Saturday, April 17, 2010

Severely Disabled, Is She Still a Mom?

Abbie Dorn lies in a hospital bed in her parents' home on the South Carolina coast. A halo of dark curls frames her pale face. The pump for her feeding tube clicks softly in the quiet room.

Abbie and their father, Dan Dorn, have divorced, and Dan is raising the children in a modest Beverlywood bungalow. Abbie, 34, held her babies only once, the day of their birth. She has not seen them in nearly 2 1/2 years.

Abbie's parents have been named conservators of her estate, which includes a multimillion-dollar malpractice settlement, and are asking a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to order Dan to let Abbie see her children. Dan has refused all requests, arguing that visitation would be too traumatic at their young age.

The bitter dispute raises questions both legal and profoundly human. What is a parent? What constitutes a parent-child relationship? How do you show children that they are loved? And can Abbie Dorn ever be a mother to her children?

In court papers, Dan, 33, describes the woman he once loved as "in a vegetative state with virtually no hope for recovery." His attorney, Vicki Greene, says, "As far as we know, Abbie is incompetent," that the case is all about her parents' wishes, that "we don't know what Abbie wants, because Abbie can't speak for herself."

Abbie's mother argues vehemently otherwise. Her daughter, Susan Cohen says, has improved markedly since "the event." She gets hours of therapy each day. She can read. She is capable of complex thought.

And she can communicate. With her smile. Her tears. And, most of all, her eyes.

Full Article and Source:
Severly Disabled, Is She Still a Mom?

Flaws in Nebraska Law Can be Fixed

Designed to protect people's assets, the Probate Courts did anything but in several cases assigned to Dinah Turrentine-Sims.

A World-Herald examination of police and court records and interviews with judges, attorneys and other conservators showed that several simple fixes could have prevented the staggering losses that Turrentine-Sims is accused of causing.

And, experts say, most of the fixes could be paid for through reasonable fees assessed against the assets of the wards whose estates would be protected.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine charged Turrentine-Sims in two cases. He said Omaha police are continuing to investigate Turrentine-Sims' actions. So far, misappropriations are suspected in a handful of cases.

Kleine said it's paramount that legislators and judges make swift changes.

“It doesn't take much to figure out that something is very wrong here,” he said. “This whole system was set up to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those who can't protect themselves. It failed.”

Full Article and Source:
Flaws in Nebraska Law to Aid Wards Can be Fixed

See Also:
Guardian Faces Theft Counts

Reverse Mortgage Scam

Jackson County Prosecutors say Marilyn James, 55, transferred a home she owned to an older neighbor with Alzheimer's Disease.

After James put the home in the victim's name and had power of attorney, authorities say she took out a reverse mortgage for more than $64,000 on the home.

Prosecutors say she also stole $9,000 from the elderly man's life insurance policy.

James is only the second person in the nation to be prosecuted for a reverse mortgage scam.

"It's a new type of fraud, one that we haven't seen before because this is a new program," explains Jim Kanatzer, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney. "So, I hope I'm wrong and I hope we don't see many more of these cases but I suspect we will."

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Woman Charged With Elder Fraud

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ward Accuses Guardian of Sexual Abuse

In a case investigators describe as "tragic," a 32-year-old mentally impaired man alleges he was sexually abused by his court-appointed guardian -- a convicted sex offender -- for two years, police say.

Duane Emery Kuerbitz, 49, of Bay City is jailed on first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct charges in lieu of a $2.5 million bond.

"It's a sad case made even more tragic since our investigation shows he never should have been placed in Kuerbitz's care to begin with, and then no one did anything about his complaints," Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said.

Court records indicate the alleged victim is mentally impaired and has had a series of guardians since childhood.

On June 1, 2007, Kuerbitz filed for guardianship in Wayne County Probate Court, where records show Probate Judge Martin T. Maher and a previous guardian, Maria Ortiz, were aware of Kuerbitz's sex offender status when he was awarded guardianship.

Ortiz, who could not be reached for comment, contested the guardian change, citing concerns about Kuerbitz and how her ward "could be easily manipulated," according to court records.

Attorney Steven Geller, appointed in 2007 as guardian ad litem to investigate Kuerbitz's request, was advised of Kuerbitz's sex crimes but still recommended the change after a private interview with the victim.

Full Article and Source:
Man, 32, Accuses Guardian of Abuse

Illinois Lawyer Charged With Financial Exploitation

Authorities Monday charged an Alton lawyer who allegedly cheated an elderly woman out of more than $137,000 after meeting her at church and offering to help her obtain a payment from a probate case.

Dennis F. Nalick, 62, was charged in Madison County Circuit Court with unlawful financial exploitation of an elderly person for allegedly obtaining a check written payable to the 81-year-old victim.

Nalick was held in lieu of $250,000 bail after he was arrested. He was arrested after Alton police obtained an eavesdrop order and placed a recording device on the victim, who talked to the suspect.

The case unfolded starting in 2006, when the victim was awaiting settlement of the estate of her mother. That case was filed in Ohio, and Nalick allegedly offered to help the woman obtain the settlement as a friendly gesture.

Full Article and Source:
Alton Lawyer Charged With Financial Exploitation

Chief Counsel for JCB Delayed Conahan Investigation

The chief counsel for the state Judicial Conduct Board ordered an investigation into former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan delayed until after Conahan testified at the misconduct trial of former county Judge Ann H. Lokuta, according to a statement the board made to a state panel investigating the county kids-for-cash scandal.

The board also accused attorney Joseph A. Massa Jr. of summarizing an anonymous September 2006 complaint against Conahan without mentioning key allegations of case fixing and suspicions about Conahan’s close relationship with former Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr.

Massa disputed the claims during testimony the panel Monday, saying he asked the board to authorize a full investigation of the Conahan complaint at its bimonthly meeting in June 2007.

According to the board statement, Massa instructed the board to delay the investigation until after October 2007. Lokuta’s trial, on allegations she mistreated court staff and showed up late for hearings, was expected to end in September 2007, but dragged on into April 2008, Massa said.

Asked if he was protecting Conahan, Massa said, “absolutely not.”

Full Article and Source:
Chief Counsel for Judicial Conduct Board Delayed Conahan Investigation

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Retired Judge Victimized

An elderly, retired judge with dementia was financially victimized by two women, including an Attleboro city councilor who persuaded the retired jurist to buy a $328,000 house for her, according to an affidavit filed in Bristol County Probate Court.

The women, City Councilor Kimberly Allard and Laura Hunt, separately 'have used their position of trust to take advantage of" 85-year-old former Bristol Probate Court Judge Edward F. Casey, wrote William J. Bowles in the affidavit.

Bowles, who is a long-time friend of Casey as well as a state representative, last month was appointed Casey’s temporary conservator, which means he is in charge of the former judge’s financial affairs.

Allard, who took office in 2002, disputed she was taking advantage of the retired judge, and that the purchase of the house was his idea.

"If I was some horrible woman like they are making me out to be, who wanted his money, wouldn’t I have married him and had his pension for the rest of my life? And I didn’t do that," said Allard, 39, who is married but separated, with two children.

Full Article and Source:
Court Papers: Retired Judge Financially Victimized by Two Women

See Also:
Controversy for Councilor

Guilty of Bilking Elderly Out of $1.9 Mil

A Clinton County man pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say bilked elderly people of more than $1.9 million.

Lavern Huelsmann, 44, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and engaging in fraudulent financial transactions.

He will be sentenced July 26. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000. In addition, prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of $1.9 million in "funds representing the value of criminally obtained proceeds."

Full Article and Source:
Trenton Man Pleads Guilty to Bilking Elderly Out of $1.9 Mil

Ex-Judge Disbarred for Abuse More Than 30 Years Ago

The Delaware Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of a former judge who admitted earlier this year to sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy more than 30 years ago.

William C. Bradley Jr.'s disbarment was based on a "professional misconduct involving moral turpitude," according to the one-page order the state's highest court.

Neither Bradley, 72, nor his attorney, Mason Turner, could be reached for comment.

A week after resigning as Court of Common Pleas judge in January, Bradley admitted to molesting Gregory Kelly at his home: "On or about the evening of Dec. 28, 1975, and Dec. 29, 1975, while present in my home located in Townsend, Delaware, I molested Gregory Kelly, then age 11, through inappropriate sexual contact. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to Gregory Kelly and his family."

The statement, and an undisclosed cash payment, were part of a settlement arising out of a lawsuit filed by Kelly in U.S. District Court in Wilmington.

Full Article and Source:
Delaware Courts: Ex-Judge Disbarred for Abuse

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can You Hear Us Now?

Cuz it’s only gonna get louder!!!

Jeremy Baker of Knee Deep sports FDT shirt in Conway, Arkansas.


See Also:
Friends For Danny Tate's Defense

Conserved School Trustee Vows to Continue Serving

A judge continued a financial conservatorship for Lodi Unified School District trustee Harvey Bills Sr., and asked him to surrender his driver's license, which he did.

Soon, the 72-year-old trustee will enter an assisted living residence. Even so, Bills said outside court that he plans to return to the board of trustees, from which he is on leave.

"I'll be back on the board," he said after the court proceedings. He then smiled and pointed to his brain as he added, "I'm still the same as I was 20 years ago."

Bills began a leave of absence in March. The proceedings Thursday mean that decisions over his own finances will continue to be made by family members, not Bills himself. In sworn court papers, his wife, Donna Bills, stated he suffers from dementia and cannot handle his own financial affairs.

That's raising questions among some in Lodi Unified, a district beset with massive financial challenges.

After being informed of [the] court proceedings, Vice President Joe Nava said it would be in the best interest of the board for Bills to step down for good.

"If he's incapable of making decisions, he should resign. That's the best scenario. We would carry on any board policy as needed," Nava said.

Full Article and Source:
Despite Conservatorship and Giving up License, Lodi Unified Trustee Harvey Bills Says He Will Return to the Board

See Also:
Lodi Unified Trustee Will Not be Paid During Leave

Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Theft but Claims He Must Keep Practicing

A longtime Utah lawyer has pleaded guilty to a felony count of theft concerning $346,248 he allegedly stole from a client, according to the Park Record.

But in order to make restitution, Gary William Nielsen, 66, will need to keep practicing, his lawyer says.

"I would expect that he would be allowed to practice for the foreseeable future but I am certain that our bar association will take some action at some point, especially since it involves the practice of law," attorney Greg Skordas told the newspaper today. "That's a two-edge sword because if they take his bar license away then he is going to have a hard time making restitution."

Nielsen faces a maximum prison term of 15 years when he is sentenced in June.

Full Article and Source:
After Pleading Guilty in $346K Client Theft, Lawyer Must Keep Practicing to Make Restitution

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guardian Faces Theft Counts

She was appointed to look after the health and wealth of the elderly and disabled -- to help those who couldn't help themselves.

Her title was rather authoritative. She was, according to state law, a guardian-conservator.

Authorities say she neither guarded nor conserved.

Instead, Dinah Turrentine-Sims pilfered the life savings of at least six people to the tune of more than $350,000, according to court records.

She took more than $240,000 from one elderly South Omaha couple -- a truck driver and his artist wife who had worked long and saved hard to put their three sons through college, police say. She withdrew chunks of their money from a Council Bluffs casino ATM -- at times, more than $1,000 a day, according to police reports.

All the while, Turrentine-Sims was operating under the supervision -- or lack thereof -- of Nebraska judges, primarily in Douglas County Probate Court.

No one checked her bank accounts. No one made sure she had the court-required separate accounts for people in her care. No one scrutinized her annual reports. No one spotted the inflated numbers and unusual entries in her ledger.

Now, Turrentine-Sims sits in a Texas jail, awaiting transfer to Douglas County on two counts of felony theft and two counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult.

And those close to the case -- including a local attorney and Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine -- are calling for a review of the law and the courts that are supposed to protect society's most vulnerable.

“There's always going to be people who are going to prey on people,” said Omaha attorney John Kinney, who is representing one of the families who lost thousands. “The question is: In the greatest justice system in the world, how are these people's assets not protected? How is this allowed to happen?”

Jerry and Sophie Kresl on vacation in Hawaii, before his diabetes and dementia and her escalating health problems necessitated that they receive outside care. Authorities now say $240,000 of the Kresls' assets were reduced to $343 after conservator-guardian Dinah Turrentine-Sims was appointed to them.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian Faces Theft Counts

Exploitation of the Elderly is a Continuing Problem

Introductory remarks by Judge Walter J. Clarke: After a seminar given by Abraham Nievod Ph.D., J.D., on Undue Influence, I summarized his presentation for fellow Probate Court judges and share them again in this article. Exploiters of the elderly include the career criminal, a fiduciary, a care giver and family members. The fiduciary could be a conservator, doctor, accountant, attorney, executor or trustee. Common patterns which exploiters utilize to achieve their goal of exploiting the elderly include the use of the following:

Isolation: Exploiters use isolation to control all forms of communication to and from an elderly person. When friends and family call, they are invariably told by the exploiter that the elderly person is sleeping, ill, indisposed, at the doctor or some other excuse. When friends attempt to see them, they are turned away by the exploiter at the door. The elderly person is often induced into changing from long-trusted family lawyers, physicians, accountants or other professionals to the exploiter's cohorts.

The Siege Mentality: Exploiters attempt to convince their victims that only they can protect them from outside hostile forces. At the same time, the exploiter tries to convince the elderly person that former friends and family members are no longer interested in them or that they have become hostile, uncaring, or are only interested in the elderly person's money. If the elderly person is mentally alert, then the exploiter may cause them to be injured to the extent that they become physically dependent upon the exploiter. The exploiter may also administer incorrect medication to further diminish the victim's mental abilities.

Full Article and Source:
Keith Wood: Exploitation of the Elderly a Continuing Problem

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sun Valley Group Has the Nerve to Ask Judge to Sanction Marie Long's Attorneys

A Maricopa County probate judge has been asked to punish a pair of attorneys in the case of the old lady who was worth $1.3 million and now depends on taxpayers for support.

No, it's not the attorneys who collected tens and even hundreds of thousands dollars from the old lady's trust who could be in trouble.

It's the attorneys who worked for free, the ones who tried to stop the wholesale draining of Marie Long's account, who could be on the hook.

Sun Valley Group is asking that attorneys Pat Gitre and Dan Raynak be sanctioned and ordered to pay $13,518 of the company's legal fees for suing Sun Valley.

This, apparently, is what you get in probate for trying to advocate for a defenseless widow.

Meanwhile, there is a glimmer of good news for Marie, who came under the protection of probate court after having a stroke in 2005. She may have a shot at getting some of her money back. It seems Pro-tem Judge Lindsay Ellis slipped up and didn't approve the final $66,000 Sun Valley contends it's owed -- for 13 months of guardian work in December 2008 and 2009 – before washing her hands of the case last month. She also didn't approve nearly $38,000 requested by one of Sun Valley's attorneys for work in the 10 months before Marie's trust was finally sucked dry. This, according to the court commissioner who inherited the case.

It now appears that Ellis only allowed a small army of probate “protectors” to collect $786,000 from the old lady -- fees Ellis deemed “reasonable, necessary and for the benefit of the ward” – not the nearly $890,000 as originally thought.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Court Asked to Sanction Attorneys in Marie Long Case

See Also:
Review of Probate Court Ordered

Editor's Note: [Reporter Laurie] Roberts' sister, Appellate Court Judge Ann Timmer, is chairing a committee to review Probate Court practices. The Republic is disclosing the relationship to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.

Ugly Family Dispute

An ugly family dispute resulted in a lawsuit filed in Lincoln County District Court and drew into the spotlight two oft[en] cited but perhaps not clearly understood legal roles.

At the center of the dispute is 92-year-old Alice McPherson. Her daughters Angeline Milroy and Maria Fleecs filed the lawsuit against Teresa Piccolo. Piccolo is McPherson’s granddaughter and Milroy’s daughter. A source close to the case identified Piccolo as the primary, if not sole, caregiver to McPherson.

Also named in the lawsuit were North Platte attorneys Mike Nozicka and Tim Brouillette, McPherson’s conservator and legal guardian, respectively.

Though the attorneys were named as defendants in the legal capacities, no allegations of malfeasance were leveled at either one and the alleged instances of wrongdoing listed in the complaint all transpired prior to the attorneys being appointed by Judge Kent Turnbull.

The suit alleged that Piccolo took advantage of McPherson’s inability to make rational decisions concerning her finances and property.

McPherson began to exhibit signs of chronic dementia and Alzheimer’s in January 2007, affecting both her long and short-term memory, according to the document.

The legal problems began January 29, 2009, one day after McPherson’s husband of many years, Cliff, passed away. The suit stated that Piccolo drove McPherson to the office to attorney Mike McCarthy, where McPherson signed documents granting Piccolo power of attorney over the former’s healthcare.

Fleecs and Milroy alleged that on February 20, 2009, Piccolo took McPherson to attorney Steve Vinton’s office in Gothenburg and secured durable power of attorney, and that Piccolo accepted the appointment without the knowledge, consent, or authority of Fleecs and Milroy.

That same day McPherson signed a joint warranty deed to her home, naming herself and Piccolo as joint tenants, reserving a life estate for McPherson, according to the document.

McPherson also altered her will on Feb. 20, revoking her previous will from 1959. The original document transferred her property to her two daughters, and had a one third interest to her husband’s son Terald. The terms of the new will were not listed in the complaint.

The lawsuit claimed that McPherson was not mentally competent on the dates she made the transfers and that after the documents were executed, “Alice McPherson was not aware of these documents.”

Milroy and Fleecs accused Piccolo of exercising undue influence on McPherson.

Full Article and Source:
Ugly Family Dispute Turns Legal

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Isolated From Her Family

Dorothy Driesen, a 90 year old widowed Mother, has had her estate taken away from her by court decree and forced to reside at a nursing home that has had multiple felony accounts charged against it in 2003.

The judge took our Mother into his chamber, asked her a few questions and then declared her incompetent, fired her son as Trustee, appointed a bank to be her new Trustee and set a court appointed guardian over her. All of this happened within one days time upon the filing of court documents by the wannabe guardian and friend of the court.

After this drastic and unbelievable event in the local district court, the two sons of our Mother have been falsely accused of various things and incarcerated on three separate occasions. To add insult to injury, the two sons of our Mother and their families have not been able to visit their Mother since August of 2008.

The last call that was made from our Mother during New Years weekend in 2009 was a call of desperation in which our Mother claimed her life was in danger and she pleaded with us to get her out of this nursing facility. That is the last time that the family of our Mother has heard her voice. Mail that the family tries to send our Mother is received by the guardian and does not seem to reach or Mother.

Shortly after our Mother was incarcerated in this nursing home after the disastrous court decision, the family would attempt to visit our Mother and shortly after we would arrive, either the guardian would show up standing in the door way and demand that we leave or the town police officer would show up and demand the same.

The family of our Mother is still fighting off attacks made on us by the county court system which is bleeding us dry financially. We are currently looking to reverse the decision of the district court regarding our Mother's Irrevocable Trust and we are looking to gain a court order from Federal Court to restore our Mother's rights per the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987.

Dorothy Driesen, South Dakota Victim

Guilty of Torture and Elder Abuse

A former nursing home worker accused of body-slamming one 78-year-old woman and encouraging wheelchair-confined residents of a pricey assisted-living facility to fight was found guilty Thursday of torture and elder abuse.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day before convicting Cesar Ulloa.

"He attacked the most vulnerable people, and he laughed while doing it. This was sport for him," Deputy District Attorney Robin Allen with the Elder Abuse Unit said.

The Silverado Senior Living facility in Calabasas specializes in caring for people with dementia and charges $70,000 a year or more for care, prosecutors said.

Ulloa, 21, preyed on residents who were unable to tell anyone about the abuse because they suffered from dementia or other conditions, witnesses testified during the trial.

He came under suspicion after the 2007 death of Elmore Kittower. The day after his funeral, his widow got a telephone call from the mother of a worker at the home, who told her that her husband had been beaten to death.

The body was exhumed and found to have several broken bones. An autopsy concluded that he had been abused for months and blunt force trauma contributed to his death.

The jury convicted Ulloa of seven counts of elder abuse and one count of torture. He was also accused of jumping on the chest of the 78-year-old woman.

The retirement home has denied any wrongdoing.

Ulloa was fired from the facility for unrelated reasons and has been jailed since his arrest in 2008. He faces a life sentence when he's sentenced on May 26.

Full Article and Source;
Ex-Worker Guilty of Torturing Elderly in CA

See Also:
Former Nursing Home Employee Stands Trial for Elder Abuse and Torture

Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Exploitation

Becky Lynn Vandal, 49, was charged with the Class A felony for allegedly getting an elderly man with dementia to give her more than $100,000.

Vandal has been accused of taking Dr. Gerd Ebel, 85, to a Wells Fargo bank on Jan. 6 to transfer $110,424.41 from a CD into her account. Ebel, who died Feb. 12, had been in the hospital from Dec. 31 to Jan. 5, when a doctor found in a neuropsychological evaluation that Ebel was not competent to make decisions due to dementia.

Vandal told officers she was aware of the doctor’s findings.

Vandal’s next court appearance is slated for May 3.

Bismarck Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult