collected this year to forecast the number of people eligible for Social Security and Medicare.

Planners will also use the data not only to determine the number and location of hospitals, health service centers and retirement homes, but to ensure that comparable public transportation services are available in the future.

The Nutrition Education Program uses the data to help elderly persons obtain nutritionally sound meals through senior citizen distribution centers or via meals-on-wheels programs.

Funds are distributed through programs developed for people with disabilities and the elderly under the Rehabilitation Act.

Federal agencies use the collected information to award federal grants under the Older Americans Act based on the number of elderly people with physical and mental disabilities.

Full Article and Source:
How Federal Census Helps Seniors

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lokuta's Attorneys Say Due Process Ignored

Attorneys for former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta accused a state discipline court of ignoring due process and fundamental fairness when it narrowly refused to hear new testimony in her misconduct case earlier this month, keeping her off the bench.

Those allegations centered on the president judge emeritus of the discipline court, Richard A. Sprague, who has remained on the case despite a conflict of interest with a Luzerne County corruption figure, Lokuta's attorneys said in a petition asking the court to reconsider its 4-3 ruling.

The attorneys, George A. Michak and Ronald V. Santora, renewed their call for Sprague to recuse himself from the case because he previously represented Drums attorney Robert J. Powell, who is accused of paying kickbacks to two former Luzerne County judges.

That relationship has compromised Sprague's ability to conduct a fair and impartial hearing, Michak and Santora said.

Sprague set up "straw arguments" at a November hearing on Lokuta's claim that the two former judges orchestrated her removal because she cooperated with federal investigators, and then, in his Jan. 14 opinion, "knocked them down while expressing incredulity and disdain," Michak and Santora said.

Powell pleaded guilty in July to paying $772,500 to the judges, Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.

Full Article and Source:
Lokuta Attorneys Say Due Process Ignored

See Also:
Lokuta Vows to Continue to Fight

Accused of Operating Ponzi Scheme

A 63-year-old East Helena man faces three felony charges for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme involving millions of dollars and at least 20 investment clients in eight Montana counties.

Arthur Leroy Heffelfinger is accused of operating a pyramid promotional scheme, or Ponzi scheme, theft by common scheme and exploitation of an older person. He is accused of taking more than $2.02 million in funds.

Heffelfinger’s alleged victims included an elderly woman who suffered advanced dementia and cognitive impairment. After checks for the woman’s care at a nursing home bounced, it was found that Heffelfinger had allegedly deposited $97,000 of the woman’s money into his personal account instead of investing it.

Heffelfinger is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Full Article and Source:
Local Man Accused in $2.02M Fraud Case

83-Year-Old Charged With Financial Exploitation

Martha M. Carlton, 83, of Benton appeared Tuesday in Franklin County court in Benton with her attorney Terry M. Green to hear charges filed against her.

A warrant for her arrest was filed on Dec. 21, 2009.

Count 1 alleges that Carlton, a retired school teacher, while serving as an agent of Inez Cunningham pursuant to a power of attorney, knowingly and deceptively obtained control over assets and resources of Cunningham amounting to $7,000 in U.S. currency.

The charge alleges that Carlton illegally used the assets for her own purposes and prevented Cunningham from learning about her actions by retaining all of Cunningham’s documents until on or about July 2009 in violation of Illinois Compiled Statues.

Count 2 alleges that Carlton committed the offense of unlawful financial exploitation of an elderly person on June 14, 2006, by creating a legal fiduciary relationship with Cunningham.

According to court records, Cunningham is over 90 years of age.

Both counts are considered Class 1 felonies.

Full Article and Source:
Woman, 83, Appears in Court On Financial Exploitation Charge

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Hampshire Rejects Assisted Suicide

The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide.

Lawmakers voted 242-113 to kill the measure. In November, the House Judiciary Committee had recommended against passing the bill by a wide margin, 14-3.

HB 304, introduced by Representative Charles Weed, would have allowed a "mentally competent person who is 18 years of age or older" who was deemed terminally ill to request a fatal drug through a written request.

"It's not the function of government to encourage suicide in the young or the old," said Committee Republican Rep. Nancy Elliott in November. "It's a prescription for elder abuse."

Full Article and Source:
New Hampshire House Strikes Down Assisted Suicide

Too Many Antipsychotic Drugs?

Nursing homes where there is a record high rate of antipsychotic drug prescriptions in the previous year are more likely to prescribe antipsychotic agents to newly admitted older adult patients, even when there is no clinical indication that the patient needs this therapy.

In 2007, almost one-third of U.S. nursing home residents received antipsychotic drugs, raising serious concerns about the safety of their use. In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration issued warnings regarding the risk of death among older adults with dementia being given these agents to control behavioral symptoms. A large clinical trial recently concluded that the adverse effects of atypical antipsychotic drugs outweighed the benefits in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The study suggests that organizational culture at some nursing homes may encourage the prescribing of antipsychotics. "Future research is needed to determine why such a prescribing culture exists and whether there are adverse health consequences as a result of our observed facility-level antipsychotic prescribing rate," they concluded. "This study may also inform future policies to target nursing homes with high antipsychotic prescribing rates to improve quality of care for nursing home residents."

Full Article and Source:
Too Many Antipsychotic Drugs?

Rothstein Racked Up 20 Million Amex Points

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein apparently never left home without his American Express card.

Rothstein racked up 20,920,701 rewards points on his Amex card -- and the feds want to grab them all to help pay back his victims.

Rothstein -- a disbarred Fort Lauderdale lawyer charged with selling $1.2 billion in bogus legal settlements over the past four years -- used a lot of that money to pay his Amex bill, according to a new court filing. It did not outline what he bought to rack up such an enormous tally, but his gold toilet seat, flashy jewelry, powerboats and fleet of foreign sports cars are all possibilities.

Full Article and Source:
Scott Rothstein Racked Up 20 Million Amex Points

See Also:
Scott Rothstein's Co-Workers Could Face Charges