Saturday, May 12, 2012

Abbott Labratories to Pay $1 Billion Over Misbranding Drug

Abbott Laboratories has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1.6 billion to resolve its criminal and civil liability arising from the company's unlawful promotion of the prescription drug Depakote, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West said it was case of Abbott putting "profits ahead of patients."

The total includes a criminal fine of $700 million and civil settlements with the states and federal government totaling $800 million. Abbott pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for misbranding Depakote.

Separate from the DOJ settlement, Abbott agreed to pay 45 states a total of $100 million to resolve liability under the state consumer-protection laws.

That makes this the second-largest fraud settlement involving a drug company, behind only the $2.3 billion Pfizer settlement in 2010. It is the third-largest fraud settlement against the government in any field.

Abbott pleaded guilty to misbranding Depakote by promoting the drug to control agitation and aggression in patients with elderly dementia and to treat schizophrenia when neither use was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Justice Department said.

Abbott will be subject to court-supervised probation and reporting obligations for Abbott's CEO and board of directors.

Full Article and Source:
Abbot Labratories to Pay $1 Billion Over Misbranding Drug

Former Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure Ordered to Pay Nearly $70K

Former Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband were ordered Thursday to repay nearly $70,000 plus interest to the state in an adoption fraud case.

"A person who had a high position of authority should be held to a higher standard," Garfield County District Judge Paul K. Woodward, who heard the case, told the couple.

Bass-LeSure, 44, pleaded guilty March 2 to two felony counts of obtaining public assistance by false representation. Her husband, Karlos Bass-LeSure, 48, pleaded guilty to one felony count of obtaining public assistance by false representation and one felony count of attempting to obtain public assistance.

They were accused of secretly giving twin babies to Ravonda L. Edwards, the sister of the judge's bailiff, after becoming the twins' foster parents. The couple became foster parents for the twins in 2008 and adopted them in 2010.

Edwards, 42, faces six felony counts in the case. She is due back in court June 1.

Defense attorneys argued during Thursday's restitution hearing that the couple did not owe any restitution because their children were entitled to money from adoption subsidies and foster care payments.

Full Article and Source:
Court Orders Former Oklahoma County District Judge Tammy Bass La-sure to Pay Nearly $70,000

See Also:
Oaklahoma County Judge Faces More Accusations

Court Orders Hearing on 'Charity' Nursing Home Operator

This one's mostly for legal wonks. But the Arkansas Court of Appeals ordered a further hearing today [5/2] on whether a nonprofit nursing home operator, Arkansas Elder Outreach, was truly a charity or just an artifice to maximize profit for investors that avoids expensive liability insurance and funnels profits to a related management corporation. The question arises in a case over alleged negligence in care of a patient in a Crittenden County nursing home.

Court Orders Hearing on "Charity" Nursing Home Operator

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jambed Gears of Justice in Ct Probate Case Over Farm

There are few more frightening glimpses of probate court gone wrong than the story told in a new memo from the chief disciplinary counsel for the state committee that investigates complaints about lawyers.

An elderly, dying woman's valuable estate is hijacked and her will violated in what seems like a nightmare that just couldn't happen. Except that it did, just a few years ago, to an old Polish woman in Southington. It could happen to you.

I've been telling you about Josephine Smoron's probate debacle for years because Sam Manzo, the caretaker who was supposed to inherit the broken-down old farm off I-84, was so audaciously pick pocketed in full view of our probate courts. I'm still writing about this because an outrageous injustice still has yet to be remedied.

The Statewide Grievance Committee, which hears complaints about the more than 35,000 lawyers in Connecticut, is still considering what action to take against John Nugent, the lawyer appointed as Smoron's conservator. Superior and probate courts, meanwhile, have yet to sort out the shell game that snatched the farm from Smoron.

Nugent, who could lose his license to practice law, is still fighting efforts to resolve the case. In his responding memo to the grievance committee, Nugent's lawyer said his client "due to the fault of no one ... did not have complete and accurate information" and was never told that Manzo stood to inherit the farm.

During one hearing, Nugent was "distracted" and "simply did not hear" when told that Manzo had an interest in the property, the lawyer, James Sullivan, writes in his brief.

"He is hard of hearing and has been for many years because of his military service,'' said Sullivan, who adds that "there is no evidence of any financial benefit to Nugent ... he simply was not paying attention." Sullivan also writes that Manzo, who had been conservator to Smoron but was removed, "had left her financial affairs in a mess."

Meanwhile, the Smoron farm remains mired in the lawsuits stemming from Nugent's ill-fated conservatorship.

Manzo, broke and still the old farm's caretaker, hasn't inherited the property Josephine Smoron long sought to give him. This probate morality tale still stinks, which tells us plenty about a probate court system that politicians and judges often say has been reformed and brought into the 21st Century.

What's amazing – and most worrisome – about this case is that despite two lawyers looking out for Smoron's interests and a judge overseeing the matter, the old lady's will was ignored in routine, shuffle-the-papers fashion. This poor old woman had a court-appointed lawyer, a court-appointed conservator, and a judge who were all supposed to be in her corner.

Full Article and Source:
Can Damning Memo Finally Unjamb Gears of Justice in Probate Case Over Farm?

TX Family Blames Nursing Home Neglect for Mother's Death

Consepcion De La Garza was not your average 94-year-old. "I always telling my mom, you gonna live to be 100, mom, maybe more," said Luis Fonseca, her son. The De La Garza family says cell phone video taken in their mother's final days shows her rapid decline. "Apparently they didn't care or apparently they weren't doing their jobs."

Just a few months after moving into Buena Vida nursing home in San Antonio she died. "My mom would always complain her back hurts, her back hurts and I thought maybe it was something else," said Fonseca. Now, the family says they know why. De La Garza's certificate of death lists a cause as sepsis. The severe illness develops when the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria, often from bedsores. "When we were at Southeast Baptist and they brought us in and finally let us see the sore we were amazed, we were in shock," said Debbie Jo Fonseca, her granddaughter. "It was actually bone that was being exposed."

For the De La Garzas, the problems don't stop there. "They told me they were not bathing her, they found mold under her breast," said Luis Fonseca. "I noticed she wasn't eating like she was supposed to and I would sometimes feed her because sometimes they would just leave the tray there," said Gloria Woytasczyk, her daughter. "I was down the hall with my son and I could hear someone screaming," said Debbie Jo. De La Garza's granddaughter says she filed a complaint after seeing a Buena Vida employee's attempt to multi-task. "She was like on a cell phone trying to maneuver my grandmother... she just kinda said I'm changing her, I said no you are mishandling her, your treating her like she's just a ragdoll."

Full Article and Source:
Family Blames Nursing Home Neglect for Mother's Death

Discovering the True Cost of At-Home Caregiving

Walk through any nursing home, and your first thought might be: "I need to take care of Mom myself."

Few people want to turn over a loved one to institutional care. No matter how good the nursing home, it may seem cold and impersonal — and very expensive. But making the choice to provide care yourself is fraught with financial risks and personal sacrifices.

Those who become full-time caregivers often look back and wish they had taken the time to better understand the financial position they would be getting themselves into.

"I used to hear about people saying, 'Oh you know, we've got to put our parents in a home; we can't deal with it anymore,' " said Yolanda Hunter, 43, a Maryland resident who is struggling with her decision to drop out of the human resources field to become a full-time caregiver for her grandmother. "And I used to think: 'Oh, how cruel are you?'

"You know, but now? I understand," she said.

Hunter belongs to one of three families being profiled in NPR's eight-week series, Family Matters: The Money Squeeze, which airs each Tuesday on Morning Edition. Each family is struggling with how to afford care for an older generation. The do-it-yourself approach is both common and costly.

Caregiver advocacy groups say Congress needs to be doing more with tax credits and Social Security benefits to help financially support those who choose to care for the elderly.

Full Article and Source:
the True Cost of At-Home Caregiving

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NY: Cuomo Seeking New Agency to Police Care of Disabled

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seeking to strengthen the state’s chronically weak response to abuse of disabled people who live in publicly financed homes, plans this week to propose creating an agency dedicated to investigating problems with the care of nearly one million vulnerable New Yorkers.

The new law enforcement and oversight agency would monitor those in state or private care who have developmental disabilities like autism or cerebral palsy, mental illnesses including schizophrenia, and other conditions, among them traumatic brain injuries, that put them at risk. The agency would employ a special prosecutor and would be granted subpoena power and the authority to convene grand juries, according to a draft plan obtained by The New York Times.

The administration is also proposing tougher laws to punish those who abuse people with developmental or other cognitive disabilities. And Mr. Cuomo would, for the first time, expand the reach of the state’s Freedom of Information Law by requiring the thousands of nonprofit organizations that house the bulk of those in state care to make abuse and neglect records public.

“I think it raises the bar significantly on the degree to which states address the issue of abuse and neglect across all disabled populations,” said Nancy Thaler, the executive director of a national association of state agencies that serve developmentally disabled people. Ms. Thaler, who was briefed on the plan, called it “unprecedented in breadth and scope.”

Full Article and Source:
Cuomo Seeking New Agency to Police Care of Disabled

$450mil Medicare Fraud Scheme Takedown

Four Houston ambulance operators accused of making phony trips to a mental health clinic were among 107 people nationwide charged Wednesday in attempts to bilk taxpayers out of $450 million in bogus Medicare claims in the largest health care fraud crackdown in U.S. history.

The arrests, along with those of two home health care operators, were made by investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General and FBI agents. The nine people indicted in Houston accounted for more than $16 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

The charges against four Houston EMS operators - who are accused of ferrying able-bodied patients to mental health clinics and disguising the trips as patient transports to a hospital - are the first since a Houston Chronicle investigation last year documented that the two industries appeared to be working in concert to fuel billing spikes for the nation's largest insurer of the elderly and mentally disabled.

Full Article and Source:
Largest Medicare Fraud Takedown Includes 4 EMS, 2 Home Health Care Operators

Missouri Elder Abuse Bill

Legislation adding financial exploitation to crimes covered by Missouri's elder abuse law is ready for debate in the House.

The bill would make it a crime for certain people in authority to take advantage of an elderly person's state of mind for financial gain. The provision would apply to people who have guardianship, power of attorney or some other financial management role for seniors.

If money stolen from an elderly person had been meant for nursing home expenses, a judge could order the money sent to the home.

The bill was sent to the House after clearing committee review. The Senate has already approved the measure.

Elder abuse bill is SB689.

MO House to Weigh Expansion of Elder Abuse Law

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FBI Press Release: Nursing Home Abuse: Owner Cheats Government and Neglects Residents

Not enough food. Little air conditioning or heat. Roofs leaking to the point that barrels and plastic sheets were used to catch rain water. Trash that piled up in dumpsters. Flies and rodents everywhere, along with rampant mold and mildew.

These were just some of the horrible conditions that elderly residents of three Georgia nursing homes lived under for several years.

The primary culprit: the owner of these homes who, despite having received more than $32.9 million in payments from Medicare and Medicaid for residents’ care, elected to pocket much of the money instead.

But he didn’t get away with it. Earlier this month, George Dayln Houser was convicted in Atlanta of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. Houser’s accomplice and wife, Rhonda Washington Houser, pled guilty last December.

To receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, Houser agreed to provide his residents with a safe and clean physical environment, nutritional meals, medical care, and other assistance. But as complaints began to roll in from residents, family members, nursing home staffers, and vendors hired to provide services, it became clear he had no intention of doing so.

These complaints led to an investigation by the FBI’s Atlanta office—in concert with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation. Evidence gathered by investigators and later introduced at trial showed that the services Houser provided to residents were so deficient that the judge determined them “worthless.” It was a precedent-setting case…the first time ever a defendant was federally convicted at trial for submitting payment claims for worthless services.

Full Press Release and Source:
Nursing Home Abuse - Owner Cheats Government and Neglects Residents

Pennsylvania Poised to Adopt UAGPPJA

In the United States each state has developed its own distinct system of protecting adults who need the assistance of a guardian. The multiplicity of potential state jurisdictions means that confusing issues and conflicts frequently arise when an incapacitated person has some presence in more than one state.

There is a path to simplifying the multi-state issues that arise when an adult needs a guardian. The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPJA) has been enacted in a majority of states (but not in Pennsylvania as of May 5, 2012). UAGPPJA addresses the many problems relating to multiple jurisdiction, transfer, and out of state recognition. It establishes a roadmap for communication, uniformity and reciprocity between states. It includes a requirement to recognize guardianship decisions that occur in a different state and provides direction on how courts should handle guardianship cases that span state boundary lines. But it can only work when all the states involved have adopted the uniform law.

Now Pennsylvania appears poised to enact UAGPPJA. House Bill 1720 will adopt the uniform jurisdiction law in Pennsylvania. It passed the House by a unanimous vote (196-0) on October 26, 2011. The bill is now awaiting concurrence by the Pennsylvania Senate.

Full Article and Source:
Pennyslvania Poised to Adopt Uniform Guardianship Jurisdication Legislation

See Also:
House Bill 1720

Uniform Law Commission

New Law Will Help Protect Maryland Seniors

Bonnie Klem, director of Montgomery County’s Adult Protective Service Investigations department, recalls a call her office received a few years ago from a bank that wanted to report the suspected financial abuse of an elderly client.

“Our intake operator said, ‘OK, what is the victim’s name?’ and the bank said ‘Oh, no, no, no! We can’t tell you that!’” she said. “It blew our minds; we were all standing in intake and we couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to cry … It tells you how uncomfortable banks were with sharing that information.”

Three years later, Klem is hopeful that a bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this session will put an end to the once strongly-held reservations of banks and financial institutions about cooperating with hers and other offices dedicated to protecting vulnerable seniors.

The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) next month, requires employees of banks and other fiduciary institutions to report “knowledge of behavior or unusual circumstances or transactions,” that indicate an elder adult may be the victim of financial abuse.

The bill also requires banks to train employees to recognize the signs of financial abuse and mandates that suspected abuse cases be referred to the local adult protective services, police and state’s attorney’s offices within 24 hours, said Deborah Zuckerman, a senior legal assistant for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office who specializes in investigating elder financial abuse cases.

Full Article and Source:
New Law Will Help Protect Maryland Seniors

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Against Her Will'

A cautionary tale of elder abuse and the system that perpetuates it. Two years ago, John Wyman's mother, Carol, walked out of a nursing home in Rockford, Illinois. She had been placed there for the convenience of others, not for her own well-being and had suffered mentally, physically and emotionally.

When she ended up at John's home outside of Aspen, Colorado his journey began. Hairdresser by trade, rebel at heart, John took on the challenges of dealing with nursing homes, courts and family members to provide the best possible situation for his mother.

What he experienced woke him up to the inequities and injustices lurking in the systems which have been established to help our older population. He decided to share his story to make us all aware of the catastrophic possibilities that lie in wait if we don't take action to change these systems. A must read for all who may become old.

Available through Amazon

MI Judge in Hot Water Over Steamy Beefcake Cell Phone Pic

A curtain of silence has descended around partially disrobed Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade H. McCree, who admitted on television that he sent a beefcake cell-phone photo of himself.

“No shame in my game,” McCree told WJBK-Fox (Channel 2) reporter Charlie LeDuff when asked about the picture, reportedly sent to a married female courtroom employee, showing the smiling, bare-torso McCree snapping a cell-phone photo in what appears to be a bathroom mirror.

But there may be a complaint with the Judicial Tenure Commission that could cost him his seat on the bench. Complaints with the state’s judicial watchdogs are confidential by law unless an investigation finds enough evidence to support a formal public charge of misconduct.

“I can’t say if there is or isn’t a complaint,” said Paul J. Fischer, the commission’s executive director and general counsel.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Wade H. McCree in Hot Water Over Steamy Cell Phone Photo

Monday, May 7, 2012

Boomers Beware of Guardianship / Conservatorship Abuse

...This growing profit industry, milked by professionals and nonprofit organizations alike, is operated under color – and cover – of law, ironically described as “protective” statutes and commonly known as “guardianship” and/or “conservatorship proceedings.”

The ostensible purpose of guardianship and conservatorship law is to GUARD, CONSERVE and PROTECT incompetent persons from harming themselves or others and to protect the taxpayers against these individuals winding up on the public dole.

Over the years, misuse of guardianship law, at the expense of and to the detriment of the very people the law is supposed to be protecting, has created a gold mine for fiduciaries who have lost their moral compass and are driven by greed.

“Guardianizing” a vulnerable person based on false and fraudulent allegations in a petition filed for nefarious purposes, unsupported by evidence and in violation of due process, is becoming increasingly easier as the industry – and the caseload – surges.

Some state statutes have enabled growth of this industry by replacing “incompetent” (the criteria for wardship) with “incapacitated,” thereby lowering the requirement and exposing even persons with minor or temporary physical disabilities to victimization by unscrupulous fiduciaries and the court system which allows them to operate nearly unfettered.

Welcome to “The Protection Industry.”

Boomers Beware of Guardianship Abuse

Why Aren't the Feds Doing More to Stop Financial Fraud of Seniors?

Last year, the actor Mickey Rooney testified before the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging regarding the abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of seniors. He spoke from personal experience, and his words were heartfelt and tragic. He said:

Elder abuse comes in many different forms – physical abuse, emotional abuse, or financial abuse. Each one is devastating in its own right. Many times, sadly, as with my situation, the elder abuse involves a family member. When that happens, you feel scared, disappointed, angry, and you can’t believe this is happening to you.

He went on to say:

I know because it happened to me. My money was taken and misused. When I asked for information, I was told I couldn’t have any of my own information. I was told it was “for my own good” and that it was none of my business. I was literally left powerless.

Mickey Rooney’s story of exploitation is one many investors experience. In fact, the financial exploitation of the elderly is on the rise. A survey conducted for Investor Protection Trust estimated that at least one in five Americans over the age of 65 – that’s 7.3 million seniors – has been victimized by financial fraud.

SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar recently had some interesting things to say about financial fraud targeting senior citizens at the American Retirement Summit in remarks delivered by his Chief of Staff, Smeeta Ramarathnam – and it wasn’t what you are necessarily thinking.

According to Aguilar, when it comes to the rise of financial exploitation of the elderly, “it is clear there is not federal leadership on this issue.” He noted that the GAO, although not focused specifically on financial exploitation, found that greater federal leadership was needed in this area, and made several specific recommendations to ensure national data collection and response. For example, he observed, the report recommended, among other things, that:

-The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) determine the feasibility and cost of establishing a national resource center for Adult Protective Services (APS)-dedicated information that is comprehensive and easily accessible;

-The Secretary of HHS, in conjunction with the Attorney General, convene a group of state APS representatives to help determine what APS administrative data on elder abuse cases would be most useful for all states and for the federal government to collect;

-A pilot study be conducted to collect, compile, and disseminate uniform, reliable APS administrative data on elder abuse cases from each state.

Full Article and Source:
Why Aren't the Feds Doing More to Stop Financial Fraud of Seniors?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

'Judge Kennedy Should Resign'

(Case# 06P-1603) Allows serious felony crimes to continue:

1) False imprisonment (isolate)
2) Aggravated assault (medicate)
3) Conversion of assets (liquidate)

Tacitly participates with lawyers in his court to liquidate ward's estate in order to enrich the attorneys and to spite me, the petitioner. Ruled that the respondent was incompetent solely to prevent me from withdrawing the petition when my first withdrawal was procedurally deficient (didn't notarize affidavit of service). Respondent was not incompetenet at that time, and the court didn't have sufficient evidence that he was.

He jailed me for 330 days for not abiding by his illegal order to shutdown my first website. Illegally ordered me not to use my father's name or his wife's name by email or by internet (it was finally overturned).

Judge Kennedy Should Resign

Attorneys Tell Judge They are Trying to Settle Case Over Zsa Zsa Gabor's Care, Finances

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s daughter and husband are attempting to settle a dispute over the 95-year-old actress’ care and finances outside of court, attorneys told a probate judge Wednesday.

The two sides will meet with a retired probate judge in late June to try to mediate their issues without the need for a lengthy court fight.

Gabor’s daughter Constance Francesca Hilton has asked that a conservatorship be created to oversee the actress’ medical care and ensure that her assets are being properly protected. The petition is opposed by Frederic von Anhalt, Gabor’s husband of 25 years and her caretaker.

Hilton appeared for a brief scheduling hearing Wednesday but did not speak. Attorneys said they would report the results of the mediation at a hearing on July 11.

Full Article and Source:
Attorneys Tell Judge They are Trying to Settle Case Over Zsa Zsa Gabor's Care, Finances

See Also:
Petition Filed to Conserve Zsa Zsa Gabor