Saturday, September 12, 2015

Former Oshkosh financial adviser charged with bilking elderly clients

A former financial adviser in Oshkosh already facing charges for stealing from her clients is being held on $1 million bail after she was charged with four additional counts of theft.

The new charges say that Jean Walsh-Josephson, 56, of Oshkosh, stole more than $475,000 from elderly clients.

Walsh-Josephson had been charged in August with theft and forgery involving a client's account at the Thrivent Financial in Oshkosh.

Oshkosh police, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the Office of Commissioner for Insurance are continuing the investigation. Police say Thrivent Financial has contacted all of Walsh-Josephson's clients and the company is cooperating with the investigation.

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Former Oshkosh financial adviser charged with bilking elderly clients

N.J. man charged - again - as phony lawyer


Leaford George Cameron, a wannabe lawyer who looks more like a crazed hypnotist, made news in 2013 when he was arrested by Delaware County authorities for allegedly impersonating an attorney.

When detectives asked whether he was licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, "his reply was that he should be," according to the criminal complaint.

Now, Cameron is in even bigger trouble.

U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger announced yesterday that Cameron, 62, of Burlington, N.J., has been indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud and false statements.

Cameron allegedly ran a fraudulent law practice between 2003 and this year and defrauded approximately 74 "clients" who were residents of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Jamaica, and India.

Cameron even appeared in court, primarily handling immigration matters.

"The longevity of Cameron's alleged fraud, the amount of victims already identified, and far reaching impact in this case is staggering," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia.

"HSI will continue to investigate and seek out those who may have fallen prey to this alleged imposter's scheme. We encourage anyone with any contact with this person to contact us right away," Kelleghan said.

Anyone who used Cameron's services should call Homeland Security Investigations at 215-717-4987.

If convicted of all charges, Cameron faces a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison.

Full Article & Source:
N.J. man charged - again - as phony lawyer

Friday, September 11, 2015

Taylor lobbied for law: now has filed ward rights restoration


Before the 84th Legislature adjourned, the state passed new laws that widen the window for alternatives to guardianship.

A local man who directs a regional guardianship program has filed what he believes the first or one of the first court applications, under the new laws, to invoke supported decision-making rights for a person under a guardianship.

The new laws, first filed separately as HB 39 and SB 1881, took effect Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The week before, James Taylor, executive director of Family and Court Services, filed an application in the Titus County Court seeking the state’s restoration of competency for 67-year-old Mount Pleasant woman. The local woman meets the criteria outlined in the new law, according to Taylor.

According to the Texas Tribune, over two years ago members of the Texas Judicial Council (TJC), a group that comes up with ways to streamline the state’s legal system, began looking at the state’s guardianship system in the face of an anticipated “silver tsunami as the state’s population ages.”

The over-65 population in Texas is reportedly expected to double by 2040.

The TJC has reported that more than 50,000 Texans now have guardians, a 60 percent increase since 2011, and comprises one of the fastest-growing case types in the Texas state courts.

Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who sponsored HB 39, was quoted as saying the bill would urge everyone involved in a case to view guardianship as a last resort, or use guardians on a temporary basis. The measure also prevents guardians from moving wards to a nursing home or group home without first notifying the ward’s friends and family; and it requires attorneys involved in a guardian case to have special training. 

SB 1881, sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, establishes the supporter alternative for courts to use.

State Rep. Bryan Hughes explains the laws this way:  “These new laws were designed to give more options. Some folks need help but do not need a full blown traditional guardianship. These new procedures are intended to fill the gaps for people like that.”

“The laws should give people more choices and free up our courts for those cases where they are needed most,” Hughes said.

Taylor said, “The passage of the new law is another big win for disability rights because it ensures that the wants and needs of an individual with an intellectual disability are addressed when deciding if a person needs a legal guardian. And, it may allow a 67-year-old Mount Pleasant woman to enjoy the freedom that she has wanted.”

Taylor said, as the only Texas certified guardian serving on the Children’s Policy Council of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, he advocated for the passage of the combined Senate and House bills, known as the Supported Decision-Making Act.

According to the application for complete restoration of the ward, filed by Taylor as Family and Court Services, Inc. in the Titus County Courts Aug. 21, Family and Court Services, Inc. was appointed successor guardian of the person and estate on Dec. 12, 2013.

That person was described in the court document as a ward born in 1949 who resides locally.

Court records show that the woman’s father obtained guardianship of her several years ago. After her father died, an aunt became her guardian, and in 2013, the elderly aunt resigned, and Family and Court Services was appointed her guardian. 

Since that time, the court document reads, the legislature has passed and the governor of Texas has signed a number of bills relating to finding a less restrictive environment than a guardianship for persons whom the court finds has either full capacity or sufficient capacity with supports and services to care for themselves and to manager their property.

In the filing, Taylor, as executive director of Family and Court Services, states that the ward meets the criteria known as Supported Decision-Making Agreement Act, effective Sept. 1.

The court document filed defines supported decision-making as “a process of supporting and accommodating an adult with a disability to enable the adult to make life decisions, including decisions related to where the adult wants to live, the services, supports and medical care the adult wants to receive, whom the adult wants to live with and where the adult wants to work, without impeding the self-determination of the adult.

According to the court document, “under the act, (the ward) can enter into an agreement with a person to assist her making everyday life decisions related to any or all of the following – at her option:  obtaining food, clothing and shelter; taking care of her physical health; managing her financial affairs; help her access, collect or obtain information that is relevant to a decision, including medical, psychological, financial, educational or treatment records; help her understand her options so she can make an informed decision; or help her communicate her decision to appropriate persons.

The court document states: “The supporter is not allowed to make decisions for her, only assist her in making decisions.”

“Since Guardian’s appointment, Ward has or has regained sufficient mental capacity to do all of the tasks necessary to care for herself and to manager her property or in the alternative to do so with the appointment of a supportive decision maker,” the court document reads.

In the document, Taylor, as the guardian and “Applicant requests the court find that the Ward has full capacity or sufficient capacity with supports and services to care for herself and to manager her property.”

On Aug. 27, an order appointing an attorney ad litem was filed to represent the interests of the ward in the proceedings to restore her capacity. 

Lisa Beaird Shoalmire was appointed as attorney ad litem for the ward and, according to the order, will be supplied with copies of all current, physical, medical and intellectual examinations and have access to all relevant medical, psychological and intellectual testing records from physicians and health care organizations and providers relating to the ward’s care, treatment, diagnosis and needs.

Taylor has come under public scrutiny over the past few months from persons questioning his guardianship appointment in a high-profile guardianship case and his reporting to the courts and the amount of his bond in another guardianship case. 

He recently (Aug. 14) resigned from the Children’s Policy Council of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on which he served for more than 10 years “through three commissioners and five legislative sessions,” he said.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Taylor lobbied for law: now has filed ward rights restoration

Belleville resident arrested on exploitation charge

David J. Brewer, 73, of Belleville
According to a Wednesday Randolph County Sheriff’s Office news release, 73-year-old David J. Brewer, of Belleville, was arrested on Aug. 10 in Belleville by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office for two counts of financial exploitation of the elderly.

The arrest was the result of a joint investigation completed by the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and Chester Police Department, resulting in an arrest warrant being issued for Brewer, who once resided in Prairie du Rocher.

Bond for Brewer was set at $25,000. Brewer posted bond and was released the same day of his arrest.

Sheriff Shannon Wolff said no specifics of the investigation can be released at this time other than if anyone wrote a check personally to Brewer, they may be a victim.

Wolff said after a news release from Randolph County State’s Attorney Jeremy Walker of Brewer’s arrest, other victims have come forward and the investigation is continuing.

Anyone who may be victim of Brewer is urged to contact their local police department to report it. The Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at 618-826-5484.

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Belleville resident arrested on exploitation charge

Mississippi briefs

Group looks to boost protection of vulnerable adults in state

JACKSON -- A group forming in Jackson plans to improve the way the state of Mississippi protects vulnerable adults.

The Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders -- or WINGS -- will hold its organizational meeting Sept. 18 at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson.

Ta'Shia Gordon, the deputy director of the state Administrative Office of Courts, says in a news release that the WINGS committee plans to propose court system reforms to support the rights, dignity and autonomy of vulnerable adults, while protecting them from abuse and neglect.

Students at the University of Mississippi School of Law will work with the WINGS Committee. Professor Desiree Hensley and a group of students have volunteered to support the committee's work by providing research and information needed to produce a report and recommendations for reform.

Full Article & Source:
Mississippi briefs

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Detert renews bid to reform guardianship program

Sen. Nancy Detert.

By Barbara Peters Smith

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has started a second effort to reform Florida's adult guardianship system, and said Wednesday that this legislation will be her top priority for the 2016 session.

The new bill seeks to establish what she calls a "complaint department" for Floridians affected by the guardianship system — in a repeat of her original legislation that was stymied by political maneuvers over health care funding last spring. This time around, Detert said, she has worked with the Department of Elder Affairs to agree on an estimate of what the law would cost to implement.

Introducing her bill early in the legislative process should improve its chances, she said: "If it falls off the tracks, we have time to put it back."

The state's statute on guardianship gives judges power to remove an elder's civil rights and appoint a family or professional guardian to make all legal, financial and medical decisions for that person. Problems with this process were the basis of a Herald-Tribune series last December, "The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Florida's Elder Guardianship System." Through case studies, the series looked at wards and their families who felt trapped in a legal maze they did not understand.

Detert's bill, SB 232, would establish an Office of Public and Professional Guardians to certify and supervise court-appointed guardians. Currently, the amount of oversight varies from county to county, and no formal avenue exists for wards or their families to complain about unsatisfactory guardianships.  (Continue Reading)

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Detert renews bid to reform guardianship program

Nokomis man accused of exploitation of an elderly person

Steve Brown
A Nokomis man is facing a felony charge ... accused of stealing money from a 92-year-old woman he was caring for. Steve Brown, 56, is charged with exploitation of an elderly person.

Sarasota County Sheriff's deputies say he worked for Margery Warshaw from August to December of 2014....and that he cashed 18 of Warshaw's checks totaling $21,000. Bank officials contacted the Department of Children and Families, investigators found Warshaw to be incompetent.

When it comes to avoiding a possible scam, The Jewish Family and Children Services works with seniors from around the Suncoast. On Wednesday, at the JFCS, seniors gathered to have lunch and socialize. Amongst the fellowship was one concern all the seniors share...getting older.

"We have to face reality. Yes, there are times we do need help," says Marge Martin.

Martin lives in an assisted living facility. Right now she's capable of taking care of herself, but fears what will happen if she has to have a care-giver.

"I would have concerns having someone in my home. It's an invasion of privacy," said Martin.

"Sometimes that puts off their decision to bring in the help they critically needed in order to be able to live independently," said Pamela Baron, with the JFCS.

One of the scariest possibilities is having someone else in charge of finances.

"I know exactly where my money will be going and no one else will be making that decision for me," said Alfred Koral.

To ensure his finances stay secure, Koral, has made arrangements for his children to be in charge of his money, not a potential care-giver.

"I've made advanced arrangements for all of my assets, to make sure they are equally distributed among my children and grandchildren," said Koral.

For those who need help or direction, the JFCS has councilors who can lend a hand.

"We have a number of very well run, well respected home care agency's," said Baron.

They do not, however, suggest any private care-givers. They say the assurance of a reputable company far out ways the possibility of being scammed.

Having spent the last 5 years being his wife's care-giver as her health declined, Koral is not taking any chances.

"I know well the role of a care-taker from giving. I haven't been receiving yet but I'm not looking forward to that event," said Koral.

Full Article & Source: 
Nokomis man accused of exploitation of an elderly person

Moak: Bank group fighting senior financial abuse

Bill Moak
by Bill Moak

Hardly a week goes by that doesn’t include news of a caregiver who has been accused of stealing from an elderly or otherwise-vulnerable person in that individual’s care. Just last week, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of a Jackson woman who owns a personal care home, on charges she took more than $12,000 from a patient and was in the process of attempting to steal an additional $2,900.

A news release from Hood ( reported that Pebla Jones Wright, 48, was charged with felony exploitation of a vulnerable person and another for attempted exploitation of a vulnerable person. If convicted on the charges, she could face up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Jones is just the latest Mississippian to be accused of taking funds from vulnerable people and converting them to their own personal use. With the retirement of the baby boom generation producing record numbers of elderly people in need of care, there are also likely to be people waiting to take advantage of the money they can provide.

Financial exploitation of seniors has reached near-epidemic proportions in the U.S. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2050; a 2010 study reported that one in five of those have been victims of financial abuse and fraud. Those numbers, while staggering, may be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Seniors may be reluctant to report fraud for a number of reasons including embarrassment, fear of retribution and a complicated reporting process.

While law enforcement does what it can, the banking industry is uniquely positioned to have the greatest potential impact. Often, seniors are coerced into giving or sending money to people through banking transactions, but attentive bank personnel may be able to stop questionable transactions or to alert authorities. I recall one case in which a Mississippi bank teller noticed an elderly person was about to send a cashier’s check for thousands of dollars to a known scammer, and was able to intervene and stop the transaction. Such intervention isn’t without risk; in the past, bank personnel have done so at great risk of legal repercussions for disclosing such information or even getting involved, but in most states, they are now protected.

In fact, Mississippi’s Vulnerable Persons Act requires any person who believes such a crime may be in progress to report it, and is provided immunity from being sued as long as the report is made “in good faith” — even if an investigation reveals no fraud or abuse actually exists.

The banking industry is responding to the challenge as well. On Tuesday, the American Bankers Association Foundation announced a new campaign called Safe Banking for Seniors ( — to provide a set of comprehensive tools and resources starting in January. The site will include event materials, lesson plans, media outreach tools and best practices. The site is active now, and contains some basic resources for banks and seniors alike.

“Bankers are often the first line of defense against elder financial fraud from educating and advising customers to spotting the signs of abuse,” said ABA President and CEO Frank Keating. “We take our role seriously, and the more we can work together as citizens, bankers, and government officials, we can protect our seniors from fraud.”

If you are elderly, or care about a senior, it’s crucial we all do what we can to watch for and stop senior financial abuse. The best defense against exploitation is for somebody to step up and say something when we see it.

Full Article & Source:
Moak: Bank group fighting senior financial abuse

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mahoning County Probate Judge works to clear up hundreds of delinquent filings News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The court which handles guardianships for some of the most vulnerable people and millions of dollars in estates is tightening procedures in Mahoning County.
Judge Robert Rusu has found 16,000 delinquent filings in cases being considered by the Probate Court.

Judge Rusu explained says the delinquent filings involve legal matters that should have been completed on cases, but were not.

The court staff is working to tighten up court operations according to Judge Rusu, who said he is aware of an ongoing investigation of alleged theft by his predecessor, former judge Mark Belinky.

The Information Technology Department was assigned the task of determining which cases had delinquencies.

Attorneys involved in the cases in question failed to fill out paperwork in a timely manner so some cases couldn't be settled.

"These are things that were not caught up; a delinquent account, status report, inventory, report of distribution,” said Judge Rusu. ”I put one employee on this to send letters to all the attorneys giving them four months to bring everything up to date.”

 One thousand cases have been resolved so far, but about six hundred are still outstanding.

“I will be setting the cases for a formal hearing. We are going to haul the attorney's and the fiduciaries in and they are going to have to explain their actions to us, and if they don't then I could remove them," said the Judge.

Judge Rusu says the most serious cases involve inventories which detail assets in an estate and provide an accounting of what has been done with the money.

The problems were inherited from former Probate Judge Mark Belinky who resigned last year after pleading guilty to one count of tampering with records.

Belinky has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation by the state and FBI.

An affidavit filed by an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation states that Mark Belinky admitted to stealing money from guardianships; people who are either physically or mentally unable to take care of themselves.

Judge Rusu told 21 News that he is aware of the allegations concerning his predecessor. “I am working to restore trust in Mahoning Probate Court. I can assure you that right now the appropriate and best suited individuals to do that investigation are doing that,” said Rusu.

As of this date disgraced former Judge Mark Belinky has not been charged with theft.

A BCI spokesman says, the agency stands by the information in the affidavit and will not comment on an ongoing investigation.

Full Article & Source:
Mahoning County Probate Judge works to clear up hundreds of delinquent filings

Motion seeks to remove guardian

A motion has been filed in Titus County to remove guardian in the case of Ann Walton James.

Records show the motion to remove guardian was filed on behalf of James’ great-niece, Barbara Ann Reynolds.

Last month, former Titus County Clerk Dianne Norris Owens spoke at length about that guardianship case at the county commission meeting.

Owens’ public comments on June 22 mirror statements set out in the motion to remove guardian filed on behalf of Reynolds in Titus County June 25.

The motion filed on behalf of Reynolds calls for the guardian that was appointed for James in 2013, James Taylor - Family and Court Services Inc., to be removed as guardian and assume all costs and attorneys’ fees associated with this removal.

Ann Walton James, 97, lives in a local assisted living facility. 

Court records show that, in June, 2013, a local banking officer filed a letter with the court requesting the court open a temporary guardianship application for the elderly woman. According to the letter, the banking officer expressed concern for James’ well-being after the banking officer had met with her. The letter described James as “blind” and “quite vulnerable, both financially and physically.”

In August, 2013, according to statements in the motion filed last week on behalf of Reynolds, Taylor – Family and Court Services, Inc. filed an application for guardianship of Ann Walton James “alleging that no members of the Ward’s family could be located, despite sending an email the very next day on August 27, 2013, informing the attorney ad litem in the case of his more than two-year history with the ward and his knowledge of the existence of a son and a grandson of the ward.”

The motion also reads that, “No notice was given to the Ward’s family as to the filing of the guardianship, and none of the family members were given the opportunity to participate in the proceedings.” 

The court appointed Family and Court Services, Inc., James Taylor’s company, as the guardian of the elderly woman’s estate on Dec. 23, 2013, according to statements made in the motion filed last week.

The motion calls to question the amount of bond put up by Taylor and his company, and states that Taylor “has restricted” (the ward’s) family members from visiting with her; has not filed an annual account or annual report; and alleges that the guardian “has expended a substantial sum of money out of the ward’s estate.”

The motion cites grounds for removal of guardianship because the guardian has:  failed to properly account and properly report, and breached his fiduciary duty by failing to adequately protect the assets of the estate by failing to post an adequate bond and failing to enter a proper safekeeping agreement; and has attempted to alienate the ward from her family; “is believed to have misapplied, embezzled, or misused assets belonging to the ward”; and “grossly mismanaged the Ward’s estate.”

The motion calls for the court to assign a statutory probate judge to hear the case.

Records show the certificate of service of the motion filed last week was delivered to Taylor’s attorney, William B. Harrell of Texarkana, and signed for Reynolds, the movant, by Houston attorney Don Ford. 

Ford was seated on the state of Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission, which oversees guardianship matters, in September and continues to be listed as a commission member on the commission website. 

Ford has been serving as legal counsel for another local case, representing Denise Reichert and her daughter Maegan Reichert Hotaling in guardianship and probate matters regarding the estate of the late Dr. Oscar Michael Reichert, who died May 4. Denise Reichert is ex-wife of the late Reichert.

James Taylor is a party in that case as well.

In September, 2014, a complaint was filed by Denise Reichert against Family and Court Services Inc. and James Taylor with the State of Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission, concerning Taylor and his business’ appointment and action as guardian ad litem of her (Denise Reichert’s) ex- husband’s estate.

The TJBCC dismissed Denise Reichert’s allegations a few weeks later, calling them “unfounded.”

Full Article & Source: 
Motion seeks to remove guardian

Editorial: Recognizing the scams that exploit seniors

Curtis Fish Jr. is the backup medical power of attorney for his father, Curtis Fish, who was 87 when this photo was taken. The father has dementia and lives in a senior living community in Flower Mound. The son, 58 when this photo was taken, says there must be strong communication among family members to ensure that they comply with the wishes of their loved one. They are photographed at the Rosewood Assisted Living and Memory Care in Flower Mound, Texas, Thursday, October 2, 2014.

Grandma’s phone rings. An authoritative-sounding person claims to be calling from the Internal Revenue Service, threatening arrest and immediate seizure of assets if she doesn’t follow the caller’s exact instructions.

Most of us know better about scams and have the presence of mind to hang up, but among the elderly, there’s a surprising tendency to assume this is the real thing. Social Security and bank account information comes forth. Before family members have a chance to react, Grandma’s life’s savings could be gone in a flash.

It’s not always a phone scam. Someone could come knocking at the door, claiming to represent a charity. A trusted caregiver might steal a bank card or forge checks. In the wrong hands, a power of attorney authorization could wreak legal and financial havoc.

Senior citizens are 34 percent more likely to lose money in rip-off schemes than their middle-age counterparts, says the Stanford University Center for Longevity. Only one in 44 cases of elderly financial abuse is ever reported, according to one study. All too often, before anyone has a chance to detect what’s happening, the damage is done.

Dementia often is a big factor in rip-offs. Along with diminished physical capacity comes an increased tendency to place undue trust in others — and not just strangers. Ninety percent of financial abusers are family members and other trusted individuals, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.

That’s how the elderly lose an estimated $36.5 billion a year to financial abuse, as Dallas Morning News personal finance writer Pamela Yip reported recently. The challenge promises only to grow as aging baby boomers flood the ranks of seniors.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 20 percent of the population, or 72 million people, will be 65 or older within the next two decades. In Dallas County, the over-65 population has doubled since 1970 to reach 234,557 in 2013.

It’s time to get educated and plan ahead.

The first line of defense is to remind potential victims of their vulnerability so they can be wary. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminding. Stubbornness and forgetfulness can get in the way. The hardest part for family members is determining when intervention is necessary, because it typically entails a loss of independence and sense of humiliation for the person who needs protecting.

Classes, advisory sessions and legal help are available locally through advocacy groups such as The Senior Source, the Dallas Area Agency on Aging and the Dallas Bar Association’s volunteer attorney program. If you suspect a problem is developing, don’t wait. Visit the National Adult Protective Services Association website, There you will find voluminous information about the signs of elder financial exploitation and how to fight back.

Know the facts

One in 9 seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past 12 months; the rate of financial exploitation is extremely high, with 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment in the recent past.

Elder abuse is vastly underreported; only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse is reported, a study says.
Abused seniors are three times more likely to die; elder abuse victims are four times more likely to go into a nursing home.

Ninety percent of abusers are family members or trusted others.

Almost 1 in 10 financial abuse victims will turn to Medicaid as a direct result of their money being stolen.

Cognitive impairment and the need for help with activities of daily living make victims more vulnerable to financial abuse.

SOURCE: National Adult Protective Services Association

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Recognizing the scams that exploit seniors

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

California Assembly to vote on diminished bill package to curb psychotropic drug use on foster children

By Karen de Sá kdesa

With less than a week left before the end of the legislative session, intensive lobbying by physicians groups and cost concerns have undermined progress on the centerpiece of a bill package designed to end the excessive use of psychotropic drugs on California's foster youth. 

The bills scheduled for the Assembly floor as early as Tuesday have already been whittled down through amendments and the sting of budget realities.

Now, the author of Senate Bill 253 -- which would strengthen court oversight of foster care prescribing and demand more safety measures from doctors -- has pulled his legislation back from consideration this year. State Sen. Bill Monning's bill passed the Senate unanimously but won't go through the Assembly until next year, while three other bills inspired by the newspaper's investigation "Drugging Our Kids" move toward Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The Democrat from Carmel says his action represents only a temporary delay while he smooths out sticking points with the Brown administration, allowing time to relaunch the bill in January with a better guarantee of passage. But advocates fear the heart of the hard-fought reforms may now be in jeopardy.

"SB 253 is really key -- it's the linchpin of this whole package because the courts are the gatekeepers, and if the gatekeepers are not doing their job, everything else is not going to come together to solve the problem," said Bill Grimm, senior attorney with the National Center for Youth Law, a major backer of the bills. "The opposition that's been mounted by the medical community is unconscionable."

Monning's bill is supported by the state's Judicial Council, but opposition has been building: On Wednesday, the California Medical Association, the California Psychiatric Association, the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, representing residential group homes, released a surprising last-minute "Assembly floor alert" calling for a no vote.

The groups charge the bill would hamstring doctors by requiring proof to the juvenile court that they had reviewed foster children's medical records, obtained lab results, and confirmed there were no "less invasive" treatments available. The physicians also balk at being subject to second medical opinions, which under Monning's bill would be triggered by requests for multiple medications or prescriptions for kids ages 5 and younger.

According to filings with the California Secretary of State, the groups opposing the bill have spent more than $1.4 million between Jan. 1 and June 30 lobbying the Legislature, an amount equal to more than $11,000 per business day. The alliance representing residential facilities alone spent more than $325,000.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
California Assembly to vote on diminished bill package to curb psychotropic drug use on foster children

Attorney Seeks End To Effort To Remove Indicted Commissioner

CLAREMORE, Oklahoma - Attorneys for an indicted Rogers County commissioner are asking a judge to dismiss efforts to remove the commissioner from office.

A multi-county grand jury indicted Commissioner Mike Helm in August for embezzlement and recommended he be removed from office. The indictment alleges Helm sold county property and did not turn the money over to the county.

Defense attorneys for Helm say in a court filing that the grand jury lacks jurisdiction to issue what is known as an accusation for removal. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the judge has banned Helm from attending Tuesday's Board of Commissioner's meeting and from taking any personnel actions or having contact with employees at work sites.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney Seeks End To Effort To Remove Indicted Commissioner

Former NFLer Ben Utecht Writing Book About Head Trauma

File photo: Former professional athlete Ben Utecht, a Super Bowl-winning tight end for the Indianapolis Colts, testifies on Capitol Hill in before the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing regarding concussions the long term effects of brain related sports injuries.

Ben Utecht, the former NFL tight end who became a leading advocate for players suffering from head trauma, is working on a memoir.

Utecht has a six-figure deal with the Simon & Schuster imprint Howard Books, the Abrams Artists Agency announced Wednesday. Ultrecht's book, "Counting the Days Until My Mind Slips Away," is scheduled to come out in the fall of 2016. He sustained numerous concussions as a player and struggles with severe memory loss.

Utecht, 34, earned a Super Bowl ring after the 2006 season with the Indianapolis Colts, but left the NFL in 2009 after an injury settlement with the Cincinnati Bengals. He became a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology and testified last year before Congress about concussion issues. 

Full Article & Source:
Former NFLer Ben Utecht Writing Book About Head Trauma

Monday, September 7, 2015

Authorities arrest 243 people in $712 million Medicare fraud

By Megan Cassella

(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday that 243 people have been arrested across the country, charged with submitting fake billing for Medicare, a government healthcare program, that totaled $712 million.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the arrests as the largest criminal health care fraud takedown in the history of the Justice Department.

Those arrested included 46 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes, the government said, including submitting claims to Medicare and Medicaid, the healthcare program for low-income individuals, for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.

The nationwide sweep, led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, involved about 900 law enforcement officials. It's the largest both in terms of the number of those charged and the amount of money lost.

Many of the arrests were in Florida, long an epicenter of Medicare fraud. In Miami, 73 defendants were charged with offenses involving approximately $263 million in false billings.

One mental health facility there billed close to $64 million for psychotherapy sessions that were nothing more than moving patients to different locations, Lynch said in a press conference.

Other cities involved include Houston, Dallas and McAllen, Texas; Los Angeles; Detroit; Tampa; Brooklyn, New York; and New Orleans.

One case in Michigan involved a doctor who prescribed unnecessary narcotics in exchange for patients' identification information, which was used to generate false billings. Patients then became deeply addicted to the prescription narcotics and were bound to the scheme as long as they wanted to keep their access to the drugs.

"In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue our focus on preventing wrongdoing and prosecuting those whose criminal activity drives up medical costs and jeopardizes a system that our citizens trust with their lives," Lynch said. 

Since 2007, as part of increased efforts to tackle Medicare fraud, federal authorities have charged nearly 2,100 people with falsely billing the Medicare program more than $6.5 billion, according to the Justice Dept. Thursday's arrests bring that total to over 2,300 people who have billed over $7 billion.

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Authorities arrest 243 people in $712 million Medicare fraud

Judicial conduct panel wants Flagstaff judge suspended

PHOENIX (AP) — A Flagstaff judge should be suspended for 90 days without pay for using government resources in his 2014 re-election bid, campaigning on government property and confronting a court employee who apparently supported his opponent, according to a recommendation from the state commission that oversees discipline for judges.

The seven-member panel of the Commission on Judicial Conduct also recommended that Flagstaff Justice of the Peace Howard Grodman be removed from the state Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. Grodman's lawyer, Bob Van Wyck, said he has already done so.

The opinion obtained Friday by The Associated Press is preliminary and came after a hearing last month. The commission can change it following a response from Grodman that is due Sept. 8. But Van Wyck said he has no plans to ask for a revision "because we quite frankly trust the commission."

The Arizona Supreme Court will have the final say and can modify or accept the recommended penalty, which at most would include removal from office.

Charging documents accused Grodman of violating judicial ethics by sending expletive-filled emails referencing his opponent from his official email account. He also used the account to seek endorsements and permission to post campaign signs and posted photos on his campaign website while wearing his judge's robes. In addition, he blocked his opponent in the primary election from hearing cases in justice court, where the opponent was an acting judge, and he illegally posted campaign material at a U.S. Post Office.

Grodman formally acknowledged many of the acts in advance of the hearing, but he called them poor decisions that he is sorry about making. He disputed an allegation that he intentionally failed to disclose to the commission that he had been disciplined by the presiding judge for his conduct. The commission didn't believe his testimony that the non-disclosure was inadvertent.

He was seeking a lower penalty during the hearing.

The commission found that even if Grodman's "initial ethical missteps could be attributed to ignorance of code-based campaign restriction (a doubtful proposition given his service on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee), respondent ignored numerous entreaties by court staff and the presiding judge to stop his behavior," according to the panel's decision. "Even a cursory review of the code and relevant judicial ethics advisory committee opinions would have alerted (Grodman) to the impropriety of his actions."

Grodman was first elected as a judge in the Flagstaff Justice Court in 2010 after being a practicing lawyer for 27 years. He currently serves on the state Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. His biography says he has taught business law and ethics at Northern Arizona University.

Justice courts handle low-level criminal matters such as drunken-driving cases as well as civil matters like evictions.

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Judicial conduct panel wants Flagstaff judge suspended

Woman sentenced in financial exploitation case

CALEDONIA — A La Crescent woman accused of spending nearly $5,000 of someone else's money was sentenced Wednesday in Houston County District Court to probation, community work service and restitution.

Linda Thesing, 62, was originally charged with four counts of felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The complaint was amended, and Thesing pleaded guilty in August to two counts of gross misdemeanor financial exploitation; the two felonies were dismissed.

She was ordered to pay $1,366 in restitution; according to court documents, Thesing already had paid some directly to the victim. In addition, she was ordered to complete 200 hours of community work service and fined $450.

The investigation began in March, when Houston County Human Services received a report about possible maltreatment of an elderly man with dementia.

The man was in jeopardy of being evicted from the care facility where he lived; Thesing, who was responsible for his finances, "was intentionally ignoring correspondence," the complaint says.

Thesing met with law enforcement officials and a social worker in April, and reportedly told them procrastination and a lack of experience were the reasons she wasn't taking care of things.

According to court documents, Thesing said she "had no good reason (to spend the money). It was stupid and I didn't even need it."

A total of $4,365 was spent from April 2014 to April 2015.

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Woman sentenced in financial exploitation case

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Disabled Vet Shocked by Arrest of Trusted Friend

Two arrests for a despicable crime come as a shock to disabled veteran Jim Riley. Not only does he know one of the suspects -- he trusted him.

A Six on Your Side investigation helped crack the case.

As a caregiver sent by a nursing service, Rashad Johnson spent one day a week assisting Riley.

“He's an excellent caregiver,” Riley said. “You couldn't ask for a better person.”

But Johnson has been arrested for misusing the disabled client's credit card.

Sarpy County Detective Matt Barrall said, "We believe Rashad Johnson, once he was able to obtain the victim's credit card information, used it to wire money to Western Union where his brother picked it up."

Security camera video shows Amaan Johnson receiving $1,200 cash wired from the victim’s account.

Jim trusted his credit and debit card with the caregiver because the caregiver would buy essentials to help Jim deal with multiple sclerosis. Riley said the caregiver also purchased food and even went to dinner with the family - another reason why they feel betrayed.

“It’s a crying shame that these guys had to stoop that low,” Riley said.

Riley’s niece, Mary Ann Montgomery, said, "He's not letting anyone else take his credit card now but family like me to go do his shopping and stuff."

Amaan Johnson, who picked up the money, was arrested for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He also faces an unrelated counterfeiting charge in Colorado.

Detective Barrall said, “When Colorado authorities arrested him they found thousands of dollars in counterfeit bills."

Rashad Johnson has been charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Riley is shocked and said, “All he had to do was ask."

Through jail staff, we asked the arrested caregiver, Rashad Johnson, if he'd do an interview. He said he would if we paid his $2,000 bail. We declined.

Rashad Johnson is listed with the state as a Licensed Nurses Aide. The service he worked through hasn't returned our call.

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Disabled Vet Shocked by Arrest of Trusted Friend

A closer eye on lawyers

Dishonest or incompetent lawyers and prosecutors are not being sufficiently held accountable in New York.

Compelling cases for this astounding assertion were made during hearings held last week in the courtroom of the Court of Appeals, the state’s top court. In testimony before the Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline, a panel assembled by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, speakers recommended harsher penalties for lawyers who steal from their clients. They also urged that more be done to stem prosecutorial misconduct, especially instances in which district attorneys withhold evidence that could favor or even exonerate the accused.

Allegations of wrongdoing by lawyers are now investigated through grievance committees in the state’s many judicial departments. Justices on the Appellate Divisions of State Supreme Court then mete out the discipline, which can range from a private letter of caution to censure, suspension or disbarment.

Timothy J. O’Sullivan, executive director of The Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, urges that lawyers who keep money belonging to clients be disbarred. Period.

Mr. O’Sullivan, whose group provides compensation to the victims of crooked lawyers, argues that automatic disbarment for any lawyer found guilty of stealing a client’s money will deliver a solid message to victims, the public and to other lawyers about the administration of justice in New York. He also proposed random audits on attorneys across the state to ensure honesty.

As long as an accused lawyer’s own legal rights are protected, Mr. O’Sullivan’s case is hard to argue. It would hold lawyers practicing in the state to appropriately high standards.

A civil rights attorney described for the committee an equally disturbing situation: huge gaps in New York’s monitoring of district attorneys. Stephen K. Downs observed that while there is a watchdog commission for judges, no equivalent mechanism oversees district attorneys. Because they are members of the bar, prosecutors who violate the law or commit other kinds of misconduct would be subject to the same grievance process that investigates other lawyers. But such probes and disciplinary actions involving prosecutors are rare, Mr. Downs said, leaving judgment solely in the hands of voters.

If that is true, a crackdown is needed. Prosecutorial misconduct is as intolerable as police wrongdoing.

This initiative by Chief Judge Lippman – who unfortunately must step down at the end of this year due to mandatory retirement rules covering state judges – deserves full support. That will occur only if the courageous testimony delivered by the speakers in Albany is followed by equally assertive recommendations from the committee.

Demanding more accountability for the action of all attorneys, including prosecutors, will elevate both the legal profession’s standards and the public’s confidence in New York’s justice system. That would be a fine addition to Judge Lippman’s legacy.

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A closer eye on lawyers

Health Care Decision-Making Authority of Guardians and Agents: An Update

In the summer of 2003, Sarah B. Richardson1 penned an article on guardianship entitled “Health Care Decision Making: A Guardian’s Authority,” which was published in Volume 24 of the Commission on Law and Aging’s Bifocal. Richardson’s article provided a fifty-state examination on the relationship between patient-appointed health care agents and court-appointed guardians, and whether one appointment statutorily trumps the other appointment.2 As one would expect, the twelve years that have passed since Richardson’s examination have necessitated a new inspection.

While the definition varies from one state to the next, capacity in health care decision-making may be described as “the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of health care decisions, including the benefits and risks of and alternatives to any proposed health care, and to reach an informed decision.”3 When an individual’s ability to make health care decisions begins to diminish, an advance directive becomes an effective tool for providing informed consent for medical treatment. An advance directive is an expression of personal preferences created prior to incapacity, which can dictate health care instructions or appoint a health care agent to make appropriate decisions when necessary.

On occasion, the incapacitated individual’s voice may be drowned out by a court’s appointment of a guardian. Guardianships occur when a court has deemed that an individual is incapacitated and appoints a decision-maker to act on behalf of the incapacitated individual in one or several areas of decision-making.4 When dealing with health care decisions, an incapacitated individual’s health care agent is often the presumptive guardianship nominee since the individual has already placed his or her trust in someone willing to undertake the task.5 However, courts still might choose another candidate if there is evidence of abuse, failure to act, or a decision that is beyond the scope of the health care agent’s powers under the advance directive.

On those rare occasions when an incapacitated individual has both a health care agent and a guardian, confusion as to the authority of the health care decision-makers may emerge.6 Most states have recognized that the competing voices of a guardian and a health care agent must fall to the clarity of a single authority. By 2003, 34 states acknowledged the possible conflict of dual appointments and had created statutes granting authority over health care decisions to just one of the appointees.7 In 2003, 28 states recognized that the authority of health care agents to make health care decisions trumped the guardian’s authority.8 As of 2015, that number has expanded to 35 states and the District of Columbia.9 Interestingly, by 2003, six states had determined that the court-appointed guardian’s authority to make health care decisions trumped the health care agent’s authority.10 That number has now risen to 12 states.11

Although the expansion of states adopting statutes that grant health care decision-making authority to a single appointee provides clarity, only health care agents preserve the true voice of the incapacitated individual. Since a guardian is a court-appointed official, a guardian may not be familiar with the incapacitated individual’s personal values and preferences. The same cannot be said for a health care agent who had been personally chosen by the individual prior to incapacity.

The problem presented by giving priority to guardians rather than health care agents may be mitigated to an extent by statutes incorporating some form of a guardianship decision-making standard. Decision-making standards are instrumental in attempting to align the guardian’s health care decisions to what the individual would have wanted.12 In 2003, 22 states had statutes incorporating a decision-making standard for guardians.13 Currently, that number has risen to 37 states and the District of Columbia.14

Both the Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act (UHCDA) and the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act (UGPPA) advocate the inclusion of a decision-making standard that generally follows a three-step hierarchy in decision-making: (1) in accordance with the explicit instructions of the individual, (2) in accordance with the personal values and preferences of the individual, or (3) in accordance with the best interests of the individual.15 As of 2015, only 21 states have adopted a decision-making standard that follows the UHCDA and UGPPA format;16 the majority of the remaining states only follow either one or two of the decision-making steps.17 National standards for guardians internalize the importance of maintaining the incapacitated individual’s voice by giving priority to the individual’s explicit instructions, values, and preferences.18

As the issues facing incapacitated individuals gain momentum in the eyes of our society,19 the remaining states may recognize the need for adopting statutes addressing the relationship between patient-appointed health care agents and court-appointed guardians.20 While states granting authority to guardians rather than health care agents provide clarity, only statutes allowing health care agents to trump guardians provide progress.  (Continue Reading)

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Health Care Decision-Making Authority of Guardians and Agents: An Update