Saturday, June 19, 2010

Locked Away in a Facility, Isolated

Robert is a strapping young man, 6'5" tall, dark, and handsome. But Robert was alone in Missouri - and being bi-polar- soon found himself a victim of the system. We were not told of the original guardianship hearing. Now I am trying to free my brother from the Missouri system of guardianship by a public administrator and the nursing home they have imprisoned him in. The guardian would not allow my brother to have contact with his family or friends.

For seven long years, no one was allowed to know were Robert was or how his health was. This grieved our mother for five years to the point of a complete break-down. Our mother went into a Mississippi hospital with a mental break-down, and they killed her. Because the guardian wanted half our mother's money, we finally got to know where in Missouri my brother Robert is located.

However, I am not being allowed to visit Robert or help him in any way. The guardian has imprisoned him in a nursing home since he was around 40 years old. Shortly after he graduated the Missouri University in Columbia with a Master's Degree in Business, Robert began an internship at NAMI-National Alliance on Mental Illness. Then Robert just disappeared from his apartment and job.

Robert has been locked away in a facility where the care is inadequate and abusive. Robert is now going to be 47 years old. I know that his mental and physical health have been compromised by both the guardian and the nursing home. It has been nearly three years since I found my brother. Alarmingly, the corruption in Missouri is so overwhelming prevalent, I have not been able to help my brother. And to prevent me from even giving Robert hope, he is denied visitors, mail, and phone calls are restricted both incoming and out going.

Robert is a kind and gentle man and is very concerned with others and their happiness. Robert has something he can offer to society and humanity; we all lose because he is hidden away left to stagnate and rot.

Robert Sanders

Another Caution About Psychotropic Drugs and the Elderly

Older patients (>=70 years) who are on antidepressants or antipsychotics have an increased risk of mortality, according to an analysis of deaths during the tragic August 2003 European heat wave, researchers said here at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

"We believe this study suggests that during heat waves doctors should carefully assess the risk/benefit ratio of psychotropic drug use in older people," said Clementine Norden, MD, Sainte Ann Hospital Center, Paris, France, during a poster presentation on May 24.

"Our findings suggest that a causal relationship may exist between psychotropic drug use during a heat wave and increased risk of death in older people," she said.

Full Article and Source:
Older Patients on Psychotropic Medications at Increased Risk of Death During Heat Waves: Presented at APA

Friday, June 18, 2010

Danny Tate Court Hearing Video


Danny Tate Tagged With 'Freedom Tax'

The degree to which appearances can be deceiving seemed apparent June 11 in a Nashville courtroom when the 32-month "temporary" conservatorship (guardianship) of musician Danny Tate was once again the topic with Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Kennedy presiding and the costs associated with Tate's "freedom" at issue.

On May 24, before a courtroom full of Danny Tate supporters and a television news team, Kennedy appeared to terminate a temporary conservatorship in place since October 2007 that gave David Tate control over his brother's person and property. In the court record, Judge Kennedy stated that David Tate was to “immediately return any and all property of Mr. Tate which is in the Temporary Conservator’s possession or under his control.” Kennedy’s ruling was designated nunc pro tunc allowing David Tate the capacity for corrective action pertaining to any transactions he conducted while acting as conservator during a 60-day period in which he has to prepare and submit an accounting.

While appearing a victory for 54-year-old Danny Tate, the "devil" truly is in the details. A proposed final order along with a series of other filings by David Tate and attorney, Paul T. Housch, within days of the proceeding seemingly contradicted the provisions and spirit of the May 24 ruling to the point of portending that all might not be as it seemed.

Despite Tate attorney Michael Hoskins promptly preparing and submitting for Judge Kennedy's signature a final order reflecting the "immediate" nature of the ruling so publicly pronounced on May 24, Danny Tate learned late June 10 that the judge instead appeared to have quietly signed and filed an alternate final order prepared by Housch, the attorney hired in October 2007 by David Tate and involuntarily financed for 32 months by Danny Tate. In contrast to the May 24 ruling, the order called for the former temporary conservator to maintain functional financial control for 60 days past the "termination" date to "wind down the affairs of the Conservatorship."

Full Article and Source:

Nashville Probate Court Tags Musician Danny Tate With Conservatorship 'Freedom Tax'

See Also:

Free Danny Tate!!!

Man Embezzles From Family, Gets Prison

A man who stole his siblings’ inheritance was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison earlier this week.

Stephen Beal Berg must also pay his family $297,000 in restitution, a Napa County Superior Court judge ordered.

In April, Berg pleaded no contest to embezzlement and forgery after he used loans to siphon money from his mother’s estate following her death in August 2006.

He faced up to five years and eight months in prison. Attorneys agreed to the nearly three-year sentence.

Full Article and Source:
Man Embezzles From Family, Gets Prison

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Equal Opportunity Defalcators

Arizona’s highest court has tasked a committee to review the status of probate court with a mind toward identifying improvements. See Yet another court committee to look at guarding the guardians.

But as if another indicator was warranted of the need for improved judicial oversight of those hired to protect the vulnerable, there’s the case this month of the now disbarred New York lawyer, Steven T. Rondos. See Mtr of Rondos; Grievance Committee.

On Tuesday, May 4, 2010, Rondos, who before being disbarred, had served as a legal guardian of incapacitated wards, was sentenced to a stretch of 5 to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $4 million from the settlement monies that belonged to 23 vulnerable wards whose physical and financial affairs he was supposed to be managing and preserving.

When it comes to temptation, defalcation is an equal opportunity offense. It can afflict not only lawyers, but the public guardians and the private professional guardians.

Sadly, the temptation to embezzle also worms its way into caregivers, including friends, family members and strangers hired by the hour. But when lawyers fall prey to human avarice and exploit their wards, the betrayal weighs most egregiously.

Not the first nor the last.

Steven T. Rondos is not the first lawyer nor will he be the last to get in trouble for financially abusing vulnerable wards. In fact, in January of this year, Matthew Terry Graff, a former southern Utah lawyer was sentenced for stealing from clients, In Graff’s case, it also involved taking settlement money that wasn’t his. Graff got his mitts on settlement money belonging to two men who had lost their wives in a plane crash.

And just last month, a Virginia man, Troy A. Titus, Real Estate Investor, Disbarred Lawyer was sentenced to 30 Years for multiple fraud schemes and misappropriating over $10 million, including funds given to him by elderly or incapacitated clients who provided him with income intended to be held in trust. And it was just a few years ago, that Michigan lawyer Richard McQuillan was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison for embezzling some $800,000 from the estate of a long time client.

The real cost.

But beyond the human cost involved when fiduciaries exploit wards, the real cost is the consequential one once all the ward’s money is gone. That’s when the wards are left for the state to take care of. And who pays for that? We do.

Full Article and Source:
The Irreverent Lawyer: Equal Opportunity Defalcators

Federal Charges Against Man Accused of Defrauding His Grandparents

A New York man was charged in federal court with defrauding his elderly grandparent in Greenfield of more than $250,000.

Michael Ostrowski, 41, of East Patchogue, N.Y., was charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit mail fraud; mail fraud; interstate transportation of stolen property; receipt, possession, concealment and disposition of stolen property that crossed a state boundary; engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from unlawful activity; and failure to file an income tax return, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Boston office of the Internal Revenue Service.

The indictment alleges that Ostrowski's grandparent lived in Greenfield until June 2006. After that, the grandparent, who was identified in a Department of Justice press release only as S.O., lived primarily in hospitals or nursing homes in Massachusetts.

According to the press release, Ostrowski faces the following maximum penalties: five years imprisonment on the conspiracy charge; 20 years imprisonment on the mail fraud charges; 10 years imprisonment on the stolen property charges and the monetary transaction charge; and one year imprisonment on the tax charge. There would also be hefty fines for each conviction.

Full Article and Source:
Officials: Grandparents Defrauded

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Guardianship Goes Wrong

A recent Associated Press article describes the legal ordeal of 54-year-old Nashville songwriter, Danny Tate, who fought to regain control of his life after being declared incapacitated. The apparently ill-conceived guardianship process in Tennessee that wrested Tate’s financial, medical, and legal rights from him underscores the value of Vera Institute’s innovative Guardianship Project.

In 2007, a judge declared Tate mentally disabled and appointed his older brother, David, as his conservator—Tennessee’s term for guardian. Danny—whose costly crack addiction led his brother to petition the court—was neither present nor represented by a lawyer at the hearing that gave David the power to make his medical, financial, and legal decisions. Danny maintains that despite his drug addiction—which he has since overcome—he has always been capable of managing his own affairs. Three doctors reached the same conclusion, leading the judge to restore Danny’s constitutional rights in late May after a two-and-a-half year legal battle that drained his once-sizeable estate.

The Tate case exemplifies guardianship’s ethical complexities and where it can go nightmarishly wrong. The appointment of a guardian—whereby a court transfers decision-making power to a third party—should be made only when a person is truly incapacitated. It is crucial that the alleged incapacitated person be properly represented by counsel in court, and that the court follows an exhaustive process to determine his or her level of capacity, if any.

The Guardianship Project, where a team of lawyers, accountants, and social workers handle each court-appointed case, is a cost-effective solution to flaws in many existing guardianship systems—including that of New York State, which has no public guardianship program. This model of institutional guardianship marshals an array of resources to serve the best interests of clients that a private guardian cannot, and every effort is made to evaluate whether or not a guardian will be beneficial to a client.

Full Article and Source:
When Guardianship Goes Wrong

'The Sociopath Next Door'

[Dr.] Stout says that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals.

As Stout explains, a sociopath is defined as someone who displays at least three of seven distinguishing characteristics, such as deceitfulness, impulsivity and a lack of remorse.

Such people often have a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want. Stout argues that the development of sociopathy is due half to genetics and half to nongenetic influences that have not been clearly identified.

From Publisher's Weekly (

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Press Release


The Protection Racket – You Can Steal More With a Pen Than a Gun!

Picture this - a knock on the door - the police are there to remove you; and you don't know why; you're not a criminal!

By the time you find out why, you are no longer in control of your life, liberty or property; you can’t even hire a lawyer without money.

Not until after your assets are seized and secured by an unlawful court order which you knew nothing about, do you get notice telling you to come to court for a hearing.

That’s what happened to NASGA member musician/songwriter Danny Tate in 2007 when the nightmare scenario described above came true when he found himself in the longest “temporary” conservatorship we’ve ever heard of, with no way out.

After an almost three-year battle, he was recently freed. Why? Because the money ran out and the lawyers will not work for free!

So much for constitutional due process, civil rights, human rights, life, liberty and happiness! What happened to NASGA member Danny Tate can happen to anyone! On this day of World Elder Abuse Awareness, NASGA presents the case of Danny Tate – an able-bodied man in his early 50’s, capable of speaking up and fighting back – who was, however, driven to the brink of bankruptcy by his court-appointed “protectors.” Many of the elderly don’t have Tate’s strength, voice, nor his connections in the music world – imagine how many are abused, their estates plundered, while they are forced to suffer in silence.

The protection program as presently operated across the states has now become "THE PROTECTION RACKET"! That's why NASGA asked Congress to intervene (even before we learned about Danny's story):

Monday, June 14, 2010

81-Year-Old Man Wins His Freedom, $500K Later

We interrupt the sad story of Marie Long – where fully a dozen lawyers were in court this week , gearing up to fight the old lady's attempt to get some of her money back – to bring you the tale of another person protected by probate court.

This one, an 81-year-old man who is on the hook for $500,000 in legal fees – more than half of that for a lawyer who spent most of his time fighting the old guy's wishes.

Some of you may recall R.B. Sleeth, whose battle with his son over his desire to marry his girlfriend ate up more than a year of his life, including 10 weeks in a lockdown Alzheimer's unit -- never mind that he didn't have Alzheimer's.

R.B.'s battle began in December 2007, when his son Mark stopped his wedding to Marge Foley and petitioned to become his father's guardian and conservator. Mark contended that Marge, then 73, was a gold digger and that his father had long ago asked Mark to assume control should he become mentally incapacitated.

Marge and R.B. battled Mark through 2008, culminating in R.B.'s 10-week stay in a lockdown unit. Marge claimed that R.B. was being overmedicated and that Mark was trying to cut her out of R.B.'s life, against his wishes. Mark claimed that Marge was freeloading and taking advantage of his father's fragile condition.

In December 2008, Commissioner Richard Nothwehr sided with Mark, lauding his “love and affection for R.B.” but removed him as guardian anyway, saying that keeping R.B. and Marge apart wasn't in R.B.'s best interest. Mark retained control of his father's finances.

In February 2009, Jane Anne Geisler, an independent guardian, was brought in and R.B. was weaned from an array of medications, including a powerful anti-psychotic. One month later, he was sprung from assisted living, married Marge and returned to his Paradise Valley home to find the house a mess, his utilities cut off due to non payment of bills and his $1.4 million net worth reduced to “virtually zero,” court records say.

In October, the guardianship was terminated as doctors pronounced R.B. “mentally and physically stable”. It seems R.B. never had dementia, just an overabundance of medication.

By then, court records show that Mark had already relinquished control of R.B.'s money amid discoveries that the older man had a stack of unpaid bills and his long-term care insurance had lapsed. One of the conditions of Mark's stepping aside: no talking to the media (read: me) about what was going on.

I understand why, especially after seeing some of the 2008 and 2009 e-mails that have recently come to light in court records.

The nasty ones from Mark about how he despised his father – not exactly the picture of “love and affection for R.B”, as described by Commissioner Nothwehr.

And the ones from Scott Ferris, the attorney for Mark while he was R.B.'s guardian, trustee and conservator. I particularly like the one Ferris sent to Mark and others the day after I wrote about R.B.'s plight in December 2008 – a few weeks before Mark was removed as guardian.

“After considerable thought yesterday and today, I am more convinced that the best approach to the current financial circumstances is to liquidate everything in the Conservatorship and the Trust irrespective of the status of the current market for any asset,” Ferris wrote. “Use such proceeds to pay all Estate expenses and reimbursement, with the remainder … for all future expenses related to R.B. – period. If that means he is insolvent and must apply to ALTCS, it's not like you did not warn of such circumstances …”

Full Article and Source:
$500,000 Later, an Old Man Wins His Freedom From Probate

State of Georgia Raises Costs of Appeals 567%!

Lawmakers unwittingly have handed Georgia's legal system a knee-buckling case of sticker shock -- a 567-percent increase in the cost of appeals that lawyers and judges say will shut the courthouse door to litigants statewide.

In their haste to raise revenues, lawmakers hiked the cost of copying and preparing a case record for an appeal from $1.50 per page to $10 per page. That means the cost of preparing an appeal with a massive 10,000-page record, for example, just spiked from $15,000 to $100,000. And the less-complicated appeals typically pursued by individuals or small businesses in civil cases now will cost more than $10,000.

Full Article and Source:
Court Fee Hike Staggers Justice System

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Governor Christie: New Jersey Judicial System is in Serious Need for Housecleaning

Dear Governor Christie:

You were elected to serve the people by administering a government that reflects the will of the people.

One of the most troubling areas of your administration from a civil rights and ethical standpoint is - the Office of Public Guardian, in conjunction with the New Jersey Probate system. This office is supposed to advocate for New Jersey residents that are developmentally disabled or people over age 60 who are ill or disabled but instead the Office the Guardian with the rubber stamp from New Jersey judges is being used to exploit the Ill, Disabled, and Elderly.

Please see the following three stories linking to three guardianship cases in the state of New Jersey that have been pleading with your office and the Judiciary to stop the abuse in the courts and in the New Jersey Office of the Public Guardian:

Matthew Taylor
Kewal Chopra
My Father, a Vietnam Vet With a Purple Heart, is Having His Estate Stolen by New Jersey's Government

Full Editorial and Source:
Chris Christie: New Jersey Judicial System is in Serious Need for Housecleaning

Disbarred NY Lawyer Faces Grand Larceny

A former lawyer who practiced in Monroe has been indicted on charges that he stole more than $50,000 of a client’s money from an escrow account.

Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips announced that J. Bennett Farrell, 67, of Brant Lake, NY has been indicted on a single count of second-degree grand larceny. The charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Farrell disappeared from his practice in the Village of Monroe in the summer of 2007, leaving a partially emptied office and abandoning confidential client files.

Misconduct charges were filed against Farrell, including for failing to finish client work, mishandling money in escrow and for failing to properly dispose of the client files. A state appeals court disbarred Farrell in May 2009, although he had surrendered his license the previous December.

Phillips said that between May 30, 2006 and Nov. 8, 2007, Farrell had pilfered $66,000 that had been held in escrow for a client.

Farrell, who surrendered voluntarily, pleaded not guilty, and was released on his own recognizance pending further court proceedings.

Full Article and Source:
Disbarred Lawyer Faces Grand Larceny Charge

Trial Begins in Exploitation Case

Circuit Court jurors began hearing evidence in the trial of Jo Marie Weeks, a Lakeland woman accused of stealing more than $100,000 from an elderly relative with dementia.

Weeks and her husband, Eric Weeks, were arrested in December 2009.

Deputies say the couple drained money away from Jo Marie Weeks' great-great-aunt, Lelia Boyd, who is 89. An arrest report accuses the couple of taking more than $138,000 from Boyd.

She faces charges of exploitation of an elderly person, scheme to defraud, theft and money laundering.

Her husband's trial is scheduled to begin June 21, according to court records.

Full Article and Source:
Lawyer: Jo Marie Weeks Misused Position to Exploit Money From Elderly Relative