Saturday, August 27, 2011

Victims of "Cash for Kids" React to Ciavarella's Sentence

CNN: Judge Sentenced in 'Kids-for-Cash'

See Also:

YouTube: Sandy Fonzo Berates Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella for Killing Her Son Via Payola

Man Charged With Exploiting 99 Year-Old Woman

Depaulis "Anita" Seidel shared her home with a man who took care of the yard and day-to-day chores for years.

Now Joseph "Pino" Cirillo is charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the 99-year-old woman he befriended, using the money for his own gain – and an orange 2007 Lamborghini.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said the man known as a diamond salesman transferred almost $600,000 from her accounts into his own.

Cirillo is charged with one felony count of exploitation of the elderly and detectives are still investigating.

The agency appointed as Seidel's guardian also is still working on the case, searching for the 99-year-old woman's money.

"A little over a million – we're looking to try and trace where that went," said Anne Ridings, director of guardianship at Lutheran Services in Sarasota.

Ridings said Seidel was moved to a nursing home for her safety and that she is not aware of what has transpired.

Full Article and Source:
Man Charged With Exploiting 99-Year-Old Woman

See Also:
Florida Caregiver Charged With Exploitation of the Elderly

Friday, August 26, 2011

North Shore "Live" - Cooper's Corner: Elder Abuse in the Hospital, Part 1

Bev's guest is Janet Bedin and her attorney Tony Romanucci. Ms. Bedin brought her 86-year-old mother into Northwestern Hospital because she had a hernia in her abdomen. She was tested, released and told to go home until she had symptoms of pain. Ms. Bedin kept taking her mother back because she was losing weight and almost six months later, the internist checked her CAT scan to find Pancreatic Cancer that should have been diagnosed and treated immediately. Ms. Bedin readmitted her into Northwestern and by this time, her mother lost forty pounds, was horribly sick, weak and Northwestern wanted her discharged. Insisting that her mother get proper medical attention, Ms. Bedin refused. The hospital threatened to revoke her Power of Attorney and take custody of her mother through guardianship.

North Shore "Live" - Cooper's Corner: Elder Abuse in the Hospital

Note: Northshore "Live" Cooper's Corner Host Bev Cooper has dedicated these programs to those who are victims of Cook County Probate Court. Live broadcasts are aired in Highland Park on channel 19 Wednesday at 7:30 PM.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Senator Blumenthal's First Field Hearing as Senator

Sen. Richard Blumenthal's first U.S. Senate hearing in Hartford dramatically tackled the multi-bilion-dollar problem of financial elder abuse, drawing audible gasps Tuesday as a 90-year-old decorated World War II veteran described being turned out of his own home by a son.

"I come to you to testify as a proud survivor," said the witness, Robert Matava of Unionville.

Matava said all the hardships in his life didn't prepare him for a betrayal of trust. He served in World War II, received a Purple Heart after suffering a paralyzing gunshot wound to his back, lost his younger brother in the Battle of Iwo Jima, his wife to cancer and battled the disease himself.

He returned from war in the South Pacific and opened his own automotive repair business in 1948. He built a home with his wife, where they raised four children. As the years went by and his wife passed away, Matava said he wanted to move to Florida. He entrusted his son with his business and his estate.

"In all my 90 years I couldn't predict the abuse I'd suffer at the hands of my own son," said Matava, who was accompanied at the hearing by his other three children.

In 2010, he said he returned to Unionville, a village in Farmington, to spend his remaining years in the home he built with his wife.

"My son refused to let me in," he said. "He said I better get a lawyer or pay him if I wanted to stay in the home that I built with my own two hands and raised him in."

"I felt washed up," he added. "I had trusted my children as any father would."

Blumenthal, a member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, called the financial elder abuse Matava suffered and other forms of elder abuse "the crime of the 21st century."

"The lack of awareness is an enemy here," Blumenthal said. "These cases are often ignored and disregarded."

He said he plans to push for the creation of an Office of Elder Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice and enhanced penalties for cases of elder abuse.

Sandra Timmermann, vice president and director for the MetLife Mature Market Institute, presented data from a study the company conducted with Virginia Tech, the University of Kentucky and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, analyzing news articles detailing elder abuse from April to June 2010.

The financial losses attributed to abuse are staggering.

Of 389 unduplicated articles, 81 percent reported instances of financial elder abuse. In that 3-month period, the study calculated approximately $530,476,743 in losses due to elder financial abuse. Based on an estimate including unreported losses, MetLife calculated the annual financial loss to abused seniors in 2010 at $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from 2008.

"Financial advisors need to think about the ethical issues involved here and we strongly advise them to report any incidents," Timmermann said.

"The Older Americans Act is a critical component in helping at risk seniors remain independent and healthy," Greenlee said.

Full Article and Source:
Blumenthal's First Field Hearing as Senator Tackles Elder Abuse

MN: State Law Has Huge Gap in Punishing Elder Neglect

For years, prosecutors and advocates for the elderly have tried to provide vulnerable adults legal protection similar to children in Minnesota. But those efforts have been opposed by some influential health care providers and lawmakers concerned that workers or family caregivers would be unfairly punished.

Iris Freeman, associate director at the Center for Elder Justice and Policy at William Mitchell College of Law, said it's difficult to find common ground on the issue. But she said it's important to provide justice "for vulnerable adults that have been victimized by this kind of very serious neglect."

The Star Tribune reviewed about 50 cases filed statewide since 2004 in which someone was convicted of misdemeanor charges for neglecting a vulnerable adult. In six cases, the victim died. Other victims were locked in hot cars while their caregivers went shopping or they ended up in the hospital because of maltreatment. Last year, doctors had to amputate the leg of a disabled man after his mother failed to get him treatment for a badly infected foot.

"We're missing crime here," said Amy Sweasy, an assistant Hennepin County attorney who specializes in elder rights cases. "There's conduct that's worse than misdemeanor conduct that we don't have the statute to use."

Some opponents fear a tougher law would create criminals out of well-intentioned workers in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other regulated settings.

"Our members, they would not have any problem if you exempted people that work in facilities and applied it out in the community, where people are much more at risk where you don't have the kinds of checks and balances and eyes and ears," said Darrell Shreve, vice president of health policy with Aging Services of Minnesota, a trade group that represents nursing homes and other senior housing providers.

Shreve noted that doctors and other caregivers who make mistakes are already subject to punishment, both by regulators and the civil courts.

"If a physician commits malpractice you don't put the doc in jail. They get sued," Shreve said. "Why would this be any different?"

Full Article and Source:
State Law Has Huge Gap in Punishing Elder Neglect

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In That Cold Room of Isolation: The Case of Gary Harvey

Sara Harvey is the Horseheads, NY woman who is desperately fighting to get her husband Gary home.

Gary fell down the basement steps at his home in January 2006 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Since the accident, he has been in either a nursing home or the hospital. Being under the authority of Chemung County, NY, who was involved in a so-called ethics committee decision to petition to starve & dehydrate him to death, Gary has been basically isolated and allowed only restricted (and very limited) visitation from his wife and friends.

Sara wants her husband to receive a second opinion — an independent second opinion — and for Gary to have every chance possible to recover to whatever level he is able. She has, after all, repeatedly seen him be meaningfully responsive in his interactions with her and others. But those in control of Gary refuse to acknowledge this fact while at the same time refusing to allow him to receive an outside second opinion at a leading-edge brain injury hospital with much-higher-level experts. This is despite the fact that it appears over one million dollars has been spent in the past year on supposed healthcare for Gary that has not included any significant rehabilitative therapies. Sara Harvey believes that with physical therapy and a healthy dose of interaction with people that Gary knows that his quality of life will have a chance to improve drastically. She is prepared to give him that chance. She is prepared to bring him home where he would want to be.

The following is what I imagine Sara might be thinking.

* * *

Darkness threatens to fill the room, but light from the computer screen refuses to submit and flickers in a defiance surprisingly pronounced. I look at it in wonder, as the sounds begin to touch the night. The lonely night. The night where the only whispers I hear are my own.

The grandfather clock ticks away in earnest, moving towards… ever towards… the chime that will announce still another hour passed without Gary home and by my side. Another hour. Another day. Another night in aloneness and worry. How might I stand even another moment? None of this can be real. This isn’t what life is supposed to be like. This isn’t what life with Gary promised to be. What happened to that promise? What happened to Gary? What happened that night when our life together was stolen?

Memories come racing forth. I try to shove them back. I try to close my ears and my eyes and my heart. I try. I try so very hard, but all I can hear is Gary’s laughter brushing against the moment, as his breath brushes my cheek and that smile, that wondrous smile, and the twinkling of his eyes fills my thoughts. I reach out to touch his face… but my fingers touch nothing but the cold night air. They touch nothing but emptiness as his features fade into a reality that I wish not to be mine or his. How dare this all be. I shan’t allow it. I won’t. I simply won’t.

My refusal falls to deaf ears and is mocked by a fate that has no mercy for Gary or for me.

I look down the hall. The hall to where I might suppose Gary to be, if I didn’t know he was alone and isolated in the dark room so far away.

I whisper into the night, “Why?”

There is no answer.

The clock chimes with a sadness I had never noticed before.

I walk down the hall to see if by chance this has all been a nightmare, but the stairs grab me and hold my attention with a force beyond any I have ever known. This is where the nightmare began. This is where my world dissolved and Gary was taken from me and I from him. How can it be here so still, yet full of an energy so powerful it threatens to pull me into a crippling despair of taunts with the suggestion of failure determined to embrace me.

No! No! I shan’t allow the despair or the devastating fear to over-power me. I shan’t. I won’t.

I hear the little feet rushing to the bedroom and I follow the sounds of my memory.

On Gary’s pillow, I can see her sitting so proudly because she beat him to the bedroom. A soft smell of musk touches my senses and I hear Gary’s laughter as he says, “Tippy Queen of the Cats, you have done it again. You rule, your highness.”

The laughter. The happiness. The soft smell that floated around Gary presence, where did it go? Will it ever be again?

Suddenly, I can only see Gary alone in that cold room of isolation. The room where stillness devours and no loving touch is given. A room where he lays and waits and wonders, as people without compassion threatened to kill him or allow him to die, if given just that one chance to make it be. Why? Why would they want him dead? Why no second opinions allowed that might free him to a better life and can do no harm? Why? Has he perhaps become property of ransom — held hostage for insurance? When did he stop being a man with hopes and dreams and things to do tomorrow and become a room number with a DNR in place and a price tag on his life?

I can only imagine the desperation he must feel and the panic that embraces his conscious thoughts all too often.

I can only imagine, but that is enough.

My smile is not replaced by the tears I so often shed. Instead, I feel the purpose build within my heart and soul and I return to the computer with a vengeance undescribed. I return to the letters and the searches and the hope that something… someone… out there shall be the answer to bringing Gary home. Home to a place where he shall never feel isolated or lonely or unloved again.

Yes, there is something or someone out there that can bring my Gary home, if only they will.

And Gary will always know that we don’t want him to die!

In our arms he is loved!

In That Cold Room of Isolation: The Case of Gary Harvey

See Also:
Sara! Sara, Come Back! Don't Leave me Here!

JOIN Rescue Gary Harvey on Facebook


PA September Protests to “Out” Local Abusers

For immediate release

Pittsburgh, PA – August 16, 2011 – Well-known local activist Mike Ference will stage a series of protests beginning September 11, the 10th anniversary of 911 and targeting local institutions and individuals associated with the abuse of children and young adults.

“For two decades I have called on certain institutions and individuals to come forward and take responsibility for their roles — active or passive — in child sex abuse,” Ference explains. “This is the last call — if they don’t do the right thing in the next couple weeks, then I will ‘out’ them at a series of protests where I will publicize incriminating details from my 22-year investigation of such cases. Abusers who have harmed children and individuals who knowingly covered up the crimes will be named — I want everyone in our community to know who the bad guys are.”

Ference began his investigation in 1989 after his son was shot on a school bus by a boy who then committed suicide. Although grateful that his son survived, Ference was disturbed that an investigation into the shooting was quashed or botched at every turn. Agreeing that the case had been prematurely closed by the McKeesport police, William Scully, then Public Safety Director in Clairton, gave Ference notes on the case and encouraged him to continue investigating on his own. A central starting point was the possibility that the shooter had been sexually abused by a local Catholic priest.

Ference’s initial investigation has inspired a lifetime of activism against child sexual abuse and cover-ups. He has written extensively on the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic church, amd has consistently emphasized that such abuse can’t happen without a lot of other community stakeholders “looking the other way.”

The first protest is scheduled for noon, September 9, on the steps of St. Paul ’s Cathedral in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Ference believes that Oakland , Shadyside and the surrounding areas have been prominent spots for Pittsburgh Catholic clergy to abuse children and teenagers.

Additional protests are in the planning stage. Ference says UPMC Hospital in Oakland is a likely site because of its handling of a clerical abuse case involving Greg Witkowski. He is also considering the police departments and municipal buildings of McKeesport , Clairton, and West Mifflin , which were all central in his initial investigation. District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were also mentioned as stakeholders who have been more interested in protecting the church hierarchy than punishing abusers and defending children.

For more information on the September 11 protest or other upcoming events, call Mike Ference at 412-233-5491, or email

Abuse Alleged Again

For the second time in less than three weeks, a Highlands County resident has been charged with abusing an elderly or disabled person.

Susan Morales was charged with four counts of abuse, court documents show. The charges are third-degree felonies.

Morales, 51, of Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Sebring is accused of hurting a man four times from April 1 to May 24 at the Cluster of Avon Park, "a care facility for physically and mentally disabled adults who require around-the-clock care."

That's according to a warrant signed by Assistant State Attorney Christine Pletcher and a warrant affidavit from Detective Robert Livesay of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office Special Victims Unit.

The Cluster website describes the facility as serving those "with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation and developmental disabilities)" and emphasizing "community integration and choice while recognizing the specialized and often complex needs of the individuals we serve."

Morales' arrest came 17 days after sheriff's investigators arrested 53-year-old Rebekah Marie Ramsey on July 27.

Ramsey is charged with six counts of domestic violence-related abuse of an elderly or disabled adult without great harm and one count of domestic violence-related neglect of an elderly or disabled adult without great harm.

She is accused of abusing an elderly woman who police said reeked of urine and was locked in her bedroom for three days.

Full Article and Source:
Abuse Again Alleged

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Probate Sharks: Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Rampant in Cook County Probate Court

Many of our readers have requested additional information about OBRA Special Needs Pooled Trusts.

In Cook County, many wards' estates, valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, are placed into OBRA Supplemental Needs Pooled Trusts.

Supposedly, this is being done for the benefit of the ward as it allows the ward to qualify for Medicaid, thus saving the funds for the special needs of the ward.

However, in reality, the ones benefitting from these trusts are the attorneys and guardians. Once a ward's estate is placed into the trust, they can no longer (by law) reside in private pay nursing homes, and are thus moved into public aid facilities.

And, instead of using the funds placed into the OBRA for the special needs of the wards that aren't being met in the public aid nursing homes, the funds are being used primarily to pay attorneys and legal fees until the estate is depleted.

Full Article and Source:

Disturbing Case of Elder Abuse Leads to Death

Recent developments in a disturbing case of elder abuse that led to death have focused particular scrutiny on the perpetrators not only because of the grisly details of the case, but also because the two caregivers had been approved by the state as adult caretakers for the 90-year old victim.

The two caregivers were the victim’s grandson and daughter. The two are charged with elder abuse and neglect for allegedly leaving the senior unattended for weeks. A paramedic found Gray lying in her own feces. She also had grade 4 bed sores and was surrounded by flies.

According to two recent articles in the Kern Valley Sun, four different agencies investigated the adequacy of the victim’s care for several weeks in February 2011. A representative from Aging and Adult Services (AAS) ultimately concluded that she had been being neglected. Although the 90-year old was taken from her caregiver’s custody, she subsequently passed away.

Both of the abuser had applied to the woman’s primary caretakers in 1999 and were designated as In House Supportive Services (IHSS) providers. The IHSS program is overseen by the Adult Programs Division of the state’s Department of Social Services. In order to become an IHSS primary caretaker, McCoy and Green had to undergo an extensive criminal background check. They also had to agree to report any suspected abuse, injury, neglect, or potential hazards to a social worker assigned to the victim.

What is not clear, however, is how frequently the caregivers were reviewed in the twelve years following their initial approval to be caretakers. For example, at the time of the various agency investigations, one of the criminals was facing several pending criminal charges, including spousal abuse.

Full Article and Source:
Disturbing Case of Elder Abuse Leads to Death

Monday, August 22, 2011

Detective/Author Joe Roubicek to be Keynote Speaker at Law Conference

Friday, August 26,2011

Where: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort
715 West Lionshead Circle
Vail CO 81657

In a sentence, Florida’s exploitation law (FSS 825.103) states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation. That’s the essence of the law.

But there is also an important requirement: Within this law, an “elderly person” is defined as someone 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging to the extent that their ability to adequately care for and protect themselves is impaired. The law states that the elderly person must suffer a physical or mental infirmity. Therefore, exploitation is based primarily on infirmities or disabilities and not deception.

This is why exploitation is not fraud and why it can be much more devastating and offensive.

Third Annual Elder Law Retreat
Financial Abuse of the Elderly

MT: Uniform Power of Attorney Act Will Protect Vulnerable

Did you know a national survey conducted in 2010 by Elder Investor Fraud found that one out of every five people over the age of 65 has been the victim of financial swindle?

Many elderly use a legal document called a power of attorney (POA) to appoint a trusted individual to manage their personal affairs. The process is inexpensive and the forms can easily be obtained from the Internet or a local library. The elderly rely on loved ones or close friends acting under a POA to assist them with complex financial affairs. Sometimes, however, these trusted individuals are misdirecting or stealing the assets of the person they pledged to help.

During Montana’s last legislative session, Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, introduced the “Uniform Power of Attorney Act” and it passed both houses — 100 percent unopposed. This bill was supported by all of our local legislators, as well as AARP, the state auditor’s office, the Montana Bankers Association, Montana Independent Bankers, Montana Credit Unions, the Montana Health Care Association, the Montana Hospital Association and Disability Rights Montana.

Effective Oct. 1, Montana’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act is designed to provide important protection and safeguards for the elderly and others who grant powers of attorney. It also provides clarity for the financial institutions and others who rely on the POA. More importantly, the POA Act provides remedies and sanctions against those who would abuse that authority.

For those who need or will soon require a power of attorney, you are encouraged to use the form that was developed and incorporated into the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. The new forms will be available on or before Oct. 1.

Full Article and Source:
Power of Attorney Law Will Protect Vulnerable

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fmr. Judge Michael T. Toole Barred From the Bench

The state Court of Judicial Discipline has formally removed former Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Toole, who is serving a prison term on federal tax and corruption charges, from the bench and barred him from ever holding judicial office again.

The court's action, issued in an order last month, is a formality as Toole resigned from the bench after entering a guilty plea in December 2009. The state Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of ethics violations by judges, filed a complaint with the discipline court in April following Toole's sentencing.

It could not be determined if the board will follow a similar course in the case of former county judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., who was sentenced to 28 years in prison on racketeering and other charges last week.

Toole, 51, pleaded guilty to accepting free use of a vacation home from an attorney who won favorable treatment in his court and failing to report a finder's fee from another attorney on his tax returns.

He is serving a 2½-year sentence in a federal prison in Minnesota. His estimated release date, with time off for good behavior, is July 6, 2013.

Full Article and Source:
Toole Barred From Bench

CT: Conservators Can Pursue Divorces on Behalf of Wards

Perhaps no other lawsuit is as deeply personal to the parties as a dissolution of marriage. What happens, then, when one party lacks the capacity to independently pursue legal action? How can that person avail himself or herself of a divorce?

The Connecticut Appellate Court recently answered that question in the case of Luster v. Luster, 128 Conn.App. 259 (2011). In Luster, the Appellate Court held that involuntary conservators of a party could bring a divorce action on behalf of their incompetent ward.

Mr. Luster had been found by the Probate Court to suffer from senile dementia and to be incapable of caring for himself. His children were appointed as permanent conservators of his person and estate. Mr. Luster did not voluntarily consent to this representation.

Mrs. Luster filed for legal separation, and Mr. Luster’s conservators responded with a cross-complaint for divorce, which they subsequently sought to amend to include a charge of intolerable cruelty. This cross-complaint effectively converted the action from one for legal separation to a dissolution of marriage. Also, the cross-complaint gave Mr. Luster an independent right to continue the court action; without it, Mrs. Luster could have brought the matter to a conclusion simply by withdrawing her complaint.

Mrs. Luster’s counsel challenged the ability of the conservators to file such a cross-complaint on his behalf. Mrs. Luster’s position was that for conservators to do so exceeded their statutory authority. She also raised a public policy concern that to allow conservators this authority would enable them to dissolve another person’s marriage for their own financial gain or personal animosity. These challenges had prevailed at the trial level. The trial judge granted a motion to dismiss the conservators’ cross-complaint on behalf of their ward.

The Appellate Court found that Mr. Luster’s conservators were not prohibited from helming Mr. Luster’s divorce proceedings. The Appellate Court dutifully examined the role of conservators and their statutory authority. Ultimately the judges were guided by another principle: a person’s right of access to the courts. It has long been a holding of the Connecticut courts that even one who was “insane” or otherwise “incompetent” retains “a legal capacity to sue or be sued.” Ridgeway v. Ridgeway, 180 Conn. 533, 539 (1980).

Of course, those who are not competent may have a guardian ad litem appointed for them in the case. If the person has been formally adjudicated incompetent, a representative for court becomes required. Conserved persons cannot bring an action in their own right, but must depend on their conservators to do so. The Appellate Court ultimately considered that a conservator’s authority and responsibility to protect the interests of the ward, and the general history of conservators bringing suit on behalf of their wards, required that the trial judgment be reversed and that the cross-complaint filed by Mr. Luster’s conservators should stand.

Protecting Dignity
Judge David M. Borden’s concurrence with the majority opinion in Luster brings out a stirring point. Mrs. Luster’s public policy concern, although overruled, holds some weight: there are certainly conservators who would exploit the position for their own gain, without proper regard to their wards’ interests. But a conserved person would have legal recourse against his or her conservators if necessary.

On the other hand, Judge Borden reasoned, what if the conserved person is the victim of their spouse’s bad behavior? (Note the charge of intolerable cruelty added in Luster.) If an incompetent spouse cannot pursue divorce through a conservator, that spouse becomes deprived of access to the court system for relief and is trapped in an abusive relationship with no way out.

Full Article and Source:
Conservators Can Pursue Divorces on Behalf of Wards