Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lon Watts, Texas Gay Man, Says Partner Jim Heath's Sister Forced Them Apart, Evicted Him

For more than 30 years, Lon Watts said he shared his life and his love with partner, Jim Heath. But that life came crashing down in 2011 after Watts says Heath's sister successfully forced the pair apart, evicted him from the house and has prohibited him from visiting Heath in his new nursing home.

Now, Watts is speaking out about both the incident and the laws in Texas that refuse to recognize him as anything more than a good friend of a man he's loved for decades.

According to Watts, the trouble began in July of 2011, when he called 911 because his partner, Heath, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, seemed "swollen."

When Heath was finally admitted, his sister Carolyn Franks had Watts escorted out of the hospital, he said. A few weeks later, she filed for guardianship over Heath, a legal proceeding Watts said went on without his knowledge.

"I was never notified, never considered," Watts said. "There was no mention of me on the guardianship information."

Despite having power of attorney over Heath, Franks convinced the court to give her guardianship.

Arguing that Watts was neglectful, she put Heath in a nursing home and took possession of the couple's house, Watts said.

Full Article and Source:
Lon Watts, Texas Gay Man, Says Partner Jim Heath's Sister Forced Them Apart, Evicted Him

The Road to "Save" Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes came into the public eye as one of Nickelodeon’s sweethearts. Now friends and colleagues are so worried about her recent erratic behavior that they have been begging for police intervention. Her former publicist, Jonathan Jaxson, tweeted: “I just spoke to @AmandaBynes and she is soooo messed up on drugs and please @NY POLICE find her and help her! I don’t know her address!”

Just over a year ago, Amanda Bynes started down a path that many probably could not foresee. It started with being charged with driving under the influence last year after she hit a police car when she was talking on her cell phone. After that, she was charged with two more hit and run accidents, which were later dismissed. Since then, her behavior has seemed to get more bizarre and erratic by the month.

 Does this remind you of another young starlet? Maybe Britney Spears a few years back? Britney Spears’ career was likely turned around because of court intervention through a conservatorship proceeding. While this type of court proceeding is normally used for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they certainly can be used to help someone in their 20′s. As long as the person meets the legal standards, there can be a conservatorship or guardianship. Britney certainly qualified at the time (but there is a big question whether, five years later, she still needs one).

Full Article and Source:
The Road to Save Amanda Bynes

Judges, Feeling the Pressure

Judges who are fed up with crowded dockets, low pay and inexperienced lawyers or pro se litigants are taking their frustration out in court, according to a recent story in The National Law Journal. 

The paper reports a Florida judge was disciplined for screaming at an attorney because of the lawyer’s alleged bad attitude and a West Virginia family court judge was punished for telling a litigant to “shut up” or face jail time.

While not defending a judge losing his or her cool, legal observers said the immense pressure judges face has made these types of outburts almost inevitable.

“A fair number of judges are sitting at a low boiling point,” said Michael Downey, a partner at Armstrong Teasdalein in St. Louis who specializes in legal ethics.

Because of the rough economy, Downey said more litigants are deciding to represent themselves, while others are hiring less expensive but more inexperienced attorneys.

“People are coming in unprepared or with borderline arguments, at best,” Downey said.

And when a judge loses it, social media outlets like Twitter and YouTube allow the world to instantly see the outburst.

Sanctions against judges for poor demeanor, however, are not the only reason for an increase in judicial discipline. In 2012, sanctions that range from public admonition to removal from the bench went up by 5.7 percent compared with 2011, according to numbers from the American Judicature Society Center for Judicial Ethics.

Full Article and Source:
Judges, Feeling the Pressure

Political Groups Bilking Elderly for Donations Through Mailers

Mabel, 95, has developed significant memory and cognitive issues. Because of her age and health problems, her niece and nephew believes some charities are taking advantage of her by asking for money.

"I find it despicable. I find it unethical," said Mabel's niece, Charlene Cogan.

They are concerned about an endless deluge of mail donation solicitations. Dozens arrived in the last two weeks, the majority of which were on issues important to the elderly.

"Social Security reform, or medical care, those are the things," said Mabel's nephew Gralen Britto.
"It was so obvious, the more she paid, the more letters they would send," said Charlene. For Mabel, it started out small. Her niece said it was small checks at first for 5, 10, 15, 20 dollars. And it quickly got out of hand.

"I looked at her checkbook and that month she had spent about $1000 in contributions," said Charlene.

Our investigation shows the often highly hyped and verbally supercharged solicitations are rarely tax deductible because they are for political advocacy.

"The language is such that it becomes scarier. It becomes more, 'if you don't do this, the outcome is going to be tragic to you,'" said Gralen.

In sorting the bags of Mabel's mail, we counted sixty-six solicitations from a single group. It operates under a half-dozen project names.

Full Article and Source:
Political Groups Bilking Elderly for Donations Through Mailers

Friday, May 3, 2013

Nashville Woman, Shannon Hill, is Assigned New Conservator

Following a more than two-hour hearing, a 67-year-old Nashville resident has won a partial victory in her battle to win release from a conservatorship dating back to 2009.

Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy told Shannon Hill Wednesday he would order an increase in her monthly allowance from $200 to $300, but he declined to dissolve the conservatorship due to concerns expressed by one of her doctors that her condition could deteriorate if she did not adhere to her medication requirements.

Kennedy also agreed to replace her current conservator, a cousin, with the nonprofit Guardianship and Trust Co., which regularly handles conservatorships in Kennedy’s court.

Kennedy said he would review Hill’s status at a September hearing and stressed that his goal was to place Hill under the least restrictive conditions as possible and that the conservatorship could be tapered back at that time. He also promised a review of her conservator Kathy Mangrum’s final accounting report.

“This is about what’s in your best interests,” Kennedy said.

Hill testified at length about disagreements with Mangrum, who is her cousin, but Kennedy and others involved in the case said repeatedly they saw nothing wrong in the way Mangrum had performed her duties.

Nashville Woman is Assigned New Conservator

See Also:
New TN Conservatorship Law Comes too Late

PA: Elder Task Force to Step Up Guidelines

As more Americans worry about financial abuse of seniors, Pennsylvania's new task force on elder law is stepping up.

The group expects to outline recommendations next year that could make it harder for thieves to prey on older people and drain their bank accounts, its chairperson said.
The practice of senior guardianship is “ripe for abuse,” said state Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd, who chairs the court's Elder Law Task Force.
“We need greater monitoring,” Todd said. “It's really sad when you read their cases. ... They've lost their life savings or their homes.”
Pennsylvania law allows the Orphans Court to appoint guardians to handle living arrangements or financial matters for someone incapable of doing so.
Three task force subcommittees will focus on the appointment and qualifications of guardians and attorneys; guardianship monitoring and data collection; and elder abuse and neglect.
Financial abuse of the elderly is hard to measure, experts said.
“It's difficult to get a handle on because family members may be involved,” said Richard Schulz, director of Gerontology and associate director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Pittsburgh.

The 38-member task force composed of judges, lawyers and social workers plans to recommend solutions “that will allow older Pennsylvanians to age without worriesthat they will be abused or their money will be taken,” said Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. will chair the subcommittee on elder abuse and neglect. He believes the task force will make a difference.
“We're looking at changing rules, both civil and criminal. … We're going to change the way we do business,” said Zappala, who formed an elder abuse unit in his office in 2004.

Full Article and Source:
Elder Task Force to Step Up Guidelines

Illinois: Bond Set for Caretaker Charged With Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Bond has been set for a Villa Park man charged with stealing more than $45,000 from an elderly woman for whom he provided in-house care, according to the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office.

William Sullivan turned himself in on a $150,000 arrest warrant last week.

It is alleged that in 2006, Sullivan became the caretaker of an 89-year-old woman and obtained access to her checking and savings accounts. From June 2011 to October 2012, Sullivan allegedly wrote himself checks from the victim's checking account and withdrew money from her savings account for his own use without permission. In all, Sullivan allegedly stole more than $45,000 from the woman's accounts.

According to the State's Attorney's Office, Sullivan's alleged actions were discovered when the woman's nephew, who had power of attorney over her affairs, reviewed her bank accounts and discovered discrepancies.

Sullivan has been charged with one count of financial exploitation of a person over 80, a Class 1 felony, and one count of theft over $10,000, a Class 2 felony.

Judge Alex McGimpsey upheld the $150,000 bond when Sullivan appeared in court April 17. He is in custody in DuPage County Jail and scheduled for a May 20 court date.

Full Article and Source:
Bond Set for Caretaker Charged With Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Thursday, May 2, 2013

TN: Conservator Jeanan Mills-Stuart and Judge Randy Kennedy

For Jeanan Mills Stuart, the public guardian for Davidson County, no job is too small.

At rates between $195 and $225 an hour, the costs for Stuart’s personal attention add up.

She billed five hours — $986 — to accompany one of her wards to a performance of Handel’s Messiah. She charged the same woman $1,282 to take her to Dillard’s, Walgreens and lunch, and for the same day, billed her $1,183 for a shopping trip to CoolSprings Galleria, according to a fee affidavit filed in court records.

At least twice, Stuart charged $400 to attend the funerals of her wards.

And in several cases, Stuart billed her wards for Christmas presents she bought for them — blankets, comforters and afghans embroidered with their initials.

Davidson County Public Guardian Charges Lawyer Fees Just to Run Errands

"The premium on my blanket surety bond is paid for by Davidson County. In exchange, I am the default person selected as guardian or conservator where there is no other party found by the Probate Court Judge to be appropriate or willing to take on the task. I am obligated to provide all the care needed by my wards regardless of the ability of the conservatorship estate to pay my fees, and I am on call 24 hours per day. As a matter of law, I cannot delegate certain of my duties to another person.”

Jeanan Mills-Stuart's Written Responses to The Tennessean's Questions

Davidson Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy says he is sorry if his oversight of the county public guardian has been lacking, and he has temporarily suspended sending her any more conservatorship cases.

“To the extent that my oversight of the Public Guardian is wanting, I am genuinely sorry,” Kennedy wrote in a three page letter  to members of Metro Council.

Kennedy, who had recommended Jeanan Mills Stuart for the guardianship post, said he has begun a “more thorough review” of all her cases “to determine whether or not there appears to be any inappropriate billing practices.”

“To the extent there has been any overpayment to her, it is my responsibility,” Kennedy wrote in the Friday letter. “In other words, the buck stops here.”

Nashville's Public Guardian Faces Review Over Fees

Davidson County Probate Judge Randy Kennedy did something almost unheard of in public service:  He apologized.

And he vowed to fix a mess he allowed to happen on his watch. He should be commended for candidly telling the Metro Council, before they had a chance to jump on him, “the buck stops here.”

Judge's Apology for Guardian Uproar Merits Praise
Read Judge Kennedy's Letter to Metro Council Members

Davidson County’s public guardian claims she gave a discount from her usual hourly rate when she accompanied a ward to a Christmas concert at the Schermerhorn in 2011.

Jeanan Mills Stuart made the claim in a letter sent recently to Metro Council in response to a Tennessean report last month on her billing practices.

Stuart also told council members that she was in the process of hiring a non-family member to perform errand-like tasks for the dozens of people whose lives she oversees.

“It has always been my practice to be cost effective for my wards,” Stuart wrote in the two-page letter, adding that she was well aware that the Tennessean article “attempted to make me look like a greedy person.”

Public Guardian Defends Fees

Note:  Jeanan Mills-Stuart was NASGA Member Ginger Franklin's court-appointed conservator. 

Read Ginger's Profile

NY: UAGPPJA Bill Would Ease Guardianship of Out of State Elderly Relatives

The AARP is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would make it easier and cheaper for New Yorkers to care for elderly relatives located in another state.
Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, said during a news conference Tuesday that the bill would simplify the process for individuals who act as legal guardians to family members across state lines.
The Senate passed the bill later in the day.
“Right now, if somebody has a guardianship and goes to another state, you have to go through the process all over again,” said Hannon, who is also chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “It’s the same as if you come in to New York or if you go to another state.”
New York would become the 37th state to adopt the measure. Current law dictates that state residents comply with other states’ court systems for elderly care.
Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, D-Brooklyn, said New Yorkers often move to another state while their parents remain home, needing help with health-care management.
“It allows the guardianship to travel with the individual instead of a new procedure having to be started,” Weinstein said. “It is one of these proposals that makes so much common sense, you kind of wonder why we haven’t had this in place before.
AARP said it is pushing the measure nationwide in order to create a uniform standard that allows individuals to file a registration form in other states where their relatives live.
AARP said the person’s home state would have primary jurisdiction.

Full Article and Source:

Bill Would Ease Guardianship of Out of State Elderly Relatives

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Florida Attorneys Embarrassed and Disgusted Over Peer's Actions

 The case against a local attorney accused of grand theft and exploitation is alarming members of the local legal community.

"It's never a good thing when you're moving money from one place to another," say Sarah Sullivan, Associate Professor of Professional Skills at the Florida Coastal School of Law.

Sullivan says local attorneys are embarrassed and disgusted that their peer, Cynthia Nichols, is accused of scamming her elderly client, Mary Vest, out of $100,000.

Action News went to Sullivan to find out how this could happen. She says guardians are court appointed, and must follow strict rules.

"Every year, [guardians] have to go back to the court and do a fairly detailed record of accounting that talks about everything that's come in, and everything that's gone out of their clients accounts."

But in this case, Sullivan says something looks wrong.

"It sounds like there's a bunch of money moving around that did not have the courts attention."

According to Nichols arrest report, she regularly transferred small amounts of money out of Vest's account and into another clients account. From there, police say, Nichols withdrew the cash.

Sullivan practices in the same court as Nichols, and believes the checks and balances are there. She's not sure how those small transactions went unnoticed.

"If anyone is going to have an evil intention they're going to find a way around it."

Full Article and Source:
Attorneys Embarrassed and Disgusted Over Peer's Actions

New TN Conservatorship Law Comes Too Late for Some Wards

Shannon Hill says much of the past two years of her life has been unbearable. Even the most basic of decisions about her daily life were taken away.

Hill, 67, was placed in a court-ordered conservatorship in 2009, although she says she had never set foot in the Nashville courtroom where her fate was decided.

Her attempt to regain control of her life comes amid increased public attention on the Tennessee law governing conservatorships. A major rewrite of the statute was approved by the legislature and now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature.

The bill sets new notification and hearing requirements for conservatorships, meaning someone like Hill would have to be given an opportunity to be heard in the courtroom. The new provisions won’t affect Hill’s case, however. They apply only to cases initiated after July.

Hill, who lives at an independent living facility, complains that her life “has been one misery after another.” Her condominium and two cars were sold. And she said all aspects of her life are controlled by her conservator and cousin, Kathy Mangrum.

Mangrum has filed a request to be removed as Hill’s conservator, and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy’s court.

Full Article and Source:
New Conservatorship Law Comes Too Late for Some Wards

Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital Aims To Shorten Hospital Stays For Patients Needing Guardians

What happens when a patient is medically ready to leave a hospital, but is not mentally capable of making decisions?

Ideally, they have designated a proxy or guardian to help guide the way. But if they haven’t, finding a legal guardian can take weeks or months, while the patient is taking up bed space needed by others.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is trying to streamline that process.

Jasper Chen is a resident psychiatrist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and also part of an allied residency program to improve health care delivery.

When he got to Dartmouth, he noticed that a handful of patients were lingering in the hospital long after their medical procedures were finished.

Some have brain injuries, or Alzheimer’s, or dementia. Others have psychiatric conditions that make living alone unsafe—but lack family members able to care for them after they leave the hospital.

“They have actually completed their acute medical care and they are waiting for the next disposition to happen, waiting for the court to appoint a guardian so they can move onto the rehabilitation facility or the skilled nursing facility,” Chen explained.

But that legal red tape can take time to cut. So Chen and others are trying to speed up the guardian search—and free up beds.

[H]ospital’s risk manager, Jim Gregoire, reported that New Hampshire probate judges are starting to streamline the guardianship process.

“They allow us to have either telephone testimony or live video testimony so we don’t have to have the doctors often traveling an hour each way to court,” Gregoire said.

Dartmouth Hitchcock Aims To Shorten Hospital Stays For Patients Needing Guardians

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Senate Special Committee on Aging Addresses National Alzheimer's Plan Progress

Advocates at the 25th annual Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Forum paused during a day of visits with members of Congress to attend a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease.

The National Plan, released in May 2012, is the country's first comprehensive approach to the Alzheimer's epidemic and includes a goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's disease by 2025.The hearing, "Are We on Track for 2025?," examined the plan one year after its creation and the resources needed to accomplish its goals. It featured testimonies from expert witnesses, including Ashley Campbell, who spoke on behalf of her father, country music legend Glen Campbell. Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.

Senate Aging Committee Ranking Member Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) welcomed a room filled with advocates, sharing her personal experience with Alzheimer's and her concerns about the disease's estimated trajectory.

"As someone whose family has experienced the pain of Alzheimer's time and time again, I know there is no more helpless feeling then to watch the progression of this devastating disease," Collins said. "An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's, more than double the number in 1980. Based on the current trajectory, more than 16 million Americans over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer's disease by the year 2050."

Collins also outlined her vision for the National Alzheimer's Plan.

"If we fail to change the current trajectory of Alzheimer's disease, our country will face not only a mounting national health care crisis, but an economic one as well," she said. "The National Alzheimer's Plan, which will be updated annually, will help us to focus our efforts and accelerate our progress toward better treatments, a means of prevention and ultimately, even a cure."

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the committee, shared his thoughts on the Alzheimer's epidemic and his appreciation for advocates' efforts on Capitol Hill.

"It is shocking that today 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer's," said Nelson. "And as the baby boomers age, this fact is going to confront us all the more. We are very grateful for your tireless efforts on behalf of this issue and for the Alzheimer's Association."

Ashley Campbell was the first to testify, re-accounting Glen's diagnosis and their decision to launch a Glen Campbell goodbye tour, giving her father a chance to connect with family, friends and fans through music.

"Dad thought it was important for people to know you can keep doing what you love — that life doesn't end right away when you get Alzheimer's," she said. "It was also so important for my dad to take action and help spread the word about the need to find a cure for Alzheimer's."

Full Article and Source:
Senate Hearing Addresses National Alzheimer's Plan Progress

CA Couple Charged With Bilking Millions From Hundreds of Senior Citizens

Michael Woodward, 50, and his wife Melissa Woodward, 47, are charged with scamming more than 230 San Diego area senior citizens out of $1.9 million – and there may be victims statewide, says California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

The pair is accused of burglary, grand theft, theft from an elder and other charges.

Officials are asking anyone who suspect they or someone they know have been victimized, to call the Department of Insurance at (800) 927-4357.

For over a decade the Woodwards allegedly ran a $6 million scam bilking hundreds of seniors across 10 states while operating under numerous aliases and bogus businesses, the state says.

According to department investigators, the Woodward's sold fraudulent in-home non-medical senior service contracts. They targeted seniors by telling them that for a pre-paid annual fee they would get an unlimited amount of non-medical services.

Full Article and Source:
Couple Charged With Bilking Millions From Hundreds of Senior Citizens

Monday, April 29, 2013

Press Release: Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Thomas Cain Allegedly Prevents 83 Year Old White Woman from Being with her 58 Year Old African-American Husband

Santa Clara Conservatorship judge Thomas Cain is being charged with allegedly committing race, gender and age discrimination. According is court papers filed on Monday and Wednesday, Beatrice Pacheco-Starks is claiming that she is being discriminated against by judge Cain due to her age, gender and the race of herself and her African-American husband Mr. Marreon Gene Starks. In re Conservatorship of Beatrice K. Pacheco, 112-PR-171580

The Motion to Disqualify Thomas Cain from hearing an Emergency Petition for Removal of Conservatorship, alleges that Stephen Pacheco, Mrs. Pacheco-Starks son from previous marriage, has successfully enlisted judge Cain, along with court appointed lawyer Michael Desmerais, Baugh and Lynn Searle of San Francisco, to fabricate court records in order to prevent her from being with Mr. Starks so as to ensure that her approximately 6-million dollars is secured only for them.

Court records alleges that judge Cain has used his own race, gender and age biases in deciding to side with her son and his lawyers and she demands that the judge recuse himself from making any further decisions or involvement in her future cases.

Mrs. Pacheco-Starks followed up on April 24, 2013 with an Emergency Petition to remove her son from being her conservator and seeks to terminate court appointed lawyer Desmerais, who she alleges not honestly making her wishes known to the court and otherwise siding with her son in order to unjustly enrich his law practice off of her multi-million dollar estate. The Petition also alleges that her son has not provided her the $500 per week allowance the he was ordered to provide her and once she sought to raise funds to hire her own lawyer by selling her car, he is alleged to have closed her checking account and assaulted her in an attempt to steal her car keys away from her.

Full Press Release:
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Thomas Cain Allegedly Prevents 83 Year Old White Woman from Being with her 58 Year Old African-American Husband

Nevada Busses Hundreds of Mentally Ill Around Country

Over the past five years, Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America.

Since July 2008, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas has transported more than 1,500 patients to other cities via, Greyhound bus, sending at least one person to every state in the continental United States, according to a Bee review of bus receipts kept by Nevada's mental health  division.

About a third of those patients were dispatched to California, including more than 200 to Los Angeles County, about 70 to San Diego County and 19 to the city of Sacramento. In recent years, as Nevada has slashed funding for mental health services, the number of mentally ill patients being bused out of southern Nevada has steadily risen, growing 66 percent from 2009 to 2012. During that same period, the hospital has dispersed those patients to an ever-increasing number of states. By last year, Rawson-Neal bused out patients at a pace of well over one per day, shipping nearly 400 patients to a total of 176 cities and 45 states across the nation.

Nevada's approach to dispatching mentally ill patients has come under scrutiny since one of its clients turned up suicidal and confused at a Sacramento homeless services complex. James Flavy Coy Brown, who is 48 and suffers from a variety of  mood disorders including schizophrenia, was discharged in February from Rawson-Neal to a Greyhound bus for Sacramento, a place he had never visited and where he knew no one.

The hospital sent him on the 15-hour  bus ride without making arrangements for his treatment or housing in California; he arrived in Sacramento out of medication and without identification or access to his Social Security payments.  He wound up in the UC Davis Medical Center's emergency room, where he lingered for three days until social workers were able to find him temporary housing.

Nevada mental health officials have acknowledged making mistakes in Brown's case, but have made no apologies for their policy of busing patients out of state.

Full Article and Source:
Nevada Busses Hundres of Mentally Ill Patients to Cities Around Country

NASGA's Federal and Illinois Legislative Liaison, Janet Bedin, Attends Special Mass With the Pope and Speaks to Him About Elder Abuse

Rockford resident Janet Bedin has met previous popes several times but never had a visit to the Vatican like the one she had Monday.

Bedin, a lifelong member of St. Anthony of Padua Church of Rockford, attended a small, private Mass with Pope Francis on Monday morning in Casa Santa Marta and had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the new pope for several minutes afterward.

“I couldn’t sleep at all the night before,” Bedin said by telephone from Italy on Monday afternoon. “I just kept thinking of what I was going to say. ... That was the first thing I ended up telling him. I said, ‘I didn’t sleep at all. I felt like I was 9 years old and it was Christmas Eve and I was waiting for Santa Claus.’”

Francis gave a homily that was simple, but serious, Bedin said.

“He spoke about how Jesus Christ tells us the way to my father is through me. I am the door. ... He said, ‘He didn’t say go through the window. He didn’t say go through the back. ... It’s very simple.’”
Bedin sent a letter to the Vatican on April 15 asking if she could attend one of the Pope’s Masses the next week. It was a long shot, she said, but she had heard about the small morning Masses the Pope had been having for visiting priests and Vatican employees and wondered if she could get an invitation. The 15-year anniversary of her father’s death was Monday, she said, and she could think of no greater honor than to attend in his memory and that of her mother, who died in 2011.

Bedin heard nothing. Then, on Saturday, she received a call with instructions to be at the Vatican at 6:15 a.m. Monday.

She brought numerous photos of friends and family members for Pope Francis to bless and a letter to the pontiff from the Rev. James M. Ciaramitaro of St. Anthony, inviting the pope to visit the Italian-American parish founded in Rockford in 1909.

She also brought along newspaper clippings about her mother’s death and spoke with the pope about fighting abuse and medical mistreatment of the elderly in the United States.

Francis blessed the photos, Bedin said, and as her eyes filled with tears when she spoke of her father — Americo Bedin, a U.S. soldier during World War II — Francis put both hands on her head.

“He was praying, and then he said, ‘God bless you and keep you strong,’” she said.

There were about 35 other people at the Mass, Bedin said. The intimacy was overwhelming.

“It was magical,” she said. “He is so soft-spoken and unassuming. ... He is winning over the hearts of everyone over here.”

Rockford Woman Attends Small Mass With Pope, Speaks With Him

PA Judge Resigns After Arrest for Same Conduct She was Suspended for in July

In July, Magisterial District Judge Rita A. Arnold pleaded with the state Court of Judicial Discipline to let her keep her “dream” job at a sanctions hearing, and it agreed, citing her extreme remorse and dispensing a month’s unpaid suspension.

On Tuesday, less than eight months after she returned to her elected post, the 56-year-old jurist resigned after her arrest by state agents, a news release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said.

The release said her arrest follows allegations that she concealed a citation in order to protect one of her sons from a potential probation violation, the same accusations that prompted the complaint by the Judicial Conduct Board in February 2012.

Full article and Source:
Magisterial Districe Judge Resigns After Arrest

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Emotional Wife of Anthony Marshall Breaks Down During Court Appearance

"You're not going to jail, honey."

The swindling son of famed philanthropist Brooke Astor shared a showily tender moment in Manhattan Supreme Court [April 19]-- his wife hugging him in his wheelchair and bursting into tears.

"You're not going to jail, honey -- it's alright," Anthony Marshall, 88, was told by his sobbing, twenty-years-younger wife, Charlene, after a judge agreed to a tentative June 17 date for Marshall's prison surrender.

"I love you too!" she cried, as she wrapped a gray scarf around his neck before rolling him out of the courtroom.

It's been three years since Marshall and his trusts and estates lawyer co-defendant, Francis Morrissey, were both sentenced to serve at least one year and as many as three.

The two pressured and tricked the Alzheimer's-afflicted doyenne out of some $60 million in bequests, with Marshall awarding himself a $2 million "raise" for administering her estate, and Morrissey forging her signature on a key 2004 will amendment.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley is allowing the pair to remain free on bail pending their latest appeal effort -- an application to have their case considered by the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany.

If that court decides not to take the case, the pair must surrender June 17, said Bartley, who presided over the pair's 2009 trial.

"It's good to see you all again, three years plus," the judge told the eight lawyers in the room, and the brief hearing did have a reunion feel to it.

Full Article and Source:
Emotional Wife of Anthony Marshall Breaks Down During Court Appearance

Florida Lawyer/Guardian Accused of Exploiting Her Elderly Wards for More Than $100K

It’s the ideal scenario for criminals — the power and legal authority to handle their victims’ finances, more so than the victims themselves.

But the judges who assigned Jacksonville attorney Cynthia Leigh Nichols, 55, as a guardian over elderly individuals wouldn’t have expected an officer of the court to follow such a scenario.
Nichols was arrested Friday on charges of exploiting the elderly in excess of $100,000 and grand theft. She has since been released on the condition that she appears at her next court date.
Investigators have accused Nichols of using the bank accounts of her wards to make purchases on items that include furniture, cars and even a house from which she, her friend and her friend’s daughter benefited.
The Department of Children and Families alerted the State Attorney’s Office in November after conducting a three-month investigation into Nichols’ activities, DCF spokesman John Harrell said.
Investigators found that Nichols had been making purchases from the account of her ward, Mary Vest, before Vest died in November at the age of 78, an arrest report said.
Three 2011 payments or down payments on two automobiles were made at Arlington Toyota, totaling $32,600. The arrest report said one of the cars was titled to Nichols’ longtime friend, Gina Bateh, 48, a five-time felon with at least 93 arrests in her criminal history. The other was titled to Bateh’s then-19-year-old daughter, Micheil Brooke Bateh.
Nichols is also accused of purchasing a house off Southside Boulevard with Vest’s money. Vest never lived there, although the home now is in the name of her estate. Instead, investigators said while Vest lived at an assisted living facility, Gina Bateh was actually residing at the home, which property records show to be valued at about $200,000.

Full Article and Source:
Jacksonville Attorney Accused of Exploiting Her Elderly Wards for More than $100,000

Florida Woman Charged With Stealing Money From Her Son's Guardianship Account

A Lake Worth woman has been charged with stealing more than $37,000 from her son's guardianship bank account.
Melody May Henderson of Lake Worth was arrested by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and charged with one count of grand theft.

Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts Sharon Bock's Division of Inspector General conducted the investigation of Henderson.

Fraud investigators from the Clerk and Comptroller's Office received a tip in September 2012 about the possible misuse of funds from the account.

Investigators say that Henderson told them that she used the money from her son's account to pay for his medical bills and to purchase a car to drive him, however she couldn't account for $20,000 of the $37,000 lawsuit settlement.

The PBC Clerk's Office says that the settlement money was placed in a restricted bank account which required a judge's permission to be withdrawn.

The arrest is the second by the Guardian Fraud program according to the Palm Beach County Clerk's Office.

Melody Henderson Charged With Stealing Money From Her Son's Guardianship Account

FL Financial Advisor Found Guilty of Attempted Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Longtime Lake Forest resident and financial advisor James P. Richter was found guilty of Attempted Financial Exploitation of the Elderly on April 4 by the Lake County Circuit Court. According to public records, the Class A misdemeanor carries a sentence of 12 months conditional discharge including 100 hours of community service and a $500 contribution to a charity. He’s also required to avoid all contact with the two senior citizens at the center of the case.

They’re a married couple in their late-70s/early-80s who have lived in Lake Forest for 45 years and, they said, had been clients of Richter’s since 1993. They spoke with GazeboNews on the condition of anonymity to raise awareness of the issue of exploitation of the elderly. GazeboNews called and emailed Richter and his attorney several times but were unable to get a comment from them.

The story of People vs. James P. Richter began in February 2010, when, according to Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Scheller, Richter asked the couple for a $45,000 loan, which they gave him. Approximately one year later, he said, Richter asked for a second loan, this time in the amount of $15,000, which the couple also gave him. Scheller said that in both cases, Richter signed promissory notes.

In the fall of 2011, the couple contacted the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, which opened an investigation and eventually reached an agreement with Richter and his attorney, in which Richter pleaded to a misdemeanor if he paid the couple back in full, which he did, according to Scheller. He said that the amount of money involved would have warranted a felony charge if the money had not been repaid.

“Obviously, we want to charge the offender, but if we can get the victims’ money back, it doesn’t do us any good to throw the offender in jail for three years and not get a cent,” said Scheller. “This is a conviction on his record that won’t be expunged or go away. We’re happy we got the victims their money back, and we’re happy we got the conviction.”

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Lake Forest Financial Advisor Found Guilty of Attempted Financial Exploitation of the Elderly