Saturday, August 10, 2013

Montclair banker guilty in client thefts

Linda Foss, the former branch manager at a
U.S. Bank on Mountain Boulevard,
was fired for taking funds out of an
elderly customer's account.
A banker who once led a merchant group in Oakland's upscale Montclair neighborhood pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing millions from clients, many of whom are elderly, and is expected to be sentenced to 12 years behind bars.

Linda Foss, 62, the former president of the Montclair Village Association, entered guilty pleas in Alameda County Superior Court to five counts of elder theft, two counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering.

She is expected to be sentenced Oct. 3 to 12 years in state prison and will be ordered to pay restitution to 15 victims in an amount to be determined, authorities said. Her attorney was not immediately available for comment.

Foss was fired as branch manager at a U.S. Bank on Mountain Boulevard in March. She then took the same position at a First Republic Bank. The investigation by the district attorney's office began after officials with both banks came forward to report suspicious activity, Inspector Ron Miller wrote in a court affidavit.

When confronted about missing funds from one alleged victim's account at U.S. Bank - which held $353,000 instead of an expected $972,000 - Foss "claimed that one elder was paying the other elder back for monies borrowed during the Oakland hills fire" in 1991, Miller wrote.

However, he wrote, the two account holders did not know each other. Investigators determined that the mailing address for both victims' bank statements had been changed to the address of U.S. Bank.

Full Article and Source:
Montclair banker guilty in client thefts

Lauderhill caregiver accused of exploiting elderly Fort Lauderdale woman

Caregiver Louise Simo was arrested
 and accused of stealing and pawning
… (Broward Sheriffs Office,…)
A Lauderhill woman was arrested Wednesday and accused of stealing and pawning up to $100,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables belonging to an elderly woman she was hired to care for, Fort Lauderdale Police said.

Louise Simo, 34, is charged with exploitation of the elderly, dealing in stolen property and false verification of ownership, arrest records show.

The elderly woman's daughter noticed the jewelry was missing and filed a police report on July 3. Detectives checked a list of all the health care providers who had contact with the woman and Simo's name popped up on the pawn shop database several times, the arrested report stated.

It showed Simo got $1,600 for a necklace on July 4, $800 for a bracelet on June 17, $345 for two more pieces of jewelry on May 24, and $590 for two pieces on May 20 that have been recovered, detectives said.

Full Article and Source:
Lauderhill caregiver accused of exploiting elderly Fort Lauderdale woman

Friday, August 9, 2013

Judge puts some Murray Center residents under court-appointed guardian

A judge in Clinton County issued an injunction Monday that puts some residents of the Warren G. Murray Development Center under the custody of a court-appointed guardian, rather than the state, which is closing the center.

Circuit Judge William Becker issued the order, which could put a wrinkle in the state's plan to close the state-operated center in Centralia. Becker's order covers Murray Center residents who do not have private guardians and are wards of the state. The court-appointed guardian will be Stuart Freeman, a local attorney.

The order was granted at the request of Friends of Murray Center, which is a group of employees and others who oppose the closing. Wylie Blair, an attorney for Friends of Murray Center, said the order does not prevent the center's closure.

"It just precludes the residents of Murray Center who are wards of the state from being transferred out of Murray Center, absent consent of the guardian," Blair said. "It's up to him to look into their situation and find out whether their best interests are being followed."

He added, "We're not seeking to prevent the place from closing, we're just seeking to make sure, whether Murray does or does not close, that the wards of the state have their best interests looked after."

Read more here:

Read more here:

Full Article and Source:
Judge puts some Murray Center residents under court-appointed guardian

Task Force will grant special wish to York County senior

ELIOT, Maine — The York County Elder Abuse Task Force was created to help all York County senior citizens, but this year, its new Wishing Well program will grant a lifelong wish for one lucky York County resident age 65 or older.
As the Wishing Well flier states, "Your life has been all about those that you care for. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your community. You have set aside your dreams, your hopes, your goals and your wishes to care for those closest to you. We believe it is time for life to be about you."
"It's similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but our program is not necessarily for someone who is ill," said Task Force Co-chairwoman Karen Connolly.
Eliot Police Department Community Resource Officer Candace Noble began YCEATF in 2007. She said she felt strongly that elder abuse victims needed to have voices supporting them. John Lizanecz of the York Police Department was also involved. Noble is now one of the task force's co-chairmen.

Full Article and Source:
Task Force will grant special wish to York County senior

Guardian angels make life better for disabled

Diane Ragsdale, left, looks over the award
 she received from Judge Claudia Laird
 for her service during the inaugural
 Guardian Angel Day
 reception honoring guardians,
 court visitors and attorneys ad litem
 who assist in cases concerning resident
s with special needs Wednesday.
The smile on Erica Sanchez’s face might have been the result of the punch and cake she was served Wednesday afternoon. But the child’s happy mood also could be traced to the first Guardian Angel Day Reception.

Nearly 200 guardians, court visitors and attorneys attended the ceremony in Commissioners Court in the Alan B. Sadler Building in Conroe.

The reception and the guardian program were the creation of Judge Claudia Laird and her County Court of Law 2 staff.

For the past year, Laird and her staff recruited approximately 15 volunteers to visit some 450 mentally disabled patients throughout the course of a year. The state of Texas requires mentally disabled residents to undergo an examination at least once a a year, Laird said.

Laird introduced investigator Dina Hardwick for her contributions the past year.

“Whenever a red flag went up, she responded,” Laird said of Hardwick.

Attorneys ad litem is a term used in law to refer to the appointment by a court of one party to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party — for instance, a child or an incapacitated adult — who is deemed incapable of representing him or herself.

“Life can be very hard,” Laird said. “Some of them have Downs Syndrome, or Alzheimer’s. We make certain these patients are receiving the appropriate assistance.”

An educator for many years before retiring, Guardian Angel Dorothy Woodall enjoys continuing to teach.

“I’m very blessed to be able to help,” she said.

Full Article and Source:
Guardian angels make life better for disabled

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Disability Is No Excuse to Deprive One of Civil Liberties

The guardianship system in this country raises serious concerns. That's why the guardianship trial of Jenny Hatch, a vibrant and active 29-year-old in a battle over who controls her life, struck such a chord. Jenny spoke for many other people with disabilities when she said clearly in her trial: "I don't need guardianship. I don't want it."

On Friday a judge in Virginia denied guardianship to the parents of Jenny Hatch. Hatch will instead be able to live with her friends, couple Kelly Morris and Jim Talbert, as she had requested. This is a victory, but it should never have come to this.

If anyone else had been placed in an isolated location, against her will, with her cell phone and computer taken away, and not allowed to leave the building without permission, as Hatch was, she would either be able to lodge a charge of kidnapping, or be a prisoner convicted of a crime.

But, because Hatch is a person with a disability – and only because of that – it is completely legal, even though she has done nothing wrong.

Guardianship can, and often does, deprive a person of the ability to choose where she lives, who she sees, when she gets up in the morning, what she eats for breakfast, whether and where she works and whether she is allowed the right to vote.

Guardianship is typically created under two circumstances:
  • When adults – often seniors – develop a disability, especially one that affects the ability to manage finances or make complex decisions, their spouse or child is often encouraged to become their guardian.
  • And, when a child with developmental disabilities reaches 18, her parents are often encouraged to become the child's guardian – ostensibly so that they can continue to participate in medical and educational decisions for the child.
In both circumstances, other less restrictive options are available.

Full Article and Source:
Disability Is No Excuse to Deprive One of Civil Liberties

See Also:
Couple wins custody of Jenny Hatch

Jenny Hatch's courtroom battle continues

Jenny Hatch shouldn’t be treated as a prisoner

Dr. Mark Lachs: Addressing Capacity Assessment

Your elderly mother was just discharged from the hospital and needs a bevy of home care services if she's not to bounce back like a bad check: visiting nurses, physical therapists, delivery of assistive equipment like a shower chair to make bathing safe. Yet the day after discharge, she curtly tells each of these well-meaning visitors to "get lost" when they knock on the door. When you politely remind her how much she hated being in the hospital and that these folks would likely prevent her from being readmitted, she tells you she understands but, "I just don't like having strangers in my house and I'm willing to take that risk." So what's going on here?

On the one hand, Mom could have all her marbles and be making a decision consistent with the way she lived her life: as a rugged individualist who makes her own decisions and is willing to live with the consequences. She has capacity. It is also possible that because of any number of factors -- new medications, leftover confusion from the hospital, early dementia -- that she is incapacitated.

My good friend  Dr. Jason Karlawish is a pioneer in a field he calls neuroethics. He's a geriatrician at the University of Pennsylvania who works closely with neurologists who care for and study patients with various degrees of memory loss and dementias like Alzheimer's Disease. Last month, he gave a stunning presentation for attendees of the NYC Elder Abuse Confernce at the New School in New York City about the assessment of decision-making capacity of older adults with and without these disorders.

Full Article and Source:
Addressing Capacity Assessment

Daughter pleads not guilty to financial exploitation

A Byron woman has pleaded not guilty to charges that she financially exploited her mother.        

Kathleen Marion Studnicka, 46, was charged Dec. 5 in Olmsted County District Court with two felony counts of financial exploitation-vulnerable adult.

According to the criminal complaint, an investigation that began in August 2012 revealed that from July 2011 through March 2012, more than $23,000 had been deposited into the 86-year-old woman's bank account. During that time, she had accumulated a bill for housing and care that totaled nearly $15,000.

According to the complaint, Studnicka, who had power of attorney over her mother's finances, withdrew more than $22,000 from the account, with her mother's permission. None of the money was used for the older woman's expenses, the report says.

Full Article and Source:
Daughter pleads not guilty to financial exploitation

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New laws mean changes for judges, elections

A public campaign financing program meant to limit special interest influence in judicial elections in the state met its death in the legislature during the final hours of the long session.

The bill repeals the public financing law that used certain fees attorneys paid to the bar, $3 checked-off funds on tax forms and state funds that gave judges an opportunity to agree to certain spending thresholds and rules to tap into public campaign funds.

The state was one of the first in the country to pass such legislation that will soon be history.  

The change comes despite pleas by all but one judge on the state’s Court of Appeals.

Other changes targeted at the state’s judicial system include a law that gives the Supreme Court the authority to discipline its own judges rather than six senior judges on the Court of Appeals. That measure also takes the public out of the know when it comes to judicial misconduct.

Currently, hearings before the state’s adjudicatory panel are open to the public. Under the new law they would not be.

Chief Justice Sarah Parker and John Martin, chief judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals and chairman of the Judicial Standards Commission, urged lawmakers not to adopt the new changes on the basis of conflicts in judges having to discipline their peers, no avenue for revealing public exoneration and leaving no public record of the process.

Full Article and Source:
New laws mean changes for judges, elections

Supreme Court disciplines 25 attorneys

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announced the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 25 attorneys, disbarring eight, suspending 15 and publicly reprimanding two.

Two attorneys received more than one form of discipline. One was placed on probation and another was ordered to pay restitution.
Marlene Garcia of St. Augustine was suspended for one year.
As an official arm of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the 96,000-plus lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida.
Case files are posted to attorneys’ individual Florida Bar profiles and may be reviewed at and/or downloaded from The Florida Bar’s website,
Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline.
Disbarred lawyers may not re-apply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that rejects many who apply. It includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.
Historically, less than five percent of disbarred lawyers seek readmission.
Full Article and Source:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Florida State Ombudsman Put on Administrative Leave

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) has recently become aware that the Florida State Long-Term Care Ombudsman was put on Administrative Leave:

 Similar articles have been posted in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and other media outlets. Unfortunately, we do not have any additional information about the situation at this time.

These recent events, and the turmoil of the Florida ombudsman program of the past two years, are extremely unfortunate for nursing home residents and other consumers in the state. The Consumer Voice remains very concerned by the lack of stability within Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program and calls on Governor Scott to take action quickly to ensure that all Floridians are afforded full support by the program. Furthermore, as home to the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC), the Consumer Voice is ready to assist the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in any way possible.

Florida State Ombudsman Put on Administrative Leave

Ex-judge avoids jail for fleecing woman

A former Alameda County Superior Court judge charged with swindling a 97-year-old neighbor out of her life savings pleaded no contest Thursday to elder abuse and perjury and will not face jail time.

Paul Seeman, who was originally charged with dozens of felony counts, is expected to be sentenced to five years of probation Oct. 22 as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He will be ordered not to live with or act as a caregiver for an elder or dependent adult other than family members or act as a fiduciary for anyone, authorities said.

District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said, "Seeman has paid for his breach of trust as a judicial officer, and he has paid for his financial abuse of the elderly victim who has since passed away. He will never serve in a position of trust or authority again, as a result of these convictions. Justice is served through the resolution of this case."

Seeman, 58, of Berkeley has declined to discuss the case. His attorney, Laurel Headley, declined to comment Thursday.

In the charges filed last year, authorities said Seeman had befriended Anne Nutting, his neighbor across the street on Santa Barbara Road in the Berkeley hills, and obtained powers of attorney for her and her husband, who died in 1999.

He then used those powers to gain control of Nutting's finances, sold her art works and barred her from her house from 1999 to 2007 while she lived in a hotel at the Berkeley Marina, prosecutors said. She died in 2010, but not before consulting with an attorney who then contacted police.

Seeman was also accused of lying about his financial transactions with Nutting in his sworn statements of economic interests, and with misusing judicial staff.

Seeman acknowledged to police that he had put himself in an "awfully bad situation" while handling Nutting's financial affairs. He told a Berkeley police detective that it was "clearly a mistake for me to stay as enmeshed with her as I did," authorities said.

At the same time, Seeman said he didn't believe he had "done anything unethical or inappropriate," district attorney's Inspector Kathy Boyovich wrote in an 87-page search-warrant affidavit filed in Superior Court.

Seeman resigned from the bench in March. As a result of his convictions, he is barred from seeking judicial office and disbarred from practicing law in California.

Full Article and Source:
Ex-judge avoids jail for fleecing woman

See Also:
Judge Paul Seeman, Charged With Elder Abuse, Resigns

Alameda County judge charged in elder abuse case to take leave of absence; affidavit outlines charges

CA: Alameda County Judge Charged With Elder Theft

Indicted Galveston judge arrested again

GALVESTON - A Galveston County judge already under nine indictments related to his official conduct has been indicted on additional charges of aggravated perjury, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said Thursday.

County Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy surrendered to sheriff's deputies Wednesday at the Galveston County Jail and was released on $1,000 bond by 6:45 p.m., Trochesset said.

Dupuy is accused of making two false statements while testifying in a custody battle over his two children with his ex-wife, Adrienne Viterna.

He testified that he first learned on May 22 that attorney Greg Enos had filed a criminal complaint against him alleging the use of Dupuy's chambers to provide legal assistance to his then-fiancee. At least three publications, including the Houston Chronicle, published articles mentioning emails sent to them by Dupuy prior to May 22 that referred to the criminal complaint.

Dupuy also is accused of perjuring himself by saying that sanctions he imposed on Enos were related solely to Enos' conduct in Dupuy's courtroom.

Dupuy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Full Article and Source:
Indicted Galveston judge arrested again

See Also:
Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves of Texas

Deal allows Galveston judge replacement

GALVESTON - Indicted Galveston County Court-at-Law Judge Christopher Dupuy agreed Thursday to a deal allowing a replacement judge to be named until criminal and civil cases against him are resolved.

Although Dupuy is under suspension by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a second suspension order was sought in a civil lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and local attorney Greg Hughes.

The suspension in the civil lawsuit will allow visiting District Judge Robert Kern of Fort Bend County to appoint a temporary replacement in County Court-at-Law Court No. 3.

Noting that Dupuy is already suspended, Assistant Attorney General David Glickler called the second suspension "an exercise in legal gymnastics."

Dupuy was indicted last month on eight criminal charges relating to his conduct in office, including two felony charges of official oppression. A Galveston County grand jury issued a ninth indictment last week accusing Dupuy of improperly practicing law as a sitting judge.

Full Article and Source:
Deal allows Galveston judge replacement

Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves of Texas

Judge: Dupuy owes uncle $16,832 plus interest

GALVESTON — An indicted and suspended county court judge who was accused of defaulting on a $25,000 loan must repay his uncle $16,823 plus interest, according to court documents.

Judge Christopher Dupuy vowed Wednesday to appeal the pending order in connection with the summary judgment ruling in favor of his uncle John Dupuy.

Full Article and Source:
Judge: Dupuy owes uncle $16,832 plus interest

Retraction and Apology to District Judge Kerry Neves of Texas

Monday, August 5, 2013

John Kass: Was Police Killing of 95-Year-Old Necessary?

When John Wrana was a young man, fit and strong and fighting in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, did he ever think he'd end this way?

Just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, in need of a walker to move about, cops coming through the door of his retirement home with a Taser and a shotgun.

The old man, described by a family member as "wobbly" on his feet, had refused medical attention. The paramedics were called. They brought in the Park Forest police. First they tased him, but that didn't work. So they fired a shotgun, hitting him in the stomach with a bean-bag round. Wrana was struck with such force that he bled to death internally, according to the Cook County medical examiner.
"The Japanese military couldn't get him at the age he was touchable, in a uniform in the war. It took 70 years later for the Park Forest police to do the job," Wrana's family attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, a former prosecutor, said in an interview with me Thursday.

Wrana's family wants answers. The Illinois State Police are investigating the horrific incident but won't comment, and neither will the Park Forest police pending the outcome of the inquiry

Full Article and Source:
Kass:  Was Police Killing of 95-Year-Old Necessary?

See Also:
Man's Death After Confrontation With Police Ruled a Homicide<.a>

Deceit, Improprieties By Probate 'Conservator' Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds

A Wethersfield man suffering from cerebral palsy entrusted his affairs to a probate court-appointed lawyer, whose job as "conservator" was to protect his interests and assets. But those assets dwindled by tens of thousands of dollars amid improprieties by the lawyer, who tried to "hide his transgressions by filing knowingly false accountings," a probate judge said in a recent ruling.

John Fritz, 64, of Wethersfield, hasn't been able to get his money back. And his family so far has been unable to get law enforcement officials to investigate.

Meanwhile, Michael Schless, the longtime conservator — who was replaced last December in that role by Fritz's half-brother — has retired as a lawyer and moved to Florida. He said in a brief interview last week that he'd done nothing wrong. "I deny stealing any money," he said.

What happened to Fritz is exactly the opposite of what is supposed to happen when a judge of the Connecticut Probate Court appoints a conservator to manage the affairs — and protect the assets of — someone incapable of doing it himself.

Fritz, who was born with cerebral palsy, asked Connecticut Probate Court 25 years ago to appoint a conservator to manage his finances including an inheritance from his recently deceased mother that ultimately put his assets at more than $100,000.

In voluntary conservatorships like Fritz's, a person who feels he needs such help can ask the probate court to give a "conservator" the power to handle his affairs by managing his finances, paying his bills and making various other arrangements.

Now his money market and stock accounts have shrunk to about $20,000, even though his family says they should have remained stable because his living annual living expenses are balanced out by Social Security payments and income from his limited part-time employment.

The sad story is told in public documents on file at Newington Probate Court.

When Fritz asked the probate court for a conservator, it appointed Schless, an attorney in Newington. The arrangement continued over the decades as Fritz has lived in a Wethersfield Housing Authority apartment building for the disabled and elderly.

Schless, as conservator, submitted annual financial accounting statements to the probate court in Newington.

Schless retired as a lawyer in recent years and moved to Boynton Beach, Florida. But he kept his role as Fritz's conservator (you don't have to be a lawyer to be someone's conservator). Then, last year, Fritz's half-brother and sister-in-law, James and Sharon Imbert of Newington, were shocked to see how little money was left in his accounts.

They particularly did not like the fact that Schless's financial accounting statements showed net annual losses from Fritz's stock and money-market accounts — of $9,333 for 2010, $12,752 for 2011, and $6,181. The Imberts obtained statements from the financial institutions and found that there actually had been a net gain of $1,451 in 2010, a loss of only $456 in 2011, and a gain of $254 for 2012.

They found other problems — including thousands of dollars in payments out of Fritz's account for expenses that were not his. Examples, they said, were $1,074 to American Express, $39 to XM Satellite Radio, and $4.35 to the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Florida.

In cases like this, the probate court approves financial accountings in three-year batches after a hearing. After Schless submitted his reports for 2010, 2011, and 2012, Imbert challenged the accountings and sought the return of $58,147 to the state of his living half-brother.

Full Article and Source:
Deceit, Improprieties By Probate 'Conservator' Deprive Disabled Man Of Inheritance, Court Finds

Elder-abuse laws mean Arizona hospitals can be sued

PHOENIX - Arizona hospitals are subject to being sued under the state's "elder abuse" laws, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Without dissent, the judges rejected arguments by attorneys for two major hospitals that the laws are designed to give individuals and their families a way to bring suit against nursing homes and assisted-care facilities.

Judge Patricia Orozco said the Legislature wrote the laws to cover those who "provide care." She said there is no way to logically read the law to conclude that does not apply to hospitals.

Orozco also rebuffed the contention that including hospitals was never the intent of lawmakers.

"Nowhere in the legislative history is there any suggestion that an acute-care hospital is exempt from liability," she wrote.

Attorney Robert Boatman, who represented one of the families who sued, called the ruling an important financial victory for victims.

They always had the option to file a medical malpractice claim. But he said state law limits the kinds of costs a successful plaintiff can recover to things like filing fees and depositions. By contrast, someone who wins an elder-abuse claim can also get the losing party to pay for all out-of-pocket costs, including expert witnesses and the costs of investigations.

Boatman said that is important in these kinds of cases, where someone who gets a bedsore might be entitled to $50,000 in damages but the costs of the necessary medical experts to pursue the case can run $100,000.

No one from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association was immediately available to comment on the effect of the decision.

Tuesday's ruling actually involves two cases.

Full Article and Source:
Elder-abuse laws mean Arizona hospitals can be sued

Millburn fire inspector to pay back grandmother's estate

Peter and Angela DiCostanzo of Nutley
 appear with their attorneys in Superior Court
Superior Court ordered a Millburn fire inspector to pay $100,000 after he pleaded guilty on Friday, July 26, to charges of forgery and theft, relating to his grandmother.

Peter DiCostanzo, 40, of Nutley, appeared in court with a $100,000 check, Essex County Prosecutor's Office Spokeswoman Kathy Carter said.

DiCostanzo and his wife Angela, 35, had been indicted on charges of forgery, theft and misapplication of entrusted funds, relating to Peter DiCostanzo's grandmother. Charges against Angela DiCostanzo were dismissed on Friday, according to Carter.

Full Article and Source:
Millburn fire inspector to pay back grandmother's estate

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Movement to Reform Predatory Guardianships

Marcia Southwick will join the show this evening to discuss the growing movement to demand an end to predatory guardianships facilitated by probate courts.

Elderly individuals who have committed the new age crime of aging with assets are systematically targeted by greedy and immoral characters whose only interest is looting the estate.

70% of any real wealth in the US is owned by people over the age of 60.  This wealth is being redistributed to the predators at an estimated rate of over 3 billion per year.

Virtually kidnapped, isolated and many times forcibly medicated to chemically restrain the victim, is common practice so that the predators can obtain access to any and all assets.

Maybe its time for the predators to know what it is like to become prey.

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

As PA Ages, the State Examines Guardianships and Abuse

by Halle Stockton:
Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in terms of its elderly population, and as the state’s more than 3.3 million Baby Boomers join the ranks of the elderly, state courts and welfare systems will be put to the test. Guardianships are especially open to abuse because there is little regulation or oversight.
Examining guardianship is a priority in the state, with both the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania conducting studies. While guardianships are needed for those who can no longer care for themselves, they also require individuals to surrender all their rights -- in some cases to a total stranger.

The National Center for State Courts estimated there were 1.5 million active guardianships in the U.S. in 2011. In Pennsylvania, the courts decided more than 30,000 guardianship cases between 2000 and 2011.

Some cases reviewed by PublicSource show the difficulties that guardianships often bring. According to court documents and personal accounts:
  • In late 2007, two of Rita Denmark’s children filed for guardianship of their mother in different states -- one in Pennsylvania, where Rita was a lifelong resident, another in Florida. The dispute came to a head while Rita, who has dementia, was visiting her son in Florida. Attorneys suggested an independent guardian serve for a short time. Now, Rita has been a ward of a guardian in Port Orange, Fla., for more than five years. Her daughter, Holly Peffer of McKean County, has been trying to bring her 82-year-old mother home. The guardian has billed nearly $94,000 from Rita’s estate. “I had no idea how dangerous guardianship was,” Holly said.

  • Three people brought Grace Connors, who was suffering from dementia, from California to Pennsylvania in 2001. One of them obtained a fraudulent power of attorney to control her assets. Daughter Mary Claire Connors, who had cared for her mother in California, traveled east to reclaim her, but a Luzerne County judge appointed a nonprofit agency as guardian. Mary Connors said that, under guardianship, her mother’s estate was depleted and she was not allowed to visit without supervision. She said she spent at least $100,000 and went bankrupt trying to get her mother back. Grace died in 2006 at age 85. Guardianship, Mary said, is “ownership of a human being …. There is no escape.”

  • Problems can also occur when the guardian is a family member. Shelley Kuziak of Columbia County said she was the primary caregiver for her mother, Miriam Kuziak, for several years. But Shelley’s sister became guardian in 2006. The sisters’ opinions on how to care for their mother differed. Shelley said she repeatedly fought in court for visitation after being accused of coercing her mother to accept medical treatment. She said she was not permitted to visit her mother in the years leading up to her 2008 death at age 77.
Full Article, Video and Source:
As PA ages, the state examines guardianships and abuse

See Also:
NASGA:  Rita Denmark, PA/FL Victim

NASGA: Grace Connors, Pennsylvania Victim

Personal Injury Lawyer Charged With Masterminding Insurance Fraud Scheme

Federal authorities say that a Bridgeport personal injury attorney masterminded an insurance fraud scheme that included an unlicensed doctor and several chiropractors and netted $2.5 million in settlements. Joseph P. Haddad, 65, has been charged with nine federal offenses and is also the target of a civil lawsuit filed by insurance companies.

A federal grand jury indictment was returned July 25. Haddad appeared on August 1 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport, entered a plea of not guilty and was released on a $150,000 bond. Haddad is being represented by New Haven attorney John Williams, who did not return calls seeking comment on Friday, August 2.

Haddad's arrest stems from "Operation Running Man," a 14-month undercover fraud investigation headed by the FBI. The investigation included the use of recordings made by an undercover special agent who feigned injury and met with with Haddad and the medical professionals who were reportedly part of the scheme.   

As alleged in the indictment, Haddad, who lives in Orange, and the others defrauded insurance companies by exaggerating the auto accident injuries sustained by Haddad's clients, and the cost of their medical care, to justify larger monetary settlements with insurance companies. Authorities say more than 10 insurance carriers lost a total of approximately $2.5 million. The Connecticut Post lists Travelers, Metropolitan, Progressive, Esurance and Nationwide as being among those that were defrauded from December 2006 to February 2010.   

In June, Allstate and Deerbrook insurance companies filed a federal civil lawsuit against Haddad and others involved allegedly involved in the scheme. According to the suit, beginning in 2006, Haddad and others began to "defraud Allstate by submitting bils for medical treatment that was unneccessary, worthless, and often based on fictitious clinical findings or diagnosis."  

The civil case against Haddad is pending. However, last week, the court entered a default judgment for $990,911 in favor of Allstate against Francisco Carbone, a medical doctor whose license had previously been revoked by the state.   

As part of the scheme, federal authorities say, the co-conspirators fabricated medical records, prescribed unnecessary pain medication, performed unnecessary chiropractic treatment, ordered and billed for diagnostic tests of questionable medical value, and overstated injuries or permanent partial disabilities that were allegedly caused by the accidents.   

"This kind of blatant fraud drives up the cost of insurance for all people," Acting Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a prepared statement. "With the help of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to uncovering these schemes and prosecuting those who are the most responsible, especially corrupt attorneys and doctors who drive these schemes and profit the most in direct violation of their professional oaths."   

Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI said in the same prepared statement that "the level of detail and orchestration alleged in this conspiracy to defraud automobile insurance companies is wrought with unadulterated greed and avarice."   

She continued: "As an attorney, Mr. Haddad is an officer of the court and, therefore, privileged and entrusted with upholding its laws and ethical canons. Instead, because of his selfish actions, Mr. Haddad is now a defendant in federal court and faced with some very serious charges."

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Personal Injury Lawyer Charged With Masterminding Insurance Fraud Scheme

‘Y&R’ Daniel battles Jack and Avery for guardianship of comatose Phyllis

“The Young and the Restless” Phyllis Newman planned for every occasion, but she did not have an advance directive in place in the event of a life-threatening crisis. Without an advance directive, health care proxy or living will, the burden of what to do falls into Phyllis’s legal next of kin, her son Daniel Romalotti.

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‘Y&R’ Daniel battles Jack and Avery for guardianship of comatose Phyllis