Saturday, December 4, 2010

Press Release: Serious Flaws Surrounding Maricopa County Probate Court

ABC15 Investigators: Greed v. Guardianship

The ABC15 Investigators have spent most of 2010 exposing serious flaws surrounding Maricopa County Probate Court. Families accuse the court of allowing victims to be isolated and heavily medicated while their assets are liquidated.

While these stories take place in probate court, they are really about families, Families torn apart, families devastated and families victimized.

Our investigation led us to a professional fiduciary called the Sun Valley Group (SVG). The company was guardian or conservator for the people in our reports.

After our first report aired, many people wrote us with their stories. As our report continued, we found that SVG is being investigated by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Organized Crime Unit. Then a taskforce was ordered by the Arizona Supreme Court to look into probate court.

Sunday, December 5th, The ABC15 Investigators expose even more powerful and disturbing information involving probate court. A Valley couple forced to divorce. Their home and belongings sold off by the very people trusted to take care of them. See inside their battle, and how some of these devastated families are starting to win.

Serious Flaws Surrounding Maricopa County Probat Court

Abuse Investigation at Florida Senior Living Center

Two elderly men say they were abused at a senior living center in Cape Coral. One had to be treated at the hospital after reports that workers at Clare Bridge on Santa Barbara Boulevard had gotten violent.

In a police report filed on November 16, the families of two male residents at Clare Bridge claimed the men were bruised and abused.

One man says his 89-year-old father-in-law was found at the facility with bruises on his nose and face.

Another man reported his father complained of an employee grabbing his thumb, then refusing to let go.

The families even say one resident was sent to the hospital after being punched in the chest.

Dotty St. Armand, Director of the Lee County Elder Abuse Prevention Partnership, says she often hears similar stories of abuse all over Southwest Florida.

"As they grow older and more frail and isolated, they are easily targeted for scams and exploitation," she said.

Now, the state is looking into the claims of abuse.

Full Article and Source:
State investigating Abuse Claims at Cape Senior Living Center

Caregivers Charged with Theft

Two Greeley-area multiple sclerosis patients have accused their caregivers of stealing thousands of dollars from them and — in one case — force-feeding her raw food and threatening to withhold care unless she agreed to write checks for cash.

Rhonda Cheri Aab, 38, has been charged with 57 counts of forgery and one count of theft from an at-risk adult, both felonies, after allegations that she stole checks from the Kersey woman she had been caring for in the past two years.

Kathy Jo Villanueva, 37, and Angel Rojas, 18, have been charged with extortion, theft from an at-risk adult and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in a case involving forcing a woman to sign checks to them by threatening to stop caring for her.

Both cases allegedly involved the caregivers writing checks for their patients, who could no longer write checks themselves.

Full Article and Source:
Two Greeley-area MS Patients Allege Caregiver Crime

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ginger Franklin FREED!

A Nashville woman who fought for nearly two years to get out from under a court-ordered conservatorship was set free Thursday.

Ginger Franklin had a conservator, or guardian, appointed to handle her affairs after she tumbled down the stairs at her house in 2008 and suffered a brain injury. After she recovered, she tried to regain control of her life but found it to be a long and draining ordeal involving multiple court hearings.

On Thursday, Nashville Probate Judge Randy Kennedy dissolved the conservatorship after reading a new doctor's report that says Franklin had fully recovered.

“It’s hard to take it all in,” Franklin said. “I’m a free woman. I can drive. I can work. I can get married. I can vote.”

They are things that most Americans take for granted, but they are things that people under a conservatorship are not allowed to do for themselves.

Franklin said she hopes to get her job back and start her life over.

"I'm going to celebrate by celebrating my life every day," Franklin said.

Woman Free From Conservatorship

See Also:
Struggle Against Court Overshadows Injuries

South Carolina: Is System Draining Our Seniors Assets?

The Charleston County Probate Court appointed a guardian and a conservator to take care of Virginia Manos in 2004 because of reports that the 89-year-old woman who lived alone couldn't take care of herself and might be exploited.

Over the next four years, until she died in July 2008, the court approved spending $150,000 of her available money on lawyer, guardian, conservator and court fees -- almost one out of every four dollars spent for her care.

Manos' case is not alone. It is among many in which the Probate Court, set up to protect incapacitated elderly people from neglect, abuse or financial exploitation, allows lawyers, guardians and conservators to profit off helpless elderly wards.

Lucia Morfesis does not understand how it all happened.

She is her mother's only child, but they were not close. "I loved my mother deeply," Lucia said, but a barrier existed between them that she could not penetrate despite her efforts.

Her mother, Virginia Manos, lived alone on Folly Beach in a house one block from the ocean. As Manos' health faded in 2003, her daughter did not realize anything was wrong other than the typical pains that inflict an 89-year-old woman.

In early 2004, Folly Beach police learned that she could barely walk without assistance, couldn't maintain her house and showed confusion. They contacted Charleston Elder Support, which then petitioned the County Probate Court to declare her incapacitated. The court appointed a conservator and a guardian, who placed her in an assisted living home.

Morfesis said she would have taken over her mother's care, but she never realized the court might give her that option. "It was never explained to me."

Her mother would live four more years, during which the conservator sold her beach home for more than $700,000 to get money for her care.

When she died in July, 2008, the $700,000 from her house was down to $266,000. More than $150,000 of her money had gone to pay for lawyers, guardians, conservators and court fees.

"We have been crying over this for years. It is horrible," Lucia Morfesis said.

The case of Lee Belle Murray stands out. At a recent hearing, five attorneys debated her future while their fee clocks ticked on. Three attorneys sat on one side of the courtroom, one each to represent Elder Support, the conservator and Lee Belle Murray. Also in the courtroom sat Murray's present and her former guardians, one of whom is a lawyer.

The five charge fees ranging from $75 an hour to $175 an hour. Over the day-long hearing, they could easily rack up combined fees in excess of $5,000 -- most of it billed to Murray's estate.

The hearing was called because Murray's daughter, Ellen, thought the Court overreacted in 2008 when it appointed a guardian for her mother.

Ellen Murray argued that the court had no real reason to remove her mother from her care. And she contended that the court-appointed guardian had unnecessarily taken her mother from her home and placed her in a costly nursing home where the guardian restricted her visits with her mother.

In a June 15 e-mail, the guardian told Ellen Murray, "You may visit once a week in my company for one hour."

Full Article and Source:
Is System Draining Our Seniors Assets?

'The Price of Living'

In South Carolina, the increase of people 65 and older is expected to exceed the national rate. By 2030, the state will have 1,134,000 such citizens.

This senior tsunami comes as no shock. Numerous studies and federal reports have warned for years that, as the baby boom ages, the number of elderly who are subjected to neglect, abuse and financial exploitation will surge. Despite the warnings, little has been accomplished in most states and nationally to remedy the failings of courts set up to protect the incapacitated elderly.

Just in September, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, released a study revealing that "there continue to be instances where some guardians have taken advantage of the elderly people they are supposed to protect." Lack of training and monitoring contribute to such failings, the report said.

The study said that similar warnings from the GAO in a 2004 report had resulted in only sporadic improvements in a few states. Lack of money remains one of the big problems for a court that's generally at the lower end of the feeding trough.

Jean Toal, Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, which oversees the courts, said she too is concerned with how the courts deal with the elderly in general and the fee issue in particular. She appointed a task force last year to evaluate the impact of the elderly on the courts and what the court needs to do to meet their needs. The state's Bar Association also is considering recommending revisions to the state's probate code.

Toal's task force recommended earlier this year that the Probate Courts use volunteers to check on vulnerable elderly persons and serve as guardians and conservators, a move that, if enacted, would dramatically cut fees billed to the estates of the elderly.

In high-risk situations, Charleston County's Probate Court usually relies on Family Services, a local nonprofit, to serve as conservator. The nonprofit charges a varying flat fee of 4 or 5 percent a year for most of the cases. The vast bulk involve estates of less than $50,000, ones that for-profit companies usually won't handle, or that consist of just month-to-month social security benefits.

Full Article and Source:
Special report: The Price of Living: How Can Courts Protect the Elderly?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Maricopa County Case

Bess Christiana's probate case was a routine one - uncontested and with a modest estate.

Christiana, who fell ill in 2009, needed someone to sell her house, pay her bills and manage her health care.

Over nine months, from February through October, the total charges billed to the Sun City West woman's estate for her care came to $101,259, including $35,441 for a private fiduciary. The fiduciary fees were far higher than she would have paid in probate courts in Austin and Tampa.

Christiana's entry into Maricopa County Probate Court began when the elderly and ailing woman became too much for her daughter, Paula Wright, 63, to care for on her own. Wright said her mother needed more care than she could provide during her visits.

Wright selected Premier Advocacy and Management Services, a for-profit private fiduciary, to take charge of her mother's affairs. She also selected her mother's care home, Freedom Inn at Sun City West.

Christiana's assets, including her house, totaled about $300,000, and her income averaged $3,500 a month, enough to cover the cost of her private room and nursing care for the rest of her life.

The only problem was the first fiduciary bill. From February through October, the private fiduciary charged Christiana $35,441 or an average of $3,938 a month.

Wright said she was "taken aback" when she received a copy of her mother's fiduciary bill, but has neither the finances nor the emotional strength to fight it. "It seems very high," said Wright, who took care of her mother's finances for two years. "I thought it was excessive."

Nine employees of the private fiduciary business billed hourly rates ranging from $65 to $115 to handle Christiana's finances, billings show. These employees included three licensed fiduciaries, an accountant and five clerical assistants. Christiana's costs also included a service company to manage her health care at $90 an hour, a client assistant to run errands and a certified public accountant to complete her taxes.

For the same nine months, the fiduciary's attorney also billed Christiana's estate $4,175.

Premier Advocacy and Management Services is co-owned by Pamela Johnston, a member of the Arizona Supreme Court probate committee looking at whether courts should impose more controls on fiduciary fees. Johnston also is a member of the state Fiduciary Board, which licenses and regulates fiduciaries.

Johnston said she could not talk about Christiana's or any individual case, but said the first year of caring for any new client is always going to be the most expensive year and, in most cases, her fiduciary fees decrease after the first year.

"It depends a lot on the circumstances, family dynamics and the placement of the ward," Johnston said. In a written statement to the judge, Johnston said the estate required "extraordinary services," including preparing Christiana's house for sale and moving personal items to Freedom Inn.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - More Safeguards in Other Cities

Cost of Guardianship More Expensive in Maricopa County

If Bess Christiana of Sun City West lived in Austin or Tampa, she would have more cash in her bank account today.

Over nine months in 2009, Christiana, 85, who suffered from dementia and couldn't take care of herself, paid $35,441 to a court-appointed private fiduciary to manage her health care and finances.

An examination of the fiduciary's itemized billings by The Arizona Republic indicates Christiana would have paid significantly less for fiduciary service in Austin and Tampa, where probate courts limit fiduciary fees paid by the incapacitated.

In Austin, the charges would have been about a tenth of what she paid in Maricopa County. In Tampa, they would have been 26 percent to 43 percent of what she paid.

The differences illustrate how Maricopa County Probate Court lacks certain safeguards found in other states that prevent significant charges from being run up by fiduciaries and attorneys in cases involving incapable wards of court or the deceased.

The measures, regarded as models by some national experts, include:

- Capping fees charged by court-appointed attorneys and fiduciaries, who manage a person's care or finances when no family member is available or willing to do so. Such caps can take the form of a limit on fiduciaries' hourly rates or a maximum percentage of a dead person's estate. Another approach is to require fiduciaries to establish and meet an annual budget.

- Court personnel who help judges control fees by red-flagging problems in billings, such as a run-up of charges caused by a family dispute.

- Computerized tracking of how an incapacitated person's money is spent, to spot patterns of abusive spending. Minnesota is rolling out an electronic tracking system next year.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - More Safeguards in Other Cities

Maricopa Co. Probate Court - Monitoring for Exploitation Remains a Challenge

In most states, it is impossible to quickly track a ward of the court's finances and determine how family members, volunteers or fiduciaries spend the money. Most states and counties require an annual accounting of a ward's finances, some still using pencil and paper, said Brenda K. Uekert, researcher for the National Center for State Courts. The completeness of the data varies, she said. "The quality of data we get is so poor that we have no faith that any number we can provide is reliable," Uekert said. "Nationwide, there is a black hole."

What Arizona courts do
Arizona is at least two years away from implementing a sophisticated data system that allows the court to quickly audit the accounts of fiduciaries and spot a change in spending patterns, such as a sudden increase in fees or an increase in a ward's rent payments, said Jennifer Liewer, Arizona Supreme Court spokeswoman. Arizona's 15 counties use three different electronic programs for tracking wards' accounts.

The Arizona Supreme Court Fiduciary Board randomly audits public and private fiduciaries, but no state courts audit the accounting of family members.

What other courts do
In January, Minnesota will implement the country's most sophisticated statewide electronic system to track what happens to a ward's assets.

Minnesota expects the system will allow court employees to rapidly audit accounts and detect possible exploitation by private fiduciaries or family members.

The court will be able to track patterns of accounting discrepancies, such as missing money, unneeded expenses or double billing by fiduciary companies.

Texas also is tracking fees charged by attorneys and fiduciaries, but with limited success. In 2009, Texas courts created a statewide database of attorney and fiduciary fees approved by county judges, including probate judges, each month in civil cases. The data is made public, but the lack of consequences for county clerks who don't report, their staff turnover and funding problems have made the collection of data hit or miss, said Angela Garcia, a spokeswoman for Texas court administration.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court - Monitoring for Exploitation Remains a Challenge

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Struggle Against Court Overshadows Injuries

Ginger Franklin doesn’t blame her traumatic brain injury for ruining her life. Instead, she says it was a court, along with a lawyer who was supposed to be looking after her, that caused far more damage than the blow she sustained after falling down the stairs in her Nashville home two years ago.

The 52-year-old woman is gearing up for a courtroom showdown [December 2] that will decide whether she will be able to make legal, medical and financial decisions on her own.

Franklin’s friends and family say the woman has been abused by the very system that was supposed to protect her.

Even after recovered from her injuries – and getting medical clearance to return to work more than a year ago – she’s been left in a group home for the mentally deranged and unable to convince anyone with any authority to get her out and relieve her of a court-ordered arrangement that gave her the legal status of a child.

"There’s nothing wrong with me,” says Franklin, who now has a second medical opinion saying she’s recovered. “I’m totally healed for over a year. I’ve been held captive and I’ve been abused.“

Franklin is not alone in complaining about being mistreated by court-ordered arrangements. A recent investigation by the General Accountability Office found hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Full Article and Source:
Struggle Against Court Overshadows Injuries

See Also:
Ginger Franklin Fights for Control of Her Life

Ginger Franklin - Hearing to End Conservatorship
Location: Seventh Circuit ("Probate") Court, Nashville, TN
Time: 10:00 AM - Thursday, December 2nd
Courtwatchers Appreciated

Pet Provisions

Valerie Howell volunteers at the Miami-Dade County animal shelter, so she knows exactly that happens when people die without having provided for their pets.

"Maybe a relative doesn't know what to do with them, so they end up there and may be euthanized," said Howell, a Coral Gables physical therapist. ``Or, they end up at a no-kill shelter and spend years living in a cage.''

To guarantee that no such fate befalls the felines in her life when the end comes, Howell, 56, is including a pet trust in her estate plan.

"Almost everybody I know knows I love animals, and are not surprised," she said.

Pet trusts aren't just for quirky millionaires anymore, like real-estate mogul Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million to her Malti-poo in 2007 -- which a judge later reduced to $2 million -- or Miami Beach heiress Gail Posner, who bequeathed her $8.3 million mansion and $3 million to her Chihuahua and two other dogs last summer.

The key provisions of Florida Statute 736.0408 are:

(1) A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor's lifetime. The trust terminates on the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor's lifetime, on the death of the last surviving animal.

(2) A trust authorized by this section may be enforced by a person appointed in the terms of the trust or, if no person is appointed, by a person appointed by the court. A person having an interest in the welfare of the animal may request the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust or to remove a person appointed.''

Full Article and Source:
Pet Provisions

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

OBRA Trusts: Medicaid Planning or Medicaid Fraud and Abuse?

OBRA Special Needs Pooled Trusts, as well as other types of trusts, are being utilized by unethical lawyers, nurses, and guardianship companies in Cook County, Illinois, to enrich themselves while the elderly disabled wards are being assigned court-appointed guardians and being placed into public aid nursing homes.

In fact, one Cook County Probate Court lawyer educates her peers in ways in which very large estates may be placed into OBRA and/or other types of trusts, to allow the disabled ward to qualify for Medicaid. She also educates her peers on which types of trusts are lacking oversite, and which types of trusts allow for "administrative fees" (i.e., attorneys' and guardians' fees). Her educational video, which some feel to be controversial, may be viewed at this website:

Unfortunately, some corrupt players in the Cook County Probate Court system (lawyers, nurses, judges, and guardianship companies) are using this legal loophole so they may enrich themselves through OBRA Special Needs Pooled Trusts. This Medicaid abuse can occur because only certain "special needs" expenses may be paid from OBRA Special Needs Pooled Trusts, such as medical bills, insurance premiums, and "administrative fees". However, housing may NOT be paid from these accounts. As a result, the ward is immediately moved to public aid housing once their estate is placed into the OBRA Special Needs Trust.

There are numerous victims of this Medicaid Abuse scheme. There are even cases in Cook County where the lawyers and/or guardians, with the knowledge of the judge, illegally deposited dis-allowable funds of the ward (VA disability benefits, newly-discovered funds, etc) into the OBRA Trust.

Also, please contact the VA benefits office nearest you if you identify illegal funding of an OBRA account with VA benefits.

To read more about this abuse, visit

Full Article and Source:
NASGA: Soapbox: OBRA Trust Accounts: Medicaid Planning or Medicaid Fraud and Abuse

Director of NH Homeless Shelter Indicted in Theft

The director of a New Hampshire homeless shelter and soup kitchen — a retired Manchester police captain — is facing felony charges he stole money from a trust set up for a disabled cousin.

The five-count indictment against 56-year-old Michael Tessier was handed down by a grand jury.

Tessier is charged with recklessly disregarding a known legal obligation to Thaddeus Jakobiec Jr., a blind and disabled cousin for whom the trust was established. Tessier allegedly transferred more than $80,000 to one of his personal bank accounts.

In September, Tessier told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he had done nothing wrong. His lawyer said he’d repaid the money.

Full Article and Source:
NH Homeless Shelter Director Indicted in Theft

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bank-Robbing Lawyer Admits Embezzling From Clients

When he's finished serving time for two out-of-state bank robberies, a suspended local lawyer will return to Erie County for more jail time.

Michael W. Rickard II, 42, pleaded guilty to two felony grand larceny charges lodged against him for embezzling nearly $63,000 from two former local clients.

Rickard admitted stealing $10,240 he was holding for a 91-year-old mentally incapacitated woman who lives in a nursing home. He had been appointed her legal guardian. He also took $52,662 from another client's estate.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia told Rickard he would likely sentence him to a one-year jail term after Rickard finishes his federal prison term of 37 months in a West Virginia prison.

The clients will be reimbursed by the New York State Lawyers Fund, which provides reimbursement to law clients who have lost money as a result of a lawyer's dishonest conduct in the practice of law.

Full Article and Source:
Bank-Robbing Lawyer Admits Embezzling From Clients

Editorial: Don't Let Hawkes Off The Hook

PAUL HAWKES' ABRUPT RESIGNATION as chief judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee is a positive development, but it should not silence questions about his abuse of his position to win approval for an opulent new courthouse. The Judicial Qualifications Commission, which has the power to discipline or remove judges, should proceed with a vigorous investigation. Separately, state Sen. Mike Fasano's call for legislative hearings on how the $48 million courthouse received funding should be embraced by his colleagues and the judiciary.

Hawkes' sudden decision last week to give up the position of chief judge during an emergency private meeting with his fellow judges raises more questions than it answers. He may have been responding to a request from Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, who would not confirm or deny reports that he asked for the resignation. Or Hawkes could be trying to short-circuit the JQC investigation and save his spot on the appellate court. That is a self-serving strategy that does not restore the court's tarnished reputation and should not be allowed to succeed.

There is no indication Hawkes has any remorse for his relentless pursuit of such an ostentatious courthouse at a time of declining state revenue, his heavy-handed lobbying of the Legislature for funding, or the damage he has done to the reputation of the state's court system. His written explanation of how the project evolved does not match public records or the recollection of others.

The JQC has several avenues to pursue. Among them:

• Lobbying legislators and pressuring state officials. Hawkes, a former Republican legislator and top aide, was the driving force in pushing lawmakers to scrape up the money for the courthouse. Those tactics included a curious authorization of a $33.5 million bond issue in an unrelated bill approved on the last day of the 2007 session. Hawkes and others on the court then bullied the Department of Management Services so they could micromanage every detail of construction.

• Failing to disclose a conflict of interest. Hawkes ruled on an important case involving the St. Joe Co. while the court was negotiating to build the courthouse on public land that was formerly owned by St. Joe and could have been retaken by the company. Lawyers for 75 property owners who lost that case asked the Florida Supreme Court on Friday to set aside the decision. They reasonably argue Hawkes should have disqualified himself from hearing the case or disclosed his potential conflict of interest. Hawkes denies there was a conflict.

• Free trips. Hawkes and two fellow judges took a free trip in 2008 on a private jet paid for by the courthouse construction manager to see the Michigan Supreme Court, which served as a model for the new appellate court in Tallahassee. Court officials say Hawkes also tried to arrange a free trip to Louisville, Ky., to visit a furniture manufacturer and Churchill Downs but was told he could not go by the then-chief judge. Hawkes says he "never even thought about" going on such a trip.

Amid these serious concerns, giving up his position as chief judge was the least Hawkes could do. But that should not be the end of the story. There is plenty for the JQC and the Legislature to investigate, and they should not be sidetracked by Hawkes' effort to save his job.

Full Article and Source:
Don't Let Hawkes Off The Hook

Man Charged in Will Scam

A Suffolk County grand jury has indicted a Millbury man on charges he produced a bogus will and posed fraudulently as the rightful heir to nearly $1.5 million in the unclaimed assets of a dead Winthrop doctor, prosecutors said.

The grand jury indicted Kevin L. Upshaw, 42, this week on charges he presented the state treasurer’s abandoned property division with documents purporting to be the will and trust agreement of the late Dr. Rose Jannini. The charges include three counts of forgery, three counts of presenting false documents, and single counts of attempted larceny over $250 and giving a false statement under the penalties of perjury.

Full Article and Source:
Millbury Man Charged in Will Scam

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CA: Proposed Pilot Treatment Program for Mentally Ill

It’s been almost seven months since Rich Detty’s son died in a Santa Barbara County psychiatric unit, and he’s still got more questions than answers.

In April, Cliff Detty, 47, of Santa Maria, died after spending hours in a restraint that held his limbs and torso down inside the county Psychiatric Health Facility in Santa Barbara. The younger Detty had struggled with paranoid schizophrenia for nearly a decade, and was homeless much of the time, or in jail.

Since Cliff Detty’s plight was uncovered, discussion has been under way about how to reform existing law and better serve patients and their families. Under current law, patients must present a danger to themselves or others, or be deemed gravely disabled, to be taken in for emergency treatment involuntarily. It was under such circumstances that Rich Detty was repeatedly denied the mental health assistance he sought for Cliff, who would have had to come in on his own terms to receive it.

But California counties can opt in to a provision called Laura’s Law that would require outpatient treatment for people who are unable — or won’t — access mental health services voluntarily. Any adult with whom the person resides, as well as a set of other qualified people, can petition the local Superior Court for treatment for the person with mental illness. The county mental health director then must conduct an investigation to determine whether the person qualifies, and if so, the person is placed in a six-month outpatient treatment program. Patients remain in the community and receive treatment, with less disruption to their lives than being locked away in a facility, according to advocates.

Of the program, [Commissioner Ann] Eldridge cast a wary eye.

“I’m going to be looking at it very carefully,” she said.

Responding to Eldridge’s concern about the lack of court oversight in the pilot project, Feliciano said the county already promotes a conservatorship program. But some argue that the conservatorship process is more intrusive than the role of the court within Laura’s Law. A person must be a danger to himself or others to qualify for conservatorship, excluding many people from treatment. Still, the ADMHS is hesitant to employ the law.

Full Article and Source:
In the Wake of Patient's Death, ADMHS Proposes Pilot Treatment Program for Mentally Ill

Indiana Judge Suspended

A Marion County traffic court judge accused of abusing his power will be suspended without pay for 30 days.

Superior Court Judge William E. Young was charged with four counts of judicial misconduct in July and reached a "conditional agreement of discipline" with the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications determined that Young issued unnecessarily harsh sentences, was tougher on those who chose to go to trial, gave out a standard sentence to defendants who lost at trial instead of considering the circumstances of their cases, and tried to coerce defendants into pleading guilty, sometimes by making inaccurate comments about the burden of proof.

Young didn't offer a formal response to the charges, but he agreed to the accuracy of certain facts surrounding each charge and to the punishment, according to court documents.

Full Article and Source:
Marion County Traffic Court Judge to be Suspended 30 Days

NY Woman Accused of Embezzling $90K

A 40-year-old New York state woman accused of embezzling $90,000 from an elderly Suttons Bay man was arrested last week in Connecticut.

Gina Miller was arrested on a warrant issued by county Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell for bilking funds from a county resident who believed her friend needed a liver transplant. The story was made up.

Miller has waived extradition, which means Hubbell can start the process of bringing her to Leelanau to answer these charges. He did not know when Miller will be transported.

Court documents show she had experience in taking money from vulnerable people. Miller was convicted in the Queens County Court, New York City, of first degree scheming to defraud in 2003, and of grand larceny on June 14 of this year.

Hopefully, the case will serve as notice to older residents and their families that predators are ready to take advantage if an opening is presented, according to Det. Clint Kerr, who investigated the Leelanau case.

“Don’t just give your money to people, especially people you don’t know very well,” Kerr said.

Miller is charged with three counts of using false pretenses to obtain $20,000 or more from a vulnerable adult, and two counts of conspiracy to commit false pretenses of $20,000 or more from a vulnerable adult. The felony charges are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 or three times the value of the amount taken, which ever is greater. Hubbell also is a seeking habitual offender third offense charge, which if included on a plea or sentence of guilty would double the penalties.

Full Article and Source:
NY Woman Accused of Taking $90,000