Saturday, February 4, 2012

Florida Senate Bill Cracks Down on Assisted Living Elder Abuse

Assisted living laws in Florida could go from one side of the spectrum to the other in the wake of the Miami Herald’s series on elder abuse that occurred in many state facilities, with little or no ramifications.

Now, Florida lawmakers are looking to shift the state’s caretaker oversight from negligent to possibly the toughest in the nation, according to a Miami Herald article, recently passing committee bills 7176 and 7174.

With rampant abuse across the state, key lawmakers are calling for homes to be shut down when residents die from shoddy care, and caretakers banned from the industry, in the biggest changes in state law since the creation of ALFs a generation ago.

Unveiled this week by two Senate committees, the dual bills follow months of reports by The Miami Herald that showed frail elders were living in squalor and dangerous conditions while regulators failed to crack down on the worst abusers.

“[The state] wasn’t doing its job,” said Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat and vice chair of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “They were not enforcing the regulations, and not closing down facilities that didn’t correct the violations and abuse.”

The proposal includes comprehensive legislation that seeks to improve oversight such as mandatory penalties in fatal neglect cases and a public ratings system derived from a facility’s regulatory history, the article reports.

Additionally, the regulatory reform bills take some power away from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which in the course of the investigation has faced scrutiny for failure to shut down or adequately penalize troubled facilities.

Full Article and Source:
Florida Senate Bills Crack Down on Assisted Living Elder Abuse

NJ Lawyer Charged With Money Laundering

An attorney from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, accused of stealing over $1 million from a client, has been indicted this week in connection with another theft. The attorney, Michael Kwasnik, diverted close to $325,000 from a couple in Williamstown who settled a personal injury lawsuit using his former firm last year. Kwasnik was previously charged with looting the account of a 96-year-old client from Cherry Hill on November 7.

“We are continuing to investigate him,” Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said.

After the first indictment was announced, Kwasnik decided to flee the area. He was arrestred only two days later in Alabama at a bus station. Kwasnik is being held on bail well over $1 million at the Camden County jail. After the announcement of the second indictment his bail was raised by $250,000.

Aside from the criminal charges, in November, the state filed a civil suit against Kwasnik, his father, and many others for defrauding close to 73 investors of over $8.5 million by selling unregistered securities.

“The allegations in our criminal and civil actions reveal a disturbing pattern in which Kwasnik has repeatedly violated the trust placed in him as an attorney and has ruthlessly taken advantage of elderly investors and clients,” said Chiesa.

Full Article and Source:
New Jersey Lawyer Charged With Money Laundering

See Also:
NJ Lawyer Indicted for $1m Theft From Client Arrested on the Lam

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hearing Postponed in Parks Case

Wayne County Probate Judge Freddie Burton Jr. has postponed a court hearing set for today [1/25/12] at which he was to decide whether to return the estate of civil rights icon Rosa Parks to the people she picked for the task.

Burton said that he is awaiting instructions from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The high court ordered Burton on Dec. 29 to put Elaine Steele, Parks' longtime assistant and caregiver, and Adam Shakoor, a retired 36th District Court judge, back in charge of the estate. They would replace attorneys John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr., whom Burton put in charge after Parks' nieces and nephews contested their aunt's will.

Burton told the Supreme Court last week that Steele is unfit for the job. Her lawyer, Steven Cohen, disputed that and urged the Supreme Court on Monday to remove Burton from the case.

Hearing Postponed in Parks Case

See Also:
Rosa Parks Estate Battle Ruled

MD Lawmakers Consider Increasing Penalties for Elder Abuse

The beating of an elderly man by his paid in-home caretaker is under consideration in Annapolis. Advocates for the elderly want lawmakers to impose increased penalties on people guilty of abusing vulnerable adults.

It’s hard to imagine and harder to watch. Ninety-year-old John Taylor, bedridden, was beaten by a woman hired to care for him in his home.

“I discovered that my father had endured three more beatings within that same month,” said Jacqueline Taylor.

Taylor played the tape of her father’s beating for the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday in support of a bill to increase the penalties for elder abuse and hold some suspects without bail. The woman charged with assaulting John Taylor made bail and is believed to have fled the country.

“It brings tears to your eyes,” said Taylor.

Full Article and Source:
MD Lawmakers Consider Increasing Penalties for Elder Abuse

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rick Green: Probate Court Mess Continues

Sam Manzo, the Southington caretaker on the old Smoron farm, is still without his inheritance and still living in probate hell.

I stopped by to talk with Manzo on Tuesday because it's been two years since I first heard about the elaborate scheme that sought to disinherit Manzo and take the broken down old Smoron farm from him.

The place remains a wreck -- a ramshackle collection of old machines, broken equipment, wandering cows and other debris – just off the Queen Street exit off busy I-84. With the massive old dairy barn and crumbling farmhouse, the farm is a beautiful, anachronistic mess. Amid the neighboring big box stores, it is a living link to what once was.

Josephine Smoron and her siblings lived here, Polish farmers with an independent streak, for decades. In her old age, Smoron brought Manzo in to help on the farm, where the herd of cows lived like friendly pets. The cows are still there and so is Manzo, with his billowing Z.Z. Top-style beard and dreams of creating a living farm museum – right beside a B.J.'s warehouse store.

Smoron died in 2010 left the farm to Manzo in her will. A probate judge and Smoron's court-appointed conservator didn't see it that way. A deal that would have quietly passed the farm to local churches and then to a prominent Southington developer almost went through, until Manzo cried foul.

The whole mess is now before Superior Court in Hartford, where a judge is attempting to sort out what one lawyer told me was "a circular firing squad" of competing interests. At the front is the local developer, Carl Verderame, who still wants the property. His lawyer declined to comment.

If you've got a heart, a love for the past – or a belief that legal contracts and private property rights matter – Sam is your hero. How he looks, or if his property is a mess, is irrelevant.

An eccentric old woman gave her farm to her eccentric caretaker in return for his years of work. We ought to respect at least that.

Full Article and Source:
Probate Court Mess Continues

See Also:
Rogue Lawyer Makes Smoron Probate Mess Even Messier

CT: New Four-Town Probate Court Works Well in First Year

“It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already,” said Northern Fairfield County Probate Judge Joseph Egan. “It goes by fast.”

The Northern Fairfield County Probate District combines what were formerly single-town probate courts of Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel and Newtown. Its creation was part of state-mandated cost-cutting consolidation of Connecticut probate districts.

Mr. Egan, Ridgefield’s longtime probate judge, won a Republican primary and district election in November 2010. The court opened in January 2011.

“It’s almost exactly a year. It’s actually working out pretty well,” Judge Egan said.

“We actually opened up 533 new matters last year,” he said. “We probably have about 1,500 open files.”

Full Article and Source:
New Four-Town Probate Court Works Well in First Year

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Staten Island Man on Trial for Bilking Elderly Out of $12 Mil

A Staten Island-based financial advisor who bilked elderly people and his friends out of $12 million is on trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn for wire fraud and other charges.

Joseph Mazella, who was supposedly investing people's money in real estate projects, even told one 82-year-old widow he would treat her like his mother, but he lost all of the $69,000 her husband had left her, says the U.S. Attorney's office.

Many of the victims are testifying at the trial, says Robert Nardoza, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.

Mazella operated a Ponzi scheme through Great Atlantic Group and affiliated companies based on Staten Island. He used some of the money to pay off new investors but used some to pay a mortgage, buy a Porsche and pay other family and personal expenses, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

He supposedly was investing people's money from 2007 through 2010 in real estate projects in Trenton, N.J, a warehouse in Utica, N.Y., and a golf course development project. He promised them high returns without the risk of the stock market.

Full Article and Source:
Staten Island Man on Trial for Bilking Elderly

Santa Monica Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

A Santa Monica attorney specializing in estate planning pleaded guilty this week to filing false tax returns in an attempt to evade paying over $1 million in taxes, federal authorities said.

Robert M.L. Baker III, 46, entered into a plea agreement Tuesday in U.S. District Court, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

He admitted that he, along with others, devised a scheme to misappropriate client fees and settlements to evade payment of tax. In the plea agreement, Baker said he utilized shell entities and trusts to hide over $900,000 in client fees and assets from the IRS, including a house located in Westwood.

Baker altered his banking practices to disguise his actions, according to the plea agreement. He used nominee bank accounts, converted client fees into cashier's checks to pay personal expenses, altered and cashed checks, and directed clients and other law firms handling clients to mail and wire funds to nominee bank accounts.

Full Article and Source:
Santa Monica Attorney Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Many Baby Boomers Don't Plan to Leave Their Children an Inheritance

Carol Willison has made lots of financial sacrifices for her two children over the years, including paying most of her older daughter's medical school tuition. But Willison's generosity has reached its limits.

Not only doesn't the 60-year-old Seattle woman plan to leave her daughters an inheritance when she dies, she's trying to spend every last dime on herself before she goes.

"My goal is when they carry me away in that box that my bank account is going to say zero," Willison said. "I'm going to spoil myself now."

Upending the conventional notion of parents carefully tending their financial estates to be passed down at the reading of their wills, many baby boomers say they instead plan to spend the money on themselves while they're alive.

In a survey of millionaire boomers by investment firm U.S. Trust, only 49% said it was important to leave money to their children when they die. The low rate was a big surprise for a company that for decades has advised wealthy people how to leave money to their heirs.

"We were like 'wow,'" said Keith Banks, U.S. Trust president.

Full Article and Source:
Many Baby Boomers Don't Plan to Leave Their Children an Inheritance

See Also:

NC Woman Arrested and Charged with Misappropriation of Nearly $100K From Elderly Woman

A Burlington woman has been arrested on charges of misappropriating nearly $100,000 from an elderly woman.

Jessica Lynn Isley, 42, was arrested after eight months of investigation by Alamance County deputies.

Deputies received a report from the Alamance County Department of Social Services in May of possible exploitation of an elderly adult.

Deputies allege Isley, who had power of attorney, used some of the money to help pay for a Chrysler 300, which is registered in Isley's name. Deputies have seized the car as evidence.

The money was allegedly used to pay for the car's down payment, finance payments, auto insurance and property taxes, deputies said.

The investigation involved executing multiple search warrants and obtaining court orders for financial records, deputies said.

Deputies allege Isley also used the victim's credit card.

Isley was charged with one count of exploiting an elderly adult and one count of financial card fraud.

Full Article and Source:
Deputies: Suspect Misappropriated $97k from Elderly Woman

Monday, January 30, 2012

NASGA Press Release: Boomers Beware of Guardianship and Conservatorship Abuse

For immediate release
January 30, 2012

For more information contact:
Annie McKenna, NASGA Media Liaison

Boomers Beware of Guardianship and Conservatorship Abuse

2012 won't be a happy year for aging Boomers taking care of their aged parents or becoming vulnerable themselves. Even if they had planned ahead by executing advance directives and making careful estate plans, they risk being sucked into an almost secret system which feeds itself by preying upon their vulnerability.

"Guardianships" or "Conservatorships" are "protective" proceedings managed by our American justice system in state courts across the country. Without adequate monitoring and oversight, there is a growing trampling of constitutional protections and civil and human rights by the very persons supposedly protecting our loved ones.

Fiduciaries - "persons of trust" - appointed by the courts to protect those adjudicated as incompetent are thus free to engage in a feeding frenzy: aggressively overbilling the estates of their wards with unnecessary and outrageous fees until there is nothing left.

The system is out of control and running amok, contrary to original intent, which was to:

• GUARD the vulnerable person from harming him/herself or others;
• CONSERVE his/her assets through prudent investment; and
• PROTECT the taxpaying public from the person becoming a public charge.

The result of these unlawful and abusive proceedings, among other things, is that when wards’ estates are bled dry by the excessive fee billing of fiduciaries, these wards are added by the fiduciary to the Medicaid rolls on the backs of taxpayers, victimizing the taxpaying public as well – an appalling travesty of law.

NASGA was created by family members and friends of victims of so-called "protective" proceedings where court-appointed fiduciaries took control of the lives, liberty and property of their loved ones and then breached their fiduciary duty, causing extensive and expensive litigation.

Boomers Beware of Guardianship Abuse
Boomers Beware of Conservatorship Abuse

GAO Report: Guardianships - Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect and Abuse of Seniors

Sunday, January 29, 2012

KY Lawyers Join Call to End Improper Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Facilities

Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer Lee Coleman endorsed a recommendation to penalize nursing homes that use powerful psychiatric drugs inappropriately to calm patients who have dementia.

“We support the recommendations by U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson that nursing homes that continue to inappropriately drug their residents with antipsychotic medications be denied Medicare payments for these drugs,” said Coleman, of Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers, a Kentucky personal injury firm that focuses on protecting the rights and interests of nursing home abuse and neglect victims.

“Medicare officials must step in to curb this dangerous practice, because they hold the purse strings,” Coleman said.

According to a Fox News report, Levinson recently told the Senate Committee on Aging that hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients in the U.S. with dementia regularly receive drugs designed to control hallucinations, delusions and other abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Despite repeated government warnings that the practice is unapproved, nursing homes administer antipsychotic drugs to control the aggressive behavior that is sometimes symptomatic of dementia, the report said. Antipsychotics raise blood sugar and cholesterol, often resulting in weight gain and other side effects dangerous to the elderly.

Levinson proposed that Medicare force nursing homes to pay for drugs that are prescribed inappropriately and consider barring nursing homes that continue to use antipsychotics inappropriately from Medicare, according to the Associated Press.

Full Article and Source:
Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys Join Call to End Improper Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes

See Also:
Bowling Green Attorney Says Lawmakers Missed Opportunity To Protect State’s Nursing Home Residents From Abuse And Neglect

Nebraska Chief Justice Outlines Efficiency Effort

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican outlined plans for a new, regional approach to court services designed to improve efficiency.

Heavican told lawmakers in his fifth annual State of the Judiciary address that the courts are launching a series of pilot programs this year, with help from the National Center for State Courts.

The chief justice said he anticipates a rise in the number of guardianships and conservatorship cases, driven by the state's growing elderly population. While the total population of the state is expected to grow 11 percent by 2030, he said, the number of Nebraskans between the ages of 70 and 79 is expected to grow by more than 80 percent.

Heavican said the courts have adopted the requirements of a new state law requiring background checks for guardians and conservators, who make decisions for elderly relatives or others who are incapacitated. The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, also requires that conservators post bonds when the assets of their wards are greater than $10,000.

"None of us is naïve enough to believe that elderly persons will no longer be subject to abuse," Heavican said. "But the statutory changes made by the Legislature, which are being implemented by the judicial branch, will provide for better checks and balances."

Full Article and Source:
Nebraska Chief Justice Outlines Efficiency Effort