Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chicago priest accused of taking $500,000 from parishioner with dementia

Standing before the religious icons that line his Ukrainian Orthodox church in Humboldt Park, the Rev. Nicholas Chervyatiuk has ministered to followers who arrived in Chicago as refugees after surviving Nazi Germany's prison camps.

Now the Cook County public guardian is accusing the priest of improperly taking more than $500,000 from the savings of one of those displaced persons, a 93-year-old former church secretary diagnosed with dementia.

Chervyatiuk has not been charged with a crime, and he denied any wrongdoing during a sworn probate court examination and in a Tribune interview.

He says Nelly Bridgeman wanted him to have her money, which he saw as payment for the care he provided as her health and mental faculties failed.

"It's for my work," Chervyatiuk testified during the court examination. "It was for 14 years and I think it was time for me to get paid. ... Nelly wanted it that way."

He told the Tribune he estimated those services were worth "about $25,000 per year."

Chervyatiuk, 55, allegedly used Bridgeman's money to support two restaurants he ran with a convicted drug dealer, his Brash & Sassy Inc. hair salon and his portfolio of Chicago-area rental properties, according to probate court papers and separate land, business and court records.

He has held power of attorney over Bridgeman's affairs since March 2015, when she was diagnosed with dementia and moved into a nursing home, records show.

Public guardian Robert Harris said: "It's another example of how elderly people get ripped off by the most trusted people."

The priest's private attorney, Dmytro Kurywczak, said Chervyatiuk "is working with the Office of the Public Guardian to come up with some kind of a resolution that will be in the best interests of Nelly Bridgeman."

Chervyatiuk's Holy Patronage Church, at 900 N. Washtenaw Ave., is part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, one of three major Orthodox groups in that country.

A North American church leader, the Rev. Victor Poliarny, told the Tribune it was "not acceptable" for a priest to take a parishioner's funds in a private transaction. Church authorities are seeking "official documents substantiating the accusation," Poliarny said. "Once we secure the official documents regarding this matter, the higher authority of the Kyiv Patriarchate will ensure proper punitive measures for the alleged behavior."

A native of Ukraine, Bridgeman had been a German World War II prisoner, and Chervyatiuk in his court examination acknowledged signing his name to her reparation checks from the German government.

In the court examination, Chervyatiuk said: "It belonged to me, everything. She knew that and she told it to everyone."

Suspecting fraud, a bank official in December contacted the public guardian's office. In March, Associate Cook County Judge Shauna Boliker authorized the office to gather financial records and determine how much of Bridgeman's money Chervyatiuk spent on her care and how much he allegedly converted for his own use.

The agency, which now is Bridgeman's legal guardian, says it will seek court permission to recover any funds wrongly converted by Chervyatiuk. As the probate case proceeds, Boliker has ordered financial institutions to freeze $170,000 of the priest's personal and business bank accounts.

At the public guardian's request, a doctor this year examined Bridgeman and determined she "was totally incapable of making financial and personal decisions."

After coming to America in 1950, Bridgeman married a U.S. service member and would serve for more than two decades as secretary of Chervyatiuk's church, court records show. Her husband died in 2004 at 79. The couple had no children.

"In church I was her priest and at home I was her beloved son," Chervyatiuk testified during the June 24 probate court examination. Chervyatiuk was born in Germany and raised in Ukraine, he said.
During the past five years, Bridgeman had been unable to cook, wash or shop for herself, Chervyatiuk said. "She kept a lot of stuff in the house. So you couldn't really walk in the house. You had to find a path," he said.

In March 2015, Bridgeman fell and injured a hip, records show. At the hospital she was diagnosed with dementia. Chervyatiuk then placed her in a Chicago nursing home, records show.

A day later, Chervyatiuk met with Bridgeman and lawyer Julian Kulas at the nursing facility and Kulas drafted papers that gave Chervyatiuk power of attorney for Bridgeman, according to the public guardian.

"That power of attorney made him responsible to use her money for her good and in her best interest, and not for himself," Harris said.

Kulas' son, Paul Kulas, is acting as his father's attorney in the case and said there was no improper conduct on Kulas' part. Kulas is "cooperating fully" with the public guardian and the court, his son said.

In the next 12 months, Chervyatiuk cashed in two CDs worth $170,000 and transferred other funds to accounts he alone controlled, probate court records filed by the public guardian allege. Chervyatiuk used his legal status to control Bridgeman's accounts, worth at least $540,000 and perhaps as much as $625,000, according to the public guardian.

During that period, Chervyatiuk put at least $22,000 of Bridgeman's funds into two restaurants he ran with Alban Tase, 41. He also directly gave Tase two checks from Bridgeman's account totaling $6,500, probate court records show.

Tase pleaded guilty in 2010 to federal drug conspiracy charges after an undercover operative met with him in a Chicago nightclub and steakhouse to trade shipments of stolen cigarettes for Ecstasy pills.

He was among more than a dozen defendants convicted as part of a global Balkan crime operation that laundered money and trafficked in heroin, guns and contraband consumer goods, federal court records show.

Authorities tracked the crime ring's deals from New Jersey to Canada, then the Netherlands, Albania and regions of Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo.

Tase completed three years of supervised release in May following a federal prison term that is not specified in public records. Attempts to reach him for comment were not successful.

In Chervyatiuk's June 24 examination, he said Tase was his business partner in two Chicago-area pancake house restaurants, both since closed. Chervyatiuk said he did not know Tase was a convicted felon.

"I just know one thing. He stole money from me too, and I don't know where he is," Chervyatiuk testified.

Chervyatiuk later told the Tribune that Tase was involved with only one of the pancake houses.

Chervyatiuk also wired thousands of dollars to a Western Union office in Ukraine, authorizing local contacts to pick up the money, records show.

"We were helping the church," Chervyatiuk said, adding that the funds were for an iconostasis — one of the panels of icons and religious paintings that adorn Eastern Orthodox churches.

Asked in the court examination if the money wasn't instead spent on the Ukrainian-Russian military conflict, Chervyatiuk said: "I don't really want to talk about it now."

In the case of one $26,000 Bridgeman check, Chervyatiuk testified: "I don't recall what I did with that, possibly for my own things."

One of Bridgeman's home health care aides allegedly told the public guardian that Bridgeman sometimes seemed confused and treated Chervyatiuk like her deceased husband.

The aide said she saw Chervyatiuk pretend to be Bridgeman's husband and kiss her on the lips, according to court papers filed by the public guardian.

Chervyatiuk also took title to land Bridgeman had owned in Texas, saying in his court examination that Bridgeman gave him the property. "One day she did a surprise to me. She took me to a restaurant and gave me those papers," he said.

Bridgeman was not the only parishioner who gave Chervyatiuk large personal gifts, records show. Another church follower, Maria Lewczenko, died in December at 93 and made him executor of her estate with $20,000 in accounts and $100,000 in real estate.

Chervyatiuk declined to discuss that matter with the Tribune, saying only: "I had many women who I tried to help."

Full Article & Source:
Chicago priest accused of taking $500,000 from parishioner with dementia

What happens to developmentally disabled as parents age, die?

Photo by Claudia Daut/Reuters
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Ever since she was 4, when a caregiver force-fed her with a spoon, Caroline Munro has not let anyone feed her but her mother.

The 22-year-old has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. She doesn’t speak and functions at a preschool level. Her mother, Beth Munro, feeds her with a fork or her hand.

As Beth ages — she’ll be 68 in October — she wonders who will care for Caroline when she’s no longer around. But she may never know. Caroline is on a Maryland waiting list for additional Medicaid services for the disabled. The list is thousands of names long, and as in many states, names often stay on it until a caregiver falls ill or dies.

About 860,000 people over 60 nationwide are in Beth’s place, caring for someone with intellectual or developmental disabilities in their home. And many are waiting, sometimes for years, for state-provided Medicaid help for their disabled child, sister or brother, such as placement in a group home, day services, or transportation or employment programs. If they can’t afford to pay for these services on their own, under the federal-state Medicaid system, their relative could end up in an institution.

As the number of older caregivers grows, and their need for help becomes more dire, a few states have passed laws to give older caregivers a chance to help decide where, and how, the person they care for will live. Tennessee passed a law in 2015 to ensure that anyone with an intellectual disability and a caregiver over 80 got the services they needed, and this year the state expanded the law to those with caretakers over 75. And in 2014, Connecticut passed a similar law that is helping about 120 people with a caregiver over 70.

But the waiting lists for needed services in these states and many others are still thousands of names long. In recent years, states such as Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have put money into their budgets to try to chip away at the lists, and they get federal matching dollars to help pay for it. Some states are prioritizing people with urgent needs, while others are prioritizing students as they age out of school.

Yet advocates for people with disabilities, such as Nicole Jorwic, director of rights policy at The Arc, a national nonprofit, say there needs to be a federal fix.

“Something that pumps money into the system,” Jorwic said. “And that’s just not going to happen in the current climate in Congress.”

In Maryland, Beth Munro realizes that unless she becomes seriously ill or dies, her daughter might not be placed in a group home.

“I’ve worked really hard at the issue over the years,” Beth said, “and you get nowhere.”

First generation

This generation of caregivers over 60 watched over decades as the U.S. grew more understanding and inclusive of people with disabilities. A movement swept the country in the 1970s and ’80s to deinstitutionalize people with disabilities. And for decades now, most people with disabilities who receive Medicaid help have been cared for at home by family members.

In 2013, spending for community- and home-based services surpassed spending for large institutions, such as mental hospitals and nursing homes, for the first time. By that time, 14 states no longer had any large state-run institutions for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and many others had only a few, according to University of Colorado research.

The move to deinstitutionalize care has provided care that is more personalized while also saving states money. Average costs for care in a state-run institution, in 2013, ranged from about $129,000 a year in Arizona to about $603,000 in New York, while the average state costs of community-based services nationally is $43,000, according to the University of Colorado.

What this has left, though, is fewer residential options, and lengthening waiting lists. About 198,000 people were waiting for home- or community-based services in the 34 states that reported data in 2013, according to University of Minnesota research. The longest waiting lists were in Ohio (41,500), Illinois (23,000) and Florida (22,400).

Some states don’t keep waiting lists. In California, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities qualify for the services they need under a state-run health system. This means they should be getting the services they need.

But April Lopez, chairwoman of California’s State Council on Developmental Disabilities, said that’s not always the case there. Some services aren’t available when you need them, she said. The state’s reimbursement rate is so low, she said, it discourages doctors and health centers from providing services.

If states aren’t able to provide services for everyone, they should focus on providing more support for family caregivers, such as high-quality case management and respite services, said Susan Parish, director of the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

With medical, technological and public health advances, people with disabilities are living longer than before, Parish said. And with family size shrinking over the years, fewer siblings are around to assume care of their brother or sister as their parents age.

Caregivers need help transitioning out of their role — finding the person with disabilities a place to live, money, benefits and a new guardian, Parish said.

“I’ve worked with several parents who said they’ve hoped their son or daughter would die before they did because they don’t feel there are supports out there,” she said.

Some steps in some states

Beth Munro said she has felt that way, at times. She said she has been caring for Caroline on her own since she was 9 months old. Caroline has a brother and sister, but they live out of state and Beth doesn’t want them to have to take over her role. Caroline’s cerebral palsy affects both of her arms and legs. She is dependent for all of her care and can’t be left alone.

But her laugh is full of life, and she laughs often. Her mother says she is generally a happy person. She is in a day program with other adults with disabilities, and they often go out into the community, like to a nature center or to the movies.

Under Maryland law, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are transitioning out of the school system at age 21 receive some services. Yet 7,600 people on the waiting list in Maryland either have no services or need more.

Last year, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, added $3 million to the budget, which served about 120 people who were deemed to be in crisis, and added $3.5 million this year for the same purpose.
This has been a bright spot in a decadeslong fight by the Maryland affiliate of The Arc to educate people and get more funding, said Cristine Marchand, its executive director.

In the past, the organization would suggest a new tax in the state to cover the expenses — a tax on snacks or telecommunications — and each time the governor at the time would take the money and use it for something else, Marchand said.

Whether a state makes progress addressing the issue has less to do with the political party in power and more to do with how much officials know about the issue, or how much influence advocates have, said Bernard Simons, Maryland’s deputy secretary for developmental disabilities.

Simons has worked in similar jobs in five other states and he said it’s the same wherever he goes — parents dying or getting sick, and children left with no plan in place.

States, including Maryland, need to be planning more, he said, instead of just reacting to emergencies.

In Pennsylvania, which has one of the largest waiting lists — about 13,800 people — Republican state Rep. Thomas Murt said he has several bills pending in the Legislature that would collect money specifically to provide services for the people on the list using different taxes, including on natural gas, tobacco, and vaping.

Like Maryland, Pennsylvania provides services for students transitioning out of school — about 700 a year. But sometimes it takes an older caregiver falling ill to get help, Murt said. “If another state is doing a better job, I think we should take a look at what they’re doing.”

Courts have ordered some states to provide more community-based services.

Virginia is making big changes to how it serves people with disabilities because of a 2011 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which found that the state was needlessly keeping people in institutions and failing to provide enough community-based alternatives.

The state agreed to close down four of its five large institutions and serve 4,170 new people with community-based supports by 2021. (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
What happens to developmentally disabled as parents age, die?

Aline & Walt's Life with Dementia: Stage 5

VIDEO: Aline has Alzheimer's. Her husband Walt cares for her in the comfort of their home. Share their journey through Stage 5 Alzheimer's, as Aline describes her feelings and Walt conveys his challenges.

Aline & Walt's Life with Dementia: Stage 5

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mequon lawyer gets prison for theft

Perry Friesler
A disbarred Mequon lawyer who stole more than $150,000 from two estates, and spent much of it at strip clubs, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison.

An attorney for Perry Friesler, 73, said his client had been suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder when he committed the crimes and had recommended probation was the proper sentence so Friesler could continue treatment and perform community service.

Over 40 years of legal practice, Jeremy Levinson said, Friesler was "honorable, diligent and devoted in all affairs, professional and otherwise," until his daughter began dying of Tay-Sachs disease. In 2012, a year after she died, Friesler tried to take his own life, which led to involuntary commitment and the first diagnoses and treatment of his mental health problems,  Levinson said.

Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley acknowledged that Friesler experienced sad and tragic events but said they didn't cause the crimes, which extended over a period of 3 1/2 years of repeatedly writing checks from estates to himself, spending the money on selfish pursuits, and lying to the heirs and the courts to delay the truth.

Benkley called it unreasonable to allow Friesler "to go home to a leafy cul-de-sac in Mequon, do some community service and put this all behind him." Because of the betrayal of trust, the duration and amount of the thefts and the efforts to conceal his crime, Friesler should spend three years in prison, Benkley argued.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Thomas McAdams settled on the two years, plus three years of extended supervision. He said while he gave Friesler credit for the good life he led prior to his crimes, the aggravating factors required prison time to deter others in positions of trust.

"The message needs to be, if that's violated, there will be consequences," McAdams said.

He did allow Friesler — who his attorney said takes more than a dozen daily prescriptions for various physical and mental conditions — two weeks to meet with his doctors before surrendering to start his incarceration.

Friesler appeared in court in a dark suit and white shirt. In a brief statement, he told McAdams he took responsibility for his acts, was truly sorry and would abide by any sentence or penalty the judge imposed.

Levinson subpoenaed Circuit Judge William Sosnay as a character witness. Sosnay said that during the 14 years he practiced law in the same offices with Friesler, he was an honest, devoted partner and friend.

Friesler's psychotherapist testified that hypersexualization is a common symptom of untreated bipolar disorder and said Friesler's period of frequent trips to strip clubs — where Benkley said Friesler would withdraw hundreds of dollars from ATMs nightly — would be an expected manifestation.

Share Biesel, the psychotherapist, said Friesler has developed coping mechanisms but she feared that months in prison would increase his suicide risk.

Friesler pleaded guilty in February to a single count of theft greater than $10,000 in a business setting. Theft from a second estate was read-in at the sentencing. One estate was in Milwaukee County, the other in Ozaukee County. Both families were friends of Friesler's.

One heir told McAdams that while Friesler was acting as the personal representative of his mother's estate, her home was lost to foreclosure, though she had been current on her mortgage payments.

"How does a house get lost, like vapor?" said Matthew Port.

According to Levinson, after Friesler's commitment and treatment in 2012, Friesler realized what he had done, ended his practice and turned himself in to the Office of Lawyer Regulation. In 2013, he agreed to give up his law license rather than defend an OLR complaint and agreed to repay nearly $160,000.

When the Supreme Court revoked Friesler's license, Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote separately, stating only, "The court has not been advised whether any criminal prosecution has been undertaken."

Prosecutors didn't charge Friesler until 2015.

At Monday's hearing, Benkley said Friesler hasn't paid a cent toward the victims' theft losses, which were covered instead by the Wisconsin Lawyers Fund for Victim Compensation and insurance.  The heirs incurred tens of thousands of dollars in additional expenses suing Friesler and seeking the victim fund compensation, Benkley said.

A hearing on the final restitution amount is set for October.

Full Article & Source:
Mequon lawyer gets prison for theft

Decatur caregiver accused of stealing from elderly woman in her care

Nannette Tracey
DECATUR, Ala. –  A woman in Decatur is under arrest after an investigation into a May theft.  On May 1st, a 72-year-old woman notified the Decatur Police that someone was withdrawing money from her bank account without permission.

Det. De Leon with the Financial Crimes Unit investigated the case and discovered that someone had used the victim’s debit card without permission and had conducted multiple ATM transactions totaling more than $2,500 in withdrawals.

Investigators have arrested Nannette Marie Tracey in connection to the crime and have charged her with financial exploitation of the elderly.

Athorities say that Tracey was working at the victim’s residence as a caregiver at the time of the theft.
Tracey is in custody in the Morgan County Jail in lieu of a $5,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Decatur caregiver accused of stealing from elderly woman in her care

Daughter Of Victim In Elderly Abuse Case: ‘We Didn’t Have A Clue’

Full Article & Source:
Daughter Of Victim In Elderly Abuse Case: ‘We Didn’t Have A Clue’

Thursday, August 25, 2016

For the First Time Ever, Guardianship Abuse is the Subject of a Political Ad, Featuring Veteran Guadelupe Olvera

Freedom Partners Action Fund today announced a new TV and digital ad campaign backed by $1.2 million in Nevada illustrating how Catherine Cortez Masto let down Nevada seniors by failing to hold a state government program accountable.

Guadalupe Olvera was a veteran of World War II. Olvera was also thrust into Nevada’s guardianship program, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal later described as “ripe for abuse.”

When his wife passed away in 2009, Olvera wanted to move to California. His daughter, who lived in California, wanted him to move there, too. So Olvera was assigned a temporary guardian until conservatorship could be transferred to California. However, his guardian soon after petitioned the court to make it permanent, and, just three months after his temporary Nevada guardian was assigned to him, Olvera’s trust was charged tens of thousands of dollars.

Growing worried, Olvera’s daughter filed a lawsuit to remove her father’s guardian—but the guardianship commissioner said no. Olvera finally escaped to California, but his guardian led an expensive court fight to maintain his control. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were billed to Olvera’s own estate, which his guardian still controlled.

Full Article and Source:
Freedom Partners Launches New Ad Showing How Catherine Cortez Masto Let Down Nevada Seniors

Famous faces of Alzheimer Disease

Perry Como, Ronald Reagan, Peter Falk
It seems as time goes on, we are hearing more and more about Alzheimer Disease. There have been many people that have suffered with the disease. In this piece we will cover some of those folks with the famous faces of Alzheimer Disease.

Famous Actors and Actresses
First of all, some famous Actors and Actresses that have suffered with Alzheimer’s are Rita Hayworth, Ronald Reagan, James Stewart and Charlton Heston. There was also Charles Bronson, Peter Falk, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Albert, James Doohan, Jack Lord, and Mickey Rooney. Daytime soap fans had to say goodbye to Mary Fickett (Ruth Martin of All my Children,) and David Canary (Adam Chandler of All My Children) because of the disease. There have been many more but these are most noteworthy, relevant and recognizable names.

Famous Singers
Some famous singers that have suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease are Etta James and Perry Como. Glen Campbell is currently residing in a memory care facility in the Nashville area.

Catherine Falk heads up the Catherine Falk Organization and it was Catherine Falk that spearheaded the Campbell-Falk Bill which was passed into law this past May, 2016. Especially relevant is the Campbell Falk Bill was constructed to insure liberal access to a loved one who is a ward. That access is granted until it is proven in court that it shouldn’t be granted.

There are many organizations where you can get more information regarding Alzheimer’s Disease. There are 7 stages of the disease. It had been dubbed as “the long goodbye,” by Nancy Reagan, former first lady of the United States. Mrs. Reagan took care of her husband Ronald Reagan until the end with dignity and respect.

Alzheimer’s Disease is an equal opportunity disease and effects people in all walks of life. Early onset Alzheimer’s can begin as early as in your 40’s or 50’s.

Full Article and Source:
The Famous Faces of Alzheimer Disease

Day 131 of My Abusive, Illegal, and Fraudulent Probate Guardianship

Source: Day 131 of My Abusive, Illegal, and Fraudulent Probate Guardianship

N.J. senior care employee pleads guilty to stealing from elderly clients

TRENTON — An employee at a senior care company in Atlantic County pleaded guilty to her role in an alleged scheme to bilk millions of dollars from elderly clients, the state Attorney General's Office announced Monday.

Susan Hamlett, 57, of Egg Harbor Township, who worked as an aide at the company, A Better Choice, is the fifth and final defendant to plead guilty in the investigation, the office said.

Hamlett pleaded guilty on a charge of second-degree conspiracy on the eve of her trial, admitting that she conspired with her co-defendants to steal more than $100,000 from one client, an elderly woman, the office said.

She faces three to five years in state prison, according to the office. Sentencing is Oct. 21.

Hamlett was indicted in March 2015 with three other people:

• Jan Van Holt, 60, of Linwood, the owner of the company, which offered in-home care and legal financial planning for senior citizens.
• Sondra Steen, 61, of Linwood, Van Holt's sister, who helped run the company.
• William Price, 58, of Linwood, a former county social worker who conspired with the others to steal from an elderly couple.

Another defendant, Barbara Lieberman, 64, of Northfield, a lawyer, pleaded guilty before the indictments.

All of the defendants pleaded guilty in the case, each on different charges.

In all, Van Holt and Steen conspired with Lieberman to steal more than $2.7 million from 12 elderly clients from 2003 to 2012, the Attorney General's Office said.

Steen and Lieberman were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Price got five years. Van Holt faces a 12-year sentence.

"By stealing the life savings of elderly clients who had no family to look out for them, these defendants placed themselves among the lowest of con artists," said Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement. "The victims are gone, but we've persisted in our quest for justice for them, securing prison terms for all of the perpetrators."

Ellie Honig, the director of the criminal justice division of the attorney general' office, called the scheme "one of the most egregious cases of elder fraud that we have prosecuted in recent years."

The defendants targeted elderly clients with "substantial assets" but no immediate family, offering to do things such as household chores, errands and budgeting, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Eventually, the defendants took control of the victims' finances by forging a power of attorney or obtaining one in false pretenses, the office said.

Once in control of the bank accounts, the defendants stole from the victims, the office said.

Full Article & Source:
N.J. senior care employee pleads guilty to stealing from elderly clients

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Former Army Ranger claims forced guardianship

WASHINGTON, August 19, 2016 – A former Army Ranger says he was forced into guardianship by his overbearing parents, assisted by the Veterans Administration, despite being mentally fit and able to care for himself.

Martin Patterson,  37, was an Army Ranger from 1998 to 2005. He was struck by lightning in 2004, but recovered and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005.

His parents, Gail and Roger Patterson, believe the accident left him mentally unable to care for himself.

After his divorce in 2011, Patterson moved back to Erie, Pennsylvania, where his parents live. His mother, an employee the Erie VA Medical Center, then petitioned to have Patterson deemed incompetent and put into guardianship.

Guardianship is a legal process whereby persons deemed mentally unfit to take care of themselves have legal guardians take care of them.

An initial report done by the VA found Patterson to be competent.

However, his parents were not deterred. Gail Patterson continued her efforts and reached out to the VA fiduciary Hub, the agency within the VA that handles guardianship matters.

The VA Fiduciary Hub In Indianapolis, which handled Patterson’s case,  dismissed concerns that Gail Patterson’s employment with the VA created a conflict of interest, stating, “The Indianapolis Fiduciary Hub has no need to know where Mrs. Patterson works.”

 The Erie VA Medical Center issued this statement: “The health and well being of our veterans is our number one priority. We take these issues very seriously and we will continue to follow up with the veteran directly to address his concerns. Out of respect for patient privacy, we are not able to get into specifics of the case.”

There are others who believe Gail Patterson’s employment did create a conflict.

Kristen Davis is a veteran herself and a friend of Patterson’s told CDN that Patterson’s mother’s role at the Erie VAMC was critical in creating a conflict of interest. She said, “Martin Patterson was deemed incompetent by VA Field Examiner Carla Amendola in March 2011 at the request of Gail Patterson. They are coworkers and have a personal history. The VA Fiduciary Hub was aware Gail Patterson is an Erie VAMC employee, as evidenced by her own email communication about the investigation into Martin’s VA funds being misused by Laura Eaton. Laura Eaton was recommended by Carla Amendola as a VA Fiduciary.”

A fiduciary Hub appointed Laura Eaton, who runs a local nonprofit, to be Patterson’s VA fiduciary.

Eaton is no stranger to controversy; in 2011 she was indicted for theft,though the charges were eventually dropped.

Eaton did not respond to a voicemail request for comment.

On April 12, 2012, a temporary status conference was held in front of Erie County Pleas Judge Stephanie Dimotrovich.

Judge Dimotrovich, after hearing the pleas of Patterson’s parents and Eaton, placed Patterson in temporary guardianship, and Eaton was assigned to be his guardian.

Judge Dimotrovich did not respond to a call at her chambers for comment.
Patterson has remained in guardianship even though the VA has found him competent. Here’s part of a letter to his mother, “On October 20, 2014, a letter went out stating that your son, Martin J Patterson was found by our Behavioral Health Clinic to have decision making capability.”

Throughout the process, Patterson’s parents have argued that their son is not able to make “life decisions” because of damage from the lightning strike. However, neither Patterson’s parents nor Eaton has any expertise in brain injuries. They have never called a neurologist to testify regarding the case.

Patterson said that though he technically maintains his freedom, effectively he’s at the mercy of his guardian.

“Anything which needs a signature needs her approval,” Patterson said.

He said he can’t get his own apartment because his monthly allowance Is too small, and he can’t get work since no one will hire someone deemed incapacitated.

Patterson currently lives in a house on his parents’ property.

In a statement, the Indianapolis Fiduciary Hub suggested this was all for Patterson’s benefit, “VA has the honor of providing a broad range of benefits to eligible Veterans, and has a statutory requirement to protect the VA funds of Veterans who due to Injury or disease are unable to manage their financial affairs.”

Rather than managing his finances, Patterson said, the VA has stood by while nearly $100,000 of his funds was misused by his parents, ex-wife and Eaton.

Full Article & Source:
Former Army Ranger claims forced guardianship

3rd man indicted in real estate fraud scheme with Tucson link

A federal grand jury indicted a man in connection with an alleged multimillion-dollar real estate fraud scheme that operated out of San Diego and Tucson.

Peter Cash Doye, 40, of San Diego, was indicted on 17 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the FBI said in a news release Wednesday.

The FBI is looking for other alleged victims. Authorities say the scheme diverted millions of dollars from renovations and asset sales into the pockets of Doye, Courtland Gettel, 42, and Tucson lawyer Jeffrey Greenberg, 66.

The indictment filed Aug. 10 in U.S. District Court in Tucson alleged Doye and Gettel took out a $65 million loan with Doral Property Finance in September 2013 to buy and renovate commercial properties through their real estate development firm Variant Holding Co. The following month, they entered into a $73.5 million financing contract with real estate firm Beach Point.

The alleged scheme included defrauding Beach Point of nearly $12 million in payments from escrow accounts for work that was never done and submitting $6.4 million in fraudulent invoices to Doral for renovation work that similarly was never done.

In the course of the fraud, the conspirators wired $17.7 million across state lines, prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

Prosecutors asked the court to order Doye to forfeit $18.4 million in connection with the fraud scheme.

Doye was senior managing director of Variant, which had offices in San Diego and Tucson, the FBI said.

A LinkedIn page registered under the name Court Gettel said he is the CEO of Variant and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Gettel and Greenberg, who has practiced law in Arizona since 1983, pleaded guilty in May to charges of conspiracy and wire fraud in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California, as the Star reported May 26.

Federal prosecutors called the scheme an “extraordinary fraud” in which the conspirators took out $33.6 million in loans against multimillion-dollar homes in La Jolla and Del Mar and then forged documents to fool more lenders into believing the homes were debt-free.

The Department of Justice alleged they forged real estate lien releases and other records, “wreaking havoc on the chain of title for these homes” at the San Diego County Recorder’s Office. They then defaulted on the loans and caused millions of dollars in losses to lenders.

Gettel and Greenberg were ordered to forfeit $33.6 million by a federal judge in California on June 24.

Gettel and Greenberg previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme to defraud Beach Point and Doral.

Doye’s next court date is scheduled for Aug. 26. The sentencing for Gettel and Greenberg was scheduled for early August, but was postponed until the after the sentencing in the southern California case, court documents show.

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3rd man indicted in real estate fraud scheme with Tucson link

Woman who exploited elderly man for his money at it again, investigators say

Click for Video
Jack Adler was an 89-year-old widower living an active life in Century Village in Deerfield Beach when he met a woman at Costco who became his "girlfriend."

Several times a week, Fatima Williams, then in her early 40s, would pick Adler up for lunch dates that included shopping trips and stops at banks and ATMs.

Over 11 weeks in late 2010 and 2011, the withdrawals piled up — to $129,600, according to an investigation by Broward Sheriff's Detective John Calabro. Williams was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and exploiting an elderly person.

Five years later, Williams, now 50, is once more in a Broward County jail, accused of grand theft and elderly exploitation against another 89-year-old widower, this time a man from Boca Raton. (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
Woman who exploited elderly man for his money at it again, investigators say 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Disability rights activists protest against aid-in-dying measure

By Allen Tian

More than 20 activists for disability rights marched to the Secretary of State’s office to protest an aid-in-dying measure likely to end up on Colorado’s November ballot.

Holding signs that read: “Death does not cure anything,” “Give me liberty, Don’t give me death,” and “It’s not compassion, it’s contempt,” the protesters marched about 2.5 miles from the Atlantis Community Center to the Secretary of the State’s office. The march was led by a protester dressed as the ghost character from the movie, Scream.

The Colorado End-of-Life Options Act would allow mentally competent adult Colorado residents with a prognosis of six months or less to live to take life-ending drugs. Doctors would have to confirm the diagnosis and give such patients multiple opportunities to decline the drugs, which patients must self-administer.

Proponents of the measure last week delivered more than 160,000 signatures — well more than the number necessary to get on ballot — to the Secretary of State’s office. The office has 30 days to ensure that at least 98,492 signatures are valid. 

Disability rights groups ADAPT and Not Dead Yet, which led the protest, say the measure is too broad, lacks adequate safeguards, and risks exploiting the vulnerabilities of the disabled in a state that already has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. 

Protester Carrie Lucas, holding a sign reading, “Not Dead Yet,” joined the group in her electric wheelchair. “They have really put our lives at risk, ”she told The Independent.

Lucas, who has progressive muscular dystrophy, says she is particularly concerned with the definition of “terminally ill” in the measure. She says it could conceivably include someone with her condition. 

While she would have to request the life-ending drugs, she says the measure underscores her belief that while suicide is discouraged for most Americans, the disabled are somehow encouraged to view it as an option.

“That’s discriminatory because we deserve equal protection under the law,” she said.   

Full Article & Source:
Disability rights activists protest against aid-in-dying measure

Records show judge paid private legal fees with taxpayer money

Judge Brenda Weaver
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. — A North Georgia judge covered most of the costs for his court reporter's lawsuit with a local newspaper.

An open records request revealed Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Roger Bradley paid about $15,700 from his publicly funded bank account in December to Rhonda Stubblefield, his court reporter. The money went toward some of Stubblefield's legal expenses for defending a lawsuit against the Fannin Focus.

The newspaper's publisher, Mark Thomason, said Monday a copy of that check was what he had been looking for in June when he requested a subpoena be issued for two judges' bank accounts, as well as an open records request. Instead, he was indicted on charges of identity fraud, attempt to commit identity fraud and making a false statement.

"That's the only thing we've been after this whole time," he said. "That one stinkin' check."

But Rita Davis-Kirby, the financial director for Fannin County, said the information should not be a surprise to Thomason. While the Times Free Press received an invoice through its records request for the money charged to Stubblefield, Davis-Kirby said she gave Thomason the same invoice.

"I do remember sending all of that information to Mark Thomason," she said Monday. "He had that information back in December."

Thomason said the invoice was not enough information for him. He wanted the check, too, because it would prove exactly how much money flowed from Bradley's account to Stubblefield.

"It didn't say who paid it," Thomason said of the invoice to Stubblefield. "It didn't say anything. The county never confirmed it was paid."

Charges against Thomason and his attorney have since been dropped after their arrest June 24 sparked national media attention.

In April 2015, Bradley used a racial slur for African-Americans while on the bench. Thomason said others in the courtroom told him sheriff's deputies also used the slur. However, Stubblefield's transcript of the hearing did not mention any deputies.

Thomason sued Stubblefield, asking for an audio recording of the hearing. A judge ruled against Thomason in September, saying she listened to the recording and could not hear any inaccuracies in the transcript.

Stubblefield counter sued, demanding $1.6 million from the newspaper. She dropped that case in April, saying the newspaper didn't have enough money to pay even if she won.

In May, her lawyer filed a motion for attorneys' fees. Thomason said the lawyer argued in court that taxpayer money had been spent to defend Stubblefield, even though Stubblefield is a private contractor, not a county employee.

On June 1, Thomason issued a subpoena, asking for the bank records of Bradley and Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver. He believed he would find a record of the payment to Stubblefield.

Thomason also issued an open records request to a Pickens County commissioner, asking for any checks issued to Weaver's bank account. He wrote in the request he had reason to believe the checks were cashed illegally.

On June 24, the grand jury indicted Thomason on identity fraud charges, with Weaver arguing that Thomason was illegally trying to get into her bank account. A key part of this charge was about whether Thomason's lawyer gave Weaver proper warning about the subpoena — the two sides provide different accounts.

The grand jury also indicted Thomason on a charge of making false statements for writing in his records request that he believed checks for Weaver's account were cashed illegally.

Thomason said he was hoping to confirm through documentation that the county spent taxpayer money on Stubblefield's legal fees. But according to a letter obtained Monday in a records request, this information was readily available.

"Because Ms. Stubblefield's actions leading up to the lawsuit were consistent with standing orders of this court and Georgia law as to access to transcripts she should not be personally responsible for the legal fees and expenses accrued in the defense of her case," Weaver wrote in a Nov. 24 letter to the commission chairs of Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties, which make up the Appalachian Judicial Circuit. "Judge Bradley has agreed for his office account to be responsible for her legal expenses."
Weaver told the commissioners the money would cover the costs of Stubblefield's defense against Thomason's lawsuit, but not her counter claim.

The Clark & Clark law firm presented Stubblefield with a bill for their services. According to the firm, about $16,600 worth of work went into defending Thomason's suit. About $1,000 went into the counter suit against Thomason.

On Dec. 7, Bradley signed a $15,691 check for Stubblefield's legal fees. Bradley retired in January. Stubblefield declined to comment.

The investigative file related to the criminal case against Thomason also included copies of all checks written out of Weaver's operating account, beginning in December 2014. This included about $4,200 Weaver wrote to reimburse herself, as well as about $4,400 to two restaurants for lunches for several people in the community in October, when Georgia Supreme Court justices came to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit to hear an oral argument.

"A person of interest"

Before District Attorney Alison Sosebee agreed not to prosecute Thomason or his attorney, an investigator in her office called a prosecutor in Union County, Ga., because Thomason had been listed as a person of interest in a shoplifting case there.

On July 11, Assistant District Attorney Chase Queen responded with a letter. He said Thomason had gone to a Wal-Mart where a shoplifting had occurred and asked for the security officer's case reports dealing with the arrest.

Queen wrote that Thomason identified himself as an investigator with Fannin County Probate Court, not as a reporter. The probate court judge, Scott Kiker, is Thomason's cousin.

"I am all too aware of the questionable character and bad reputation of Mr. Thomason," Queen wrote, adding that Thomason should have been charged with impersonating a public officer.

Thomason said Monday that, in fact, he had requested the reports as a favor for Kiker, who was acting as the defendant's lawyer and not the probate court judge.

Kiker said this was from a case about a year ago, though he provided a different account.

He didn't hire Thomason to investigate the case. He said Thomason went to the Wal-Mart to get information on the defendant as a reporter because the defendant is active at local political functions.

Queen's boss, Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley, did not return a call seeking comment.

Full Article & Source:
Records show judge paid private legal fees with taxpayer money

Man Arrested on Charges of Stealing House From Senior Citizen

Prosecutors Say Fady Chedid Convinced Woman to Give Him Hartwell Street Home

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A 52-year-old plumber, and relative to several prominent private landlords in New Brunswick, has been arrested on theft charges, but what he allegedly stole might surprise you.

On August 5, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO) announced that Fady Chedid had been charged with the theft of a century-old house in the Sixth Ward of New Brunswick.

Chedid faces two counts of theft and spent four nights in county jail, with a $50,000 bail.

New Brunswick Today has learned that the property located at 11 Hartwell Street was also the location where Chedid was arrested at 6am that morning by the MCPO.

According to property records, the 2-family home and the land that it sits on it are valued at $127,300.

Sources and property records identified the victim as Julia H. Ribar, a widow who was responsible for the home following the death of its prior owner, Elizabeth Horvath.

It marks one of the first big cases of alleged elder abuse brought by Prosecutor Andrew Carey since the MCPO announced it had formed a new Elderly Abuse & Exploitation Team in April.

"We all know it's an issue and we all have grandparents that are subject to exploitation. Unfortunately the elderly are seen as easy targets by certain populations," Carey told

According to the report, the new unit consists of "an in-house unit of detectives, assistant prosecutors, support staff and Agent Andrea Boulton, who formerly served as planner for the Middlesex County Department of Aging and Disabled Services, and has many contacts with senior organizations, senior center directors and grantees in the county."

Boulton did not respond to multiple inquiries about this case.  NBToday obtained the MCPO press statement despite the agency removing all of our reporters from their media list.

Prosecutors allege that Chedid financially exploited an unidentified "senior citizen" by persuading her to give him the home in the heart of the renter-dominated neighborhood near Rutgers.

"Chedid convinced the senior citizen to sign over the title to her home and then withdrew several thousands of dollars from her checking account by writing checks in various amounts between September 4, 2013 and June 2014," read the official statement from the MCPO. (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
Man Arrested on Charges of Stealing House From Senior Citizen

Monday, August 22, 2016

Courtroom trauma: Amicable divorce turned to guardianship nightmare

When Cindy Hausburg filed for divorce in May 2013, she never envisioned that two years later she would be sitting before three members of a medical examining committee, trying to convince them that she knew how to tell the time of day.

Nor did she expect that a professional guardian would change her medications and the locks on her house. Or that her legal separation from her husband would morph into a bewildering fight to regain control of her own life. Or that guardians and attorneys would wind up billing her for some $125,000 in fees and costs.

After all, as divorces go, the Hausburgs' was a familiar scenario: Children out of the nest, not enough in common anymore. Except for some tension over money, they expected a fairly amicable parting.

“We hadn't been living in the same house for two years,” recalls Cindy Hausburg, 59. “But we were never enemies. We had a wonderful life with the kids.”

But three years after starting the process, the longtime Sarasota couple are not yet divorced. Instead, Cindy and Jon Hausburg find themselves united once more, in a legal struggle they both find baffling — even though he is an attorney himself.

“Honestly, if anything, this has brought us closer than we've been in years,” says Jon Hausburg, 64. “Ironically, all this nonsense has put us on the same side.”

The pinnacle of irony was perhaps reached early last December: At a divorce mediation session, four attorneys representing Cindy Hausburg and her two successive guardians sat down with Jon Hausburg and his divorce attorney, and — according to a draft settlement agreement filed in court — offered to hand over control of the wife's property and medical care to her estranged husband, in exchange for $64,500 to be divided up among them.

In other words, after nearly 30 years of marriage, Jon Hausburg was given a chance to buy back the civil rights that a Florida court had taken from Cindy Hausburg, so that they could proceed to finalize their divorce.

“It was like I was a slave or a prostitute,” Cindy Hausburg says now. “I was put on the bidding block. They saw my property, and there's only $163,000 left of my marital assets. They weren't the least bit interested in me at all.”

As it turned out, the proposed settlement was never consummated, and Cindy Hausburg had her rights fully restored at a hearing on May 5. It appears likely that a new court monitor program — instituted in Sarasota County after a series of stories in the Herald-Tribune about Florida's troubled guardianship system — played a role in this outcome.

But the wrangling over guardianship and attorney fees continues, in what might be one of the most puzzling cases ever to befall an adult ward in the state of Florida.

Hardly routine

When a spouse involved in a divorce is unable to make decisions because of frailty or cognitive impairment, it is not unusual for a court-appointed guardian to act for that person in legal proceedings.

But Cindy Hausburg's year of guardianship — begun with her consent and then continued against her will — reflects an entirely new twist on the law, according to specialists in the field.

“I can honestly say I have not heard of that,” says Bernard A. Krooks, a New York elder law attorney considered a national expert in special needs planning. “That's a first.”

The guardianship statute was designed to protect Floridians who lack capacity, because of age or infirmity, to make important decisions about money, relationships, employment, medical care, housing or even who they think should be the next president. Anyone can petition the court to remove an individual's freedom to determine his or her own destiny. Most adult guardianships involve wards so cognitively impaired by a brain injury or progressive dementia that they need someone else to safeguard them from fraud, abuse or self-harm.

But critics say this legal system, easily set in motion and difficult to derail, often ignores basic civil rights. Much of it plays out in secret, to protect the ward's privacy. When a ward has money, the system has built-in incentives for guardians and attorneys to pay themselves more than they otherwise might. And even after recent efforts to add state oversight, family members and friends of wards still complain of a routine process where professional guardians sell off elders' property, and move them from familiar surroundings to institutions where they decline and die. Guardianship activists have a chilling description for this sequence: “liquidate, isolate, medicate.”

Cindy Hausburg's case is hardly routine. While she has been treated for anxiety and depression, she does not begin to fit the description of an elder with irreversible dementia. While she had little understanding of what a legal guardianship is, she says, she was cleared by a medical doctor to enter into that status of her own free will.

Several months after hiring a new attorney in October 2014 to revive divorce talks that had faltered, she voluntarily placed her property under the guardianship of Lutheran Services Florida, a nonprofit agency that serves both indigent wards and those with the means to pay $85 an hour.

“In early March 2015,” Cindy Hausburg said in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court, her divorce attorney “described the voluntary guardianship as a 'crash course' in finances to help manage my money based on the pending resolution of my divorce. Her reasoning, as explained to me, was since I had been a homemaker for over 25 years that this guardianship would teach me how best to invest my money, how to shop around for the best and affordable insurances such as car, medical, home, etc. None of this was ever done.”

That attorney, Melinda Delpech of the Band Law Group in Sarasota, says everyone working on Cindy Hausburg's behalf acted with good intentions. But, she adds, “I think the system is flawed and was never designed to provide the kind of assistance that people suffering with certain mental illnesses require.”

In 25 years of practicing family law, Delpech says, she has only twice recommended that clients consider arranging for professional guardians to manage their property.

Barbara Palmer of Bradenton filed a petition for voluntary guardianship in December 2012, expecting, she recalls, the same kind of help.

Delpech's work on Palmer's behalf in family law court impressed a young woman who happened to be assisting in the case on the opposing side: Cindy Hausburg's eldest daughter Heather, who says she referred her mother to Delpech.

Palmer, now 62, has not been able to determine how much she paid for the two and a half years she spent under guardianship, and Manatee County court documents regarding wards are confidential. But she says she did not find the experience worthwhile: “I decided I no longer needed this person managing my finances; I certainly know how much I owe and what I'm doing to rid myself of debts.”
While it took until April 2015 to reach a final settlement with her former husband, Palmer says she was released from the voluntary guardianship at her request, in May 2014.

In the following year, Cindy Hausburg would not be disentangled from her own arrangement so easily.

'Sign me up'

Her husband Jon remembers his reaction when he heard his wife had acquired a guardian.
“I was told that she went into this thing because she wanted a crash course in finances, and they were going to teach her how to get Blue Cross and auto and help her with her bills, because she was not good with money,” he says. “I was told it was $85 an hour. I thought, 'The girl's got seven bills; it's three or four hours a month. Yeah, sign me up.' Little did I know that they were billing her $7,000 a month to do this.”

Four months later, however, a petition was filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court to have his wife declared incapacitated and remove all her civil rights. The petition was signed by Elizabeth Carlson, who Cindy Hausburg says worked on her divorce case for Delpech as a forensic accountant. Carlson has not responded to a voicemail from the Herald-Tribune requesting comment.

“I did not initiate — nor did I ask anyone else to initiate — the involuntary guardianship of Ms. Hausburg,” Delpech says. “With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that this was not the right solution to the problem.”

Carlson submitted a document with her petition in July 2015 describing Cindy Hausburg as a “forty-seven-year-old woman” who was unable to make “appropriate” financial decisions and was not properly taking her medications. She “frequently pays bills her Guardian has already paid leaving no funds for her necessary expenses,” the document claimed, and she “miss's appointments even when reminded.”

What happened next should not have happened, guardianship attorneys who agreed to discuss the case have said.

On Sept. 3, 2015, the court-appointed lawyer who represented Cindy Hausburg, Robert “Tad” Drean, and the lawyer for Lutheran Services appeared before Judge Charles Williams and told him that they would file a written stipulation regarding her incapacity if he would sign the orders to declare her incapacitated and appoint a new guardian with power over her medical and legal decisions as well as her finances.

“The stipulation actually just got executed on the doorsteps of the courthouse, so to speak,” Drean told the judge, according to a transcript of the hearing. “And so I'll be — I'll be filing it the moment I — return to my office, your honor.”

Asked to comment for this story, Drean requested questions in writing, then said in an email that he could not answer them because of “ethical duties, confidentiality issues, and attorney-client privilege.”

The stipulation, filed after Cindy Hausburg's incapacity hearing, quoted medical examiners' reports that “Her well being is in jeopardy because she does not keep doctor appointments;” “There is evidence that Cindy has been very careless with her money; and “Potential for exploitation is present.” The document also includes a handwritten addendum entitling Lutheran Services and its attorney “to be paid from the assets of the guardianship estate.”

Cindy Hausburg was not present in court that day. She says Drean advised her against it.

“He said, 'If you go, I will not be able to obtain as many rights for you,'” she says. “So of course I'm not going to go and lose more.”

Krooks, the New York guardianship attorney, says wards may sometimes be advised to remain silent at their incapacity hearings, but always have the right to attend them.

“How do you have a guardian appointed without them being a party to the process?” he asks. “None of this makes sense. To have a guardian appointed for someone who has capacity, and then turn around and say that client lacks capacity, makes no sense to me.”

Jon Hausburg says he first heard about the petition to have his wife declared incapacitated when he was in North Carolina helping one of his four daughters with a move. She got a frantic call from her sister Heather.

“Have you looked at your email?” he remembers his eldest daughter saying. “They're trying to commit Mom!”

The babysitters

To Cindy Hausburg, the view from inside her guardianship process appeared — well, crazy.

“They had a psychiatrist, a social worker and a nurse,” she says of the examining committee. “All three of them asked me to count back from 100 by sevens, and they threw out three words and later said, 'What were the three words?' And, 'Draw a clock and make it 10 after four.' And I said, 'Do you want dots on the clock? Arabic numbers, Roman numerals, what?' And after all that, they wrote that I was bipolar and had a tendency to spend too much money.”

As for the claim that she was double-paying bills, she wonders how that could even be possible after the guardianship began, because she had no money. Her husband paid a monthly allowance directly into her guardian's account.

Once the new guardian had charge of her medical decisions, Hausburg says, home health “babysitters” came to her house daily.

“It was $25 an hour, 12 hours every day,” she recalls. “They didn't do anything; they sat around watching TV and talking to me. They started messing around with my medication and it was making me loopy. I had been on the same meds for four years, and they cold-turkeyed me off of them.”

Because her guardian failed to pay the home health bills — unaffordable, given the amount of monthly support she receives from her husband — that account has been turned over to a collections agency, Cindy Hausburg says.

“My credit was 730 before they took it over,” she maintains. “It's below 300 now.”

In October, after she missed an exit on Interstate 75 and ran out of gas, her guardian arranged for her to check into a detox program in Tampa, although Cindy Hausburg insists she has no alcohol or drug problem. Jon Hausburg said he agreed to pay the $10,000 a month — “I said, if that's what she needs, yes” — and drove her to the clinic.

After a two-hour interview, both Hausburgs say, they were told the program was not appropriate for her. So Jon Hausburg drove his wife back to her Bradenton home, he says, to find her guardian's assistant parked in the driveway and a locksmith changing all the locks.

Like other Florida wards before her, Cindy Hausburg believes she was treated with less fairness than criminals receive in court.

“At least they can stand up and say guilty or not guilty; I didn't even get to say crazy or not crazy,” she says with a laugh. “They don't want the family knowing that they're trying to make you cuckoo with medications so they can justifiably lock you up, and then come in and change all the locks on your home. And I was charged $900 for that!”

Of all the attorneys working on her case, she says, only Drean talked to her. Repeatedly, according to his billing statements filed with the court, she asked him to intervene with her guardian.

“I finally got to get my Xanax back, at least,” she says. “Then I had to tell the caregivers, 'Oh, you need to call your supervisor so you can get the code to the lockbox so you can give me my medication. And then you need to fill out this form about what we did today.'”

Discovery process

Drean proved to be an atypical court-appointed guardianship attorney in two ways. First, these attorneys rarely have any contact with wards once the hearing process is concluded. While an attorney for the guardian continues to be paid from a ward's assets, the ward no longer legally has anyone to speak for him or her except the guardian.

“The role of the court-appointed attorney ends when the guardian is appointed,” explains Krooks, the New York elder law attorney.

Also unusual was the amount of interest Drean took in Cindy Hausburg's divorce case. According to fee petitions filed in court, of the $30,165 he has billed so far, at least $8,337.50 is directly attributed to divorce issues such as discovery of Jon Hausburg's assets, and work on the proposed financial settlement. This was at the same time that Melinda Delpech was billing for her work on the same issues — for a total of just over $45,000 so far.

In fact, Delpech's and Drean's billing statements show entries totaling at least $2,000 worth of billings for communicating exclusively with each other.

“The judge appointed various professionals to serve specific roles in the involuntary guardianship,” Delpech says. “I had no choice but to work with them. ... I was very cognizant about the mounting attorney and other professional fees throughout the case and was vocal throughout the process about trying to rein them in.”

One issue that commanded attention from both Delpech and Drean, according to their fee petitions, was the effort to determine Jon Hausburg's assets — a routine quest for a divorce attorney but not for a court-appointed ward's representative. A lengthy discovery process, he says, revealed that his multimillion-dollar family inheritance was not part of the Hausburgs' joint marital property. At this point, Cindy Hausburg had about $163,000 coming to her in the divorce, aside from her house and alimony expectations.

In November, Drean asked the court to consolidate the two cases — guardianship and divorce — in the interests of “judicial economy.” His motion mentioned a divorce mediation conference scheduled for December with Jon Hausburg, along with Delpech and attorneys for Cindy Hausburg's first and second guardians.

One question to be resolved — after it was clear that Cindy Hausburg could not expect a million-dollar divorce settlement — was how all these attorneys and guardians might be paid.

Melton Little, Jon Hausburg's divorce attorney, says the proposal that emerged from that Dec. 2 conference — to make his client the guardian of his future ex-wife in exchange for an agreement on fees — represents the kind of “out-of-box thinking” that such mediations are meant to encourage.
The deal was one way, he argues, to resolve a case that was getting out of hand.

“I've never seen one take on a life of its own like this one,” he says. “I'm not faulting anybody for what happened. I just think the case got enormously expensive and enormously litigated.”

But Jon Hausburg says the proposal was sparked by an offhand comment he made to express his dismay — both at the number of people who showed up for the mediation, and the fees they were demanding.

“Until that mediation in December, I had no idea that they were racking up that kind of money,” he says. “I said, 'I'd be a better guardian than you; at least I'm free.' The next thing I know, they're actually taking me up on it. When they realized that the money was going to stop because I was going nuts, suddenly she didn't need so much attention and they were willing to turn her over to me.”
'Not a cocktail party'

The unusual settlement effort came to nothing. One snag appears to have been the proposed cap on fees; another was Cindy Hausburg's refusal to sign releases that some attorneys reportedly wanted. But a turning point in the case came early this year, after the Herald-Tribune reported on state Sen. Nancy Detert's bill to reform the guardianship process.

Cindy Hausburg happened to see the January story online, and wrote in the comments section about her predicament. Her plea was read by William Eppley and Pam Vergara, Brooksville attorneys who had represented a client in another Sarasota guardianship case profiled in the Herald-Tribune. In March, Eppley entered the Hausburg divorce case on behalf of Jon Hausburg.

Soon afterward, Cindy Hausburg filed her own petition to have her rights restored, called a “suggestion of capacity.” Drean's billing records indicate that he had been working on a restoration of rights for her, but he never filed it. Instead he asked Judge Williams to appoint a court monitor to investigate the guardianship, citing negotiations that had “dragged on for months” along with “the complexities of the matter, Mrs. Hausburg's dissatisfaction with her prior temporary guardian, her current limited guardian, her divorce attorney, and her court-appointed counsel.”

Williams designed the court monitor program, partly in response to a Herald-Tribune series examining the guardianship process, as a way of ensuring “that not one person slips through the cracks.” This is the first year of its existence, and the experiment appears to have had an impact in this case: Less than a month after monitor Dana Yawn submitted her confidential report, at a May 5 hearing Williams made restoring Cindy Hausburg's rights his first order of the session — even though it was not among the topics set for discussion that day.

“OK,” he said after this swift action. “That takes care of the suggestion of competency, so what do you want to do next?”

With nine attorneys in the courtroom and one on the telephone — several of them asking to abandon a case that had spiraled out of control — the hearing was at times a chaotic affair. “This is not a cocktail party,” Williams said at one point, when Cindy Hausburg's sister stood and attempted to speak.

The guardianship was suddenly, effectively at an end, and the divorce proceeding was in limbo. What remained to be hashed out — and still remains before the court — was whether Jon Hausburg should be held liable for all the fees that piled up during his wife's yearlong experience as a ward of the court.

Delpech, who had asked for a decision on a motion to be paid for her work on the protracted divorce case, so she could withdraw as Cindy Hausburg's lawyer, expressed little hope that her issues would take precedence.

“Melton Little and I got kind of pushed into this guardianship proceeding because we were trying to get these folks divorced with this going on in the background,” she told the court, “and it turned out to be the foreground and the divorce is the background.”

Little, the lawyer on the speakerphone, also seeking permission to withdraw as soon as his client found another family law attorney, summed up the level of confusion that had begun as an apparent effort to help a divorcing homemaker learn some financial skills.

“We got in this case as family law attorneys, and I think we did a pretty decent job helping the parties reach some agreement,” Little said. “The problem has been the amount of the fees and costs incurred in the guardianship proceedings and whether those fees and costs are going to be borne by one, both, or either of the parties in the divorce case. And that's the problem, and that's why at this point, it's just over my head.”

Full Article & Source:
Courtroom trauma: Amicable divorce turned to guardianship nightmare

Ask SAM: Abuse of Power of Attorney

Q: We are suspicious that a family member is abusing/misusing their Power of Attorney designation in regard to an elderly parent’s financial decisions. Please tell me where I should start to look into this, if the POA denies our request for full financial disclosure. We are also family. What are our options, and resources?

Answer: “If the parent will not ask for an accounting from the power of attorney (POA) agent, examine the POA, which almost certainly is on the public record at the Register of Deeds office in the county in which the parent resides,” said local attorney Mike Wells, who writes a column on legal matters for the Journal. “The POA may have a requirement that the POA agent has to account (full financial disclosure) to others if the POA agent has acted on behalf of the parent.”

Many powers of attorney documents, however, have a clause by which the principal (the parent) waives any reporting requirement, Wells said, adding “But family members should ask for it, even if it is not required.”

If the POA agent refuses to provide an accounting and is not willing to be transparent, Wells said the family members should ask the parent to revoke the agent’s authority and appoint another person.

“If the parent is not mentally competent, a guardianship proceeding (a special proceeding), can be instituted to ask that the power of attorney be revoked and that a guardian (one of the other children or an independent person) of the parent’s assets be appointed. But if the parent is mentally competent, you generally cannot keep them from knowingly making poor decisions, unless there is strong evidence of undue influence, which is often a high evidentiary bar to clear. At that point the family members’ options are very limited.”

When the parent passes away, he said, the executor of the estate of the parent can require a full accounting of what the POA agent did with the parent’s assets.

If the POA agent will not cooperate and the parent will not revoke their POA, Wells recommends that you contact the North Carolina Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (800) 662-7660, which provides a 30 minute conference with an experienced elder law attorney in this area for no more than $50, hopefully with a copy of the POA in hand. “This lawyer can tell you in more detail how you should proceed, and what the financial costs will be,” he said.

Full Article & Source:
Ask SAM: Abuse of Power of Attorney

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Children Aren't Being Told After Parents Die. CHANGE THE LAW

Imagine browsing your dad's social media page one day and discovering that he had died...months earlier.

That's where my story begins.

Close your eyes and envision all of the best memories you can ever recall about your father or mother, or the person you call mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa.

Imagine how would you feel if that parent (or grandparent) died, and you were never told?? Did you know that this can happen to anyone, and our current laws allow it?

I am my late father's only birth child (an only son). I had a relationship with my father for nearly 50 years. He was married to his 4th wife (not my birth mom). He was a grandfather to my kids.

He was originally from Wisconsin, but later moved to Chicago, then California, while I lived in another state. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he called me to tell me he was headed for immediate aggressive chemo treatment, and then urged me not to come out to visit him.

His widow has since indicated she felt I should have dropped everything and traveled out to visit him. My dad and I arranged to visit at a later date after his initial treatment. Soon after, he received a more positive prognosis, and became more optimistic.

We were in contact about his estate plans and the activities of his grandkids, as recently as days before his death.

He passed away after deteriorating rapidly (days after my last call with him). I learned this only after discovering a eulogy message posted to him on his social media page...several WEEKS later.

I was not notified of his death by his wife, OR by any other member of my family. Nobody contacted me by any means of communication (which they had). I've since learned this is called isolation abuse.  (Click to continue)

Full Article & Source:
Children Aren't Being Told After Parents Die. CHANGE THE LAW