Saturday, October 22, 2011

'The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act' - S1744

Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would strengthen protections for seniors against abuse and fraud through court-appointed guardians and conservators.

The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act would protect seniors and persons with disabilities from neglet and financial exploitation by improving oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators at state and federal levels.

“While the vast majority of court-appointed guardians are undoubtedly professional, well-meaning and law-abiding, there is mounting evidence that some guardians use their position of power for their own gain, at the expense of the very people they were supposed to be looking out for,” said Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who introduced the bill along with Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

The legislation would provide support to states to implement programs to increase oversight of long-term caregivers, and calls for state courts to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardianship and conservatives before making recommendations for best practices.

It would also help state courts implement an electronic filing system and a pilot program to conduct national and state criminal background checks in order to better monitor, report and audit conservatorships sand guardianships.

In 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and D.C. that had occurred in the previous 20 years. In 20 of those cases that GAO reviewed, guardians had stolen or improperly obtained $5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were older adults.

In a recent hearing on guardian abuse chaired by Klobuchar in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, the senator called for more accountability and oversight of court-appointed guardians to ensure seniors’ safety and proper care.

Senators Introduce Bill Cracking Donw on Elder Abuse

See Also:
View the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts hearing: Protecting Seniors and Persons With Disabilities - An Examination of Court-Appointed Guardians

Read the GAO report: Guardianships - Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administration and the Courts Holds Hearing on Guardianship

NASGA's "Protecting Our Citizens From Unlawful and Abusive Guardianships and Conservatorships"

NASGA's "A Review of Unlawful "Emergency" Guardianships"

NASGA's "The Fleecing of Medicaid and the Taxpayers"

Three Charged in Philly Kidnapping and Abuse of 4 Mentally Challenged Adults

Three people were charged in a horrific case of Philadelphia kidnapping involving four mentally challenged adults.

Linda Ann Weston, Thomas Gregory, and Eddie Wright are alleged to have been involved in a criminal scheme were they chained four handicapped adults to the cellar of their Tacony apartment so that they could steal their Social Security checks, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. A Philadelphia police spokesperson described the crime as "pure evil."

Last week, the landlord of the apartment building checked on the basement after receiving complaints of suspicious activities, reports the Inquirer. In the boiler room, the landlord found the four malnourished adults chained to pipes. There were bathroom buckets and a container of orange juice laying around, but no food.

All four of the victims are described as severely mentally challenged and police believe that one of the men may have been held for over a year.

As a result, Weston, Gregory, and Wright face first degree felony charges for kidnapping, as well as other charges for criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, and related offenses.

Three people were charged in a horrific case of Philadelphia kidnapping involving four mentally challenged adults.

Linda Ann Weston, Thomas Gregory, and Eddie Wright are alleged to have been involved in a criminal scheme were they chained four handicapped adults to the cellar of their Tacony apartment so that they could steal their Social Security checks, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. A Philadelphia police spokesperson described the crime as "pure evil."

Last week, the landlord of the apartment building checked on the basement after receiving complaints of suspicious activities, reports the Inquirer. In the boiler room, the landlord found the four malnourished adults chained to pipes. There were bathroom buckets and a container of orange juice laying around, but no food.

All four of the victims are described as severely mentally challenged and police believe that one of the men may have been held for over a year.

As a result, Weston, Gregory, and Wright face first degree felony charges for kidnapping, as well as other charges for criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, and related offenses.

Three Charged With Philadelphia Kidnapping and Abuse

Friday, October 21, 2011

Son Says FL Health Care Abuses Were Factors in his Mother's Death

In what he called a “letter to the world,” a Florida son painfully described systemic flaws and abuses, inflicted on his elderly mother, in the state’s health care system that have compelled him to speak out as an advocate for her.

Neil Roe, a former business law student, said his 89-year old mother, Arlene English, was a victim of the system who was denied basic human rights which he can no longer be silent about.

English had several documents drawn up in 2002 — including a will, a power of attorney and a health care surrogate – which described her intentions of how she wanted to live and leave life. In fact, Roe said his mother’s last will and testament included language that went beyond the normal bounds so that English’s wishes could not be misinterpreted.

A Florida court placed English in a nursing home facility, which her son said was against her will, outside of Tampa. Roe said his mother lost her ability to speak two years ago and the court system used that factor to say that was legally brain dead. The court hired three consultants who were called in to confirm this.

“They called in three different hired consultants to the county to go in, shake her hand, take a look at her, and walk out of the room and say, ‘Yeah, we agree, she’s brain dead.’”

Through a mistake of the nursing home, Roe’s mother was taken back to the hospital for health care which allowed him to get a second opinion of her condition. English’s primary ailment was Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), which stops the mind’s ability to control the muscles in the body, a condition similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“They called in three different hired consultants to the county to go in, shake her hand, take a look at her, and walk out of the room and say, ‘Yeah, we agree, she’s brain dead.’”

A magistrate ordered that Roe was no longer in charge of English’s health care and appointed a guardian to oversee her medical affairs. The magistrate also ordered the guardian be paid for five months back pay for services that weren’t provided, at a rate of $1,500 per month, which came out of English’s financial assets.

“They robbed my mother’s social security, they took everything that was in her bank account, and even though Medicare has court-ordered that I”m to be paid a subsistency out of my mother’s social security, I have yet to get the first penny of that from this guardian. And that’s about $290 per month to take care of the things I have to take care of around her home.”

On April 18, 2011, Roe’s mother passed away from what the medical examiner attributed to natural causes. Roe, however, points to a toxicology report from an independent lab that showed English’s blood morphine level was .082 to 1, per litre of blood, which Roe said is twice the legal dosage and suggests his mother may have been given fatal levels.

English was only in the first stages of pneumonia, Roe said, and she was responding to antibiotic treatments.

Full Article and Source:
Without Due Process: Florida Health Care Abuses Were Factors in Elderly Woman’s Death, Son Says

Woman Gets Prison Time for Stealing From the Disabled

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced Thursday a woman has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for taking money from a healthcare provider for the developmentally disabled.

Horne said Carol Lynette Curie was sentenced on one count of theft.

According to a news release, between March 2008 and February 2010, Curie stole over $116,400 while employed as Chief Financial Officer for Metro Care Services which specializes in providing non-medical health care for developmentally disabled individuals.

Horne said Curie wrote unauthorized checks to herself and deposited them in her personal bank account. She also wrote checks to herself as if she were a certified caregiver and services that she never performed.

Curie also reportedly used the names of former or inactive contract caregivers to electronically transfer funds to her personal account.

The case was prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office Health Care Fraud and Abuse Section of the Criminal Division.

Woman Gets Prison Time for Stealing From the Disabled

Fake Marine Pleads Guilty to Elder Financial Abuse

A Santa Rosa man pleaded guilty to elder financial abuse and forgery after being accused of stealing $100,000 from his wife’s 97-year-old grandfather and falsely representing himself as a U.S. Marine and a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy.

Paul Tart, 29, could face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 15 in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Tart obtained power of attorney over his wife’s grandfather without the two knowing and stole more than $100,000 from the elderly man’s account to help support his prescription drug addiction, said sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Raasch. The grandfather contacted investigators Sept. 2 after finding that his checking account was mysteriously overdrawn.

On Sept. 17, authorities searched Tart’s home and found forged documents and canceled checks. They arrested him on suspicion of grand theft and fiduciary elder theft, Raasch said.

Investigators soon learned that Tart had been passing himself off as an active gunnery sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps, when in fact he has never served in any branch of the armed services, Raasch said.

Full Article and Source:
Fake Marine Guilty of Stealing From In-Law, 97

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CA: New Law Aims to Give More Power to Public Guardian

Public guardians are better equipped to protect the assets of the elderly dependents and adults in their care under a new law by Assemblyman Rich Gordon that gives them authority over trusts and more time to prepare for a conservatorship hearing.

Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said his bill, signed into law last month, will protect senior citizens and dependents from financial abuse by closing probate loopholes and giving the public guardian more power. In a nutshell, the bill expands the scope of the public guardian to include control of assets held in financial trusts and extends from 15 to 30 the number of days for temporary possession of property.

“More time for investigation of cases is important because they can be complex and with staff cutbacks there is a lot more work,” Gordon said.

The extra time gives public guardians a better opportunity to find the assets, get them secured and set a hearing date for a conservatorship program, Gordon said.

Prior to Gordon’s bill, the public guardian had no authority to protect assets held in trust accounts, a growing trend by people hoping to avoid the challenges of sorting out wills. This loophole, plus the desire for more time, led Aging and Adult Services of Santa Clara County to ask him for help, Gordon said.

The public guardian and public conservatorship program is meant to serve the frail elderly and adults with physical or mental disabilities leaving them unable to manage their own finances or avoid fraud and undue influence. Probate conservatorships are also used for younger individuals with mental impairments.

Full Article and Source:
New Law Aims to Protect Seniors from Fraud

California Man Gets 35-Year Prison Sentence for Elder Abuse

Former Sand City resident Timothy Ralph Carrillo, received a 35-year state prison sentence after a Monterey County jury convicted him in August of 24 counts of elder abuse, residential burglary, grand theft and contracting without a license.

During the years of 2006 and 2008, The Monterey County District Attorney's Office said 49 year old Carrillo solicited home improvement projects from residents of Carmel, Pebble Beach, Seaside and Watsonville, many of whom were elderly. He entered into contracts for home repair and remodels, charging larges sums of money then disappearing with the money without providing any services.

Nine victims, seven of whom were elders, testified during the trial that their losses ranged from $1,260 to $65,000.

Timothy Carrillo has numerous felony convictions, including a prior conviction under California's Three Strikes Law for residential burglary. His prior felony convictions and prior prison terms include commercial burglary, grand theft, driving under the influence, and obtaining money by false pretenses.

Judge Russell D. Scott stated that Timothy Carrillo is a perfect example of the type of offender the Three Strikes Law is designed to target.

Full Article and Source:
Local Man Gets 35 Years for Elder Abuse

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to File a Complaint Against a Judge and An Attorney

Educate yourself to the rules governing lawyers and judges and you become a force to be reckoned with. We must take the power back in a corrupt legal system where “we the people” have become a lost interest.

The judiciary has established itself as the most powerful branch of government and are the most unaccounted for (Marbury v Madison). We are confident Senator Mae Beavers ( will provide us with the much needed reform within Tennessee’s Court of the Judiciary. Email her with words of encouragement demanding such reform. Variations of these same bodies exist in every jurisdiction, but the only people that know this are attorneys and judges and they DON’T want us to know-truly. We should be teaching fundamental law to students starting in junior high school. Senator Beavers, our forefathers did not possess the same patience with the British that is required of the citizens of Tennessee. ”By any means necessary”. Use the words of our forefathers (or was it the Black Panthers?) and you could be put in prison these days. I meant to say, “Give me liberty or give me death”. This is the spirit with which I fight. Judge Kennedy’s attack on individual liberties and unlawful seizure of property may require the same actions our forefathers took in order to regain our Constitutionally protected rights. Make no mistake about it, the probate bottom feeders ARE stealing your property illegally under color of law and guise of protection (referring to conservatorships).

On an important side note, our Constitution trumps any law. And judges are immediately instructed to rule consistent with the Constitution in the Judicial Code; but the Constitution and Bill of Rights are abhorred by judges. It gets in the way of abuse of power, ruling “willy-nilly” and the delusion that judges create the law. Kennedy is guilty on all points. And he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree.

Full Article and Source:
How to File a Complaint Against a Judge and An Attorney (Preface - part 3)

GA Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Bilking Medicaid/Medicare

Dr. ROBERT WILLIAMS, 77, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to prison by United States District Judge Richard W. Story on federal health care fraud charges.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This doctor attempted to bilk Medicare and Medicaid for over $2 million for psychological services he never provided to elderly nursing home patients. Some of the patients were dead at the time he claimed he provided services; others never received treatment. Now he’s headed to prison.”

“Many of Georgia’s neediest citizens rely on Medicaid for access to health care. The Attorney General’s office is committed to weeding out fraud so that every dollar is spent on those who need this vital assistance,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

Full Article and Source:
Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Submitting Fraudulent Bills to Medicare and Medicaid

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NASGA Member Seeks Lawyer to Sue Over Her Trust Fund

Nineteen months after a judge ruled that Michelle Cohen should be allowed to handle her own affairs, the mentally ill woman is living out of her van. She is still searching for an attorney willing to help her sue the banks that handled her trust fund, once worth half a million dollars.

She’s spent years trying to get lawyers to listen and to help her. When she had money, a few signed on to represent her in her attempts to get her trust money released and to help her fight against efforts to place her under state guardianship.

But now she’s destitute. She spends hours each week calling lawyer offices, hoping to find someone to represent her against the banks that oversaw the trust fund left to her by her grandmother.

“I’ve probably made thousands of calls,” Cohen, 42, said. “And I’ll make as many as it takes until I find someone to help me. I think it’s despicable about what they’ve done to me. They’ve run me into poverty.”

Cohen once had a good deal of money. Her paternal grandmother left her the Henrietta Neufeld Cohen Trust, which at one point was worth about $500,000. The trust was first managed by Wachovia, which was purchased in late 2008 by Wells Fargo . In January 2009, the Flower Mound branch of American National Bank took over managing the account, which had about $135,000 left at that point.

Cohen had difficult relationships with the trust managers at the banks. She believed that the money belonged to her and that she should be allowed to control the account. She bought a van, a home in Wisconsin and a motorcycle for a friend. She purchased DVDs and spent freely on extended-stay hotels and restaurant meals. She spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to try to break the trust.

She owed $100,000 and had about $50,000 left when American National Bank filed for a limited permanent guardianship of her and the estate in June 2009.

“Nothing good will happen if I have a guardian,” she said. “I’ll probably wind up in a group home. I have a lot to fear about that.”

Under guardianship, a state judge would appoint someone to make decisions regarding the person’s property, medical care, living arrangements and potentially all personal and financial decisions.

Denton County Probate Judge Don Windle dismissed the case in January 2010, saying there was little point in ordering restrictions when there was little money left to restrict. He said he would leave it to Cohen to pursue attorneys to investigate whether any of the prior trustees breached their fiduciary duty during their oversight of the trust.

The remaining money in the trust fund was drained by attorney fees because lawyers on both sides of the case were legally able to bill the trust fund.

“They spent everything I had in trying to get me found incompetent,” Cohen said.

Full Article and Source:
Mentally Ill Woman Seeks Lawyer to Sue Banks Over Her Trust Fund

Note: Michelle Cohen is a member of NASGA.

'My Dad Has Dementia-He's Being Horrible to Me!

I’m hearing this same painful thing a lot lately.

Aging parents who have “early dementia” are refusing help and verbally abusing their adult kids who are trying to help.

In all these situations, the aging parent was a controlling type person before dementia developed. It could have been a business owner, a professor, a CFO of a corporation. The nearby adult child is is trying hard to protect mom or dad from himself or herself. The parent is uncooperative. In fact, in all these cases, the parent has turned on the very person who is trying to supervise, protect or otherwise do the right thing for Mom or Dad.

“You’re stealing from me!” is an accusation the adult children are hearing. (It’s not true in these cases. to which I’m referring) “You don’t care about me, you’re just trying to lock me up!” is another accusation.

This could be you. When your aging parent turns paranoid, accusatory, abusive and unreasonable, what can you do?

Full Article and Source:
'My Dad Has Dementia - He's Being Horrible to Me'

Monday, October 17, 2011

CT State Supreme Court To Consider The Quasi-Judicial Immunity Of Conservators And Probate Lawyers

Daniel Gross, an old man infamously abused at the hands of probate court before he died in 2007, might yet force far-reaching reform in a system that once robbed him of his freedom.

Next week, the state Supreme Court will take up a key question from Gross' federal civil rights lawsuit and consider whether the people appointed to look after him — the lawyers and conservators who are supposed to represent the best interests of the elderly and infirm in probate court — are immune from lawsuits.

Whether lawyers and conservators deserve what is known as "quasi-judicial immunity" is a volatile question. Reformers say this case represents the ultimate recourse for folks abused by the probate courts. Probate judges — and attorneys for Gross' lawyer and conservator — say that denying immunity would bring the courts to "a screeching halt" because it would be impossible to find individuals willing to serve as conservators or lawyers in difficult cases for fear they could be sued.

It's hard to imagine a court system where those who abuse, neglect and exploit aren't held accountable. Granting lawyers and conservators immunity would do just that.

For years, I've watched rogue conservators and ill-informed probate judges abuse the rights of citizens. These might be isolated instances, but the cases keep coming in a court system that lacks proper oversight and that ought to be part of Superior Court.

The way to force reform in probate is to make sure there's accountability, not immunity. Our probate courts remain a separate world in which judges are elected and too often a good-old-boy network permeates appointment and supervision of conservators and lawyers.

No case illustrates this better than what happened when the elderly Gross ended up in Judge Thomas Brunnock's Waterbury probate court during the summer of 2005.

Gross had come from his Long Island home to visit his daughter in Waterbury. He became sick and was hospitalized as his children fought over his care — and over who should control his finances. After the hospital asked probate court to step in, Judge Brunnock ordered Gross involuntarily conserved, taking away all of his rights.

Brunnock didn't bother to give the old man a chance to speak up: Gross wasn't even at the hearing at which he was ordered conserved. His court-appointed lawyer, Jonathan Newman, failed to object to the conservatorship, despite knowing Gross' opposition. His conservator, Kathleen Donovan, placed him in a locked, restricted ward at Grove Manor Nursing Home in Waterbury.

Few moments in journalism stand out more for me than the day in July 2006 when I watched Superior Court Judge Joseph Gormley acknowledge "a terrible miscarriage of justice" and order 86-year-old Daniel Gross freed from his imprisonment in a Waterbury nursing home. Were it not for the work of Legal Aid attorneys and John Peters, a volunteer lawyer from West Hartford, Gross might never have emerged from probate hell.

As he shuffled out of the courthouse, Gross told me that he was "overwhelmed with happiness." I saw what freedom, dignity and civil rights mean for an old man abused by a probate court that was supposed to protect him.

Full Article and Source:
An Elderly Man's Lawsuit Could Bring Probate Reform

Note: Daniel Gross' daughter, Dee King, is a NASGA member.

Iowa Lawyer Suspended for 30 Days for Missing Deadlines

The Iowa Supreme Court suspended a Cedar Rapids lawyer Friday from practicing law for 30 days because he violated the rules of professional conduct.

Thomas Ochs repeatedly missed deadlines for filings in probate, estate, conservatorships and guardianships over the past eight years, according to the ruling. Two of the cases were left open for more than seven years, while other estates were open for four and five years.

Ochs repeatedly received inquiries from the court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board regarding his actions but he ignored them, according to the ruling. Ochs also received a private admonishing from the board in one case.

At the hearing, Ochs admitted to all the allegations in the board’s 10 count complaint, according to the ruling.

“He offered no excuses and expressed determination to change his delinquent conduct,” the court stated.

Ochs’ license to practice will be reinstated after 30 days unless the disciplinary board objects at that time, according to the ruling.

Full Article and Source:
Iowa Supreme Court Suspends CR Lawyer's License for 30 Days

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Accused of Theft, Cheryl Baswell-Guthrie's Law License Suspended

As Cheryl Baswell-Guthrie is scheduled for her first court appearance Wednesday, the Huntsville attorney and former congressional candidate has another issue beyond the first-degree theft charge she's facing.

The Alabama State Bar has indefinitely suspended Baswell-Guthrie's law license. The suspension went into effect Sept. 16, according to Tony McLain, general counsel for the state bar.

Details, however, are still sketchy on the case. Baswell-Guthrie has been charged with first-degree theft for stealing $50,000 from a victim from the Shoals area. But the Alabama Securities Commission, which sought the warrant for her arrest, declined Friday to shed more light on the case beyond the affidavit filed by the victim.

McLain said the bar sought an "interim suspension" for Baswell-Guthrie, which he said was a "more expedited method" of suspended a law license.

"In situations where it appears a lawyer may be creating a risk of harm to the public or their client, in general anything that's tied to trust account, trust, money issues, that generally is a pretty big red flag for us to take some immediate action to pull that lawyer's license," McLain said.

"In conjunction with the suspension, we also get a restraining order that prohibits (Baswell-Guthrie) from maintaining a trust account. They have a right to have a due process hearing to dissolve the restraining order. She has not done that."

Full Article and Source:
Accused of Theft, Cheryl Baswell-Guthrie's Law License Suspended

NJ: Retirees 'Priced Out' of Bergen and Passaic Counties

Retirees in North Jersey need between $25,000 and $50,000 a year for basic living costs, according to a new report that warns that many seniors don't have adequate savings or pensions to pay those bills.

The report from the New Jersey Foundation for Aging purports to offer a realistic measure of what a retiree over 65 needs to "live with dignity" in each county.

A single senior living in a home that is paid off needs $26,600 a year in Bergen County and $25,704 in Passaic, the report found. Retired couples who still have a mortgage can expect to spend $50,565 a year in Bergen and $50,443 in Passaic on basic housing, food, transportation, health care and miscellaneous expenses.

Those numbers assume an over-65 retiree is in good health, prepares and eats meals at home, maintains and drives a car, and does not live in an assisted living center, nursing home or subsidized housing.

Many also don't stop to consider how much their annual living costs will increase over the years or how their nest eggs could evaporate if they live into their 90s and beyond.

Yearly costs could rise anywhere from $7,500 to $43,000 if a senior needs care and doesn't have long-term-care insurance to cover it, the foundation has said.

Full Article and Source:
Retirees Priced Out of Bergen and Passaic