Saturday, January 23, 2016

Steve Miller: Attorney Elyse Tyrell has been Jason Hanson's "Trustee" since his exploitation began in 2006

By Steve Miller
January 22, 2016

LAS VEGAS - Attorney Elyse Tyrell has been Trustee for cerebral palsy victim Jason Hanson for over ten years according to multiple COURT MINUTES that begin on June 13, 2006 and continue through March 25, 2015.

Tyrell is presently serving as a Commissioner on the Nevada Supreme Court Guardianship Commission, and touts this prestigious position on her resume posted on her law firm website.

Jason Hanson turned twenty one on Sept. 21, 2010, but continued being under an unnecessary trusteeship nonetheless with attorney Tyrell and her client private guardian Jared E. Shafer controlling every penny of his assets even though Jason was gifted intellectually and did not need trustees to handle his finances.

This means that Tyrell was Trustee at the time her client Shafer squandered Jason's 1,200 sq. ft. wheelchair accessible condominium without Jason's knowledge or consent for only $47,000 when comparable units in the same development were selling for $135,000 - $175,000.

In the meantime, Jason was placed into a group home at taxpayer's expense even though his family had provided him with a house and adequate funds for his support.

Now, Tyrell wants Jason to "pick up" a check that she's been holding without his knowledge or consent since March 2015 that purportedly contains the remaining proceeds from the $80,000 trust Jason's grandmother set up for him before her death.

It will be interesting to see how much of Jason's grandmother's bequest remains after Tyrell and Shafer deduct their "fees."

Below is an example of one of 12 pages of COURT MINUTES listing Tyrell as Jason's Trustee during the entire period he was being exploited, and documents showing the squandering of his house: - SM

Steve Miller: Jason Hanson Cautioned!

Yesterday, while cerebral palsy victim and former ward of the court Jason Hanson was waiting in the Nevada Supreme Court lobby just prior to testifying before the Guardianship Commission, his erstwhile Trustee and Guardianship Commission member Elyse Tyrell approached him to say, "Hi Jason, I've got your money!"

Tyrell has been holding Jason's trust account without his knowledge for almost one year, an account set up by his grandmother that in 2009 contained approximately $80,000. Several court observers believe she and her client, private guardian Jared Shafer, were possibly waiting for Jason to pass away so they could keep his trust money, but got caught yesterday when Jason showed up in his electric wheelchair with a cadre of supporters including several attorneys.

During the hearing Tyrell acting as a Commissioner stated on the record that she had been holding Hanson's inheritance at her law office, and he should come there to pick it up. She also announced she is deducting her legal fees from the account. Attorneys are cautioning Jason not to sign any documents including a gag order or hold harmless agreement prior to receiving his funds. Jason also has no idea how much Tyrell and her client Jared Shafer may have converted from his trust during the seven years they controlled it. Jason will now have to hire an attorney to ensure he is treated fairly by his former and present "trustees." Yesterday was one more example of why the Commission was formed, and why their power must be expanded to include the ability to initiate criminal prosecution.-  ~Steve Miller

Jason's testimony in full:
Before I begin, I wanted to thank the members of this commission for giving me the opportunity to speak. I’m a disabled Las Vegas resident who is in need of your help.

On June 27th 2008 I was informed by telephone that my father died. Jared Shafer was the person who contacted me. He said he was the administrator of my late father’s estate. I attempted to contact Mr. Shafer on several occasions after his first phone call.

Mr. Shafer’s attitude toward me was very condescending. He was rude, arrogant and wouldn’t answer my questions and ended my calls by hanging up on me. When I asked about my house, he refused to talk about it. A close friend gave Shafer a list of my personal needs but the items on this list were ignored with no explanation.

Mr. Shafer also became the trustee of my supplemental needs trust, created by my then guardian, Francis Fine. Francis never provided me any accounting either. I believe that Fine and Shafer used the funds from my trust which was created for me by my grandmother. There was over $80,000 in this trust and none of the funds have ever been accounted for. I have not received any money from this inheritance.

Shafer sold my father’s house and the personal contents without my consent or knowledge during his time as trustee. I have no idea what happened to all of this money because I have received no accounting or information on the sale of the family home.

I was told not long ago that Elyse Tyrell became the new trustee after Shafer gave it up in 2014. I have not received any accounting or information from Elyse Tyrell. It is painful for me to learn that Ms. Tyrell is on this Commission.

I was never provided with an attorney, even when I asked for one. I have not benefited from the sale of my father’s home or the remaining funds in the trust. My father made the home wheel chair accessible for me so that I could live as a normal person. Why should I live in a group home now when my father left a house and money for my care?

I am competent, intelligent and I know my civil rights have been seriously violated, especially my ADA rights.

I believe that Jared Shafer stole from me by lining his pockets; other victims report receiving identical treatment from him. Please understand Mr. Shafer can only accomplish this through the assistance of highly unethical and greedy attorneys who sold their souls for the right to take money from helpless victims who can’t fight back.

I believe that Shafer and his associates are amoral and disgusting people preying on the disabled victims they are supposed to be protecting. They act like a hoard of greedy demons and at the center of this corruption is the devil himself, Jared E. Shafer.

I’m only one voice and it is my hope that my case will open the door for countless guardianship victims who can’t fight back. Please make these people accountable for their actions.

The goal of elder justice dangles within reach

By Barbara Peters Smith 

"I know she steals my silverware, but at least she comes every day."

Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, quoted these words of her former patient in a Grantmakers in Aging webinar this week, "Making Elder Justice a Reality." The poignant mix of vulnerability and pragmatism at work here is no doubt familiar to a lot of elders and their caregivers, and it illustrates the difficulty of finally doing something meaningful about the complex problem of elder abuse.

Kathy Greenlee
Joining her in the talk was Kathy Greenlee, U.S. assistant secretary for aging and a passionate advocate for raising the profile of elder abuse. The fact that abuse can be physical, emotional and financial complicates the work to combat it, Greenlee said.

"When we talk about an estimated 10 percent of older adults having abuse every year, the number is so large that it becomes a bit numbing," she said. "We are decades behind other fields, such as domestic violence and child abuse, and we really need research in every direction to help us form a response."

Since the passage of the 2010 Elder Justice Act, in concert with the Affordable Care Act, the ball started rolling slowly but is picking up speed. Greenlee is working with a coalition of some 12 federal departments and agencies to put together the first federal "home" for adult protective services.

"It's significant," she said. "At a federal level we've had an office for child protective services for decades." But for adults, "we have 50 different approaches. It creates a patchwork across the country and gives us no real sense of what the national picture looks like, in terms of data and quality."

Even with better research, it won't be easy. Greenlee cited a new report by the Frameworks Institute that was designed to answer her question of "why not everybody in the world is as enraged as I am about elder abuse." The provocative report highlights the thin line between protection and paternalism:

"When thinking about elder abuse, people assume that it is up to younger people to make decisions for older people. When this mode of thinking is active, the public understands older people as objects to be cared for and protected, rather than as actors with voices and minds of their own. These understandings not only fuel ageism but also make it hard for the public to understand how older people’s integration and participation in the community can help to prevent elder abuse."

Hospital price check
The march to greater transparency in health care costs continues: The Florida Hospital Association has unveiled a new section of its “Mission to Care” website, with information on hospital prices and quality. The website also provides context for the cost data and emphasizes that patients should contact their hospitals, physicians and health plans for accurate out-of-pocket estimates.

Full Article & Source:
The goal of elder justice dangles within reach

Seniors Grow Old Waiting for House to Act on Crucial Legislation

By Paul Downey

Last summer we applauded the Senate’s unanimous re-authorization of the Older Americans Act and expected the House to concur. Signed into law more than 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson, this significant piece of legislation has contributed to the economic well-being and quality of life for millions of our most vulnerable seniors.

The OAA provides funding to community-based organizations that help nearly 12 million people annually with services such as home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, preventive health, transportation, job training and elder abuse prevention. It is a lifeline for our most honored citizens providing them with the dignity that they have earned.

However, instead of celebrating Congressional re-authorization on the OAA’s 50th Anniversary, there has been no movement since being received by the House Education and the Workforce Committee six months ago. Two members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation — Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican, and Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat – sit on this committee.

The last time Congress reauthorized the OAA was in 2006. The legislation expired in 2011 and although funding has been carried out through continuing resolutions, it has not been adjusted for inflation or the growing number of poor elderly Americans. Since 2006, the number of Americans over the age of 60 has grown by 20 percent. Congress has not kept pace with funding these critical senior programs — meaning less is being spent per capita on seniors today than in 2006.

This is an extremely shortsighted approach. Supporting the health, wellness and independence of our nation’s seniors should not be a political issue. 

Studies have shown malnourished seniors take more medication, have higher rates of chronic medical conditions, and are more likely to fall and break bones. In addition, Medicare and Medicaid are the primary funding sources for malnourished patients, who have hospital stays nearly twice as long as those of well-nourished patients. Simply put, investing in programs like senior nutrition keeps people healthy and ultimately reduces public healthcare costs. 
Please call, write or visit Hunter and Davis asking them to seek immediate action on OAA re-authorization in their House committee. While you are at it, reach out to the rest of the delegation and encourage them to step up and do right by our seniors. It is time to end partisan gridlock and fulfill America’s promise from 1965 to take care of elderly adults with the greatest social and economic needs.

For two decades, Paul Downey has been the president and CEO of Serving Seniors, a nonprofit agency dedicated to increasing the quality of life for San Diego seniors living in poverty for the last 45 years.

Full Article & Source:
Seniors Grow Old Waiting for House to Act on Crucial Legislation

Nursing Assistant Fired, Charged After Posting Nude Video of 93-Year-Old on Snapchat

Photo by: Arman Zhenikeyev
Clarification, Jan. 19, 2016: This post has been clarified to explain how imprisonment in Wisconsin consists of both confinement behind bars as well as extended supervision.

A former nursing assistant at a Wisconsin assisted-living facility has been charged with a felony for allegedly taking a video of a mostly naked resident and posting it on Snapchat — the latest in a series of cases in which dehumanizing photos of seniors have been posted on social media.

The employee of Parkside Manor in Kenosha posted a video of a 93-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia sitting on a bed “in a bra and no underwear and no pant[s],” according to a criminal complaint filed last week in Kenosha County. She admitted her action to the facility’s executive director and said “it was immoral and very terribly wrong,” the complaint said.

The employee, Grace Riedlinger, 21, was fired and faces a charge of taking a nude photo without consent, for which she could be sentenced to 1½ years in prison and two years of extended supervision. She could not be reached for comment; her mother said an attorney had advised the family not to discuss the matter.

Last month, ProPublica identified 35 instances since 2012 in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers have surreptitiously shared photos or videos of residents, some of whom were partially or completely naked. At least 16 cases involved Snapchat, a social media service in which photos appear for a few seconds and then disappear with no lasting record. The latest incident adds to those figures.

In a written statement, Parkside Manor’s operator said the company launched an investigation as soon as it learned about the incident and notified state regulators. The employee was terminated and the facility alerted the police department.

“The termination of this employee is consistent with our zero tolerance policy relating to actions contrary our code of conduct,” said David Richey, senior regional director of operations for Senior Lifestyle Corp., in the statement. “Actions such as this will never be tolerated at our community. Our code of conduct contains very specific guidelines to govern employee behavior and includes policies regarding social networking and the use of technology that the employee in question clearly violated.”

Rebecca Dutter, supervisor of Adult Protective Services in Kenosha County, said she was devastated by the incident.

“For those of us who work in this field, it’s such a violation of everything we do, knowing that a client was violated like this,” she said. “I guess it’s our worst fear. We’ve always hoped that it wasn’t happening here.”

After ProPublica’s article last month, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., called on the Senate Aging Committee to investigate the issue. “It is troubling and disturbing that some seniors are unwillingly and unknowingly victims of exploitation and abuse on social media by some nursing home workers,” Donnelly, who serves on the aging committee, said in a statement. “That is why I am asking the Aging Committee to use all appropriate tools and resources to investigate this issue.”

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee, said, “Sen. Donnelly has raised a significant issue, and the Senate Aging Committee is currently inquiring into the troubling findings outlined in the ProPublica report.”

Collins and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the committee’s ranking Democrat, requested a review by the Government Accountability Office of all guardianship abuses last September and anticipate a hearing on the issue later this year.

In the Parkside Manor case, the criminal complaint says Riedlinger told a police officer that on January 5, the resident was “giving her a hard time getting changed over for bed.” The resident “was playing tug of war with her and she thought it was funny so she took a video of the encounter and uploaded the video to Snapchat under her ‘story’ section,” the complaint said. (The story section of Snapchat allows users to share videos with all of their friends for 24 hours, as opposed to sending photos or videos to only selected contacts.)

The facility was alerted to the videos by a woman who attended school with Riedlinger and was her Snapchat friend, the complaint said.

The Kenosha News first reported the incident last week.

Dutter of the county’s Adult Protective Services said she hopes senior living facilities will re-evaluate their policies about employees using cell phones around residents.

“Facilities are going to have to figure out some way of eliminating the accessibility of their staff members to do such a thing,” she said. “There are some really, really, good, wonderful skilled nursing assistants, and I don’t want this to be a black eye to all of them, because I’m sure they are disgusted and outraged like the rest of us are too.”

Full Article & Source:
Nursing Assistant Fired, Charged After Posting Nude Video of 93-Year-Old on Snapchat

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Illinois Laws Effective January 1, 2016

Public Act 99-0070

"Illinois Representative David Harris Introduced House Bill 2505, legislation that protects adults against guardianship abuse, signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on July 20, 2015.”

House Bill 2505 sponsored in the Senate by Senator Steve Stadelman amends the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 by limiting the powers and duties of a temporary guardian.

HB2505 Synopsis As Introduced:
Amends the Probate Act of 1975. Provides that a temporary guardian shall have the limited powers and duties (instead of "all of the powers and duties") of a guardian of the person or of the estate which are specifically enumerated by court order.

Public Act 99-0070

“The temporary guardian shall have the limited powers and duties of a guardian of the person or of the estate which are specifically enumerated by court order.”

NASGA Director Sylvia Rudek conferred with Representative Harris on House Bill 2505. NASGA enthusiastically supports Representative Harris’ and Senator Stadelman’s efforts and very much appreciates their commitment and legislative actions on behalf of the elderly and disabled of Illinois and victims of unlawful and abusive guardianships.

Representative Harris
Senator Stadelman

Review the new laws that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016

Commission on Law and Aging American Bar Association

READ Bill Status

NASGA Members in Legislative Action

Steve Miller: Estimated $160,000 Missing From Jason Hanson's Estate

Elyse Tyrell
LAS VEGAS - While cerebral palsy victim Jason Hanson was under the Clark County Family Court ordered trusteeship of Attorney Fran Fine, private guardian Jared E. Shafer, and attorney Elyse Tyrell , his trustees and guardians either participated in, or looked the other way, as an estimated $160,000+ was stolen from Jason's estate according to newly discovered Clark County court records.

Former Clark County Family Court Judge Fran Fine was court appointed in 2007 as Jason's guardian seven years after being found guilty of unethical conduct by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline, and removed from the bench for life.

Ex-judge Fine was only one of the highly esteemed professionals assigned as fiduciaries over Jason Hanson's estate until he reached adulthood. The others included Patience Bristol who was later imprisoned, Shafer who is currently under investigation for exploiting his wards, and Judge Charles Hoskin and Hearing Master Jon Norheim who were recently removed by the District Court Chief Judge judge from hearing future guardianship related cases.



SEPTEMBER 14, 2007

In the Matter of the Guardianship of the estate of JASON HANSON, minor ward, and pursuant to NRS 159.078 respectfully represents the following to this Honorable Court:

1. On the 13th day of February, 2007, an Order of the Court was entered appointing FRANCES ANN FINE the Guardian of JASON HANSON's estate.
3. JASON HANSON's estate consists of a blocked custodial account held with Charles Schwab in the approximate amount of eighty thousand dollars ($80,000.00).

Jared E. Shafer
On October 7, 2013, Jared Shafer presented the very past due and one and only Accounting of Jason Hanson's Trust to the Clark County Family Court for approval.

Jason was not notified of the hearing and had not received a copy of the Accounting. He had previously asked Hearing Master Norheim to appoint him an attorney for all future hearing, but Norheim refused which is a blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The court blindly approved the Accounting that neglected to mention the Charles Schwab account containing $80,000. The Accounting only stated that Jason's estate had a beginning balance of $48,963.24 that consisted mainly of the undervalued ADA equipped condominium Jason was supposed to inherit from his father that Shafer sold for only $47,000 without Jason's knowledge or approval.

Jason Hanson
Following the court's blind approval of the Accounting, Jason was presented with a check for $8,913.65 which comprised the total balance of his inheritance. At the hearing, no mention was made of why Jason's house was sold at a discount when other Key Condominiums on Lindell Rd. sold that year between $135,000 and $175,000, and no mention was made of the disposition of the $80,000 held with Charles Schwab.
~Steve Miller

In my E-Brief entitled "Estimated $160,000 Missing From Jason Hanson's Estate," published on January 20, 2016, I erroneously reported, "Following the court's blind approval of the Accounting, Jason was presented with a check for $8,913.65 which comprised the total balance of his inheritance."

It has since been confirmed that Mr. Hanson did not receive $8,913.65, and in fact has not received any proceeds from the 2009 sale of his father's handicap accessible house for the discounted sum of $47,000 without Jason's knowledge or consent after Jason had reached the legal age of consent, or any proceeds from his trust account held with Charles Schwab in the approximate amount of eighty thousand dollars ($80,000.00) that was set up by Hanson's grandparents.

The highly discounted sale of Hanson's Lindell Rd. house, and the whereabouts of the $80,000 will be discussed at the Nevada Supreme Court Guardianship Commission meeting on Friday, January 22, at 1 PM in the Nevada Supreme Court courtroom located on the 17th floor of the Clark County Regional Justice Center on Lewis Ave. in downtown Las Vegas.

Jason Hanson will appear at the hearing to ask his former Trustee, attorney Elyse Tyrell who is a member of the Guardianship Commission, to explain the whereabouts or disposition of the assets from his Charles Schwab account; discuss the highly discounted sale of his house without his consent; and ask why he was not provided an attorney after he requested one during a 2014 hearing in Clark County Hearing Master Jon Norheim's court - a clear violation of Jason's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Full PETITION, and Jason's full TRUST

Lawmakers turn attention to opioid abuse

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill
Drug abuse in the United States has become a growing threat, and Washington has taken notice.

Only a few sentences into his State of the Union address last week, President Obama cited “battling prescription drug abuse” as one issue in which a divided Congress might find bipartisan agreement.

In Missouri, that seems to have already begun.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill led a field hearing in Jefferson City addressing what she termed an epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States.

Last week, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt spoke about the issue on the Senate floor, noting that the problem has especially grown among American veterans prescribed painkillers to deal with their service-related injuries.

News reports have pointed to the White House forming an interagency federal effort, headed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to look at the prescription drug and heroin problems in rural America.

A statistical starkness emerges from this. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report issued this month revealed “a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids” between 2000 and 2014. In 2014, more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States.

The CDC also pointed to 12,000 members of the Baby Boom generation dying from drug overdoses in 2013, a number that tops the deaths caused by car accidents or flu and pneumonia. The Aging Committee has taken on the issue because of the projection that, by 2020, 5.7 million Americans older than 50 will require treatment for substance abuse.

Opioids, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, serve as pain management drugs in many treatment regimens.

“Prescription drug abuse and heroin use is a major public health crisis that affects every community across this nation, and has unfortunately claimed the lives of many Americans,” McCaskill said at Tuesday’s hearing.

“Studies show that four out of five people who abused prescription opioids eventually transition to heroin as pills become too difficult or expensive to obtain. Today’s prescription opioid abuser could easily become tomorrow’s heroin user.”

Blunt, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with federal health-care programs, reinforced this, saying that the path between prescription drug abuse and heroin use has become well-traveled.

“We have made a new commitment to this issue with new programs that are targeted to combat opioid abuse ... with almost three times the investment that the country made before,” he told fellow senators. “This is truly becoming an epidemic, and we need to deal with that epidemic sooner rather than later.”

Full Article & Source:
Lawmakers turn attention to opioid abuse

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Helen O'Grady: Lawyer Agahst as Savitt Withdraws $30,000

Thomas Mayes of Boynton Beach sought legal advice in a dispute with his two brothers over his mother’s health care and finances. His attorney, Clifford Hark of Boca Raton, recommended [Elizabeth}Savitt as a guardian for his mother, Helen O’Grady.

Even with Savitt as guardian, it was Mayes who made his mother’s doctor’s appointments, managed her transportation, readied her house for sale — all tasks he thought Savitt should have handled.

After Mayes’ mother died, Savitt recommended that the family urge the court to appoint her curator of the estate, telling them it would save money for her to temporarily manage it until the family disputes were settled.

Once that happened and Mayes became personal representative of the estate, he said he could not get Savitt to pony up details of his mother’s financial picture and relinquish control.

Elizabeth Savitt
Before Mayes could get a grip on his mother’s finances, Savitt starting withdrawing money, court pleadings show.

She wrote herself a check for $1,725 and another for $1,745 to Hazeltine for fees before a judge approved it, according to a pleading filed by attorneys. Hazeltine said Savitt obtained an order allowing her to write the checks, but the order Hazeltine referenced said nothing about fees, court documents show.

Then Savitt took without proper court approval $30,000 to be “held in trust” by her and Hazeltine.

“This action is so beyond the realm of reasonable conduct that I can hardly express myself right now,” Mayes’ attorney, Christopher Salivar, said in a series of emails to Hazeltine.

Mayes’ lawyers, Andrew M. Schwartz and Salivar, told the court that Savitt actions amounted to the unlawful taking of O’Grady’s property.

“The foregoing actions in and of themselves fall within the textbook legal definition of conversion.”

Mayes agreed. “To me, I thought it was a criminal act. They were intentionally stealing it. This is how they make their money.”

Judge Edward Garrison ordered Savitt and Hazeltine to return all but about$2,600 of the $30,000.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships: A Broken Trust

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Lorraine Hilton: Son Accused of Abuse Gets Money From Savitt

In the case of retired decorator Lorraine Hilton, Savitt’s actions benefited Hilton’s son Robert, who was accused of physically abusing and stealing from his mother, according to court documents. [Elizabeth] Savitt’s attorney Hazeltine persuaded Hilton herself — who had advancing dementia — to agree to a guardianship.

Her other son, James Hilton, learned in March 2013 that Savitt had taken control of his mother’s assets, though Lorraine Hilton had a living trust established in 2007. Lorraine Hilton in a declaration for a preneed guardian explicitly stated that she didn’t want her son Robert taking care of her.

James Hilton sought to intervene as an emergency guardian. He also wanted a restraining order against his brother, Robert. James Hilton cited incidents such as an “accident” in which Lorraine Hilton broke her hip and Robert left her at the hospital and left the state, court documents say.

“I am truly alarmed that a judicial process has been put in place there without me having been duly contacted,” wrote James Hilton, who died in February.

Robert Hilton declined to comment. Billing documents in the case indicate his many demands on Savitt, such as for $20,000 of his mother’s money to buy a warehouse.

Billings from Savitt and Hazeltine memorialize phone messages from Robert Hilton left for Savitt in which his mother can be heard weeping in the background. On another, she called when all of sudden Lorraine Hilton let out “a blood-curdling scream and cuts off.”

Savitt resigned after James Hilton came forward. James Hilton objected to Savitt’s final accounting, accusing her of funneling money to Robert Hilton.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Lorraine Hilton:  Son Accused of Abuse Gets Money From Savitt

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Robert Wein, Costly Try at Annulling Marriage

The case of Robert Wein illustrates the often savage nature of guardianship cases. Family members say [Elizabeth] Savitt splits families into camps by pursuing what is called “staged litigation,” settling disputes in court to run up fees.

On one side is Daniel Wein, Robert’s brother.

The other side is Robert’s wife, Vita, and Jodi Rich, Daniel’s estranged daughter.

Rich said all Savitt has done as guardian is “bill, bill, bill” and criticized her lack of success in tracking down$700,000 in promissory notes owed to her late uncle, who died Dec. 1. Robert Wein was worth up to $3 million, according to court documents.

Though married in 1958, the couple renewed their vows in 2014 and obtained a Florida marriage license. Daniel Wein believed his brother divorced Vita, 82, and wasn’t competent enough to remarry. So for the last months of Robert Wein’s life, Savitt — as his guardian — focused on undoing the union of this elderly couple in a fight over what would be a lucrative estate.

Vita, as a spouse, can claim one-third of Wein’s estate. Daniel claims Vita Wein and Jodi Rich are interested only in that money.

“She has been guardian for 12 months and hasn’t done anything except try to dissolve the marriage of these two elderly people who had been married for 58 years,” said Rich before Wein’s death. “So there are two marriage licenses. Who cares? What’s the difference? They wanted to end their life together.”

Emails show Savitt discussing with Daniel Wein trying to get the authority to annul Robert’s marriage, contending he and Vita were divorced and that she tricked him into remarrying in 2014. Savitt also was trying before Robert’s death to amend the trust to give Daniel $150,000.

“Daniel and Savitt, they are in bed together,” Rich said. “We have a lot of evidence.”

Litigation on the marriage issue resulted in an expensive 2½ hour court hearing and depositions before the matter was dropped unceremoniously by Savitt at a hearing in August.

Elizabeth Savitt
“Savitt is the culprit here. She is the one who caused all the problems,” Rich said. “She shouldn’t be a guardian.” Daniel Wein, though, praised Savitt for protecting his brother’s assets.

“I don’t know how she handles her other cases; I know with this, particularly with my brother, they have been aboveboard,” he said.

Vita Wein, though, has pressed Savitt to explain her actions.

In a June 10 deposition and in his motion for Savitt’s removal, Vita’s attorney at the time, Rosenwater, repeatedly tried to get the judge’s wife to say why she hadn’t filed one invoice in the case in eight months but took $17,000 without prior court approval.

When Savitt refused to answer a question about whether she had any objections to a critical report to the court on Wein, Rosenwater was exasperated. “She can’t answer. It’s amazing,” he said.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Robert Wein, Costly Try at Annulling Marriage

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Savitt's Home, $308,000 Staves Off Auction

In 2011, just before the Batson case, [Elizabeth] Savitt became a registered professional guardian. Savitt and Colin’s financial picture — replete with foreclosures, debt and liens — started to improve.

Savitt’s path from tennis professional to professional guardian didn’t require much heavy lifting. She completed 40 hours of training, put up a $50,000 bond for her firm Savitt Guardians and submitted to credit and criminal background checks.

The Department of Elder Affairs registered her as a professional guardian in 2011 despite a pending foreclosureon a home she owns in Delray Beach.

Savitt passed the credit check after telling the department that she was in a dispute with her lender and wasn’t past due because of “neglect or oversight.” It wasn’t until November 2014 that her dispute was settled with ajudgment of foreclosure, sending the house to the auction block.

Elizabeth Savitt
Six days before the home was to be auctioned off in March, she came up with $308,000 to satisfy a delinquent home equity loan, court records show. She didn’t make payments for several years on the $250,000 loan and rented out the home for a portion of that period.

Vassallo found the timing of the $308,000 payment suspicious. “I want to know if any of my father’s money went to her foreclosure case,” he said. When he told Judge French his concerns, a May 21 hearing was abruptly ended.

Despite the delinquencies, Savitt said she paid off the home equity loan on her property before the note was due. “I do not know how many professional guardians are debt free as I am,” she said.

Most of Savitt’s cases are in front of Judge French. Two of French’s ex-wives have described Colin and French as good friends who once planned a vacation together. The two judges have lunch together frequently in Delray Beach.

Families say they are also frustrated by the lack of transparency in the guardianship cases of their loved ones. It's not unusual for key documents regarding the guardian's activities to be sealed.

Full Article and Source:
Guardianships:  A Broken Trust:  Savitt's Home, $308,000 Staves Off Auction

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: The High Cost of Family Discord; Fees Blossom in Couret

The families involved in guardianship cases are often broken. Brothers hate sisters. Fathers characterize their own daughters as evil for opposing them in court. It’s not unusual for many family members to hire lawyers themselves, accusing one another of scheming to get the riches of the incapacitated senior.

Families who spoke to The Post say [Elizabeth] Savitt exploits those rifts to pursue litigation that drives up her fees. Savitt’s attorneys, though, say it’s the family rancor that necessitates costly actions in guardianships, such as removing a sibling from a trust of a senior.

“I don’t know if they seek out cases where there is family dysfunction, but they certainly take advantage of it,” said Bruce Rosenwater, a West Palm Beach attorney who sought to remove Savitt from a guardianship.

Elizabeth Savitt
Some family members applaud Savitt. The husband of one of her wards, Dolores Thur, said she’s been a good caretaker and his wife’s assets have been documented painstakingly. Lester Thur, 84, says he doesn’t think any criticism of Savitt is justified even though his wife’s case is under investigation by the clerk, which has questioned several items in the annual inventory, including double-billing.

In five Savitt cases The Post examined, however, family members said the judge’s wife seemed more interested in the money from the estate than caring for the incapacitated senior.

The cases involved Brooklyn plumber Vassallo, 87; Kansas schoolteacher Helen O’Grady, 83; New York accountant Robert Paul Wein, 89; Chicago-area decorator Lorraine Hilton, 94; and Gwendolyn Batson, 89, a retired school administrator who lived in Lake Worth.

O’Grady died in 2012, Batson in 2013 and Wein died Dec. 1, but the other two are still alive and under the power of Savitt.

Full Article and Source:
High Cost of Family Discord:  Fees Blossom in Court

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Gwen Batson: Savitt Clears House With Husband's Order

In a case The Post wrote about in April, [Elizabeth] Savitt along with attorney Sheri Hazeltine — who represents Savitt in many cases — hauled out belongings from Gwendolyn Batson’s Lake Worth home. Photos show they took nearly everything but the chandelier. Wearing badges with the word “guardian,” they invoked an order signed by Judge Colin, witnesses told The Post.

Colin’s order appointed Batson’s brother and sister-in-law as emergency temporary guardians for Batson in late January 2012, court records show. That decision would be oreversed by a successor judge, but not before Savitt and Hazeltine in mid-February broke the lock on the home that Batson lived in and seized all of the belongings.

It turned out the home and much of the property seized didn’t belong to Batson but to restaurateur Skender Hoti, a Kosovo native who had taken care of Batson for decades. To get appointed emergency temporary guardian, Batson’s brother, Kenneth Davis, claimed Hoti had taken financial advantage of his sister. Colin agreed, noting in his order that immediate action needed to be taken to safeguard Batson’s belongings.

But if Hoti was taking advantage of Batson, it was a long con. Their relationship spanned decades. She traveled to Kosovo to attend his wedding and was a fixture at Hoti’s Lake Worth restaurant, Little Italy. Hoti claimed the guardianship was a means for Davis to seize his sister’s properties.

Davis used Colin’s order — employing the judge’s wife to help — to seize all the possessions in the home where his sister lived.

Elizabeth Savitt
As Savitt and others moved items into a truck, Hoti called sheriff’s deputies who stopped them. The two argued that they had authority from Judge Colin but the deputies said the order was insufficient, that they needed what is called a writ of possession.

Hoti said he saw Savitt scream at deputies: “You can’t do that. I’m a judge’s wife. I’m Judge Colin’s wife."

Three days after the seizure of Hoti’s property, Colin recused himself from the case.

Savitt wasn’t Batson’s guardian, yet Judge French approved paying her $1,500 of Batson’s money. The clerk questioned the expenditure more than a year after the house was cleared out and then Savitt submitted a bill, court documents show.

Hoti said even though deputies made them return his possessions, he later found valuables missing: jewelry, firearms and about $18,000 in cash.

Full Article and Source:
Gwen Batson:  Savitt Clears House With Husband's Order

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Guardianships: A Broken Trust

Reporter John Pacenti
by John Pacenti, Palm Beach Post Reporter

Judge Martin Colin is married to guardian Elizabeth Savitt. She manages the lives of seniors who can’t take care of themselves.

With her career choice comes complications … and accusations – her husband’s influence over her lawyers; another judge, his daily lunch companion, approving her fees; and her taking money from the seniors before any judge approves it.

Guardianships:  A Broken Trust

See Also:
How We Got the Story

Explore the Documents

The Past Hot Water Over His Wife

The Couple's Financial Picture

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judge, Wife Benefit From Frail Seniors' Money

The savings of incapacitated seniors flow into the household of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Martin Colin.

This occurs courtesy of Colin’s wife — Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt. She serves as a professional guardian, appointed by judges to make decisions for adults who no longer can take care of themselves.

Savitt makes her money off the nest eggs of the elderly, many suffering from dementia and put in guardianships in the same Probate & Guardianship Division where Judge Colin wields considerable influence. His fellow judges approve Savitt’s fees.

Savitt has taken money from the elderly people whose lives she controls without first getting a judge’s approval as well as double-billed their accounts, a Palm Beach Post investigation has uncovered in court records. Families of some of the seniors say the judge’s wife and her attorneys drum up unnecessary litigation that runs up fees, benefiting herself, the judge and her lawyers.

Judge David French
Savitt doesn’t appear before her husband, but Judge Colin does oversee other guardianship cases where he is responsible for safeguarding the finances and well-being of these “wards” of the court. Colin’s colleague, Circuit Judge David French who lunches with him regularly, has overseen almost two-thirds of Savitt’s cases. Some lawyers who have opposed Savitt in Judge French’s courtroom say he didn’t disclose that Savitt is the wife of a fellow judge or his social connections to the couple.

The lawyers Savitt has hired to represent her also practiced before her husband in other cases, where he had the power to approve their fees. A former Florida Supreme Court chief justice and a law professor say this constitutes, at minimum, an appearance of impropriety and should be investigated.

Full Article and Source:
Judge, Wife Benefit From Frail Senior's Money

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judge's Wife Accused of Taking Fees Before Court OK's Them

Elizabeth "Betsy" Savitt, a tennis pro turned professional guardian for incapacitated senior citizens, profits from her marriage to a sitting judge, a Palm Beach Post investigation has uncovered.

As the wife of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Martin Colin, Savitt wields power in her husband’s Probate & Guardianship Division, where guardians are appointed to take over the lives of seniors no longer able to care for themselves. Fees for guardians and their attorneys are paid from the assets of their elderly wards and approved by the court.

In several cases, Savitt has taken tens of thousands of dollars from their accounts without prior court permission, The Post found in court documents.

The chief auditor for Palm Beach County's clerk and comptroller says that in about 800 guardianship cases he's reviewed, only one guardian has taken money without first getting court approval: Judge Colin's wife.

Some of the seniors’ family members express frustration with what they say are unnecessary legal disputes pursued by Savitt that drive up fees for her and her lawyers, depleting their loved one’s assets. In addition, they say Savitt funneled cash and assets to family members accused of financially, or in one case, even physically abusing the senior she is sworn to protect, court documents show.

In December 2014, Savitt held a “mini estate sale” advertised on Craigslist at Judge Colin’s address. “Cleaned out a home and selling all I could find,” the ad said. A lawyer said in court that he was concerned the items belonged to one of the seniors.

In another case, court records show Savitt, working for a family guardian, seized items inside a home and helped load them onto a moving truck. A lot of the items, however, belonged to the homeowner and not the senior. Sheriff’s deputies and a judge made Savitt and her attorney return the items.

Savitt doesn’t appear in front of her husband. She does appear in front of his colleagues.

Full Article and Source:
Judge's Wife Accused of Taking Fees Before Court OK's Them

Monday, January 18, 2016

Steve Miller: Jared Shafer Victim Jason Hanson to Testify Friday at Guardianship Commission Meeting

Jason Hanson, 26 year old cerebral palsy victim of private professional guardian Jared E. Shafer, will testify this Friday before the Nevada Supreme Court Guardianship Commission.

Hanson will tell the commission how Shafer stole his ADA equipped house and inheritance while he was under Shafer's trusteeship.

Following Hanson's presentation, Steve Miller will testify that one of the Guardianship Commission members, attorney Elyse Tyrell, was Hanson's successor trustee after Shafer. Miller will inquire how Tyrell failed to provide her client, Hanson, any accounting of the disposition of his assets that included her fees, and to whom the proceeds from the sale his house and proceeds from his trust were distributed.

Here is a video of Jason telling his story to videographer Mike Christ and ombudsman Steve Miller:

The hearing is open to the public.


See Also:
The Jason Hanson - Jared E. Shafer Story:  "Special Administrator" Jared E. Shafer Takes House and Inheritance From 24-Year-Old Man With Cerebral Palsy

Financial exploitation cases burden seniors, Indiana

In a matter of months, a caregiver wiped out an Indy woman’s savings.

Julie Lagos
 Julie Lagos swiped an Indianapolis woman’s credit cards to pay for tattoos, body piercings, a 60-inch TV, furniture rentals and a racing vehicle for her boyfriend. Lagos even charged the filing fee for her divorce to the 79-year-old’s Chase card.

All in all, Lagos was accused of spending more than $150,000 of the older woman’s money. Perhaps even more disturbing was their relationship: Lagos was hired to be the woman’s caregiver.

In a matter of months, Lagos had turned her client’s savings into her personal playground.

But it would take a year and a half to file criminal charges — and many cases never get that far.

Indiana’s underfunded and understaffed Adult Protective Services system is so swamped that it struggles to investigate all but the most egregious and clear-cut cases of financial exploitation, an IndyStar investigation has found.

Multiple officials told IndyStar that financial exploitation cases, which are among the most complex and time-consuming to investigate, often sink to the bottom of a priority list when APS investigators are facing allegations of horrific abuse or neglect.

Officials in one APS unit told IndyStar they have open financial exploitation cases that are up to seven years old. The victims are safe, they say, but investigators haven’t had time to pursue criminal charges.

That problem is expected to get worse. The number of financial exploitation cases in Indiana rose 33 percent in the past decade, according to Michael Patterson, executive director of Indiana APS.
“It’s going to be a drain on our resources if we don’t get a handle on it,” he said.

The National Adult Protective Services Association estimates that 1 in 10 victims of financial exploitation ends up on public assistance, such as Medicaid. Research indicates victims also are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to move into nursing homes.

Indiana saw 1,277 financial exploitation cases involving elder adults in 2010 alone, compared with just 110 bank robberies, according to state records. Bank robberies that year resulted in losses of less than $1 million. Financial exploitation: $38 million.

Nationally, older adults lose about $2.9 billion each year through financial abuse and exploitation, according to a 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse.

Demographic changes are behind the numbers. First, the population is aging. And, second, pensions have become less popular, meaning retirees handle more of their own savings.

“It’s a tempting target: declining health plus money,” said Orion Bell, president and CEO of CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions.

Legislators are considering several bills that would make it easier to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. But prosecutors say APS needs more investigators to handle the cases it has now, let alone those coming from the “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers.

‘You’ll have to talk to Julie’

Lagos met her client, a woman with dementia, while working for a home care company in the Indianapolis area, Marion Superior Court records state. When the company went out of business, the woman asked Lagos to continue to provide services through a private agreement.

In 2009, the client’s power of attorney agreed to pay Lagos $200 for three visits per week. She helped with the woman’s personal care, grocery shopping, house cleaning and errands.

About a year later, in June 2010, the elderly woman opened a new Bank of America credit card. Lagos was added as an authorized user in August.

In one month, the Indianapolis woman’s credit card balance ballooned from zero to $19,175.20.

A Bank of America fraud analyst called Lagos, who said she was the older woman’s caregiver. Then she provided a fake address.

The analyst also reached out to the cardholder to ask about the large purchases. The woman told the analyst she didn’t know anything about the transactions but said she wanted Lagos on the account.
She started to cry.

Don’t call again, she told the analyst.

The analyst called Indiana Adult Protective Services on Oct. 12, 2010, to report suspected financial exploitation.

The next day, APS investigator Joie Davis visited the 80-year-old woman, who cracked the door open, the chain lock still attached. Davis flashed a badge and ID.

“You’ll have to talk to Julie,” the woman said, quickly shutting the door. Davis knocked again, repeatedly, but the woman wouldn’t respond.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
Financial exploitation cases burden seniors, Indiana

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tonight on T.S. Radio: Nancy Madore, Author of "The Ethics of Judge Nadeau"

Hosted by Marti Oakley & Debbie Dahmer

Guest: Nancy Madore author, The Ethics of Judge Nadeau

The Ethics of Judge Nadeau is the TRUE story of a judge who presides over York County Probate Court in York, Maine. The premise of the book is that—in spite of the Maine Board of Overseers' rulings to the contrary—the behavior of Judge Robert M.A. Nadeau is unethical. Referencing real exhibits, orders and depositions in actual court cases, The Ethics of Judge Nadeau provides a bird’s eye view into the logic and reasoning behind behavior so incredible it will take your breath away. This candid and (often) humorous account of Robert Nadeau’s antics (in and out of the courtroom) is as entertaining as it is shocking.

The Ethics of Judge Nadeau is based on the premise that there are some things a lawyer should never do—especially if he’s a judge—because they are either unethical, illegal, or just plain wrong.

Links to actual court documents, depostions, court orders, and BAR findings can be found here:

How can anyone read through these documents and not be enraged at the abuse of this particular judge and the cover-up by the BAR oversight boards which have condoned his outrageous behavior. This is a cover-up! And this so-called "judge" is still sitting on the bench!

The Grey Prison: Contact ABC13 Investigates with Darcy Spears

The Grey Prison

Cops Bring Month’s Worth of Groceries to Old Man Who Phoned 911 Hungry

Police officers went above and beyond their duty to help an elderly, disabled man who hadn’t eaten in two days.

The 79-year-old called the Mount Pleasant Tennessee Police Department as a last resort after, he says, a caretaker took off with his social security check.

Four officers spent $160 out of their own pockets to make sure he had food for a month, until his next check arrived. They then showed up at his house with armfuls of groceries.

Afterwards, they started a food pantry at the station, just in case they can help other people in similar situations.

“We’re out here to take care of the public at large and that doesn’t always mean stopping a car,” Patrolman Mark Billions told WKRN News. “Sometimes it’s us doing little things like this.”

Full Article & Source:
Cops Bring Month’s Worth of Groceries to Old Man Who Phoned 911 Hungry

CJD Finds Ex-Traffic Court Judge Broke Conduct Rules

The Court of Judicial Discipline has found the ex-administrative judge of the Philadelphia Traffic Court, Michael Sullivan, brought the judiciary into disrepute with his role in a ticket-fixing scheme that pervaded the court.

The disciplinary court ruled Thursday that Sullivan had violated several rules governing the conduct of magisterial district judges, prejudiced the proper administration of justice and brought the office into disrepute. The opinion and order, which was written by Judge Jack A. Panella, also set a sanctions hearing for Feb. 5 in the Commonwealth Court courtroom in Harrisburg.

Although Sullivan and several other ex-Traffic Court judges had been found not guilty in the federal prosecution stemming from the same ticket-fixing allegations, the Judicial Conduct Board had contended that Sullivan's conduct violated the state constitution and the state's Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges.

Following a disciplinary trial in November, the court agreed that Sullivan had violated the conduct rules and said he played a large role in a system of "special consideration" for Traffic Court defendants who were politically connected, or friends and family members of the judges and court employees.

"The process afforded to his friends and family, and those with political connections, was different from that given to other members of the general public. In short, respondent and the colleagues who joined him in this system were 'fixing tickets,'" Panella said. "A more apparent case of conduct which brings the judicial office into disrepute is difficult to perceive."

Sullivan's attorney, Samuel C. Stretton, said he was "shocked" by the opinion, and said it did not take the facts of the case into consideration.

"The court's not supposed to start out with an agenda," Stretton said. "They totally ignored the undisputed facts in this case."

Stretton said Sullivan, who only has a high school education, had been taught by other judges that the system was proper procedure, and said that none of the police officers who appeared before Sullivan ever objected to the fact that Sullivan discussed citations with defendants before trial.

"He only gave mercy to the people who deserved it," Stretton said, adding that he plans to file objections to the court's findings.

The court's findings come on the heels of Sullivan pleading guilty to paying employees of his tavern under the table.

Sullivan entered his plea in early December before U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for failing to report and pay payroll taxes for employees of the Fireside Tavern, a South Philadelphia bar he co-owned. Sullivan could face up to a year in prison as a result.

In 2014, Sullivan and five other former judges were the focus of a two-month criminal trial for the ticket-fixing scheme.

At the conclusion, Sullivan, Chester County Magisterial District Judge Mark A. Bruno and businessman Robert Moy were found not guilty of fraud and conspiracy charges. Four other former Traffic Court judges beat the government's ticket-fixing charges but were convicted of lying.

The disciplinary court's opinion primarily focused on how Sullivan treated a case involving a friend, and another case involving a bartender who worked at the Fireside Tavern.  (Continue Reading)

Full Article & Source:
CJD Finds Ex-Traffic Court Judge Broke Conduct Rules