Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fox Guards the Chicken Coop

Clark County commissioners acted with urgency this week implementing the guardian compliance hotline. All persons damaged by Clark County’s lack of oversight of guardianship cases can report their damages to 702-671-4614.

However, the alternative option is recommended in order to provide evidence for future guardianship hearings. That is, email your complaint to guardianshipcompliance Emailing provides evidence of your complaint to Clark County courts not afforded by calling in a complaint.

The emailed and phoned-in complaints go to the attention of Clark County Courts Assistant Administrator Tim Andrews. Attorney Andrews’ position with the Clark County courts is significant and material to his oversight of any cases, including guardianship, due to his employment history.

Prior to becoming Assistant Court Administrator, attorney Andrews worked as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Nevada Office of the Attorney General. In this capacity, attorney Andrews was housed in Las Vegas, handling litigation in Clark County courts. Attorney Andrews experienced firsthand knowledge of the problems occurring in Clark County courts.

One such problem occurring in the Clark County courts was with staff attorney Jillian Prieto. Attorney Prieto sat on a subcommittee regarding handling of child abuse evidence. In June 2010, as a member of the subcommittee, Attorney Prieto heard public testimony of Clark County courts destroying child abuse evidence. By 2011, LVMPD (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) investigated attorney Prieto regarding the illegal destruction of evidence. In LVMPD’s report, attorney Prieto confesses she knows Clark County courts destroy child abuse evidence.

Assistant Court Administrator Andrews was responsible for attorney Prieto’s activities. Attorney Andrews’ boss, Court Administrator Steve Grierson, refuses to disclose Clark County courts’ criminal activity because he is implicated in the activity. Administrator Grierson inserted into child abuse case files, documents stating the children’s abuse evidence is “illegible” rather than stating the evidence has been destroyed.

Regardless of his position with Clark County or State of Nevada, attorney Andrews is held to the standard of all licensed attorneys in Nevada as described in NRS 11. NRS11.207Malpractice actions against attorneys and veterinarians.

2. This time limitation is tolled for any period during which the attorney or veterinarian conceals any act, error or omission upon which the action is founded and which is known or through the use of reasonable diligence should have been known to the attorney or veterinarian.

Attorney Andrews is accountable for disclosing criminal activity of which he “knows or should have known” in his employment. However, attorney Andrews shows a history of refusing to disclose criminal activity. Six months into his job as Assistant Court Administrator, attorney Andrews was called to the witness stand to testify about the courts’ criminal activity. Attorney Andrews refused testimony even though taking an oath to tell the whole truth.

By 2013, State of Nevada’s Attorney General memorialized on public record the Office’s knowledge of Clark County courts’ criminal activity. This knowledge “should have been known” to Deputy Attorney General Andrews housed in Clark County as a state of Nevada litigator.

History may repeat itself where attorney Andrews is concerned regarding guardianship cases. As both a staff attorney general and assistant court administrator, attorney Andrews contributes to the guardianship problems by not disclosing the negligence in their oversight.

Guardianship cases are overseen by Clark County court employee Jon Norheim. Mr. Norheim is housed at the Family Division of the Clark County District Courts located at Bonanza and Pecos in Las Vegas. This court is overseen by attorney Andrews. Mr. Norheim has been documented a dozen times to have cancelled child abuse case proceedings.

Recently, Clark County Commissioners Chair Steve Sisolak and Vice Chair Larry Brown have called for the investigation of Jon Norheim in guardianship cases. Both commissioners have voiced the need for prosecution of Jon Norheim if warranted.

If attorney Andrews continues in his nondisclosure of criminal activity, the damaged parties have recourse. The parties have already submitted numerous reports to the FBI Las Vegas field office, which has jurisdiction and authority over Tim Andrews. FBI agent Joseph Dickey has memorialized his knowledge of Clark County courts’ criminal activity.

Full Article & Source:
Fox Guards the Chicken Coop

Ami Forte Affair: Morgan Stanley Broker Accused Of Bilking Elderly Millionaire, Could Cost Bank $400 Million Penalty

Ami Forte allegedly carried on a 12-year affair with the Home Shopping Network’s co-founder, and now the infidelity could end up costing Morgan Stanley $400 million.

The broker is alleged to have carried on an affair with Roy Speer, the now-deceased co-founder of the Home Shopping Network. Speer’s widow claims that Forte and another investor fleeced the family, conducted more than 12,000 unauthorized trades and stealing $40 million in fees — all while Roy Speer was so incapacitated that he was wheelchair bound and in diapers.

“During the last several years of his life, Roy Speer suffered from significant diminished mental capacity, as well as from substantial physical infirmities,” said a representative from Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns LLP, lawyers for widow Lynnda Speer. “He was wheelchair bound and diapered, could not drive, and was attended to daily by a full-time caregiver.”

The bank is now facing a giant fine due to Ami Forte’s alleged affair. Details have come out through a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority hearing, via Yahoo! Finance.

“A source present at the FINRA hearing says Morgan Stanley could be on the hook for a $400 million loss: $100 million in compensatory damages, and an additional $300 million in punitive damages.
“According to an earlier report, Morgan Stanley believed it might be on the hook for a lot less — only $170 million.
“The reason the fine may end being bigger than expected is because of a state statue in Florida, the Florida Elder Exploitation Law.”
Ami Forte has quite a stature in the banking world. She managed more than $2 billion in assets, and was twice named the top woman financial adviser by Barron’s.

There is some question as to whether Forte’s alleged affair broke the bank’s own rules on relationships. As the New York Post points out, the policy did not explicitly ban romantic relationships.

“Avoid any investment, activity or relationship that could, or could appear to, impair your judgment or interfere with your responsibilities on behalf of Morgan Stanley, our clients and our shareholders,” states the company’s policy.

The bank also appears ready to fight the allegations.

“We believe the claims are without merit and we are contesting them vigorously through the legal process,” a Morgan Stanley representative said in a statement.

There are some other twists as well. Sources say that Speer’s widow knew about the alleged affair, as did many others, but she had no desire to end the marriage.

“It was well known in the community that they were having an affair,” a source claimed.

Attempts by the New York Post to reach Ami Forte about the alleged affair were not successful.

Full Article & Source:
Ami Forte Affair: Morgan Stanley Broker Accused Of Bilking Elderly Millionaire, Could Cost Bank $400 Million Penalty

Body of man, 92, found decomposed at home in Indiana

PORTAGE, Ind. — A 92-year-old man was found dead and decomposing at his home in Portage, Ind.

The Porter County coroner says Bob Sufana had been dead for two weeks when his body was discovered, seated in a chair.

It appears he died of natural causes.

Emergency officials say there was a strong odor for several feet around the home.

Bob Sufana had shared the home with his grandson and his grandson`s wife.

The coroner says the grandson last checked on Sufana on Monday but didn’t get a response, and the last time he spoke with him was eight days before Sufana was found.

The couple’s 7-year-old son had already been removed from the home by Child Protective Services.

Full Article & Source:
Body of man, 92, found decomposed at home in Indiana

Friday, May 22, 2015

Couple liberated from guardianship system

By Kean Bauman. CREATED May 20, 2015
Strong words today from a court comissioner who's been accused of rubber-stamping wrongdoing. Now, it seems the tide is turning in favor of local families. Contact 13 was in the courtroom this morning as one family's loved ones were liberated from Clark County's controversial guardianship system.

"That is an enormous problem! That is no technical problem,That is a big, enormous, major problem!"   That's Guardianship Commissioner Jon Norheim just before he took private, for-profit guardian April Parks off the case of Rudy and Rennie North.

"She will not have any authority from this court to act on behalf of your mom and dad," Norheim said.

Guardianship was given instead to daughter, Julie Belshe, who's been fighting to get her parents out of the system for nearly two years.

"What happened today was completely amazing," said Julie. "More than thrilled with this decision to let me actually take over and be part of my parents life again."

Nearly two years ago Rudy and Rennie were enjoying a quiet, loving, life together but all that changed with a knock on the door.

"I felt like I was being arrested. Was kidnapped out of my house," Rennie said.

"They have locked me up, thrown away the key and it's terrible," Rudy said.

Since the fall of 2013, the court has allowed Parks to control every aspect of Rudy and Rennie's lives--where they would live, how their money was spent, what items they could keep--and sometimes, who they could see.

"They took my parents," said Julie. "I didn't know who. I didn't know what."

When Contact 13 looked at the guardianship case, we found mistakes, over-charging and double-billing by Parks. Our findings played a key role in Wednesday morning's hearing.

"She's costing me $300 an hour to sit here and degrade me and my family," Rudy said. "I will not stand for it and I will not pay for it."

Parks' attorney did the talking for her, claiming the process to remove Parks is being rushed, "...based on innuendo, based on hearsay, based on salacious representations made on the media about Ms. Parks," said Aileen Cohen. "This matter is turning into a witch hunt."

But Commissioner Jon Norheim was having none of it. "The idea that she's been compliant? Not even close."

Norheim said Parks failed to protect the Norths and, especially, their estate.

"She's supposed to block the money. She's supposed to come to court for release," said Norheim.

"That didn't happen. It got spent. Things got sold. None of that was supposed to happen!"

Parks' attorney declined to comment after the hearing and Parks herself didn't return our calls.
Rudy says the journey down a rough road is one he can navigate now.

"I believe it's the start, and as if somebody came and said to me, 'Rudy, you just made the road smaller.' It's no longer as long as it was."

Commissioner Norheim called this a real problem case and said it's been referred to the Court Compliance Officer for investigation.

If you have a problem with the system, let us know by sending an email to 13INVESTIGATES@KTNV.COM

Full Article & Source:
Couple liberated from guardianship system

Clark County judges take guardianship oversight away from embattled judge, hearing master

The judge and hearing master who presided over the troubled Clark County guardianship court will no longer hear those cases, the court announced Thursday.

For over a decade, guardianship cases were heard by Commissioner Jon Norheim. District Court Judge Charles Hoskin handled any appeals or disputes between parties. Those cases will be transferred to Judge Dianne Steel, District Court’s longest-serving judge, effective June 1, according to a statement released Thursday.

The changes at the court coincided with the filing of a petition with the Nevada Supreme Court Thursday to create a commission to review the process and examine the creation of guardianships, monitoring of cases, court documentation and judicial training.

Long-running problems with the system that handles about 8,500 adult guardianship cases each year were exposed in a series of Review-Journal articles published in April. Cases highlighted by the newspaper showed a lack of oversight by the courts, such as failing to require guardians to file annual accounts of a ward’s finances even though it is required by state law.

Swift changes have come since.

After hearing concerns raised by the newspaper and from dozens of people who felt wronged by the system, County Commissioners began discussing the problems last month.

Chief Judge David Barker has asked the commissioners to approve funding for two court investigators and two compliance officers that he hopes will increase the level of monitoring of guardianship cases and protect wards, who are people under guardianship. Barker also help set up a hotline for people to lodge guardianship complaints by calling 702-671-4614 or sending an email to

Clark County commissioners quickly moved to establish a Blue Ribbon Panel to analyze and recommend fixes to the court. But when Chief Justice James Hardesty of the Nevada Supreme Court expressed interest in creating a larger, state-wide panel, the commissioners gladly obliged.

Hardesty, along with Barker and Washoe County Chief Judge David Hardy, filed the motion to create the commission Thursday afternoon.

“There are several critical problems facing Nevada’s courts as a result of an increase in the number of elderly and vulnerable persons who require guardianships or conservatorships,” said Hardesty said. “We recognize the need to address these problems statewide and identify the resources necessary to assist the court system to meet Nevada’s needs.”

Handling guardianship cases will not exactly be foreign to Steel, who has been a judge since 1997. She heard minor guardianship cases from 2007 to 2011.

“I am committed to the court’s goal to protect those impacted by intellectual disabilities and diseases associated with aging,” Steel said in the release. “Through experience, I know how difficult these cases are for families, and I will work hard to ensure that the court is handling these cases in a manner in accordance with the laws established to protect families dealing with guardianship.”

The court did not specify any exact reasons for the change, saying only that the change comes after talks with “state and nationally respected judicial experts.” The court did not say what Norheim would be reassigned to after the changes become official next month.

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead.

Full Article & Source:
Clark County judges take guardianship oversight away from embattled judge, hearing master

Major overhaul in guardianship court

By Kean Bauman. CREATED May 21, 2015

Who is guarding the guardians? That's about to change as major upheaval sweeps through Clark County's controversial guardianship system.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears' reports are getting action from the top.

“What you did frankly was help push this to the front burner,” said District Court Chief Judge David Barker.

Contact 13's Investigations into Clark County guardianships sounded the alarm that something needed to be done to overhaul the system.

“Ghandi once said the measure of a society is how it treats the vulnerable,” Julie Belshe told Clark County Commissioners in April. “You are failing the elderly in Clark County!”

Guardianships are legal proceedings where people are deemed unable to care for themselves. They lose their liberty and the court gives control over their life, their money and their assets to another person. It's a process that should have strict safeguards and oversight. But that's not the way it's been going in Clark County.

“Is the system broken? From that perspective, no.” says Judge Baker. “Can we do things better? Yes.”

There are 892 open adult guardianship cases in Clark County with an average of 15 new filings per month. And until today, one man--Hearing Master Jon Norheim--presided over every single case.

This administrative order filed today takes all guardianship cases away from Norheim transferring them to experienced Family Court Judge Dianne Steel. The reassignment is just the first step in a fast-moving process aimed at improving the system.

Judge Barker: “You helped us in that process by bringing this to the attention of those who are interested at the commissioners so you helped me in that and I thank you for it.”

Darcy: “Well let's shake on that ok?”

Barker: “And we're going to move forward. We're going to make this better.”

Reaction is already pouring in from families affected by the guardianship system.

Rana Goodman writes:

"There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel for seniors and their families that have been caught in this terrible nightmare. We hope that this is just the beginning of reversing the guardianship scandal that has plagued our senior community."

And this from Julie Belshe, whose parents have been under guardianship for almost two years:

“After losing faith in our Family Court legal system for the last two years, today is the best news ever. Our family is overjoyed and overwhelmed.

Becky Swartz battled for years to get her father out of a guardianship case in Clark County and back to California:

"I’m happy Jon Norheim will no longer be in control of guardianship cases any longer. It’s been a long, long battle to try to fix this family court problem and there is yet much more to do concerning the guardians themselves. But I am sad that this didn’t happen while my father’s guardianship case was going on, it could have saved my family and many, many other families much grief and expense.”

A petition was also filed today in the Nevada Supreme Court. It asks for a commission to be created to study Nevada guardianships and address critical problems.

They're asking for a report and recommendations by the end of this year.

Full Article & Source:
Major overhaul in guardianship court

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Steve Miller: Breaking News From Nevada: Changes Within Clark County Probate Court!

Incompetent "Guardianship Commissioner" Jon Norheim, Along With "Juiced" Judges Charles Hoskin And Art Ritchie Dumped From Guardianship Court! To be replaced by longest serving District Court Judge Dianne Steel!

from Eighth Judicial District Court: The Eighth Judicial District Court Issued an Administrative Order today, to transfer the adult guardianship caseload to the longest-serving District Court Judge Dianne Steel, in department G of the Family Division.

The Order coincides with a Petition issued today, by Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty, with the concurrence of Eighth District Chief Judge David Baker and Second District Chief Judge David Hardy, to consider the establishment of a commission to study the creation and administration of guardianships in Nevada courts.

The proposed Guardianship Commission will examine policies and procedures currently used and provide recommendations, based on national best-practices, on how they can be improved.

 “I am committed to the court’s goal to protect those impacted by intellectual disabilities and diseases associated with aging.“ said Judge Steel. “Through experience, I know how difficult these cases are for families, and I will work hard to ensure that the court is handling these cases in a manner in accordance with the laws established to protect families dealing with guardianship.”

 Judge Steel’s career history includes more than 18 years on the bench, handling a variety of case types including guardianship. She has notable service on numerous committees and professional organizations and a long list of professional accomplishments including: a Juvenile Dependency Model Court, work on the One Family - One Judge initiative, the Donna's House Visitation Exchange Program, the Judicial Studies Program, the Family Self-Help Center Project, the Coroner Visitation Program, the Youth Eagle Leadership Project, the Adults in Juvenile Delinquency Court handbook, the restructure of NRS Chapter 62 on Juvenile Delinquency and the promotion of the Jury Services-CASA Recruitment Program.

"Judge Steel’s depth of experience and knowledge of the guardianship process will be a tremendous asset as we build citizen trust and confidence in the guardianship process.” said Judge Barker. “We are moving quickly, in coordination with the Nevada Supreme Court, to take strategic action within fiscal realities, to get guardianship cases in line with national best-practices.”

The court examined the assignment of the guardianship caseload using a hearing master/judge model and communicated with state and nationally respected judicial experts and determined that such cases should be assigned to a single District Court judge. Department G’s existing caseload will be reassigned to and equitably distributed among all the remaining judicial departments that are assigned civil domestic cases in the Family Division.

The transfers and assignments will take effect on June 1, 2015.

 The Eighth Judicial District Court is taking action to implement best practices for guardianship cases as established by the National Association for Court Management. A guardianship hotline is available to take concerns and questions tel:702-671-4614 and an email link is also available at "" for those who have concerns.

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court is the busiest court in the state. Fifty-two judges preside over nearly 100,000 criminal, civil and family cases that are filed each year in District Court. The Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court judges and staff continuously work to develop new ideas, maximize efficiencies and improve access to justice.


Prior to being appointed Hearing Master by Family Court Judge Charles Hoskin, Jon Norheim was a mob attorney.

 In a photo (left) taken by the late Buffalo Jim Barrier, Norheim is shown with his clients (right), and Ralph Rizzolo (left). At the time of the photo, Norheim was being paid to harass Barrier in a failed attempt to make him move his auto repair shop so Rizzolo could expand his topless bar the Crazy Horse Too.

It is not presently known whether Norheim will return to his previous profession.

~Steve Miller

Man who helped shine spotlight on guardianship abuse in Florida dies at age 101

A man whose story prompted an I-Team investigation that led to reform in Florida and drew national attention to the problem of guardianship abuse has died.

Willi Berchau passed away peacefully Wednesday at a local hospice facility at age 101.

He became a friend to all of us on the I-Team for his courage, his graciousness and his fight against what he perceived as injustice.

Those closest to Berchau spent the day packing up 101 years of his memories.

“I was given his case. It was a privilege to do that,” said Jane Barr, who was a volunteer ombudsman for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

She was contacted after Berchau complained his rights were being violated by a court appointed professional guardian.

Barr arranged for him to be allowed by the court to attend church with her neighbors Heather and Jimmy Riley.

“One night we got back from seeing Willi and he told us he didn't want to live anymore because he was so unhappy,” said Heather Riley.

The Rileys contacted the I-Team after Berchau was wrongly placed in a locked Alzheimer's unit.
“You see nobody. You have no contact with anybody. It's no socialization,” Berchau told the I-Team in September 2013.

“If you would have stayed there any longer, you would go down mentally,” he said.

After our interview, Berchau didn't have to stay much longer.

He was freed from the unit by his guardian and eventually freed from guardianship by a judge.

“I feel like I lost all the problems in my life,” Berchau said when he left the assisted living facility where he was being held.

“I don't think he would have gotten his freedom back without your help,” said Riley.

From that moment, Willi raised his fist in victory whenever we saw him, celebrating his freedom and his brave fight against guardianship abuse.

“The trouble is, if you have nobody behind your back, then they can do whatever they want with you,” said Berchau, who had no living relatives in the United States after his wife passed away.
He was able to returned to his home at the Fountains in St. Petersburg after his release from guardianship.

“I almost lost hope. I figured I would never be back at this place,” Berchau said at a homecoming party held in his honor.

He served as the inspiration for a guardianship law that passed last year.

“Willi's story is what prompted it. We heard that story and it was so compelling,” said the bill’s sponsor Jeff Brandes.

Just last month, Willi raised his fist again as he spoke to the I-Team about the necessity of new guardianship reform legislation.

He thanked his many supporters when he turned 101 last month.

“They are the best of the best I have ever met in my life,” Berchau said.

“He always used to say to us that we were the best of the best, but it was Willi who was the best of the best,” Barr said.

“He was the best of the best, a gift from God,” Riley said.

Berchau had planned to travel to Tallahassee this legislative session to champion the latest guardianship reform bills, but his health failed him.

The bills passed and are now just awaiting the governor's signature to become law.

If you have a story you think the I-Team should investigate, contact us at .

Full Article & Source:
Man who helped shine spotlight on guardianship abuse in Florida dies at age 101

See Also:
The Passing of Willi Berchau

Elder abuse awareness program planned

EDINBURG — The Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources is hosting a free elder abuse awareness event in Lawrence County from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 18 at the Gatherings Banquet Center, 2552 Benjamin Franklin Highway, Edinburg. This event will focus on financial elder abuse and scams that target seniors. Guest speakers include Scott Lane, of the state Department of Banking and Securities, and Eileen Mazza, of the AARP Pennsylvania Consumer Issues Task Force. Lunch will be provided. Reservations are needed by June 10 to Beth Friedman at 724-431-3639 or

Full Article & Source: 
Elder abuse awareness program planned

Netherlands euthanizes woman with dementia despite legal requirements

An 80-year-old woman with dementia was euthanized in the Netherlands after a judge ruled in favor of her family who claimed that she had a “death wish.” The court order overruled the fact that the woman had no advance directives or last rites and the medical care officials stated that she was incapable of expressing her alleged will to die.

Life End Clinic, a medical center that was founded by euthanasia advocates, carried out the procedure which has been legal since 2002.

That said, doctors can only euthanize them if an “advance directive” or “living will” is in place.

Charisma News notes that “A survey of doctors in the Netherlands who specialize in euthanasia has revealed that more than half approve of the practice for patients with dementia…Of the 547 doctors surveyed, 52 percent could imagine themselves personally allowing the practice in cases where the dementia patient has made an advance directive but is now unable to express their will.”

“Last year a Dutch academic warned Westminster not to legalize assisted suicide because the number of euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands has soared since the legalization of the practice in 2002…Theo Boer originally supported euthanasia, but has now reviewed close to 4,000 euthanasia cases and said that it is becoming the ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients,” writes the site.

“Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved,” Boer stated.

“Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades,” he added.

Full Article & Source:
Netherlands euthanizes woman with dementia despite legal requirements

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Passing of Willi Berchau

Nobody could say it better than Adam Walser and NASGA joins him in mouring the passing of Willi Berchau. Willi left this earth a free man and an inspiration, thanks to Adam Walser's report. That report, which was part of an investigative series, got the attention of other media in Florida who began reporting on guardianship abuse in Florida and it also got the attention of lawmakers. It all started with Willi Berchau and we will remember Willi for the hero he is:

From Adam Walser:
"A sad day for us, as one of our heroes has passed...Willi Berchau... who fought for the rights of wards in predatory guardianships... died peacefully this morning. He wrongly placed in an Alzheimer's unit, told his story to the world and eventually was freed by the court system. His final year and a half, he spent surrounded by friends and supporters and more importantly... free! The I-Team went to his 101st birthday party just last month. Willi was a sweet, kind soul who had courage to stand up against what was wrong. Isolated from the world, he found a way to speak out and people listened.... eventually passing laws cracking down on predatory guardianships.

I remember Willi with his fist pumped in the air, showing his belief that he achieved victory over oppression. Some us us have heroes who are movie stars or professional athletes or corporate moguls. Mine was a small German man, who always had a smile on his face and who spoke softly with a thick accent. What he had to say will long be remembered."

Facebook:  Adam Walser I-Team

Former Probate Court clerk Kim Birge indicted in theft of more than $700,000 from the court

The five-count indictment includes four counts of mail fraud involving the $700,000 between January 2011 and November 2014 and a fifth count for federal program fraud alleging she stole about $767,218 between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, involving a federal grant.

The count included the same funds and time frame as the mail fraud counts.

Included in the indictment is a forfeiture allegation in which the government says, if she’s convicted, they will try to recover “any property, real or personal” derived from the offense. That would include but not be limited to at least $767,218.

Birge, 61, is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith within a few days for her initial court appearance.

Birge’s defense attorney, Thomas Withers, declined comment Monday.

The indictment charged that Birge in her capacity as chief clerk of Probate Court was authorized to conduct transactions in at least two court bank accounts, but “was not authorized to conduct transactions in the Probate Court bank accounts for the benefit of herself or her family.”

It charged that Birge, without authorization and with intent to defraud, would “use the mails to embezzle, steal, misappropriate and unlawfully convert more than $700,000 from the Chatham County Probate court.”

It charges she would sign court orders to direct insurance companies, private businesses, public employers, banks and other entities to send funds to the court “for the benefit of minors and other individuals who had conservatorships’ established in Chatham County.

A conservatorship establishes someone to watch out for money or property for minors or incompetents in the court.

Birge would then deposit fees paid to the court into one of the two bank accounts maintained by the court and make representations that the money would be used for court matters, the indictment charged.

She would then forge the signatures of conservators and/or their attorneys to create false documents to disburse the money, would use the cash from negotiated checks for her personal use and fail to disclose to others in the court her activities, the indictment charged.

Probate Judge Harris Lewis terminated Birge on Dec. 2 in what was described as “in the best interests” of the court.

He had placed Birge on investigative suspension without pay Nov. 20 during a probe of “discrepancies with the services that you are responsible for handling,” Lewis said in a Nov. 20 letter.

As part of Lewis’ initial action, Birge has been barred from entering the Montgomery Street courthouse or discussing any matters related to the investigation “with anyone other than investigatory staff, unless otherwise directed to do so.”

Birge has not returned to the courthouse since she left Nov. 20.

The action came in wake of a reported federal/Savannah-Chatham police probe of undisclosed activity.

Birge, who started with the court on July 19, 1982, had long been a stalwart in Probate Court, dating back to the administration of former Judge Robert Cook.

Full Article & Source:
Former Probate Court clerk Kim Birge indicted in theft of more than $700,000 from the court

Civil suit filed against Grand Lake attorney already facing criminal charges

Betty Pitts-Cartwright

Sheila Stogsdill
A Grand Lake attorney and her former employee already facing multiple criminal charges of theft and perjury charges in Oklahoma and Missouri are now facing a civil suit in connection with money allegedly stolen from a guardianship trust account of a handicapped adult man.

Betty Pitts-Cartwright, 62, of Afton and Donna Ann Cupp, 60, of Sallisaw, are listed as defendants in a civil suit in Delaware County District Court in Jay filed on May 6. They are accused of stealing $129,502.07 from the guardianship estate of Dennis Alan Brown Jr.

The lawsuit was filed by Dennis Allen Brown Sr.

The seven-page petition states between June 4, 2010 and April 2, 2013, checks totaling $108,802.79 and endorsed by Cartwright’s signature were withdrawn from the guardianship bank account and deposited in the Cornerstone Bank, which is located in Southwest City, Mo.

Also between June 4, 2010 and April 2, 2013, checks totaling $20,699.28 bearing no endorsement were withdrawn from the guardianship bank account and deposited into Cartwright’s trust account in her name, the petition states. The funds were deposited in Cartwright’s personal bank account, her lawyers trust account or in a joint account with Cupp, the petition states.

Cartwright is accused of failing to prevent Cupp from stealing money from guardianship funds, the petition states.

After the previous guardian, Angela Coles, died in 2013, Dennis Brown Sr. was appointed over the estate.

Brown ordered the bank records to be examined which revealed Cartwright and Cupps used, diverted and took possession of the guardianship funds, the petition states. An Adair County District Court order on Sept. 27, 2013 gave permission for Brown to retain counsel and initiate proceedings.

In the criminal case filed in Associate Circuit Court of McDonald County in Missouri Cupp told authorities the account was set up at the Missouri bank because Cartwright said, “so people in Jay would not know her business,” according to an arrest affidavit.

The majority of the withdrawals on the account were made as automated teller machine transactions for cash, and nearly all of them were made at casinos, the affidavit states.

Cupp, a former school superintendent, pleaded no contest in 2004 to multiple counts of embezzlement in Sequoyah County and received a 5-year suspended sentence, court records show.

She stole $157,000 from Central School and used money from the school’s general fund to purchase items to furnish her new home, including marble and tile, artwork, a hot tub, and yard equipment, court records show.

This is the second civil lawsuit files against Cartwright. In June 2013 AET Enterprises, LLC filed a civil suit against AET Enterprise, LLC, Betty Pitts-Cartwright and her daughter Julie A. Pitts.

The mother and daughter are accused preparing a phony land deed and a bogus Oklahoma corporation to obtain ownership of a 5,500 square-foot waterfront residence that sits along an 18-hole golf course and has four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. The residence was the home of Cartwright’s former boyfriend, Tor Staubo.

Staubo is a professional boat racer from Norway and paid $1.2 million in cash for a luxury Grand Lake residence then spent another $250,000 to furnish the residence.

A preliminary hearing for Cartwright in the Missouri case is set for May 27, court records show.

Full Article & Source: 
Civil suit filed against Grand Lake attorney already facing criminal charges

Former Isle of Wight school board chairman being investigated for stealing thousands from elderly woman

Isle of Wight County, Va. – A former Isle of Wight County school board chairman is being investigated for stealing thousands of dollars from an 80-year-old woman.

The victim spoke only to NewsChannel 3 saying the former chairman managed the mobile home park she lived in and left her nearly broke.

Kent Hildebrand
Kent Hildebrand
Kent Hildebrand resigned from his position as school board chairman back in March. According to a search warrant, that’s weeks after 80-year-old Carol Jackson discovered $81,000 missing from her account.

The search warrant shows Hildebrand allegedly used money from Jackson’s account to pay his mortgage and he and his wife’s cellphone bill. Bank records show the transfers and Jackson says Hildebrand didn’t have permission to take the money.

“I am hurt because I have never had anybody do that type of trick and I`ve heard of a lot of tricks in the service. But this one really hurt because I had gotten to know him I thought, for several years. I didn’t know anything about the money for a long time until I finally went to the bank. We spent nine hours at the bank tracking it down,” Jackson says. “It’s a good thing I’m disabled in some way because I would go after him if hadn’t been because I used to be a tomboy.”

Hildebrand did speak to NewsChannel 3 off-camera but declined to comment when asked about the accusations.

As of now, Hildebrand hasn’t been arrested or charged, but court documents show he is being investigated.

Full Article & Source:
Former Isle of Wight school board chairman being investigated for stealing thousands from elderly woman

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Investigation: Guarding the Guardians | Dallas-Fort Worth News, Weather, Sports
ROCKWALL, Texas - No one likes to think about end-of-life decisions. But if you've got family and a legal plan, no one can interfere, right?

In Texas, a guardianship can take away everything you've set up -- even remove your family from the picture.

Hard to believe? It is happening in Texas. Guardianships have been a hot topic in the legislature this session because there is so much controversy surrounding them.

Dr. Mike Reichert spent decades caring for his patients. Now, the once-successful physician is dependent on others after a massive stroke destroyed his memory. Even walking is difficult.

Dr. Reichert was moved to a Rockwall nursing home to be close to his daughter, Maegan Reichert Hotaling, who visits almost daily.

Denise Reichert was married to Dr. Reichert for 30 years. They divorced in 2013, but he kept her as his power of attorney.

Family and friends were taking care of Dr. Reichert until August, when a local mechanic filed what's called an application for guardianship, triggering a messy and expensive legal battle.

"I tried to say, 'No, this is our family,'" Hotaling said. "'How can you do this?' And they said, 'You have no say.'"

"If he had been an indigent and had no bank account, nobody would have wanted the estate," Denise Reichert said.

So just what's in Dr. Reichert's estate? An inventory submitted to the court shows Dr. Reichert owns vehicles, livestock and farm equipment. He's got cash in the bank and a $2.7 million ranch. It totals more than $3 million.

Records also show that Joe Thompson filed the guardianship application, claiming Denise Reichert as "prohibiting visitors" from seeing Dr. Reichert and not acting in his "best financial interest."

With no testimony, no hearing and no evidence, a Titus County Judge signed an order appointing a guardian ad litem to investigate and granted a temporary restraining order, which locked Denise Reichert out of the bank accounts.

"Not one single time since that day has any party alleged that Denise or Maegan or any of the family has misused any of Dr. Reichert's money," said attorney Don Ford, who represents Maegan Reichert Hotaling. "There has been no allegation of misuse of money, so why the court issued a restraining order is completely beyond me."

Ford says guardianships are complex and technical, and families should never be easily shut out. And while county judges have the authority to create guardianship, Ford emphasizes they are not lawyers.

"Remember, a guardianship at its core is a question of should we take away somebody's constitutional rights to make their own decisions," Ford said. "If we are going to rip away somebody's right to make their decisions, we need to have a judge who at least knows something about the law."

Ford says money was at the core of Thompson's filing. In court records, he says, "Thompson and his wife were significantly indebted to Reichert for more than $20,000 in past due medical expenses and Thompson claimed Reichert owed him $40,000 for work."

FOX 4 tracked down Thompson to get some answers.

"Can you explain to us why you intervened in all of this and in their family?" FOX 4 reporter Becky Oliver asked.

"I'd rather not," Thompson said.

"You don't have anything to say about it?" Oliver asked.

"No," Thompson said. "He's a good friend of mine."

"Did you think he was being taken advantage of by his own family?" said Oliver.

"I just don't want to talk about it," Thompson said. "You need to cut that [camera] off."

After Thompson's application was filed, the judge appointed a permanent guardian of the estate, accountant Michael Taylor out of Greenville, who for the next few months started running up bills and submitted them to the court.

Ford claims that Taylor didn't have the authority to work as a guardian.

Michael Taylor did not return FOX 4's calls.

"They are totally pilfering his whole estate, just taking it apart one piece at a time," Dr. Garry Taylor said.

Garry Taylor was Dr. Reichert's longtime business partner.

"You knew this family for a long time?" Oliver asked.

"Yes," Garry Taylor said.

"You knew Mike for a long time," Oliver asked.

"Forever," Garry Taylor said.

"Did she ever give you a reason to be concerned she was abusing him in any way?" Oliver asked.

"No, she's never abused him in any way that I can tell and she's only wanted the best for him," Garry Taylor said. "There was never any testimony, never any accusations, nothing in open court. It was all done in chambers."

"You were there?" Oliver asked.

"Yeah, I was there," Garry Taylor said.

Judge Brian Lee denies there have been any backroom meetings, but he will not discuss the case.

"I can't comment on any case that is pending before the court," Lee said.

"Would you want a guardian taking over your estate?" Oliver asked.

"Right now, of course not," Lee said.

"As you got older, if something happened to you, would you want your children or would you want a guardian taking over your estate?" Oliver asked.

"I think there are absolutely certain circumstances that if I were in a circumstance like that, absolutely I would want somebody handling a guardianship on my behalf," Lee said.

"You would?" Oliver asked. "Over your own children?"

"You didn't ask that," Lee said.

But Oliver did just ask that question.

"Do you feel you are qualified to make these kinds of decisions when you're not a lawyer?" Oliver asked.

"On those that are appropriate, I have the ability to transfer a case to a statutory probate judge," Lee said.

The case was transferred to a retired Dallas probate judge who basically threw the whole guardianship out. Judge Joe Loving wrote, "The Titus County judge lacked jurisdiction to appoint Michael Taylor as guardian."

But that comes too late for the Reichert family. They've spent almost $100,000 fighting this guardianship, and it's taken a heavy emotional toll on the entire family.

"We have outsiders on paper saying they're his friend," Denise Reichert said. "They have never been to the house and had a meal or never done anything, never even visited, and yet they want the bank account, and that's what it all boils down to; money and greed and corruption."

A short time after FOX 4 taped the visit with Dr. Reichert, he passed away at a Rockwall hospital, but the legal issues are far from over. A request has been filed for an autopsy.

The judge has not set a hearing date yet, so Dr. Reichert is still at the funeral home and cannot be cremated or buried until that issue is resolved.

Full Article & Source:
Investigation: Guarding the Guardians

Legal battle continues over late doctor’s remains, estate

Dr. Oscar Michael Reichert died Monday, May 4, but a week later, no funeral, memorial service or visitation has been set.

Officials from a crematorium in Winnsboro report they have his remains.

Bates Cooper Sloan Funeral Home officials report that they don’t yet know if there will be a funeral or memorial service, but if there is one, they will be in charge of the arrangements.

Meanwhile, family members continue what started out over a year ago as a dispute of guardianship and power of attorney over Reichert’s medical decisions and finances. It continues now as a dispute over guardianship of his remains, and power of attorney over his estate reportedly worth several million dollars.

A Texarkana judge reportedly heard arguments Monday and could rule on these matters as early as today.

Reichert’s ex-wife Denise Reichert said Monday, “It’s all still up in the air.”

From his marriage with a first wife, Reichert’s oldest daughter, Brandi Michelle Reichert-Wendt, who lives in the Houston area, is contesting the guardianship of their father’s remains, held by Reichert’s younger daughter, Maegan Reichert Hotaling, who was born from Reichert’s subsequent marriage to Denise Reichert.

Hotaling, of Forney, and her brother James, of Mount Pleasant, according to a motion for authority to dispose of remains, have made arrangements to cremate their father’s remains.

Court records show that Wendt claims she should have guardianship since she is the oldest daughter, and she is petitioning to have an autopsy performed. According to Wendt’s complaint, she will file a lawsuit against the funeral home or crematorium if her father’s remains are cremated.

One legal document asserts that Reichert had asked to be buried by his mother in Franklin, Texas.

That document is one of hundreds of petitions filed in the past year and a half applying for and contesting guardianship of the late Reichert and power of attorney over his estate.

At the time of his death, records show, Reichert was a resident in a memory care assisted-living facility in Rockwall. Records, show, following a massive stroke in December 2013 after day surgery on his sinuses, he had been placed in several care facilities and admitted to hospitals in Longview and Tyler, before being admitted to the Rockwall facility.

According to legal documents filed two days after Reichert’s death, he suffered from various medical conditions including diabetes and pneumonia, prior to his death; and was permanently incapacitated as a result of the stroke.

Hotaling had ward guardianship of her father at the time of his death, but that was being contested.

A certified public accountant, Michael Taylor, had power of attorney over the estate, but his power of attorney was contested before Reichert died.

In August 4, 2014, court documents show that Titus County Judge Brian Lee signed an order appointing James Taylor, an agent of the Family and Court Services of Mount Pleasant, as Reichert’s guardian ad litem to investigate the need for the appointment of a guardian of the person and/or the ward’s estate.

According to court records, Joseph Thompson filed his application for appointment of permanent guardianship of the person and estate on Aug. 2, 2014; and on Aug. 19, 2014, Denise Gail Reichert filed an application to appoint her ex-husband’s guardian.

According to that same court document, later that same day, Judge Lee appointed Maegan Reichert Hotaling as temporary guardian.

Thompson describes himself as one of the late Reichert’s circle of friends and said Friday that he started petitioning the courts regarding Reichert’s legal guardianship because he (Thompson) was concerned for his friend’s welfare.

According to court officials, Lee requested a statutory probate judge to take over the matter.

Taylor was the first of two guardians ad litem appointed for Reichert.

On September 4, 2014, CPA Michael Taylor was appointed guardian of the estate, according to court documents.

According to court records, on Nov. 3, 2014, Lee signed an order appointing as guardian ad litem a licensed social worker, Margaret Webster of Wills Point, to investigate the suitability and eligibility of persons entitled to be guardian and to make recommendations to the court as to the selection of a proposed guardian.  

Legal documents and documented reports from Webster and from doctor’s reports show conflicts over the wishes of Reichert and his ex-wife Denise, over do-not-resuscitate instructions and include mention of concerns about his care and alienation from long-time friends and associates.

Reports from Webster also assert that Reichert was being left alone at the assisted care facility where he was a resident, where he would lock himself in his room alone, circumstances questionably in his best interest since he had reportedly professed and was observed as being depressed and suicidal.

On Dec. 2, 2014, Hotaling filed an application for the appointment of permanent guardianship and on Dec. 8, an application to revoke letters of guardianship and for appointment of a successor guardian was filed.

The social worker appointed to investigate the matter of guardianship filed the report that Maegan Hotaling was requesting appointment as permanent guardian of her father and also requesting the removal of Taylor as the guardian of the estate, and her appointment as successor guardian of the estate.

According to the social worker’s notes, Hotaling’s charges that Taylor was not managing the timely payment of bills resulted because the bills were coming directly to Hotaling instead of Taylor, so he was not seeing the invoices.

According to the case files, Reichert had a monthly income of $26,000 at that time and the estimated value of the estate was in excess of $2.8 million. Another legal document estimated the value of the estate at $3.8 million.

According to the social worker’s findings, “Oscar M.Reichert, proposed ward in this matter, was a long-time physician and resident of the Mount Pleasant community. He was the county health officer at one time as well as a pillar of the community. He reportedly was a simple man who believed in doing and giving to others. His reputation in the community is that of a person always willing to help people whenever he could, whether they were family or not.”

The social worker’s report also read:  “The current temporary guardian (Hotaling) is not appointed permanent guardian of person at this time as I do not feel she would be able to make a decision in the best interest of the proposed ward if it was incongruent with the wishes of her family. The best interest of the proposed ward would be better served by a volunteer guardianship program, such as Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas or a private professional guardian. Should the court appoint Maegan Hotaling as guardian of the person, it is strongly recommended that the court appoint a monitor in the matter to ensure the best interests of Dr. Reichert is served.”

The social worker recommended that Michael Taylor remain as guardian of the estate, and also recommended that the guardian seek an appropriate facility in the Mount Pleasant area to facilitate in returning Reichert to his community.

After Wendt filed for appointment as guardian of her father in April, 2015, her half-sister Maegan Hotaling filed an objection, according to court records. Denise Reichert had also applied for guardianship as had Joseph Thompson.

Wendt’s application claimed since she was the oldest child, she should have priority over her sister.

In March, 2015, more complaints, contests and applications were filed.

Court case files show that on Jan. 8 of this year, Reichert fell in the hallway at the assisted living center on Rockwall and said he hit his head. At that time, he was on Coumadin blood-thinning medication. The nurse’s notes in the court records show that the family was notified, but refused transport to the hospital and signed a refusal form.

Medical records in the court documents regarding his death describe the death “from natural causes.”

Guardians ad litem James Taylor and Margaret Webster responded to interview requests for this article with limited information as required by law. Denise Reichert said in a phone call that no funeral arrangements would be made until everything was settled, and that the parties had been before a judge Monday. Brandi Reichert Wendt and Maegan Reichert Hotaling did not return phone calls.

Full Article & Source: 
Legal battle continues over late doctor’s remains, estate

Hercules man stole $300,000 from elderly mother, police say

HERCULES -- A 54-year-old man was arrested Thursday morning after police discovered that he stole more than $300,000 from his own mother and spent some of it at casinos, police said.

Angel Robert Garcia, 54, of Hercules, used his mother's personal information to access her bank account, according to a news release from Hercules police. Garcia created multiple fake accounts and used them at several local businesses and casinos throughout California, police said.

Police searching Garcia's Hercules home Thursday morning found electronic devices and documentation that linked to the investigation.

Garcia's mother, an 84-year-old woman who was not identified by police, reported fraudulent activity in her bank account in March, police said.

Garcia was arrested on suspicion of financial elder abuse, forgery, grand theft, unauthorized access to computers and check fraud. He is being held at County Jail in Martinez on $215,000 bail.

Full Article & Source:
Hercules man stole $300,000 from elderly mother, police say

Monday, May 18, 2015

Caretaker Arrested in Death of Elderly Man

COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP — A woman is facing charges in the death of a man who she was caring for in Monroe County.

The charges, including criminal homicide, came after a Monroe County coroner’s inquest in  April  determined the death of the 92-year old was no accident.

Judith Marc remained silent as she was led into her arraignment where she was charged with numerous offenses, including criminal homicide, neglect of a care dependent person, abuse of corpse and tampering with evidence for the death of 92-year-old man who died while in her care.

Officers were called to Marc`s home here inside a Pocono Country Place back in December where William Collins was found dead, sitting in a wheelchair in Marc`s basement.

Investigators say Collins had several wounds, bruises and blood stains on his body.

An autopsy showed that Collins` neck had been broken and his head had impact wounds and that`s what caused him to die.

Police say witnesses told them they believed the caretaker was abusing Collins not only physically but also financially.

According to the charging documents, investigators found out that Judith Marc is the sole beneficiary of William Collins` will. And that back in September she tried more than once to take out a half a million dollars life insurance policy on Collins.

These charges come just a month after jurors in a coroner`s inquest found that Collins` death was homicide and that Marc was responsible for it.

Marc was denied bail.

She is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on May 27th at 1 p.m.

Full Article & Source:
Caretaker Arrested in Death of Elderly Man

Study: Texas Nursing Homes Among The Worst In The Nation

When it comes to nursing homes, Texas has the highest percentage of low ranked facilities than any other state. according to a report from Kaiser Health News.

Julie Appleby is a reporter for Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service committed to in-depth coverage of health care policy and politics. Her article “A top-rated nursing home is hard to find in Texas and 10 other states,” is at KaiserHealthNews.ORG.

Full Article, Audio & Source:
Study: Texas Nursing Homes Among The Worst In The Nation

FDA Black Box Warnings: Atypical Antipsychotics

What do they mean for the consumer?


Read about name brands: Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel, Geodon, Ability, Invega and more, (and their generics as well).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beware The Con Game Of Conservatorships

by Richard Eisenberg

Since May is Older Americans Month — established by JFK in 1963 when it was called Senior Citizens Month — it’s an appropriate time to sound an alert about a con game being played on some older Americans. I’m talking about crooks who are appointed as conservators (or guardians) to manage someone's affairs and then turn their wards into financial abuse victims.

This scourge was brought to my attention by the new book, The Con Game: A Failure of Trust, by T.S. Laham, a business professor at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the book, Laham writes that America’s guardianship system is “an open invitation to potential abuse.”

Good and Bad Conservators

Roughly 1.5 million adults are under guardianship, according to a 2013 AARP estimate. Of course, many court-appointed conservators are wholly reputable; some, such as the one Mickey Rooney had, are even brought in to quash alleged elder abuse.

(MORE: Mickey Rooney’s Elder Fraud Legacy)

But in other cases, Laham says, conservators or guardians steal from, neglect or physically abuse the people they’re supposed to assist. A 2010 Government Accountability Office guardianship review of 20 cases found that “guardians stole or otherwise obtained $5.4 million in assets from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were seniors.” The National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse blogs and reports on the latest news on guardianship abuse.

I recently interviewed Laham about her conservatorship concerns and to get her advice for families considering getting a conservator appointed for a relative or eager to have an unscrupulous conservator removed. Highlights:

Next Avenue: Why did you write ‘The Con Game’ and who is it for?

Laham: I decided to write it to shine a public spotlight on elder abuse in America. The problem is escalating.

Is the problem with conservators that family members or supposed friends are appointed conservators and they steal? Or that courts are appointing other people who turn out to be crooks?

All of the above.

I’m trying to show that there are some problems in the system that are fixable. Most have to do with oversight and accountability. I assumed that the system was well-regulated and controlled, but that’s not true.

(MORE: When Elder Abuse Hits Home)

How is the conservator system supposed to work?

A judge appoints a “reasonable” person or organization as a conservator or guardian to make medical and/or financial decisions for an adult who would be considered a conservatee or a ward. The conservatorship ends when the conservatee dies.

What are the problems with conservatorships?

Conservatorships are not a bad thing; they’re necessary. It’s the execution of them that could be improved at times.

But people need to understand that conservatorships should be considered as the most restrictive form of court intervention. They can strip people of their individual rights.

And a conservatorship can create more complications; the family may need to sit on the sidelines because the conservator removes decision-making control from them.

What else concerns you about them?

Conservatorships are costly. There are filing fees, maybe attorney fees and ongoing legal costs. Conservator fees range from $50 an hour to $135 an hour or more. Trustee and other professional asset manager fees for high-value estates typically run from 1 to 1.5% of the asset value annually.

Is part of the problem that court-appointed guardians lack training for the job?

That is precisely correct. It’s a huge responsibility to be a conservator or a guardian. Most of time these individuals do incredible loving, caring compassionate jobs caring for relatives or friends. But the problem is they may be overwhelmed or undertrained. One survey found that fewer than 20% of courts gave conservators and guardians instructions on carrying out their duties and legal responsibilities.

Is it a good idea to bring in a conservator when a family can’t agree on how to manage their parent’s affairs?

If you want to use a conservatorship for a family dispute about an incapacitated elderly relative, that may not be the right thing to do.

A better option is to go through facilitative meditation, unless the situation is so polarized that the only other option is to go to conservatorship. A conservatorship should be a last resort as a solution to a family dispute.

What would you advise families to do if they think a relative does need a conservator?

I strongly urge people to see an attorney who specializes in this area or in elder law and discuss whether conservatorship is an appropriate solution to the situation. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is an excellent resource; they will point you in the right direction.

If a son thinks his mother is unable to manage her affairs, for example, he should provide the attorney with information to prove this to file a petition with the court. If the judge believes it’s warranted, he or she will grant the power to the son.

I’d also recommend that a family get help: There are care-management services and caregiving alliances. For financial assistance, get a financial adviser.

For someone appointed as a conservator, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a helpful guide, called Managing Someone Else’s Money.

And what should a family do if a conservator was appointed and they spot danger?

The family has to go to court to see if they can get the conservator removed. You have to prove the person isn’t doing the job — maybe he’s neglecting mom’s needs or missing assets. It’s an uphill battle.

Full Article & Source:
Beware The Con Game Of Conservatorships

Retirement Home to Pay $390K to Settle Lawsuit

NORFOLK, Va. (CN) - A Norfolk, Va., retirement home will pay $390,000 to settle federal claims it violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to afford all of its disabled residents equal access to facilities, sponsored events and motorized wheelchair usage.

In a complaint filed May 11 in the Norfolk Federal Court, the Justice Department said the Fort Norfolk Retirement Community, also known as Harbor's Edge, instituted policies that effectively segregated its resident population into distinct groups based on their level of disability and well-being.

A consent order filed at the same time as the complaint, and still awaiting the approval of U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan Jr., says that Harbor's Edge will pay $350,000 to residents harmed by the policies, and $40,000 to the federal government.

The agreement also requires Harbor's Edge to appoint a Fair Housing Act compliance officer and implement a new dining and events policy, a new reasonable accommodation policy and a new motorized wheelchair policy.

According to court documents filed by the Justice Department, Harbor's Edge is divided into two types of living facilities.

Independent living units are for those who need no assisted living and reside in a 17-story building called "Residential Tower." The assisted living, nursing and memory support residents live in a four-story building called the "Healthcare Building." The Residential Tower and Healthcare Building are connected by an interior corridor on the first floor.

The Residential Tower has four dining areas available to the public as well as residents. The Healthcare Building has several dining rooms as well. The assisted living unit has two dining rooms, and the nursing and memory support unit each have one dining room.

Harbor's Edge also hosts community events for residents and members of the public as marketing tools, including, for example, a party for the July 4th holiday.

Prior to May 2011 all residents of the Healthcare Building were permitted to eat at dining rooms located in the Residential Tower and attend events with the residents of the Residential Tower and members of the public.

But beginning in May 2011 and continuing to the present, the government says, Harbor's Edge has adopted a series of policies that prohibit, and then limited, residents living in the Healthcare Building from eating at dining rooms located in the Residential Tower and attending events with residents of the Residential Tower and the public.

Harbor's Edge adopted these policies because they wanted to market its facilities as a place for "younger seniors" who wanted an active lifestyle, the government says.

Because of these policy changes, the complaint says, spouses and friends who had dined and attended events together were no longer able to do so in the independent living areas.

On or about March 5, 2012, after several other dining and event policy revisions, Harbor's Edge again revised its policy allowing all residents of the Healthcare Building to dine in the independent living dining rooms with independent living residents in the Residential Tower if they passed a health screening, obtained a physician's consent and signed a release of liability. The March 2012 policy prohibited all residents living in the Healthcare Building from attending any events designed by Harbor's Edge as marketing events.

After the adoption of the dining room policies, residents and their families voiced opposition through letters to Harbor's Edge management and Board of Directors, met with the Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and circulated a petition to the Board of Directors asking that the policies be rescinded.

The Justice Department also says that beginning in about 2006 and continuing at least until April 2013, Harbor's Edge maintained a policy requiring any resident who used a motorized wheelchair or scooter to obtain prior approval from Harbor's Edge Staff, obtain liability insurance and pay a $300 non-refundable deposit before using their mobility aids on community property.

In a written statement, the management of Harbor's Edge said it is committed to full compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to its operations, and feels very strongly that the Justice Department was wrong in its view that that engaged in discriminatory behavior.

"We are committed to providing the highest quality of services to our residents. Protecting their health and safety is our top priority," said Neil Volder, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Harbor's Edge, in an interview with Courthouse News. "Our desire has always been to work jointly with the federal government and other regulatory authorities to clarify the laws pertaining to dining and event policies specific to those residents that are at a greater risk when dining or participating in activities without supervision of medical professionals."

Volder described Harbor's Edge as a success story and said he recently met with archtects to build a new residential building.

"We have about 350 residents and all of them are friends," he said.

Volder explained that Harbor's Edge implemented the new dining and events policy based on a "good faith belief" that it would be violating state regulations by continuing a longstanding policy of allowing nursing and assisted living residents to dine on our premises without having qualified medical staff present.

"After several medical incidents, two of which could have been life threatening, we had been advised by our legal counsel, liability insurer, and state regulators that our practice of allowing Healthcare residents to dine in an unregulated dining room posed risks to residents and created liability for the community," Volder said.

The problem for Harbor's Edge, he said, is that bureaucratic wheels move slowly. It took time to get the clarification the community needed to ensure it was both properly serving the desires of its residents and abiding by the law..

"Within 24 hours of receiving the state Department of Health's written assurance that allowing nursing residents to dine in an unregulated environment would not jeopardize our state license, we implemented revised dining policies that are almost identical to the policies just approved by the DOJ," Volder said.

The company said it has worked closely with the Justice Department over the past two years "to create policies and procedures that would ensure that residents would have access to all dining venues and activities but still comply with the state regulations in place to assure the safety and well-being of residents with standard medical protocols for nursing and assisted living."

Harbor's Edge said it agreed to the settlement to avoid the "enormous cost and distraction of litigation."

"Since the consent decree largely validates the dining policies we adopted prior to their investigation, and the cost our settlement is covered by insurance, this path was clearly the most beneficial for the community," Volder said.

"What was won? It's difficult to say," he continued. "I suppose what was really won in this case is that other communities like ours will now have a blueprint for what the DOJ will accept."

Full Article & Source:
Retirement Home to Pay $390K to Settle Lawsuit