Saturday, December 6, 2014

Linda Kincaid Reports: California conservatorship encourages widespread elder abuse and exploitation

The instrument of conservatorship was established to provide care and protection for adults who cannot care for themselves. The legislative intent of the probate code was for rights to be preserved and for conservators to be accountable to the courts. 

In practice, conservatorship receives little oversight from the courts. Law enforcement lacks adequate guidance and is apathetic about elder abuse. Social services agencies have inadequate training, little authority, and lack motivation to provide services. The situation creates a landscape where abuse is common. Victims and their families find no remedy under the current legal system.

Forced social isolation is a common form of abuse in conservatorship. Karen Jones, Coordinator of the San Luis Obispo Long-term Care Ombudsman, testified As soon as somebody gets in charge, the first they want to do is get rid of anyone they didn’t like in the person’s life. Leza Coleman, Executive Director California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Association (LTCOA), spoke of an assisted living facility that isolated a resident simply because that resident was under conservatorship. The facility incorrectly assumed that conservatorship automatically equates with forced social isolation.

In San Bernardino County, Jean Swope was imprisoned and isolated at Wildwood Canyon Villa, a licensed assisted living facility. Under conservatorship of a private conservator, Jean was:

· Denied her right to phone calls for five months,
· Denied her right to visitation for fifteen months,
· Denied her right to attend court hearings and address the court,
· Denied her right to routine medical care for three years,
· Forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor for eighteen months,
· Sexually assaulted repeatedly for about a year, and
· Administered antipsychotic drugs to “control agitation” from sexual assaults.

In Santa Clara County, Gisela Riordan was imprisoned and isolated at Villa Fontana, a licensed assisted living facility. Under conservatorship of the Public Guardian, Gisela was:

· Denied her right to phone calls for two years,
· Denied her right to visitors for two years,
· Denied her right to attend court hearings and address the court,
· Denied needed medical care, and
· Administered antipsychotic drugs.

Media coverage and individual advocacy led to passage of Assembly Bill 937 (2013) to clarify that conservatees have the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail, unless that right is limited by the court. Abusive conservators and unscrupulous attorneys immediately crafted strategies to evade the legislative intent of AB 937. By making unsubstantiated allegations against family and advocates, a conservator can easily obtain a court order to “manage” visitation. The conservator then “manages” visitation by denying all request for visits.

In Monterey County, Margarita Zelada is imprisoned and isolated at Senior Paradise, a licensed assisted living facility. Under conservatorship of the Public Guardian, Margarita is:

· Denied her right to phone calls since March 2013,
· Denied her right to visitors since March 2013,
· Denied her right to attend court hearings and address the court, and
· Administered antipsychotic drugs.

In Alameda County, Elinor Frerichs is imprisoned and isolated at Lakeside Park, a licensed assisted living facility. Under conservatorship of private fiduciary Scott Phipps of Phisco Fiduciary, Elinor is:

· Denied her right to phone calls since summer 2012,
· Denied her right to visitors since summer 20102,
· Denied her right to attend court hearings and address the court,
· Denied her right to routine medical care, and
· Administered anti-psychotic drugs.

Attorney James Treggiari at Oakland-based Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS) speaks on mechanisms to “protect” conservatees from their loved ones. Treggiari praises Phipps for “protecting” Elinor by denying her contact with her loved ones and denying her needed medical care. Treggiari and Phipps both invoice Elinor’s estate for their “services.” Isolated in a locked facility, Elinor has no way to protect her estate or to secure her rights.

Families who seek assistance from law enforcement routinely hear that abuse of their loved ones is a civil matter. Yet, civil courts rule that family has no standing to protect a loved one during the lifetime of the victim. The only remedy available, monetary damages after the death of the victim, is poor compensation for years of seeing one’s mother abused with impunity.

Full Article & Source:
California conservatorship encourages widespread elder abuse and exploitation

Julianne Moore unforgettable with Alzheimer’s in ‘Still Alice’

Julianne Moore as Alice in "Still Alice"
You won’t see a better performance by an actress on film this year than Julianne Moore as a linguistics professor struggling to hold onto her personality after a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s in the unforgettable drama “Still Alice.’’

The Oscar front-runner — who’s demonstrated her virtuosity for years in films as varied as “Boogie Nights’’ and “Far From Heaven” — gets to the very soul of the brainy Alice, who receives the rare and shocking diagnosis at age 50 after she forgets the word “lexicon’’ during a speech.

This drops like a bomb on her workaholic husband (Alec Baldwin), who, like Alice, is on the faculty at Columbia University. Her three adult children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish) learn they each have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the condition — and could in turn pass it on to their children.

But this superb adaptation of Lisa Genova’s novel mostly focuses on Alice’s fight against mental deterioration, which she meticulously charts in various ways, including Words With Friends.

Her scores on that game app plummet, and she loses her teaching job as the increasing difficulty she has concentrating forces her to tell her boss about her illness.

By this point, Alice has already planned a secret exit strategy to spare her family and herself the ultimate agony of losing her once-brilliant mind altogether: She’s recorded an iBook video detailing step-by-step suicide instructions to follow once she dips below a certain cognitive threshold.

Married writer-directors Richard Glatzer (who is afflicted with ALS) and Wash Westmoreland (“The Last of Robin Hood”) rigorously avoid schmaltz while providing the kinds of devastating scenes that clinch Best Actress Oscars.

Baldwin, who played the husband to last year’s Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, in “Blue Jasmine,” is very good as Alice’s husband, who initially refuses to believe the diagnosis — and is later torn between her plea for him to take a year’s sabbatical and a chance at a coveted job.

Stewart is even better as Alice’s youngest child, an aspiring actress. The two have had a difficult relationship, yet she alone has the emotional depth and strength to be there for her mother in the end.
But it’s the lead actress’ subtle gestures and line readings — call it “the less is Moore” approach — that makes for a tour de force performance.

“Still Alice” may be set in the relatively privileged world of upper-tier academia, but it presents a disease that can devastate any family, anywhere, with unsparing truth and great compassion.

Don’t miss it.

Full Article, Source & Clip:
Julianne Moore unforgettable with Alzheimer’s in ‘Still Alice’

House Bill Aims to Protect the Elderly Against Ongoing Fraud Attempts

Stan & Nancy Salisbury

For weeks now, a 60-year-old woman has felt the pressure of an increasingly aggressive “IRS officer” calling to demand owed money.

These supposed back taxes are not the first time Valerie Sicher has been targeted by con artists looking for her financial information.

“I’ve never been scammed because I’ve been aware of it,” said Sicher, a retired member of a Miami credit union board of directors.

The calls have been reported to the IRS, but representatives told Sicher that the calls are untraceable from her work phone.

On Oct. 1, Florida house bill 409 passed, which allowed prosecutors more leeway in convicting criminals who exploit the elderly, but only one in seven exploitation cases are making it to prosecution, said Shannon Miller, ESQ., of the Miller Elder Law Firm.

Out of 45 thousand cases, exploitation victims make up for 15.86 percent of the total investigations, according to the 2013-2014 data collected by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

“These are often deep family matters; they can involve all kinds of risks and liabilities,” said Nancy Salisbury, a retired public health official and minister. “Victims fear embarrassment and emotional distress along with the risks of personal safety.”

An extra $5 million to add to a retirement plan may have sounded irresistible to some, but “risk-free” money never seems to work out that way.

Stan and Nancy Salisbury, elderly retirees of Gainesville, received a first-class letter last August that offered the split of a hefty inheritance of their unknown relative James Salisbury.

“All the numbers, companies and addresses check out,” Stan said. “But there’s definitely no Jameses on my side of the family.”

Full Article & Source:
House Bill Aims to Protect the Elderly Against Ongoing Fraud Attempts

Friday, December 5, 2014

Albany care center employee arrested for abusing 87 year old hospice patient" title=", Albany News, Weather, Sports">, Albany News, Weather, Sports

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  A former employee of an Albany nursing home is accused of abusing an elderly patient.
 51-year old Doretha Jones was arrested Wednesday and charged with battery of a patient in a care facility.

 Investigators say Jones grabbed 87-year old James Richardson's arms and dug her fingernails into him at the Wynfield Park Health And Rehabilitation Center on West Third Avenue on October 30th.

Family members say Richardson is in hospice for heart problems and can't even sit up.

 They say he was left bloody and bruised.

 The facility administrator reported the incident to police and fired Jones.

 Advocates say care patients and families should always report abuse,  first to the administrator.

Ombudsman Coordinator Elaine Wilson said "No matter what it is.  Empowering that resident to report it to the proper person in the nursing home is the absolute best way to handle situations."

Full Article & Source:
Albany care center employee arrested for abusing 87 year old hospice patient

Mequon attorney indicted for allegedly defrauding banks and clients out of millions

MEQUON - A Milwaukee-area attorney has been charged in federal court with defrauding financial institutions and clients, money laundering, and filing a false tax return.

A federal grand jury returned a 33-count indictment Tuesday charging 35-year-old Sarah E.K. Laux, also known as Sarah Kitze, of Mequon with two counts of bank fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, 20 counts of money laundering, and one count of filing a false tax return.

The indictment charges Laux with defrauding four different clients to whom Laux provided trust and estates advice. Laux gained access to client funds through her solo-practice law firm. According to the indictment, Laux defrauded those clients out of more than $2.2 million in funds that Laux then converted to her own use.

According to court documents, between 2010 and 2012, Laux engaged in a scheme to defraud Carleen Vogel Guenther and her family's corporation, Eilcar Corporation, by gaining access to their money. Laux allegedly converted more than $1.6 million of their money to her own use. The indictment alleges that Laux used that money to buy residential property and an insurance business and also used the money to pay her personal bills and bills of her law firm, Laux Law, LLC.

Laux is also accused of defrauding Associated Bank, N.A., and its subsidiary Associated Trust, N.A., which served as trustee of a trust of which Carleen Guenther was a beneficiary. Laux allegedly told the institutions that Carleen Guenther needed funds from the trust to buy a condominium in a retirement home. The bank distributed the $450,000 for that purpose and Laux is accused of converting the $450,000 to her own use. 

In 2013, Laux allegedly defrauded two other estate-planning clients, a husband and wife, by embezzling approximately $584,000 of their investment monies after having promised to use their money to buy annuities.

Full Article & Source:
Mequon attorney indicted for allegedly defrauding banks and clients out of millions

Caretaker charged with exploiting elderly

A woman suspected of stealing an elderly couple’s credit card to make several purchases in stores around Coweta County and Atlanta was arrested by investigators Tuesday.

The investigation began in September when the victims noticed some unknown charges on their credit card account and then notified the sheriff’s office, said Lt. Col. Jimmy Yarbrough with the sheriff’s office. Investigators were able to access surveillance videos in the stores where the transactions were made and identified the victims’ former caretaker, Annette Smothers Wesson, 54, as the suspect.

Wesson, an employee of Southeast Healthcare Inc., worked for the victims for several months, Yarbrough said, and would often transport the victims to and from Wesley Woods. At one point, Wesson is suspected of taking the victims’ credit card, which she then used over a period of time to purchase about $1,000 worth of items at grocery stores, retail stores and gasoline stations.

Wesson was charged with identity fraud and elder or disabled person abuse, neglect or exploitation, and she was transported to the Coweta County Jail.

Full Article & Source:
Caretaker charged with exploiting elderly

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Elder Justice

According to the Elder Justice Coalition, more than six million older adults fall victim to elder abuse every year, representing roughly one of every ten adults age 60 and older. Elder abuse can take the form of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, as well as neglect and abandonment.

The incidence of elder abuse in America is so pervasive that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers it a major public health problem. And experts believe that with the aging of the nation’s largest generation—baby boomers—the incidence of elder abuse will likely increase as more than 70 million Americans reach the age of 65 and older in the next 15 years.

Since their inception, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have played a significant role in detecting and preventing elder abuse. Today, more than 98 percent provide at least one service or program designed to address this serious problem. Providing community education and training, launching public awareness campaigns targeting older adults, participating in an elder abuse prevention coalition or multidisciplinary team and utilizing case management strategies for at-risk or vulnerable seniors are among the most common AAA strategies to combat elder abuse.

Although the majority of AAA elder justice programs address issues associated with elder abuse, AAAs also provide support on a range of other legal issues confronting older adults. Legal issues related to guardianship, health and long-term care and public benefit programs are just a few of the many areas handled, as part of AAAs role in implementing legal services under Title III B of the Older Americans Act.

To elevate and provide a strategic focus for federal support for elder abuse protection, the Elder Justice Act (EJA) was enacted in 2010, after years of advocacy by advocates including n4a and our members. The EJA was established to support the development and implementation of strategies to slow and reverse the rate of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation cases in the United States by strengthening the efforts of state and local agencies, including AAAs. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to fund the Act, making it impossible for systemic change to begin.

Full Article & Source:
Elder Justice

Elder abuse is underreported and increasing in homes and care centers

Experts say elder abuse is grossly underreported and they predict the abuse will continue to increase unless the national public is educated.

Recently, prosecutors in Philadelphia were deliberating a murder charge against Jean Dombrowski, a live-in caregiver being held on assault charges for the alleged mistreatment of Plane Paciunas, an elderly woman of 89 years, who presumably died from neglect and abuse, reported the Phildelphia Media Network. Paciuna's cause of death will help determine if a homicide charge will be filed.

WGRZ reported that "elder abuse affects as many as 2 million seniors every year in the U.S., and experts estimate that number will continue to grow as the population ages."

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the nation's 90-years-and-older population was at 1.9 million in 2010 and will quadruple in the next four decades. By 2050, this elderly population will comprise 10 percent of the 65 and older population.

The American Psychological Association reports that the majority of elder abuse victims are female and many of the abusers are male. Adult children are the most typical abusers along with family members, spouses and, most recently, institutions such as hospitals and care homes.

A newly released Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College study found that there is also a high level of resident-to-resident elder abuse in care centers, reported the Cornell Chronicle.

The researchers said that their study is one of the first to directly observe and interview residents to discover the magnitude of the elder-to-elder abuse epidemic. They found that around 19 percent of the residents experienced "inappropriate, disruptive or hostile behavior" within their nursing home, according to the Cornell Chronicle.

"We urgently need strategies to address this under-recognized problem, which affects fully one-fifth of all residents, erodes their quality of life and is stressful for staff to manage," said Mark S. Lachs, M.D., a Weill Cornell professor of clinical medicine and medical director of the New York City Elder Abuse Center.

Full Article & Source:
Elder abuse is underreported and increasing in homes and care centers

Nursing home tech stole jewelry while residents slept, police say

ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -A nursing facility employee stole and pawned thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from residents, St. Petersburg Police said.

Keona S. Stephens, 22, is facing theft charges.

Police said they got a call from a resident at the Allegro Nursing Facility who told them a diamond ring had been pried from her finger while she slept.

Several other residents said they had also had jewelry turn up missing.

Police said Stephens, who had been working at the facility for three weeks as a med tech, stole and pawned $21,000 worth of jewelry.

Stephens is charged with four counts of theft from a person 65 years of age or older, and one count of grand theft.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home tech stole jewelry while residents slept, police say

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Indictment: Lawyer stole from relatives' estates

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) - A northern New Jersey attorney who allegedly stole more than $469,000 from the estates of two family members has been indicted on theft charges.

Monmouth County prosecutors say 62-year-old John Hamill, of Jersey City, faces two counts each of misapplication of entrusted property and theft by failure to make a required disposition. The indictment recently handed up by a county grand jury was made public Monday.

Hamill was arrested in October after an investigation revealed he stole about $469,544 from the estates of an aunt and a cousin where he was named executor. Hamill remains jailed in lieu of $200,000 cash bail, and it wasn't known Monday if he has retained a lawyer.

He could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Full Article & Source:
Indictment: Lawyer stole from relatives' estates

Florida Guardianship Court Orders Trust Accounting Where Commingling

Jeffrey Skatoff
Written by Jordan Hammer • November 25th, 2014

At first glance, Florida statutes appear to clearly distinguish the law of trusts from that of guardianships, devoting one chapter (Ch. 736) exclusively to trusts and another chapter (Ch. 744) exclusively to guardianships. While the two seem conceptually, administratively, and legally distinct on paper, this is often not the case in practice—particularly where one individual is simultaneously serving as guardian and trustee.  Florida courts routinely address the interplay between these two fields, notably in the landmark case Covenant Trust Co. v. Ihrman, 45 So. 3d 499 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).

In Covenant Trust, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reiterated the longstanding principle that a guardianship court does not have the inherent authority to compel a trustee to act.  Instead, Covenant Trust explains that in the absence of a statutory or trust directive, a guardianship court may only compel a trustee to act where the trustee has acted arbitrarily or committed some act of malfeasance that affects the guardianship.  Id. at 505-06.  Recently, attorney Jordan Hammer of Clark Skatoff prevailed in a hearing before Judge John L. Phillips where the issue at bar was whether the guardian’s conduct met the requisite arbitrariness-malfeasance threshold to warrant an order compelling the trustee to act.

In our case, the Ward’s plenary guardian was simultaneously serving as sole trustee of a revocable trust of which the Ward was a lifetime beneficiary.  The Ward held a checking account and certificates of deposit in her individual name at one institution and second checking account in the name of her Trust at another institution.  When the CDs matured, the guardian deposited the CD proceeds into the Ward’s Trust checking account; that is, the guardian commingled guardian and trust assets.  When the time came for the Guardian to account as required by law (Fla. Stat. §§744.367; 744.3678), he was fundamentally unable to reconcile his disbursements because his accounting disclosed the expenditure of funds from the Ward’s Trust account which had been enriched with guardianship assets.  The accounting further disclosed disbursements the Court found to be misleading or altogether improper.

Ultimately, the Court ruled that the Guardian’s commingling of funds coupled with the indicia of misappropriation sufficed under Florida law to warrant an order compelling the guardian—in his capacity as Trustee—to prepare an accounting of all Trust assets administered during the term of the guardianship.

In many guardianship cases where the ward is the settlor of a trust, the line of demarcation between guardianship and trust is often drawn by the titling of property.  The accounts and annuities which likely fund a ward’s care are either held in the ward’s individual name or in the name of the ward’s trust.  Covenant Trust holds that the guardianship court presides only over the former unless the trustee has committed such breach or has acted arbitrarily.  This separation facilitates administration of a trust without interference from a pending guardianship.  However, as demonstrated time and again in practice, this distinction is often more theoretical than empirical.  Clark Skatoff’s recent victory before Judge Phillips of the Palm Beach County Circuit Court further crystallizes the holding of Covenant Trust in defining those circumstances under which a guardianship will invade administration of a trust.

Full Article & Source:
Florida Guardianship Court Orders Trust Accounting Where Commingling

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Authorities: Horrifying case of elder abuse in Philadelphia

Jean Dombrowski
The live-in caregiver of an elderly East Frankford woman was being held on assault charges after the woman in her care was found starving, covered in filth, and suffering from festering, maggot-infested sores.

She later died in what city prosecutors Monday called one of the most horrific cases of elder abuse their office has ever seen, and prosecutors are now weighing a murder charge.

Plane Paciunas, 89, died Nov. 15, about a week after she was found "barely alive" in her living room, wrapped in a quilt on a bed covered with trash bags, prosecutors said in an interview Monday.

A medic and police officers responding to the scene at first believed she was dead. She had open wounds, one so severe that a bone showed. One person at the scene compared her appearance to that of a "mummy."

Police say her caregiver, Jean Dombrowski, 48, told detectives she hadn't been providing for her charge's basic needs - and she knew that was why Paciunas' health was failing.
"The facts are truly sickening," said Jennifer Selber, who heads the district attorney's Homicide Unit.

"This poor woman clearly suffered for a very long time under unspeakable conditions."

Selber's unit is now reviewing the case, awaiting a medical examiner's ruling as to cause and manner of death.

In the meantime, Dombrowski's bail has been set at $2 million. She remained in custody Monday night on charges of aggravated assault, neglect of care for a dependent person, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.

Her attorney, a public defender, could not be reached for comment.

A representative of the Philadelphia Council for Aging would not confirm or deny whether the agency knew of the case.

Dombrowski told police she had known Paciunas for 18 years and became her caregiver six years ago.

She had been cashing Paciunas' monthly Social Security checks of about $1,100 "with her permission," police said.

It's unclear how long Paciunas languished, uncared for, in her home on the 2100 block of Haworth Street.

What was clear was that Dombrowski controlled the home, and at times even rented out some of rooms in the corner rowhouse.

According to a police report and law enforcement sources, after the Council for Aging received an anonymous complaint, a court-appointed guardian, Robert Stump, arrived at Paciunas' house Nov. 7, the day after he was assigned to her case.

A young woman answered the door, Stump told police, and refused him entry. She told Stump that Dombrowski and Paciunas were at the doctor's office.

Stump called police. When they arrived, Dombrowski herself answered the door. With a court order in hand, the officers went inside.

Dombrowski would later tell police she hadn't taken Paciunas to the doctor in about a year, police said.

The house was so dilapidated that it appeared abandoned, they said. The kitchen looked unusable. Heroin baggies littered the floor.

There was a slight figure lying on a foam mattress lined with trash bags in the living room.
She didn't appear to be breathing.

One of the officers said it looked as if she hadn't eaten in weeks. There was no food in the house.
Medics arriving on the scene found a rotting wound on her buttock.

One thought Paciunas was dead until he touched her jaw and she moved.

Paciunas was rushed to the hospital, where her wounds were found to be so badly infested with maggots that she had to undergo hours-long decontamination, a law enforcement source said. She died eight days later. The cause of death will help determine whether a homicide charge is filed.

Full Article & Source:
Authorities: Horrifying case of elder abuse in Philadelphia

East Orange man sentenced to five years for stealing $50,000 from a friend suffering from dementia

EAST ORANGE — Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor announced on Friday, Nov. 14, that an East Orange man was sentenced to five years in state prison for stealing $50,000 from a fellow resident of a senior citizens home, coercing his dementia-stricken 90-year-old neighbor and friend into withdrawing the money from an annuity account as the state Office of the Public Guardian for the Elderly began protecting the victim’s finances.

Gilbert Vaughn, 64, was sentenced by Essex County Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin in Newark. In addition to his prison sentence, Vaughn was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $50,000.

In September, Vaughn pleaded guilty to charges that, in August 2013, he began to coerce the victim to withdraw money he held in an annuity from Western National Insurance Company, a subsidiary of American International Group. A withdrawal in the amount of $50,000 was made before AIG froze the account.

Vaughn began the coercion mere weeks after the victim was placed into a state guardianship by the New Jersey Public Guardian’s Office, following its determination that the he was suffering from dementia and that family members were unable or unwilling to assist him.

Vaughn attended a hearing on the matter and testified as a witness that the guardianship was necessary to protect the victim from his children, who were taking advantage of their father’s finances.

On Tuesday, June 3, Vaughn was arrested by Bloomfield police while using a car owned by the victim.

When Bloomfield police pulled Vaughn over, Vaughn produced victim’s driver’s license and claimed he was the victim.

Deputy attorneys general James Carey and Michael Locke and detectives Eric Flickinger and Brian Bunn coordinated the investigation.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi thanked the Office of the Public Guardian for the Elderly for referring the matter and AIG for assisting.

Full Article & Source: 
East Orange man sentenced to five years for stealing $50,000 from a friend suffering from dementia

Brain Injured Volunteer Helping Brain Injured

Every year at this time, I try featuring a person who shows the spirit of the season in walking the extra mile to help people with disabilities.

On December 1, 1995, Sharon Gieseke was crossing a New Ulm, Minnesota, street and was only a step from being safely on the other side. In a telephone interview, Gieseke, now 57, said, "Then a van hit me. He did not yield to the person in the crosswalk and I was in the crosswalk. I remember seeing a bright light above me before he hit. I knew something was coming and knew I was going to get hit, so I began moving straight ahead and a little faster."

She said she didn't know what the bright light above her was, but a sense of joy right before impact came over her, like she was "going home with Jesus," she said. Remembering that moment before impact would help her get through all the ensuing pain and frustration.

The blow was traumatic. She had a closed head injury, a cervical cord contusion, broken ribs, and a leg injury causing severe swelling. Her brain hemorrhaged and "liquid was coming out of my ears and nose," she said.

Her husband believed she was kept alive for a greater purpose. So with her husband's help, Gieseke in 2010 founded Minnesota Brain Injury Force. She provides knowledge and support to brain injury survivors and their family members. She serves hundreds of people in the southern part of her state. And she does it all as a volunteer, with all the donations she receives helping in some way the people she serves.

Full Article & Source:
Brain Injured Volunteer Helping Brain Injured
Brain Injured Volunteer Helping Brain Injured

Monday, December 1, 2014

Court-Appointed Guardianship Abuses Run Rampant in American Courts

Following multiple RebelPundit reports on guardianship abuse, our latest investigation reveals this problem is widespread across the country and there is top to bottom corruption in court appointed guardianship in Harris County, Texas.

After speaking to victims, lawyers, and activists, the investigation reveals that the probate court in Harris County works much like a good ole boys club where judges receive campaign contributions from lawyers who then receive favorable rulings. In a court with little oversight, several victims suffered physical and mental abuse and were left to effectively be euthanized.

Guardianship is a court created power to take decisions of healthcare and finances away from those the court has deemed incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Initially started to protect the elderly and mentally challenged from being taken advantage of, it has often been corrupted, having the opposite effect. Those perfectly healthy who are effectively jailed and held against their wills, often end up in nursing homes away from their families.

Sherry Johnston told RebelPundit her mother was one of those victims. Her mother died in September 2014, weighing less than thirty pounds her normal weight. She provided Rebel Pundit with a series of photos which showed bruising, bed sores, and she made a You Tube video of doctors and guardianship professionals refusing to provide her mother with treatment, instead choosing to send her to hospice care to die.

Johnston said her ordeal started when a family dispute led to an order placing her mother, Willie Jo Mills, in guardianship. Rather than choosing a family member to be her guardian, Judge Christine Butts, appointed David Dexel to be the guardian.

Johnston said her mother’s estate has been charged nearly $300,000 in total fees by court professionals, including lawyers like Dexel and Reiner who charged between $250-300 per hour for their services.

Debbie Valdez, President of Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly (GRADE) is not surprised and said poorly thought out legislation has led to problems in the State of Texas and Harris County.

She told Rebel Pundit that her group has received complaints against three of the four elected probate judges in Harris County.

The most notorious judge is Mike Wood who has been featured in a number of exposes in Houston area media. Valdez said in 2005, Woods was one of several judges to testify in front of the Texas legislature to argue for more ambitious guardianship laws, claiming elderly would be victimized without them.

The result was bill SB 6, which Valdez told RebelPundit has done the opposite, leading to far more corruption and abuse.

In an extensive expose, Lise Olsen of the Houston Chronicle wrote:
"Under a court-ordered guardianship, 86-year-old widow Helen Hale was plucked from the house she and her husband had built on wooded acreage in Cypress for their retirement and relocated to an unlicensed group home run by a caregiver with a criminal history. 
In some of the state’s largest counties, like Harris, Travis and Bexar, so many people are in guardianships that each probate judge oversees from 1,500 to 3,000 ‘wards’ of the court. Yet most judges have only a single investigator to check out potential problems."
Upon speaking with Hale’s family, the end result is that more than three years later nothing has changed.

RebelPundit conducted interviews with Hale’s daughter Susan Staley and her granddaughter, Jennifer Goings, and though Hale has six children, Judge Butts, without explanation, chose a daughter with a history of drug use who had recently spent more than a decade without seeing her mother, as her guardian.

Goings provided RebelPundit with a series of photos which show bruises, bed sores, and other signs of neglect perpetrated on her grandmother.

The photos of Hale’s bed sores from one of the unsanitary nursing homes she’s been forced to stay in were to graphic for publishing.
In another guardianship battle, Donna DeFrancesco and her brother Greg said they’ve been able to put lifelong sibling rivalries aside and they’ve grown closer fighting corruption in Guardianship.

“I assumed guardianship was lawful.” Greg DeFrancesco, a recently retired Houston police officer, told RebelPundit.

About a year ago, he thought guardianship was best for his mother, Olga, now 87, but this was challenged by his sister.

“They (guardianship abusers) are looking for people like us.” Greg DeFrancesco told RebelPundit.

By this, he meant that once there is a dispute amongst the family, that’s all that’s necessary for probate court to step in and take over.

Judge Loyd Wright appointed David Dexel who proceeded to stick their mother in a nursing home. The DeFrancesco’s have become close to Sherry Johnston and they believe their mother was treated much like hers.

In September 2014, after the two siblings reconciled, they wrestled guardianship back into his hands.

Greg DeFrancesco said when he finally removed his mother from the nursing him she was near death, dehydrated, and malnourished.

He told RebelPundit he believes his mother was effectively being euthanized. She’s now recovering.

Full Article and Source:
Court-Appointed Guardianship Abuses Run Rampant in American Courts

See Also:
NASGA:  Willie Jo Mills, Texas

GRADE:  Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly

Maplewood Woman Allegedly Takes $47K From Vulnerable Mother

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Maplewood woman is facing charges of exploitation after she allegedly took $47,000 from her mentally ill mother.

Annette Lynn Biel, 50, faces one count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

According to the criminal complaint, Biel’s mother had been diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and required 24 hour care from her daughters.

After receiving two reports of alleged financial exploitation from the center where Biel’s mother was living, adult protection began looking into Biel’s mother’s care.

On Oct. 30, 2013 Biel told adult protection that she had taken care of her mother for 22 years and she had not taken any money until recently.

Biel met with adult protection again on Nov. 1, 2013.

According to the criminal complaint, during the meeting Biel admitted to taking $47,000 from her mother’s account.

Biel said she was “repaying herself for years of uncompensated care.”

Officials said she told investigators her sister took more money than she did.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Full Article & Source:
Maplewood Woman Allegedly Takes $47K From Vulnerable Mother

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hanover woman accused of fraud against 71-year-old

Ashland police have arrested a 51-year-old woman accused of committing more than $30,000 worth of fraud against a 71-year-old woman who was in her care.

Angela Chisholm, 51, of the 13000 block of Cedar Lane in Hanover County, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with six felonies, including grand larceny, embezzlement and other fraud-related charges, according to officer Chip Watts, a spokesman for the Ashland police.

“Investigators identified numerous suspicious transactions over the course of several months that were not related to the care of the victim, for whom Chisholm had power of attorney,” Watts wrote in a statement. “These transactions totaled over $30,000 in cash and credit charges.”

Chisholm is being held without bond at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover, and officials are continuing to investigate the case.

Full Article & Source: 
Hanover woman accused of fraud against 71-year-old

Two given probation in fleecing victims

HUNTINGTON A Lesage couple received probation with orders to pay restitution in the alleged fleecing of three incapacitated adults at the woman's home. The separate plea agreements convicted April L. Fairburn, 36, of financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult and co-defendant Brandon P. Williams, 27, of neglecting the same.

The alleged crimes occurred between August 2011 and August 2012 when Fairburn worked as a family adult care provider through the state Department of Health and Human Resources, according to the indictment and information from the agency.

Williams was her significant other, according to a prosecution investigator.

Both entered Kennedy pleas, which allowed for their convictions without any admission of guilt or explanation of their roles in the crime.

Williams' plea also convicted him of attempt to commit a felony, which resolved his role in a wanton endangerment indictment from September 2012.

Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell ordered Williams to serve three years probation and pay $4,000 restitution, after suspended a 2- to 4-year prison sentence. Farrell, in suspending a 1-year jail sentence, ordered Fairburn to serve two years probation and restitution.

A March 2013 indictment initially charged the couple with three counts neglect of an incapacitated adult, along with single counts of financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult and conspiracy.

Full Article & Source:
Two given probation in fleecing victims

Hired Caregiver Charged with Financial Exploitation of Patient

A hired caregiver faces charges of financial exploitation of a patient in Albertson Park.

New Castle County Police have announced the arrest of the Wilmington nurse's assistant, Chudilya Williams, after a family member of her infirmed client notified police of recent unauthorized debit card transactions.

According to police, Williams had used the card to make illegitimate ATM withdrawals as well as purchases at stores and restaurants for more than $1,300.

The victim is described as a 70-year-old woman who is unable to walk. The family hired the caregiver to help with daily activities.

Full Article & Source:
Hired Caregiver Charged with Financial Exploitation of Patient