Saturday, March 6, 2010

NJ Bill to Protect Elderly from Exploitation Advances

An Assembly panel approved a bill to protect frail elderly people from exploitation.

"This measure targets those individuals who prey on elderly persons age 60 and above who are suffering from a mental disease or condition rendering them incapable of making financial decisions on their own," said Sen. Christopher J. Connors (R-Ocean), a sponsor of the legislation. "Too often, persons use the trust they have gained from an elderly person left vulnerable from their unfortunate circumstances to steal through means of fraud, false promises, extortion or even intimidation."

The bill advances to the full Assembly.

Full Article and Source:
Bill Protecting Frail Elderly From Exploitation Advances to N.J. Assembly

Sentenced to a Mere 30 Days in Jail

A Macclenny woman believed to be the mastermind of a scheme to bilk her elderly and infirm sister-in-law out of $340,000 in cash and other assets will spend a month in county jail and be on probation for 10 years.

Francis Claudette Gray, 48, who now lives in Lake City along with co-defendant and husband Jimmy, 77, will also be required to repay $227,212 back to the estate of Margarete Gray, who died last fall of cancer in a Jacksonville nursing home.

The Grays were not charged criminally until September, 2008, when assistant state attorney Geoff Fleck filed counts of felony grand theft and exploitation of the elderly. Sheriff’s investigators had completed an investigation two years earlier, and former prosecutor Mel Bessinger was hesitant to file because he feared there was little proof the couple coerced the elder Mrs. Gray to sign over power of attorney.

Prosecutor Fleck contended that’s exactly what they did in a blatant grab for the ailing relative’s assets. The chain of events that immediately followed in the summer of 2006 including systematic looting of Mrs. Gray’s bank accounts, cashing in of certificates of deposit, sale of her north Jacksonville house and the theft of $37,000 cash from inside the house.

A civil lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s estate still pends, and the Jacksonville lawyer who is handling it was in court this week alleging the restitution amount falls short of what the Grays actually took from the victim.

Full Article and Source:
$340K Theft Nets Defendent Only 30 days in Jail

Public Reprimand of Lawyer Jacquelyn Champagne

The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and Jacquelyn Champagne, Milwaukee, entered into an agreement for imposition of a public reprimand, pursuant to SCR 22.09(1). A supreme court-appointed referee approved the agreement, and issued the public reprimand on Dec. 7, 2009, in accordance with SCR 22.09(3). The public reprimand stemmed from a single matter investigated by the OLR.

Champagne, while a litigation associate at a Milwaukee law firm, represented a client in litigation arising out of a guardianship and protective placement matter. The original petition for guardianship and protective placement (the petition) was not filed before the transfer of the ward and a court had not approved the transfer, as required by law. That happened, in part, because messengers arrived at the clerk’s office after it was closed on the day of transfer (July 1, 2003) and returned the next morning (July 2, 2003) to file the petition.

Champagne was not responsible for the initial preparation or filing of the petition. In addition, Champagne was under the supervision of other partners at the firm, who guided her in her positions at appearances before various tribunals. Still, Champagne knew that the petition had not been filed before the patient was transferred and knew that the statutory requirements for transferring a patient had not been followed. Despite this knowledge, Champagne made several false statements to courts related to these facts.

Full Article and Source:
State Bar of Wisconsin - Public Reprimand of Jacqueline Champagne

Man Pleads Not Guilty to Bilking Charge

A Hemet felon who's accused of bilking a 90-year-old victim out of more than $100,000 and is suspected of doing the same to other seniors s pleaded not guilty to felony charges and had his bail set at $150,000.

Gary Lee Wickham, 69, is charged with embezzlement by a non-caretaker of a dependent adult and using false pretenses.

He also faces allegations of taking, destroying or damaging property; committing white-collar crime of more than $100,000; and having prior felony convictions and a "strike."

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Kelly Hansen ordered Wickham back to court for a felony settlement conference. A preliminary hearing was tentatively set for March 9.

Full Article and Source:
Man Pleads Not Guilty of Scamming Seniors Out of Thousands

Friday, March 5, 2010

Millionnaire Almost Escaped

Edward Abbott Ravenscroft was counting the hours until he would be free of his protectors over at Maricopa County probate court. On Friday. the countdown clock stopped, just 61 hours short of the time he would have retaken control of his fortune.

On that day, lawyers for the Sun Valley Group and the Maricopa County public fiduciary convinced a judge to extend their control over Ravenscroft for another 30 days and oh by the way, to order that Ravenscroft's latest dividend check be handed over to Sun Valley.

Ravenscroft says he had no idea that Friday's emergency hearing was even being held and had no attorney there to represent him.

“I have no control,” a frustrated Ravenscroft told me, after learning that he'll be “protected” for at least another 30 days. “Just because I have wealth doesn't mean people can just walk all over me and do whatever they want.”

Actually, they can, as long as they get a judge to go along with it. This, after all, is probate court, where the “incapacitated” are protected, sometimes right into the poorhouse.

Full Article and Source:
Millionnaire Almost Escaped His Probate Protectors...Almost

See Also:
Probate Court Lets Millionnaire Fall By the Wayside

Ohio Lawyer Pleads Guilty

Gerald Baker couldn't say exactly where he spent more than $34,000 he was supposed to have given clients, only that he took the money "without [it] being forwarded on to the parties involved."

A lawyer who was placed on an indefinite suspension last year by the Supreme Court of Ohio, Baker pleaded guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday to grand theft. He admitted stealing the money that had been entrusted to him as an insurance settlement for a client.

Baker, 60, of Spencer Township, faces up to 1 1/2 years in prison when sentenced April 21. As part of the plea, he agreed to pay $34,380 to one client and $1,739 to another.

"I received a check from an insurance company as a result of a settlement for a homeowner's fire," Mr. Baker told Judge Gene Zmuda yesterday. "I deposited the money into my [client trust] account and [depleted] the account over time."

Baker's license suspension was a result of charges filed by the Toledo Bar Association alleging nine counts of misconduct dating to 2003. One of those counts led to criminal charges against Baker.

Full Article and Source:
Toledo Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Taking Clients' Funds

See Also:
Lawyer Accused of Grand Theft

Robert J. Powell - a 'Double Agent'?

Robert J. Powell was working as a double agent while federal prosecutors were building their case against the two former Luzerne County judges accused in a kids-for-cash corruption scheme, their attorneys alleged.

Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan are seeking dismissal of the charges, claiming prosecutorial misconduct, according to pre-trial motions filed Monday.

Powell, a former attorney who co-owned the juvenile detention facilities at the center of the scheme, recorded conversations with Conahan while simultaneously working with him to coordinate their defense to corruption charges that came months later, Conahan's attorneys said.

Powell, who had also represented Conahan and Ciavarella during their time as investors in a Wright Township land development, violated attorney-client privilege and other protections, Conahan's attorneys said.

The attorneys, accusing federal prosecutors of exploiting that relationship and Powell's friendship with Conahan and Ciavarella, asked a judge to bar prosecutors from using the recordings and evidence derived from his cooperation at their trial.

Powell's attorney, Mark Sheppard, said Tuesday he did not believe Powell violated any privileges by cooperating with prosecutors.

Full Article and Source:
Former Judges Claim Attorney Was 'Double Agent.'

See Also:
Michael T. Conahan Claims Immunity

Caretaker Accused of Theft

A Morton Plant Hospital clerk stole more than $200,000 from the safe of an elderly couple and spent half of the money on lottery tickets, police say.

Wanda Bryant was held in the Pinellas County Jail on $210,000 bail Thursday, a day after Clearwater police arrested her at the hospital on charges related to exploitation of the elderly, theft from persons 65 years or older and burglary.

Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said a 74-year-old Clearwater man reported the theft from his home on Sunday. Detectives opened an investigation and identified Bryant as the suspect.

For the last two years, she has been a home-based caretaker for the man's 77-year-old wife. The wife has been a Morton Plant patient, and met Bryant there.

"She stayed there sometimes overnight," Watts said. "She was in the house on the weekends."

At some point, police said, Bryant found the combination to the couple's safe on a piece of paper.

Full Article and Source:
Caretaker is Accused of Stealing More Than $200,000 From Elderly Clearwater Couple"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Danny Tate Interview

Danny recently sat down with the folks at Changed Lives for a few words.

The show airs on Channel 19 in Nashville.

Friday, March 5th, 9:30 AM

Sunday, March 7th, 3:30 PM

Tuesday, March 9th, 5:00PM


See Also:
Danny's Diary

Ex-Lawyer Charged With Stealing Inheritance

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has charged a former Ridgefield resident and lawyer with stealing a woman’s inheritance, according to a press release.

The victim, who was not identified, inherited $31,565 from her grandmother’s estate in 1996 and had given the money to Diane S. Avery, now of Holland, Mich., to disburse to put in a trust account, the release states.

Avery was supposed to disburse the money to the woman periodically, but the payments stopped in April 2007, the release states. The woman tried to contact Avery but couldn’t reach her.

Avery was suspended from practicing law in New Jersey by the Office of Attorney Ethics in March 2008, according to the release.

Avery is charged with one count of theft by deception and one count of failure to make required disposition of property acquires, both third degree crimes.

Full Article and Source:
Former Ridgefield Lawyer Charged With Stealing Woman's Inheritance

Ex-Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Theft

A former Monroe attorney accused of stealing thousand of dollars from his clients has pleaded guilty in state court.

Seventy-2-year-old entered his plea on six counts of theft in excess of $500.

Jerry Cathey claimed Grenrood had his father's life insurance checks, designated for children and grandchildren, made out to the himself and transferred about $32,000 in the father's checking account to his own trust account.

Grenrood's sentencing date is scheduled for May 24.

Ex-Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Stealing From Clients

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Victims Paid Restitution by Former Guardian

All restitution owed to court wards in a 2004 embezzlement case has been repaid, but the former guardian and conservator at the center of the case still owes more than $25,000 to the county.

Susan Marie Berg, 52, Sanford, was accused of feeding a gambling habit by taking $237,698 from wards of the court from April 2002 to March 2004. She ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult and was sentenced in the spring of 2005 to serve one year in jail followed by five years probation and to pay restitution in full. She paid $100,000 at the sentencing hearing.

On Jan. 11, visiting Huron County Circuit Judge M. Richard Knoblock discharged Berg from probation successfully and early -- it was due to last until March 18 -- and left the remaining restitution balance to be collected administratively. Probation terms were that Berg be employed, complete treatment including 30 days in an inpatient treatment program, not gamble and pay full restitution.

"She has paid every victim she stole from in full," said Chief Assistant Midland County Prosecutor Erik S.H. Wallen said of the more than $200,000 Berg has already paid. The remaining amount is for court costs and fees, as well as to repay the balance of attorney Barry George, who was appointed a special fiduciary in the case. His bill was $27,334, which was paid by Midland County, meaning the money to be repaid will go to the county, Wallen said.

At the review hearing, Berg said she is paying $50 monthly installments on the remaining restitution but would pay more if she could.

"That's 41 years from now before it'll be paid off," Beale said after doing the math. Berg explained she can't pay more because the attorney who represented her requires her to pay $200 per month, and she does not want him to file another court case against her to get that money. "I'd rather pay $200 here ... It was an agreement between the two of us," she said. "We are really close to maybe losing our house because of the economy."

Full Article and Source:
Victims Paid Restitution by Former Guardian

Public Involvement in Attorney Discipline

Working with the state Supreme Court, the State Bar of Arizona hopes to increase public involvement in oversight of the 16,000 lawyers who practice here.

The proposed changes include publishing information on the bar and court websites; appointing a presiding disciplinary judge; establishing a probable cause committee; allowing direct appeal to the Supreme Court after the disciplinary judge's decision; resolving more cases at an early stage; and completing investigations within eight months.

The public can attend a meeting on the topic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 6 at the State Courts Building, 1501 W. Washington St. in Phoenix. For more information go to

Public Can Weigh in on Attorney Discipline

Five Years for Former Conservator Audrey Curtis

Audrey Curtis, a Torrington woman charged with stealing thousands from two different families, could not escape a maximum jail sentence.

Curtis — who pleaded guilty in December to two counts of first-degree larceny — was ready to go to jail for a period of time. But that amount of time — between 18 months and five years — was to be determined by whether or not Curtis made restitution to the victim of her crime.

Curtis was arrested last year for reportedly stealing $35,650 from a life insurance account for Andrew Paradelas III, a man she formerly dated, and $46,224 from the Goshen women for whom she was conservator. Both occurred over a period of time.

Judge James P. Ginocchio, hearing that the woman did not pay back any of the money as she promised, agreed to the five year sentence. The judge said it was one of the “few times” he agreed to a maximum sentence that the state requests.

Emotions ran high on both sides of the aisle during the sentencing hearing. Curtis cried at times, and both her daughter and a friend spoke in support of a lesser sentence for her.

On the other side, Assistant State’s Attorney Dawn Gallo did not mince her words when it came to Curtis’ indiscretions. In strong words, Gallo pinpointed Curtis’ claim that she would pay some of the stolen money back.

“This is yet one more time Ms. Curtis was conning her way out of a situation,” Gallo said.

Full Article and Source:
Former Conservator Sentenced to Five Years for Stealing $81K

See Also:
Former Conservator Could Get 5 Years

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Max Farash Dies

Max M. Farash, a business tycoon in upstate New York whose real estate fortune was once estimated to be worth $500 million, has died at age 95.

Farash owned and managed 5,000 apartment and townhouse units, as well as commercial property and vacant land, in the Rochester region and Florida. He was one of the Rochester's wealthiest and most successful business owners.

Daughter Lynn Farash said her father died Sunday at a nursing home in the suburb of Webster after years of declining health.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Max Farash Dies

Farash Grand Nephew-Indicted

Former Farash Corp. chief executive Matthew S. Aroesty has been indicted on charges that he stole more than $50,000 from the company founded by his late great-uncle, Max M. Farash.

A Monroe County grand jury handed up an indictment Friday on a single count of second-degree grand larceny, which applies to theft of an amount greater than $50,000 and less than $1 million. The indictment came just two days before Farash died in a Webster nursing home at the age of 95.

The indictment likely will further ratchet up the discord between the 44-year-old Aroesty and a lawyer who has served as Farash’s court-appointed property guardian. The lawyer, James C. Gocker, provided evidence to the Brighton Police Department last year that led to Aroesty’s arrest in September on the grand larceny charge. The case then was sent to the grand jury.

Officials said then that the charge involved diversion of Farash Corp. assets to Aroesty’s personal benefit.

Gocker also filed suit last month against Aroesty and Farash’s only child, daughter Lynn Farash, alleging they had wrongly diverted more than $12 million from the company.

Full Article and Source:
Frash Grand-Nephew Indicted on Theft Charges

See Also:
Farash Guardianship Litigation Continues

Long-Term Family Planning

DHS recently investigated the neglect of an elderly Enid widow, who lives alone and is failing fast. A judge named her Enid grandson her guardian, though the woman wanted her son in Oklahoma City.

After her grandson was suspected of embezzling from her, the judge named her Enid granddaughter guardian. But she failed to pick up her grandmother’s medications and take her to doctor appointments, so the judge appointed an Enid bank. Now, the woman’s son regularly drives up from Oklahoma City to chauffer and care for her, and submits bills to the bank for payment.

Such scenarios can be avoided if families plan for long-term care, including appointing someone to handle financial affairs and make medical decisions, said Jerry Shiles, an estate planning attorney with Parman and Easterday in Oklahoma City.

A guardianship case can cost $3,500 to $4,000, plus some $1,700 annually because guardians are required to come back to court every year to submit a plan of care and a detailed financial accounting, Shiles said. "It’s just wasted money,” he said.

Shiles urges families to plan ahead for long-term care, including signing a financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney. The cost for the two legal documents is about $350, Shiles said. "Without them, you’ll spend 10 times that, not to mention heartache,” he said.

Full Article and Source:
Long-Term Family Planning Puts Life, Property in Order

Monday, March 1, 2010

Family Loses Home in Conservatorship

A Douglas County family is trying to figure out what went wrong and why they lost a home to foreclosure. Family members said that a court appointed conservator was supposed to pay the bills on a home belonging to a deceased relative, but the home ended up in foreclosure.

David Brown said he heard about the foreclosure on his late father's house from a voicemail left by neighbor.

"There's a lot of activity over there it looks like their throwing everything on the front lawn," said Brown.

Brown's father, Dr. James Brown died in June. The estate was placed in the hands of a court-appointed conservator until the will could be worked out.

"Larry Smith, the conservator was supposed to preserve the estate. Obviously [he] hasn't done his job," said Brown.

The probate judge in the case, Hal Hamrick referred questions to Smith. Smith said he couldn't comment on the case.

Full Article and Source:
Family Loses Home in Conservatorship

Lawsuit Vs. Judge Proceeds

A federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit against a sitting county judge accused of knowingly making false claims to authorities.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee last week rejected Hinds County Judge Houston Patton's assertion that as a judge he could not be held liable.

James Jennings Jr. of Mendenhall filed the lawsuit in 2008 against Patton and former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters.

The lawsuit revolves around a 1997 incident in which Patton accused Jennings and Jennings' attorney, J. Keith Shelton, of trying to bribe him over a complaint Jennings filed against Patton with the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, the state's watchdog group for judges.

Jennings and Shelton were indicted but never tried. The charges eventually were dismissed.

"In the court's opinion, based on plaintiff's version of the facts, no reasonable argument can be made that Patton's alleged acts of making false statements to law enforcement and withholding material and exculpatory information to bring about the criminal prosecution of two innocent men are judicial or adjudicative acts," Lee wrote in the 14-page ruling.

Full Article and Source:
Lawsuit Vs. Judge Proceeds

Ex-Lawyer Faces 10 Years

A former attorney will stand trial in 4th Judicial District court on charges he stole thousands of dollars from his own clients.

Bernard Grenrood, a 72-year-old man who used to practice law and live in Monroe, faces six counts of theft in excess of $500. Under Louisiana law, theft in excess of $500 carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or a maximum fine of $2,000 or both.

According to a Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office offense report, one family claimed Grenrood stole part of their inheritance in the wake of their father's death in 2003.

In October 2004, Grenrood requested to resign from practicing law rather than face disciplinary action. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted his request, but not before listing the charges that raised the possibility of disciplinary action.

"The Office of Disciplinary Counsel has filed three separate sets of formal charges against respondent, and three disciplinary investigations are currently pending," the court decision reads. "The formal charges allege that respondent charged an excessive legal fee, entered into a prohibited business transaction with a client, failed to timely pay a third-party medical provider, converted client and third-party funds, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, engaged in dishonest and deceitful conduct, and failed to cooperate with the ODC in its investigation."

Full Article and Source:
Theft Trial To Begin for Ex-Lawyer

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Carmel on the Case: Seidlin Lawsuit

The exploitation lawsuit brought by an elderly woman against former judge Larry Seidlin and several others is making its way through the legal system. At a recent deposition, there was a stand off when Seidlin tried to get close to the woman suing him.

Barbara Kasler is 84 years old. She has health issues and spends much of her time in bed at her Las Olas condominium.

Carmel Cafiero: "Is there one thing you'd want people to know?"

Barbara Kasler: "Well, look over your bills more carefully."

Carmel Cafiero: "To pay more attention to how your money is being spent?"

Barbara Kasler: "Yes."

The Seidlins aren't the only ones being sued. In all 15 individuals and business are named as defendants in the case everyone from Mrs. Kasler's former accountant to a former attorney.

[Kasler's attorney] Bill Scherer: "They weren't looking out after her interests."

So, when Mrs. Kasler recently sat down for her very first deposition in the case you can imagine how many lawyers gathered to hear what she had to say.

The wealthy widow is at the heart of a civil lawsuit that alleges she was exploited by former Broward judge Larry Seidlin, his wife and her parents. Earlier, a criminal investigation cleared Seidlin in connection with more than half a million dollars in gifts and property, Barbara Kasler gave to his family.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Carmel on the Case: Seidlin Lawsuit

The Seidlin Family Circus

On one side, you have the politically connected Bill Scherer and his law firm, and on the other, you have Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, former state Sen. Skip Campbell, and Florida Bar President-Elect Scott Hawkins.

Welcome to the civil suit involving former Judge Larry Seidlin, who became a national celebrity/clown during his tearful handling of the Anna Nicole Smith case, and the elderly neighbor who is claiming that Seidlin exploited her to take a sizable chunk of her multimillion-dollar fortune.

Hawkins, Seiler, and Campbell form the core of Seidlin's defense team, representing the judge; his in-laws, Oren and Barbara Ray; and family friend Dorothy "Danni" Coletto, respectively. Hawkins just took over for Russ Adler, who was knocked out after his law partner, Scott Rothstein, was implicated in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Scherer is representing the widow, Barbara Kasler. Also involved is Lyn Evans, who has been working with the Kasler family for some time and has most recently been working as an investigator for Scherer in his suit. Evans is also a part-time researcher for the Daily Pulp and provided the video.

Full Article and Source:
The Seidlin Family Circus

See Also:
Cryin Judge Seidlin Turns Author