Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tony Leonard, Famed Photographer, a Ward of the State

In nearly 50 years as an equine photographer, Tony Leonard captured hundreds of Thoroughbreds, including Northern Dancer, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Barbaro.

But Leonard, 87, and his wife, Adelle Bergantino, 81, are now wards of the state. They were placed, against their wishes, in a nursing home. They have no money and no say over what will happen to his photographic negatives, their home, their belongings.

They are just two of more than 2,835 Kentuckians who are active wards of the state — a last resort for those who can no longer care for themselves. Some are incompetent. Some have no family to care for them or act as guardians. Some have no financial resources.

Tony Leonard is not a typical ward of the state. He is well known and has powerful friends and valuable assets. Nevertheless, his story shows the difficulties involved in the state guardianship process.

"Most people don't understand something like this can happen to anyone," said Matt Goins, a freelance photographer and friend of the couple. "You can work your entire life and have all these great successes, and suddenly someone can knock at the door and it's over. You've lost all control over your life."

Full Article and Source:
Tony Leonard, Famed Photographer, a Ward of the State

The Lawyer Who Just...Disappeared

Allen Schwartz came home early from work one summer day in 2001 and told his wife of 40 years that they needed to talk.

"I'm in trouble," he said. "I'm going to leave."

Schwartz was 71 at the time and had spent almost five decades building a successful Cincinnati law practice. Colleagues considered him a "gentleman lawyer" and his wife, Alice, expected to spend retirement with him in the Clifton home where they raised their three children.

So when Schwartz told his wife she would never see him again, and that he was leaving behind everyone and everything he ever cared about, she couldn't believe he really meant it.

But he did.

She hasn't seen him since. And neither have friends, relatives, neighbors or the prosecutors who later charged him with stealing more than $300,000 from clients.

Schwartz, who will turn 80 this year if he's still alive, remains one of the city's most enduring and unlikely mysteries, a man who was accused of betraying his family and his profession and then, seemingly, vanished into thin air.

Full Article and Source:
The Lawyer Who Just...Disappeared

Former Nursing Home Administrator Charged With Kidnapping

A former administrator at a Berkeley nursing home has been charged with kidnapping an 85-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease. The victim was allegedly held for a year in the home of the former administrator, who stole her pension and Social Security checks.

Concepcion "Connie" Pinco Giron, 51, of San Pablo stole more than $50,000 from Carnell Williams and five other elderly patients, authorities said.

The other alleged victims are identified in court records as Lottie McDonald, 97; Doris Polk, 77; Marvin Brown, whose age was unavailable; Jeanne Butterfield, 78; and Joseph Bontempo, 79. All lived at the Berkeley convalescent center.

"This is a shocking case of nursing-home abuse and a gross violation of trust," said state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Giron was arrested Monday. Alameda County prosecutors have charged her with kidnapping to commit another crime, false imprisonment, elder abuse and six counts of theft from elder or dependent adults by a caretaker. She is being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $365,000 bail and is to be arraigned Wednesday.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Worker Accused of Bilking Patients

Friday, March 26, 2010

Danny's Diary

Readers, take note. See what the actions of one friend can do. One phone call to the right person. One letter to the governor. One conversation with the right person. You never know who is going to be the one to make a difference. I implore you to continue to write the governor, contact the press that you might know, contact anyone in the legislature, post the link to “Court Ordered Hell” on your FaceBook page, email the link to everyone you know, inform every one you know of this injustice, spread the word any way you can, prepare to demonstrate, organize, demand. This errant law is well entrenched and those that protect its deep, dark secret think they are teflon, protected by those that appointed them, above the law, beyond reproach.

But I say “we the people” are the ones these officials should have to answer to, be accounted by and serve. I am in a fortunate position where my case has been exposed. There are thousands who have no voice to be heard and I fight this battle not only for myself but for them. I fight this battle for the father of my daughters. I fight this battle for the elderly who have been “put away” not to be found or heard from. It’s an ugly secret of our legal system. DO NOT let this court get away with what it has done.

Full Article and Source:

See Also:
Court Ordered Hell

Danny's Diary

Home Health Care Nurse Charged With Abusing Quadriplegic Patient

A home health care nurse was in court on charges of abusing her quadriplegic patient, according to police.

The male victim told a friend about the abuse, so that friend set up a video camera to catch the nurse in the act. On the very first day of filming, the nurse was caught swearing, yelling and hitting the defenseless patient.

Home health care nurse Tammy Labrecque and her family had nothing to say about her abusive treatment, which was caught on tape, toward the quadriplegic patient.

The 42-year-old would not uncover her face as she walked away from court.

The 63-year-old man spent more than a decade under her care.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Nurse Accused of Abuse Appears in Court

Guilty of Exploiting Man

Senior Judge Steve Jaeger found a woman accused of marrying an older man to steal his $1 million guilty Tuesday of three counts of knowingly exploiting an adult.

Cathleen Kenter-Nevins faces up to 10 years on each count when Jaeger sentences her April 15 in Boone Circuit Court. Kenter-Nevins, free on bond, declined to speak with a reporter as she left the courthouse.

Boone Commonwealth’s Attorney Linda Tally Smith accused Kenter-Nevins of befriending Danny Nevins four years ago at a riverboat casino in a plot to marry him so she could gain access to $1 million in commercial real estate he owned.

Nevins died in March 2008 at the age of 66 of natural causes.

Smith said at trial that the case was an example of a woman taking advantage of an elderly disabled man who had suffered from mental illnesses his entire life. Before getting married in the back seat of a car in Tennessee, Nevins had been involuntarily committed in a psychiatric hospital, been diagnosed as bipolar and lived with his mother until she died in the 1980s.

Full Article and Source:
Kenter-Nevins Guilty of Exploiting Man

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scottsdale Millionnaire to be Freed Friday...Maybe

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, Scottsdale millionaire Edward Abbott Ravenscroft is scheduled to be a free man.

If I were Ravenscroft, I wouldn't be planning my liberation celebration just yet.

Ravenscroft has filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against his probate handlers – the ones who last year gained control over his life and his bank account. Now Maricopa County's probate court may use that lawsuit as an excuse to continue its protection of the man and his millions.

A hearing on whether to let him live his own life – and spend his own money as he sees fit – is scheduled for this morning.

“It's all about money,” he told me on Tuesday. “If I didn't have millions, I'd be like anybody else, out there on my own.”

Ravenscroft, 49, is part of the Abbott pharmaceutical family. Court records indicate he's worth $5 million and has an income of $168,000 a year from Abbott stock dividends.

He also has battled drug and mental-health problems, having been arrested several times for drug possession and hospitalized several times for drug overdoses. In early 2009, his probation officer, concerned that he might be victimized due to the size of his bankbook, handed him over the probate court, where fiduciaries and attorneys are appointed to help vulnerable people – and sometimes themselves, as well, when a well-to-do ward comes along.

Ravenscroft has been clean and sober since August. His temporary guardian and conservator were due to bow out last month but at an emergency hearing they asked to continue their oversight of Ravenscroft and his money for another 30 days, “to ensure a successful transition” back to independence.

That transition is set to end on Friday.

Now, in yet another emergency hearing, the Sun Valley Group is asking that it be named his permanent conservator. Sun Valley attorney Alisa Gray told Judge Karen O'Connor last week that there are “sophisticated and complex financial matters,” including questions about whether Ravenscroft is being exploited by a bank, a real estate firm and the attorney who filed the federal lawsuit.

Full Article and Source:
Scottsdale Millionnaire to be Freed Friday....Maybe"

See Also:
Millionnaire Almost Escaped

Not Enough State Guardians in Kentucky

In a scathing audit of the state guardianship program in 2008, State Auditor Crit Luallen found that understaffing in the program put wards of the state at risk.

"The reason this is such a critical issue is that these are often people without a voice," Luallen said recently. "They are among our most vulnerable citizens."

Today, there are 2,835 active wards of the state in Kentucky, with just 38 guardians to oversee all their personal and financial needs. That's roughly one guardian for every 75 wards.

That ratio is "preposterous," said University of Kentucky professor Pamela Teaster, one of the nation's leading researchers on public guardianship. An appropriate ratio would be 20-1, as it is in Virginia, Teaster said. At the very least, Kentucky should cap the number of wards a guardian oversees, as Florida does, at a 40-1 ratio, she said.

Full Article and Source:
Luallen: Not Enough State Guardians

Nurse and PT Teacher Charged With Theft

A nurse and a part-time kindergarten teacher have been charged with the theft of more than $700,000 from a 94-year-old North Side man.

Deborah Johnson, 53, of Columbus, the nurse, and Anita Esquibel, 68, of Columbus, the teacher, are accused by Columbus police of stealing more than $700,000 from Peter Svaldi.
The two met him at an apartment building near Graceland Shopping Center, said Kevin Craine, attorney for Svaldi's newly appointed guardian. The women were the property managers, said the guardian, Lorelei Lanier. The women gained Svaldi's trust, then bought real estate, a car and jewelry with money they took from his accounts after gaining power of attorney, Craine said.

"I think this stuff happens a lot more than anybody knows, through power of attorney," Craine said. "I don't know the circumstances how he gave them power of attorney, but he definitely gave it to them. In the wrong hands, it can become a license to steal.

Svaldi is "definitely incapacitated," Craine said. "That's how this happened. He's aware of what happened, but it took him a while to process that. It's one of the more heinous cases I've seen, and we do a lot of this kind of work, unfortunately."

Full Article and Source:
2 Women Accused in Rip-Off of Senior

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Can "Death Panels" Also Be "Life Panels"?

Over and over and over again, we hear how fear mongers and wing-nuts are falsely claiming there are “death panels” where death panels do not exist. Keith Olbermann goes so far as to claim that rather than death panels, there are “life panels.” He just doesn’t seem to get it that not everyone’s experience is like the one he had with his father’s passing, where his father’s wishes were upheld.

We have Terri Schiavo, who was put to death by court order. A case where she, a brained damaged but otherwise healthy individual, was starved and dehydrated to death based upon heavily conflicted testimony. Perhaps the conflict itself should have been taken more seriously, as would have been, if the people fighting for her life had been considered of importance to the right audience.

Olbermann considers starving and dehydrating a healthy person to death to be what “life panels” do?

More recent in the news is the Gary Harvey case.

The so-called ethics committee decided Gary Harvey should be starved and dehydrated to death as well and put it before the court. He was, after all, at death’s door, wasn’t he? The order to put Gary Harvey to death was suddenly pulled after the media picked up on the story. Gary Harvey, who was supposedly at death’s door and needing to be starved and dehydrated to death last summer, is still alive. Looks like someone got something wrong about Gary being unable to survive and ready to die, and needing to be put down, especially by such a hideous method as starving and dehydrating him to death.

The fight for Gary’s life, by his wife, while a system suggests it’s time to kill him off, is Olbermann’s opinion of a “life panel” in motion?

Just how would Olbermann have felt, if he went up against a committee that decided they knew better and was going to disregard his father’s wishes?

Just how would Olbermann have felt, if his dad could have been saved, but the “system” decided otherwise?

Full Article and Source:
Death Panels: To Be Deemed the Most Non-Existent Reality of 2010?

CT Probate Courts are Honorable and Accountable

(Dean Rohrer illustration)

Editorial by Paul J. Knierim, probate court administrator and judge of the Simsbury probate court

Connecticut's probate courts have recently been the object of sharply critical commentary, which unfairly characterizes the probate system and places its judges in a negative light. It is vitally important that the public know that our state's probate courts operate under well-defined rules that safeguard the rights of individuals and ensure that probate cases are decided in a fair and objective manner.

Probate judges are governed by a strict set of ethics rules, known as the Code of Probate Judicial Conduct. The ethics code, which is similar to the rules that apply to Superior Court judges, requires that probate judges disqualify themselves from any case in which their impartiality is in question. It also requires that judges avoid activities outside of their courts that could cause a conflict of interest with their judicial responsibilities. The code of ethics is a public document on our website (

Judges, like anyone else, can make errors. That's why there is a guaranteed right to appeal any probate decision to the Superior Court. A person who disagrees with a probate judge's decision can have another judge — from a different court — review the case. Notably, very few probate matters are appealed. In 2009, only 85 appeals were filed on probate decisions, a small fraction of the nearly 80,000 matters handled by probate judges that year.

Of course, in any organization, there may be people who don't follow the rules. If that happens in the probate courts, we have a system to discipline any judge who violates the ethics code. Complaints about the conduct of a judge may be filed with the Council on Probate Judicial Conduct. Headed by a Superior Court judge, this five-member body follows procedures that parallel the Judicial Review Council, which oversees Superior Court judges.

The Council on Probate Judicial Conduct investigates every complaint it receives. It can publicly admonish or censure a judge. It can even recommend that the General Assembly impeach the judge.

Full Editorial and Source:
Connecticut Probate Courts are Honorable and Accountable

Drug Crackdown Said to Deprive Pain Relief for Seriously Ill

A Senate panel will hear complaints on Wednesday from nursing home operators, doctors, nurses and pharmacists that a Drug Enforcement Administration narcotics crackdown has left seriously ill patients crying for pain relief.

The D.E.A. says it is merely enforcing the law that requires pharmacies to wait for prescriptions that are signed by physicians before dispensing potent painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and morphine.

But the nursing home groups say the new enforcement rules upend many years of practice in which the government informally allowed nurses to speed the process by taking doctors’ orders orally, or from medical charts, and passing them along to pharmacies, similar to the procedures used in hospitals.

The delays “leave vulnerable, frail patients to struggle through unimaginable pain for hours and even days, while physicians, nurses and pharmacists struggle to collect required D.E.A. paperwork,” the group says in a report to be released on Wednesday to coincide with the hearing.

Full Article and Source:
U.S. Drug Move Said to Deprive Elderly

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Aint No Sunshine for Rita Denmark

Locked away in a Florida nursing home, completely isolated, and alienated from her children, family, and friends, seventy-nine [79] year old Rita Denmark likely does not even realize she is in "The Sunshine State".

Held against her will and that of her family, Rita has been drugged and is likely still being drugged to "ensure her compliance" and, quell her insistence that she go back home to Pennsylvania where she was born, raised and domiciled her entire life.
In August 2007, boarding the bus with a daughter, Rita believed she was going to Florida to visit her son — truth is, the daughter was hastily removing Rita from Pennsylvania to avoid a pending guardianship hearing in the McKean County court.

Weeks after arriving in Florida, Rita fell prey to a "professional guardian" in the State of Florida, and she has not been allowed to return to Pennsylvania since.  

My name is Holly Peffer – Rita Denmark’s other daughter. I fear for my mother’s life. 

For more information and or any details relating to the plight of Rita Denmark, feel free to email me at


See Also:
Press Release: Congressman Urges Investigation

Congressman Joe Stestak's Letter in Support of NASGA Member Holly Peffer

Jail Time for Woman in Felony Theft Charge

Calling it one of the crimes that offends him the most, a judge sent a Philadelphia woman to jail for stealing from a 92-year-old Abington woman for whom she worked as a home health aide.

Shamihra Nicole Johnson, 23, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to two-to-23-months in the county jail, to be followed by three years’ probation, after she pleaded guilty to felony charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property in connection with incidents that occurred in May 2009.

President Judge Richard J. Hodgson ordered Johnson to pay $9,000 in restitution to the elderly woman to cover the amount of money that was stolen.

“These are the kind of crimes that offend me the most. The oldest people are helpless and duped because of these crimes,” said Hodgson, adding those elderly who are distrustful of banks and keep their money at home are most at risk of such crimes.

Full Article and Source:
Philly Woman Gets Jail for Ripping Off Woman, 92

Monday, March 22, 2010

Judge Rules $576K to Probate Attorneys Justified

A Superior Court judge has ruled that a phalanx of probate attorneys were justified in collecting $576,000 from an 88-year-old widow the court was (supposed to be) protecting. The judge rubber stamped half of the fees without even holding a hearing into whether they were reasonable.

Pro-tem Judge Lindsay Ellis also signed off on the Sun Valley Group helping itself to more than $417,000 in guardian and companion care fees.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Berch this week announced a new initiative aimed at improving protections for vulnerable people. Among the issues to be addressed: fees charged by court-appointed guardians and fiduciaries.

She could start with the astounding case of Marie Long, an old lady worth $1.3 million when she came under the protection of Maricopa County's probate court in 2005. Today, she's destitute and depends on taxpayers for support.

Which, we are told, is in no way the fault of those who wound up with all of her money.

In a take-no-prisoners 21-page ruling issued Monday, Ellis described the fees that put Marie Long into the poorhouse as “reasonable, necessary and for the benefit of the ward.” She blamed Marie's court-appointed attorney Jon Kitchel along with Dan Raynak and Pat Gitre, attorneys for Marie's sisters, for driving up costs, saying their “venomous” and “hateful” attacks on the trustee, the guardian and their attorneys forced the other side to defend themselves.

With Marie's money, of course.

The opinion was lauded by Sun Valley Group, which withdrew as Marie's guardian when her money ran out in November. Says Sun Valley's CEO, Peter Frenette: “I am grateful for the court's decision as it finds ‘there is no legitimate dispute about SVG or its performance of its duties as guardian for Long.' The court confirmed that this has been an unfair attack not just on SVG but also the guardianship process.”

Full Article and Source:
Judge: Probate Attorneys Were Justified in Taking $576,000 From Old Lady

See Also:
Read the 21-Page Ruling

Three Racketeering Lawsuits Filed

Illinois Nursing Home Legislation

A group of elder advocate groups brought together by the AARP joined in Springfield to announce nursing home legislation that will reform the way nursing homes operate in Illinois. Senate Bill 685 was introduced by Heather Steans and Jacqueline Collins, both Democrats from Chicago.

As been highlighted recently in the media, nursing home residents in Illinois have been victims of nursing home failures. Nursing home patients have been the victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse. They have been given the wrong diagnosis or wrong medications all at the hands of nursing home employees. This bill will go way beyond what has recently been proposed in the Governor’s task force.

Full Article and Source:
New Nursing Home Litigation Looks to Reform Illinois

Feds Indict Couple Again in Theft, Sale of Patients' Data

Last year, they were charged with running a racket to pilfer patient records from Jackson Memorial Hospital to sell to lawyers for personal-injury claims.

Now Ruben E. Rodriguez and wife Maria Victoria Suarez have been indicted again for paying an ambulance-company employee to steal information on patients transported to Miami-Dade hospitals and healthcare clinics. That theft scheme dates all the way back to 1995, according to an indictment filed last week.

In both federal cases, the Coral Gables couple are accused of brokering the stolen computer records of patients' names, addresses, telephone numbers and medical diagnoses to several attorneys in exchange for kickback payments. The lawyers paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars for the referrals after settling injury claims, authorities say.

Among the suspected personal-injury lawyers: G. Walter Araujo. The Hialeah lawyer has not been charged in the federal prosecution, but this past week the Florida Bar confirmed it was investigating him for potential ethics violations in connection with the first federal case involving the theft of JMH patient records

Full Article and Source:
Feds Indict Couple Again in Theft, Sale of Patients' Data

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Problems Accompany Legal Euthanasia

Assisted suicide has been legal for a year in Washington, and the state health department has issued its first report.

During the first year, 63 people requested and received lethal prescriptions to kill themselves. 47 have since died, while 36 are confirmed to have used the poison to accomplish it. Although 79 percent suffered from cancer, few cited pain as the reason for seeking end of life treatment as the main concern was the cost for alternate treatment.

"What is and has been the reality of this [is] that when you transform assisted suicide into a medical treatment, it makes it just like every other medical treatment, except it's lots cheaper. And people begin to see it as a benefit for the family," comments Rita Marker, attorney and president of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (ITF).

Many of the patients had insurance, but Marker says that means nothing. It does, however, serve as a reminder of an Oregon cancer victim whose treatment was rejected by her insurance. She was told, though, that they would cover her drugs for assisted suicide. The report shows there are too many unknowns, and the possibility of murder is an example.

Full Article and Source:
Problems Accompany Legal Euthanasia

See Also:
One Year Anniversary of Legalized Suicide

Attorney Charged With Felony Theft

A Knoxville attorney already under suspension for misappropriating clients' funds in the early 2000s now faces a criminal charge in connection with a new set of similar claims.

John O. Threadgill, a veteran civil attorney who long was active in both the Knoxville Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association, was arrested Monday on a sealed presentment charging him with felony theft over $60,000.

John Gill, special counsel to Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols, said Tuesday the charge involves allegations of misappropriation of clients' funds. The case is believed to stem from Threadgill's handling of client funds in 2008.

The theft case was probed by Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Mike Freels and presented to a Knox County grand jury by Assistant District Attorney General Steve Garrett.

In an opinion released in September and penned by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia A. Clark, the high court upheld the one-year suspension of Threadgill's law license issued by the Board of Professional Responsibility, which polices attorneys.

In that opinion, the court addressed three different clients who, in 2003 and 2004, were shorted money by Threadgill, deeming at least one of those incidents as rising to the level of "criminal conduct." The court also noted that Threadgill had been similarly accused in 1994.

Full Article and Source:
Knox Attorney Charged With Felony Theft

Lawyer Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud

Local attorney William C. Chesbrough pleaded not guilty to criminal charges he bilked clients out more than $140,000 between 2007 and 2009.

Chesbrough, 57, was charged in December with three felonies, including two counts of felony theft and one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Prosecutors allege that he failed to return more than $120,000 at the end of a three-year probate filing to a 69-year-old Hampshire woman who had hired him to help her with an estate. He also is accused of failing to return about $20,000 he held in an escrow-type account for a West Dundee family.

Chesbrough, who declined to comment as he left the courtroom of Kane County Associate Judge T. Jordan Gallagher, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Full Article and Source:
Local Attorney Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud