Saturday, September 24, 2011

Britney Spears' Conservatorship Attorneys Seeking $900K in Fees

They want to get paid...

The lawyers who set up Britney Spears' conservatorship want a judge to approve $900,000 in legal fees.

Britney's father Jamie was made her conservator in 2008 after Spears had mental health hospitalizations.

Andrew Wallet, co-conservator, wants $314,000. Jamie Spears' attorneys want $238,000. The law firm of Bud, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessum, Drooks & Luncenberg want $186,000 and two other law firms want $125,000.

Jamie also wants to court to continue to give him $16,000 for his work as her conservator. A hearing has been set for November 16.

Britney Spears Conservatorship Attorneys Seeking $900,000 in Fees

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Alaskan Conservator Breached Fiduciary Duties

In Foster v. Professional Guardian Services Corporation, the Alaska Supreme Court determined that a court-appointed conservator breached its fiduciary duties through a number of acts and a failure to timely act. Even though the conservator prevailed on a majority of the claims brought against it, and thus prevailed in the “global” scheme of the litigation, the Alaska Supreme Court determined that the conservator could not have its attorney’s fees paid from the ward’s estate for those claims on which it lost.

In reaching its decision, the Alaska Supreme Court suggested that there is no such thing as a de minimis breach of fiduciary duty.The facts and procedural history of this case are long and convoluted (but also a very familiar factual scenario worth reading), but the bottom line is that Professional Guardian Services Corporation was the court-appointed conservator of Ann Davis. Professional Guardian Services Corporation either breached or may have breached its fiduciary duties by:

• Failing to conduct an adequate inventory of the ward’s property. The conservator prepared an inventory of the ward’s property, but did not list anything in the inventory worth less than $400. The conservator contended that National Guardianship Association Standards require an inventory only of items valued over $400. There was nothing in the applicable Alaskan statute, however, that relieves a conservator from listing items worth less than $400 in an inventory and, thus, the inventory was inadequate. While, viewed in isolation, the inadequate inventory may have been harmless, combined with the next point, the issue was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.
• Use of paid storage. The conservator paid storage fees to store certain of the ward’s items contending that valuable items in the house required preservation. Again, in isolation, payment of the storage fees may have been permissible, but given the conservator’s contention that there was really nothing of value to inventory, payment of storage fees for valuable items appeared inconsistent with the conservator’s inventory argument. Therefore, the trial court was ordered to clarify this inconsistency on remand.
• Missing pension payments. The federal government thought the ward died before she actually did. As a result, 13 monthly pension payments were not sent to the conservatorship but were paid out directly to the beneficiaries of the pension plan. The trial court found that the conservator had not corrected the issue in a timely manner, resulting in a loss to the conservatorship estate.

The trial court sympathized with the conservator and accused the plaintiff of engaging in wide-ranging, often unclear litigation against the conservator. The court tallied the “small” issues on which the plaintiff prevailed and concluded that the conservator overwhelmingly prevailed on the global attack against it and, therefore, could charge the entirety of its attorney’s fees to the ward’s estate.

Not so fast, held the Alaska Supreme Court. The conservator did actually breach its fiduciary duties here – no matter how small or insignificant the damage to the ward’s estate. It would be unreasonable to reimburse the conservator from the estate for its attorney’s fees spent defending the breaches of fiduciary duty.

Full Article and Source:
Alaskan Conservator Breached Fiduciary Duties

Friday, September 23, 2011

Probate Sharks - OBRA Special Needs Pooled Trusts: Permissable Distributions and Federal Regulations

Many of our readers have asked us for more information about OBRA trusts. OBRA trusts were originally created for disabled people with long-term needs, so they could move into public aid facilities and have funds left for their special needs. An appropriate situation would be for a disabled child who received a malpractice award meant to cover long-term needs. In order to prevent the child's funds from being quickly drained by nursing home costs, OBRAs were created to allow the disabled child to be placed into a public aid facility, and have their estate available throughout their life for those things not provided by public aid. Once the OBRA is created though, private pay facilities are no longer an option for the child, in accordance with OBRA laws.

In the Cook County Probate Courts, these OBRA trusts are being abused. The elderly disabled are having their substantial estates (their hard-earned life-long savings) placed into OBRAs. Wards who lived at home or in beautiful private pay facilities prior to their guardianships have their funds placed into OBRAs (despite having enough funds to enjoy their private pay facilities for the rest of their lives), and are moved to less desirable public aid facilities (at the cost of the taxpayer). The wards' estates are then VERY quickly depleted by the guardians, GALs, and attorneys.

Although the OBRA laws were created for the purpose of providing for a high quality life for the ward while on public aid, this is not occurring. Over 65% of the Public Guardian's elderly wards' estates are placed into OBRA accounts, and these substantial estates are rapidly depleted by the guardians and attorneys, with the approval of certain judges, rather than being spent on the wards special needs.

[See for] a comprehensive list of what is allowed by law to be paid from OBRA trusts, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE WARD; also included are our comments to show what is actually occurring to wards on the 18th floor of the Daley center. These examples are substantiated with public court records. Case numbers will be provided to investigators upon request.

This abuse must be exposed for what it is: Financial exploitation of the elderly disabled and medicaid fraud and abuse on the part of some of the judges, guardians, GALs, and attorneys in the Cook County Probate Courts.

Your ProbateSharks Team of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Whistleblowers


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

Former New Jersey Attorney Indicted

A former Northfield attorney was indicted Tuesday in the theft of more than $220,000, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said in a news release.

Gary Levin, 61, of Egg Harbor Township, was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition after he allegedly misappropriated $220,149 from his attorney's trust account between Aug. 1, 2008, and Oct. 12, 2010.

The money "represented settlement proceeds belonging to nine different clients," the news release says.

Levin, who has been a lawyer in New Jersey since 1999, was suspended by the state Supreme Court in September 2010 and permanently disbarred a month later.

If convicted, Levin faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines, First Assistant Prosecutor Jim McClain said in a news release.

Full Article and Source:
Former Northfield Attorney Indicted in Theft of Clients' Settlement Funds

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Danny Tate Battles for His Estate Taken Under the Guise of "Protection"

Nashville songwriter Danny Tate won back control of his life and finances last year — or what was left of them.

Now Tate is petitioning a Tennessee appeals court for the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees that were paid out of his bank account during the drawn-out court battle over whether Tate was legally competent to control his own finances.

Stripped of his legal rights by a court that ruled that his use of crack cocaine had left him incapable of managing the $600,000 in his account, Tate battled the ruling for almost three years.

In May 2010, he was found competent and the conservatorship of his estate was lifted. But by then, there wasn’t much of an estate left. The money he once had in the bank was all but gone, his credit rating was in tatters and the 2010 Nashville flood had swamped his home.

“If every musician who’s ever struggled with drugs needed a conservatorship, you’d have to lock up 70 percent of Music Row,” Tate said.

“Once they clean you out, you have no ability to seek legal recourse.”

A quirk in Tennessee conservatorship laws meant attorneys on both sides of the case drew on Tate’s estate to pay their legal fees. Attorney Michael Hoskins, who represents Tate, said he is asking the appellate court for at least $176,000 in reimbursement for legal fees, although that figure could rise.

Tate estimates his estate could be billed another $250,000 to $300,000 in outstanding legal fees. The appeals court ruling could come any time in the next six to 18 months, Hoskins said.

Full Article and Source:
Nashville Musician Danny Tate Pursues Funds Lost in Court

Assisted Living Center Closes Due to Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Elder abuse has many faces and can be subtle enough that it remains undetected for long periods of time. In Carson City, NV the state has closed down a Las Vegas assisted living center after accusations that it’s elderly residents were physically abused and had their money stolen from them.

The Las Vegas Sweet Home representative had no comment on the findings. The residents of the assisted living center were removed and placed in other facilities after the Bureau of Health Care Compliance suspended the license of the nursing home. The investigation against the Las Vegas Sweet Home uncovered that Social Security checks and other funds were allegedly being deposited into the personal accounts of caregivers. The investigation also found out that the caregivers were taking more money than necessary for grocery shopping and pocketing the difference. There was once incident where a female elderly resident had a shouting match with a manager and then he dragged by her ankles kicking and screaming down the hall. The woman was removed from the home immediately and the Metro Police investigated the alleged physical abuse. According to reports the assisted living center had been investigated and fined in multiple cases in the recent years. The state concluded that the residents were not safe as a result of chronic and repeated non-compliance with regulations and issued a suspension against the facility.

Unfortunately in this case, it took multiple complaints to be filed for this investigation to take place and for state officials to finally close it down.

Full Article and Source:
Assisted Living Center Closes Due to Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Marti Oakley and Sara Harvey Guest on 'The Jeff Rense Program'

Marti Oakley ('The Truth Squad') and Sara Harvey were Jeff Rense's special guests 9/15/11, on an hour long program dedicated to guardianship abuse.
Listen to the program

JOIN "Rescue Gary Harvey" on Facebook

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Home Care Provider to Pay $150 Mil in Fraud Settlement

A national home health care provider has agreed to pay $150 million to settle allegations that it fraudulently billed Medicaid and other government programs for services that weren’t provided.

The agreement comes in a deal between Maxim Healthcare Services and the federal government in addition to more than 40 states.

Government officials had alleged that Maxim — which provides home health services to people with disabilities and other health needs — ran a “nationwide scheme” to bilk federal benefits programs out of over $61 million between 2003 and 2009.

The wrongdoing was first uncovered by Richard West, a New Jersey resident who noticed that Maxim had billed Medicaid for services he never received.

“This type of fraud uses patients as pawns in a game of corporate greed that puts cash over care, running up the bills on the very people our public health care programs are supposed to benefit,” said Tony West, assistant attorney general of the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

“We take full responsibility for these events… and we are pleased to reach a settlement that will allow us to move forward with the important work of caring for our patients and clients who depend on us each and every day,” Maxim CEO Brad Bennett said in a statement.

In addition to the payments Maxim has agreed to make — which will be divided between the federal government and states — nine individuals including eight former Maxim employees have already pleaded guilty to felony charges related to the fraud allegations.

Full Article and Source:
Home Care Provider to Pay $150 Million in Fraud Settlement

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Senate Subcommitee Hearing on Guardianship This Thursday!

“Protecting Seniors and Persons with Disabilities - An Examination of Court - Appointed Guardians”

Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts
DATE: September 22, 2011
TIME: 02:30 PM
ROOM: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts entitled “Protecting Seniors and Persons with Disabilities – An Examination of Court - Appointed Guardians” for Thursday, September 22, 2011, at 2:30 p.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Chairman Klobuchar to preside.

Witness List:
Kay Brown
Director, Education Workforce and Income Security
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC

Naomi Karp
Strategic Policy Advisor
AARP Public Policy Institute
Washington, DC

Robert Baldwin
Executive Vice President and General Counsel
National Center for State Courts
Williamsburg, VA

Michelle Hollister
Managing Partner
Solkoff Legal, P.A.
Delray Beach, FL

Hearings and Meetings

Note: This hearing will be webcast - click the Source link to view!

No Guardian Appointed in Mehta-Paul Case

Lake Circuit Judge George Paras Thursday denied requests from the sons of missing Munster ophthalmologist Promila Mehta-Paul to appoint John Argus and his Munster-based American Management Systems International as legal guardian of her estate.

Paras’ decision surprised attorneys representing the sons, one of whom has been implicated by Munster police in her disappearance.

Mehta-Paul was reported missing in March and last week Munster police named her eldest son, Paresh Paul, 38, who also goes by the name Paul Fontaine and several other aliases, as a “person of interest” in her disappearance. Paresh Paul has not been named as a suspect, arrested or charged in the case. Munster Police Chief Stephen Scheckel said he believes Mehta-Paul is dead.

On Wednesday Rybicki confirmed all three brothers consented to hire American Management as guardian, avoiding a costly fraternal legal battle. But none of the Paul sons showed for the hearing and Paras questioned whether American Management had any legal standing.

Rybicki and Merrillville lawyer Geoffrey Giorgi, who represents American Management, said their clients chose Argus’ company. But Paras remained unconvinced, noting that this was no ordinary guardianship hearing and that a missing person was involved. Because of “the uniqueness of the situation,” Paras denied the petition to appoint American Management. However, Rybicki and Giorgi persuaded him not to appoint another guardian until they could discuss it with their clients.

Paras set the next Mehta-Paul guardianship hearing for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 27 and said he hoped all interested parties would attend.

Full Article and Source:
No Guardian Appointed in Mehta-Paul Case

Guardian Dispute Resolved

The three sons of missing Munster ophthalmologist Promila Mehta-Paul vying to be named legal guardians have resolved their dispute and agreed to a third party guardian.

Lake County Circuit Court Judge George Paras will hear the sons’ pleadings at 1 p.m. today in Crown Point. On March 24 Dr. Mehta-Paul, vanished along with her gold Toyota Rav4 and has not been seen since.

Guardianship is a legal proceeding in which someone is named responsible to the court to handle personal, medical or financial matters for someone.

In July Mehta-Paul’s oldest son, Paresh Paul, 38, under the name Paul Fontaine filed for legal permission to become the executor of his mother’s guardianship estate. Last week Munster police said they now believe Mehta-Paul is dead and named Paresh Paul as a “person of interest” in her disappearance. However, police officials have not named him as a suspect or charged him, though Police Chief Stephen Scheckel said police believe Paresh Paul was involved in his mother’s disappearance.

At the request of Mehta-Paul’s younger brothers, John D. Argus and his Munster-based company, American Management Systems International filed a petition Sept. 13 to be appointed legal guardian of Mehta-Paul’s estate, which includes her Highland eye specialty practice and her Munster home in the Twin Creek neighborhood. That set the stage for a public family battle, which apparently has now been averted.

Full Article and Source:
Munster Firm Named Guardian of Missing Eye Doc's Estate

Note: Our feature story today indicates a guardian has not been assigned in this case.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New "Guardianship Fraud Hotline" in Palm Beach Co, FL.

More than 2,500 Palm Beach County children, elderly and disabled residents who depend on a court-appointed guardian to manage their finances may now have additional protection against fraud or misuse of their money.

The county's Clerk of Courts Monday launched the Guardianship Fraud Hotline, where anyone who suspects a guardian is stealing money, misusing assets or overcharging a ward can report it to county officials.

In addition to the hotline, the Clerk of Courts has beefed up its guardianship audits since February, when clerk Sharon Bock hired an auditor to solely look at potential fraud and misuse by guardians. Six additional auditors have also been trained to closely examine guardianship complaints .

"As the economy became more and more of a problem, it became clear that the people who are really very vulnerable were potentially going to fall victim to exploitation," Bock said. The hotline and additional auditors cost the court about $100,000, she said.

While U.S. Census figures point to a future increase of the senior citizen population in Palm Beach County, Bock said it was the ideal time to put in place a system that would guarantee some of the county's most needy residents would be protected.

The hotline, Bock added, will serve "a deterrent effect to the guardians who are under the court watch, so they know that in the event that something goes wrong or in the event that anyone suspects something is going wrong, they will be audited and their information will be examined."

Among the complaints typically handled by auditors include money missing from a person's account and overcharging for legal or clerical fees, said Anthony Palmieri, senior auditor for the clerk's division of the Inspector General's office.

"We are looking with a fine-toothed comb what the guardian is actually doing with the ward's assets," Bock said. "Up until this started there was nothing to turn to."

Guardians Face Audits, Hotline Complaints Under New Palm Beach County Clerk Service

Contact the Guardianship Fraud Hotline

Long-Term Florida Care Cop is Necessary

Millions of elderly Floridians in long-term care facilities deserve a robust, independent watchdog to combat and prevent abuse and neglect.

At present, they have none.

The state’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program sends volunteers to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to check on conditions and respond to complaints from residents and their families.

But a disturbing report la from the U.S. Administration on Aging charges that the program is hamstrung by political interference and by a lack of independence from the state Department of Elder Affairs — the agency it should be free to criticize.

At the center of this ongoing controversy is Gov. Rick Scott’s decision, soon after he took office in January, to fire ombudsman program leader Brian Lee, an outspoken advocate for the elderly who had antagonized the nursing home industry.

Lee’s dismissal shows the basic fault in the system. The ombudsman is supposed to have the authority to criticize the licensing rules for care facilities developed by the Department of Elder Affairs, and other activities.

But Elder Affairs also has the power to hire and fire the ombudsman.

The federal report says Elder Affairs administrators admit they do “not support the spirit” of the federal rules that are supposed to guarantee the independence of elder advocates and volunteers in the program.

That independence is critical to any ombudsman program seriously intended to deal with problems in long-term care.

Full Article and Source:
Long-Term Florida Care Cop Necessary

• Sen. Garrett Richter, District 37, 338-2777,
• Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, District 27, 850-487-5356,
• Sen. Mike Bennett, District 21, 225-3697,
• Rep. Ken Roberson, House District 71, 941-613-0914,
• Rep. Paige Kreegel, House District 72, 941-575-5820,
• Rep. Matt Caldwell, House District 73, 533-2411, e-mail
• Rep. Gary Aubuchon, House District 74, 344-4900,
• Rep. Trudi Williams, District 75, 433-6775,
• Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, District 76, 417-6200,
• Rep. Matt Hudson, District 101, 417-6270,
• Senate President Mike Haridopolos, 850-487-5056,
• House Speaker Dean Cannon, 850-488-2742,
• Gov. Rick Scott, 850-488-7146,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Editorial: Nursing Home Accusations are 'Ludicrous'

Disability Rights Iowa Executive Director Sylvia Piper’s recent letter to the Des Moines Register and open letter to Gov. Terry Branstad shows a blatant disregard for the facts and truth relating to Iowa’s nursing facilities’ quality and oversight.

The Iowa Health Care Association’s 329 member nursing facilities care for approximately 42,000 frail and elderly Iowans each year. Of those, 30 percent receive rehabilitation services (i.e. for a broken hip or knee replacement) and successfully return home after a few weeks or months. Others make the nursing facility their home in order to receive nursing care and services that they or their families are unable to provide in their own home. At any one time, 60 percent of residents are receiving dementia, end-of-life or hospice care services in their nursing facility.

Piper’s assertion that no one is watching out for our vulnerable citizens is ludicrous. The care and services provided in all Iowa licensed nursing facilities are closely regulated at both the state and federal levels. In fact, nursing facility care is among the most regulated professions in Iowa and the nation.

Full Editorial and Source:
Nursing Home Accusations are 'Ludicrous'

Arizona Home Health-Care Worker Admits Theft

A home health-care worker admitted in court Wednesday that she stole more than $63,000 over two years from a couple in their mid-90s.

Rosario Valenzuela Bravo, 56, pleaded guilty to theft/financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in Pima County Superior Court. She could be placed on probation or receive up to 8.75 years in prison.

If placed on probation, Bravo will have to serve at least six months in jail, but if she pays some restitution prior to sentencing, that could be reduced.

Bravo will also be required to pay $2,000 to the Health Care Fraud and Abuse section of the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

Bravo was indicted in July on three counts of forgery and one count each of fraud and theft/financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Bravo stole the money by forging checks and using one of the couple's credit cards without permission, Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jesse Delaney said.

Bravo often added $3,000, $4,000 and $7,000 to her weekly paycheck and then persuaded her patients to write a second check, saying she hadn't been paid yet that week.

Full Article and Source:
Tucson Health Worker Admits Stealing