Saturday, February 26, 2011

'Granny Snatching'

I became involved in elder law when my mother, then aged 91, moved from her apartment near Albany, New York, to my home in Connecticut on December 22, 2008. She had lived alone for nearly a decade after my father died, most of that time capable of handling herself and her affairs, but she was hospitalized in December 2008 suffering from dehydration and potassium deficiency.

As a result my siblings attempted to force her into a nursing home against her will –personnel from the nursing home were in the hospital preparing to move her out when I was notified.

I intervened, offering my home as an alternative, which was fine with everyone until my mother realized that my sister had kept her checkbook, which didn’t go over well with Mom.

With proper nutrition and some much needed sleep Mom rebounded quickly after her hospitalization and spent the week after Christmas 2008 in a series of fruitless attempts to convince my sister to relinquish the checkbook. My sister refused so ultimately Mom rescinded the limited power of attorney she had given my sister, and moved her finances to new accounts in Connecticut.

After which my sister, brother and some of their offspring joined in a lawsuit against Mom, the aim of which was to force her to return to New York, to be placed in an Alzheimer’s ward, even though she was not suffering from that disease, and to give my sister guardianship over my mother’s body, property, social life, and her money; all of it.

Full Article and Source:
Granny Snatching T-Day Tomorrow; New Laws for CT Elderly?


It's safe to believe in the American Dream … isn't it? We live in a country where we take quality education, careers, nice homes, and the wherewithal to raise a family for granted.

We are well fed. We're warm. We keep up with the latest fashions. Our legal system provides swift justice and righteousness prevails. We solve problems, not create them! Right?

We anticipate a safe and secure retirement where we hold hands with our life's partner during leisurely strolls on golden sands - waving palms overhead and perfectly sized waves breaking on the shore beneath a glowing sunset. Each evening we are submerged in the warmth of a life lived long and well, and the promise that tomorrow will be just like today.

And then … KA-POW! A giant wrecking ball tears in from stage right, smashing the palm trees, digging huge furrows in the perfect sand, and dumping the gently setting sun into a black sea of hissing steam. Darkness falls upon us and our world is turned upside down as family members appear from nowhere, seizing us, dragging us toward an unanticipated and unwanted future, penniless, powerless, confined in the clutches of "elder care."


Pearl Harbor Survivor Allegedly Victimized by Caregiver

Arnold Bauer, a 93-year-old resident of San Diego who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, has been moved to a nursing home after suffering neglect at the hands of his caregiver, reports The Associated Press.

Bauer served on board the USS Vestal, a coal ship that was damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II. Long after he survived the war, Bauer developed dementia and prostate cancer, leaving him reliant on a caregiver.

Last month, however, authorities found Bauer in poor condition in his El Cajon house, which was reportedly filled with decomposing garbage and rat droppings.

Stephanie Le Chevalier, Bauer's daughter, told the source that her father has since moved to a San Diego-area nursing home, where he continues to receive treatment for the abuse he suffered. Meanwhile, his caregiver, Milagros Angeles, pleaded not guilty after she was charged with elder abuse, theft and false imprisonment.

Full Article and Source:
Pearl Harbor Survivor Arnold Bauer Moves to Nursing Home After Suffering Abuse

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rogue Lawyer Makes Smoron Probate Mess Even Messier

It would be difficult to find a more dubious lawyer to represent you than Jacek Smigelski.

He's been caught overcharging clients. He lied to a judge. He often fails to show up in court. There's a long record of his habit of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers. He is facing a 15-month suspension of his law license.

Earlier this week a judge ordered him to come up with the nearly $300,000 he owes in connection with one of his client-scams — or face arrest on Feb. 28.

How does this rogue lawyer keep getting clients? How does he still have a law license?
Which might be the story, were it not for the fact that Smigelski is closely involved with the infamous Smoron Farm case in Southington, a tale that has taken another turn for the weird: Smigelski is now messing up a solution to this probate court outrage.

The Smoron Farm, you will recall, was given to longtime farmhand Sam Manzo under the will of Josephine Smoron, who died in 2009. But under the questionable oversight of former Southington Probate Judge Bryan Meccariello, Smoron's estate was dramatically altered and a plan devised to funnel the coveted property into the hands of a local developer, Carl Verderame. Local planning officials even approved Verderame's proposed sports center development, despite the fact that the land is still tied up in court.

Meccariello — who left office in disgrace to form (what else?) a probate consulting service — was censured by a state oversight panel for removing Manzo from the will. The lawyer who changed Smoron's will, John Nugent, hired Smigelski to represent him in court and in mediation proceedings designed to clean up the mess that Meccariello created.

Instead, Smigelski has assisted Nugent in blocking a resolution that would allow Manzo to inherit the farm.

"I'm trying to figure out what he's doing. I want to get this resolved,'' said Hartford lawyer Elliot Gersten, who is representing Manzo.

Most observers agree that Smoron's original will, which gives the farm to Manzo, should be adhered to. But Nugent and Smigelski are balking, using delaying tactics, filing motions and wasting court time, to block this sensible solution. Nugent, meanwhile, also faces disbarment proceedings for his role in the Manzo case.

Smigelski "knows he has certain rights within the system,'' said William Sweeney, who represents Stanley and Kazimierz Kosiorek, two brothers who were charged outrageous fees by Smigelski in a case that dates to 2006. "He pushes those rights until the very end."

Full Article and Source:
Rogue Lawyer Makes Probate Mess Even Messier

See Also:
CT: Probate Stench

Financial Elder Abuse Caught on Tape

In October, a trio of thieves took a senior citizen suffering from dementia from store to store and tricked her into opening up credit card accounts. Store surveillance video shows the suspect standing right next to the victim as she fills out credit applications. After the stores granted her thousands of dollars in credit, the suspects went on a spending spree. Family members say what happened in the stores ruined the victim's life "they got away with more than $10,000 worth of goods and haven't been caught," the victim's brother said.


Disturbing Elder Abuse Case - "Part of Growing Trend"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Texas Guardianship Abuse

Probate courts are supposed to oversee guardians. Yet oversight is erratic and superficial. Absence of constant oversight and no accountability...

Incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of incapacitated adults by their guardians have raised a number of controversial issues regarding the courts' administration and oversight of guardianship's.


State Moves to Suspend Lawyer

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission filed an emergency petition to suspend the law license of local attorney Daniel E. Serban, citing criminal charges filed against him.

Serban, of Roanoke, faces charges of corrupt business influence, forgery, and two counts of theft. Charged last September, he is accused of failing to distribute money paid into the Serban Law Office’s Trust Account to clients or to those entitled by court order to receive it.

After his arrest, Serban told police some of the money he used to pay off the original client, after he was confronted, had been taken from money put into the trust account for an estate. He told investigators he forged the name of the estate’s personal representative on the check.

Attorneys are required to keep escrow-type accounts where money either coming from or going to their clients will be kept. Those accounts are to be treated with extreme fiduciary care, and attorneys have a strong ethical responsibility to protect that money.

Full Article and Source:
State Moves to Suspend Accused Roanoke Lawyer

Owner's Death Means Caretaker Might Keep Home

A 74-year-old man fighting a Medicaid-related eviction order might not have to move because the homeowner died and willed her house to him, an attorney said.

Alma Ruth O'Brien, 94, had shared her Northwest Side home with Murrell Lewis for nearly 38 years and planned to leave him her entire estate.

But because she went into a nursing home in 2009, O'Brien's court-appointed guardian said Lewis had to buy the house, pay rent or leave so that it could be sold to comply with Medicaid asset rules.

O'Brien's death changes the debate, said Lewis' attorney, David Belinky.

"They're going to have to close the guardianship, and I assume (Lewis will) be named executor," Belinky said. "It's a little weird right now."

The guardian, Columbus attorney Amy Himmelrick, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

She has said that Lewis made matters worse by refusing to cooperate with her and with adult protective services, which started an investigation after a doctor said that O'Brien's health was deteriorating under Lewis' care.

Belinky said he isn't sure how much money is owed to Medicaid, the program that pays for health and nursing-home care for the poor and disabled. He and Lewis say it might not be much, as O'Brien had a monthly income of about $5,000 in retirement and insurance benefits and so barely needed Medicaid.

Attorney fees and other costs from the guardianship likely would need to be paid from the estate.

Full Article and Source:
Owner's Death Means Caretaker Might Keep Home

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia

Adults with hearing loss are significantly more likely than adults with normal hearing to develop dementia, according to a new study out from researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging. The study — which finds that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk — may open a new avenue of research into dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Men and women in the study who experienced severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing. But even mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia.

Researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were much more likely to develop dementia by the end, even after taking into account age and other risk factors. The risk of dementia only began to rise once hearing loss began to interfere with the ability to communicate — for example, in a noisy restaurant. The study also found that hearing loss increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but the two were not as strongly linked as hearing loss and dementia.

Full Article and Source:
AARP: Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia

The New Business of Old Age

The Times reports on the development of technologies that may help to keep aging Americans out of long-term care facilities.

Longevity-focused researchers…are betting that baby boomers, unlike generations past, will not go gentle into the good night of long-term care. In fact, a few research groups at institutions like Oregon Health & Science University, M.I.T. and Stanford, along with foundations and the private sector, are devising policies and systems for an alternate scenario: older adults living independently at home for longer periods, whether that home is a private residence or a senior community.

Devices for I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up catastrophes, they say, represent the old business of old age. The new business of old age involves technologies and services that promote wellness, mobility, autonomy and social connectivity. These include wireless pillboxes that transmit information about patients’ medication use, as well as new financial services, like “Second Acts” from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that help people plan for longer lives and second careers.

Together, those kinds of products and services are already a multibillion-dollar market, industry analysts say. And if such innovations prove to promote health and independence, delaying entry into long-term care, the potential savings to the health care system could be even greater.

The New Business of Old Age

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shattered Sun Valley Group Blames Hype

Two weeks after one of Arizona's largest fiduciary firms abruptly announced it was closing, its owner told a Superior Court judge that media-fueled hype about its practices was to blame.

Death threats, costly legal bills and untenable insurance hikes forced the company to cease operations, according to a motion Friday by lawyers for the owner of the Sun Valley Group.

Sun Valley has for 15 years been among the private fiduciaries appointed by the Maricopa County Probate Court.

On Friday, his [Owner Peter Frenette's] attorneys told the court that the company originally planned on shutting down over the next eight months as a result of "significant business strain" from defending itself from frivolous lawsuits, "inaccurate and abusive media reports" and death threats to employees that resulted in an inability to staff cases.

Lawyers wrote that long-term plan was disrupted Jan. 28 when Sun Valley learned that its insurance would be canceled and that premiums were to increase nearly seven times their historical rates.

"An immediate shutdown became inevitable," Sun Valley lawyers wrote. "The insurance issue was the straw that broke (Sun Valley's) business back."

Full Article and Source:
Shattered Sun Valley Fiduciary Blames Hype

See Also:
CBS: Guardian Firm Closes Business in Arizona

Gambling Habit Led Probate Tustee to Steal from Clients

An out-of-control gambling habit spurred a San Diego probate court trustee and licensed private fiduciary to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients, many of them aged or disabled, according to the U.S. attorney.

In pleading guilty Friday to wire fraud and money-laundering, Teresa Laggner admitting spending 165 days in 2010 at the Barona Casino in Lakeside, outside San Diego.

"Unfortunately for herself and her clients, Laggner admitted sustaining gambling losses in excess of $1 million," according to U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.

Laggner, 56, will be sentenced May 16 in San Diego federal court. Mail fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, money laundering carries a maximum of 10 years. Laggner has also been ordered to pay restitution.

Laggner worked for private trusts and the probate court from 2006 to 2010. She transferred money from her clients' accounts to her own and then withdrew money by cashing checks and using the automated teller machines at the Barona Casino and casinos in Nevada, according to court documents.

Article and Source:
Gambling Habit Led San Diego Probate Trustee to Steal from Clients

A Different Kind of Story

From the judge’s bench of any family court, the view of the world is rarely a pretty one. It is of splintered dreams and tarnished vows and the frustration and fury that inevitably follows.

One day in 1999, Judge Robert Scandurra had a view of something else as well. A divorced couple had been squabbling over child support and time with their 11-year-old son, but what Scandurra saw more clearly was that their lawyers couldn’t stand the sight of each other.

So Scandurra did something he had never done before and has rarely done since. He asked if he could meet with the mother and father alone in chambers, and their lawyers, to his surprise, agreed.

Over the next two hours, the judge and parents hashed through support payments, a parenting schedule, and a whole lot else. Toward the end of the session, the relieved parents, Jeff and Caroline, said they were trying to encourage their son, Vincent, to pick up a sport. Scandurra urged them to think of wrestling, elaborating on his days on the mat in high school and college. Both parents seemed to grab the idea and Scandurra, to his relief, never saw them in his court again.

When a judge makes a mistake, it’s often front-page news, film at 11, here we go again with an activist judiciary overstepping its bounds. It’s easy to forget, or to never realize, that every day, in quiet ways, judges can make a difference in people’s lives.

Full Article and Source:
A Good Match

Monday, February 21, 2011

NASGA Press Release

National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse

For immediate release
February 21, 2011

For more information contact:
Annie McKenna
NASGA Media Liaison

NASGA Announces Appointment of Illinois Legislative Liaison

NASGA is pleased to announce the appointment of Janet Bedin to the position of Illinois Legislative Liaison.

Ms. Bedin is a resident of Rockford and a family member of a potential victim. In her case, Northwestern Memorial Hospital threatened to have her terminally ill mother guardianized if Ms. Bedin did not comply with their demands to remove her mother from their hospital. The guardianship was averted, but the experience and the near miss so appalled Ms. Bedin that she has taken up this important cause with determination and resolve to ensure that other innocent families are not likewise threatened unlawfully.

In her capacity, Ms. Bedin will represent NASGA’s legislative interests and ultimate goal of returning guardianship to its intended purpose: GUARD alleged incompetent persons and wards to keep them from harming themselves or anyone else; CONSERVE their assets through prudent investment; and PROTECT the taxpayers against guardianship wards becoming a public charge.

NASGA is a civil and human rights organization formed by victims of unlawful and abusive guardianships and conservatorships.

Our purpose is to protect Wards and their families - both physically and financially – through education, outreach, and advocacy. Our goal is to assure that the law is not being misused to advantage special interests.


Concerns Raised About Cost of Calling Coroners for Nursing Home Deaths

Kentucky prosecutors, law enforcement officers, coroners and officials have said they think it would be helpful if coroners were called whenever someone dies in a nursing home. Evidence could be gathered and, if abuse or neglect had occurred, cases could be prosecuted.

But a bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to report all deaths to the local coroner is in trouble in the General Assembly.

Tracey Corey, the state's chief medical examiner, estimates that if even 10 percent of the additional cases generated by the proposed law are turned over to her office for further evaluation, she would need three more doctors, more support staff and additional equipment for the required investigations, said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice Cabinet.

Despite concerns about costs, Corey supports the intent of House Bill 69, Brislin said. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, would require a specific staff member at a long-term care facility and hospice to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours.

Concerns Raised About Cost of Calling Coroners for Nursing Home Deaths

See Also:
Coroners Help Facility Death Investigations

Wife of Ex-Fire Chief Convicting of Bilking Elderly Woman Released From Prison

Cheri Drick, who went from being the wife of Joliet’s fire chief to being Inmate R82388 at the Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, was scheduled to be released [2/11] after serving three years of her eight-year sentence for methodically draining — with her husband, Joe, — the bank accounts of an elderly Joliet woman.

Disgraced ex-Fire Chief Joe Drick, currently in a work-release program out of the Jacksonville Correctional Center in Peoria, is due for parole in July on his eight-year sentence for his role in the theft of $210,000 from Gladys Farrington’s estate, estimated at more than $1.5 million.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Robert Livas sentenced the couple to eight years in prison for financial exploitation of an elderly person, crediting them for the 73 days spent in the Will County Adult Detention Facility.

The Dricks reportedly spotted Farrington, an 82-year-old daily communicant at St. Raymond’s Cathedral, on her way to Mass one bitterly cold morning in November 2003 and gave her a ride.

It took jurors On Oct. 1, only three-and-a-half hours to find the Dricks guilty of financial exploitation of an elderly person, and guilty of theft by deception.

Full Article and Source:
Wife of Ex-Fire Chief Who Bilked Elderly Woman of $210K Set to be Released From Prison Today

Sunday, February 20, 2011

CT Probate Case About Far More Than Money

Mary Gennotti, age 82, remarried her estranged husband in February 2009. At the time she was suffering from a brain tumor and advanced dementia. She signed her marriage license with an X. She would be dead within a month.

The odd ceremony was just part of a sequence of events involving his sister that didn’t make sense to New London retiree Robert Jetmore. Now he and Gennotti’s younger son, Robert, are trying to figure out what exactly happened to Mary.

They are hardly the only ones who are interested. A Connecticut author, Ron Winter, who has published a book called “Granny Snatching,” has blogged about the case. Articles critical of the probate system’s handling of it have appeared on several well-read Connecticut web sites. Additionally, the Office of the Attorney General is looking into the matter.

And it’s become something of a crusade for New Britain attorney Sally Roberts, who is representing Jetmore and Robert Genotti pro bono. “With greed in the family, when people die, the worst comes out,” Roberts said.

“There is an obvious stench about the whole matter,” Roberts said. “It does not pass the smell test.”

Full Article and Source:
Probate Case is About Far More Than Money

No Charges in SeniorCare Case

Gloucester police say they have found "insufficient evidence" to pursue criminal charges against SeniorCare case manager Marsha Collard or anyone else regarding the treatment of 83-year-old Joseph Judd at McPherson Park housing.

In a 20-page report, police said they explored possible criminal action by financial exploitation or illegal dispensing of a controlled substance, such as Collard's handling of Judd's medication.

"The bottom line is that Joe Judd isn't fit to testify in court, and we found no one who could say they directly saw any criminal activity," said Detective Ken Ryan, who conducted the investigation, adding "you can only rely on what you're told."

Launched in November, the police probe was prompted by complaints first brought in June by Judd's grandson, Vito Loiacono, 35, alleging that, during 31/2 years under Collard's supervision in the state-subsidized housing program, Judd's prescription medication was withheld, and nearly $17,000 was withdrawn from his checking account for unspecified purposes and with no receipts.

Collard, who did not return a request for comment, was cleared of any wrongdoing through an in-house review by her employer in July, and has since been out on workers' comp. SeniorCare has repeatedly refused to discuss the matter, citing privacy concerns.

Full Article and Source:
Police See No Charges in SeniorCare Case

Couple Indicted for Bilking Grandmother Out of Over 200K

A grand jury has indicted a couple for bilking a relative out of more than $203,000.

34-year-old Benjamin Rush and 36-year-old Anne Rush were each indicted on one count of exploitation of an adult.

Investigators say the couple moved into Anne Rush's grandmother's home to take care of her, and during that time used her money for their personal use. They say the couple continued spending the money after the grandmother was placed in a nursing home.

"We are starting to see quite a bit more of these cases, unfortunately as the economy continue to suffer. I think people are doing this kind of thing and it is a shame that these elderly individuals are often victims," says Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lynn Coleman.

Benjamin Rush was arrested Tuesday. He was released on bond from the Boyle County Detention Center on Thursday. Investigators say they're still looking for Anne Rush.

Full Article, Video, and Source:
Couple Accused of Bilking More Than $200,000 From Grandmother