Saturday, July 9, 2016

Four Ways To Bust Elder Financial Fraud

It’s not hard to sniff out how swindlers prey upon the elderly. They know they respond to mail, phone and front-door solicitations. Older people like to talk to people they don’t know.

Holidays are a good time to talk about scam merchants. Families get together and it’s easier to talk about money stuff over beer and bbq.

Swindlers prey upon fear and insecurity. They blanket a neighborhood after a storm, offering to do “free storm damage asssessment.” They’ll pose as IRS agents or bill collectors to collect fake debts.

There’s an art to elder financial fraud and it’s practiced every day. If you know the danger signals, you can ward off these scamsters.

The most basic defense is a recognition that when people get into their eighth decades and beyond, they process information differently. While they may have perfect memories of something that happened 60 years ago, it’s difficult for them to make complex decisions, including financial ones.

This cognitive decline in “executive function” has been noted by neuroscientists. The part of the brain responsible for decisionmaking doesn’t work as well as it did 30 years ago. It’s a natural consequence of aging.

“While there are some `super agers’ in the population (individuals in their 80s and beyond who function at much younger intellectual levels),” reports the SIFMA Senior Investor Protection Quarterly, “the vast majority of adults will experience at least some isolated cognitive decline associated with typical brain aging as they progress through their sixth, seventh, and eighth decades (or beyond).

Cognitive change in older adults is uneven and dependent on many factors, including educational background, overall intellectual capacity, health conditions, and lifestyle habits.”  (Continue Reading)

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Four Ways To Bust Elder Financial Fraud

Undue influence over elderly man results in taxable income and penalties for caregiver

The Tax Court held that over $900,000 in checks an elderly man transferred to his caregiver was taxable income to her. The court also held that the income was subject to self-employment tax and that her returns that failed to report the income were subject to a fraud penalty.

Facts: Arthur Marsh worked as an optometrist in a California town. He never married and lived alone and frugally, saving more than $1 million by the time he retired in the 1980s, which through prudent investing grew to over $3 million. After 2000, his health declined. He suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with dementia. In 2007, when he was 91, his doctor insisted that he hire a home health care assistant before he could return to his apartment from a hospitalization. Marsh hired Angelina Alhadi, a nursing assistant. During the next two years, Alhadi persuaded Marsh to give her more than $900,000.

When Marsh and Alhadi attempted to obtain additional funds from his brokerage account with The Vanguard Group, the firm's fraud team contacted the California Department of Health and Human Services. Desperate for more funds, Alhadi drove Marsh to an estate attorney, seeking to create a power of attorney and requesting to be placed in his will. The attorney urged Alhadi to return the funds transferred by Marsh. She refused. Shortly afterward, a court created a conservatorship for Marsh on a petition from the local public guardian's office. Marsh died in 2009.

The IRS assessed a deficiency for Alhadi stemming from more than $1 million of unreported income for 2007 and 2008, plus penalties.

Issues: Alhadi claimed that the transfers from Marsh were a loan or, alternatively, a nontaxable gift. The IRS asserted that the money was taxable self-employment income and that Alhadi's failure to report it was fraudulent.

Holding: The Tax Court held that over $900,000 in checks to Alhadi was taxable income subject to self-employment tax and penalties, including under Sec. 6663 for fraud.

The court noted that a loan is "an agreement, either express of implied, whereby one person advances money to the other and the other agrees to repay it upon such terms as to time and rate of interest, or without interest, as the parties may agree" (Welch, 204 F.3d 1228, 1230 (9th Cir. 2000)).

Additionally, a debtor-creditor relationship is established, which is a question of fact. The court found that the funds were not a loan, noting that Marsh never referred to the money as anything other than compensation. The court also pointed to a document that Alhadi prepared that purported to forgive all "loans" after Marsh's death, which the court said demonstrated that she never intended to repay the money.

To be a gift, the court noted, a transfer must proceed from a "detached and disinterested generosity" (Duberstein, 363 U.S. 278, 285 (1960)). Where payment is for past services or an inducement for services in the future, it is not a gift (id. at 292). The court noted that there is a strong presumption that payments made beyond an employee's salary are compensation for services and not gifts.
Alhadi's entire case rested on her uncorroborated testimony and the word "gift" written on the memo lines on some checks.

With respect to the money transferred to Alhadi, other than the amounts that had been called compensation, the court determined that these transfers would not be gifts (and thus would fall under the presumption of being compensation) if any donative intent that Marsh had was negated by undue influence, as defined by state law. After examining California law and the evidence, the court found that Alhadi had exerted undue influence over Marsh, using her relationship to isolate him from his family and financial advisers, thereby negating any donative intent he had. Consequently, all the money she received from Marsh was taxable compensation income.

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Undue influence over elderly man results in taxable income and penalties for caregiver

Minnesota elder abuse reports increasing

Some 400 social workers, law enforcers, lawyers, nursing home workers and others who work with vulnerable adults gathered Wednesday at the University of Minnesota to discuss what could be the next big crime wave: Elder abuse.

The conference, hosted by the nonprofit Minnesota Elder Justice Center, was one of many nationwide marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which began in 2006 to shine a light on financial crimes and other abuse targeting older people.

A statewide Elder Abuse reporting hot line launched last year consolidated 169 different county phone numbers into a single toll-free number — (844) 880-1574 — and mandated reporters have a dedicated website for filing reports. Together, they are bringing in about 1,000 tips a week, said Emily Johnson Piper, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. She attended the conference along with Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.

Debra Hilstrom, an Anoka County prosecutor and state representative from Brooklyn Center, said more and more tips are coming from financial institutions and nursing homes covering a wide variety of concerns, including possible financial exploitation and medication thefts. The victims themselves are frequently reluctant to report the crimes because they are embarrassed and don't want to be seen as vulnerable adults, Hilstrom said.

Erica Yarlagadda, an assistant Hennepin County prosecutor, said crimes against the elderly are "doubling year-over-year."

She's one of two attorneys Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman assigned to work full time on crimes against the elderly. She said the most common crimes involve financial exploitation by family members who seem to think they're entitled to their loved ones' wealth. She said abuse by professionals, including investment advisers and insurance agents, probably ranks second.

Thomas R. Hatch joined the Ramsey County attorney's office two years ago after working 20 years in civil litigation.

"All I do is financial fraud [prosecutions], which would include financial exploitation of vulnerable adults," Hatch said.

He described a recent case in which an Arizona man stole $154,000 from his mother, who lives in Minnesota, in less than a year. She was torn about whether she wanted her son to spend 180 days in jail, Hatch said. She eventually signed off on the plea bargain, yet continued to drive him to and from the airport when he flew into town for court hearings. Hatch said he questioned why she would do that.

" 'Well, he is my son,' " Hatch recalled her saying.

"These are family," he said. "What are we going to do about it?"

Thomas Haines, an assistant Carver County attorney, said his office is preparing for "a tsunami of financial exploitation" crimes that prey on older people. Haines said prosecutions can be avoided sometimes by summoning a suspected abuser in for a meeting with adult protection maltreatment investigators to spell out the penalties for wrongdoing.

Ashton Applewhite, an author and activist, set the tone for the conference in her keynote speech.

"We aspire to grow old, and yet we dread the prospect," she said. "We are all old people in training."

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Minnesota elder abuse reports increasing

Friday, July 8, 2016

Professional guardian under investigation by Attorney General for allegedly exploiting seniors

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Taking action for you means helping families understand financial risks and providing you with information you can use to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

Our I-Team has uncovered a new concern that could affect you or your loved ones.

Power of Attorney documents, which have almost no oversight, can allow someone to control all aspects of your life with a quick stroke of a pen.

Professional guardian Fernando Gutierrez told us a couple months ago that he protects the elderly.

“I'm their patient advocate,” he said, when he was interviewed after an elderly resident died in a Pinellas Park nursing home.

The patient was one of 12 people at that facility for whom Gutierrez served as a health proxy, allowing him to make medical decisions on their behalf.

The Florida Attorney General's Office is now investigating whether Gutierrez is exploiting any of the elderly people in his care, through power of attorney agreements he gets patients to sign in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

A Pinellas county Inspector General's Office report says Gutierrez  "parks in physician parking spots, then puts on a white lab coat and enters the facility."

Gutierrez admits he doesn’t does not have a degree in any medical field, but he defends wearing his white coat, saying he earned it by attending medical ethics seminars.

“I always wear that, especially when I go on rounds at hospitals…. Visiting my patients,” he said.

In May, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater accused Gutierrez of playing doctor.

In a police report, it indicates a hospital official reported he acted as a guardian for patients for whom he did not have legal guardianship.

It also says he signed off on orders for patient surgery without authorization.

That incident led the hospital to post fliers with a picture of Gutierrez in his lab coat throughout the campus, instructing staff members if they see him inside the hospital, to contact security immediately, so he could be charged with trespassing.

83-year-old Wanda Nichols says she never invited Gutierrez to visit her, when she ended up in a rehab center.

“I was just introduced to him and he'll be your uh... what would they call it?”

She said, referring to a power of attorney.

Nichols admitted she didn’t know what that entailed.

Documents obtained by the I-Team say Gutierrez uses Durable Power of Attorney agreements to get paid from monthly Medicaid checks sent to residents of area facilities to pay for things like beauty appointments and personal items.

“If you're in a nursing home, it's $105. If you're in an ALF, $54,” said Fernando, referring to the amount of the monthly Medicaid checks.

Multiple inspector general and law enforcement reports say Gutierrez also named himself the beneficiary of patients' insurance policies and bank accounts.

The reports of alleged exploitation of elderly local residents go back at least five years.

When asked if she remembers Gutierrez taking her to the bank, Nichols said, “ Yeah, sure, I do. I remember sitting right beside him.”

ALF operator Alka Vahal told police Gutierriez opened a joint account with Nichols, then cleaned it out.

“In the month of April, she had about $2,000 in her account. Her pension was going into that account, and then slowly, within three months, everything was gone,” said Vahal.

“Guess what? There's no governing agency, per se, that watches over power of attorneys,” said former ALF operator Doug Coffey, who is now a consultant in the long term care industry.

Coffey says POAs are an easy way to exploit seniors and the disabled, since courts aren't involved.

Vahal says she saw Gutierrez constantly hunting for new patients at other facilities.

“He would find other people there. One time, he actually told me he has 33 people in that rehab,” she said.

Gutierrez recently agreed not to serve as a guardian again in Pinellas County, after a judge questioned his handling of wards' finances.

But he plans to continue to advocate for those with nobody else.

“In this business, it's not unusual for people to make complaints and investigations and allegations. It goes with the job,” said Gutierrez.

Dr. Sam Sugar, Founder and President of the Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships non-profit organization, has asked the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the Pinellas County Inspector General and the Florida Attorney General’s Office to take immediate action to stop Gutierrez.

“This Guardian has long been suspected (as long as 5 years) of predatorily seeking out demented patients (many who are not even Wards of his or anyone else's) to fraudulently secure their signatures appointing him as a fiduciary for their benefits. He is under investigation by multiple State Law enforcement agencies yet he continues to be certified as he loots the estates of countless vulnerable individuals in facilities near him,” he said in an email sent to those agencies Thursday.

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Professional guardian under investigation by Attorney General for allegedly exploiting seniors

Life Alert alerts police to beating of 86-year-old woman; Grandson arrested

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — A man has been arrested after trying to kill his 86-year-old grandmother.

Medics arrived to the 800 block of South Winridge Court late Monday night.

They were responding to a Life Alert call from a neck pendant belonging to an 86-year-old female.

“It was absolutely crucial, it was only  way she could reach out and let people know she was in danger, without it who knows when we would have arrived,” said Bloomington Police Captain Steve Kellams, on the victim pressing her Life Alert key chain.

According to police, when they got to the house, they heard yelling and called police.

When officers arrived they spoke to a man on the front porch covered in blood. He began fighting with officers and would not speak to them.

The man was later identified as 19-year-old Zachary Emswiller, the victim’s great grandson, and he was taken into custody.

When police entered the home, they found the elderly lady in her room covered in blood. She had been badly beaten.

According to police, her face and upper body were covered with lacerations and contusions. She said that her grandson, Emswiller, had attacked her and beaten her and attempted to strangle her.

The victim was transported to an Indianapolis hospital due to the extent of her injuries.

Police say Emswiller denied knowing the victim and could not tell them why he was covered in blood. He was arrested and faces preliminary charges of attempted murder and criminal confinement.

Family members for Emswiller says he suffers from mental illness, police are trying to determine if this is true.

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Life Alert alerts police to beating of 86-year-old woman; Grandson arrested

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Attorney General increases funds to combat guardianship abuse

Isolation. Double-billing. Entire life savings spent with no oversight.
That's what we found in a Contact 13 Investigation of our guardianship system. 

Nevada's Attorney General is stepping up to fight the abuse

Adam Laxalt wants $400,000 sent to the Legal Aid of Southern Nevada to help fund pro bono work for vulnerable exploited by those who are supposed to protect them. 

The program is part of a larger new unit in the AG's office to combat financial fraud and it will not cost taxpayers as funding comes from mortgage settlement funds.

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Attorney General increases funds to combat guardianship abuse

Former Three Bridges Nursing Home unit manager Karen Rooney sanctioned by Nursing and Midwifery Council after placing vulnerable residents at risk of harm

A FORMER unit manager at a Latchford care home has been sanctioned after a misconduct hearing found that she had placed vulnerable residents with dementia at risk of harm.

Karen Rooney failed to keep appropriate care records for residents while in the post of dementia unit manager at Three Bridges Nursing Home and failed to supervise an unregistered foreign nurse while she was administering medicines.

In total, eight sanctions have been imposed upon Mrs Rooney after a Nursing and Midwifery Council misconduct hearing.

An investigation at the Nook Lane home was sparked in December 2014 due to concerns, and an audit of residents’ medical notes identified that Mrs Rooney had not supervised an unregistered Romanian nurse while she was administering medication to seven patients on 46 occasions.

Further concerns saw the home’s deputy manager carry out a review of patients’ medical plans and discrepancies were found – 11 plans by Mrs Rooney lacked detail and were not updated between August and December 2014, though they should have been reviewed monthly.

Mrs Rooney, who was employed at the home from September 2012 until her resignation in February 2015, admitted a total of 19 charges and faced an NMC misconduct hearing last week which found her fitness to practice was impaired.

Four of the charges related to her previous employment at Mersey Parks Care Home in Liverpool, charges which included not ensuring adequate care was provided to a resident with a pressure sore.

An NMC report into Mrs Rooney’s misconduct said: “The registrant was the unit manager at two separate care homes and therefore responsible for the care provided to vulnerable residents who had dementia – the registrant’s actions in both care homes placed the residents at risk of harm.  (Continue Reading)

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Former Three Bridges Nursing Home unit manager Karen Rooney sanctioned by Nursing and Midwifery Council after placing vulnerable residents at risk of harm

Willmar woman, former caregiver of vulnerable adults, pleads guilty to financial exploitation

WILLMAR—A 36-year-old former caretaker for multiple local group homes pleaded guilty last week to one gross misdemeanor charge for stealing more than $8,400 from seven developmentally disabled adults.

Carrie Sue Wadsworth, of Willmar, was originally charged in April 2015 in Kandiyohi County District Court with two felony and two gross misdemeanor charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Each charge carried offense dates from February 2013.

Her plea June 27 to a gross misdemeanor charge came with an agreement to pay restitution, and a 15-day cap on jail time.

In a handwritten portion to the plea agreement, Wadsworth wrote that she "did not fulfill my responsibility of ... documentation for the position I was responsible for, which led to missing funds and documentation."

According to the criminal complaint, funds from seven different vulnerable adult clients of the Presbyterian Family Foundation disappeared between May 2013 and September 2014.
Financial records for the money showed numerous mysterious cash withdrawals, charged amounts and checks that did not have accompanying receipts or explanations for use, according to the criminal complaint

Wadsworth was a program director for the company during that time, in charge of managing the finances of each of the adult victims.

A Willmar Police Department detective received report of the situation in March 2015, during an interview with Presbyterian Family Foundation employees. Multiple employees reported that they believed Wadsworth had stolen $8,446 belonging to seven vulnerable adults.

In conversations with co-workers, Wadsworth had allegedly admitted to taking some of the missing money.

One employee told law enforcement she had a Feb. 5, 2015, conversation with Wadsworth during which Wadsworth reportedly admitted to stealing $900 from one of the vulnerable adults because of her own financial problems.

Another employee reported that she had received text messages from Wadsworth, in which Wadsworth apologized for her behavior and said she had a gambling problem.

Wadsworth had originally been granted a public defender, but then declined in favor of hiring private attorney Ralph Daby.

However, citing communication problems with Wadsworth, Daby withdrew from the case in April.

Wadsworth re-applied for a public defender, but her application was denied because she had previously declined that option.

No attorney is currently listed as assigned to Wadsworth in the case.

She is set to be sentenced July 29 in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Full Article & Source:
Willmar woman, former caregiver of vulnerable adults, pleads guilty to financial exploitation

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nevada AG intensifies efforts to fight financial fraud, shield elderly from exploitation

CARSON CITY — The Nevada attorney general’s office is intensifying efforts to fight financial fraud and protect the elderly and vulnerable people from exploitation.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s request to use $1.3 million from the state’s National Mortgage Settlement fund to hire additional prosecutors, supervisors and criminal investigators.

Of the total, $400,000 will be funneled to Legal Aid of Southern Nevada for legal help in guardianship cases.

“Consumer fraud complaints are dramatically on the rise,” Laxalt told the committee.
In 2014, the office handled 600 consumer fraud complaints. That number jumped to 952 in 2015. So far this year, 870 complaints have been received.

Such complaints involve complex investigations into mortgages, time shares and exploitation of the elderly, particularly through guardianship arrangements.

“One needs to only turn on the news or pick up the paper to see case after case of guardianship abuse,” said Christine Miller, an attorney with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Miller said attorneys assigned to cases early in a guardianship process can verify that people need a guardian and provide oversight to ensure that their interests and finances are protected.

Full Article & Source:
Nevada AG intensifies efforts to fight financial fraud, shield elderly from exploitation

Three states make elder-financial-abuse reporting mandatory starting Friday

Laws in Alabama, Indiana and Vermont that go into effect Friday, July 1, will require financial advisers to alert state authorities of suspected financial abuse of the elderly and other vulnerable adults.

The measures were approved earlier this year by each state's legislatures and signed into law by their governors. In addition to mandatory reporting in situations involving people older than 65 or who are disabled, they also allow advisers to stop the disbursement of funds from client accounts and give advisers immunity from civil liability.

In Louisiana, elder-protection legislation signed into law on June 16 will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

Each of the measures tracks to varying degrees a model rule approved earlier this year by the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. The organization, comprised of state regulators, has made protecting seniors from financial exploitation a priority.

“This law will help our investment advisers and brokers to partner with us in Vermont to tackle this problem that is pervasive,” said Michael Pieciak, Vermont deputy securities commissioner.

An Indiana adviser welcomes his state's new law because it gives him “more tools” to help clients who may be fraud victims.

“That's exactly the kind of thing we applaud,” said Michael Kalscheur, a senior financial consultant at Castle Wealth Advisors. “I now have a legal [leg] to stand on. That's a great additional benefit we can use to help protect people.”

Before the NASAA model rule came out, three other states had enacted elder financial abuse laws: Delaware, Missouri and Washington.

On the federal level, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has written legislation that would give advisers immunity for reporting senior exploitation.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission also have targeted elder financial abuse in their examinations and enforcement.

The focus on this issue is a natural result of the burgeoning number of retirees and their wealth, said Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission. He made an analogy to Willie Sutton, a notorious thief who once said he robbed banks “because that's where the money is.”

“Guess where the money is these days,” Mr. Borg said. “It's with the folks over 65. It's the senior population that has the assets.”

Finra and the states have diverged on the way to address the problem. A proposed Finra rule does not require reporting but rather allows advisers to designate a third party who they can inform of suspected problems.

But Mr. Borg said the Alabama law for advisers had to be consistent with other state statutes that require the reporting of physical and emotional abuse of seniors.

“It made no sense in my state to make it voluntary,” he said. “If it was mandatory for them, it had to be mandatory for us.”

The provision that allows advisers to stop cash flows out of an account also was crucial, according to Mr. Pieciak.

“The second that money is gone, it's very hard to get it back,” he said.

Many state legislatures had so-called short sessions this spring. More of them may take up senior financial abuse laws in 2017.

“We hope to see the broad adoption of legislation consistent with the NASAA model when state legislative sessions convene next year,” NASAA spokesman Bob Webster wrote in an email. 

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Three states make elder-financial-abuse reporting mandatory starting Friday

Senator Collins Warns Seniors to Beware New Tactic in the IRS Scam: Ruthless Scammers Are Now Demanding Payment in the Form of Gift Cards

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is warning of a new variation of the pernicious IRS impersonation scam.  According to the U.S. Treasury Inspection General for Tax Administration, iTunes and other gift cards are now the primary form of payment demanded by con artists pretending to be IRS agents.

Scammers telephone victims, impersonate an IRS agent, and demand payment for allegedly unpaid taxes. The callers frequently threaten victims with arrest, foreclosure, or other adverse legal action.

Scammers often instruct their victims to pay using a money wire or prepaid debit card.  In the past several weeks, however, the Inspector General, has learned that IRS impersonation scammers increasingly are demanding payment in the form of iTunes or other gift cards.  Once these con artists have the numbers on the back of the activated gift cards, they can either use the cards for purchases or resell the cards to third parties online.  A recent Portland Press Herald article detailed how a resident of Kennebec County lost $1,000 in iTunes gift cards through a similar impersonation scam.

“This most recent variation of the IRS impersonation scam demonstrates that these fraudsters are relentless in their desire to rob our nation’s seniors of their hard-earned savings,” said Senator Collins.  “Putting a stop to such aggressive and ruthless scams is among my highest priorities as Chairman of the Aging Committee.  Hundreds of seniors in Maine and across the country have contacted the Committee’s Fraud Hotline to report that they have received these calls.”

With such scams reaching epidemic proportions across the country, the IRS has released several tips to help taxpayers identify suspicious calls that may be part of a scam:

    The IRS will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed a letter to the taxpayer.
    The IRS will never demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without giving him or her the opportunity to question or appeal the amount claimed to be owed.

    The IRS will never ask for a credit, debit, or gift card number over the phone.

    The IRS will never threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to have a taxpayer arrested.

    The IRS will never require a taxpayer to use a specific payment method for taxes, such as a prepaid debit card or gift card.

Last year, Senator Collins chaired a hearing at which the Inspector General testified that this scam was “the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of the IRS.”  Senator Collins advises seniors to simply hang up the phone if they receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.  In addition, complaints can be made to TIGTA (1-800-366-4484), the FTC (1-877-382-4357), or to the Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470).

According to the Government Accountability Office, seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion to financial exploitation and fraud every year.  Earlier this year, Senator Collins unveiled a comprehensive anti-fraud resource guide titled, “Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors.”  The IRS imposter phone scam was listed as the #1 most prevalent fraud. 

Full Article & Source:
Senator Collins Warns Seniors to Beware New Tactic in the IRS Scam: Ruthless Scammers Are Now Demanding Payment in the Form of Gift Cards

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A message from Kathy Greenlee to our colleagues in the aging and disability networks

Dear colleagues,

Earlier today, I shared the news with my staff that I will be leaving ACL at the end of July. Edwin Walker, who currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, will assume the roles of Acting Administrator of ACL and Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging.

This kind of announcement is really hard. On one hand, it’s no surprise to anyone. It’s an election year, and new administrations mean new administrators. This is how the system works—and it’s good that it does. It’s good to get a fresh perspective and new energy.

But it is still really hard to leave. This has been a wonderful experience and an extremely rewarding seven years. And as I told the ACL team, I am proud of what we have done together. We have brought our communities together in a way that gives us a larger voice and more influence, and ultimately makes us more successful as advocates.

Consolidating aging and disability work in one place raised some eyebrows. These seemed like very different groups of people. And they are. But there are a lot of similarities in the services and supports people need in order to live independently. So it made sense to bring the federal efforts to support community living together under one umbrella.

But it worked because you made the leap of faith with us. You worked with us to build the agency the right way from the beginning, and you’ve continued to work with us as the agency has grown. I want you to know how much I appreciate your advice, support, and even your tough assessments. We’re better because of it.

It has been my great honor and privilege to work with you. I am grateful to Edwin Walker for stepping into these roles. And I am looking forward to seeing ACL continue to build upon the foundation we’ve created together.


Full Article & Source:
A message from Kathy Greenlee to our colleagues in the aging and disability networks

Police: More charges against Mokena lawyer who embezzled from trusts

MOKENA – Police say a Mokena-based lawyer who set up trust funds took another victim for $300,000.

Two more theft charges were filed last week against John W. Pleta, of Tinley Park, after a fourth victim's loss was verified by investigators to a grand jury, according to Mokena Police Chief Steve Vaccaro.

On Dec. 23, Pleta was arrested by Mokena police after being accused of helping himself to more than $1 million of an elderly client's trust fund.

Pleta has been a lawyer for 30 years and specialized in estate planning and wills. At the time of his arrest, he maintained an office on Bormet Drive.

"Three other victims have been discovered since his arrest where money was taken in the same fashion," Vaccaro said  Tuesday.

Pleta, 56, remains in Will County jail.

Full Article & Source:
Police: More charges against Mokena lawyer who embezzled from trusts

Housekeeper Accused of Exploiting Elderly Person

(Stillwater, Okla.) – A 34-year-old Stillwater woman was charged today with exploitation of an elderly person in Stillwater while she was engaged to provide housekeeping services.

Wendi Kay Walling-Mohiuddin, who has also been known as Wendy Kay Fields, has been accused of entering a 76-year-old woman’s home while providing housekeeping services and using deception to obtain $300 from her on or before April 26, according to the felony charge filed by prosecutor Debra Vincent.

If convicted of exploitation of an elderly person, the housekeeper could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000, court records show.

Full Article & Source:
Housekeeper Accused of Exploiting Elderly Person

Monday, July 4, 2016

Financial adviser accused of taking $150K from elderly client

A Springfield business consultant and financial adviser has been charged with the theft of $150,000 from an elderly client who has since died.

Vaughn Henry, 64, of Hyde Park Place was indicted last week by a Sangamon County grand jury on charges of theft of more than $100,000, financial exploitation of the elderly, money laundering and wire fraud. The three most serious charges are Class 1 felonies punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Henry, the principal of Henry and Associates, was in court Thursday to request a public defender. When asked by Associate Circuit Judge Brian Otwell if he had any assets, Henry said he had $100,000 equity in his home.

Otwell provisionally appointed the Sangamon County public defender’s office to represent Henry at his next court appearance on Monday.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser said Henry had a fiduciary role in the affairs of a 99-year-old woman and took $150,000 of her money and did not return it.

Henry took the woman’s money in January 2013 to invest it, but transferred the funds to his own accounts in late 2013 and early 2014, Milhiser said.

The victim died in October 2014.

Milhiser said the case was investigated by the Springfield Police Department, which is seeking possible additional victims. More charges also are possible, he said.

Henry specializes in management of livestock and horse-breeding facilities, planned giving, business succession, estate planning and conservation, according to his LinkedIn account. He established Henry and Associates in 1977.

Henry is being held in the Sangamon County Jail on $750,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Financial adviser accused of taking $150K from elderly client

Elder abuse victim shares story to help save others
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DETROIT - As many as 90,000 adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse, with many of the crimes going unreported because the victims are too scared to speak out.

But a 95-year-old metro Detroit man has courageously shared his story with the Local 4 Defenders.

Frank, whose identity is being concealed for his safety, said he’s still fearful of his one-time caretaker.

“We had a very congenial relationship, but he turned just like that. Very suddenly,” Frank said.

The caretaker became verbally and emotionally abusive.

“He told me before that he had two firearms that were loaded, and he know how to use them,” Frank said. “I wasn’t this scared in World War II.”

Frank said he didn’t know what to do, or who to turn to for help. His four children lived out of state.

“Suddenly, I get so scared. I bolted the front door. I went to the back of the house and bolted the back of the home,” Frank said. “I moved to the center of the house and moved inside of the closet where no one could see me.”

Frank called his son.

“I said, ‘I’m scared to death and don’t know what to do,’” he said.

His son picked him up and took him to Jewish Senior Life in West Bloomfield, which has some rooms that are specifically set aside for elder abuse victims.

“Sadly, elder abuse is alive and well in our state,” said Barbara Giles, who is with the Center for Elder Abuse Awareness. “Older adults are frightened to speak up because they don’t want someone to not take care of them anymore.”

Frank’s case was serious enough that he was able to get a personal protection order.

“I’m sharing my story because if I can help one individual out there, I would be so happy,” Frank said.

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Elder abuse victim shares story to help save others

7 Home Safety Tips for People with Parkinson's Disease

After a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, adjustments and renovations both small and large can help make your home more comfortable and safer for yourself or a loved one with Parkinson's disease, especially if gait, balance and fatigue symptoms are an issue.

Our community shared changes they made around the home that helped them. You can also find our guide to assistance products for Parkinson's disease such as utensils with a padded, ribbed handle and non-slip shoes, which can also help make life at home with Parkinson's disease more comfortable.

Not all of these recommendations may be the right fit for you or your loved one. Connect with occupational therapist for personalized advice on making changes around your home. An OT can also help you plan for how to make further adjustments as the disease progresses.

1. Start with small changes, like getting rid of potential obstacles on the floor such as throw rugs and extension cords. Leave plenty of space between pieces of furniture, and create a clear path through your home.

2. Tackle the bathroom. Start by getting rid of bath mats that may slip, and add a non-slip mat to the shower or bath tub. Several commenters recommended getting an elevated toilet seat, which can help make it easier to stand back up. Be careful not to use a towel rack or toilet paper dispenser for help getting up รข€” if possible, install safety rails instead.

3. Add more lights around the house. Light makes navigation easier and can also boost mood, one commenter noted. Touch lights and lights that respond to sound also help.

4. If it's in your budget, install railings along walls and hallways to help with balance and prevent falls.

5. Invest in chairs that are easier to get out of, such as adjustable recliners or chairs with straight backs, firm seats and arm rests. Firm cushions can add height and help with standing, as well.

6. Consider making more significant renovations, if your budget allows, such as building ramps, stair lifts and wider doorways. Medicare covers different types of portable medical equipment, but not permanent installations.

7.   Besides practicality, also make adjustments for comfort. One commenter even found a way to help her two Yorkies sleep better, too, after her husband started acting out his dreams.

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7 Home Safety Tips for People with Parkinson's Disease

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Lawyer admits to stealing $75,000 from a widow in nursing home

Batavia N.Y. - A prominent Batavia attorney admits he he stole more than $75,000 from a widow in a nursing home who was also his client. 81-year-old Randolph Zickl was arrested, arraigned, and pleaded guilty to grand larceny on Friday.

Zickl and his family are well known in the county's legal community, so a special prosecutor and judge were brought in to hear the case - which also was not made public until Monday.

Zickl was handling the victim's husband's estate and admitted to double-billing her for that work. He then continued to withdraw from her accounts, but was no longer representing her. The theft was discovered by a family member.

He is no longer a practicing attorney, because he resigned from the bar on Friday. 13WHAM News found him packing up his office on Batavia's Main Street.

"I'm not sure he wants to talk," said the woman who answered the door. Zickl was standing in the hallway behind her.

Zickl is the father of two attorneys in the Genesee County District Attorney's office, Robert and William Zickl. Until recently, he was in charge of the county's Office of Legal Assistance. Chairman of the County Legislature Ray Cianfrini says the Legislature received Zickl's letter of resignation a few weeks ago, but wasn't made aware of the pending legal case against the man until this morning.

"This came as a shock. This seems so out of character for someone like Randy Zickl," he said.

The case is being prosecuted by the Erie County District Attorney's office. Erie County judge James Bargnesi is presiding. The judge indicated that if Zickl makes full restitution by sentencing in September, he would be sentenced to probation because of his age. 

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Lawyer admits to stealing $75,000 from a widow in nursing home

Moral obligation to report elder abuse suspicions (East Bay Times My Word)

How would you react after learning that your 87-year-old grandmother had her hard-earned life savings embezzled -- and the perpetrator was a relative responsible for her care? I would guess that your first emotion would be outrage. The second would be a drive to find justice -- and help -- for your grandmother.

Like other forms of elder abuse, financial abuse is a growing problem in Alameda County as our population ages. The numbers are as startling as they are disturbing. It is estimated that nationally, only one in 14 incidents of abuse against people who are 65 years of age or older is reported.

And the majority of perpetrators are close to the victim -- relatives, friends or caregivers who have been entrusted to care for aging grandparents, parents and disabled relatives.

Complicating matters further is the lack of dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units of professionals with expertise in these complex cases. Additionally, many caregivers, family members and financial services employees aren't trained in preventing, protecting or dealing with financial exploitation of the elderly. There is often a lack of coordination between agencies and professionals who have pieces of the puzzle.

Last year, the Adult Protective Services division of the Alameda County Social Services Agency-Adult and Aging Services Department received 4,994 calls of suspected abuse, of which 4,716 were opened for investigation.

 SSA has over the last year increased its capacity to receive and respond to reports of all types of abuse. Unfortunately, these numbers only represent a small fraction of the cases of elder abuse.

The numbers have grown to epidemic proportions, yet this crisis has flown under the radar of public outrage. Seniors are often embarrassed or intimidated into silence while they lose their life savings, resulting in financial and emotional bankruptcy for many.

To mark this year's Elder Abuse Awareness month, SSA has launched a public awareness campaign to bring attention to the growing crisis of elder abuse by encouraging relatives, families, friends and seniors themselves to report elder abuse when they suspect it or fall prey to it.

This is a family secret that no one should keep. Seniors with any questions or concerns about the management of their finances are encouraged to trust but verify.

Here are some definite warning signs that are strong indicators of financial abuse:
  • Inappropriate banking activity such as unusually large withdrawals or withdrawals from automated banking machines.
  • Signatures on checks that do not resemble the elder's signature.
  • Legal documents signed when the elder is physically incapable of writing.
  • Checks written out to "cash" being negotiated by caretakers.
  • Checks signed by the senior but filled out by someone else.
  • A surge of activity in accounts which have been static for years.
  • Expensive gifts made by the elder.
  • Checks or credit card transactions made out to direct mail or telemarketing promotions.
  • Contributions going to newly formed religious or nonprofit causes.
  • Investments in time shares, real property, annuities or financial products.
  • Large loans against home equity to finance investments.
Elder abuse is complicated. Fortunately, reporting it is simple. Just pick up the phone and call 24 hours a day 510-577-3500 or toll free at 866-225-5277 (866-CALL-APS).

We all have a moral obligation to take care of the generation that precedes us. If we are lucky, we will be next in line and may need someone to look out for us.

Lori A. Cox is director of the Oakland-based Alameda County Social Services Agency.

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Moral obligation to report elder abuse suspicions (East Bay Times My Word)

Exposing, bringing awareness to elderly abuse

ELDER JUSTICE HERO: Cheryl Patnaude was awarded the Elder Justice Hero Award on Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, at a ceremony at the State House. From left are Steve Horowitz, president and CEO Saint Elizabeth Community, Patnaude, Kathy Parker Director of admissions Saint Elizabeth Community and Charles Fogarty director of the division of elderly affairs.
Cheryl Patnaude awarded
As Rhode Island’s population continues to age, there is a growing but “silent” epidemic for our elderly population, an issue St. Elizabeth Community and their Haven aims to bring awareness to.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and last Wednesday St. Elizabeth Community, as well as the Division of Elderly Affairs, recognized the official World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Despite its lack of attention, seniors are abused in numerous ways including physically, sexually, financially and through isolation, often occurring in a trusted relationship, with either a family member or caregiver.

For this reason, many abused elders fear reporting their abuse according to Jeanne Gattegno Program Director for Saint Elizabeth’s Haven, which provides a safe space for elders fleeing abusive situations and connects them with various resources for a smooth and safe transition back into the community.

Elders are abused all over the world. Gattegno said that, statistically, for every elder that reports their abuse, there are five that don’t. According to the National Center of Elder Abuse, 10 percent of elderly experience abuse.

“They are afraid to come forward for fear of losing their home, their independence in the community, or they are dependent on their abuser. It is very difficult for these people to come forward,” Gattegno said.

She also believes that as a society we “accept” certain behaviors towards the elderly, in particular verbal abuse.

Roberta Merkle, executive vice president of strategic initiatives for St. Elizabeth Community, said a lack of respect is an issue many seniors identify with. She said people don’t always value seniors and realize they still have a lot to contribute to society.

For these reasons, seniors are often targeted, especially for financial exploitation, one of the fastest growing types of abuse in the country, according to Gattegno. Between financial scams and family members or caregivers living off the assets of the elderly, Gattegno said their needs to be more awareness and the community needs to be able to recognize signs of abuse to report it.

Merkle said 99 percent of professional caregivers are “trustworthy and honorable,” but there are still those that take advantage of their client’s dependency, purchasing cars or taking over their homes.

“These are people that have built a trusted relationship and may be the only people these elders see day in and day out,” Merkle said, “It’s so insidious. This isn’t on a lot of people’s radar to look out for either.”

For Rhode Island, as baby boomers continue to age, the fear is that the prevalence of abuse will continue to grow. Currently, individuals over the age of 65 make up 14 percent of the state’s population and that is expected to increase to 23 percent by 2030. Rhode Island has the ninth highest percentage of seniors over 65 in the country and is actually number one for percentage of persons 85 and older in the country according to Merkle.

St. Elizabeth’s Haven is one of only 10 similar programs nationwide, and there are only about 15 elder specific shelters across the country, even though elder abuse is a growing problem.

“We need to bring this issue to the forefront, increase the coordination between the state, case management agencies, and the community to better assist these elders in times of trouble,” Merkle said. “We need to raise awareness so more people can recognize the signs and report abuse.”

Over the next year, St. Elizabeth and the Division of Elderly Affairs are spearheading an initiative to establish a coalition that can tackle the issue of “elder justice” and to put into action an educational plan for caregivers, family, hospital staff and even bankers to be able to recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it.

Bankers will need to pay closer attention to elderly accounts to see exactly how money is being used and who seems to be in control, whether certain purchases make sense, and for neighbors to recognize “ranting and raving” by a caregiver. All reports are to be made to the Division of Elderly Affairs.

Gattegno explained that alongside the very obvious human toll, elder abuse takes, it also exacts an economic toll. Abused elders are sicker and have to visit the hospital more and elders who are robbed costs “the system” too.

“We know there are voids in the system, gaps in care, but we are working on identifying and resolving them. We are making stronger links between services and agencies so we can intervene in and reduce elder abuse. We want to come together to improve the quality of life for our seniors,” Gattegno said.

At the ceremony for Elder Abuse Awareness Day, held at the State House, St. Elizabeth Community presented the Elder Justice Hero award to Cheryl Patnaude, who exemplified the connectedness St. Elizabeth is striving for. In her work with a community case management agency Patnaude recognized the signs of abuse and went “above and beyond” to see said abused individual removed from the situation into a safe space in the Haven bringing together law enforcement, legal teams and various community resources.

Gattegno said, “We want to ensure that level of coordination and team approach in the future across the board. We want to bring people together, who have the resources, brain power and experience to see this through.”  (Continue Reading)

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Exposing, bringing awareness to elderly abuse