Saturday, May 9, 2015

91-Year-Old Singer Sings for Judge; Gets to Leave Nursing Home

She got her home back for a song.

A 91-year-old former Broadway singer who was declared incompetent and tossed into a nursing home was returned to her Greenwich Village apartment — after wowing a Manhattan judge with her vocal talents.

Elderly songstress Ruth Berk sang the show tunes “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine” to help convince Justice Tanya Kennedy that she was still fit to live there.

At her hearing, “although the justice refused to allow her to speak, [Berk] interrupted the court and told the court that she wanted to go home. She then began to sing for Justice Kennedy,” her lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, recounted in court papers.

Berk’s daughter, Jessica, said the judge was stunned at the impromptu performance last summer by her mom, whom she called “a cross between Bea Arthur and Elizabeth Taylor” in her younger years.
“[The judge] stepped off the bench, took [her] robe off and shook her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Berk, that was wonderful. Thank you very much for honoring me with that,’ ” Jessica, 55, told The Post.

Ruth was finally returned to her home, where she has lived since 1960, earlier this year.

But she may still have to update her repertoire with a selection from “Rent,’’ her camp said.

Landlord and real estate developer Lloyd Goldman has filed an eviction notice to try to boot Berk and her daughter from their rent-stabilized, $700-a-month penthouse.

Goldman’s lawyer, Lawrence Wolf, told The Post that Ruth and Jessica — who also resides in the two-bedroom pad at 95 Christopher St. — owe $27,000 in back rent.

Ruth’s lawyer and guardian, Arthur Schwartz, said the pair aren’t current on their payments because the rent-stabilized unit — in a building where apartments go for $7,000 a month — is like a “slum” with multiple violations. He added that the building owner has brought 21 unsuccessful landlord-tenant actions over the past 20 years.

Jessica Berk said she believes that their landlord made the anonymous complaint to Adult Protective Services that landed her mom in a nursing home as part of his push to get them out of the cheap pad.

“Who else would have a motive to get rid of my mother?” Jessica reasoned.

Full Article and Source:
91-Year-Old Singer Sings for Judge; Gets to Leave Nursing Home

Suspended Harrison County Magistrate Indicted on Sexual Abuse Charges Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather Suspended Harrison County Magistrate Mark Gorby was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in the court of Circuit Court Judge James Matish on five counts of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian.

Mark Gorby
Gorby is accused of having sex with an underage female relative.

According to Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Ashdown, she will serve as the special prosecutor on the case. Former Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Shaffer recused himself when the case was first brought up.

The next step in the case is to decide which judge will be handling it. Ashdown said they may ask for assignment of a special judge for much of the same reasons they asked for a special prosecutor.

According to Judge Matish's office, the plan is to request a special judge, but they are still determining who at this time. After that is decided, Gorby would appear in front of whatever judge they select for his arraignment, but there are no dates set at this time.

Full Article & Source:
Suspended Harrison County Magistrate Indicted on Sexual Abuse Charges

Missouri lawmakers send governor financial exploitation measure to protect seniors

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Financial professionals who suspect an older Missouri resident or person with a disability is the target of financial fraud would have broader authority under a measure headed to the governor.

The Missouri Senate voted 33-1 Wednesday on a measure that supporters say will give latitude to financial advisers to protect seniors from financial exploitation.

The bill would provide legal protections for financial advisers who put a hold on transactions they deem suspicious for a limited time.

The hold would be allowed for only people over 60 or those with disabilities.

The financial professional would have to inform a relative, attorney or the authorities about the potential fraud.

The financial fraud bill is SB 244.

Full Article & Source:
Missouri lawmakers send governor financial exploitation measure to protect seniors

Friday, May 8, 2015

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Former Atlantic Co. Employees In Court; Accused Of Bilking Seniors

By Charlotte Huffman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two former Atlantic County employees pled not guilty Tuesday morning to charges of conspiracy, money laundering and theft.

Jan Van Holt, 58, and William Price, 57, both of Linwood, were arraigned in Atlantic County for their alleged involvement in a 10 year-long conspiracy to steal seniors’ life savings.

Van Holt and Price are part of a group of six who investigators say conspired to steal $3.8 million dollars from at least 16 victims.

Others indicted in the case include Van Holt’s sister, Sondra Steen, 59, of Linwood; and Susan Hamlett, 56, of Egg Harbor Township.

Dr. Maria Teresa Daclan, 53, of Galloway Township was indicted for allegedly lying to a detective to protect Van Holt.

The sixth person, Barbara Lieberman is already behind bars. She previously pled guilty and agreed to forfeit $3 million in restitution and testify against the others accused.

In March, Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael Donio called Lieberman the “quarterback” of the ring of alleged scam artists and sentenced her to ten years in prison.

The CBS Philly I-Team first exposed Lieberman during an I-Team exclusive special report last November.

Lieberman, of Northfield, was a court appointed guardian and leading specialist in elder law in Atlantic County.

Van Holt owned “A Better Choice,” a senior care company that offered clients in-home services including “custom designed life care and legal financial planning.”

Steen and Hamlett worked for Van Holt’s company.

Investigators say the group posed as trustworthy caregivers who took control of the finances of their victims by forging a power of attorney or obtaining one on false pretenses, adding their names to the victims’ bank accounts or transferring the victims’ funds into new accounts they controlled.

Ultimately, investigators believe the group stole $3.8 million and used the money to pay off six-digit credit card bills and buy things like Lieberman’s new BMW and a luxury condo in Florida.

Investigators say Van Holt and Lieberman used their positions of trust within the county to identify their victims.

“Most of these people didn’t have the capacity to keep an eye on their money and their assets so they were taken advantage of in that way. They looked for people who were elderly and had assets,” said Deputy Attorney General, Yvonne Maher who is handling the prosecution of the defendants on behalf of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice.

Maher says Lieberman would recommend clients to Van Holt’s company and vice versa.

An investigation by New Jersey State Police and Division of Criminal Justice has revealed at least 16 victims. With the exception of one, all of the victims are dead.

If you suspect that you or a family member have been victimized you can call the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice’s tip line toll free at 866-TIPS-4CJ.

For more information about stopping guardian abuse visit the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

Full Article & Source:
I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Former Atlantic Co. Employees In Court; Accused Of Bilking Seniors

See Also:
Sisters Who Ran Senior Care Company in Atlantic County Indicted on Conspiracy Charges

I-Team Exclusive: Seniors Says She was Forced Into Nursing Home

Police, State Probe Complaints Against Atlanta Nursing Home

There are new concerns about the quality of care at a Metro Atlanta nursing home. As police investigate the injury of one patient, 11Alive News has found other families who have complaints about the care of their loved ones.

11Alive's Duffie Dixon broke this story a few weeks ago. Now, a tragic development: the patient at the center of the investigation has died. As investigators wait for the official autopsy reports, police are looking into whether the nursing home contributed to her death.

Seventy-seven-year-old Carol Sheppard was bedridden and a full-time resident at the New London Healthcare Center. In April, she was rushed to the hospital where she was treated for a three-inch gash on the side of her head and bleeding on the brain.

"In my 15 years I've never seen anything like that," Snellville Detective O.J. Concepcion said after they were asked to investigate.

Doctors also found a bedsore that went to the bone, severely ingrown toenails, and overall poor hygiene. The poor care included an open wound on the back of her hand where a bandage hadn't been changed for days.

"It's gruesome," Carol Sheppard's grandson, Ryan Sheppard said. He moved her to another care facility in hopes she would recover. It was too late. She died three weeks later.
"The doctors said she suffered some sort of traumatic event," he said.

The staff at New London Healthcare Center has not explained how a woman unable to speak or move on her own was so badly injured and was found in such poor condition.

Full Article and Source:
Investigation:  Police, State Probe Nursing Home Complaints

Guardianship for Blues Great BB King Rejected

An attempt to establish a legal guardianship for blues great B.B King was dismissed without prejudice on Thursday by Clark County Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim.

Five of the 11 children had sought guardianship for the blues musician, who has been in home hospice care in Las Vegas since April 8. The family believes King is not being provided proper care, said Lynn Hughes, a Las Vegas-based attorney representing the family. But outside of court, he noted they are not allowed access to his medical records.

“Legally, you don’t have what you need to move forward,” Norheim told the counsel for the family during the brief hearing.

Three problems blocked the petition for guardianship: Not everyone involved had been served; the prospective guardian already has three other wards; and two investigations failed to find problems with King’s care.

The first investigation was conducted in October, and the most recent one was in April.

“They were completed and didn’t find what your client wanted,” Norheim said.

The Aging and Disability Services Office will not issue a letter for guardianship, he added. The investigations won’t be made public.

“They wanted to take over King’s personal financial decisions,” E. Brent Bryson, a Las Vegas attorney who represented King, said outside of court. “Their petition was fundamentally flawed.”
King has a will and a trust, he said. The musician’s longtime business manager, Laverne Toney has power of attorney for King. She controls his finances and medical care.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianship for Blues Great BB King Rejected

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nevada Takes Action on Guardianship Problems

Just two days after a Contact 13 Investigation into guardianship gouging, more action is being taken by the state.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears explains why one court-appointed guardian has been stricken from a state agency's list.

You won't find private, for-profit guardian April Parks in the directory published by the Nevada Division of Aging and Disability Services.

The state agency removed Parks from their resource list after Contact 13 found her double-dipping and draining a couple's money.

The state offers seniors and their families a variety of resources on this website Nevada Care Connection.

April Parks was included in the directory as a professional guardian.

But on Wednesday we learned that, after reviewing our reports and doing some legwork of their own, the state decided to take Parks off their list.

In the bigger picture, families frustrated with Parks or any private guardian now have a new resource to help them navigate the system.

Yesterday we told you about a recently-created hotline with Clark County District Court. It was set up to take complaints about guardianship cases.

Today, the acting Guardianship Compliance Officer told us what callers are saying.

"They generally relate to procedural matters as to whether or not certain required documentation was filed or whether it was filed timely," says Timothy Andrews, Assistant Court Administrator. "And other complaints relate to the substance of the accounting, that is the manner in which the wards funds are being utilized."

About a half dozen calls were logged at the hotline in the past two weeks.

The hot line number is (702) 671-4614 or

State Takes Action on Guardianship Problems

Florida Lawmakers Take "First Step" to Curb Abuse by Professional Guardians

Kathleen Zagaros and her Mother
Kathleen Zagaros’ tale about professional guardianship is like many others. She wanted to protect her aging mother from a predatory neighbor only to find herself fighting the court-appointed guardian who was set on draining the estate.

“When the guardian came on, my mother had more than a $1 million. Three years later, she has virtually nothing,” said the Tampa woman, who eventually got the guardian replaced.

The Palm Beach Post investigated local allegations about court-appointed professional guardians in stories that ran April 3.

And the Florida Legislature this year took notice of the plight of seniors who are taken advantage of by unscrupulous court-appointed professional guardians and the attorneys who orbit around them, exacting fees.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, called professional guardians “cockroaches” in a committee meeting.

Rep. Kathleen Passidomo
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, called for criminal penalties.

In the end, a bill sponsored by Passidomo became law, while Detert’s proposal died and will have to wait until 2016.

“The best thing about Passidomo’s bill is that it gives the victims’ voices credibility — that the surreal world of guardianship abuse really does exist,” said Julie London-Ferguson of Sarasota, who has also fought the guardianship in her mother’s case and is an outspoken critic of the process.

Guardianship occurs under state law when a circuit judge finds an adult — often a senior experiencing dementia or suffering from Alzheimer’s disease — to be incapacitated. A guardian is then appointed to handle some or all of their affairs. Often this is a family member, but not always. When there is acrimony between siblings, for example, a professional guardian is appointed.

The Post found that the industry of professional guardianship is booming, swelling from 108 registered individuals in 2003 to 456. Their power can be absolute — with the ability to decide what medical care their ward will receive and whether they should be moved out of their homes. Guardians and attorneys can easily deplete estates by filing pleading after pleading.

If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, Passidomo’s bill would require notice to be given before hearings can be held on the appointment of emergency temporary guardians. It would also allow the mediation of guardianship disputes among family members and require the reporting of incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of wards by guardians. In an effort to prevent trolling of nursing homes by guardians, it also would prohibit an emergency temporary guardian becoming the permanent one.

Passidomo’s bill (HB 5), which also would create a process of randomly assigning guardians, appeared in jeopardy with the House’s early adjournment last week, but was able to pass after Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, withdrew an amendment he had wanted to add. If he had insisted on adding the amendment, which only made an exception for an agency in his district, it would have killed the bill, as it would have required another House vote after it had adjourned.

“It just wouldn’t be very classy to bring her legislation down in light of what the House did,” he said
“If you read the bill, you realize we are holding the guardians accountable,” Passidomo said, but she hopes this session opens up a larger discussion.

“The question you want to ask is — and we have not yet had this dialogue — should the state involve themselves in family relationships,” Passidomo said.

Full Article and Source:
Lawmakers Take "First Step" to Curb Abuse by Professional Guardians

Portsmouth cop details relationship with elderly woman in inheritance dispute

DOVER — Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin was with 93-year-old Geraldine Webber on the day she died.

He was by her side, as he had been at other times in the two years that he knew her.

He still remembers the final words she said to him just hours before her death on Dec. 11, 2012.

“I was just rubbing her head,” Goodwin said.

He wanted her to have a clear head, he said, so he asked her what she was thinking about and if there was anything she wanted to say that was unresolved.

“I’m thinking about that long drive to Foxwoods,” he recalled her telling him, referring to the time Goodwin and his brother drove a dolled-up Webber to Foxwoods Casino to re-live her gambling days.

Goodwin, the primary beneficiary of Webber’s $2.7 million estate, took the stand Tuesday for the first time in Dover probate court.

The hearing will decide the fate of her disputed will, rewritten in 2012.

The officer who befriended the elderly Portsmouth woman and is now at the center of a bitter court fight over her wealth described in detail how their friendship grew in the months after he first met Webber in late 2010 when he went to her home to investigate a crime.

Their relationship drew criticism from some parties who have challenged the will.

They accused Goodwin of taking advantage of Webber, who doctors said suffered from dementia.

Goodwin denies the allegations.

A judge must now decide whether Webber was mentally competent when she signed a new will rewritten by attorney Gary Holmes and whether Goodwin had undue influence over her.

The will was changed to leave her house, its contents, stocks and bonds, and a Cadillac to Goodwin.

Goodwin’s attorney, Charles Doleac, spent much of the day asking the questions, but Goodwin is expected to return to the stand Wednesday for a grilling by lawyers representing those contesting the will.

Goodwin testified about how he would visit Webber regularly and offered her assistance as she lived at home alone.

He and his wife would send meals to her at times; after she broke her wrist, Goodwin said he stopped by before work to prepare her breakfast.

Goodwin said he invited her to his house for Thanksgiving once, but she didn’t end up coming.

“She regarded me like a second son,” he said.

Webber’s son died in the 1990s. Her only living direct relative is her grandson, Brett.

Goodwin testified that he became uncomfortable when Webber informed him on Christmas Eve in 2010 — just a couple of months after they met — that she wanted to leave her waterfront home to him in her will.

She contacted him again a short time later and asked if he wanted the contents of her house.

Meeting with chief

Goodwin said he decided to meet with then-Police Chief Lou Ferland to tell him about his relationship with Webber and that she had offered him her house.

Goodwin claims Ferland told him that it appeared the two had developed a personal relationship and that it was acceptable, but that he should see Webber and help her only when off-duty and on lunch breaks.

That contradicted last week’s testimony from Ferland, who maintained he was unaware of the inheritance until after Webber’s death.

“I think the evidence would show that Chief Ferland is mistaken,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin also testified about how Webber had complained about her longtime attorney, James Ritzo, who she accused of stealing money; the allegations were unfounded.

Ritzo later complained about Goodwin and expressed concerns about the relationship he had quickly developed with Webber.

Goodwin admitted that he later helped Webber find a new attorney to rewrite the will, but insisted that Webber was the driving force behind hiring a new lawyer.

“That’s what she wanted,” he said.

Called ‘my love’

Goodwin also recalled how he tried to help socialize Webber by taking her out. They went to Foxwoods and he said he took her out on three occasions for Bloody Marys.

“I looked upon her as somebody I was honored to know and happy to help,” Goodwin said, adding that Webber made him “smile” and that he was “there to comfort her where her son wasn’t.”

His attorney spent part of Tuesday afternoon reviewing Webber’s calendar and her references to Goodwin as “my love.”

Goodwin said he considered the “my love” references to be similar to something a mother would say to a son.

“It was a motherly thing, a grandmotherly thing,” he said.

Full Article & Source:
Portsmouth cop details relationship with elderly woman in inheritance dispute

See Also:
Officer's $2.7M benefactor had dementia, doctor testifies

Police Officer:  "I was Watching a Crime"

Police Brass Caught in Cop's Disputed Inheritance Case

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Clark County Nevada Now Has a Guardianship Hotline


Clark County now has a hotline to help manage calls about problems with the guardianship system.  That number is 702-671-4614.

Another option is sending an email to

Chief Judge David Barker
The county’s chief judge said so many concerns have been raised that the hotline will help streamline the complaint process.

“Our fundamental responsibility is to promote citizens’ trust and confidence in the guardianship process,” Chief Judge David Barker said Tuesday at a Clark County Commission meeting.

Long-running problems with the system that handles about 8,500 cases each year were laid out in a series of Review-Journal articles published in April.

A guardian is appointed after someone is deemed mentally incompetent and declared a ward of the county. In most cases, that guardian is a family member, friend or county social worker. In many cases, especially where the person has substantial wealth, a private professional guardian can be appointed.

Cases highlighted in the Review-Journal showed a lack of oversight by the courts that allowed people who were wards of the county to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to their private professional guardians. In those cases, the court failed to enforce state laws, such as the requirement to file a yearly accounting of money spent on behalf of wards, and ignored the wishes of wards and their families.

Barker requested funding for both a compliance officer position and an investigator that he hopes will add better monitoring to individual guardianship cases.

County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak said after the meeting the county will have to determine if they can afford to fund both positions.“I think the county staff was supportive of the compliance officer,” Sisolak said. “But I have no idea about the investigator.”

Barker said during the meeting he has reached out to national experts as well as Washoe County Chief Judge David Hardy, a proponent for guardianship reform, for insight and ideas for a panel aimed at addressing guardianship problems statewide.

Clark County in April called for a Blue Ribbon Panel to analyze guardianship problems locally. Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty said Friday he will push for a statewide committee.

Barker also reiterated his desire to improve the process by further formalizing the complaint process, standardizing forms and procedures, and implementing a guardianship monitoring system.“In cooperation with this commission, the judicial branch is actively addressing the guardianship issues raised and will pursue the best avenues and resources to develop solutions and improve the handling of guardianship cases.”

Sisolak said the county will look to see if they have the ability to fund the positions Hardy was requesting.

There's Now a Hotline to Call With Guardianship Complaints

See Also:
Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Wants Statewide Review of Guardianships

Witness accused of 'lying' during cop's inheritance hearing

Lyz Boudreaux
DOVER — A witness in a case involving Portsmouth police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin's disputed $2.7 million inheritance was accused of lying on the witness stand Monday, the sixth day of a hearing to dispute the last will and trust for the late Geraldine Webber.
That witness, Lyz Boudreaux, testified she was introduced to Webber by Goodwin and was asked if she went to Webber's home after Webber's remains were removed on the day of the elderly woman's death. 
"Not on the day," Boudreaux said. "I did months later."
"And you're clear on that?" asked attorney Paul McEachern.
"Yes," Boudreaux answered.
After Boudreaux left the courtroom, McEachern called Webber's neighbor, Diane Connors, to the witness stand as a rebuttal witness.
"She's lying," Connors said. "I saw Lyz go in the house. For about an hour."
Also testifying Monday were three local lawyers who were asked to change Webber's will to Goodwin's benefit, but for varying reasons did not. Multiple parties allege Webber was impaired by dementia and unduly influenced by Goodwin when she made him the primary beneficiary of her large estate.
When she was on the stand, Boudreaux said Goodwin told her Webber was "very lonely," so she began visiting the elderly woman twice weekly. After Webber fell and was injured, a month before she died, Boudreaux said she visited Webber daily. She said Webber told her that Goodwin was "like a son to her," that she was "very fond of him" and that she "adored him." 
When he was deposed on Oct. 16, attorney Gary Holmes (who wrote Webber's disputed will and trust) said Goodwin met Boudreaux while responding to a break-in at her home and because she found him to be "a very caring, very thorough person," she later contacted him to ask if there was anything she could do for him. According to Holmes, Goodwin suggested Boudreaux get involved in the police K-9 booster group and "help" him with Webber.  
According to the first accounting for Webber's estate, $1,005 was paid from the estate to Boudreaux on April 30, 2013, for her "services, research, preparation and sale of costume jewelry" that belonged to Webber.
Five months earlier, Boudreaux wrote a letter to the editor to the Herald defending Goodwin and criticizing the Herald for its "fact-less 'story'" about the probate court allegations against him.
Also testifying Monday was attorney David Mulhern, who said he was contacted by Goodwin on Feb. 8, 2011 regarding Webber's estate plan. Goodwin previously testified that Webber told him on Christmas Eve 2010 that she wanted to give him her house.
Mulhern testified that he was provided with a copy of Webber's 2008 will when he met with her, while court records indicate her last will at the time had been prepared in 2009.
He said Webber described her house as being worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which he said was "drastically at odds with reality" and a concern for him in terms of her testamentary capacity; the legal standard for competency to execute an estate plan.
Mulhern said Webber told him she had taken care of her grandson Brett through a certificate of deposit at the Piscataqua Savings Bank, but when he later checked, he learned that was not the case. He said Webber told him Brett was "all set," adding he was "somewhat distressed to find out it was not all set."
The estate attorney testified that he was also concerned about the fact that he was initially contacted by Goodwin, who was to be a primary beneficiary. He said he found Webber to be "elderly" and having "physical problems" and arranged for her authorization to get her medical records.
Mulhern said he contacted Webber's primary care physician, Dr. Ira Schwartz, and in May 2011, received a phone message from Schwartz saying, "I cannot attest to her competency. I can give you more details why, plus other information you may find relevant. There is no way in the world I am going to be able say this eccentric woman is competent."
In a May 9, 2011, letter to Webber, Mulhern wrote "it is clear to me that serious professional questions have arisen about your testamentary capacity." Mulhern wrote to Webber that he'd discussed the situation with her doctor, her accountant, a bank representative and with Goodwin. He explained that any will he wrote would be "highly subject to legal challenge and that such a challenge might well be successful."
He advised Webber to proceed through the county probate court, with a guardian appointed to assist her, he testified.
Mulhern said he later sent his entire file to attorney Gary Holmes.
Next to take the witness stand on Monday was attorney William Boesch, who said he would have prepared a will for Webber on the one day he met her; May 23, 2011. He said he was initially contacted by Webber, who said she got his name from Goodwin.
Boesch said Webber allowed him to read the letter she had from Mulhern, in which Mulhern declined to change her estate plans. But, Boesch said, he found Webber to be someone who was "not easily influenced." He said she was lucid, coherent, articulate and intelligent.
"She also said several times, 'It's my property and I'll do whatever I want,'" he said. "On that day, I would have had her sign a will."
Portsmouth attorney Jack McGee also testified Monday, saying he was initially contacted by attorney Justin Nadeau who said he was representing Goodwin, who was helping Webber with her estate plans. McGee said he met with Weber on Aug. 18, 2011 for about an hour and that during the second half of their meeting, she "began to misfire." 
He said he too was presented with a copy of her 2008 will, which was presented as current. Webber, he said, mentioned three step-grandchildren, but forgot to mention her son's son, Brett, her only living heir. He said she also didn't know where Brett Webber lived. 
McGee said Webber referred to her daughter-in-law using the wrong first name, an error he discovered by going though her address book, with her permission. He said those were concerns, as well as the fact that when Webber urged him to reference her stack of legal paperwork, he found correspondence from prior attorneys she had contacted, including Mulhern's letter about getting a court-appointed guardian.
McGee said Webber referred to Mulhern as "a thief and a robber," but he concluded she was referring to his bill for payment.
When he left Webber's home, McGee said, he ran into his friend and her neighbor John Connors. McGee said Connors told him he was the latest in a series of lawyers to visit Webber and that she was "losing it."
McGee said he called Nadeau the following day to say he wouldn't be taking the case, due to a conflict because of his friendship with Connors. He said he also advised Nadeau to "be careful." 
The hearing resumes Tuesday in the 7th Circuit-Probate Division-Dover.
Full Article & Source:
Witness accused of 'lying' during cop's inheritance hearing

See Also:
Officer's $2.7M benefactor had dementia, doctor testifies

Police Officer:  "I was Watching a Crime"

Police Brass Caught in Cop's Disputed Inheritance Case

Liberty woman admits to stealing thousands of dollars from elderly woman

Sharlene Liesen
QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -A Liberty, Illinois, woman admitted Tuesday to stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly woman, according to court records.

Sharlene Liesen, 54, pleaded guilty to financial exploitation of the elderly and is set for sentencing June 18. Two other financial exploitation charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Police said Liesen stole more than $25,000 from an unidentified 76-year-old woman. Liesen was supposed to be helping the victim pay bills, but had been stealing the money since June of 2014. She was arrested in February.

Full Article & Source:
Liberty woman admits to stealing thousands of dollars from elderly woman

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Contact 13 Investigates: Guardian Gouging?

This story will make you sad. It'll make you feel scared and helpless.

And it could happen to anyone. It's a family tragedy where an elderly couple is yanked from their home. Their daughter is left in the dark.

And the person put in charge by Clark County admits to serious mistakes uncovered by Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.

It can happen in the blink of an eye.

Life as you know it changed forever.

Darcy Spears: Did you feel like you and your wife were kidnapped out of your own home?

Rudy North: We were kidnapped and raped. Both. Maybe not literally, but Rudy and Rennie North feel like they were violated--stripped of the life they were living together for 60 years. He cared for her through her cancer and claims they were doing just fine.

Maybe not literally, but Rudy and Rennie North feel like they were violated--stripped of the life they were living together for 60 years.

He cared for her through her cancer and claims they were doing just fine.

Until a knock on their door in the Fall of 2013.

"They said they were officers of the court."

Rudy says "the officers" gave the couple three options.

"One: We call the police. Two: We have you go to a psychiatric ward."

Choice three? An assisted living facility.

April Parks
The people who came for Rudy and Rennie were private professional guardian April Parks and a member of her staff.

"Mr. and Mrs. North were not in a good situation when we initially got the guardianship," says Parks. "There were lots of concerns about what was going on with them health-wise."

Parks says a hospice company referred the couple to her out of concern that they could no longer care for themselves.

Darcy Spears: Were they allowed or given the choice to stay in their home?

April Parks: At that time they were not. They were not given the choice.

Full Article and Source;
Contact 13 Investigates: Guardian Gouging?

Officer's $2.7M benefactor had dementia, doctor testifies

Dr. Ira Schwartz
DOVER — Geraldine Webber had dementia, had fallen several times and broken bones, and lost her ability to tell a dirty joke, said her physician, Dr. Ira Schwartz, on the first day of the hearing to contest Webber's last will and trust.

The hearing is being held at the 7th Circuit Court – Probate Division – in Dover, where multiple parties allege police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin exerted undue influence over Webber, while she was impaired by dementia, to inherit her waterfront home, stocks, bonds and a Cadillac.

 Through his attorney, Chuck Doleac, Goodwin denies the allegations and asserts that he provided Webber comfort and care.

Goodwin did not appear in the court on Monday, but Portsmouth Police Chief Stephen DuBois attended the first day of trial. Dr. Schwartz was questioned most of the day by attorney David Eby, who represents the Shriner's Hospital for Children and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both of which saw diminished inheritances when Webber's will was re-written to benefit Goodwin. 

Schwartz said he was Webber's physician for about 20 years and reported concerns about her to the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services several times during the later part of her life. He said he had only made that kind of report about 10 times, for three to seven patients, during his entire medical career.

Schwartz said Webber was diagnosed with dementia "at least" by 2008.

She signed documents to leave the majority of her estate to Goodwin in May of 2012.

In 2008, Schwartz testified, he gave Webber a "mini mental test," because she expressed concern about her memory and some of his nurses thought she'd been confused. Her score indicated she had "mild cognitive impairment," he said.

Goodwin became Webber's medical contact in February 2011, said Schwartz and notes from his office staff described Goodwin as a friend, neighbor and police officer. Webber lived on Shaw Road in Portsmouth at the time, while court records show Goodwin lived in Dover.

The physician said that on Feb. 24, 2011, Webber was admitted to Portsmouth Regional Hospital for bleeding, due to her blood-thinning medication being "out of control."

He said she received a psychiatric evaluation that day because of her inability to understand the impact of her health problems. "I already had concerns about her cognitive status," Schwartz said, adding that he was concerned about her returning home with potentially "life-threatening" medical problems.

Dr. Simon Eison, the psychiatrist who examined Webber, reported that she did not know the day or date, Schwartz said, while calling that consistent with his knowledge of Webber at the time.

"In my opinion, it was more than mild dementia," he said, adding that he had concerns about the fact that Webber lived alone. "She was incompetent to make medical decisions." 

Schwartz said that over the years, Webber would tell him an off-color joke at the start of their appointments, but when those jokes stopped, he considered it one indication of her mental decline. He said he was most concerned about her inability to understand her medical problems.

In April 2011, Schwartz testified, he was contacted by attorney David Mulhern who sought an opinion about whether Webber was competent to sign a legal document. The physician said he left a voice mail for Mulhern saying he could "not attest to her competence."

A 30-year practicing attorney, Mulhern was deposed Feb. 17 when he said Goodwin called him in early 2011 and asked him to revise Webber's will.

He said five things concerned him: that he was initially contacted about changing a will by a potential beneficiary, that the potential beneficiary was a police officer, that Webber was of advanced age, that she may not have known the true value of her property, and that she was dissatisfied with her longtime lawyer.

Schwartz testified Monday that he called the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) in August 2011 to dispute a report one of its staff members had filed that said there was nothing of concern involving Webber's care.

"I called and said, 'I disagree,'" he said. "My concern was that their evaluation was inaccurate."

In the fall of 2011, he said, he met with attorney Gary Holmes who also inquired about Webber's ability to endorse a new will. Schwartz said he told Holmes that not only did he think she was incapable of doing so, a psychiatrist had already made that determination.

Holmes prepared the disputed will and trust in May of 2012.

In March 2012, Schwartz said, he reported to BEAS that Webber had significant dementia and needed protection.

In April of that year, she told him that someone had stolen a painting from her, but when he questioned her about it, "the answers never made it clear what the circumstances were," he said. (continue reading)

Full Article & Source:
Officer's $2.7M benefactor had dementia, doctor testifies

See Also:
Police Officer:  "I was Watching a Crime"

Police Brass Caught in Cop's Disputed Inheritance Case

Florida Senate approves guardianship overhaul

Last year, a coalition of Floridians traveled to Tallahassee explain how their elderly relatives had been victimized by court-appointed guardians.

Lawmakers got the message.

The Florida Senate on Tuesday passed legislation changing the way guardians are appointed and explicitly prohibiting the abuse, exploitation or neglect of an elderly ward (HB 5).

The bill is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. It is widely expected to become law.

State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, a Miami Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation in the House, said he had heard the “horror stories [from people] across the state who felt like their loved ones wound up isolated with everything taken from them and little they could do about it.”

“The reforms in this bill help to improve how guardians are appointed, better protect the wishes and rights of an incapacitated person once a guardian assumes power over them and clarify the responsibilities of guardians,” Rodríguez said.

Sam Sugar, a Miami physician who founded the advocacy group Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, called the measure an “an excellent first step.”

“But comprehensive reform will require the participation of the Supreme Court of Florida,” Sugar wrote in an email to the Herald/Times. “There must be consequences when those in charge of enforcing protections fail to follow the laws of the state and instead subvert them and abuse the vulnerable under the guise of ‘the best interests’ of ward.”

Under Florida law, judges can appoint guardians for elderly people who cannot manage their own finances.

Guardians must receive 40 hours of training and are paid for their services.

In recent years, the number of professional guardians has jumped from 10 to 465, according to the state Department of Elder Affairs. But the system has also come under intense scrutiny. A December investigation by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper found that some guardians had removed their elderly wards from their homes and sold off their belongings.

In response to the newspaper series — and complaints from constituents like Sugar, who engaged in a costly legal battle for control of his mother-in-law’s affairs — lawmakers filed a series of proposals this year aimed at overhauling the state’s guardianship laws.

Among those that gained traction: the proposal by Rodríguez and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, sponsored a similar bill in the Senate.

The proposal won unanimous support of the House earlier this month. It passed out of the Senate in a 40-0 vote on Tuesday.

The Senate also voted 40-0 in support of a separate proposal to create an new Office of Public and Professional Guardians, which would conduct investigations and take disciplinary action when necessary (SB 1226). But the bill died Tuesday because the House decided to recess early.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, blamed the ongoing budget battle for the bill’s death.

“I’m afraid this is another casualty of the war,” she said.

Read more here:
Full Article & Source:
Florida Senate approves guardianship overhaul

Joni Mitchell’s Friend Seeks Conservatorship As Singer Recuperates In Hospital

Joni Mitchell
A friend of Joni Mitchell is seeking conservatorship of the legendary singer who continues to recuperate at a Los Angeles hospital.

According to documents filed Tuesday by Leslie Morris — a self-described long-time friend of Mitchell’s — the “Big Yellow Taxi” singer cannot make decisions for herself, the AP reported.

Morris is now asking a judge to make her Mitchell’s conservator.

The court documents cite a doctor who described Mitchell as unable to make court appearances for as long as six months.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News Tuesday, a representative for Mitchell, Allisse Kingsley, acknowledged that Morriss was seeking the authority to make care decisions for the singer upon being discharged from the hospital. But Kingsley rebuffed earlier reports by TMZ and other outlets that Mitchell’s health was failing, or that she was in a coma.

“Contrary to rumors circulating on the internet today, Joni is not in a coma,” Kingsley said. “Joni is still in the hospital — but she comprehends, she’s alert, and she has her full sense. A full recovery is expected.” — which purports to be the singer’s “official” site that acknowledges having “no ‘direct line’ to Joni” — also refuted the reports in a message posted on Tuesday.

Mitchell was hospitalized March 31 after collapsing at her Los Angeles home.

“As we all know, Joni is a strong-willed woman and is nowhere near giving up the fight,” Kingsley added. “Please continue to keep Joni in your thoughts.”
Full Article & Source:
Joni Mitchell’s Friend Seeks Conservatorship As Singer Recuperates In Hospital

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nevada Supreme Court chief justice wants statewide review of guardianship

Nevada’s top judge wants to dig into problems plaguing the guardianship system far beyond the Las Vegas Valley.

The Clark County Commission recommended April 21 that a local blue ribbon panel examine issues that have left some of its most vulnerable constituents destitute. But Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty said the issue is affecting more than just the state’s most populous county.

“I think this is an issue that would be of statewide concern,” Hardesty told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday.

Instead of a local panel, Hardesty wants to convene a committee that will include people from across the state to examine the program.

Clark County Manager Don Burnette said Friday in an email to county commissioners that he recommends going with Hardesty’s proposal rather than convening a local blue ribbon panel. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Long-running problems with the program that handles about 8,500 cases each year were laid out in a series of Review-Journal articles published in April.

A guardian is appointed after someone is deemed mentally incompetent and declared a ward of the county. In most cases, that guardian is a family member, friend or county social worker. In many cases, especially where the person has substantial wealth, a private professional guardian can be appointed.

Cases highlighted in the Review-Journal showed a lack of oversight by the courts that allowed people who were wards of the county to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to their private professional guardians. In those cases, the court failed to enforce state laws, such as the requirement to file a yearly accounting of money spent on behalf of wards, and ignored the wishes of wards and their families.

Hardesty said after several recent talks with the chief judges in Nevada’s two urban counties, Clark and Washoe, he decided to push for the statewide committee to solve the inherent issues surrounding it.

The proposed statewide panel would need to look at the entire guardianship process, Hardesty said. Some of the main concerns, he said, include ensuring the courts properly monitor guardians to ensure better supervision and enforcement of annual accountings, and providing proper court representation for wards during the process.

“That is our responsibility to implement those statutes and provide for those processes that assure accountability to the parties involved in those proceedings,” Hardesty said.

Hardesty said the statewide panel would include guardians, county personnel, elder and ward rights advocates, among others. It would dig into the problem and make recommendations for reforms of the system.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who initially pushed for the local panel two weeks ago, said the Supreme Court’s involvement will make it easier to fix problems. Commissioners were assured they’ll be included in discussions.

“They’ll be able to access resources that we couldn’t otherwise,” Sisolak said. “I look forward to getting to work.”

Hardesty said he will file the administrative docket required to start his panel next week. The Supreme Court then would begin discussions about the panel around the first week of June, Hardesty said.

Commissioners will discuss the development Tuesday at their regular meeting at 9 a.m. at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

Full Article & Source:
Nevada Supreme Court chief justice wants statewide review of guardianship

See Also:
County Commission Probing "Frightening" Abuses in Guardianship System

Portland woman details family friend's financial exploitation

Click to watch video

PORTLAND, Maine —A former police officer and drug enforcement officer was sentenced to jail on Friday after pleading guilty to charges of stealing from a family friend.

Prosecutors said Bruce Chase convinced a woman who had lost her husband to let him control her husband's finances through power of attorney, but used the money for himself over four years. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in Cumberland County combined court after pleading guilty to charges of class B theft and misuse of entrusted property, a release from the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office said.

He was also ordered to pay $159,000 in restitution.
Chase's victim talked about what had happened and how the former Portland police officer and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency agent exploited her trust.

"I wish it was more. Even the judge said, the punishment doesn't fit the crime," Penny Cobb said.
She said Chase approached her at her husband's funeral and recalled what he said to her.

"Do you think Don knew he was going to die? And I said 'No, why? 'And he said, 'Well if he did, he would've asked me to help you.'"

Bruce Chase was a friend at the time of her husband's death in 2008. In the months following his death, Chase convinced the Portland woman to sign over power of attorney, giving him complete financial control.

"Bruce had always been there. Always," she said.

Cobb didn't ask questions about how much money she had and where it was being spent. Then she said he became controlling.

"He told me one time, 'You better start learning to live like a poor person,'" she said.

That's when Cobb's family started asking questions. She called her financial institution a number of times before learning that her accounts had been reduced to just a hew thousand dollars.

When confronted, Chase said it would take several weeks to get answers and cost $2,000.

She said Chase also made changes to her life insurance.

"He had changed the beneficiaries from my daughter and son to him and his wife," Cobb said.

Since reporting the theft last January, Cobb has had to apply for food stamps, heating assistance and she almost lost her home.

"People have to know, I guess you can't trust anybody," she said.

Portland police released a statement on Friday after the sentencing: "We are pleased that the victim has received full compensation in the form of restitution and wish to thank the District Attorney's Office for all their hard work and dedication."

The department also credited Detective Kelly Gorham for for work in the case.

Full Article, Video & Source:
Portland woman details family friend's financial exploitation

Stopping Elder Abuse is Everyone's Business

Texas Adult Protective Services (APS) is involved in a grass-roots effort, throughout the month, that brings together community, civic, and professional groups to focus attention and resources on preventing and stopping elder abuse. This includes conferences, presentations, and other events that increase understanding and cooperation in addressing the issue.

See a list of events around the state at and please share them with your friends, neighbors, congregations, and co-workers.

"Preventing elder abuse becomes more important every year as our state ages," said Beth Engelking, DFPS assistant commissioner for APS. "There are more than 3 million people in Texas who are 65 or older. Everyone needs to know how to recognize and respond to the signs of elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation."

State law requires anyone who suspects abuse, neglect, or exploitation to report it. You can do that by calling the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or report online at

Last year, APS completed 81,681 investigations involving people living at home and confirmed 54,731 of them were victims of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Sixty percent of those victims were elderly and the rest were younger adults with disabilities.

After a downtick in 2013, the number of validated cases was on the rise again 2014, and that upward trend is expected to continue as our population ages.

Full Article & Source:
Stopping Elder Abuse is Everyone's Business

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Caring for Aging Parents

Millions of baby boomers are now spending much of their lives caring for elderly parents, a journey that can be filled both with stress and joy. Producer Stephen Hegg relates his personal story.

The Fall
Like most folks in their nineties, they have issues—hearing and memory loss, and some medical problems. But things went well until last year, when it was obvious that they needed a higher level of care. Mom couldn’t keep her medications straight, causing other problems. It was time for them to move from independent to assisted living. Dad refused, even though it was in the same complex. "No more change," he said.

And then came the fall.

We—my brothers and I—knew that one of them would probably fall at some point. It is the number-one job, after a certain age, to stay upright.  We always thought it would be Mom falling and breaking her hip, since she had become more and more unsteady. But it was Dad who fell.

"He was in the kitchen making breakfast as he always did," says Mom. "And all of a sudden I heard him screaming louder than anything." And he didn't stop. She can’t forget his screams.

The fall changed everything. Dad had broken his 92-year old leg—his femur. The repair was difficult, screwing and lashing his brittle bones together, hoping for the best.

Family Support

So for the first time in 72 years, Mom and Dad were apart. While Dad was in the hospital, we moved Mom to assisted living. We tried to make the new apartment as similar as possible to the old one. Everybody came together then to get Mom settled after so much change and trauma. My brothers and their spouses, though some live far away, all pitched in. This was a different ball game. We're lucky—we all get along. I can't imagine being able to do it by yourself, or how a family that has differences or dysfunction comes together as a team. Keith, Mark and Phil came across state and country to spend time with Mom, sleeping on an air mattress in the tiny living room.

Full Article and Source:
Caring for Aging Parents

IN Close: Guardianships - The Geraldine Strege Story

Teresa Maxwell: This was just a month before the guardian took over her life.

Terry Murphy: This is how Teresa Maxwell would like to remember her mother, Geraldine Strege…

Maxwell: She was full of life.

Murphy: Before everything fell apart.

Maxwell: Within a couple of weeks we weren’t able to see her.

Murphy: Today, Maxwell’s memories are buried in piles of paperwork. These pages tell a story of love and loss…

Maxwell: All visitations for Geraldine Strege has ceased…

Murphy: And a legal system, Maxwell believes stole her mother.

Maxwell: This is the United States of America? This is what’s going on in our courtrooms? And to just take her out of our lives and put all these restrictions on us, and for my mother it was like she was in prison.

Murphy: Geraldine Strege has passed away, but Teresa Maxwell is determined to tell her story, a story that begins here.

Murphy: Even though Strege stated in her declaration to the court that she didn’t need or want a guardian, eventually the court did appoint one.

Maxwell: And then all of a sudden when the guardian takes over in less than three weeks she had a hand-written note that all visitations are ceased.

Murphy: Next, Geraldine phone was disconnected. Before long, Maxwell was completely cut out of her mother’s life.

Maxwell: No phone, no way to communicate with the outside world. All her friend she’d known for 40, 60 years were out of her life, couldn’t come see her. Within a week, seven days or so, they moved my mother and they were moving her to an undisclosed location. So that was that. We had no idea where our mother was.

Murphy: When Maxwell did locate her mother, the restrictions continued.

Maxwell: So they sent my mother over to a lock-down facility. We asked to go see our mother, the guardian would not allow us to see our mother. Couldn’t see her grandkids. She had 12 grandchildren. None of them could see her.

Murphy: According to Maxwell, visitation was permitted after she took a mandatory class on eldercare. Several weeks later, she finally saw her mother.

Maxwell: And what she looked like before and the first time we went to see her was night and day. She was at the state where her head was down, she was very medicated. Her face looked totally different.

Murphy: With no legal right to intervene on her mother’s behalf, Maxwell could only document her decline.

Maxwell: With about six month of being in this new nursing home, she had broken her wrist, she’s been in and out of the hospital several times. She had black eyes. Her legs were swollen. No human being should have to go through what my mother went through. Nobody deserves this at all.

Full Article, Video and Source:
In Close: Guardianships

Rethinking Guardianship: Facilitating Life-Long Self-Determination, Part 2

Source: Rethinking Guardianship: Facilitating Life-Long Self-Determination, Part 2 of 2

Rethinking Guardianship: Facilitating Life-Long Self-Determination

(Part 1 of 2) with Dohn Hoyle, Executive Director of The Arc Michigan.
Rethinking Guardianship: Facilitating Life-Long Self Determination, Part 1 of 2