Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lawyer/Accountant Charges With Stealing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars From Guardianship and Family Trust Account

An Indianapolis attorney and accountant faces charges stemming from allegations she stole hundreds of thousand dollars from two accounts she managed.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office says Stacy H. Sheedy faces three counts of theft and one count of forgery after investigators discovered $596,000 in withdrawals and unaccounted money missing from a guardianship account and a family trust account.

According to court documents, money turned up missing from a guardianship account that supported an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. In that case, investigators say they found several unauthorized transfers and withdrawals, including checks Sheedy allegedly wrote to herself.

Investigators say money started disappearing from that account two months after Sheedy took control.

“Stacy Sheedy failed not just her profession, she also failed the people for whom she had a fiduciary and ethical obligation to protect,” said Prosecutor Terry Curry. “This type of theft is unconscionable, and we simply will not tolerate it. We look forward to vigorously prosecuting this case to its conclusion.”

During the course of their investigation, they began looking into Sheedy’s work with a family trust account. According to the prosecutor’s office, the family trust was valued at $501,000 when she became a trustee. Now the same trust is valued at $168.

Full Article and Source:
Doc: Accountant Stole Thousands from Widow, Family Trust

L'Oreal Heiress Loses Attempt to Free Herself From Daughter's Guardianship

Liliane Bettencourt lost a bid to remove her daughter and grandsons as her physical and financial guardians, a French court said in rejecting the L’Oreal SA heiress’s appeal.

The three will continue in their roles, the appeals court in Versailles, near Paris, said in refusing to alter the October decision by a family court judge who said Bettencourt wasn’t mentally fit to manage her own affairs.

“This decision reasserts Madame Liliane Bettencourt’s protection and the family’s duties,” her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, and grandsons said in an e-mailed statement. Bettencourt is “protected from the pressure and solicitation that she has suffered for too long.”

[The] decision is the latest in a longstanding feud between the 89-year-old and her daughter. Bettencourt, France’s third-richest person, is the only child of L’Oreal’s founder. The family owns almost 31 percent of the world’s largest cosmetics maker through a holding company.

Full Article and Source:
L'Oreal Heiress Loses Bid to End Daughter's Guardianship

See Also:
Photographer Charged Over L'Oreal Heiress

Woman Convicted of Bilking Alzheimer's Stricken Mother

A Missoula woman has been convicted of bilking her Alzheimer's-stricken mother out of more than $120,000 by using a reverse mortgage on the elderly woman's home.

The Missoulian reports District Judge Karen Townsend found Paulette Homer guilty after a bench trial and scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 6.

Prosecutors charged Homer with exploitation of an older person or a person with developmental disabilities after the scheme came to light in 2009 when Homer's brother and sister filed a report of elder abuse.

A police investigation determined Homer received a check for $141,308 from the reverse mortgage in 2008 and then wrote checks totaling $120,593. The defense argued the money was a gift from Homer's mother.

Missoula Woman Convicted of Bilking Alzheimer's-Stricken Mother Out of More Than $120K

Friday, January 20, 2012

Court Ordered Hell.....Continues

It's been two years since The Tennesean published, "Court-Ordered Hell — How an errant judge and a controlling sibling stripped nashville rocker danny tate of his money, his livelihood and his legal rights" in an ex-parte "emergency" hearing (when there was no emergency), resulting in a "temporary" conservatorship with no end in sight.

The conservatorship was terminated in May of 2010, but in an unexpicable turn of events, Judge Randy Kennedy's final order left the conservator in control of Tate's estate (Kennedy denied the conservator's motion to withdraw).

How can this be?

These videos of the unlawful ex-parte "emergency" hearing of October 23, 2007 tell the story:

The only people that had any knowledge of this hearing were Judge Kennedy, campaign contributors Paul Housch, Robert Stratton and David Tate. The entire hearing lasted 19 minutes. That's all it took to strip Danny Tate of all constitutional rights. Nothing but fraudulent hearsay allegations were presented to the court without any supporting documentation.

Part 2 of the Ex Parte hearing in which Judge Randy Kennedy stripped Danny Tate of all Constitutional rights including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", without Tate being served notice of this hearing, without Tate being present, all based on fraudulent allegations made by David Tate through his attorney Paul Housch.

Sign the petition to "Impeach Judge Randy Kennedy"

Court-Ordered Hell — how an errant judge and a controlling sibling stripped Nashville rocker Danny Tate of his money, his livelihood and his legal rights

See Also:
Impeach Randy Kennedy Blog

Danny Tate, Tennessee Victim

NASGA's An Open Letter to Congress and the White House -3: A Review of Unlawful "Emergency" Guardianships


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Editorial: Circle the Wagons; You Could be Next!

As I look back over the years of my life I find that I have been brought full circle back to my childhood.

I was just a young child when television and movies were still in black and white, when the “western” was a theme of more programs and movies than not. A time when “circle the wagons” and “white-man speak with forked tounge” meant little or nothing to me; after all, I am caucasian and it was just a tv show or movie.

I was, of course, a bit older when the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement was in full force, when oppression and discrimination of the races was “in our face.” Then there was the 1970s with Vietnam and a Washington, D.C., administration that quit their jobs before being faced with prison for their crimes. Oh, these were reassuring times alright, and far more reality-based than the cowboys and Indians on the silver screen.

So what does all this have to do with today, when I am now older than I ever dreamt as a young child?

I now know what the Indian meant when he said, “white man speak with forked tounge”. I now know what the oppression, discrimination and retaliation of the Civil Rights Era meant to those who were oppressed and discriminated. How do I know these things as an aging caucasian female? Because my mother is under a court-appointed guardianship shoved into a nursing home against her will just like the American Indians who were guardianized by their treaties and shoved onto the reservations, only to be lied to, neglected and exploited by the very “forked-tounge” establishment who promised them care and protection.

I am utterly amazed and disappointed that our politicians can proclaim to possess concern for the elderly, concerned that they will be abused, neglected and exploited, yet when I reach out for help and protection for my mother from those in a position who say they care and who have the authorty to do something about the injustice, I am met by a bunch of “forked-tounge” speaking establishment types who are more than content to enjoy their own freedom and liberty, while depriving my mother of her freedom and liberty.

A bit of advice in close, “circle the wagons” folks: You might be next, because guardianship abuse is on the rise, it is nothing new I have since learned, and it is likely coming to a loved one near you sooner than you might think.

Jane Branson
Member, NASGA - National Association to STOP Guardian Abuse

Circle the Wagons, You Could Be Next

See also:
Mollie Florkey, Ohio Victim

Judge in Mollie Florkey Case Recuses!

New Ethics Code for TN Judges Draws Praise, Concerns

A new ethics code for Tennessee judges may increase the public’s confidence in the judiciary, but some changes come at the expense of judges’ First Amendment rights, critics warn.

The revamped Code of Judicial Conduct bars judges from making political donations and imposes tighter restrictions on when judges must step down, or recuse themselves, from cases because of conflicts of interest. These are the first major revisions adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court in more than 20 years.
Among the sweeping changes, legal observers said recusal reform deserves the most praise.

“Tennessee, overnight, has one of the best policies in the nation,” said Charles Hall of Justice at Stake, a Washington-based campaign to reduce the influence of money and politics in state and federal courts.

The new code, which takes effect in July, provides more specific guidance on when a judge should step down from a case, including when a judge has received a level of campaign support from a litigant that would cause a reasonable person to question whether the judge can be fair. Judges also will be required to step down from a case if they have previously presided over a judicial settlement conference or mediation in the same matter.

“The new recusal rules are going to give all litigants more confidence,” Tennessee Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said.

In all situations in which a judge has been asked to step down but refused, the judge will now be required to provide a written explanation of why they denied the motion, and that decision can be immediately appealed, while the remainder of the case is put on hold, to a higher court.

“There is really a procedure in place now that increases the transparency of the entire process,” said Maria da Silva of the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice.

Full Article and Source:
New Ethics Code for TN Judges Draws Praise, Concerns

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CVS Caremark to Pay $5M for Defrauding Seniors

CVS Caremark, which simultaneously operates one of the largest US pharmacy benefit managers and retail pharmacy chains, will pay a $5 million fine to settle charges brought by the US Federal Trade Commission over charges that prices of various Medicare Part D drugs - including those for treating breast cancer and epilepsy - were misrepresented at CVS and Walgreen pharmacies.

The scheme allegedly caused many seniors and disabled consumers to pay up to 10 times the correct prices for their drugs and pushed them into the so-called donut hole, which refers to the coverage gap where drug costs are not reimbursed, sooner than anticipated. The settlement requires CVS Caremark to pay $5 million to reimburse consumers for the price discrepancies.

[UPDATE: "The settlement should...serve as a warning to any Medicare drug plan sponsors that have potentially misled seniors in their promotion of so-called ‘preferred pharmacy’ plans," Doug Hoey, ceo of the National Community Pharmacists Association, says in a statement. "At the same time, it is regrettable that the FTC’s actions fell short of more robust protections for consumers and pharmacy competition, which are warranted in our view. NCPA provided to the agency what we believe to be compelling evidence, including one-sided contract terms with pharmacy small business owners, patient privacy concerns and a lack of transparency."]

Full Article and Source:
CVS Caremark to Pay $5M for Defrauding Seniors

Illinois Passes New Law Criminalizing Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans will be better protected starting this month from those who would take advantage of them financially. Those who steal Social Security checks or defraud Illinois elders and people with disabilities have a better chance of being locked up under a new state law. That measure, House Bill 1689, increases penalties for such financial exploitation, in many cases making the crime a serious felony, depending on how much money is involved. Ryan Gruenenfelder, associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Illinois, said most of these cases involve family members or caregivers. "That's why the Illinois Department on Aging and other elder abuse experts say that only about one in 13 cases of these crimes actually does get reported." Nationally, financial exploitation costs elders nearly $2.5 billion every year, and yet, Gruenenfelder said, many times it is treated as a civil case rather than criminal.

Illinois Passes New Law Criminalizing Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mary G. Sykes Speaks Out for What She Wants

YouTube: Mary G. Sykes Speaks Her Mind

Mary G.

Mary Sykes, Illinois Victim

Arrest Warrants Issued for Suspended NJ Lawyer Eugene LaVergne

Arrest warrants were issued for a suspended Monmouth County lawyer who police allege stole money from his clients.

Warrants issued for Eugene M. La Vergne, 47, stem from an investigation into the theft of funds belonging to one of LaVergne’s clients, according to a prepared release by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

La Vergne was hired in 2008 by a client seeking legal representation in a pending estate matter before the Chancery Division of the Monmouth County Superior Court, according to the release.

In 2009, after a property was sold from the estate, La Vergne received approximately $502,000 in his attorney trust account – funds that belonged to the estate represented by La Vergne, the release said. La Vergne, however, began to use a portion of the trust funds for personal expenditures and he made various cash withdrawals, it said.

By September 2009, La Vergne’s trust account balance had fallen below the threshold that the Chancery Court had ordered him to maintain, authorities said. The court ordered La Vergne’s trust account frozen and a levy was placed upon the remaining funds, the release said.

A financial audit revealed that La Vergne used nearly $152,000 of the trust funds for his own personal use, according to the statement.

Full Article and Source:
Arrest Warrents Issued for Eugene La Vergne, Suspended Monmouth County Lawyer

Monday, January 16, 2012

NY Probate Judge Defends His Handling of Attorney Overbilling Issue

In rare public testimony in a Manhattan courtroom, a New York probate judge facing a legal ethics case defended his own conduct concerning an attorney who is accused of stealing money from intestate estates by overbilling.

Bronx Surrogate Lee Holzman is accused of failing to report to the proper authorities advance fee payments to the attorney, Michael Lippman, who was employed by a former public administrator. But in his testimony yesterday Holzman said he had faced a "sticky situation" when he learned then-public administrator Esther Rodriguez had approved the advance payments to Lippman, Reuters reported.

"I appointed him, but I was not his client," Holzman said of Lippman. "The public administrator was. And the public administrator was the one who paid him the fees." Holzman also said he wasn't immediately aware that Lippman also had charged fees in excess of statutory guidelines.

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct contends Holzman should have alerted law enforcement or a departmental disciplinary committee. Instead, the commission says, Lippman was allowed to keep working, at a reduced rate, and a restitution plan was devised, the article explains.

Lippman was subsequently criminally charged with grand larceny and fraud for allegedly overbilling estates by some $300,000.

Holzman's testimony was public because he waived the confidentiality that normally applies. The article says this is only the 11th time in state history that a judge has made such a waiver. The commission has brought some 750 legal ethics cases against judges.

In Unusual Public Testimony NY Probate Judge Defends His Handling of Attorney Overbilling Issue

CEDA Fires Robert Wharton!

Robert Wharton, leader of one of the state's largest nonprofits, has been ousted from the community assistance organization he steered for more than a decade, the agency's board said Thursday.

The move follows a Tribune report earlier this week about how Wharton, as chief executive officer of the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, had fallen behind in payments a Cook County judge ordered him to make to his former secretary.

The Cook County public guardian had alleged that Wharton financially exploited onetime employee Dorothy Hork, who is 91 and has dementia, by coaxing her over several years to write him checks for tens of thousands of dollars.

"(The board) decided to seek quick and decisive action and Bob has been relieved of all of his duties," said CEDA spokesman Abe Thompson. "He is no longer with the organization."

Full Article and Source:
Cook County Nonprofit Ousts Besieged Leader

See Also:
Robert Warton, CEO of Community and Economic Development of Cook County, IL (CEDA) Defaults

Sunday, January 15, 2012

TX Vet Missing $600K in Disability Benefits

Jesus C. Garcia is 90 years old, and his memories of serving as an Army infantryman in World War II are as time worn as the shrapnel still lodged in his head from his battle wounds.

And though the American war vet receives disability benefits for his service and his sacrifice, almost half of that money from the last 15 years remains unaccounted for — routed through a stranger selected by the very agency that pays Garcia.

Deemed incapable of managing his own money by the Department of Veterans Affairs, his daughter Erminia Molina serves as her father’s guardian by the appointment of a judge in their hometown of Laredo. But a professional fiduciary picked by the VA regional office in Houston has overseen his assets since 1995.

Molina has been unable to find out what happened to about $600,000 in benefits that Garcia never received from the San Antonio attorney who serves as fiduciary, court records and interviews show.

Across the United States, approximately 122,271 veterans have been judged “incompetent” to manage their funds. Their $3.3 billion in assets are handled by VA-selected fiduciaries: family, friends or strangers screened by the government, according to information the VA provided to the Houston Chronicle. In Texas, 8,261 veterans’ assets are managed by fiduciaries, who can be paid 4 percent of the benefits.

Full Article and Source:
Vet Missing $600,000 in Disability Benefits; VA had Picked Fiduciary in 1995 (TX)

Robert Warton, CEO of Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, IL (CEDA) Defaults

The leader of one of the state's largest nonprofits promised in court last year to repay tens of thousands of dollars to his dementia-afflicted former secretary after the Cook County public guardian alleged he exploited her financially.

But records show that Robert Wharton, chief executive officer of the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, subsequently defaulted on that settlement agreement, writing checks that bounced due to insufficient funds.

Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris has now asked Circuit Judge Ann Collins-Dole to hold Wharton in criminal contempt, incarcerate him for up to six months and force him to reimburse his one-time employee, Dorothy Hork.

Full Article and Source:
Public Guardian: CEDA Chief Defaults on Repaying His Former Secretary

NC Lawyer Disbarred, Charged With Embezzlement

A Clayton attorney has been disbarred and indicted on charges of stealing more than $1.1 million from her clients.

A Johnston County grand jury indicted Jennifer Green-Lee with 13 counts of embezzlement.

According to the indictments, she took the money from 10 clients between last March and May. Some of the clients are real estate developers and construction companies, while others are individuals.

According to the North Carolina State Bar, she surrendered her law license after acknowledging that she had misappropriated client funds and was disbarred.

Full Article and Source:
Clayton Lawyer Disbarred, Charged With Embezzlement