Saturday, November 26, 2016

A New Kind of Slavery: Guardianship

By Marti Oakley:

What it really means to become a “ward of the state”

So how does a living, breathing human being find themselves in front of a probate tribunal? And why should being declared incapacitated, cause you to cease to exist in the law?

Probate supposedly only comes into play upon presentation of the death certificate. It appears that being declared a ward and the accompanying court order, is the de facto death certificate.

The entire system is pivots on the targeted victim being deprived of their natural rights and liberties; an impossible task unless by administrative order they are deprived of their own existence.

To become a “ward of the state” means that you lose your identity, all of your natural rights and liberties and everything you own so much so that another person takes over your life, your identity and all of your life’s work contained in your assets. For all intents and purposes, you died. You just didn’t know it.

Guardianship is said to be the fastest growing cottage industry in America. It is, in a nutshell, the complete takeover of another human beings’ life for the purpose of financial exploitation and personal financial gain. The predators in this government sanctioned system are no less insidious, no less of a danger to the public, than any other predator.

Virtually every day of the week, in every state, an elderly individual with sizable assets is targeted by a professional, for-profit guardian. Claiming the victim is [incapacitated], these parasitic predators then petition for guardianship. The proof of incapacity?  Most likely does not exist. The predatory guardian simply has to claim to the probate tribunal administrator, that there is incapacity of some kind. They do not have to provide any proof, no evidence of any kind to substantiate their claim. After all, there is an estate to be exploited and no one is allowed to stop the transfer of wealth that is about to take place. The predator guardian will most likely resign from a case as soon as the estate has been totally depleted and the assets totally converted to their personal accounts.

No one is allowed to refute the claims of the predator guardian. No evidence is allowed into the tribunal record to indicate that anyone presented anything to refute the claims of abuse, neglect or mistreatment the predatory guardian claims.

Full Article and Source:
A New Kind of Slavery: Guardianship in Amercia

See Also:
T.S.Radio With Marti Oakley and Debbie Dahmer

Music Lasts Forever

There is something about the power of music that speaks to our souls. Watch the story about this power that made a news anchor cry.

See Why This Story About Music Brought Anchor to Tears

80 Year-Old First Time Bride Proves Love is Ageless

If you have ever worried that you are going to end up single for the rest of your life, well then, this is the heartwarming story you need to read right now.

As the Miami Herald reports, 80-year-old Maria Teresa Cobar recently wed 95-year-old Carlos Victor Suarez at Aventura Plaza Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Miami, Florida. The marriage is the first for Cobar, who immigrated from Guatemala at the age of 26 as a single mother and did not have time to look for love.

Her groom told the Herald that it was love at first sight. The pair will now share a suite together rather than live in separate rooms in the nursing home where they met.

Full Article and Source:
80-Year-Old First Time Bride Proves Love is Ageless

Friday, November 25, 2016

"Who Guards the Guardians?" by Diane Dimond

Coming soon!
Albuquerque Journal Investigative Reporter and National Columnist Diane Diamond is working on a series about the guardianship system in New Mexico. This is when the court appoints a guardian to run an elderly person's life when that person can no longer do so themselves. Diamond says she found out New Mexico's system is troubled.

Guarding the Guardians

Repo Man Helps Pay Off Bill for Elderly Couple's Repossessed Car

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, a car repo worker recently helped an elderly couple pay off the outstanding bill on their car, which he had to repossess after they fell behind on their payments.

"It's just been a miracle," Pat Kipping, 69, said of what happened to her and her husband, Stan Kipping, 83.

"I don’t know where to even start. We got behind about three payments on the car. I had called the bank and I said, 'Can you please give me until Dec. 3 and I will catch up on them?' and they said, 'No.' So I hung up and prayed and then he, Jim, showed up to repossess the car," Pat Kipping told ABC News today of Jim Ford, a man she says she had never met before he came to repossesses her car last week.

"The next thing I know is that he showed up three days later and brought the car back," she continued. "He had it detailed, and the oil changed, and changed the light bulbs. It also came with a turkey. It is just so overwhelming for me.

They’re Growing Older. Their Mortgage Debt Is Growing Deeper.

It was a modest house, a two-bedroom ranch in Arlington, Mass. Jerri and Richard Newman had to stretch to buy it for $169,000 in 1996, but with his job at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and her freelance editing, they figured they could swing it.

They took out a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. But their son developed mental health disabilities, including a bipolar disorder. To pay for his care, and help compensate for Ms. Newman’s interrupted career, the Newmans refinanced four times and took out a home-equity loan.

In an earlier era, the Newmans — he’s 65; she’s 62 — might now be contemplating retirement in a paid-for home. Instead, they’ve amassed so much mortgage debt, about $375,000, that they’re reluctantly considering selling. “We tried for years to catch up,” Ms. Newman said.

“The norm for a long time was, if you bought a house at 35 and didn’t refinance, you’d be done paying for it by retirement,” said Geoffrey Sanzenbacher, a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Amid the continuing fallout from the housing boom and bust, however, a growing proportion of older homeowners now carries mortgage debt. And the average amount keeps rising, according to two recent studies, which may portend lower standards of living for many retirees.

More than three-quarters of Americans over 65 remain homeowners despite housing market gyrations. Those houses usually represent their greatest single asset.

But often there’s little equity left, even as prices have largely recovered, because so many older homeowners have borrowed against their homes.

As housing values rose more than 60 percent nationally between 2000 and 2006, homeowners like the Newmans (more than younger ones) refinanced and took out cash, or signed up for home equity loans or lines of credit.

The proportion of homeowners over 55 with housing debt has climbed, the Boston College group recently reported. Dr. Sanzenbacher provided the numbers: 50 percent still had mortgages, home equity loans or lines of credit in 2013, compared with 38 percent in 1998.

An Urban Institute study published this month, based on data from the national Health and Retirement Study, found a similar pattern among homeowners over 65. The proportion with housing debt rose to 35 percent in 2012 from 23.9 percent in 1998.

Moreover, the median amount they owed nearly doubled, to $82,000 from $44,000.

Tapping home equity “was an attractive opportunity,” Dr. Sanzenbacher said. “If you assumed housing prices would keep going up, it didn’t seem very risky.”  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
They’re Growing Older. Their Mortgage Debt Is Growing Deeper.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

93 Year-Old Hosts "Great Depression Cooking"

93 year old cook and great grandmother, Clara, recounts her childhood during the Great Depression as she prepares meals from the era. Learn how to make simple yet delicious dishes while listening to stories from the Great Depression.

Great Depression Cooking:  Depression Breakfast

Maja Daniels Wins First Photographic Grant on Alzheimer’s

Rethinking Alzheimer's behind one closed door

Swedish photographer Maja Daniels has won the first Bob and Diane Fund grant, a photographic grant dedicated to visual storytelling about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Selected from 83 entries, Daniels won for her long-term project Into Oblivion, which documents life inside one of France’s geriatric hospitals. There, patients with Alzheimer’s are confined within a particular ward, with a locked door separating the occupants from the rest of the hospital.

Daniels photographed that door, creating tender images that show the vulnerabilities of Alzheimer’s sufferers while highlighting society’s tendency to cast away its elders. “It is our very own fear, and negative connotations of ageing and dying, that makes us comply with these societal structures,” says the photographer. “Whilst being busy living an active, productive life we are perhaps relieved on a day-to-day basis by the possibility to be able to turn a blind eye to what is so conveniently hidden away from us by the geriatric institutions and care homes.”

With her images, Daniels hopes to force a rethink of “our institutionalized, modern way of living” and to question certain care policies, “such as the use of confinement as an aspect of care, by seeing the effects that can have on somebody’s life.”

For the judges – Sarah Leen of National Geographic, MaryAnne Golon of the Washington Post, and Getty Images’ Chip Somodevilla – Daniel’s images were deceptively simple, but “each picture screamed,” says Somodevilla.

“The idea of coming back to that door is brilliant,” adds Leen. “I’m moved by it.”

The grant was created in the memory of Bob and Diane Martin, the parents of Gina Martin, a National Geographic Creative employee who has spent the last five years raising awareness about Alzheimer’s impact on families. “To see this fund develop from an idea to actually reviewing so many beautiful and personal projects from all over the world was a special and emotional day for me,” says Martin. “The work and proposals brought me back to what my family went through and what millions of families are going through today.”

Daniels plans to use the $5,000 grant to finance the publication of Into Oblivion, but more importantly, she says, “it will help me pursue the difficult conversation that I think we need to have about how we conceive and care for people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Maja Daniels is a Swedish photographer based in London.

Full Article & Source:
Maja Daniels Wins First Photographic Grant on Alzheimer’s

Woman to pay restitution, serve jail time for exploiting 93-year-old

CHARLESTON -- A woman was ordered to pay restitution and to spend time in jail after she admitted stealing money from a 93-year-old woman.

Nikola M. Cone, 37, for whom court records list an address of 1600 S. Second St., Mattoon, also admitted threatening three people with a gun in a separate incident and was placed on probation for two years.

The sentence was part of the agreement that included Cone's guilty pleas to chargesof financial exploitation of an elderly person and aggravated assault.

The exploitation charge accused her of using a debit card belonging to the 93-year-old, for whom Cone had power of attorney, to deposit $116 in the jail account of her boyfriend, who was in custody at the time.

The charge in connection with that, which took place in June and July of last year, was a felony offense. Probation terms in that case included restitution and three weekends in jail, set for January and February.

The assault charge alleged Cone threatened others with a gun on Dec. 26, 2014, and was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. She was ordered to forfeit the gun in that case.

Other probation terms included substance abuse treatment and other counseling and payment of about $1,400 in fines and court fees.

Coles County Circuit Judge Teresa Righter sentenced Cone by accepting the terms of a plea agreement that Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher and Public Defender Anthony Ortega recommended.

Full Article & Source:
Woman to pay restitution, serve jail time for exploiting 93-year-old

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Investigation finds widespread abuse of the disabled

CHICAGO (AP) — A newspaper investigation found more than a thousand cases of abuse and neglect of Illinois adults with disabilities who were placed into private group homes.

The Chicago Tribune says its investigation revealed mistreatment inside Illinois’ taxpayer-funded group homes and their day programs, with caregivers failing to provide basic care while regulators conceal harm and death with secrecy and silence.

The investigation found at least 42 deaths linked to abuse and neglect in group homes or their day programs over the last seven years. Residents have been humiliated and lost freedom, state records show.

The Chicago Tribune’s investigation also shows 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases of documented harm than publicly reported by Illinois’ Department of Human Services.

Thomas Powers was one of those unfortunate cases. He died in a Joliet group home for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Grieving relatives of Powers didn’t know there was evidence found of neglect, which included an instance of the 50-year-old, with the intellect of a small child, being forced to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room for storage.

Other incidents similar or worse than Powers’ experience have also been revealed.

A male group resident was beaten to death by his caregiver after being accused of stealing cookies.

Employees at another home abused a female resident by binding her hands and ankles with duct tape, and covering her head with a blanket and leaving her on a kitchen floor for several hours.

In many of these cases, the health and safety of residents has been left to unlicensed and scantly trained employees. The death toll has risen due to caregivers failing to promptly call 911, perform CPR or respond to medical emergencies.

The department in many instances let the group homes investigate allegations of neglect and mental abuse in their own workplaces, the Chicago Tribune found.

Human Services officials retracted five years of erroneous reports after confronted with The Chicago Tribune’s findings and said the department had launched reforms to ensure accurate reporting.

The investigation results from the Chicago Tribune have prompted Human Services Secretary James Dimas to order widespread reforms to improve public accountability and streamline investigations.

“My concern is that too often agencies hide behind their confidentiality statutes, which makes it harder for the public to know what is going on,” Dimas said.

Full Article & Source:
Investigation finds widespread abuse of the disabled

Fake "love scam" drains 92-year-old man's savings

It’s called the “Fake Love Scam,” and it’s heartbreaking: Younger people woo and even marry elderly victims -- then strip them of everything they have, CBS Chicago reported.

The scam is a legal nightmare for victims and their families.

Aloysius Mack, 92, has been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having dementia. That psychiatrist filed a legal document saying Mack is “partially incapable of making personal and financial decisions” -- decisions like those he made with Sophie Miller.

“I think she was stalking me and she came out of nowhere,” recalled Mack, who met Miller at a suburban McDonald’s.

“She came over and sat across the table from me,” Mack said. “She seemed honest to me at the beginning.”

In the end, the Cook County Public guardian charged that Miller targeted Mack because of his disabilities, in a scam his office calls “The Fake Love Scam.”

“People fake that they’re in love with people,” says Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris.
“They marry them and scam them out of their money.”

 Last March, Miller brought Mack to Chicago City Hall to get married and then dropped him off alone at his home.

The marriage creates legal hurdles for attorneys now trying to undo both it and the financial damage Miller allegedly orchestrated.

The public guardian’s office alleged in court filings that Miller got Mack to pay $80,000 for a now-shuttered laundromat business. Mack also bought her a $40,000 van and put her on his bank accounts totaling about $335,000. She also got him to change his will so she would inherit Mack’s home in Schaumburg, in northeastern Illinois, valued at $260,000.

“She scammed me,” Mack said. “And the worst thing of all she stole my hard-earned life savings.”

In another case, 79-year old Benita Manalo, who has severe dementia, married her caretaker, Phil Cantillas, who is 28-years her junior. Shortly after the marriage the public guardian charged in a petition that Cantillas “began to funnel thousands of dollars belonging to Manalo to his bank account in the Philippines” and to friends in the U.S.

Altogether, the Public Guardian charged Cantillas either “spent, wired, mailed or gifted” more than $65,000 of her money.

Cantillas denied any wrongdoing but settled the case by agreeing to have judgment entered against him for the money. He could not be reached for comment.

The public guardian said the so-called “fake love” or “marriage scam” is a growing problem.

“Baby Boomers, as we get older, we’re going to see more of these types of cases,” Harris said.

“These things are really serious because they will take all of their money and will leave them sitting in the living room in their underwear ... they’ll be gone in the wind.”

Now, Mack’s family is trying to pick up the pieces.

“He just did whatever she said. He said he was vulnerable, he said I was a sitting duck and he fell for everything she said,” Mack’s great-niece Nancy Hunter said. “He was so lonely and that’s the bottom line.”

Mack’s great-niece was appointed his guardian this week and a protection order was entered prohibiting Miller from contacting him. The Public Guardian’s Office was able to get back $40,000 of the $80,000 he paid for the laundromat.

Now attorneys are trying to get the marriage annulled so they can undo all the legal documents Mack signed tying his finances to her. Miller could not be reached for comment.

Full Article & Source:
Fake "love scam" drains 92-year-old man's savings

Senior citizens frequent targets of scammers

Senior citizens lose $36.5 billion a year to scams, according to a 2015 True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse.

Nila Howard of Columbus, who was on the receiving end of a scam attempt last week, wanted to make sure she wasn’t the next victim.

Howard said she received a call Nov. 9 that showed up on her caller ID as “private.”

“I thought it could have been a family member calling me,” Howard said, so she answered the call.

“Grandma?” a man’s voice asked.

“I said ‘Yes,’” Howard replied.

The caller claimed to be in Miami, Florida, with a friend whose mother had died of cancer — and he was supporting that friend through an emotionally difficult time.

“I knew it was a scam from the beginning because our grandchildren do not call us. They text.

Secondly, our children are the type that always keep us informed on what our grandchildren are doing,” Howard said. “I played along because I wanted to find out how they conduct these scams.”

The story then shifted to the boys being at a Miami hospital helping a pregnant woman whose boyfriend had planted drugs in their car.

“We got arrested, and you know we would never do drugs,” Howard quoted the caller as saying.

“We’re at the police station. We got one phone call that we could make, and I made it to you.”

Howard said she knew the next request would be for money, and she was right.

“If you’re in trouble, you really need to call your dad,” Howard said she told the caller.

That wasn’t the answer he was looking for, and then asked to talk with “his grandpa,” Howard said.

She replied that she wanted to talk with the sergeant on duty there. If he would provide the phone number to the police station, “I will give this to your father to get this straightened out,” Howard said.

When that didn’t satisfy the caller, about five minutes into the conversation, Howard concluded: “I’m tired of this and don’t appreciate this scam.”

The caller hung up.

Notifying police

Howard said she did end up calling the police department — not one in Miami, but in her hometown of Columbus to report the scam attempt.

Any attempt to defraud someone is a crime, said Lt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department.

But getting enough evidence to track the suspect down and prosecute a case can be difficult, he said.

Some of the phone calls are international, beyond the jurisdiction of local police, Harris said.

Home-construction scams — to do roofing or sealing driveways during warm-weather months for example — are easier for local police to investigate because they are occurring in the community, he said.

“A lot of times it’s the elderly where their focus is on. They tend to be more trusting,” Harris said.

Scams targeting older residents are one of the six most popular attempts at financial exploitation, said Candice Rickard, chief risk officer for Old National Bank, which created a free course that outlines how senior citizens can detect, protect themselves against and report financial exploitation attempts.

The most popular scams aimed at seniors are as follows, Rickard said:

Common scams: Grandparent, Sweetheart, Advanced Fee/Lottery, Work from Home, Service Scams.

Social engineering: Leveraging human interaction online to learn more about the victim.

Spoofed emails: Fraudulent emails that appear to be from the victim’s actual account.

Phishing: Sending an email falsely claiming to be a legitimate business in an attempt to dupe the victim into divulging personal, sensitive information.

Pop-ups: These appear on the victim’s computer enticing them to click and download a “fix.” Instead, malware is added to the computer.

Friendly fraud: When someone in a position of trust utilizes that relationship to commit fraud. This type of fraud is sometimes referred to as trust abuse.

Full Article & Source:
Senior citizens frequent targets of scammers

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Woman fights to keep family resort open amid battle over trust, estate

TANNERSVILLE, N.Y. — It was 54 years ago when a family of immigrants from Trieste, Italy brought their brand of comfort food and hospitality to the Catskill Mountains, opening a resort called Villa Vosilla.

Natalina and John Vosilla, Junior eventually moved their two daughters, Doria and Susan, to the resort full time—after they’d spent their early years in Brooklyn.

“When we were here, we had to work,” Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said recently. “I started with the housekeepers, making beds.”

Now, Vosilla McGunnigle is fighting to keep the resort open, because of a battle over the will left by her younger sister, Susan.

Susan Vosilla was only 55 years old, when she died in September 2011.

Doria claims a long-time Tannersville attorney saw an opportunity with Susan, who was diabetic, had suffered multiple strokes, and battled drug and alcohol abuse at various times in her life.

The trust and will that Susan ultimately signed in 2010 cut Doria out of Susan’s portion of the Villa Vosilla estate—giving that half to six other people, including a 17.5 percent to the lawyer’s wife.

“He writes his wife in the will, Harriet Bucca,” Doria’s husband, Lee McGunnigle, said of veteran lawyer, Anthony Bucca.

“I never knew an attorney’s wife could be written into a will.”

PIX11 met Anthony Bucca near his old law office in Tannersville, and he gave his version of what happened.

“She hated her sister,” Bucca said of Susan Vosilla. “She hired me the day her mother died.”

Bucca initially filed papers to be Susan’s guardian, and $430,000 in cash assets were supposed to be allocated toward Susan’s care.

Within three months, though, Susan Vosilla was signing a “Last Will and Testament” that named Anthony Bucca as trustee and executor of her portion of the estate.

The legal language attributed to Susan said, “I have deliberately made no provision herein for the benefit of my sister Doria McGunnigle or her issue, and I direct that they shall not share in my estate as a distributee or otherwise.”

“She was mistreated by her sister,” Bucca said to PIX11. “They didn’t include her in events; she was persona non grata at the hotel. She suffered a lot, because of the lack of love and affection.”

The McGunnigles told PIX11 this is not an accurate portrayal of the family dynamic. Susan was godmother to their second son. They said when Susan suffered the strokes in her early 30’s, she embraced sobriety for 15 years and family life was much better.

“For 15 years, during her sobriety, it was a loving family,” said Lee McGunnigle, who’s helped run Villa Vosilla for 35 years and also serves as the long-time Mayor of Tannersville, New York.

Doria McGunnigle claimed she helped to save her sister’s foot from amputation by tending to Susan’s wounds when the foot got infected due to complications from diabetes.

McGunnigle said the people named in Susan’s will weren’t taking such good care of her when she died.

The McGunnigles videotaped the 5,000 square foot home where Susan was discovered dead in September 2011.

“There was dog feces everywhere. Her recliner was eaten up by the dogs,” Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said.

Leigh McGunnigle is the oldest of Doria and Lee’s four children. He’s now serving as general manager at the resort, part of the 4th generation to carry on the family tradition.

“There’s a couple of employees that have worked here over 30 years,” Leigh McGunnigle said, noting a closure of Villa Vosilla would have a “trickle down” effect on the Tannersville and Hunter Mountain community.

“I met my wife here,” Leigh McGunnigle said. “This is my home.”

“When Susan died, all of a sudden he presents an elaborate will and trust,” Lee McGunnigle said of the lawyer, Anthony Bucca. “He wants to sell it!” McGunnigle said of Bucca’s intentions.

Bucca denies this and said he “pledged his cooperation to preserve the hotel.”

Doria Vosilla McGunnigle said Bucca turned down an offer for beneficiaries to take $750,000 and walk away.

Doria’s battle with Anthony Bucca has captured the interest of Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late radio legend, Casey Kasem. Kerri Kasem battled with her step-mother, Jean Kasem, during her father’s dying days.

The McGunnigles say the Villa Vosilla battle is a text book case of lawyers looking for an opportunity to exploit a vulnerable person.

“The making of the will was Susan’s decision; she did it voluntarily,” said Bucca.

He has won every legal challenge to the will. When PIX11 asked if he may have benefitted from having his son in the Green County District Attorney’s office at one point, Bucca said, “No.”

For now, Villa Vosilla is still operational, and it’s getting ready for the winter season.

Full Article & Source:
Woman fights to keep family resort open amid battle over trust, estate

Judge gets reproach for tardy case ruling

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mary McGowan has accepted an "informal adjustment" for taking too long to rule on a lawsuit in her court, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced on Friday.

McGowan, a circuit judge since 1991, acknowledged that she took 13 months to resolve the lawsuit, which involves litigation that attorney Sam Perroni brought against the commission in 2012. He had challenged the legality of the way the commission operated.

All arguments were submitted to McGowan by the end of 2014, but she didn't dismiss the lawsuit until January 2016, the commission's sanctioning letter says.

McGowan has acknowledged that the delay violated judicial canons that require a judge to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary while avoiding the appearance of impropriety, perform judicial duties diligently and put judicial duties ahead of any personal activities or interests, the letter says.

The "adjustment" letter issued by the commission is its mildest reproach, according to the announcement.

McGowan was not in the office Friday afternoon when a reporter went to her seeking a comment.

She was reprimanded by the commission in November 2008 for failing to report cases that had taken longer than three months to rule on.

When McGowan finally dismissed Perroni's suit, she sided with the Arkansas attorney general's office argument that the commission operated in accordance with the law that created it and the state Supreme Court rules that govern it.

McGowan found that the circuit courts do not have the authority to review the operations of an agency controlled by the Supreme Court and that Perroni had not been harmed by any action of the commission, so he could not challenge its procedures.

Perroni is now appealing McGowan's decision to the state Supreme Court.

In his suit against the commission, Perroni accused it of exceeding its authority when it failed to sanction another judge about whom Perroni had complained: Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox.

In 2012, Perroni won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the commission. In deciding that lawsuit, McGowan agreed with Perroni that the agency had to reveal the names of the commission members who had cleared Fox of the allegations Perroni had made against him.

State law shields the commission's investigation records from public disclosure, but those protections do not extend to the names of the commission members who hear complaints, McGowan ruled.

In the commission's announcement of the sanction against McGowan, the agency reported that McGowan had received all of the evidence and testimony she needed to decide Perroni's 2012 lawsuit by December 2014, but she did not issue her ruling for about 13 months.

In its letter, the disciplinary commission stated that it took into consideration how McGowan has improved since her 2008 reprimand.

Her acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the current case and her agreement to improve kept the commission from taking action to impose more serious sanctions on her, the letter said.

"Your willingness to accept that your actions were in violation of the Code [of Judicial Conduct] and your commitment to be more aware of the issues in the future, have led [the commission] to refrain from recommending a more serious sanction, public charges or a public disciplinary hearing in this case," the letter said.

Perroni's original litigation named the commission's executive director at the time, David Stewart. He was replaced as the defendant by his successor at the commission, David Sachar, when Stewart retired.

Full Article & Source:
Judge gets reproach for tardy case ruling

Akron couple charged with stealing more than $600,000 from elderly father

An Akron man and his wife were charged with stealing more than $600,000 from his father’s bank account.

Summit County sheriff’s deputies arrested Kevin J. Story, 42, and his wife, Crystal J. Hennacy Story, 41, both of Akron, early Friday morning on charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kevin Story’s 77-year-old father. The couple were booked into Summit County Jail and have been charged with theft from the elderly, a first-degree felony.

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Kevin Story had access to his father’s account “at one point,” and used that access to make multiple withdrawals over the past 11 months.

In July, a detective with the sheriff’s office teamed up with investigators from Adult Protective Services, a government agency that looks into abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly, after the agency received information about alleged criminal activity.

Investigators said the couple used the money to buy “a house, several vehicles, including a motorcycle, and numerous guns.”

More charges could follow as the investigation continues, authorities said.

Full Article & Source:
Akron couple charged with stealing more than $600,000 from elderly father

Monday, November 21, 2016

65 Minutes - a Tale of Torture and Murder in Guardianship, by Teresa Lyles

This is a true story of the horrors in Guardianship Court where Teresa Lyles, PhD lost her mother to an abusive system and several abusive "guardians" who allowed her precious Cuban mother to be drugged, isolated, tortured, forced to live in a locked down facility, where she eventually died, after being forced into a guardianship she did not want and did not authorize.

She wanted to live in her own home or with her Protective Daughter, Teresa.

Ms. Lyles discusses her early family life, how much she was loved, and how much she wanted to love her mother and care for her in her own home. But that was not to be, for her mother was put through the horrors of an abusive Guardian and Guardianship court and a maze of uncaring Judges and Lawyers who simply were in it for the money billing at hundreds of dollars per hour.

The Guardians also just wanted the money and all complaints of abuse, chemical restraints, and where Mother wanted to live, were always ignored. Available thruough Lulu publications See Also: NASGA: Carmen Tozzo Lyles - Florida Victim See Teresa Lyles' Video Tribute to Her Mother

NC woman convicted of elder abuse after draining man’s life savings

Christy Paffenroth Ferguson
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A Wilmington woman pleaded guilty recently to elder abuse, in a crime that came as a shock even to prosecutors who routinely try these kinds of cases.

“It was something stunning, how much money that she spent in three months time,” New Hanover County Prosecutor Janet Coleman said.

The Alleged Crime

Coleman says 40-year-old Christy Paffenroth Ferguson met 80-year-old Tony Ferguson while she was working at a local adult day care facility. After Ferguson’s wife of 40 years died of cancer, their daughter hired Paffenroth to serve as his caregiver.

Paffenroth was paid $1,100 a month for her services, plus room and board in Ferguson’s home for her and her teenage son. Coleman says Paffenroth moved in as hired help in May of 2012, married Ferguson in December, and by January she’d taken over as his power of attorney.

In May of 2013, prosecutors say Paffenroth took $120,000 out of Ferguson’s credit union and transferred it to a joint checking account. She then took out an $80,000 equity line on his house that was bought and paid for.

Then, prosecutors say the spending started in earnest.

“She had plastic surgery…. She got breast augmentation. She got braces. Her son got braces. She paid for private school tuition for a local private school, Christian school, for her son and his friend. Multiple thousands of dollars,” Coleman said of some of the bigger ticket items that drained Ferguson’s life savings.

After his bank account was empty, prosecutors say Ferguson began cashing in his savings bonds.

“At that point….he was virtually broke,” Coleman continued. “In March of 2014, she sold the house for $90,000.” The house had previously been valued at nearly twice that amount.

Prior to his marriage to Paffenroth, Ferguson, a retired federal employee, had no debt whatsoever. With no home left, he now lives alone in a nursing home.

“All he wanted to do was go home. He doesn’t understand he doesn’t have a home,” Coleman said. “It literally broke my heart. And everyone else who was involved in this case.”

The Other Side

There is always two sides to every story.

“It sounds a lot worse than what it was,” Paffenroth said when we talked to her about what happened.

At some point after Paffenroth began working as Ferguson’s in-house caregiver, they developed a relationship, he asked her to marry him, and she accepted.

“I love him. I don’t want to ever leave him. It’s never been physical with him. He loves me like a father would love me,” Paffenroth said of their unconventional love story. “I have been a single mom all of my life…. It was security, not just financial security, he filled a void.”

Paffenroth admits to overspending.

“If I could do it again differently I would,” she said.

Having been a single mom for so long, she says it was thrilling to actually be financially comfortable when she got married. She said she did not intentionally blow through all this money so quickly, and she and her husband both enjoyed using the money to take trips and go out to eat.

Authorities Called In

Paffenroth says Ferguson’s daughter wasn’t happy about the marriage and called the Department of Social Services and the bank to complain. That’s when authorities got involved, eventually charging Paffenroth with Felony Exploitation of an Elder Person.

Her Public Defender, Emily Zvejnieks, thought Paffenroth was innocent, but says Paffenroth decided to plead guilty to avoid the risk of 2.5 years in prison if convicted.

“Elder abuse and elder exploitation exist. I do not believe it existed in this case,” Zvejnieks said. “She spent money out of an account that was a joint account created by the two of them, a house was sold that included both of their names on the deed. He knew about all of those transactions. He made it clear that she had permission and he didn’t care that the money was spent, and now we have stepped in to say he can’t make that decision because he’s too old.”

Paffenroth was given credit for a few months she’d already spent in jail, and she was placed on probation rather than given active prison time. The fact that she did not have a significant criminal history and the fact that Ferguson did not want her to go to jail were also taken into consideration at sentencing.

Legally Incompetent

At the time the two were first married, Ferguson was considered legally competent. The prosecutor said his physician had previously noticed early signs of dementia, but no legal action had been taken to address that.

“People are competent until they are declared incompetent,” Coleman explained.

That involves court proceedings, and it wasn’t until after Ferguson’s money was gone and his house sold that the courts declared him legally incompetent.

Ferguson resisted the court’s efforts and continues to be upset by what happened.

“I don’t need your help. Stop bothering us. Leave us alone. We’re happy,” Coleman recalled of Ferguson’s reaction when authorities intervened on his behalf.

“I will never regret the fact of marrying my husband,” Paffenroth said. “He even he said I should’ve never volunteered to a plea bargain.”

She says she still visits him at the nursing home, but he is not allowed to leave that facility.

Knowing When to Intervene

So how do authorities know when to intervene?

Zvejnieks thinks they were too quick in this case.

“For the public or the government to be asking questions about why they are married is really just something that’s between the two of them,” Zvenjnieks said. “In speaking with them, if their responses are that they are not being abused, that they have given permission for all of these things to happen. Well, I think we take them at their word and we let them make their own choices.”

But Coleman says even if Ferguson protested their intervention, the state was acting in his best interests.

New Hanover County courthouse officials say this is an extreme case, but elder abuse and exploitation are disturbingly prevalent. They hope this story will be a wake-up call to others, prompting them to look out for their elderly neighbors and loved ones who might fall victim to abuse.

“If you have an elderly neighbor or friend, look in on them, check on them, be that person who looks out for them, that would prevent a lot of this from happening, because it happens in isolation behind closed doors,” Coleman advised.

Coleman said that a neglected yard or house can be a sign of vulnerability. A car that disappears from the driveway can be another red flag that the elderly person is being exploited because an abuser has sold the car for cash.

A socially active elder person who suddenly becomes a recluse can be another warning sign of a problem, as abusers often seek to isolate victims similar to a domestic violence situation.

Experts say loneliness can make the elderly especially vulnerable to falling for a scam because they are so happy for the attention.

“They come into the person’s home, and then they befriend them, and then they start cutting the grass and then they say well I’ll take you to the doctor’s office, and then they take them to the doctor’s office, and then they say why don’t I clean your house,” New Hanover County Clerk of Courts Jan Kennedy said of a common scenario they see at the courthouse. “And then what we have is family members come to us when it’s too late, and that person had befriended them and taken everything from them.”

Full Article & Source:
NC woman convicted of elder abuse after draining man’s life savings

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Abuse & Exploitation | Aging Matter | NPT Reports

It is estimated that one in ten adults over the age of 60 is a victim. But the truth is we don’t know for certain how many older adults are suffering from abuse. In the eighth edition of Aging Matters, Nashville Public Television explores the issues behind elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Abuse & Exploitation | Aging Matter | NPT Reports

Chicago nursing home fined after residents overdose on heroin

State and federal health officials are seeking penalties totaling more than $100,000 from a North Side nursing home after five residents overdosed on heroin inside the facility in February, the Tribune has learned.

The residents of Continental Nursing & Rehabilitation Center were hospitalized and recovered, but at least two used heroin again hours after they were returned to the facility, even though they were supposed to be on close watch, Illinois public health department inspectors allege. One of the two overdosed again.

The department also opened a new investigation into the facility after the Tribune requested information about a sixth drug overdose in September 2015.

In that case, a 56-year-old resident was found on the floor by his bed with five packets of white powder beside him, a Chicago police report said.

Illinois law requires nursing homes to notify the Department of Public Health of unusual events that put patients at risk, but state officials said they learned of that case only when the Tribune filed a query about it.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, has imposed civil monetary penalties totaling $76,000 for alleged violations in the February incident.

Continental is contesting an additional $25,000 fine from the state public health department, which says the facility failed to properly monitor and treat residents with drug addictions.

State officials and industry representatives said they could recall no similar cluster of patients overdosing on heroin inside an Illinois nursing facility.

"I have never heard of that. No question that's uncommon," said Terry Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Alliance for Living, a professional association of facilities that treat patients with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

Continental, which has housed a mix of older residents and younger adults with mental illness, did not admit deficiencies when it outlined corrective actions it would take — plans that were accepted by CMS in April. "The facility has ceased admitting any residents with active substance use," its plan said.

In a brief interview with the Tribune, Continental part-owner Moishe Gubin said he was not aware of any heroin overdoses or other problems at the facility.

"If you are right," Gubin said, "it goes against what our mission has been."

"If you look at our company historically, we generally give good care," Gubin said. "It's not lack of resources or staff, or they cheaped out and didn't take care of people. You'll never hear about that with us."

Continental is part of a rapidly growing, South Bend, Ind.-based nursing home operation that includes more than 50 facilities in eight states, records show.

Their 13 northern Illinois facilities include one that earned a top, five-star rating for overall quality from CMS. Four others, including Continental, were given a one-star quality rating, the lowest possible, and police and public health inspection records have alleged unsanitary conditions and negligent care at Continental and some other northern Illinois homes.

Medicaid and Medicare last year paid those 13 facilities a total of roughly $150 million, and the facilities reported a combined 2015 profit of $6 million, according to cost reports filed with the state. Similar data was not available for a recently added 14th northern Illinois facility.

Outside Continental's gray and white building at 5336 N. Western Ave., a sign advertises "quality nursing services for the elderly."

But the 208-bed home — which last year earned $11 million from the taxpayer-financed Medicaid and Medicare programs — reported to the state in March that 108 of its residents were under age 65 last year, 129 had been diagnosed with mental illnesses and 29 had felony records.

Chicago police responded to 60 reports of alleged batteries at Continental from 2011 through 2015, a Tribune analysis of police data found.

Police also responded in 2014 when a 61-year-old patient broke his hips and collapsed a lung as he tried to escape the facility by rappelling from a 4th-floor window using six sheets tied together, records show.

Continental immediately notified the state of that event, but the paperwork fell through the cracks, state officials acknowledge, and authorities conducted no investigation at the time.

After the Tribune inquired about the case, the department dispatched an inspector who last month reported that the man was not properly supervised although he had been admitted for treatment of bipolar disorder, depression and alcohol abuse.

He had been drinking in the facility just before he tried to flee and had a blood-alcohol level of more than four times the legal limit when staff found him "on the ground moaning" with a broken glass bottle and a beer can beside him, according to the state's report.

Continental is contesting a pending civil malpractice lawsuit filed by the man's family.

On the day of the five heroin overdoses in February, staff at Continental suspected that residents were seeking drugs from a female visitor but did not intervene or report it, a state inspection report said.

A 33-year-old resident told inspectors the visitor was a relative of a resident and sold "white powder in a small zippered baggie." The 33-year-old snorted the powder and said: "I don't remember much after that until I woke up and saw the paramedics standing over me."

Another resident who also overdosed said he paid $25 for the heroin and assured the supplier that if the drugs were "good" he could triple her money "in three days at the facility," the state public health inspection report said.

Continental was cited for not monitoring residents who returned to the facility from the hospital.

A 46-year-old woman who told a social worker she "wants to get sober and not be an addict anymore" overdosed again her first day back. Another man nodded off during his interview with an inspector, and a fellow resident said that man "got high again this morning."

In addition to the overdose incidents, police were called to Continental in October 2015 when residents alerted staff to narcotics abuse inside the facility. Staff searched rooms and recovered paraphernalia for cooking and shooting drugs that they turned over to police, records show.

Across the country, at least two heroin overdose cases have emerged in nursing facilities since last year. In a La Porte, Ind., case that remains under police investigation, a 64-year-old woman was found dazed and bleeding from the nose after ingesting heroin at the Golden Living Center in August. And in November a southern Ohio man was charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly supplying his wife with a fatal dose of heroin inside a nursing facility.

"We're a drug-taking society, and it's only a matter of time before this gets into the nursing homes," said Dr. Harry Haroutunian, physician director at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Continental administrator Jonathan Dixon declined to discuss heroin abuse at the facility but gave Tribune reporters a limited tour of the second floor, where the overdoses took place. He said he did not have permission from "corporate" to take reporters through other parts of the home.

Those second-floor rooms no longer house younger patients with psychiatric and substance abuse problems, Dixon said, only geriatric and post-operative residents. The rooms were freshly painted, and some beds had been removed to convert them from triple-occupancy to double-occupancy.

The complex ownership and management structures employed by Gubin and his longtime business partner Michael Blisko limit their involvement in day-to-day operations, according to Tribune interviews and testimony they gave in civil lawsuits.

The physical facilities housing Continental and other homes are owned by subsidiaries of the partners' real estate investment trust, called Strawberry Fields. Registered in the British Virgin Islands, Strawberry Fields recently raised $68 million on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to expand operations with a goal of growing by 50 percent a year, according to its public statements.

Each of the 13 homes in northern Illinois is operated by a separate company; those companies hire administrators to run the homes day to day. Gubin and Blisko own a combined 75 percent of the company operating Continental.

Continental and other facilities pay a separate consulting company solely owned by Gubin and Blisko to offer suggestions about management, nursing, billing and payroll practices.

The consulting company was initially called New York Boys Management, but that name caused "image trauma," Blisko testified in a civil court deposition last year. "People felt that it wasn't giving the professional identity, if you will, that it wasn't good for business," he said. The firm is now Infinity Healthcare Management, records show.

Continental paid Infinity $313,818 in consulting fees last year, while the 12 other northern Illinois facilities paid Infinity $4 million in all, state nursing-home cost reports show.

Facility administrators are in charge of their buildings and free to disregard Infinity's recommendations, Gubin told the Tribune. He said he does not read state public health inspection reports about his homes.

"The person who is the administrator is the one who is responsible day to day," Gubin told the Tribune.

Continental administrator Dixon later sent the Tribune an email saying: "We consistently strive to provide the highest quality of care, in a safe environment."

Full Article & Source:
Chicago nursing home fined after residents overdose on heroin

Colorado voters fire one judge after bad review

DENVER - Voters in Colorado fired one of the two district court judges who failed their official reviews in 2016.

Judge Jill-Ellyn Straus will lose her job as judge in the 17th judicial district (Adams & Broomfield counties) when her current term on the bench ends in January.

As a 9NEWS investigation exposed earlier this year, it’s a rare thing for judges to lose elections even with bad reviews. Of the last ten judges who earned a “do not retain” recommendation before 2016, only three lost their jobs.

On average, judges with failing reviews won their retention elections, earning 54 percent of the vote.

Bucking that trend, 52 percent of voters decided to give Straus the boot. Her review flagged concerns about her demeanor in court and gave her poor marks on fairness and communication.

The other Colorado judge to earn a “do not retain” recommendation in the state’s official voter guide kept his job.

Fifty-seven percent of voters in Southeast Colorado chose to keep 16th district (Bent, Crowley, and Otero counties) judge Michael Schiferl -- despite a review that found he appeared to be chummy with the people in his courtroom along with poor legal writing and a lack of willingness to accept constructive criticism.

Fewer than 8,000 voters cast votes in Schiferl’s more rural district. More than 177,000 cast votes on the question of retaining Straus.

After the election results are certified, the state will post a job opening for the judge position currently occupied by Straus.

A committee will choose up to three applicants to recommend to Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado,) who will choose the new judge from among them.

Applicants must have practiced law in Colorado for at least five years and live in the 17th district.

Full Article & Source:
Colorado voters fire one judge after bad review

Animal Shelter Teams Up With Assisted Living Facility To Save Orphaned Kittens

Kittens that become separated from their mothers before they are weaned have a very low rate of survival unless a surrogate steps in.

With this in mind, rescuers at the Pima Animal Care Center in Arizona have joined forces with the nearby Catalina Springs Memory Care facility to ensure that their most vulnerable kittens get the 24-hour care they need.

The inaugural feline cuties of the program are Peaches and Turtle who arrived at PACC in mid-October weighing just 7 ounces each. They were in need of round-the-clock feedings as well as lots of affection and socialization in order to grow and thrive.

Peaches and Turtle have gotten just that from the moment they arrived at the memory care facility.

Catalina Springs health service director, Rebecca Hamilton, is a veteran kitten foster mom herself. She proposed the idea of uniting the memory care patients with the kitties as a way to benefit everyone involved.

The kittens obviously get the physical love and nurturing that they need, but what the seniors at Catalina Springs receive in return is something far greater – they get to feel needed again. Most of them have had the role of parent, grandparent and/or pet owner throughout their lives, so caring for the kitties comes naturally.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Animal Shelter Teams Up With Assisted Living Facility To Save Orphaned Kittens