Saturday, June 18, 2011

Errors May Doom Arizona's Fiduciary Help to Veterans

When Arizona veterans become too ill to manage their own health needs or finances, they are able to turn to the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services for help.

For more than three decades, the department has served as guardian or conservator for hundreds of veterans at a fraction of the cost charged by many of the state's private, for-profit fiduciaries.

But a state report by the Office of the Auditor General released this week said the department should stop offering fiduciary services, which is one of two such programs in the country.

In a sobering 44-page report, the auditor general found that the department's fiduciary program costs the state $508,000 annually and suffers from mismanagement problems resulting in complaints and increased legal costs.

The auditor recommended phasing out the program over the next three years.

The report's conclusions, however, have left some veterans voicing concerns about the lack of options available if the state shuts the program down.

The department is currently managing 260 fiduciary cases. A typical client is a male in his late 60s or 70s and a veteran of the Korean or Vietnam wars. The total value of his assets is $30,000 to $60,000.

A department spokesman said Wednesday that no decision has been made about whether to cut or save the program.

A 2010 review of 15 client files by the Arizona Supreme Court, which licenses and regulates fiduciaries, found 14 problems. Those included an inaccurate inventory of client assets, incomplete client records, inaccurate court reports, inaccurate accounting and untimely court filings.

As a result, the court restricted the department from taking on new cases for six months and then put a limit on the number of new cases this year.

The problems also resulted in two formal complaints being filed with the court against the department, which cost more than $65,000 in legal fees.

"The operational problems . . . are serious because they involve the department's fiduciary responsibility to undertake for another person a special obligation of trust and confidence," the auditor's report said. "Left uncorrected . . . the department cannot ensure that it is properly serving and protecting its clients."

In a 2009 case cited by auditors, the department did not discover that one of its clients had died for three months. As a result, the department paid out $1,600 in rent to a New Mexico hotel and wrote checks for $1,000 that were cashed by an unidentified person.

Full Article and Source:
Maricopa County Probate Court: Errors May Doom State's Fiduciary Help to Veterans

Man Charged with Neglecting Mentally Ill Wife to Death

A Manassas Park man indicted on charges that he neglected his mentally ill wife to the point of her death is scheduled to stand trial in October.

Barry J. Karsh was indicted by a grand jury on charges of abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult. Jennie Karsh who was found dead in her home on Aug. 11 by emergency personnel who responded to the residence.

A hearing brief court hearing was held on the matter Friday in Manassas and the case was continued until Oct. 24, the day Karsh's trial is to begin.

Manassas Police said Jennie Karsh was found in her bed in very poor physical condition and appeared to weigh less than 90 pounds.

Karsh suffered from a mental illness and was taking medication for it, according to a search warrant affidavit. She was being cared for her by the suspect, her estranged husband, investigators said.

It looked as if Karsh hadn’t been kept cleaned or taken care of physically.

Officers investigating Jennie Karsh’s death spoke to social services employees who said that the suspect had inquired about how to get his wife committed.

They, in turn, gave him instructions on how to become his wife’s legal guardian.

The suspect told police he’d tried to obtain guardianship over his wife, but her daughter wouldn’t let him, according to the affidavit.

The victim’s daughter told police the suspect’s statement about her wasn’t true and that she had actually offered to pay for an attorney and help him with the guardianship process, but the suspect hadn’t followed through.

Full Article and Source:
Man Charged With Neglecting Mentally Ill Wife to Stand Trial in October

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Whose Best Interest?

The law of unintended consequences... Alarming truths, major Issues associated with guardianship. Stakes are extremely high in guardianship proceedings, a legal process in which judges can declare someone to be mentally incapacitated and transfer rights over all assets and basic life decisions to a guardian.

YouTube: In Whose Best Interest?

Violated: 'Broken' System Fails Elderly Abuse Victims

Federal records show Minnesota has fallen short in its handling of complaints about abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.

In the last year of her life, as her health faded at an Albert Lea, Minn., nursing home, Opal Sande became a target.

For months, the 89-year-old grandmother, blind and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was tormented by workers who abused her and 14 other residents. According to court documents and state records, workers pinched nipples, rubbed crotches and got in bed with some residents to simulate sex. They also spit in some residents' mouths and covered their lips to prevent them from screaming.

Last month, a court-ordered arbitrator blamed the Good Samaritan home for failing to prevent what he called a "sordid, sad, shameful story" of abuse.

"I roll this over in my mind all the time," said Sande's daughter, Myrna Sorensen. "Why did I put her there? Why did they do that to her?"

The 2008 case is part of a broader problem across Minnesota, where 2,000 providers are entrusted to care for thousands of elderly and vulnerable adults.

In the past six years, according to records reviewed by the Star Tribune, state regulators have substantiated 273 cases of abuse and exploitation at nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and in-home care agencies.

In 381 other cases of suspected abuse and exploitation -- including 96 reports of sexual abuse -- the state was unable to prove that misconduct took place, even though regulators found some evidence of wrongdoing in almost two-thirds of those investigations, records show.

Federal officials have repeatedly faulted Minnesota for how it reviews complaints of abuse and neglect. Twice in the past four years, federal records show, state regulators did not properly investigate 40 percent of reported complaints.

"Something is broken," said Deb Holtz, the state's ombudsman for long-term care.

Holtz said there's a "general sense of frustration" among advocates for the elderly that so many cases of reported abuse go unpunished.

In nursing homes and other care settings across the state, workers have harmed residents in a multitude of ways. They yelled at them and reduced them to tears with threats of punishment. Residents were slapped and punched, sometimes hard enough to cause bruising or bleeding. Workers stole checks, credit cards and jewelry. In at least 17 cases, victims were sexually abused.

State Health Department officials said they could have been more aggressive in some cases.

Full Article and Source:
Violated: 'Broken" System Fails Elderly Abuse Victims

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jeffrey Schend Seeks Lower Jail Bond

An Outagamie County judge on Tuesday postponed the preliminary hearing for a former Appleton guardian accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his vulnerable clients.

Jeffrey M. Schend, 44, had been scheduled to appear in court today for the hearing on six felony theft counts and one misdemeanor count of theft. Judge Mark McGinnis rescheduled his appearance for June 20. Preliminary hearings are held in felony cases and require prosecutors show sufficient evidence that a felony-level crime occurred.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Kyle Sargent sought the postponement based on his participation in a trial in a different court branch. The complexity of Schend's case would have made it difficult for Sargent to rely on another prosecutor to handle the hearing, he wrote in a Friday petition to the court.

Schend was last in court on June 2 and was denied a county-appointed lawyer. Schend, who argued he didn't have the money to hire a lawyer, has since retained attorney Michael Petersen to handle his case.

Petersen filed a motion Tuesday asking for modification of Schend's $100,000 cash bond.

Schend remains in the Outagamie County Jail.

Full Article and Source:
Jeffery Schend, a Guardian Charged in Theft From Clients, Seeks Lower Jail Bond

See Also:
Jeffrey Schend Denied Court-Appointed Lawyer

Red Flags Raised for Years Over Vulnerabilities in Guardianship Program

Woman Found in FL Freezer

For six years, Allan Dunn kept dodging judicial reviews of how he was caring for his incapacitated wife, over whom he had been appointed guardian.

When forced to account, he painted a bleak portrait of a woman confined to her bed, someone he slavishly tended, including changing her diaper and turning her to fend off bedsores.

For most of that time, authorities think, Margaret Dunn was dead — her body stuffed into a freezer on the porch of the couple's Sun City Center condominium.

Allan Dunn committed suicide in August at age 86.

A body thought to be that of Margaret Dunn was found last month when the woman overseeing Dunn's estate and her sister went to clean the condo in preparation for listing it for sale.

Authorities think Dunn hid the body so he could continue collecting some financial benefit, although they have not specified the source of the money.

A preliminary autopsy determined the woman was about 78 when she died of natural causes, likely in 2000. She was wearing a diaper.

Full Article and Source:
Woman in Freezer About 78 Years Old

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'The Adele Chris Act'

Read proposed legislation submitted by Marked for Destruction's author, John Caravella, to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at their request for a Model Law" to combat abusive guardianships: The Adele Chris Act

View the May 25, 2010 Subcommittee Hearing

Contact the Committee and voice your support

What Adele Fraulen might have thought to be nothing more than a meaningless bad dream one night in 1935 would actually come true. At age 79 she would find herself living a nightmare -- a struggle for her life, simply because she innocently trusted the wrong professionals to help with her portion of a Million Dollar inheritance; they would steal her very existence. Her neighbors, Chris and Patricia Zurillo, would realize that Adele's life was going terribly wrong and dedicate themselves to freeing her from captivity. “Marked For Destruction” is a rare book that exposes an ever-expanding crime against our elderly.


A Free Gift From Adele's Neighbors - Read 'Marked for Destruction' online

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Probate Sharks "Travesty of the Week Award"

Travesty of the Week Award goes to Judge Lynne Kowamoto for "allowing a mentally disabled person to be guardian of a 99 year old disabled ward."

Probate Sharks

PA Nursing Home Bill Clears Senate Panel

Long-term care nursing homes would have another avenue to challenge state findings of deficiencies or safety violations under a bill approved unanimously Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The measure by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, gives nursing homes the option to participate in an independent review process to resolve disputes with the Health Department.

Under the bill, a nursing home could hire a firm that specializes in quality monitoring of health care if it wants an independent review. The home would select the firm from a list maintained by the Health Department. The other option is for the nursing home to participate in an existing dispute resolution process run by the department.

Scarnati told members of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee his measure is a "common-sense" proposal that won't cost the state money yet addresses issues stemming from the Health Department having multiple roles in nursing home oversight.

"The Department of Health is both the judge, jury and prosecutor," he added. "It (bill) gives nursing homes a fair shot at addressing the complaint."

Scarnati said any independent recommendations made through this process would only be implemented upon approval of the Health Department. The measure requires the department to provide a written explanation if it disagrees with a recommendation that reverses a finding of deficiency.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Home Bill Clears Senate Panel

Indiana Supreme Court Removes Convicted Lawyer From Rolls

Convicted of stealing from his clients and sentenced to more than five years in prison, Daniel Serban is no longer an attorney.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted his resignation from the Indiana bar Friday and immediately removed him from the roll of attorneys, according to court records.

In May, Serban, 54, was sentenced to prison after he admitted to stealing money from his clients’ trust fund accounts. He pleaded guilty to charges of corrupt business influence and theft. Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck sentenced Serban to 5 ½ years in prison and an additional 5 ½ years on probation.

Serban will also have to pay $280,000 in restitution.

State Removes Convicted Lawyer from Rolls

See Also:
Ex-Lawyer Admits Bilking Clients

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dear Gus Bilirakis: Do You Remember Adele Fletcher?

To help refresh your memory, as a Tampa area attorney you assisted your client with improperly guardianizing Adele Fletcher, which resulted in your client's conviction for felony scheming to defraud.

You did not come to your client's aide during her criminal trial.

Below are your documents that facilitated this fraud, which may assist in refreshing your recall of events:

[A]summary of the closing days in Adele Fletcher's' life. Please review the information for accuracy and let us know if you have any questions:

The two documents below reveal what turned out to be implausible reasons for your claimed need to take away a senior citizen's freedom to live:
Incapacity, Page one
Incapacity, Page two

The next two documents below reflect your investigation attested to under penalty of perjury that Adele Fletcher had no money or assets. You may recall that your meeting with Adele, in her home, to discuss what to do with her inheritance, that added an additional tax liability, to her existing income, and existing accounts with her stock broker, was arranged for you and Fran Lang by Adele's stock broker. A reasonable assumption that you did not raise during your investigation is that the mere existence of a stock broker in Adele's life points to the presence of assets.

Indigent,Page one
Indigent,Page two

The document below shows that eventually you found Adele Fletcher indeed had money and assets, but by that time the assets previously hidden from the court's knowledge were securely under your control by way of your client Fran Lang:
Terminate Insolvency

For additional reading about your client's conviction you can review a news article at this web site:
Ex-Guardian Gets Probation

You can also watch a short video at:
YouTube: Adele's Nightmare

An Open Letter To:
The Honorable Gus Bilirakis
United States House of Representatives

Dear Gus:

Please contact us if you would like any additional information to assist with your recall of this case. We feel that you played a significant and indispensable role in Adele Fletcher's demise and the felony conviction of Fran Lang that followed. Our hope, in your current role as a United States Congressional Representative, is that you will clearly and forever remember Adele Fletcher while you profess concern about improving the quality of life for the other senior citizens you now represent.

If you need further assistance please email us at:

The Friends of Adele Fletcher

Dear Gus Bilirakis: Do You Remember Adele Fletcher?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Illinois Law Requires Stricter Guidelines for Nursing Homes

For years, deaths of disabled children at Illinois nursing homes faced little scrutiny. Regulators weren't always informed, coroners weren't notified — even some family members weren't told whether neglect was involved.

But that could soon change as the Illinois Senate on Tuesday joined the state House in passing sweeping reforms to safeguard thousands of children and adults with severe developmental disabilities.

The proposed new laws, sparked by a Tribune investigation, require nursing facilities caring for the developmentally disabled to report all deaths to state regulators as well as to local coroners or medical examiners.

Other reforms include stiffer fines for poor care, a ban on new admissions at troubled homes, stricter rules on the use of psychotropic medications and fewer roadblocks to closing facilities.

State officials and some advocates described the measures as the most significant effort in a generation to help disabled people living in Illinois nursing facilities.

"This is a major victory for people with developmental disabilities and their families," said Michael Gelder, senior health policy adviser to Gov. Pat Quinn.

But some said the legislation doesn't go far enough. For instance, Wendy Meltzer, a leading advocate for nursing home residents, said the state will need more inspectors to enforce additional laws. "Otherwise, this whole exercise becomes pointless," she said.

Full Article and Source:
New Law Requires Stricter Guidelines for Nursing Homes

Couple to Stand Trial in Disabled Woman's Death

A judge on Friday ordered a Kearns couple charged with abusing a disabled woman before her death to stand trial following testimony from neighbors who said they were long worried about her well-being.

Dale Robert Beckering, 52, and Sherrie Lynn Beckering, 50, each face one count of aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult, a first-degree felony, in connection with the death of Christina Harms

Third District Court Judge Lee A. Dever ordered the pair to stand trial after hearing testimony from neighbors, police and a medical examiner.

Sherrie Beckering’s daughter, Cassandra Marie Shepard, also lived in the Kearns home and was Harms’ legal guardian. While Shepard has been charged with murder in the case, prosecutors said Shepard and the Beckerings "took shifts" watching over Harms and all contributed to her demise in some way.

"Without that constant supervision, it would have never gotten to this point," prosecutor Chad Platt said.

Full Article and Source:
Couple to Stand Trial in Disabled Woman's Death

See Also:
Legal Guardian Charged With Murder

Disgraced Georgia Attorney Working on Possible Plea

A local attorney accused of forging legal documents and practicing law without a license has been in talks with prosecutors in Columbus and Phenix City about a possible plea agreement on charges of theft and forgery, and has begun paying restitution to the clients he deceived, his defense lawyer said Friday.

Elliott J. Vogt, 33, faces new charges in connection with his fraudulent practice in Phenix City, including accusations he forged the signature of a probate judge on an order for an estate. He was indicted recently on four counts in Russell County, Assistant District Attorney Buster Landreau said.

The indictments marked the latest salvo in an unusual case in which Vogt allegedly established a phony partnership and took elaborate measures to fool his clients about the status of their cases. The Georgia Supreme Court disbarred Vogt this week, citing a 2009 case in which he “invented hearing dates” and provided a forged order to a client in a legitimation case involving custody. A 2003 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, Vogt also was disbarred in Alabama last year.

Defense attorney Neal J. Callahan said Friday that Vogt already has made about $25,000 in restitution to his clients.

“I would say that, under the circumstances, he’s trying to get his life back together and trying to come to grips with the new realities that he’s facing,” Callahan said.

Full Article and Source:
Disgraced Attorney Elliott J. Vogt Working on Possible Plea Deal