Saturday, June 16, 2012

CA: Alameda County Judge Charged With Elder Theft

Alameda County Judge Paul Seeman may have had good intentions when he offered to help the couple that lived across the street from him in Berkeley - an elderly pair with no family, no friends and a home made uninhabitable by years of hoarding.

But whatever his initial purpose, his actions turned criminal, authorities said Thursday after charging him with elder financial abuse and taking him into custody at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse where he presides in downtown Oakland.

After a two-year investigation, Berkeley police said Seeman, 57, stole thousands of dollars from his neighbor Anne Nutting after her husband died in 1999 at age 90, sold off her art and other possessions, tried to bar her from her own home, and used her garage to store his beloved 1957 Ford Thunderbird.

Seeman befriended Nutting after her husband suffered a fall in 1998, authorities said, and ended up embezzling thousands of dollars from her by 2010, when she died at the age of 97. The two lived on Santa Barbara Road, east of Arlington Avenue in the Berkeley hills.

The Alameda County district attorney charged Seeman with one count of elder theft and 11 counts of perjury, all felonies, as well as enhancements alleging that he stole at least $200,000. He was being held Thursday evening at a downtown Oakland jail in lieu of $525,000 bail.

"The alleged conduct of Judge Seeman is both disturbing and disappointing," said Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for her office. "His alleged conduct is in no way a reflection of the outstanding caliber of judicial officers serving Alameda County."

Full Article and Source:
Alameda County Judge Charged With Elder Theft

Andrew Thomas Rolls out "Citizens for Clean Courts"

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, on behalf of Citizens for Clean Courts, held the first of a series of press conferences on May 31 at the state capitol to advocate support of Proposition 115.

House Concurrent Resolution 1001 passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in the legislature to become Proposition 115 on the November ballot.

While serving as county attorney, Thomas attempted to clean up corruption in the courts, only to find himself facing a force much larger than he imagined; one that eventually resulted in his being disbarred along with Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon and suspension of Deputy County Attorney Rachel Alexander’s license.

Just before the press conference began, Thomas said, “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”

Thomas began the press conference with the quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Full Article and Source:
Andrew Thomas Rolls Out Citizens for Clean Courts

Approval Rate for Justices Hit Just 44% in New Poll

Just 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing and three-quarters say the justices’ decisions are sometimes influenced by their personal or political views, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News.

Those findings are a fresh indication that the court’s standing with the public has slipped significantly in the past quarter-century, according to surveys conducted by several polling organizations. Approval was as high as 66 percent in the late 1980s, and by 2000 approached 50 percent.

The decline in the court’s standing may stem in part from Americans’ growing distrust in recent years of major institutions in general and the government in particular. But it also could reflect a sense that the court is more political, after the ideologically divided 5-to-4 decisions in Bush v. Gore, which determined the 2000 presidential election, and Citizens United, the 2010 decision allowing unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.

“The results of this and other recent polls call into question two pieces of conventional wisdom,” said Lee Epstein, who teaches law and political science at the University of Southern California. One is that the court’s approval rating has been stable over the years, the other is that it has been consistently higher than that of the other branches of government, Professor Epstein said.

Full Article and Source:
Approval Rating for Justices Hit Just 44% in New Poll

Friday, June 15, 2012

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Guardianship and conservatorship abuse IS elder abuse!

Join NASGA and help us stop elder abuse in our courts!

Remembering our Isolated Mothers on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

A number of moms spent Mother’s Day unlawfully imprisoned and isolated from loved ones. Those moms are victims of abusive conservators and guardians.

Jean Swope at Wildwood Canyon Villa in Yucaipa, CA
The court appointed Swope’s step-granddaughter as conservator, after the step-granddaughter abducted Swope and made false accusations against Swope’s immediate family who were caring for her. According to court records, the step-granddaughter unlawfully imprisoned and isolated Swope from loved ones for fifteen months. Swope was not allowed visitors on her 75th birthday, Christmas 2010, or Mother’s Day 2011. A court order now requires Wildwood Canyon Villa and the step-granddaughter to allow visitation.

Gisela Riordan at Villa Fontana in in San Jose, CA
The court appointed the Santa Clara County Public Guardian as Riordan’s conservator, although Riordan has a son who wishes to provide care. According to Riordan’s family, the Public Guardian unlawfully imprisoned and isolated Riordan from loved ones for over two years. Riordan was not allowed to see her family for Christmas 2011. She was allowed a one-hour supervised, paid visit with her son Marcus on Mother’s Day 2012. Riordan had lost about a third of her body weight. Her dentures are missing; she needs glasses and a hearing aid.

Jennie Horace in Washington, D.C.
The court appointed a private guardian for Horace, although Horace has a daughter who wishes to provide care. According to Horace’s family, the private guardian unlawfully imprisoned and isolated Horace from loved ones to varying degrees for two years. Horace was not allowed to see her daughter, Lisa Charles, on Mother’s Day 2012. Horace is held prisoner in her own home. Doors are locked to prevent her escape. The refrigerator is locked to prevent her eating when she wishes.

Retta Rickrow at Villas at Belleair in Clearwater, FL
The court appointed a professional guardian for Rickrow, although she has a daughter who wishes to provide care. According to Rickrow’s family, the professional guardian unlawfully imprisoned and isolated Rickrow from loved ones for two years. Just recently, Rickrow has been allowed limited, supervised, paid visitation on Sundays only. Rickrow’s 82nd birthday is June 6. She will not be allowed visitors for her birthday.

Full Article and Source:
Mother's Day Elder Abuse

MO Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Senior Protections

Elderly and disabled Missouri residents could gain new protection against financial exploitation by people who have authority over them under legislation awaiting action by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Missouri already has a law making it a crime to take financial advantage of an elderly or disabled person through deception, intimidation or force.

The bill on Nixon's desk would expand that law, criminalizing the use of "undue influence" to financially exploit a disabled or elderly person's "vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain or agony." It could be applied to those who improperly or fraudulently use a power of attorney, guardianship, conservatorship or other fiduciary authority.

The severity of the charge and potential penalty would rise with the amount of money involved.

A violation involving less than $50 would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The worst violations, involving more than $50,000, would be Class A felonies, carrying a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Full Article and Source:
MO Lawmakers Aim to Strengthen Senior Protections

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Judge Fires Back in Rosa Parks Estate Dispute

For nearly a year, Farmington Hills, Mich., attorney Steven G. Cohen has publicly hammered Wayne County Probate Judge Freddie Burton Jr. over his handling of the estate of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

But Burton has finally fired back.

In a two-page order Monday, Burton dismissed Cohen's recently filed lawsuit against Burton and two probate lawyers Burton put in charge of the estate. Cohen had accused of them of conspiring with Burton to loot Parks' estate through excessive and unnecessary legal fees.

Burton also dismissed Cohen's request for a default judgment against Burton and the two lawyers -- John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr. -- and as well as Cohen's request for a subpoena to depose all three of them for the lawsuit.

Burton went on to accuse Cohen of engaging in a campaign that violates the state's code of professional conduct for lawyers and ordered Cohen to stop harassing him with "unfounded, illegal pleadings."

The judge also ordered lawyers in the case to stop filing legal briefs until he decides Cohen's request that Burton disqualify himself from continuing to handle the case.

Cohen was furious.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Fires Back in Rosa Parks Estate Dispute Case

See Also:
Lawyer Sues Judge, 2 Others in Rosa Parks Estate Case

Elderly AZ Woman Makes Strikes Toward Getting Her House Back

The 78-year-old woman moved into the assisted living home last October, after a bad fall.

One month later, Pauline Balseiro gave away her north Phoenix house to the owner of that assisted living home. Within two months, police say the owner, Maria Barbu, forged two $2,500 checks from the older woman’s accounts, payable to her business.

Now Barbu stands charged with three felonies and she’s surrendered her state license. She’s also offered to give Pauline her house back.

But first, she wants the elderly woman to pay her for work she had done after taking over the house.

“It would be unjust …,” Barbu’s attorney wrote in court documents, “to allow (Pauline) to obtain the premises without payment for the renovations that (the Barbus) paid for with their personal funds.”

Unjust is certainly a word that applies in this case. I’m just not sure I’d peg Marie Barbu as the victim.

You may recall the startling story of Pauline Balseiro. Like a lot of older Arizonans, she retired here from another state, far from family and friends. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2002 and lately had begun having trouble.

In October, she fell and several days apparently passed before she could summon help. Mayo Hospital called in a senior placement agency – one of those services that are paid handsomely by assisted living centers for sending clients their way. The placement people offered Barbu two options, based on her desire to be near her home, and on Oct. 18 Pauline moved into Barbu’s Golden Creek Assisted Living.

Almost immediately Pauline’s daughter in California and her north Phoenix neighbor began having trouble making contact with Pauline. The two women say Pauline’s attitude quickly hardened toward them.

On Nov. 18, Pauline signed over her Tatum Ranch house to Barbu, in exchange for “care taking services.”

Barbu is scheduled to go to trial on the criminal charges in August.

Meanwhile, it appears there will be a happy ending for Pauline, who is, I’m told, anxious to go home once the legalities are settled and she can be set up with some care.

But I wonder how many other vulnerable retirees are out there, willing to give away everything they own to someone they’ve known for a month?

Full Article and Source:
Elderly Woman Makes Strikes Toward Getting Her House Back

PA Woman Accused of Spending $300K Intended for Nursing Home Care

Almost five years ago, her dying neighbor asked Virginia Marquardt to look out for her personal finances after she entered a nursing home.

Instead, police say, the Bensalem woman helped herself to more than $300,000 of the woman’s money between August 2007 and March.

Rather than pay the bills for the woman’s nursing home care, Marquardt, 65, allegedly bought numerous vacations to Las Vegas, Lake Placid, Hilton Head and Mexico, casino trips, scuba lessons, country club and golf club memberships and $1,325 in luxury watches. She also used the woman’s money for home repairs and business expenses for her husband.

Marquardt, who faces five felony theft-related charges that could put her in jail for up to 35 years, was arrested and arraigned before Bensalem District Judge Joseph Falcone, who set her bail at $300,000/10 percent — the minimum amount the District Attorney requested. Her husband, Edward, immediately posted the bail.

Full Article and Source:
Bensalem Woman Spent $300K Intended for Nursing Care

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DC Council Ignores Neglect, Exploitation of Seniors

On June 22, the Elder Abuse Prevention Committee of the DC Office on Aging will host a seminar at Catholic University on "The Financial Exploitation of Our Elder and Vulnerable Populations." Since the elderly and disabled are prime targets for scam artists and criminals, it's critical to raise public awareness of this growing problem.

Some of the worst exploitation of vulnerable D.C. residents, many of them elderly African American women, is being perpetrated by D.C. Superior Probate Court judges and professional vultures in the legal system, who exploit seniors using the very system meant to protect them.

At a March 7 hearing before the District Council's Committee on Human Services, Carolyn Nicholas, president of Advocates for Elder Justice and daughter of the late Council member Hilda Mason, testified that even her well-known mother and multi-millionaire stepfather were victims of neglect and financial exploitation by their court-approved conservators.

Adult Protective Services "continues to refuse to protect people who reportedly are being neglected, abused and/or financially exploited ... by court-appointed guardians and conservators," Nicholas testified. For example, three different attorneys charged Helen Caraway, a retired DC Public Schools food service worker, $250 an hour to "protect" her while the conservator pilfered $19,700 from her meager retirement savings.

APS recently refused to respond to calls from the police regarding the reported abuse of a French citizen living in D.C. Her daughter, a federal law enforcement officer, told The Examiner that she was prevented from seeing her own mother on her 91st birthday last Sunday. Meanwhile, the court-appointed conservator continues to bill her mother for "services" -- which apparently don't include repairing her long-broken dentures.

Full Article and Source:
DC Council Ignores Neglect, Exploitation of Seniors

Ohio Pondering UAGPPJA - Uniform Guardianship Legislation

State Senator Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard) introduced bipartisan legislation (SB 355) with Senator Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills) to update Ohio's adult guardianship laws.

"As our population continues to age, it becomes increasingly more important to ensure that our laws accommodate families with out-of-state members and guardians in order to provide the protection and guardianship so desperately needed for our most vulnerable population," said Senator Cafaro.

Provisions within Senate Bill 355 would allow Ohio's probate courts to communicate and coordinate with other state courts regarding adult guardianship and protective proceedings when applicable. It will also ensure that the appointed adult guardian is subject to the jurisdiction of the Ohio probate court, and establish rules for Ohio probate courts in deciding how and whether to proceed with a case when a proceeding is also filed in another state.

The bill has bipartisan support and awaits committee assignment in the Ohio Senate.

Representative Tom Letson (D-Warren) introduced companion legislation (HB 27) in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Full Article and Source:
Senator Cafaro Introduces Uniform Guardianship Legislation

Man Acquitted of Kidnapping his Mother from Assisted Living Facility

A Cascade County jury has acquitted a South Dakota man of charges he kidnapped his mother from an assisted living facility in Montana.

James Wainscoat was arrested last August in California after he took his 93-year-old mother from Renaissance Senior Care in Great Falls. Prosecutors argued the woman was kidnapped because he could not legally make decisions for his mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Wainscoat told the Great Falls Tribune he was acting on his mother's wishes and wasn't aware of the legal guardianship or Alzheimer's diagnosis until later.

Wainscoat's mother, Troy Wainscoat, now lives with one of her daughters in California.

Full Article and Source:
SD Man Acquitted of Kidnapping Mother

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CT: Probate Dispute Drains $162 Million Estate

On a rainy and foggy March night in 1986, a small plane crashed outside of Chicago, killing F. Francis “Hi Ho” D’Addario, one of the most prolific and colorful industrialists of the 20the century in Connecticut.

Successful and wealthy, D’Addario was a 63-year-old Bridgeport businessman who had a will that distributed his substantial estate – valued at as much as $162 million — among his wife and five children.

It was a complicated matter. D’Addario Industries was diverse, from construction and paving to real estate, television and gambling to the Brakettes, a professional women’s softball team. That was nothing, however, compared to the mess that awaited in Connecticut’s probate courts.

More than 26 years later, D’Addario’s will remains open before probate court. And according to one interested party, the mystery is where all the millions have gone.

This long-running D'Addario saga of more than two decades of legal wrangling, intrigue and infighting is another reminder of a probate court system stuck in another era. While there is nothing to suggest that the D'Addario story is typical, the case raises questions about a court system that critics say lacks oversight – a theme I have sounded often in my years of columns about the probate court system's failure to enter modern times.

"It is a situation ripe for abuse,'' write lawyers for one of the estate's creditors, the Cadle Company, in a federal complaint filed recently against D'Addario's sons David and Lawrence and others connected with the estate. Connecticut probate court procedures lack "appropriate judicial supervision,'' Cadle lawyers charge in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport.

I can't begin to unravel the decades-long dispute between D'Addario's oldest son David and the Cadle Corp, which has sought payment of about $3.1 million from the estate over the decades. The Cadle lawsuit seeks to settle some of that, charging that D'Addario's millions evaporated in years of "plundering, pillaging and looting."

Full Article and Source:
Probate Dispute Drains $162 Million Estate

Audit Ordered of Finances Handled by Sheriff's Candidate

A Livingston County judge has ordered an audit in connection with alleged discrepancies surrounding the finances of an incapacitated man whose conservator son is running for Livingston County sheriff. Probate Court Judge Carole Hackett Garagiola ordered the forensic audit at a recent hearing based on a request by the attorney for the father of Thomas Ash.

Ash is running for Livingston County sheriff on the August Republican primary ballot against incumbent Sheriff Bob Bezotte and another challenger, retired state police Lt. C.J. Maier. Howell lawyer Alexander Garthoff is the court-appointed attorney for Thomas Ash’s father, Ricki Ash, who suffered a brain injury in a 1997 car accident.

The audit is being performed in connection with a discrepancy of over $58,000 in financial statements filed by Ash through his accountant, as required. Garthoff has stated he found discrepancies in the financial statements for Ricki Ash signed by Thomas Ash in three consecutive annual accounting statements. Ash rejects any supposition that he might have misappropriated his father’s funds; he told WHMI today the question merely involves the method by which he reports income and debts for an Iowa farm the family owns.

Results of the independent audit will be released at a July 10 hearing in probate court.

Full Article and Source:
Audit Ordered of Finances Handled by Sheriff's Candidate

NE Woman Ordered to Pay Back $29K for Fraud

A North Platte woman will have to pay back almost $29,000 in Social Security benefits she took from her ward.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha says 51-year-old Peggie Robinson was also sentenced to four years' probation for the fraud.

The prosecutor says Robinson was appointed in 2006 by Scotts Bluff County Court to be the legal guardian of an incapacitated woman who lived in a Gothenburg nursing home. Robinson was to have set up a trust account to receive the woman's Social Security benefits but instead deposited the money into her own bank account.

The prosecutor says Robinson passed those regular benefits onto the woman but used $29,000 in Social Security money that was awarded to the woman for a previous underpayment for her own expenses.

Full Article and Source:
Woman Ordered to Pay Back $29,000 for Fraud

Monday, June 11, 2012

TX: Ex-Judge Testifies in Lawyer's Corruption Trial

The former judge at the heart of a four-year federal investigation of judicial corruption told jurors on Thursday that he accepted kickbacks from several attorney friends, including the South Texas lawyer on trial.

Former state District Judge Abel Limas took the stand in Brownsville as a prosecution witness against Port Isabel lawyer Ray Marchan, the first of a dozen indicted in the case to go to trial.

Limas, the government's featured witness, pleaded guilty last year to racketeering and is awaiting sentencing. Marchan faces seven counts, including racketeering and conspiracy.

The trial's details may affirm the public's worst fears about justice behind closed doors, where scales tipped in favor of money exchanges between lawyers and judges not evidence and procedure.

The intercepted conversations between Limas and Marchan played for the jury were profane, cynical chats between buddies about using the system to line their pockets. The amounts weren't huge - about $11,000 from Marchan - but Limas testified that Marchan wasn't the only one giving him money, and that, in total, he had taken more than $250,000 in bribes and kickbacks.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-Judge Testifies in Lawyer's Corruption Trial

Bill Passed to Protect MI Seniors From Financial Exploitation, Abuse

Michigan senior citizens will be better protected from financial exploitation and other forms of abuse and neglect under legislation overwhelmingly approved [May 30] by the state House, Rep. Mike Shirkey announced.

The multi-bill legislative package, which was approved with bipartisan support, helps curb a variety of abuses against older adults.

"This broad-based proposal will help stop anyone who intentionally tries to prey on Michigan senior citizens, whether through financial exploitation or outright physical abuse," said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. "Targeting vulnerable senior citizens is repugnant, and we must do all we can to protect Michigan's growing older population."

Full Article and Source:
Shirkey Votes to Protect Senior Citizens from Financial Exploitation,Abuse

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Linda Kincaid Reports: Wildwood Canyon Villa Sued for Wrongful Death of David Forbes

On January 9, 2012, Wildwood Canyon Villa and Executive Director Lynnette Alvarado were sued for elder abuse, negligence, and wrongful death of resident David Forbes.

According to court documents, Forbes died an excruciating and avoidable death due to elder abuse and neglect at Wildwood Canyon Villa in Yucaipa, CA. For two days, no urine drained from Forbes’ indwelling catheter into his urine bag. Forbes’ catheter was blocked, and urine backed up into his bladder. Upon arrival at the emergency room, 1800 cc (two quarts) of urine was removed from his bladder.

Forbes’ abdomen was so distended that he appeared nine months pregnant, said daughter Elizabeth Forbes-Hannibal. Not surprisingly, Forbes was in severe pain from his grossly distended bladder.

The urine drained from Forbes’ bladder was brown, said Elizabeth. During the time when Wildwood failed to provide catheter care, Wildwood also failed to provide fluids. The only water was four feet away from Forbes’ bed.

LVN Candace Hull opposed Elizabeth’s demand that her father be immediately transported to the emergency room. Elizabeth insisted, and Forbes was eventually taken to the hospital via a 911 call. Forbes died of urosepsis the following day.

Forbes’ debilitated condition was due to a broken hip from a fall suffered at Wildwood, according to court records. The fall was Mr. Forbes’ fifth since becoming a resident at Wildwood, said Elizabeth. She considers those falls the result of habitual neglect by Wildwood staff.

Wildwood Executive Director Lynnette Alvarado expressed her condolences to Elizabeth by doubling the fee on the room occupied by Forbes’ widow, according to Elizabeth.

Full Article and Source:
Wildwood Canyon Villa Sued for Wrongful Death of David Forbes

Ohio Appeals Court Reviews Estate Concealed Assets Case

A recent opinion issued by the Court of Appeals of Ohio that reversed a decision from the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati considered a claim filed by an estate administrator against family members of the deceased. Estate administrators, commonly known as executors, are responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased in the probate administration process.

Several months after the decedent's death in 2009 following a fatal accident, the original executor filed a complaint alleging that the decedent's mother and three other individuals had concealed assets that belonged to the estate, including several vehicles and other personal property. The alleged misdeeds included the transfer of nearly $70,000 from three bank accounts affiliated with a limited liability company owned solely by the son. The mother had signatory authority over the accounts.

Protecting or Challenging an Estate via Probate Litigation
The initial executor herself passed away shortly after filing an amended complaint, and the court appointed a replacement. During this period, a local deputy sheriff was unsuccessful in three attempts to formally serve the mother with notice of the legal action. However, his notes indicated that he was on one occasion able to share the court date with her on the phone.

The mother appeared without a lawyer before a magistrate at an initial hearing and she admitted to some of the allegations while contesting others. During a two-day trial, she represented herself, questioned witnesses, provided testimony and delivered a closing statement. The mother and one other party were found guilty of concealing assets.

Subsequent to the verdict, the mother retained an estate litigation attorney and filed multiple post-trial objections to the court's decision. Recognizing that the mother had never been formally served, the trial court dismissed the complaint against her, and the executor appealed.

Because of the "quasi-criminal" nature of concealed estate assets cases, Ohio probate law expressly requires that notice by citation, attachment or warrant must be served upon any person suspected of asset concealment or embezzlement from an estate. However, the appellate court concluded that the mother had waived any argument that she had been properly served by voluntarily appearing to answer the complaint and attending the trial.

Full Article and Source:
Ohio Appeals Court Reviews Estate Concealed Assets Case

Iowa Judge's Ruling Upsets Officials

A Burlington woman and her daughter authorities said abused a mentally handicapped man they were supposed to be caring for were placed on probation for five years during separate hearings Monday morning.

District Court Judge John Wright said the sentences for Cindy Dameron, 54, and Jodi Dameron, 35, were intended to allow the women to promptly pay back the $50,000 they are accused of stealing from their victim.

Wright said if the women were sent to prison, they could be paroled in less than two years.

"You're going to have a lot of money to pay back along with your mother," Wright told Jodi Dameron.

The sentences met fierce disagreement from at least seven officials from the Des Moines County Health Department and Area Agency for Aging, all of whom attended the sentencing hearings.

Since they were not considered victims, a reading of a collective statement from the officials was not allowed.

"We are sometimes very frustrated because we see that 'systems' don't take this seriously as we hope they would," the statement said.

"We strongly believe that rendering a sentence of probation for their crime against Robert L. Luth (victim) sends the wrong message to elders, their families and the community at large.

'The message would be that it is okay to financially exploit an elder because the most that could happen to you is that you will get probation."

Full Article and Source:
Judge's Ruling Upsets Officials