Saturday, October 8, 2016

St. Pete detectives: Suspect stole $126K from 94-year-old man

St. Petersburg Police arrested a 68-year-old woman on Friday, and charged her with stealing more than $125,000 from the living trust of a 94-year-old man.
  • Jane E. Vatelot, 68, a licensed professional guardian
  • Vatelot contacted about assisting victim with finances
  • Vatelot used funds for own personal expenses
Officials said St. Pete Police Department of Economic Crimes detectives arrested Jane E. Vatelot, 68, on a warrant of Exploitation of the Elderly, a felony offense.

According to detectives, Vatelot is a licensed professional guardian. Vatelot reportedly was contacted about assisting the victim with his finances, and was granted Power of Attorney by the victim, who lacked the capacity to consent at the time.

Detectives said Vatelot then used her access to the victim's living trust account to obtain funds for her own personal expenses. Those expenses reportedly included mortgage, credit card, and car insurance payments.

Detectives currently calculate the loss at approximately $126,000. 

Full Article & Source:
St. Pete detectives: Suspect stole $126K from 94-year-old man


by Debbie (Milich) Mysiewicz

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law and with the colors of justice.”
U.S. v. Janotti, 673 F. 2d, 578, 614 (3rd Circuit, 1982)

Preface: Much of the material in Part One and the following extended Part Two, including the names of participants, is drawn from the public portions of Clallam Co. Superior Court case no. 11-4-00249-7, filed September 9th, 2011, Guardianship of Dorothy Milich (aka Milich-Wilson, Wilson.) All docket entries cited are for that case unless otherwise stated.

Anyone who has ever read Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago will undoubtedly see many similarities to Washington court guardianships and so-called “agreed” guardianships when it comes to (alleged or real) incapacitated seniors and their families. Prisoners were given little sheets of toilet paper and pencils to write their grievances on, which never amounted to anything and probably were not read. Years after sentencing prisoners got the court rules showing them all the “rights” they had, but which were not asserted because they did not know about them at the time they were convicted. It was too late when they learned about them…

I myself am a low-income senior. My tragic story along these lines involves a senile and demented Washington adult—my mother—who, despite 18 months of my complaints and predictions of this, was crippled while unattended in a hostile (to me and her own well-being) accepted/“agreed” guardianship. She died less than two years after being crippled.

Being a non lawyer and unable to afford legal help, I, her only child and living blood relative, was deliberately and quickly excluded from protecting her through the auspices of the WA Courts and an orchestrated gaggle of judges, lawyers, guardians, social workers, psychologists and avaricious individuals. Then, her entire estate, and family heirlooms of any monetary value, originally intended by my grandmother for me, was given to non-family members claiming to be her friends.

I should note here that the guardian claims my mother would not have been crippled had she pursued physical therapy after her injury . I beg to differ from this callous assessment—octogenarians do not have a high rate of success with physical therapy. In my mother’s case, she was in extreme pain and, in all likelihood, would not have had her ability to walk unassisted restored by physical therapy.

A curious side effect: a woman with virtually no memory beyond a week , who may not have known her own birthday or how may children she had (one), and who was unaware of the extent of her assets , was allowed (in secret—I was not informed by the court nor was I served in the District Court name change action) to change her name (and possibly file a marriage certificate 6 years after her live-in partner’s death .) She then was allowed to write a new will disinheriting her entire family months before her near-fatal, crippling injury. (Prior to this unrelated injury, the Clallam Co. Superior Court had even given the guardian immunity for allowing my mother, who could not safely drive, to drive a dangerous lawn tractor.)

In one of my mother’s last lucid moments, two weeks before imposition of the guardianship, she warned me “Don’t come up here, Debbie. They’ll eat you alive.” It was more than a year until I got to speak with her again.

Tragic stories like mine are the norm, and not just in Washington. In fact, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) will soon publish its 2016 update of the massive 2010 report on nationwide guardian abuse. My story is different. Beyond showing the guardianship was faulty by the real-world outcome, I can show how it got created and why, as a poor person, I was quickly disposed of and, hence, was unable to stop what I maintain was essentially the drugging and slow kill of my mother. This despite seemingly well-designed WA legislation designed to prevent such abuses.

My experience shows how, once the hostile “agreed guardianship” was created, the court essentially wrote its own rules and was protected from any oversight as all the investigative bodies (such as DSHS APS and the CPG Board) are under the direct authority of the Washington Supreme Court, and so there is no real oversight unless requested by officers of the court (i.e., judges and lawyers.) If you or I provided more or less 13-hours/week of care to a seriously impaired senior, who had previously fallen on several occasions, and who refused to wear her Lifealert bracelet—and this elder was crippled, it’s likely we’d be under criminal investigation.

As baby boomers age, the allegations of elder abuse and exploitation and “estate harvesting” in cases like my mother’s are certain to soar unless prompt action is taken by Washington’s voters and the Legislature to curb the almost unlimited power of the courts over vulnerable seniors and their families facing guardianship or in guardianships. Every citizen is at a risk from a system that allows a form of “patty cake” to be played by the various members of the “system” none of whom seems to have accountability.

I like to find something positive in experiences like this. I think I’ve experienced enough to recommend substantive modifications to Washington law that will protect vulnerable adults from guardianship injury and exploitation while, a the same time, giving low-income next-of-kin the information needed to make informed decisions before a guardianship is established or set in stone.

And the ability to stop or alter a guardianship they feel poses a threat to their loved one. (For instance, in the “agreed/approved” order in my case, it appeared the court was prioritizing the financial interests of my mother’s “care team” vs. the health and safety needs of my mother.) I must stress that while guardian horror stories abound, it is the system that must change first because the guardians do what they do at the behest of it. If we can’t immediately throw out the current guardianship system—and it is going to become an overwhelming problem as so-called “boomers” age and there are insufficient qualified guardians—I’ve come up with suggestions for the Legislature and Governor for a temporary fix:
    • Next of kin given priority as guardian or in selecting a guardian unless specific findings are made by the court of abuse or misconduct with regard to the alleged ICP. Such guardians, with limited financial resources, shall be allowed to collect a reasonable salary and expenses from the estate equivalent to what the courts now call “professional nonprofessional guardians.” Under these standards I would be considered one if I had three clients but, if I had filed to be guardian for my mother full time, I would not have been compensated because I was her daughter!;

    • Failure to make legal service on next-of-kin or failure to provide any of the reports specified by RCW 11.88.090(5)(f)(ix) shall be grounds for immediate termination of a guardianship upon petition by next-of-kin or relatives. No fees shall accrue for such a petition to overturn the guardianship made in good faith. I was not legally served in this case nor was I provided aforementioned reports. I contend this damaged my “standing” and simplifed the imposition of an “agreed guardianship” excluding me, my mother’s only living blood relative;

    • The Judge shall in every case make actual contact with the ICP—if possible in a courtroom setting. In this case, none of the judges even met my mother or spoke with her for that matter. My mother had a memory of “a week and a day” and may not have remembered her correct birthday (the party for her disclosed by guardian was at the wrong time of month and an erroneous death certificate was issued for her showing her birthday as Oct. 10th rather than Oct. 1st) or how many children she had, yet judges allowed her to change her name and write a will disinheriting me and the grandkids. I live in a 1963 mobile home with a disabled husband. The estate taken may have been in the millions (some of it possibly obtained at my expense through fraud in my late father’s estate) but I’ll never know because the real financial records were kept sealed;

    • Guardian ad litems (GALs) are supposed to write a report assessing the ICP’s (incapacitated person’s) situation for the court. This is the basis for any court or approved “agreed guardianship.” These reports are often flimsy and frequently not even written so a copy can’t be given to the next of kin. I maintain we need to change the situation so, at all times, GALs should be required to always make written and not verbal reports specified in RCW 11.88.090(5)(f)(ix) that shall always be provided by law. In my case, the GAL only provided a report to me after a protest to the State Bar—4 months after the court approval of the guardianship—when it was too late to do any good. The report had many serious errors that ensured approval of the “agreed” order by the court that, I contend, contributed to crippling my mother. The GAL even failed to determine that the Certified Professional Guardian (CPG) they were appointing was only a trainee enjoined by the WA Courts from representing herself as a CPG—her appointment was allowed to stand and she was permitted to use letters of guardianship in commerce stating she was a CPG! (Financial institutions scrutinize CPG transactions less closely than lay guardians’ transactions.) The GAL also underestimated the size of my mother’s estate by $600,000—allowing the option of only “modest,” but inadequate care;

    • Low-income next-of-kin contesting an agreed guardianship filed by other parties shall be provided an attorney at public expense. My case was a slaughter—threats of sanctions and every dirty legal trick was used while the judges looked the other way except once, when a judge told an attorney to “stop shouting at me.”;

    • A low-income ombudsman for guardianships shall be created with the power to investigate GALs and guardians and make binding recommendations to the local courts and the AOC;

    • The DSHS APS shall be mandated by the legislature to investigate all claims of elder neglect and abuse—including claims of neglect in court and approved guardianships—without bias and be given the power to make binding recommendations for change in care/guardian if a guardianship is involved. In my case, all my repeated warnings about the care of and risks to my mother were ignored—including assertions that my mother had been threatened if she spoke to me. My mother was put on a heavy drug regimen after this and was crippled a little over two (2) months after my final letter to DSHS about inadequate care and coercion;

    • Guardians must be required to carry E&O (errors and omissions) insurance requisite to the size of the estate they are managing. In my mother’s case, the guardian carried $50,000 worth of insurance on a $900,000 stated estate!;

    • Filing of unsubstantiated derogatory affidavits by ICPs suffering from dementia shall not be admissible in guardianship proceedings unless substantial evidential proof of their veracity is provided. Several alleged affidavits of my mother, either unsworn or notarized under a name that was not her legal name, were proffered to the court to not allow regular periods of contact with my mother. She had much-vaunted “free will” to avoid me, they claimed, yet when she wanted to not have lunch with her “care team” to whom she allegedly left all her assets, she was told she “had to see them” because they were her care team.;

    • Attorneys representing the ICP or the guardianship must retain professional insurance. In my case, according to the WSBA website, both the court-appointed lawyer for my mother (who foolishly believed she had fired him in Dec. 2012—he remained court appointed) and the guardianship lawyer (suggested by the first lawyer) did NOT have professional insurance. Lawyers without insurance often utilize trusts and other devices to make themselves “judgment proof, which also effectively deters suits for misfeasance or malfeasance;” and,

    • Next-of-kin to be automatically included as a party, with legal standing, to any agreed/approved or court guardianship except for exceptional proven wrongdoing. This would stop what happened to me in that I would have been given standing—which I should have had under common law—in what was essentially a court-approved private commercial agreement. (One ethical law firm in Port Angeles apparently refused to file the petition because I was specifically being left out.)
So how did my mother die three times? The first time was when she was placed into the guardianship—my human mother was gone and they even called the financial part of the process “a probate.” (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Peter Falk's Law Designed to Protect Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

For 10 years, Peter Falk brilliantly portrayed Lieutenant Columbo, an LAPD detective of Italian descent, in the hit television series “Columbo.” While wearing his trademark wrinkled raincoat, chronically absent-minded and perpetually disheveled, Columbo would quickly and intellectually disarm a suspected murderer. Through skilled and insightful questioning and with a keen eye for detail, he was able to solve the most complex homicides.

However, putting Hollywood fantasies aside, Falk, a native New Yorker and graduate of Ossining High School, sadly is said to have spent his last days suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease while allegedly isolated from his family and friends by his second wife, his court-appointed conservator under California law. As Falk’s conservator, she allegedly prevented his daughter and other family members from visiting him, failed to notify them of major changes in his condition and even allegedly failed to notify them of his demise in 2011 and his funeral arrangements.

Because of her heartbreaking experience, his daughter, Catherine Falk, has fought to have legislation passed nationwide, known as Peter Falk’s Law, that provides specific guidelines that guardians and conservators for an incapacitated person must comply with relevant to visitation rights and notice of end of life.

In New York, the bill was signed into law on July 21 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Thus, New York has become one of the many states that have adopted Peter Falk’s Law.

As a result, the Mental Hygiene Law of New York was amended with three new paragraphs relevant to guardianship duties. They provide as follows:

*The order of appointment shall identify the person entitled to receive notice of the incapacitated person’s death, the intended disposition of the remains of the decedent, funeral arrangements and final resting place when that information is known or can be reasonably ascertained by the guardian.
*The order of appointment may identify the person or persons entitled to notice of the incapacitated person’s transfer to a medical facility.
*The order of appointment may identify the person entitled to visit the incapacitated person, if they so choose. However, the identification of such persons in the order shall in no way limit the person entitled to visit the incapacitated person.

Clearly, the intent of Peter Falk’s Law is to ensure that children from a previous marriage, as well as other family members, are not denied the right to visit their incapacitated parent or loved one by a current spouse who is a guardian/conservator with whom they may have a poor relationship. The law in essence requires that the court address the issue of visitation, notice of transfer to a medical facility and death in its initial order appointing a guardian for the incapacitated person. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent a guardian from improperly isolating his or her ward and limiting visitation.

Full Article and Source:
Peter Falk's Law Designed t oProtect Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

See Also:
NASGA:  Legislation

Nursing Homes, Negligence, and Elderly Abuse

On Sept. 28, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new rule that guarantees patients and their families to nursing homes for abuse and negligence. The new rule bans pre-dispute arbitration clauses popular in nursing home contracts which have, in the past, contractually bound patients and family members to settle disputes in arbitration rather than the court system. Now, nursing homes can be sued in court if accused of wrongdoing.

The new rule is the latest step forward in a wave of calls for accountability in elder care and abuse prevention. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that more than five million Americans are affected by some form of elder abuse each year, and while state and federal government entities are focusing attention on the issue, elderly abuse can be difficult to identify and prevent. The elderly are especially prone to neglect, financial exploitation and emotional abuse.

While nursing homes should offer a safe haven for the elderly, abusive treatment can occur. Over the decades, nursing home staff throughout the U.S. have been accused of everything from sexually assaulting residents to sedating difficult patients with unnecessary drugs to neglecting patients to the point of dehydration and even death. With the rise of social media, some nursing home employees have been documented using Snapchat and Twitter to share explicit videos and images of their patients in embarrassing or abusive situations. As a result of recent investigations into these abuses, federal and state governments have moved to impose more restrictions on institutionalized elder care and to provide more support for at-risk seniors. The newly imposed rule allowing patients to sue nursing homes from negligence and abuse will shed further light on potential nursing home care infractions.

Full Article and Source:
Nursing Homes, Negligence, and Elderly Abuse

Alabama Man Jailed on 102 Charges of Theft of $10,000 From 84 Year-Old

A north Alabama man is accused of stealing about $10,000 from his 84-year-old neighbor by illegally obtaining the elderly man's personal information and opening two credit cards in his name.

Brent Stovall, 54, is charged with 98 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, two counts of third-degree possession of a forged instrument, and one count each of first-degree theft and first-degree financial exploitation of the elderly. Stovall is being held in the Lauderdale County Jail with bail set at $103,500.

Authorities said Stovall was renting a house from the victim in the Rogersville community, and volunteered to bring the 84-year-old neighbor his mail.

Full Article and Source:
Alabama Man Jailed on 102 Charges of Theft of $10,000 from 84 Year-Old

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nursing home operator from Chicago jailed as feds allege $1 billion scheme

For years, wealthy nursing home operator Philip Esformes seemed to live in perpetual motion, using private jets to travel between his Water Tower Place condominium and his mansions in Miami and Los Angeles.

Now federal authorities are applying extraordinary court pressure to keep Esformes locked in a Florida detention cell where he awaits trial for allegedly orchestrating an unprecedented $1 billion Medicaid and Medicare bribery and kickback scheme.

"This is the largest single criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at a July 22 news conference announcing the charges.

Arrested at one of his $2 million estates on the Miami Beach waterfront that morning and placed in immediate detention, Esformes has been denied bond despite a barrage of court pleas that include letters of support from nursing home patients and the recipients of his philanthropy.

His confinement in the Miami Federal Detention Center marks a new challenge for a business family that has withstood two decades of Justice Department probes and Tribune investigations into allegations of patient abuse, corruption and substandard conditions at their Illinois, Florida and Missouri nursing home facilities.

From their Lincolnwood offices, Esformes and his father and business partner, Morris Esformes, took in millions of dollars annually from federal programs for the sick and disabled.

Both have cultivated reputations as prominent philanthropists. Morris Esformes has an endowed medical professorship named for him at the University of Chicago, and they have given millions of dollars to synagogues, schools and medical facilities in the United States and Israel.

The Esformeses sold their Illinois nursing facilities about four years ago but kept their headquarters in the Chicago suburbs as they continued to operate 20 or so homes in Florida, government records and Tribune interviews show.

The new federal indictment alleges that Philip Esformes and a handful of Miami co-conspirators bilked Medicaid and Medicare for 14 years by cycling some 14,000 patients through various Esformes facilities, where many received unnecessary or even harmful treatments. Drug addicts were allegedly lured to the facilities with promises of narcotics, and prosecutors say some received OxyContin and fentanyl without a physician's order to entice them to stay.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home operator from Chicago jailed as feds allege $1 billion scheme

The license-to-steal document that everyone needs

BRATTLEBORO—Although not everyone needs a trust agreement, everyone should have a power of attorney, since we do not know what the future holds.

A power of attorney is a written document whereby you appoint some other person, known as your agent, to make decisions and act on your behalf.

Most of our clients have appointed agents to make a broad range of financial decisions for them if they become unable to make those decisions themselves. In light of the broad authority and discretion that a power of attorney typically confers, and the lack of judicial oversight, it is important to designate someone in whom you have complete confidence to serve in this role.

Hopefully, your agent will never need to use your power of attorney.

* * *

If you do not have a power of attorney and become unable to care for yourself, to write checks, to sign deeds and tax returns, and to otherwise manage your finances, your family or friends might need to initiate protracted and expensive involuntary guardianship proceedings.

In Vermont, courts will appoint guardians in involuntary proceedings only if the person in need of a guardianship has been evaluated by a qualified mental-health professional.

Persons in need of a guardian must be represented by an attorney, as well as a guardian ad litem.

Once a guardian has been appointed, he or she must file detailed annual accountings with the probate court which detail the income, expenses, and assets of the person under guardianship. Those accountings must balance. The preparation of those accountings can be challenging and expensive.

Clients occasionally ask when the authority granted in powers of attorney takes effect. There are documents known as “springing powers of attorney” wherein the authority granted does not take effect until the person who signed the power of attorney, known as the principal, is certified to be unable to make financial decisions by his or her physician.

I will explain why I have never drafted a springing power of attorney.

As noted above, I caution my clients that before they sign their power of attorney, they must be sure that their agents will not take advantage of them through those documents.

Under Vermont law, principals may file petitions in court to require agents to account for their actions. That authority is also granted to the Commissioner of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living.

A principal who sustains damages as a result of an agent’s action or inaction may sue the agent for damages. If that principal becomes unable to make their financial decisions, they are unlikely to realize any misappropriation or abuse of the power of attorney authority — much less do anything about it.

The misappropriation of a principal’s funds has torn many families apart. Even if a principal prevails in a suit against his or her agent, the recovery of the funds that have been misappropriated may be difficult at best.

Unlike some states, Vermont does not have a statutory power of attorney. I find those documents only get longer. The most recent addition to the power of attorney that I use with my clients concerns digital assets such as their email account and Facebook page. (Digital assets in estate planning will be the subject of another article that my colleagues or I hope to write.)

* * *

In Vermont, before an agent may exercise the authority granted in a power of attorney, the agent must acknowledge in writing that they have accepted their appointment and that they understand their duties under the law.

In the powers of attorney that I draft, I include the statute that outlines the duties of an agent. They include the following duties:

• to act in good faith in the interest of the principal;
• not to self-deal;
• not to commingle their principal’s funds with their own;
• to keep records of all transactions taken under the power of attorney;
• to provide accountings upon request;
• to follow the directions of the principal.

It is important to understand that the authority granted under a power of attorney ceases when the principal passes away.

Finally, with banks and brokerage firms encouraging their clients to dispense with the need for written statements, it is important to let someone know where to find all the records concerning your finances. Otherwise, some of your assets could wind up with the Office of Unclaimed Property in the state in which you reside.

Full Article & Source:
The license-to-steal document that everyone needs

Weird Little Tricks to Boost Your Memory

Remember when people used to tie a string around a finger as a reminder to remember something? Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work too well. The string might help you recall that you meant to remember something, but sometimes you couldn’t remember what it was!

String might not be good for much, but there are other little tricks medical researchers have come up with (and investigated) that may help your memory function better. You’ll be very surprised at some of the things that can help you remember. . .

Give your memory a hand 
According to researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey, you can use your right hand to improve your memory. They found that clenching your right hand into a fist when you encounter something you want to remember can help you form a stronger memory. Then, later when you want to recall the item, clenching your left fist may improve your ability to bring it back.

In this research, the scientists had a group of people clench their right fist for 90 seconds right before trying to memorize a list of 72 words. Later, the subjects of the study clenched their left fist when trying to recollect the words. Meanwhile other people in the study either did nothing with their hands or used different hand motions when memorizing.1

The researchers found that the folks who clenched their right fist when learning the list by heart and then tightened their left when reciting what they remembered were more accurate than anyone else.

“The findings suggest that some simple body movements – by temporarily changing the way the brain functions- can improve memory. Future research will examine whether hand clenching can also improve other forms of cognition, for example verbal or spatial abilities,” says Ruth Propper, lead scientist on the study.

Moving thoughts around

Another technique for helping memory, say scientists at the University of California Irvine’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, is to engage in a short burst of moderate exercise when you are trying to hold on to a memory.

In this study, people aged 50 to 85 years viewed pictures of nature and animals before exercising on a stationary bike for six minutes at 70 percent of their maximum exercise capacity.

An hour later, they were given a surprise quiz on the pictures they had been shown. Compared to a group that did no exercise, the researchers discovered that exercise enhanced memory in a significant way in people who were healthy as well as in people who were cognitively impaired and had memory difficulties.2

Clearing the mind 
A final tip for improving how your mind works: Lose weight.

A study at Umea University in Sweden shows that in older, overweight women, weight loss can improve function in the parts of the brain that take part in forming and recalling memories.

These scientists put 20 overweight, postmenopausal women (average age 60) on a weight loss diet for six months. They each lost an average of 17 pounds. After their weight loss, the women performed better on memory tests. MRIs of their brains showed enhanced activity in brain regions linked to remembering.3

“The altered brain activity after weight loss suggests that the brain becomes more active while storing new memories and therefore needs fewer brain resources to recollect stored information,” says researcher Andreas Pettersson.

Full Article & Source:
Weird Little Tricks to Boost Your Memory

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sealed guardianship cases

In June 2013, Nassau County Judge Angela Iannacci sealed a legal action brought by Dean Hart, now a candidate for State Assembly, to have a guardian appointed for his 79-year-old mother, whose mental faculties were in decline.

Iannacci’s order failed to provide any substantive justification for sealing the records, as required by the state mental health law. In such cases, concern for the privacy of the vulnerable party typically serves as the basis for sealing.

An examination of partial case records obtained by Newsday, however, raises the question of who actually benefited from the sealing order. It appears to have done little for the welfare of Beatrice Hart, who suffers from dementia, while shielding attorneys, the courts and a current candidate for public office from outside scrutiny.

The disturbing accusations leveled in the case include elder abuse, cronyism in the court system, and Dean Hart fleecing his mother of $4.5 million with help from the firm of attorney Steven Schlesinger, a powerful Democrat whose court-appointed stewardship of a wealthy charity is now under state and federal investigation.

The Hart case is one of 207 guardianship proceedings identified by Newsday that Long Island judges hid from the public during a roughly 10-year period.

These cases involve the appointment of legal caretakers for people who require help managing their personal affairs. They comprise two-thirds of the court actions Newsday found in its investigation of case sealing by Long Island judges.

After obtaining confidential records, Newsday two weeks ago reported state Sen. Tom Croci’s involvement in one of those cases. In 2013, Newsday reported, a court-appointed evaluator found that Croci had “taken advantage” of his elderly aunt, philanthropist Adele Smithers, for his own financial benefit and recommended that a judge reject his request to control her assets as guardian. Croci told Newsday that he always acted in his aunt’s interest and that he could not answer questions about the case because of the sealing order.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Sealed guardianship cases

NY Sen. Tom Croci’s family dispute hidden in sealed files

A court-appointed evaluator in 2013 found that State Sen. Tom Croci, who chairs the Senate Ethics Committee, had “taken advantage” of his elderly aunt for his own financial benefit and recommended that the court reject Croci’s attempt to control her assets.

The evaluator’s findings preceded the settlement of a bitter family dispute that required Croci to resign as his aunt’s financial trustee and to sign over to her the title to a $450,000 Alexandria, Virginia, town house she had purchased for him in 2005. In turn, his aunt agreed to send the Nassau District Attorney’s Office a letter withdrawing “any and all complaints” she’d made against Croci.

Croci’s aunt is Adele Smithers, a Mill Neck heiress and philanthropist known for her contributions to addiction research and treatment. The evaluator made her findings during a court action that Croci brought in Nassau County seeking to have Smithers declared mentally incapacitated and to be named her property guardian, a designation that would have given Croci broader authority over her finances.

Though Croci alleged that his aunt’s mind was failing and that she was being preyed upon by an adult son, the evaluator concluded otherwise. Smithers’ mind was intact, the evaluator found, and it was Croci, not the son, who had exploited her for his own “pecuniary gain.” Smithers, who accused Croci and a second trustee of ignoring her requests for funds — in one instance for a wheelchair — told the evaluator that her nephew’s lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to “control her money.”

In a statement Wednesday, Croci, an attorney and U.S. Navy reservist who has served in Afghanistan and was Islip Town supervisor when he brought the proceeding, told a reporter that he always acted in the best interest of Adele Smithers.

“You have my guardianship petition I filed to protect my aunt,” Croci said. “It was honest and complete the day I signed it, under oath. And it is honest and complete now.”

Voters knew nothing of the case in 2014, when Croci, a Republican, won a seat in the State Senate. That’s because Nassau Supreme Court Judge Arthur Diamond issued an order that sealed the case file from the public. Newsday unearthed partial case records during reporting for a forthcoming series that examines whether Long Island’s state court judges have adhered to sealing rules that were established in part to protect the public’s interest in open courts.

Newsday found that Diamond, who this year was given responsibility for overseeing all guardianship proceedings in Nassau, failed to meet the standard that the state mental health law establishes for sealing guardianship cases.

A 2013 settlement of a family dispute required Tom Croci, then Islip Town supervisor, to return this town house in Alexandria, Virginia, to his aunt Adele Smithers, who purchased the property for him in 2005 for $450,000. Croci also resigned as one of her financial trustees, as part of the agreement after a Nassau court rejected his attempt to be named her property guardian. Photo Credit: Evelyn Hockstein
Diamond declined to be interviewed.

Newsday contacted Croci’s office last year and again last month in regard to the case, but got no response until this week. In his statement, Croci said that he was “not permitted to comment” further because of the sealing order. Croci’s attorney, David A. Smith, also said the order barred his client from talking. Croci’s office said he has moved to have the order rescinded so that he could speak more fully.

Not all legal experts believe that a sealing order prohibits litigants from discussing a case. A New York University law professor and legal ethicist, Stephen Gillers, said sealing orders direct clerks of courts not to disclose case records, whereas gag orders, which are rare in civil litigation, limit the freedom of the parties to discuss a case.

“A sealing order is not a gag order; a gag order is not a sealing order,” Gillers said.

Until age and Parkinson’s began to take a toll, Smithers, who is now 83, lived an influential life in the spotlight. She was married to R. Brinkley Smithers, an investment banker’s son who established the country’s largest foundation dedicated to the research and treatment of alcoholism. He died in 1994. 
Adele Smithers helped run the foundation and other organizations with similar goals and led the board of directors of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
NY Sen. Tom Croci’s family dispute hidden in sealed files

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Federal Register Update: Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Reform of Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities

A rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), HHS.
Final rule.

This final rule will revise the requirements that Long-Term Care facilities must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These changes are necessary to reflect the substantial advances that have been made over the past several years in the theory and practice of service delivery and safety. These revisions are also an integral part of our efforts to achieve broad-based improvements both in the quality of health care furnished through federal programs, and in patient safety, while at the same time reducing procedural burdens on providers.

Effective date: These regulations are effective on November 28, 2016.

READ the update

Judge Bars Estate Recovery From Metro

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A senior Nashville judge has dismissed a $515,907 claim against Metro Nashville government filed in behalf of the estate of a man whose assets were depleted by $771,009 thanks to the lawyer appointed to oversee his case.

In a three-page ruling Judge Ben H. Cantrell concluded that the claim filed in behalf of the estate of William Link had to be disallowed because it was not filed until long after a one-year statute of limitations had expired.

Cantrell concluded that the one-year limit did not only apply to wrongful death cases as the lawyers for Link had argued.

"The plaintiff's argument is appealing, especially in this case, but the court thinks the Supreme Court did not limit their decision to wrongful death cases," Cantrell wrote in the three page decision.

John E. Clemmons
The Link estate was one of four cases in which now jailed and disbarred attorney John E. Clemmons stole over $1 million from estates and conservatorships he was overseeing. Clemmons, 69, is now serving an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in all four cases.

Lawyers for Link had argued that if Davidson Probate Court officials had done their job  and required Clemmons to file mandatory annual accountings, the thefts would have been prevented. According to court filings Clemmons, who was appointed administrator in March of 2003, filed one annual accounting on Sept. 15, 2004.

Cantrell did not dispute that conclusion and also pointed out that court officials approved a series of fee requests submitted by Clemmons up through 2012 "despite the lack of accounting."

Paul Gontarek, who replaced Clemmons as the administrator, said Monday they were reviewing the ruling to determine what if any further action to take.

Cantrell has yet to rule in a similar case in which Gontarek is seeking to recover $157,050 from Metro for Donald Griggs who had his conservatorship overseen by Clemmons.  Arguments in the Griggs case paralleled those on the Link case.

In his ruling Cantrell concluded "that the claims against Metro in this case are barred by the one-year statute of limitations."

Gontarek, meanwhile, is pursuing a claim against Clemmons' malpractice insurance carrier, but lawyers for the company have asked a federal judge to bar any claim because the policy does not apply to criminal conduct.

Probate Judge David "Randy" Kennedy, who appointed Gontarek to replace Clemmons, recently approved fees and expenses for Gontarek and Patrick Mason totaling a little over $35,000. Mason was hired to pursue the claims against Metro.


Full Article & Source:
Judge Bars Estate Recovery From Metro

State Health Dept. finds deficiencies at nursing home where woman, 82, died after beating

The Delaware Avenue nursing home where an 82-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries in a beating in late August has been cited for four deficiencies, and the operators’ plan to correct the problems has been rejected.

An inspection at Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the days following the death of Ruth Murray found “the facility failed to provide adequate supervision to prevent accidents and ensure resident safety,” according to the state Health Department.

That was one of four deficiencies for which Emerald South was cited on Sept. 16. The nursing home’s operators last week submitted a plan of correction to try to address the shortcomings, but the department rejected the plan.

The nursing home’s operators still must submit and win approval for a plan of correction. The Health Department declined to release information on the deficiencies identified in the inspection because the department’s probe into Murray’s death continues.

“State DOH’s investigation into allegations of resident-to-resident abuse at Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation is ongoing. Based on the seriousness of the matter, DOH will be reviewing all appropriate enforcement actions against the facility,” the department said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the Department of Health on the Plan of Corrections and expect they will be accepted soon,” A spokesman for the operators of the home said.

Murray was a resident of Emerald South, 1175 Delaware Ave. near West Ferry Street, in Buffalo. On the morning of Aug. 26, Murray mistakenly wandered into a man’s room in the dementia unit, where she also lived, officials previously told The News.

Murray suffered a broken neck, several broken ribs, a broken nose, facial fractures and a collapsed lung in the attack, according to a police report, which did not explain the nature of the altercation.
She died three days later in Erie County Medical Center.

Emerald South fares poorly on measures used by federal and state agencies to rate nursing homes. The federal government gave Emerald South the lowest possible score on its 2016 overall rating.

And in July, the union for workers at Emerald South held an informational picket outside the facility to protest low staffing levels there and at other nursing homes controlled by the same owners.

The facility formerly was known as the Presbyterian Home, but Presbyterian Senior Care sold it in 2012. Benjamin Landa, founder of the state’s largest nursing home network, acquired the facility as an appointed receiver before transferring ownership to his wife, Judy, and a partner, Barry Jeremias, through an entity known as Opal Care LLC, according to Health Department records. Jeremias recently applied for permission to sell his ownership shares to Judy Landa.

Emerald South has a high number of complaints compared with other nursing homes in the state, and inspector visits prompted by those complaints led to the home being cited for a higher number of deficiencies, according to Health Department data.

For the four years between August 2012 and July 2016, Emerald South generated 151.8 complaints per 100 occupied beds, nearly four times the statewide average for nursing homes of 41 complaints per 100 occupied beds. The department visited Emerald South nine times in the last four years and issued 149 citations during those inspections, more than four times the state average over the same period.

Michael Scinta, a lawyer with the Brown Chiari law firm, represents the family of Murray. He has been gathering information about Murray’s care and the home’s operation since the attack, and said the Health Department’s finding of deficiencies demonstrates there were problems at the home.

“At the time of Ms. Murray’s death, they failed to meet the appropriate standard of care, relative to her needs as well as the needs of other residents at the facility,” Scinta said.

Scinta said the plan of correction is a chance for the home to make changes to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again.

By rejecting the submitted plan, he said, “the Department of Health must not believe that Emerald has done enough to right the wrongs.”

As for the male resident whose room Murray entered, Michael J. DeGeorge, a spokesman for the Buffalo Police Department, said the case is in the hands of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

Full Article & Source:
State Health Dept. finds deficiencies at nursing home where woman, 82, died after beating

Department of Public Health Approves Mass Evictions of Eureka Nursing Home Residents

On September 28, 2016, the Department of Public Health (DPH) gave unconditional written approval to Rockport Healthcare Services to implement its revised closure and relocation plans for Seaview, Pacific and Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Centers in Eureka. These three nursing homes contain nearly 60 percent of the nursing home beds in Humboldt County and house about 190 residents. Rockport Healthcare Services is affiliated with Brius Healthcare Services, a nursing home business operated by Shlomo Rechnitz.

On the same date, DPH wrote Joe Rodrigues, the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and Suzi Fregeau, the local ombudsman coordinator, to advise them it found no basis to impose receivership on the facilities as they had recommended.

Condemnation by public officials was swift.  Senator Mike McGuire issued a statement to the North Coast Journal expressing extreme disappointment and called the closure plans “devastating” and “completely irresponsible.” Local ombudsman Suzi Fregeau called the Department’s decisions “catastrophic.”

Contradicting the operator’s claims that it could not give away the facilities, the Eureka Times-Standard reported that the Partnership Health Plan of California had offered to buy and run one or more of the facilities from Rockport but that the asking price was “untenable.” The Lost Coast Outpost posted a statement from Assemblymember Jim Wood stating “Rockport remained steadfast in walking away from more than 200 vulnerable residents and their families” and describing the demand for an “unreasonably high” price as “unconscionable.”

These statements quickly triggered a very public exchange of criticism between Brius Healthcare Services and the Partnership Health Plan about who was to blame and subsequent media stories by the Lost Coast Outpost and Eureka Times-Standard on September 30, 2016.

The disgraceful actions by DPH continues its long history of aiding the interests of nursing home operators at the expense of the nursing home residents it is supposed to protect, even when residents’ lives are at stake. In authorizing the Eureka nursing homes to close and evict all of the residents, DPH is virtually condemning most of them to isolated lives far apart from their families and friends and to the likely trauma that often accompany this fate.

Most of the residents are likely to be moved to nursing homes outside of Humboldt County if the facilities close because there are few available beds in the remaining two local nursing homes. The approved closure plans identifies nursing homes within a 200-mile radius beyond the greater Eureka area, including 24 nursing homes that reportedly have available beds. These 24 nursing homes have the following characteristics:
  • All but one of them are more than 100 miles from Eureka;
  • Some of them are nearly 200 miles from Eureka;
  • Five of them are in Oregon;
  • The remaining 19 facilities are spread across 10 different northern California counties including Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tehama Counties;
  • The 24 nursing homes had a total of 214 vacancies;
  • Many of the nursing homes have deplorable records; and
  • 15 of the 24 nursing homes – containing 138 of the 214 available beds – currently have 1 or 2-Star ratings on Nursing Home Compare’s Five Star quality rating system. (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Department of Public Health Approves Mass Evictions of Eureka Nursing Home Residents

Monday, October 3, 2016

New York Lawyer Gets Prison Time for Stealing $5 Million From Clients

Stuart A. Schlesinger, a disbarred lawyer
A lawyer who practiced for half a century in New York and built one of the city’s leading personal injury practices was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on Friday for stealing more than $5 million from clients.

The lawyer, Stuart A. Schlesinger, 76, misappropriated the funds from settlements he had negotiated in cases involving medical malpractice and other injuries, and then used the money to pay expenses including mortgage bills, the government had alleged.

“He converted his law license to a license to steal,” said Judge William H. Pauley III before imposing the sentence, which included an order that Mr. Schlesinger forfeit more than $5 million and pay restitution.

The proceeding was highly charged, with rows of victims observing from the spectator gallery. Some wept openly. Others made angry comments. More than a half-dozen victims addressed the judge personally, recounting the hardships Mr. Schlesinger had caused them, as well as his never-ending excuses, as one victim put it.

The victim, Margaret Last, rattled off some of Mr. Schlesinger’s excuses: “He was short-staffed. He was making sure everything was in order. He had a virus. He had problems with his back and his knee. The office was moving. He didn’t know how to work a fax machine.”

Ms. Last is still owed $660,000, her share of a settlement of a medical malpractice lawsuit that Mr. Schlesinger negotiated on her behalf, according to Christopher Cobb, a lawyer who now represents her.

Another victim, Kenneth Lawler, who is owed $900,000 from the settlement of a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice in the death of his son, said, “Every time I have to return to this matter, it brings back sad memories.”

Matthew J. Laroche, a prosecutor in the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the judge that Mr. Schlesinger did not care that his victims were plaintiffs who were already “suffering from life-altering injuries or the death of a loved one.

“He stole their money and lied to them and left them revictimized and broken,” Mr. Laroche said.

Murray Richman, Mr. Schlesinger’s lawyer, said his client’s actions had been reprehensible.

“I’m also angry at what he’s done to the legal community,” Mr. Richman said. “He’s made every lawyer’s word less meaningful.”

Mr. Schlesinger, who ran a firm called Julien & Schlesinger and who is now disbarred, made a rambling apology, facing the judge at times and also turning to the victims. “I know what I did,” he said. “I know the extent of what I did, and I know how terrible it is.”

He added: “I’ve lost everything that I’ve earned in 50 years. I lost my license. I lost my respect. I have terrible issues with family.”

Judge Pauley, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, observed that Mr. Schlesinger had become a prominent lawyer who was “at the apex” of the personal injury bar in New York. But the case revealed “that under the veneer of an accomplished and highly respected attorney, Mr. Schlesinger was really a predator — his conduct was long running and devastating to the individuals he victimized,” the judge said.

He also noted that Mr. Schlesinger had amassed a fortune in real estate, selling an elegant brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for more than $20 million about a decade ago, and earlier buying a property on Quogue, on Long Island, that is appraised for more than $11 million.

The Quogue property, which according to real estate listings is an eight-bedroom house on five and a half acres, with a pool and a hot tub overlooking the ocean, is for sale, currently priced at $10 million.

The judge also suggested that Mr. Schlesinger had been hiding assets, noting he had not disclosed that he had borrowed more than $2 million against the Quogue property. He said that Mr. Schlesinger had also “apparently been busy selling personal property, including artworks,” and after selling some, he had deposited more than $65,000 in his wife’s account.

Judge Pauley said the court’s probation department reported that bank statements reflected other significant deposits for which the sources were unknown.

“So it really seems, Mr. Schlesinger, that the fraudulent conduct continues,” the judge said.

Full Article & Source:
New York Lawyer Gets Prison Time for Stealing $5 Million From Clients

Nevada court panel calls for state guardianship overhaul

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court has joined calls for lawmakers to overhaul the state's troubled guardianship program that critics say victimizes some of the disabled and elderly people it was set up to help.

Appointing lawyers to represent those whose assets and affairs are being managed tops a list of recommendations announced this week by a commission that spent 15 months studying the program.  Rules currently don't allow legal representation.

Other proposals included creating a "bill of rights" for wards of the program, allowing judges to enlist independent investigators and accountants to spot problems, and capping fees charged by private guardians.

A separate law would be created to cover children in the program, and mediation would be required for all contested guardianship proceedings. Guardians would be prohibited from selling assets, such as a ward's house or car, without court approval.

In a statement Thursday announcing the study's completion, Reno television reporter and commission member Terri Russell cited what she called heartbreaking stories of "abuse, fear and distrust" in the program.

The court created the commission in June 2015 to review issues raised following a series of Las Vegas Review-Journal reports about flaws and lack of oversight of the guardianship system in Las Vegas and Clark County.

Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, who headed the panel, said the accounts "served as an important reminder for all of us of the sensitivity we all must show to the issues involved in the assessment of persons in need of protection."

The commission statement said it expected the recommendations would provide a template for new laws in the 2017 Legislature.

The panel called for courts to bring a backlog of guardian cases current; for officials to seek federal funding to improve administration of the program; and for criminal investigation and prosecution of guardianship abuse cases.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt created a task force in May that he said would aim to stop legal guardians from swindling disabled and elderly clients they're hired to protect.

He issued a joint statement Friday with Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo and District Attorney Steve Wolfson in Las Vegas commending the Supreme Court commission's work.

The officials promised to review the recommendations and "continue to investigate and prosecute instances of guardianship and financial exploitation."

The panel also called for the Supreme Court to clarify rules of evidence and procedure in guardianship cases.

The guardian program handles the affairs of thousands of at-risk adults with mental or physical incapacities. Some cases are handled by publicly funded guardians. Others fall to private, third-party guardians whose work and fee structure is supposed to be monitored by a court.

"Some of the cases were just horrible to read," said Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and a former state lawmaker. The nonprofit began handling guardianship cases earlier this year.

Buckley wasn't a commission member but urged the panel to call for allowing attorneys into the guardianship process. Critics say it currently takes a family member or other outsider to report mismanagement of guardianship money and cases.

"Individuals in this situation are being stripped of their civil liberties, the right to run their life as they see fit, without anyone speaking to them or advocating on their behalf," Buckley told the Review-Journal. "There's no doubt that many of these recommendations, if enacted by the Legislature, will stop some of those abuses."

The commission report doesn't feature victim testimony but chronicles discussions about state laws by a 27-member panel that includes judges, advocates, attorneys and public officials.

Full Article & Source:
Nevada court panel calls for state guardianship overhaul

My sister hid my mom in a nursing home and cheated me out of my inheritance

Dear Moneyologist,

For years, my parents depended on me. But my father died and I believe I was cheated out of my inheritance by my sibling. My sister gave my part to her husband. I was told that our other two siblings were given $10,000 each. I know for a fact that there was $45,000 in his estate, not including the family home.

After my father’s death, my mother suddenly became a different person. I became the enemy. I was told my mother was afraid of me. I did not know where mom was for seven years. I eventually found her and she was put in a nursing home. It turned out she was suffering with dementia. My sister never went to see mother. (The staff said they had never met my sister.)

When I started asking questions about my mother’s money my sister hung up the phone on me. Of my mom’s three children, my sister’s husband makes over $100,000 a year. I am on disability and my other sibling earns $30,000 a year. It may sound like a small sum, but it would mean a great deal to us. Do I have any right to fight for my inheritance?

Linda in Oklahoma

Dear Linda,

I’m sorry that your sister appears to have cheated you out of your inheritance but I am more disturbed that your mother was spirited away for seven years. I’m curious to know how you found her after all this time and what efforts you made to locate her in the interim period, and whether you have reported any of this to the authorities. It seems to me that your inheritance should be the least important matter here and your mother’s well-being should be paramount.

Assuming your mother is still alive, then you would need to empower yourself legally to determine the financial status of an incapacitated individual, says Blake Harris, an attorney at Mile High Estate Planning in Denver. “If an individual is incapacitated, then their finances would either be managed by a court appointed conservator or their agent under their power of attorney,” he says.

A power of attorney is an inexpensive written legal document that gives an individual the right to make financial decisions on behalf of another person; an “attorney-in-fact” or agent is the person who is making those decisions. Ask the agent for the financial plan. If you can’t locate the agent or the agent is not willing to share that information, Harris says, you should petition the court to contest the power of attorney and request a copy of your mom’s financial plan.

Similarly, if no power of attorney exists, Harris says your mother would have a court appointed conservator and as you are an interested party — usually an immediate family member or other close relative — you could petition the court to review your mother’s financial plan. That said, if your mother’s estate was worth $45,000, it’s highly unlikely there’s much left after seven years.

Given that your mother has been left to end her days alone, this strikes me more of a case of elder abuse, something that is commonly under-reported, according to the nonprofit National Adult Protective Services Association. They include using a power of attorney to access a person’s finances or even taking advantage of joint bank accounts. Make your mother’s health and safety your priority, not the inheritance (if it even still exists).

Full Article & Source:
My sister hid my mom in a nursing home and cheated me out of my inheritance

Sunday, October 2, 2016

NBC2 Investigators: Assisted living facility dogged by bed bugs

Concealed among single-family homes in Naples Park, there's a small residence where people who can't take care of themselves live.

Karen Federighi was one of them.

"I would not want anyone to stay at that facility," she said.

Shortly into her stay at the Vanderbilt Beach Assisted Living facility, Federighi awoke in the middle of the night.

"I was awakened by the little bites," she said. "So I turned on the lights. Sure enough, there they are."

"They" were bed bugs.

Federighi got to a doctor where she was treated for the bites. But she said the facility did nothing to get rid of the bugs.

"I never observed once anybody cleaning, or vacuuming, or dusting," she said.

So she called the state and filed a complaint with the Agency for Healthcare Administration, which came to inspect the Vanderbilt.

AHCA's report shows bed bugs are "a constant battle," according to the facility's administrator. That administrator told state inspectors that the parasites popped up eight months ago. She chose to treat them herself instead of hiring a professional exterminator.

AHCA required Vanderbilt to contract with a state-licensed pest control company by April 30.
Additionally, the facility was forced to seal all the air conditioner wall units where pests were getting inside.

Those deadlines passed, and AHCA has not performed a follow-up inspection to confirm whether Vanderbilt complied.

A Vanderbilt employee refused to answer questions.

"It's none of your concern," she said.

As it turned out, state inspectors found more than just bed bugs during their visit. There were missing medical records and staff was not properly trained to manage medications, and even a case where a resident wasn't receiving proper daily care.

"It really becomes kind of an issue of abuse at some point," said Eric Flusche, a senior care advocate. "Without staff who is properly trained, that can become a life-threatening situation. It doesn't sound like (a place) I would want to put someone that I loved into."

Federighi shared the sentiment.

"The residents at Vanderbilt deserve better," she said.

To find out about health care facilities in Florida, go to the Agency for Healthcare Administration's website.

Full Article & Source:
NBC2 Investigators: Assisted living facility dogged by bed bugs

Disbarred Longwood attorney arrested on federal fraud charges

Julie Kronhaus, a former Longwood attorney, was disbarred
A Longwood attorney accused of draining hundreds of thousands of dollars from the trust accounts and businesses of her clients was arrested Friday on federal charges.

Julie Kronhaus, 51, is accused of 11 counts of wire fraud and seven counts of bank fraud.

An Orlando federal grand jury indicted her on Wednesday.

The indictment, unsealed Friday, accuses her of wrongdoing dating back to 2009. She's charged with making eight illegal wire transfers totaling $526,000 between 2012 and 2014.

In addition, she's charged with defrauding Bank of America out of $425,000 in a separate series of transactions.

Clients, however, have filed lawsuits and complaints with the Florida Bar accusing her of misappropriating more than $2 million.

Kronhaus provided legal advice, did accounting, set up trust funds and managed them for several clients. It's those funds that she's accused of raiding.

Disbarred attorney embezzled money from disabled girl, records allege
One of those was Brittany Jones, who gave birth 10 years ago to a baby girl who suffered severe brain damage while in a Lake County hospital. Kronhaus was in charge of the child's trust account when $180,000 disappeared, Jones alleged in a complaint with the Florida Bar.

"I'm glad it's finally happened," she said Friday when told of Kronhaus' arrest. "I've never seen where she's ever denied any wrongdoing."

Kronhaus had an office on Howell Branch Road near Winter Park and also was a certified public accountant. She was disbarred in 2014 and stripped of her CPA license by state regulators last year.

She did not return phone calls Friday evening.

Her arrest came as no surprise. Former clients have clamored for it for more than two years, when they first discovered checks she wrote to them began to bounce.

The first agency to take action against her was the Florida Bar. About that time, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office began an investigation, then turned it over to the FBI.

As the investigation dragged on, clients grew angry that she had not been charged with a crime.

They include the widow and son of a Casselberry man who was killed in an automobile crash, at least two Orlando-area aviation businesses and a Baltimore lawyer.

Kronhaus ran something similar to a Ponzi scheme, according to the indictment, sometimes transferring client money into the accounts of other clients in an attempt to cover up earlier wrongdoing.

She also made $120,000 in fraudulent wire transfers to American Express to pay for personal travel, clothes and entertainment, according to the indictment.

Former clients accused her of living a lavish lifestyle. She and her cardiologist husband, Ken Kronhaus, live in Alaqua, a gated community outside Longwood, in a 6,500-square foot home that has a heated swimming pool and backs up to a golf course.

Julie Kronhaus wore designer clothes, drove a Lexus, sent her daughter to Lake Highland Preparatory School and took the girl to out-of-state-beauty pageants and shows on Broadway, photos show.

The bank-fraud victim, according to the indictment, was Bank of America. Kronhaus carried out a check kiting scheme in 2014, leaving the bank holding $425,000 worth of bad checks.

She also diverted money from client accounts that were supposed to go to the Internal Revenue Service to pay their tax bills, the indictment alleges.

Kronhaus was booked into the Seminole County Jail about 1:45 p.m. Friday. After being transferred to federal custody, she was released on her own recognizance, according to Amy Filjones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Full Article & Source:
Disbarred Longwood attorney arrested on federal fraud charges

Granny who ditched cancer treatment for cross-country road trip dies

- Norma Jean Bauerschmidt, the grandmother who has embarked on the ultimate journey following a devastating loss and learning she has cancer, has died. She was 91.

Miss Norma, as she liked to be called, set out on her incredible journey in the summer of 2015.

Months earlier and within a two-week period, she learned her husband, Leo, was dying and she had a large, likely cancerous mass on her uterus. Two days after Leo passed away, Miss Norma was in a doctor's office learning about surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Once the doctor finished telling Norma her options, he asked her how she'd like to proceed.

"I'm 90-years-old, I'm hitting the road," she told her doctor.

Driving Miss Norma

Along for the epic road trip was her son and daughter-in-law. Her goal was to love every minute of life she had, and she did just that. She got to see Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Disney World and more recently the beaches along Georgia's coast. She visited New York, Atlanta and San Juan Island in Harbor, Washington. She wintered in Florida and cruised up the East Coast “chasing spring.”  (Continue Reading)

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Granny who ditched cancer treatment for cross-country road trip dies