Saturday, August 8, 2015

Judge calls for independent scrutiny of guardianship case

Julie Ferguson of Sarasota, and her mother, Marise London
By Barbara Peters Smith

SARASOTA - A circuit judge appointed an independent court monitor on Friday to investigate the case of a Siesta Key resident and former art gallery owner who has spent the last two and a half years under the control of a professional guardianship, after attorneys for her daughter argued that the hasty procedure making her a ward of the court was a violation of due process.

In January 2013, the 12th Judicial Circuit Court named the nonprofit agency Lutheran Services Florida as the guardian of Marise London, 86, at the request of the Department of Children and Families’ Adult Protective Services division. The agency was paid from London’s assets to make decisions about her finances and health, at the rate of $85 an hour — while her daughter, Julie Ferguson, maintained she could provide better care for free, and had a right to do so under a Power of Attorney document her mother signed before suffering from cognitive impairment.

This week’s hearing hinged on an esoteric point of law. But after an hour of debate, Chief Judge Charles E. Williams caught Ferguson’s attorneys off-guard by asking them what outcome they really wanted for London.

“Let’s not lose sight of the big picture,” Williams said. “I don’t want people to think the court gets caught up in the minutiae of the law and doesn’t care about the best interests of the ward.” If London does not need a guardian, or if her daughter would be a more suitable guardian than her current one, Williams added, “we can address those issues.”

In December, the Herald-Tribune published a series of articles — “The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida” — examining the experiences of people who believe they were denied due process when elders were found to be lacking capacity to make important decisions, stripped of their civil rights and placed under a court-appointed guardianship. The series highlighted the potential for conflicts of interest among professionals who work closely together within the system. Because wards’ cases are confidential, there is often little opportunity for oversight.

Ferguson, whose story was part of the series, said she first called the state for help more than four years ago, on the advice of an attorney. She had become alarmed that her mother’s progressive dementia was leading her to give away assets she could not afford to lose. But when authorities finally asked the court for an emergency temporary guardianship for London, the petition listed Ferguson’s address as “unknown” — “despite knowing her address,” Ferguson’s attorneys claimed in court filings. This led to insufficient notice about her mother’s initial hearing, they argued, and left her no time to obtain an attorney.

“The record would reflect that she was never served with a copy of that petition,” William B. Eppley, the Brooksville attorney Ferguson hired to reopen her mother’s case, noted at a hearing in Williams’ courtroom Thursday. “She tried to get a lawyer, and couldn’t get a lawyer.”

A state advocate 

Ferguson has become an advocate for guardianship reform, testifying on behalf of bills in Tallahassee this year and using social media to connect with others in the cause.

Dozens of her supporters attended the hearing Thursday, crowding into one side of the courtroom like guests at a wedding.

The attorney for Lutheran Services Florida, Edwin M. Boyer, asked Williams to dismiss Ferguson’s motion to vacate the guardianship. Because of complex legal rules, Boyer said, the only way a judge can nullify a guardianship based on a denial of due process is if the case had been declared adversarial from the outset.

“The guardianship rules and statute are set up to be nonadversarial,” Boyer argued. “The enduring arguments as to whether or not due process was violated, whether or not there was fraud, are irrelevant.”

On Friday, Williams agreed with Boyer’s point, and granted his request to strike the motion. Ferguson’s case could have ended there, but the judge chose to take the extra step of appointing Osprey attorney Jeffrey Morris to investigate further. As the circuit’s new chief judge, Williams asked the Sarasota County Commission in June to fund an extra court monitor position for the sole purpose of handling complaints about guardianships.

“The Court needs to have a better understanding of the dynamics of this case,” Williams said in his order, “and be certain of the motives of the various parties to make certain that the needs of the ward are being met and the current situation is in the best interests of the ward.”

Absorbing this new development on Friday, Ferguson said she would consult with her attorneys — including the director of litigation for Disability Rights Florida, who recently joined her team — and take a wait-and-see approach. But her mother’s guardianship experience has made her wary.

“Having all these strangers involved in making these decisions has been so terrible,” Ferguson said.  “How would anyone feel about that kind of power being wielded by one person over a loved one?”

Full Article & Source:
Judge calls for independent scrutiny of guardianship case

Florida: A Day in Court for Marise London, an Elderly Jewish Woman

It was much better than a breath of fresh air or a refreshing swim in the sea; for I could see real jurisprudence.  Dissecting the word into its meaningful units, “juris” means judging, and “prudence” means with wisdom; but how often are the two actually combined into one?

Marise London
Today, sitting in a Sarasota County, FL court as a spectator and an elder advocate for a lonely Jewish woman locked in guardianship in Florida year after year without due process that it rightfully due to her, I heard her new Probate judge press and press the battling lawyers in her case, drumming up thousands of dollars per hour in legal fees, to put her fate into perspective.  While the lawyers, at least seven of them in the courtroom on August 6, 2015, were preoccupied with rules and laws, the presiding judge kept a keen eye on the greater purpose of the hearing, that being what best serves the needs of Marise London, artist, mother, and beloved elder to so many advocates who stand with her in her ardent quest for dignity and freedom from the human bondage of guardianship.

What else could you call a system in which precious human beings are deprived of their most basic rights in life and to life?  A Ward of the State of Florida, where guardianship has become a major asset to the State and a tragic liability to the lives of its elders, is mentally, physically, and emotionally trapped in a network of professionals loyal to their livelihoods often more so than to the lives they are sworn to protect.

Guardianship is, in many respects, human trafficking, in which an elder is most commonly isolated from family and deprived of her rights to move and communicate freely according to her own choices.  She cannot marry or write a check.  She cannot contract or decide where she wants to live.  She cannot select her doctor or refuse a specific medical treatment, psychotropic, or narcotic.  She lives in isolation, subject to the will of her guardian, not of herself.

In a courtroom packed with Marise’s supporters, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to advocate for her with their feet, a patient judge listened to lengthy proclamations of law for over an hour and then rightfully turned the entire focus of the hearing to Mrs. London, asking three crucial questions, the only ones that really matter: “Does Marise really need a guardian at all?” “Is there a less restrictive circumstance instead of guardianship that will meet Marise’s needs?” “Is there a better guardian available for Marise’s needs than the one she has had for years?”

The questions repeated by the judge a number of times were songs in my head because they were judging the fate of Marise prudently that she may face her future as the free woman she so truly deserves to be.

Full Article & Source:
Florida: A Day in Court for Marise London, an Elderly Jewish Woman

Friday, August 7, 2015

Who's guarding the guardians of the elderly? Pa. courts urge action

By James McGinnis Staff writer

Leasing an apartment may be more complicated than assuming legal guardianship of an incapacitated person in Pennsylvania and dozens of other states across the U.S.

On Friday, the Register of Wills/Orphans’ Court Association of Pennsylvania released a set of new “best practices” for government agencies managing thousands of cases of adult guardianship. Such cases, filed in Orphans’ Court, typically involve older Pennsylvanians in the care of family, friends or professionals.

The new recommendations come as Pennsylvania’s senior population explodes. In 2010, the U.S. Census estimated 2.7 million, or 21 percent of the state population, was over age 60. By 2030, the Census anticipates 3.6 million Pennsylvanians could be 60 age or older.

At the same time, the number of “substantiated” elder abuse cases is climbing. The Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging reported 4,991 cases of “substantiated” elder abuse in 2013, the latest figures available. The number of cases was up 7 percent from the year prior. Most involved neglect; 16 percent involved stolen money.

Among the recommended best practices, county governments should contact court-appointed guardians who fail to submit required paperwork, said Don Petrille, Bucks County’s register of wills.

“We want to make sure the guardians are filing annual reports,” Petrille said. “The majority of counties do not contact them.”

Three years ago, Bucks created an electronic filing system to immediately contact guardians who failed to file required follow-up paperwork.

“Nothing would have happened before,” Petrille said. “The statutes that exist right now do not prescribe a penalty.”

Bucks had no exact figures on adult guardianship available on Tuesday. Some of the cases stretch back decades, Petrille said.

The National Center for Court Statistics believes more than 1.5 million Americans are under adult guardianship, though that’s only a guess, officials admit.

“We’ve tried to collect these statistics,” said Brenda K. Uekert, director of the Center for Elders and the Courts for the NCCS, based in Washington, D.C. “I wish I could say the situation is improving, but it’s not.

“Only two states keep a record of financial assets held under guardianship — Minnesota and Idaho,” Uekert continued. “In those two states, we found more than $1 billion in assets under control. People take advantage of the system all of the time.”

In 2014, the Social Security Administration commissioned a NCCS study on adult guardianship cases and government payouts to court-appointed guardians. Two-thirds of court officers surveyed said they didn’t know how much of the Social Security benefits paid to an incapacitated person was going to guardians.

Nationwide, most court officers surveyed said they didn’t require criminal background checks or review credit reports on prospective guardians.

Responding to such concerns, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court commissioned a 38-member elder law task force. In November, the task force released a 284-page report with 130 recommendations for attorneys, caregivers, county administrators, courtroom clerks and judges.

The list includes new standards for guardians who could be subjected to criminal background and credit checks, periodic reviews and mandated training on liability and ethics.

The task force recommended professional certification for so-called “professional guardians,” caring for more than two persons at a time, and legal guidebooks for Pennsylvania’s judges.

Falls District Judge Jan Vislosky said she’d love some guidance. Legal disputes involving the elderly can be among the most difficult cases, Vislosky said.

“We have established guidelines for the mentally disabled and physically disabled,” Vislosky said. “If there were some tips for us and some direction, then that would make things easier.”

The district judge described a recent landlord-tenant dispute. The case involved an older woman sharing a home with her adult children.

The older homeowner alleged she was being denied access to her kitchen, but the adult children, renting part of the home, told the judge their mother had a history of leaving the stove on.

“If I start to dive into these issues with questions, then I start to take on the role of counselor or adviser,” Vislosky said. “As a judge, I have to maintain a judicial distance.”

At the same time, the courts need to be careful about regulations imposed on guardians, Petrille said.

“We don’t want compliance regulations to be so strict and so onerous that it keeps people from guardianship,” said Petrille. “We don’t want people to throw their hands up and say I can’t do this anymore.”

Also, families aren’t trained on how to handle the guardianship paperwork, Uekert said. “If you were in charge of your mother’s or father’s estate, could you file a decent audit of the finances?”

Full Article & Source:

Attorneys general in 2 states face serious charges in same week

Washington (CNN)On Thursday, a rising star in the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania was charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy after allegedly leaking secret documents to a reporter to harm her predecessor, a criminal complaint says. 

Just three days earlier, another top law enforcement official, this time a Republican in Texas, was charged with counts of securities fraud; he's accused of soliciting investors in a hometown company without disclosing he was profiting.

These types of cases -- unconnected except for their timing and elements of political retribution -- are not uncommon, legal analysts say.

"Attorneys general are politicians, and they run into the same problem that other politicians do," CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. 

"These two cases are common cases of white collar crime -- abuse of power and fraud -- and it just so happens that these two defendants are attorneys general," Toobin added.

Both defendants maintain their innocence, but the allegations and timing raise similar suspicions of political motives behind the charges and what happens when the top law official tasked with upholding the law allegedly goes rogue.

The case in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday with obstruction and conspiracy after she allegedly leaked confidential information about grand jury deliberations to the media and then attempted to cover it up. 

The back story -- allegations riddled with political motives and retribution -- is primarily rooted in two newspaper articles. 

It began in March 2014, the criminal complaint says, when The Philadelphia Inquirer published a story called "Sources: Kathleen Kane shut down probe of Philly Democrats."

That investigation at the center of that article was into individuals "who had been caught in an undercover sting involving politicians accepting bribes." The investigation was inherited by Kane from former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank G. Fina before he left office, the criminal complaint said.

Kane "was angry about the article," the complaint alleges, and that same day wrote an email to her media strategist, saying "I will not allow them to discredit me or our office," and ending with, "This is war."

Her media strategist replied, "make war with Fina but NOT to make war with the Inquirer."

The criminal complaint alleges that Kane then orchestrated the leaking of secret 2009 grand jury documents conducted under Fina and a senior deputy attorney general that looked into the misuse of grant money by an NAACP boss. 

The NAACP boss was never charged with any crimes pertaining to that investigation, the complaint says.

Accused of scheming to leak confidential information

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a Republican who filed the charges against Kane, said that Kane had "devised a scheme to secretly leak confidential information and secret grand jury materials" for retribution against Fina. Montgomery County is just north of Philadelphia.

Ferman said Kane did this "in the hopes of embarrassing and harming former state prosecutors whom she believed, without evidence, had made her look bad."

The other charges brought by Ferman allege that Kane then lied under oath to a grand jury about knowledge of the 2009 documents and her involvement in leaking them to journalists, among other things, to help cover up the crime.

Kane, elected in 2012 and talked about by Pennsylvania Democrats as a top political contender in the state, vehemently denies the allegations.

"I intend to defend myself vigorously against these charges," she said in a statement. "A resignation would be an admission of guilt and I'm not guilty."

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called on her to step down Thursday, calling the charges "troubling."

"She is entitled to her day in court. She is entitled to due process under our system of government and law, and she will have time to defend herself and I think she needs to do that," Wolf said.

"But in the meantime, I'm calling on her to step aside, step down as attorney general, because I don't think she can do what she has to do as the top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania while she's facing these serious charges," he added.

"The chief power an attorney general has is to bring cases and the risk is that they abuse that power for political gain and that is where they get in to trouble," Toobin said.

Full Article, Video & Source:

Kim Richards' Latest Arrest: What Is a 5150 Hold?

"Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Kim Richards has fought a public battle with addiction. From on-screen meltdowns to repeated rehab stays and relapses to her most recent arrest for shoplifting, the former child actress has watched her struggle with alcoholism play out in a very public forum.

"Kim is clearly in crisis because we find that she's drinking again, she's getting arrested, she's been found to be shoplifting," psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig told ET on Wednesday. "These are all indications that Kim is not doing well and that she's deteriorating or decompensating."

Ludwig explained to ET that Richards' cycle of addiction, rehab, and relapse is not uncommon for someone who has not found a solid plan for sobriety.

"Anyone who watches the Beverly Hills Housewives knows that Kim is really the person who is very much in denial about her alcoholism," she said. "And she hasn't quite found a strategy to stay sober. And so what we know as psychotherapists and people in the mental health field is that she's probably trying to self-medicate depression or anxiety, and she's going about it in a way that isn't healthy and is self-destructive."

After Richards' latest arrest, a source close to her family tells ET that they are considering a 5150 hold on the former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star. Ludwig detailed what that could mean for the reality star.

"A 5150 is basically when someone is hospitalized on an involuntary basis," Ludwig explained. 'Which simply means that they did not sign themselves into the hospital and they cannot sign themselves out.

They're basically there involuntarily and why this can help certain people is because it keeps them in the hospital longer and helps them to get treated longer. It's usually a person who is in a sicker state that ends up in a hospital involuntarily because other people have decided that they can't make decisions on their own behalf and they usually are considered a danger to themselves or others at least for a period of time."

Ludwig believes that a 5150 hold could be beneficial for Richards as it would keep her in treatment for an extended period of time and prevent her from leaving rehab early and succumbing to the stressors in her day-to-day life. But it won’t be an easy process.

"Very often the person who is involuntarily committed to a hospital, they get very angry with their family members," Ludwig admitted. "They almost feel like they're being put in prison, that their will and their freedom is being robbed from them. So it can create a lot of chaos and sometimes family members aren't always in agreement about whether the person needs to be in the hospital involuntarily or not.

But, it basically creates some bad feelings for a period of time until the person gets well."

Full Article & Source:
Kim Richards' Latest Arrest: What Is a 5150 Hold?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rana Goodman: Into The Devil's Arms She Went

Rana Goodman,
The Vegas Voice and
NASGA Nevada
I have been writing for months now about using extreme caution to make sure that you don’t fall into the clutches of a private-for-profit guardian.

This story however is greatly different. This story is about a lady and her daughter who fell into the clutches of a couple who befriended them.

This story I’m about pass along to you has all the elements of a movie script in the making, except that, I’m sad to report, it is painfully true. For Yvonne Frank, the remaining family member living a world away in Switzerland, the loss of her mother and sister at the hands of a couple who they trusted is as fresh today as it was a few years ago. And still, she has no answers, no charges have been filed and as far as we know, there is no open investigation.

Here is the story in Yvonne’s words:

Margaret Brown
My mother, Margaret Brown, immigrated to the United States and took her US citizenship in 1964 and lived in Las Vegas along with my younger sister Mona. Mona lived close to our mother, who had some dementia issues as she aged, but lived a comfortable life with her long time significant other, Stanley. Mona, who was a full time finance manager at UNLV had taken care of our mother’s finances since 2003 so that part of daily life was removed and our mother could enjoy her day to day life.

There came a time in 2006 when mother’s dementia worsened and a decision was made amongst the three of them for Stanly to sell his home and for him and mother to move in with my Mona. At that time Mona still had her great job at UNLV which she had held for many years. Sadly, the tide began to turn when suddenly in 2007 Stanly suddenly passed away. He had not forgotten Mona’s kindness or help, and left her about $125,000 as thanks for the care she had given him and mother over the years.

I learned, sometime in October, 2008 that mother and Mona had gone to the law offices of Jeffery Burr Ltd. And saw one of the attorneys there. (keep in mind that my mother already had dementia and was incognizant at the time, the result of a stroke years before). At this meeting my mother modified her trust that had been created in 1993 naming Mona as the primary trustee. Mona and myself as trust beneficiaries. The trust was to pass from mother to Mona and then to me.

Mona Brown
Mona then, for some reason, signed naming a friend of hers, Jeanette Ann Hill a secondary durable power of attorney over our mother and trust management with mother in the event that Mona died before mother. Taking into consideration our mother’s mental state and the fact that there was another living child, it is hard to understand any attorney making this recommendation. Mona’s friend Jeanette was also named co-trustee to Mona whose estate was worth more than $500,000 at that time.

Just eight weeks later, on December 3, 2008 Mona died very suddenly and without any known cause in her home. I was notified that “there was some kind of kidney problem” but was never shown proof or an autopsy report of any kind I immediately called my mother to find out what had happened. I went to Las Vegas for Mona’s funeral and afterward asked my mother to return to Switzerland and live with me. However at that time she preferred to stay in the US.

In January I again asked my mother to go to Switzerland and live with me since at that time Jeanette was discussing placing her in an assisted living home. However, when Mona’s home was sold and my mother received 60% of the estate, suddenly Jeanette announced that she and her husband were buying a larger home and my mother would live with them and remain in Las Vegas.

It was after visiting with my mother in May of 2009, and then returning home to Switzerland that I began to do some research. I discovered that the home Jeanette and her husband purchased had actually been bought by my mother. I could not fathom why no one would question an 83 year old woman deemed incognizant, yet purchasing a home for $249,990. The home, located on Pacific Opal Street was listed on the assessors list clear as day? I found that very odd and what mortgage company would not find it fishy, then I discovered that my mother had paid for the house in full. . Shortly afterward, Jeanette changed mother’s trust with the help of an attorney named John Mugan, bequeathed the house to herself and on 12/9/09 the house on Pacific Opal was “resold” to Jeanette and Robert Hill.

Not one to sit idly by, I tried many things to get help for my mother who was clearly distressed over the situation. For example, my son placed a call to the American Embassy who suggested that we try to get guardianship of mother. Well that could not be done, not only were we not residents of the state, we were not US citizens. By the time my mother passed away in 2011 an estate of close to one million dollars was decimated and no one could or would lift a finger to stop it.

We filed police reports to no avail,it seemed like the detectives had no interest even though two people had died on Jeanette Hill watch under odd circumstances and now this real estate scam. Jeanette Hill had tax warrants, unpaid liens, and still the police say they can do nothing “because she was my mother’s guardian”.

In closing I would like to quote Yvonne Frank when she wrote “My mother, sister and I had a very close relationship. The Hills have brought much sadness into my life, through their constant lying, deceit and fraud and my inability to help my mother when she was clearly in distress. I believe the court system and the Jeffery Burr law firm assisted Jeanette Hill in the fleecing of my mother. I hope the investigation into guardianship abuses in Clark County will one day bring these people to justice."

~Yvonne Frank

Into the Devil's Arms She Went

Lawsuit: Fla. dominatrix took house, $500K from elderly client

Letter: Elder guardian law needs updating

The need for guardians of our vulnerable population -- incapacitated seniors and adults with mental impairments -- was well-articulated by state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond ["Our elderly neighbors need guardians," Opinion, July 19]. Lawyers who serve as unpaid guardians at the request of the court are no more qualified to make medical and personal decisions, or handle day-to-day tasks for their wards, than anyone else who may act as a volunteer guardian.

Yet, the issue of unpaid guardians is the tip of the iceberg, and the problem continues to grow. In a soon-to-be-released statewide study, the policy organization Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging will reveal that 26 percent to 29 percent of all court guardianship filings are made by law firms representing -- and paid for by -- nursing homes and hospitals. Their purpose is not to secure the personal safety, quality of life and medical decisions for an incapacitated client; it is to secure an institution's payment for care, typically from Medicaid.

The New York State Legislature has proposed laws that would prohibit the appointment of a guardian solely for the purposes of bill collection.

On Long Island, there are at least three nonprofit organizations trained to manage the affairs of incapacitated persons, providing them with friendly visits, securing services, and advocating for them in the community and institutional settings. The Vera Guardianship Project, EAC Network, and Family and Children's Association Community Guardian Program train and pay social workers as guardians, usually overseen by a paid attorney.

Beth Polner Abrahams, Garden City

Editor's note: The writer is the chair of the state bar association's elder law and special needs section mediation committee.

Full Article & Source:
Letter: Elder guardian law needs updating

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How the Daughter of One of America's Most Beloved Actors and Others Are Calling for Change

by  Martha T.S. Laham

The Asbury Park Press Investigations Team ran a shocking four-part series exploring guardianship abuse. "Betrayal of Trust: Stealing From Seniors" features the story of a New Jersey elder law attorney and court-appointed guardian who stole millions of dollars from over 16 wards under her supervision, including seniors in their 80s and 90s.

The court-appointed guardian threw some elderly wards into nursing homes and sold the wards' homes. She even changed their wills to financially benefit her at the time of the wards' deaths, according to the article.

If you think that this case is rare, think again.

Cui bono, or To Whose Benefit?

In the second blog post of the series, we learned that managing the incapacitated person's estate for the benefit of him or her is a major responsibility of the conservator, also known as the guardian.
Yet localized studies on conservatorship and guardianship proceedings found "little benefit to the incapacitated persons" but instead suggested that many petitions were filed for "the benefit of third persons," according to a report titled "Wards of the State: A National Study on Public Guardianships."

Court-Appointed Protectors Often Overstep Their Authority 
Conservators and guardians are often given overbroad authority over conservatees' and wards' lives. Stories of conservatees and wards being isolated or imprisoned by court-appointed protectors are far too common.

Catherine Falk, the daughter of the late Peter Falk, fought for her right to visit her father after a California Probate Court granted a conservatorship over her father by appointing his then-wife as Mr. Falk's conservator.

Catherine Falk founded the Catherine Falk Organization which is not a fundraising foundation nor takes any donations whatsoever; however, the organization advances and advocates wards rights visitation legislation nationwide. Falk and her former probate attorney from 2009, drafted the Peter Falk Bill completed in 2011 that was aimed at protecting, preserving and respecting the right of all adult children to visit an ailing or incapacitated parent who is either under power of attorney or under guardianship.

"When I first embarked upon the visitation legislation idea, I realized along my journey and crusade that my lens broadened with the realization that visitation legislation must encompass all wards, non wards in or out of guardianship or under POA as well as realizing the silent epidemic of guardianship abuses that are not just with the aging population but among spouses and siblings in guardianship situations." Falk also investigates elder abuse cases and advocates for victims experiencing their most treasured freedoms that are being violated by offering wonderful resources and support to those in need of help.

"My ultimate goal is to have model visitation legislation in every state that emphasizes wards rights legislation, not just parental visitation with an adult child because isolation happens among all family members including siblings, spouses, aging parents etc...that the legislation will empower wards by safeguarding their most fundamental and constitutional innate rights while maintaining personal autonomy. An ideal piece of legislation should encompass both," she added.

Poor Court Oversight Is an Open Invitation to Guardian Abuse
As guardianship abuse has gained national attention, the public wants to know "Who's guarding the guardians?"

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report titled "Guardianships: Cases of Financial Exploitation, Neglect, and Abuse of Seniors" that explored the widespread allegations of elder mistreatment by guardians.

In one case, a guardian embezzled over $640,000 from an 87-year-old Alzheimer's patient. The guardian, a former taxi cab driver, spent the stolen funds on things like a Hummer and exotic dancers. When county employees caught wind of the guardian's misdeeds, they discovered that the victim, who was wearing nothing more than an old knit shirt and a diaper, was living in the filthy basement of the guardian's home.

Guardianships Can Violate People's Civil Rights

The Associated Press published a series entitled "Guardians of the Elderly: An Ailing System" that found the guardianship system is "a dangerously burdened and troubled system that regularly puts elderly lives in the hands of others with little or no evidence of necessity, then fails to guard against abuse, theft, and neglect."

Court-appointed attorneys are assigned to represent the rights and wishes of conservatees (clients) but often fail them. According to Linda Kincaid, MPH, of the Coalition for Elder and Dependent Adult Rights (CEDAR):

"Unscrupulous court-appointed attorneys will sometimes oppose their client's wishes, civil rights, and medical needs. Each time a family petitions the court to protect a loved one, the court-appointed attorney can generate billable hours by opposing the families' requests. Those billable hours are then charged to the estate of the conservatee. Substantial estates are depleted by charges from court-appointed attorneys."

"A Broken System" That Needs to Be Fixed

Los Angeles Times ran a series of articles on conservatorship, calling it a "broken system." Situations were brought to light in which "judges frequently overlooked incompetence, neglect and outright theft" committed by conservators, the The Times reported.

Many conservators abused their authority over frail elders by "ignoring their needs and isolating them from loved ones," according to one Times article.

Instances of predatory practices by professional conservators--who exploited the elderly and stripped them of their possessions by manipulating the legal system--surfaced. Other shady conservators drained elders' estates or chewed up seniors' estates by charging outrageous fees.

Watchdog Group Blows the Whistle on Abusive Guardians 

National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) is a longstanding organization that posts, blogs, tweets, and reports on guardianship abuse and rigorously advocates for guardianship reform.
The NASGA calls the guardianship system "a growing menace which feeds on greed." It criticizes the judicial system for its complicity in usurping people's liberties and property. According to Elaine Renoire, president of NASGA:

"It is an appalling, yet accepted practice, for conservatorships to consume the very estates the proceedings are supposed to be protecting. Millionaires who could well afford the cost of their care though end of life, are "protected" into indigence - much to their embarrassment - and then placed on Medicaid at taxpayer expense. Because it's so easy to guardianize a person and because most courts aren't monitoring or holding bad guardians accountable, there is nowhere for wards or their families to go for help. The system becomes a menace because opportunists exploit loopholes and get rich at the expense and detriment of the very people they have been court-appointed to protect."

Full Article & Source:
How the Daughter of One of America's Most Beloved Actors and Others Are Calling for Change

See Also:
Conservatorship Conundrum: Court Process That Can 'Unperson' You Within Minutes

Conservatorship Conundrum: You Can Be Reduced to the Status of an Infant With as Few Rights as a Felon

Martha Laham is also the author of the book, "The Con Game - A Failure of Trust

Man Who Accused Assisted Living for Mother's Death Still Fighting

9 Investigates: Man who accused assisted living for mother's death still fighting

State fines Fremont nursing home for negligence resulting in resident’s death


FREMONT (BCN) — The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced Tuesday that it has issued a fine and citation to a Fremont nursing home for negligent care resulting in the death of one of its residents.

Crestwood Manor, a skilled nursing facility that is part of Crestwood Behavioral Health, Inc., has received a fine of $100,000 and a Class “AA” Citation from the State of California, which is the most severe penalty under state law, according to California Department of Public Health officials.

In July of last year, an unidentified resident choked on a piece of meat during a lapse in monitoring and suffered cardiac arrest. This incident, according to CDPH, was the result of several factors ultimately determined to be a direct proximate cause of the resident’s death.

Emergency medical technicians responded to the scene, removing the piece of meat blocking her airway, according to the responders. They took the resident to the emergency room at a local hospital where she had a seizure, according to hospital officials.

The resident was then transferred to the intensive care unit, where she died on Aug. 1, 2014 due to lack of oxygen to the brain, hospital officials said.

A CDPH investigation conducted following the incident alleged that “the facility failed to provide a safe dining experience and failed to implement their care plan to consistently assist and assure that safe eating occurred for Resident X”, according to the CDPH.

According to the CDPH, the investigation also revealed that the resident had a history of delusional thoughts, difficulty swallowing, and was known to eat quickly and not chew adequately.

According to CDPH officials, the citation class and amount of the fine depend on the significance and severity of the substantiated violation, as prescribed and defined in California law.

By providing nursing facilities it licenses with consequences for substantiated violations, the California Department of Public Health strives to protect the health and safety of vulnerable individuals, CDPH officials said in a statement.

Full Article & Source:
State fines Fremont nursing home for negligence resulting in resident’s death

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Linda Kincaid Reports: Court-appointed attorneys violate civil rights, commit elder abuse

Disability rights group Disability and Guardianship Project filed litigation in federal court alleging that Los Angeles County courts have violated the civil rights of individuals under conservatorship. The Los Angeles Times reported:
The complaint alleges that the court system has failed to provide adequate training to attorneys in how to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, has failed to train the attorneys on how to effectively work with a client who has developmental disabilities, and lacks qualification and performance standards.
The court also places a conflict of interest on these attorneys, the complaint says. The court requires attorneys to advocate for the client while also assisting the court in resolving the matter, violating the client’s right to due process, the complaint says.
Coalition for Elder & Dependent Adult Rights (CEDAR) reported that court-appointed attorneys in a number of California counties violated the civil rights of the conservatees they were assigned to represent. In a conservatorship in San Bernardino County, the court-appointed attorney openly opposed the civil rights of the conservatee, and he advised abusers on strategy to isolate the conservatee from her loved ones.

CEDAR reported the civil rights violations to the San Bernardino County Superior Court. On November 12, 2014, San Bernardino County Deputy Court Executive Officer Debra K. Meyers wrote:
The Court would refer you to the State Bar of California, which is the state agency that licenses and regulates attorneys in the practice of law and is solely responsible for the investigation and resolution of complaints about the professional conduct of attorneys.
On March 24, 2015, San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha G. Slough followed with a letter stating:
Please be advised that any concerns regarding a lawyer’s conduct should be referred to the California Bar Association for investigation, not the court.
The California Bar Association referred the matter back to the court. Court-appointed attorneys in San Bernardino County continue to operate without supervision or oversight.

Full Article & Source:
Court-appointed attorneys violate civil rights, commit elder abuse

The Shut Out

Why have Humboldt County's skilled nursing facilities stopped accepting patients

The Spenceleys

Geoff Spenceley speaks with a warm, resonant accent, a remnant of his youth in England. The 93-year-old veteran of World War II has lived in Humboldt County for a quarter century. He has been married to his wife, Queenie, for 70 years. Queenie (her real name, she was born a few weeks before Queen Elizabeth II) was a factory worker during the war. She and Geoff met at a service dance, had a cup of tea, and sparked a courtship that led to a long, devoted marriage. They may spend their remaining days 680 miles apart.

Queenie has been turned away from every skilled nursing facility in Humboldt County. It's not because she's ineligible: The facilities accept MediCal, MediCare and private payment. It's not because they're full: Our research revealed plenty of open beds. It's not because she's too sick: Skilled nursing facilities are intended to serve patients with medical problems such as Queenie's. And it's not for lack of trying. Her husband, with the help of caseworkers, has repeatedly petitioned all six facilities to find a place for his wife. His only remaining choices are to drain their savings by having home health workers attend to his wife at a residential care home, or to send her to a facility in Huntington Beach, where their daughter lives.

"We have a house we've been in for 25 years," Spenceley said. "It's impossible for me to move out of it right away. I really don't want her far away from me. I'm desperate."

Spenceley's experience is not an anomaly. According to a statement from St. Joseph's Hospital, the organization that owns five of the six local skilled nursing facilities recently informed the hospital that the facilities would no longer accept its patients. (A sixth facility, Jerold Phelps in Garberville, has only eight beds and a long waiting list.) The company also severed its contract with the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), leaving the program with nowhere in-county to place clients with needs too great to remain at home. Patients who need skilled nursing are being sent to Redding, Santa Rosa, even to Oregon. Individuals and organizations have been given any number of reasons for the shut out: not enough beds, not enough staff, the facilities are "just not admitting." But the real reason appears to be a game of financial chicken between the Partnership Healthcare Plan of California, the organization responsible for administering MediCal, and a nursing home mogul with a dubious reputation. And in this case, Partnership swerved first.

Due to privacy laws, it is difficult to quantify exactly how many people have been turned away, and how far back the problem goes, but the Journal spoke to patients who had to leave the area as far back as January. Suzi Fregeau, program manager for the longterm care ombudsman program at Area 1 Agency on Aging, said she has received at least a dozen calls from concerned family members who didn't want to send their loved ones far away. She is one of many who believe that the company that owns 449 of the county's 457 MediCal-certified skilled nursing beds has leveraged its monopoly into a higher rate of reimbursement from Partnership.

"They're essentially saying, 'Give us what we want, or we'll take our bat and ball and go home,'" said Fregeau.

Attempts to reach administrators at the facilities or at the main office of their management company, Rockport Healthcare Services, were unsuccessful. Samantha L'allier of the Fortuna Rehabilitation and Wellness Center confirmed that it's "not admitting at the moment," but refused to say why, directing us to public relations representative Sallie Hofmeister. Hofmeister said her client could not comment. Hofmeister also did not respond when asked why individuals and organizations had been told that there was a bed shortage, despite our counting 27 open beds between just two of the facilities.

The rumored bed shortage is just one of the excuses the company has offered. At least one caregiver was told the facilities could not provide the wound care her friend required, despite the fact that is exactly the kind of care they are federally certified and mandated to provide. Rumors have also spread about a staff shortage, which given the county-wide problem of attracting skilled medical staff, is not improbable. Staff turnover in skilled nursing facilities is high; wages are low. If a facility couldn't maintain the amount of licensed staff necessary to meet the needs of its patients, it would make sense to reduce workload in order to meet the mandated ratio of staff time per patient. If that is the case, however, Rockport isn't talking.

The Journal was unable to determine whether non-MediCal patients are still being admitted, although nationally there is a documented trend of such facilities prioritizing higher-paying, shorter-term MediCare patients. In some cases, clients are told there is a "limited number" of MediCal beds, which is illegal. If a facility is MediCal-certified, every bed is a MediCal bed. However, as in any other business, skilled nursing facilities have the right to refuse service to anyone they choose, without stating why.

On June 25, after several days of discussion with Rockport and other companies, Partnership announced it had increased reimbursement by 2 percent for long-term care providers across 14 Northern California counties. Partnership declined to say whether the rate increase was connected to what Fregeau has called "essentially a strike," but in a phone call Robb Lane, Partnership's director of governmental and public affairs, said Rockport had asked for something specific that he could not disclose. Lane said that the meeting and the rate increase were a "strategic intervention" that had been discussed at all levels, and that Partnership was committed to "supporting skilled nursing facilities and to making sure they make enough to run their business."

When asked whether the shut out pressed Partnership's hand, Lane said only, "Our goal has been and always will be to release people in close proximity to their families. I think this rate increase reflects that."

Lane also clarified that once the money reaches the facility, Partnership has no oversight over how it is spent. Those who know the owner of these facilities may be cynical as to how much money will actually be reinvested in patient care. (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
The Shut Out

2 women accused of stealing thousands of dollars from elderly victim suffering from dementia

Foreman (left) and McKeithen
PITT COUNTY, NC (WECT/WITN) - Two women have been arrested for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly woman suffering from dementia.

According to WITN, Bethel police charged Wanda Renee Foreman, 48, of Greenville with felony exploitation of the elderly. Priscilla McKeithen, 55, of Greenville was also charged with felony exploitation of the elderly and financial card fraud.

Officials say the pair stole between $20,000 and $100,000 from the 72-year-old victim.

According to warrants, the elderly woman was convinced to open a payee account in her name, "under the pretense that the defendant would only use the account to pay the victim's bills on her behalf."

According to court documents cited by WITN, the victim was related to McKeithen.
Police officials say the Department of Social Services is also investigating the incident.

Full Article & Source:
2 women accused of stealing thousands of dollars from elderly victim suffering from dementia

Monday, August 3, 2015


DETROIT – “It’s horrendous, unbelievable, like a nightmare,” Debbie Fox, daughter of Gayle Robinson, said about her mother ’s dealings with Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith and his appointed guardian/conservator Mary Rowan.

Mrs. Robinson is 84, and a member of the Montford Point chapter of Marine Corps Veterans, among other activities.

Fox said actions by Keith and Rowan have “cost Gayle her freedom, her 2003 Escape, her finances of over $27,000 and they are working on marshaling her home of almost 60 years where all her memories of her late husband and son who both died in the home she would like to continue living in are.”

Judge Terrance Keith (center) with his wife at left, and Judge Ruth Carter at right, during 2012 gala event at Detroit Marriott.

On June 17, Mrs. Robinson fled the charmingly appointed home in Westland, where she resided with her son Randy Robinson and granddaughter Lynette, after raising 10 children there with her late husband Russell Robinson, also a veteran. They bought the home in 1956.

She flew to stay with her brother James Brown in California, to avoid being placed by Rowan in a nursing home or other institution.

Rowan attempted to do so without a court order three times earlier. The third time, on September 30, 2014, Rowan’s aide Katie McDonald succeeded essentially in kidnapping her with the aid of Westland police, violating Keith’s July 28 court order that she could not be removed without his written order.

She was held against her will for a total of 10 days, 9 of them in a “geropsychiatric unit” at Botsford Hospital in Royal Oak.

In only available photo of her, Mary Rowan
In only available photo of her, Mary Rowan, seated in blue dress, admonishes this reporter for attending court hearing on Mailauni Williams (r), whose arm she is clutching. Rowan later kidnapped Williams and held her for six months at a location unknown to her mother. Photo: Cornell Squires

“Gayle Robinson has been severely traumatized by this kidnapping and heavily stressed by these probate court proceedings,” Randy wrote in a court pleading asking for Rowan to be removed as guardian, and for Rowan and Robinson to be held in contempt of court. Keith ignored the pleading and instead later held Randy in contempt.

“My brother was arrested and [now] is being held as hostage for the return of Gayle,” Fox said.

“I want Gayle, I want Gayle returned first!” Keith said according to courtroom observers.

Keith’s order (see link below story), implied that Randy Robinson would be indefinitely detained if he and his uncle did not force Mrs. Robinson to return. He gave specific orders to Brown, although Brown resides in another state, and is not in Keith’s jurisdiction.

An earlier charge of “contempt of court” for not showing up when his car broke down, landed Randy in jail for three days.

Gayle Robinson kidnapped from her Westland home of 60 years on Sept. 30, 2014, by Westland police and Rowan aide Katie McDonald, an accountant. The removal violated an earlier order by Judge Keith that Mrs. Robinson not be taken without his court order.
Gayle Robinson kidnapped from her Westland home of 60 years on Sept. 30, 2014, by Westland police and Rowan aide Katie McDonald, an accountant. The removal violated an earlier order by Judge Keith that Mrs. Robinson not be taken without his court order. Mrs. Robinson was held for 10 days, 9 of them in a psychiatric ward at Botsford Hospital, without her consent.

Keith gave Rowan “authority” to evict Randy and Lynette from the home and ordered the locks changed. Such eviction actions are legally handled by district courts. Without any such district court action, Mrs. Robinson’s other children now have access to the house and are throwing out many possessions, according to observers.

Keith barred Randy and Lynnette, and Debbie Fox and members of her marital family from any contact with their mother. Keith also ordered that Randy no longer be allowed to drive his mother’s car, with her permission, to earn a living delivering pizza.

To continue reading & view videos:  Click

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Saraland women allegedly stole nearly $16K from elderly relative

katy wheeler whitney gartman.jpg
 On Tuesday, July 28, 2015, Saraland police arrested 20-year-old Katy Scarlett Wheeler, left, and 43-year-old Whitney Stanfield Gartman, right, on one count each of financial exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a credit or debit card. (Courtesy of the Mobile County Sheriff's Office)

Officers on Tuesday arrested two Saraland women accused of fraudulently using a 93-year-old relative's debit card to make nearly $16,000 worth of purchases.

Over the course of four months, 20-year-old Katy Scarlett Wheeler routinely and fraudulently used her grandmother's debit card to make more than $2,500 worth of purchases, according to a complaint filed in Mobile County District Court. Her stepmother, 43-year-old Whitney Stanfield Gartman, allegedly stole between $500 and $2,500 in the same way, investigators said.

The pair made both online and in-person purchases using the 93-year-old's card. According to an incident report filed in court, the thefts started in February and went on until June.

On Tuesday, officers with the Saraland Police Department booked Wheeler on charges of first-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a debit card. Authorities charged Gartman with one count each of second-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a debit card.

Both women remained jailed Wednesday afternoon.

Full Article & Source:
Saraland women allegedly stole nearly $16K from elderly relative

Attorney: Settlement to pay for health care, guardian for man crippled in OPP

Sheriff Marlin Gusman
On the eve of trial, Sheriff Marlin Gusman this week settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a former Marine who suffered a life-altering brain injury three years ago at Orleans Parish Prison — a jailhouse attack that typified the kind of violence that prompted a federal judge to order sweeping reforms at the lockup.

The settlement was announced in U.S. District Court filings Monday, the day the lawsuit had been set for trial.

It will pay for the medical care of former inmate Terry Smith, 69, for the rest of his life, said Miranda Tait, an attorney with the Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization that helps the elderly and disabled.

Because the assault rendered Smith “completely unable to care for himself,” Tait said, the settlement includes a provision in which the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office also will pay for a guardian “to ensure that Mr. Smith receives the care and attention he needs for the rest of his life.”

She said the money will be paid in monthly increments.

“For the Advocacy Center, this case was about obtaining some measure of justice for a man with a serious mental illness and with no friends or family to assist him,” Tait said. Without the help of the Advocacy Center and Stephen Haedicke, a local civil rights attorney, she added, “Mr. Smith would have been forgotten, alone and completely disabled in a state-run nursing home.”

The monetary value of the settlement remained unclear Tuesday. The Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.

While many OPP inmates have suffered similar attacks while awaiting trial, Smith’s case stood out for several reasons, not the least of which was the severity of his injuries.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk referred to Smith’s neglect behind bars in approving the so-called consent decree that Gusman signed with inmate advocates and the U.S. Justice Department. The attack, the judge noted, highlighted the dangers of inadequate staffing at the jail, among other shortcomings. Some of the most serious assaults at OPP have occurred in the absence of deputies.

Smith, who had been an oil-field worker earlier in life but had became something of a drifter, had a minor criminal history that his attorneys said was consistent with homelessness and self-medication. He suffered from schizophrenia for years, the symptoms of which prevented him from holding down a job.

In 2012, Smith was jailed for “obstructing a public way” during Mardi Gras and housed in the psychiatric tier of the now-shuttered House of Detention, a jail building that was notoriously violent. According to his attorneys, Smith was attacked, receiving broken bones in his face.

He was released from custody in June but arrested again days later for trespassing and possessing a glass pipe. Deputies again placed Smith among a group of mentally ill inmates, this time in a jail building called Templeman V. According to Smith’s lawsuit, he was not segregated from violent inmates.

On June 23, 2012, Smith was walking around a tier referred to as A-3 asking for coffee when he encountered Edwin K. Lee, a mentally ill and notoriously violent inmate whom Africk described as having “a penchant for administering blows to the head and face and for preying upon older inmates.”

Lee, 23, frequently managed to pop the lock on his cell and, just a week before Smith’s attack, was said to have knocked two front teeth out of another inmate in an a similarly unprovoked assault. In October 2011, he was accused of striking at least two deputies with a broomstick, fracturing one of their jaws.

Despite this history, Smith’s attorneys said, the Sheriff’s Office failed to protect inmates from Lee’s frequent and increasingly violent outbursts.

Lee struck Smith several times in the face, knocking him to the floor. As he collapsed, Smith struck his head on a metal bench and lay in a pool of blood until he was discovered by a deputy conducting a routine security check.

The blows caused Smith’s brain to hemorrhage, rendering him nearly brain-dead. According to Smith’s lawsuit, he began suffering seizures and was unable to walk or communicate after the attack.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney: Settlement to pay for health care, guardian for man crippled in OPP

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Pennsylvania Probate Abuse - Genevieve's Story

Guest: Mary Bush Genevieve Bush lost her husband to a stroke in June 2004, what was to follow his death was nothing she could have ever prepared herself for, although she tried she has now become the victim of guardianship abuse.

"In 2005 my mom removed the POA my brothers obtained in 2004 having both parents sign estate plans and wills they wrote and assigned themselves after my father’s stroke. Mom sued the brothers for return of monies they moved to themselves in 2007. The brothers disappearing out of our lives after winning the 2007 suit then returned at the end of 2009 filing a lawsuit on both mom and me to obtain guardianship over mom. The court used this petition in its own wish to mend a broken family by awarding guardianship to myself and back to the sons mom removed.

 Through now over seven years of non stop court hearings during which the court in 2011 stripped my mom of all her rights she has now been taken from her home and held in a facility since May 18th without a hearing.

The Department of Aging claimed due to conflicts arising in moms care, was in danger and had to be removed from her home. Since being removed mom has been injured in the facility, she has been diminished, isolated and restricted from walking and even going outside.

The Emergency involuntary commitment hearing has been scheduled for August 24th.. There are also other court hearings and filings surrounding this guardianship still active in others courts not yet finalized."

4:00 pm PST… 5:00 pm MST … 6:00 pm CST … 7:00 pm EST

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Healing Through Elder Justice Advocacy

design by Nancy Oatts @ Nancy Oatts design
This blog spotlights Leanne Miller, an elder justice advocate and Ageless Alliance volunteer who was touched by elder abuse when her mother who has dementia was financially exploited by a family member. Leanne worked diligently to expose and end the abuse her mother faced as well as pursue justice through prosecution. After living through this incredibly traumatic and painful experience, she developed a passion for raising awareness of elder abuse and using her story to help others.

Leanne felt a calling to connect with others in the elder justice movement and/or touched by elder abuse and found healing in the process. She carries on her parents’ legacy by engaging in the work and demonstrating the strength they always displayed. She researched elder abuse and engaged with elder justice professionals on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Her goal was to learn more about the issue and engage in an open discussion that would help others affected by elder abuse.Her efforts were met with many responses from professionals who helped her by providing resources and information. Leanne remained steadfast with her outreach and eventually ventured into LinkedIn and other discussion groups. Over time, she built a strong online presence and fostered relationships professionals in the field.

As a result, she connected with leaders and staff members from several elder justice focused organizations. Leanne was contacted by Kerry Burnight, PhD who serves as CEO of Ageless Alliance,1 a national, non-profit grassroots organization working to promote aging with dignity and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Dr. Burnight asked Leanne to serve as a volunteer by leading Ageless Alliance’s social media efforts. Leanne was excited by the opportunity to further collaborate with others in the field as well as reach a wide audience of people across the United States.

"Day after day, Leanne helps others and honors her parents. Her dedication to the dignity and safety of older Americans is heroic and Ageless Alliance is deeply indebted to her."  - Kerry Burnight, PHD

Leanne has made many important contributions to the movement and her ongoing commitment is incredibly inspiring to many. Through her Ageless Alliance work and generally, she is focused on raising awareness of elder abuse, impacting elder justice policies and one day participating in the creation of a large public service announcement.

We thank Leanne for her dedication to the elder justice movement and for sharing her story to help others.

Former attorney charged with stealing nearly $68,000 in client funds

handcuffs & gavel

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — A former attorney who practiced law in New Britain and Cheshire was arrested today and charged with stealing nearly $68,000 from a man whose affairs he managed as a conservator.

Andrew F. Bonito Jr. of Cheshire was arrested by Inspectors from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney on a warrant charging him with one count of Larceny in the First Degree, a felony carrying a maximum term of twenty years in prison.

The arrest of the 56-year-old is the result of an investigation conducted by the Statewide Prosecution Bureau in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney following a complaint by the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel in the Judicial Branch, which regulates attorney conduct in Connecticut.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Bonito, an attorney who practiced law in New Britain and later from his home in Cheshire, was appointed conservator for an elderly man by the Berlin District Probate Court on Jan. 6, 2006.

The warrant alleges that between June 1, 2010, and Sept. 18, 2013, Bonito misappropriated $67,789 from the man, who has since died.

Bonito was arraigned today in New Britain Superior Court where he was released on a written promise to appear July 9, 2015.

The case is being prosecuted by the Statewide Prosecution Bureau.

Full Article & Source:
Former attorney charged with stealing nearly $68,000 in client funds

‘Granny Cams’ Catching Nursing Homes Thieves In The Act

There's an old saying that the camera never blinks.

When it comes to catching crimes against nursing home residents, the State Attorney General said that electronic eye is invaluable.

Thefts from senior residents have doubled in the past two years. We took a look at some of the theft cases that have been cracked by surveillance cameras.

A hidden camera captured nursing home worker Yvonne Curry entering a resident's room at an assisted living facility center in Delaware County.  The State Attorney General’s office said she stole a Walmart gift card out of a cabinet drawer and slipped it into her pocket.

It turned out to be one of several thefts at the nursing home where Curry worked. Court records show Curry also stole Fentanyl patches and pain killer patches from residents.

“Having a camera in a nursing home can give you information, that frankly, there's no other way to get it," Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

DeWine said surveillance cameras, sometimes referred to as “granny cams” when placed in nursing homes, are an effective way of learning what's going on inside the building, when it comes to theft or abuse.  “We do it with permission of a patient, or if the patient is not capable of giving permission, then we'll get that permission from a relative,” DeWine explained.

A surveillance camera caught former aide Tiffany Robberts going through a resident's chest of drawers and stealing cash at an assisted living center in Lancaster.  Court records show Roberts stole money from several residents before getting caught.

“It's disturbing to think that the people you are trusting to care for your loved ones are instead looking for opportunities to take advantage of them,” Wendy Cochran said.   An assistant at a Zanesville nursing home stole her mother's wedding she had worn for 56 years.

“She was wearing them every day, which is why I thought it was the only jewelry she had there with her, but I thought it was still safe to have those and be wearing them because she wore them every day,” Cochran recalled.

Patricia Thomas is serving a 17-month prison sentence for stealing 52 pieces of jewelry from residents at that care center.

The nursing home is now under new ownership and Cochran has moved her mother to a new facility.

Bev Laubert of the Ohio Department of Aging said sometimes the thefts are for small amounts of money, but for a nursing home resident on an ultra-fixed income, it's significant.

“It might just be a couple dollars out of someone's drawer and they might not think that is meaningful, but to an individual who receives Medicaid, they get to keep $50 a month," Laubert said.

Laubert recommends families get lock boxes for valuables of loved ones living in nursing homes and keep records of what they own.

The State Attorney General said although there's nothing in the law prohibiting residents or their families from installing these cameras in their loved one's rooms, nursing homes may deny the request over privacy concerns.  “For example, if you have two people in a room, you certainly couldn't have that camera pointed so the other patient could be seen in that video,” DeWine said.

The Ohio Health Care Association said it's not against electronic monitoring as long as it's done openly and with consent from the resident being monitored, while protecting the privacy rights of other patients.   The association adds that resident's bedrooms are considered their homes and must be afforded privacy.

If you have a concern about your loved one's care and safety at an assisted living center, you can contact the State of Ohio Ombudsman or the State Attorney General's office.

State of Ohio Ombudsman

Ohio Attorney General's Health Care Fraud Unit 

Full Article & Source:
‘Granny Cams’ Catching Nursing Homes Thieves In The Act