Saturday, January 28, 2017

Western Union to pay $586 million to compensate senior fraud victims, others

Western Union will forfeit $586 million after admitting to the Justice Department that it aided and abetted wire fraud and did not maintain an effective program to deter money laundering. The money will be used to compensate victims of fraud and implement anti-fraud programs to protect older adults and others in the future.

The dollar amount is the largest forfeiture ever imposed on a money services business, according to the government, which announced agreements with the Englewood, CO-based company on Jan. 19. Several federal agencies were involved in the investigation.

Leaders of the Senate Special Committee on Aging praised the effort, saying that Western Union's actions “disproportionately affected aging Americans.” Those actions, according to investigators, enabled the proliferation of mass marketing schemes, illegal gambling, money laundering, human smuggling and drug trafficking. Hundreds of millions of dollars in prohibited transactions were processed, they said.

In some cases, government officials said, fraudsters contacted U.S. residents and falsely posed as family members in need, or they promised prizes or job opportunities. The scammers directed the victims to send money through Western Union to help a relative or claim their prize. Various company agents were complicit in these schemes, often processing payments in return for a cut of the proceeds, government officials said.

The company heard about fraudulent transactions more than a decade ago through reports made by customers but did not implement guidelines that its security department subsequently proposed for the disciplining, suspension or firing of agents involved in the deals, the Justice Department said. As part of its agreements with the DOJ, Federal Trade Commission and four U.S. attorneys' offices, Western Union said it will take steps to ensure that it complies with the law in the future.

“Americans have long been aware of ‘grandparent scams' that encourage victims to transfer funds to fake family members allegedly in need of assistance,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chairwoman of the Senate Aging Committee, said in a statement following the Justice Department announcement. “Our committee has worked to shine a spotlight on these criminals, and today's action by the FTC and DOJ will help bring protections and restitution for innocent victims.”

People who believe they were victims of the fraud scheme can visit the Department of Justice website for instructions on how to request compensation through the Victim Asset Recovery Program.

Full Article & Source:
Western Union to pay $586 million to compensate senior fraud victims, others

Needs of 'Elder Orphans' a Growing Concern in Aging Population

"Elder orphan" is a term used by medical professionals to describe individuals living alone with little to no support system. In a research article published in Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, in July 2016, "Elder Orphans Hiding in Plain Sight: A Growing Vulnerable Population," Maria T. Carney, M.D., and her colleagues, sought to help clinicians identify adults with multiple chronic diseases who are aging alone and are geographically distant from family or friends. Identifying these individuals might well increase the availability of services for this population as a whole.

One way that HeathCentral can assist is to bring awareness of this issue to the general public. We interviewed, by email, Carol Marak, an activist in the field of elder orphans, to provide us with some insights. Marak earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and advocates on behalf of older adults and family caregivers. She is the editor at and launched a Facebook group for people over 55 who age alone.

HealthCentral (HC): Carol, can you tell us more about the size of this population of elders?

Carol Marak: Certainly! According to the U.S. Census, on average, 28 percent of the people over the age of 65 live alone. The number continues to increase. According to the 2012 Census, 19 percent of women aged 40-44 have no children, as compared to about 10 percent in 1980, and one-third of the people between 45 and 63 are single —  a 50 percent increase from 1980. collated the U.S. Census data for 8,000 cities. The proportion living alone increases with advanced age. Among women aged 75 and over, for example, almost half (46 percent) live alone.

HC: Many elders need more services than younger people, but for elders with families their loved ones can often step in to fill some gaps. What are the most pressing needs for elder orphans who have no families to help them?

CM: They need affordable housing, public transportation, accessibility to medical facilities, and social connectedness.

HC: How can individual people assist this segment of our aging population?

CM: The general population needs to recognize that people aging and living alone do exist. Dr. Carney says it well when she says, "elder orphans, hiding in plain sight."

We are your neighbors, church members, and community residents. Please open your lives to those who age alone. Providers like hospitals, health care providers, city officials, and local and state government agencies need to identify the needs of the population and to identify programs and resources that meet these needs.

HC: Are there resources already available to help elder orphans?

CM: Yes. Before retiring I worked as an Information and Referral Specialist with the Area Agency on Aging. I also volunteered for 2-1-1. Every state has an Elder Helpline and 2-1-1 is a nationwide phone number. Both have a large database of resources: Food, housing, transportation, and home repair services can be found, but so much more is needed.

HC: Your Facebook group seems successful. Is peer support helping people cope with their situation?

CM: Yes. I think we can help each other by sharing our stories and offering support and encouragement. Hearing how other people handle these challenges can be useful and inspiring, but they also help by sharing information on resources. Although resources vary by location, knowing about the housing options, transportation, legal aid, food banks and other resources in one area can be valuable information for all. Knowing what options are available and where to find them can make a difference in quality of life.

I don't think the definition "orphan" excludes those with some means of getting basic needs met. I think it includes anyone who doesn't have a support system to help them age or get their needs met, such as during a medical episode. Money can't buy everything, including a ride home from a medical procedure or even a visitor to the hospital or someone to shop for groceries.

HC: I agree that these needs aren’t unique to those elders who have no support system at all. Many elders may have family members, but they live far apart or might not get along. Also, we live in a time when it's common for both spouses to work so there’s often no one available to help on a routine basis, even if there are adult children nearby.

Thank you so much for sharing information with us, Carol. Elder orphans and, indeed, all elders need support. Your work is one important part of bringing about that awareness.

Full Article & Source:
Needs of 'Elder Orphans' a Growing Concern in Aging Population

Doctor who always noticed caregivers photographs them in retirement

Dr. Michael Geller always noticed them in the waiting room, or next to the patient he was examining.
The caregivers.

He sensed the work they did behind the scenes, this invisible force central to his patients’ health. So when the geriatrician retired from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2011, he started a project to photograph caregivers’ unpaid work in the homes of their relatives.

He caught a more intimate glimpse of them than anything he saw in a doctor’s office or nursing home. He met people like Tammy Payne, who took in her ex-husband, Ronald, for seven years after he was diagnosed with a dementia called Pick’s disease.

Geller made an image of Ronald and the couple’s two children holding him up by the arms to be photographed.

“By the end, I was picking him up like a baby,” Tammy said about her ex-husband, who died in 2013 at 63.

Ronald’s eyes are closed and he looks stricken, but there’s a look of joy in the faces of his caregivers.

“I chose to do this,” Tammy said. “I wanted my children to be at peace about his care.”

Geller’s interest in photography started in his childhood. He had asthma, and that made it hard for him to keep up with his more athletically inclined brothers.

His parents came up with an idea. They bought him a camera and told him to photograph them playing sports.

That childhood duty turned into a lifelong love.

He later went to medical school, specializing in internal medicine and geriatrics, seeing patients in office settings and in nursing homes. The last five years of his career were at the Glennan Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology at EVMS.

After he retired, he wanted to meld his love of photography with his desire to capture a work that unfolds outside the public eye.

“I always wondered how they fare and what their experience is like.”

He collaborated with Christianne Fowler, who teaches at the School of Nursing at Old Dominion University, and Brenda Cobb, a social worker with a home health care agency. They helped him find subjects for a “Caregiver Experience through the Lens.”

That’s how Tammy Payne first heard of Geller in 2013.

Her husband had been showing signs of depression and anxiety several years before their divorce. In fact, that was part of the reason she left the marriage in 2004. She felt he might be happier without her.

He remarried. Tammy and Ronnie shared custody of their two children, who continued to live in the family’s Chesapeake home with their dad.

The divorce did not stop the anxiety. In fact, it worsened and he also started getting lost when driving around town. He was finally diagnosed in 2006 with dementia. His second marriage fell apart, and in January of 2007, it was clear to Tammy what she needed to do. She moved her ex-husband and their two children in with her. She juggled three jobs: at Golden Corral, a golf course and housekeeping.

She and her two children – Leigha, who is now 22, and Darren, 27 – shared caregiving duties, and Tammy, 45, also hired a friend to help fill in the gaps.

“We rearranged our lives to make it safe for him,” Tammy said. “We all pitched in. It kept us peaceful knowing we didn’t have to worry that he wasn’t getting the care that we could give him. I became strong with God, because this wasn’t about me. It became what I was here to do.”

Over the years, he needed more help as his speech faded, along with his abilities to stand, bathe and eat.

Home hospice care began in 2013, and that’s when Geller photographed the family. Ronald died a short time later.

Tammy said people were amazed she would care for her ex-husband, but she said his diagnosis made her realize why they were having problems in the first place.

She began to see him more as a child than as a husband or an ex-spouse.

Even though he lost the ability to speak, he still communicated:

“The way he looked at me at the end was like, ‘You are my rock.’ ”

Shortly after he photographed the Paynes, Geller’s own wife fell ill with colon cancer.

Geller spent the next three months caring for Joan, who was 67, which gave him additional insight into caregiving.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Doctor who always noticed caregivers photographs them in retirement

Friday, January 27, 2017

NBC 10 I-Team: Day two of disciplinary hearing for RI judge

Click for Video
A local judge faces complaints over how he treats people in the courtroom.

That was the focus of day two in the hearing of Judge Rafael Ovalles.

Ovalles is facing complaints, including harassing women at work, having his hand in his unzipped pants in his office, sleeping on his desk, and treating people poorly.

A panel of judges and lawyers from the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline is hearing the case that is expected to last weeks.

Ovalles denies the allegations.

His lawyers say he's a demanding judge.

They say there is no evidence to support any of the allegations against him.

However, Public Defender Rebecca Aitchison testified Tuesday, "The judge was very, in my opinion, abusive towards me, specifically verbally and in his actions."

Aitchison says, unlike any other judge, Ovalles often criticized her in court and told her not to leave the courtroom without permission.

"Judge Ovalles told me I was to stay in my seat without permission and that's why I had to ask, I had to stand up in open court and ask to use the bathroom," Aitchison testified.

Ovalles' lawyer pointed out that other attorneys would ask the judge for permission to leave the courtroom.

The situation reached the point where Aitchison's bosses had meetings with Ovalles, and the public defender’s office changed which lawyer would be in Ovalles' courtroom, said John Lovoi, who was the Chief Criminal Public Defender at the time.

Lovoi testified, "The decision was made to make sure that a male attorney was going to be replacing her."

Public defenders also complained about how Ovalles handled cases.

"It slowed down the entire judicial process and could extremely adversely affect my clients," Andrew McElroy testified.

Public Defender Megan Jackson said she once complained to Ovalles that he always took her cases last.

Jackson testified that Ovalles' response was, "That he was going to consider holding me in contempt."
Several court workers claim Ovalles spoke to them about their eye contact with him.

Public Defender Angela Yingling testified Ovalles once talked to her, “to tell me I had to work on my eye contact and that I blinked too much."

Courtroom Sheriff Jason Kloc testified, "He told me you need to make more eye contact with me."

After months of our reporting on the case, Judge Ovalles filed a civil lawsuit against the I-Team's Parker Gavigan, NBC 10 and our parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Ovalles claims defamation and invasion of privacy.

NBC 10 and Sinclair have filed a counterclaim, alleging Ovalles abused Rhode Island's judicial investigation process for wrongful purposes, and to intimidate witnesses.

Full Article & Source:
NBC 10 I-Team: Day two of disciplinary hearing for RI judge

Group reportedly plans to file complaint against ex-judge

MORRISTOWN -- The Families Civil Liberties Union is reportedly filing a complaint against a Superior Court judge who recently left the bench when his term expired without reappointment.

The group is alleging that Philip Maenza, formerly a family court judge in Morris County, made false statements under oath and improperly discussed matters before the court in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a report in Observer/New Jersey Politics.

The complaint is being filed with the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.

The New Jersey Law Journal reported in December the committee recommended tenure to 14 judges but declined to hold a vote on Maenza after hearing testimony from several who appeared before him in family court.

Maenza left the bench Jan. 19, said Pete McAleer, spokesman for New Jersey Courts.

Full Article & Source:
Group reportedly plans to file complaint against ex-judge

Tallahassee woman accused of stealing $30,000 from elderly person in her care

A woman was arrested on 55 counts of fraud, forgery and exploitation of the elderly Wednesday after she was accused of stealing more than $30,000 from an elderly person in her care.

Amy Glover was taking care of an elderly woman between February and July. During that time, investigators said, she obtained checks and credit cards from the victim. Between February and November, Glover used the victim's credit cards and made the checks payable to herself and also forged the victim's signature and cashed the checks, Leon County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

The 31-year-old surrendered at the Leon County Jail. She was charged with one count of exploitation of the elderly, 24 counts of fraud cash deposits, 24 counts of forgery, one count of fraud to obtain property, one count of criminal use of personal identification, one count of theft from a person over 65 and three counts of fraudulent use of credit cards.

Full Article & Source:
Tallahassee woman accused of stealing $30,000 from elderly person in her care

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Indicted Las Vegas lawyer used firm’s funds for church donations

Indicted probate lawyer Robert Graham used his firm’s operating account to pay money to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, grand jury transcripts show.

Tim Schultz, a financial expert with the Clark County district attorney’s office, testified before the grand jury that Graham poured an average of $187,000 a month from his client trust fund into the operating account to run his law practice and pay personal bills.

Schultz testified that he believed Graham was using his clients money as a “piggy bank” to pay his bills. Records showed he funneled money into the operating account to pay a $244,000 IRS debt and $700,000 to $800,000 a year on advertising, Schultz said.

When a prosecutor asked Schultz whether Graham had paid charitable contributions to the Mormon church, he replied: “Oh, I did see some, yeah, where it looks like to a Mormon church he was paying some money out.”
Schultz, whose testimony was included in 200 pages of grand jury transcripts obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said the money was coming out of the Lawyers West operating account, but he didn’t know how much Graham was paying the church.

All Mormon church members are encouraged to tithe and give one-tenth of their income.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the church in Salt Lake city, would not discuss Graham’s church ties.

But in an email he said: “Church members routinely make donations to the Church. We would never knowingly accept or retain donations that are the proceeds of ill-gotten gains, including fraud. If it is demonstrated that the donations received from this individual were from money obtained by fraudulent means, the donations will be returned.”

Graham’s contributions to the church weren’t his only charitable endeavors. As his law practice was collapsing, he also donated money to Boys Town of Nevada and the Colorado State University sports program.

That didn’t sit well with Las Vegas attorney Joseph Kistler, who has been attempting to recover more than $1 million from Graham for one of his estate clients.

“He should have paid his clients back rather than grandstanding with charities to make himself falsely look like a big shot do-gooder,” Kistler said.

The grand jury indicted Graham on Jan. 5 on charges of stealing $2.1 million in three of his cases. He is facing six felony counts of theft and exploitation of an older or vulnerable person and two gross misdemeanor counts of destroying evidence.

In all, prosecutors have alleged in court that Graham, 52, may have stolen more than $15 million in client funds, and they expect to file additional criminal charges. He is in custody at the Clark County Detention Center on $5 million bail.
The state bar filed a complaint against Graham alleging the massive theft occurred before he abruptly closed his Lawyers West office in Summerlin on Dec. 2. He has been temporarily suspended from practicing law while the bar conducts disciplinary proceedings.

As late as November, as his financial troubles escalated, Graham was serving on the Boys Town of Nevada board.

Boys Town officials would not say how much Graham donated over the years to Boys Town, an organization that strives to improve the lives of at-risk children.

“We set high standards for the young men and women who are part of our family, and clearly if these allegations are true they run counter to what we teach and believe,” said Kara Neuverth, a Boys Town spokeswoman in Omaha, Neb. “We will hold any of his donations aside until this process has concluded.”

Records show that Graham also has been a member of Ram Legacy Club, an exclusive group of roughly 50 donors at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., where Graham and his wife, Linda, maintained a home.

Members of the Ram Legacy Club donate $50,000 over five years toward scholarships for student athletes. In return, the donors receive special access to university sporting events.

Graham and Lawyers West are listed on the Colorado State website as a joint legacy club member, but a club spokeswoman on Monday refused to discuss Graham’s membership.

His lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Bryan Cox, also would not comment.

“I’m gathering more information on those issues, and I decline comment at this time,” Cox said.

Full Article & Source:
Indicted Las Vegas lawyer used firm’s funds for church donations 

See Also:
Authorities consider criminal investigation of suspended Las Vegas attorney

Las Vegas lawyer accused of stealing millions from clients arrested
Millions missing from lawyer's trust account, bar alleges after he abruptly closes law firm

Caregiver attacked 94-year-old woman for feeding dog ‘people food'

MEMORIAL VILLAGE, Texas – Police near Houston are looking for a health care provider who was caught on a webcam hitting the elderly woman she was supposed to be caring for.

According to Memorial Village Police, Brenda Floyd is wanted for assault with bodily injury on the elderly/disabled.

Dorothy Bratten has Alzheimer's and can't speak for herself, but the video tells a disturbing story.

Police say Floyd was supposed to be helping Bratten at her West Houston home on Jan. 1. The victim was “seen feeding her dog people" food, which upset Floyd. 

"Why you feed that dog human food!" she yells.

Floyd can then be seen on video striking the victim numerous times on her side as well as to the back of her head.

Bratten's family became concerned after noticing a few bruises, and put up the camera on New Year's Eve.

They were reviewing the video the next day and saw the shocking assault. 

Floyd, 59, is described as a white female with black hair and brown eyes. She is about 5'2" tall and weighs approximately 215 lbs.

Police tell us she has no criminal history and had worked for the family for about three years.  They hired her through a popular website called

"The family felt very comfortable with her and even assisted her with purchasing a vehicle in order to be able to get transportation to come to house to provide care and were very, very disappointed when the saw the abuse," said Asst. Chief Ray Schultz with the Memorial Villages Police Department.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by Crime Stoppers for an arrest in the case.

Information may be reported by calling 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at Tips may also be sent via a text message by texting the following: TIP610 plus the information to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.

Full Article & Source:
Caregiver attacked 94-year-old woman for feeding dog ‘people food'

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Asbury Park lawyer indicted for allegedly ripping off clients

A suspended lawyer from Asbury Park was indicted on charges he failed to turn over $71,000 in settlements to his own clients, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said.

William Gallagher, 70, who held an active state law license from 1968 until it was suspended last year, was indicted after a 19-month investigation revealed he kept clients' awards  on three different occasions in 2013 and 2014, authorities said. Gallagher allegedly transferred the money to himself after it was placed in his firm's attorney trust account.

Authorities began to investigate after a woman won $23,000 in a premises liability action but never received the money despite repeated requests to Gallagher, Gramiccioni said.

Gallagher was indicted on a charge of theft by failure to make required disposition and a charge of misapplication of entrusted funds. If convicted on both charges he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Full Article & Source:
Asbury Park lawyer indicted for allegedly ripping off clients

Urgent: Will Congress Stop the Washington D.C. Assisted Suicide Law in Time? Write Now!

Nancy Valko, RN
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser  quietly signed an assisted suicide bill into law on December 19, 2016 after a majority of the city council voted for it.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Congress has exclusive legislative authority over the District of Columbia. Congress has just 30 legislative days to review a law of the District of Columbia once it is passed by the city government. Resolutions of disapproval must be passed by both houses and be signed by the president to block a D.C. law.

In a race against time, the first step  to block the assisted suicide law was taken January 12, 2017 by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) who introduced introducing a resolution in the Senate that opposes D.C.’s  “Death With Dignity Act”.
A companion resolution was introduced in the House by Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) also said that he would push to block the law.


In a message to assisted suicide supporters, Compassion and Choices claims that “more than 2400 supporters” have “sent more than 7,000 messages to members of Congress”.  The organization also emphasizes “the importance of including your personal testimony” as “often the most effective way to change the minds of lawmakers”.


The National Right to Life Committee has a website link   to “Nullify District of Columbia Assisted Suicide Law” to contact your Senators and a separate link to contact your House representative(s). Enter your zip code in the box provided and you will be taken to a list of your congresspersons and a form you fill out to send an email to those representatives or senators with your comments.


Keep your comments respectful  and address the points that most move you. If you have a personal story about why you are against assisted suicide, write it as clearly and concisely as possible.


While many legislators (as well as the public) are persuaded by the “safeguards” to support assisted suicide laws, the Washington D.C. bill has many of the same problems with “safeguards” that other assisted suicide bills have. (For example, see my blogs “The slippery Slope-Tactics in the Assisted Suicide Movement” and “Pain and ‘Choice’“.)

In the D.C. assisted suicide law, such problems include:
1.The extraordinary immunity protections against civil, criminal liability or professional  disciplinary actions for doctors who participate in “good faith compliance” with the law.

2. Protection from life or annuity insurance problems due to suicide (“Neither may a qualified patient’s at of ingesting a covered medication have an effect upon a life, health, accident, insurance, or annuity policy”)

3. Minimal reporting requirements and secrecy in public records (“The Department will generate and make available to the public an annual statistical record of information collected”) Emphasis added.

4. Require mental health evaluation only for the purpose of determining if the person is mentally capable to make the decision to end his or her life. (“‘Counseling’ means one or more consultations as necessary between a state licensed psychiatrist or psychologist  and a patient for the purpose of determining that the patient is capable and not suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.”)


There are many reasons to oppose legalizing assisted suicide including risk for elder abuse, discrimination against people with disabilities and/or terminal or chronic conditions, the destruction of the most basic rule of medical ethics to not kill patients or help them kill themselves, suicide contagion, etc.

Assisted suicide, legalized and approved by society, is a manifestation of despair and abandonment-not empowerment. We cannot afford to be bystanders while others like Compassion and Choices continue to demand that we all accept legalized assisted suicide as a constitutional and civil right.

Full Article & Source:
Urgent: Will Congress Stop the Washington D.C. Assisted Suicide Law in Time? Write Now!

Fighting assisted suicide in your state.

2017 will be an active year for those who protect people from assisted suicide.

EPC - USA has organized an Assisted Suicide Training Session to provide you with the tools to fight assisted suicide in your state.

The assisted suicide lobby has identified at least 26 states where they plan to introduce bills or launch a court case to legalize assisted suicide in America.

The states include: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.

There will also be a federal debate as to whether the District of Columbia assisted suicide law will be overturned.

The event begins at 6 pm until 9 pm and is followed by the screening of the Euthanasia Deception documentary.

We have limited seating. To book your seat at this event. (Link)

Full Article & Source:
Fighting assisted suicide in your state.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winter Haven lawyer accused of misappropriating $93,255 from client

Josiah Ewing Hutton
A Winter Haven lawyer who was disbarred in June has been indicted in federal court on charges of misappropriating nearly $93,255 of a bankruptcy client's money.

Josiah Ewing Hutton, 60, is charged with concealment of assets and embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate, and could face a maximum five years in prison on each of the two counts if he's convicted in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

The Florida Bar shows he'd been practicing law since 1989, most recently in Fort Myers, but the Polk County Property Appraiser's Office website shows he's owned a house on Lake Otis in Winter Haven since 1991 and claims homestead exemptions on that property.

The federal indictment against Hutton states that a client retained him to represent her in a bankruptcy case, and she gave him a $93,255 settlement check in anticipation of that filing.

He deposited the check, representing the client's bankruptcy estate, in an escrow account. When preparing the bankruptcy filing, Hutton didn't list the check as an asset, according to a news release from the Department of Justice office in Tampa. After filing the bankruptcy case, Hutton is accused of embezzling a large portion of the settlement check for his own use.

Hutton was arrested Friday and released from custody after posting a $10,000 bond.

In a separate proceeding before the Florida Supreme Court in June, Hutton was disbarred for misappropriating funds and ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution to three clients.

Full Article & Source:
Winter Haven lawyer accused of misappropriating $93,255 from client

Indictment accuses home health worker of exploiting elderly

Aleesea Williams
A former home health aide has been indicted for allegedly using an 83-year-old woman’s identity to buy a car.

Aleesea Williams, 26, was indicted by a Bowie County grand jury Thursday for exploitation of the elderly. If convicted, Williams faces two to ten years in prison.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Williams began making visits to the woman’s home in January. The woman’s nephew, who has power of attorney over her affairs, thought it odd when he learned Williams had taken a piece of mail from Superior Chevrolet in Conway, Ark., from his aunt’s house. A check of his aunt’s credit revealed a $31,406 auto loan had been taken out in April.

The elderly woman denied she offered to cosign a loan for Williams though Williams claimed she had.

Investigators with the Wake Village Police Department spoke to the salesman who sold Williams a car. The salesman said he spoke to a woman on the phone who used the elderly woman’s name and claimed she was Williams’s mother-in-law. The elderly woman’s identification and loan paperwork were sent via fax to the dealership. The paperwork reportedly bore handwriting similar to the alleged victim’s but with some obvious exceptions and the woman’s name was misspelled “on occasion.”

Williams is currently free on a $50,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Indictment accuses home health worker of exploiting elderly

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stunning reversal in former Army Ranger’s guardianship case

by Michael Volpe

WASHINGTON, January 22, 2017 – In a stunning reversal, the former Army Ranger previously held in guardianship for more than five years is nearly free of the system.

Martin Patterson, 37, is a former Army Ranger living in Pennsylvania who was placed into guardianship at the behest of his parents who claimed that brain damage from a lightning strike caused him to be incompetent and unable to manage his finances.

On August 2016, CDN featured Patterson’s story with allegations of a corrupt process and that his money has been misspent while he’s been in guardianship. Patterson said he was initially placed in temporary guardianship during a status conference when his parents and guardian bad mouthed him, though they did not testify or were cross-examined; he also said about $75,000 of his funds has gone missing. In October 2016, CDN reported that the guardian, Laura Eaton, had hired an attorney, Mary Alfieri, who filed a motion asking that Eaton be removed from the case due to a “conflict of interest.”

Eaton was also initially appointed by the Veterans Administration to be Patterson’s conservator.

Alfieri did not respond to an email for comment.

That hearing was held on January 11, 2017, Judge Elizabeth Kelly issued an order removing Eaton from the case.

The hearing was initially held at the end of November 2016 but was continued until January.

Patterson’s new wife, Kristen Davis, has been named his temporary guardian and he’s scheduled for an examination which, if it confirms he’s competent, will lead to his removal from guardianship in April.

The VA Fiduciary Hub manages guardianship issues for veterans and the VA Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis helped to manage Patterson’s- Patterson believes mismanaged.

Lisa Goebel, the press person for the VA Fiduciary Hub in Indianapolis issued this statement:

“Mr. Patterson was rated competent to handle his VA finances in January 2014.  The issue of competency for the VA fiduciary program and the issue of state court guardianship are separate and distinct.  The Department of Veterans Affairs is not involved in, nor is a party to, the state guardianship issue you referenced.”

In fact, part of Patterson’s frustration stemmed for the fact that the VA found him competent but that this competency finding was given no weight in determining whether or not he should remain in guardianship.

Full Article & Source:
Stunning reversal in former Army Ranger’s guardianship case

See Also:
Guardian in Controversial Case Tells Court She Has Conflict of Interest

Mysterious Signature Adds Confusion tin Patterson Guardianship Case

Former Army Ranger Claims Forced Guardianship

Tonight on T.S. Radio:  Martin Patterson - Military Veterans Are Caught in This Trap

NASGA:  Veterans in Peril

There Should Be a Sense of Uniformity in the Judicial Discipline Process

Samuel C. Stretton

There should be a sense of uniformity in the discipline process.

Should there be changes in the Court of Judicial Discipline?

The Court of Judicial Discipline is constitutionally created under Article 5, Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. It replaced the old Judicial Inquiry & Review Board when the constitutional amendments were made in 1993. The judges on that court are appointed both by the governor and by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. There are seats also for laypersons. Unfortunately, at times there are sometimes extreme delays in the appointment by either of those institutions.

The biggest problem with the Court of Judicial Discipline is the lack of continuity. The term of office for an appointee under the Pennsylvania Constitution is four years on the Court of Judicial Discipline.

No member of the court is allowed to serve more than four years. But, the person could be reappointed after one year had passed.

As a result, there is a rapid turnover of the court. Sometimes that turnover appears more pronounced because of delays in new appointments. Recently, the governor had greatly delayed a layperson and attorney appointment.

With this rapid turnover, there is not the same continuity that there are on most other courts in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Further, the judges serve without pay and, in addition, to their normal responsibilities as either laypersons or lawyers or judges in other courts.

As a result, particularly depending on who is the chief judge of that court, there is a wide range of results that sometimes are upsetting and confusing to those who litigate before the Court of Judicial Discipline. There is a great value to precedent because it places people on notice what to expect and lessens the chance of arbitrary or capricious decisions.

For a court, particularly a disciplinary-related court, to be effective there has to be continuity and a sense of uniformity. Without that, the court can appear to be subject to the whims of perhaps a strong president judge or public or press outcry.

Because there's such a rapid turnover and also delays in appointments, the Court of Judicial Discipline recently has lacked that sense of continuity and precedent following. The court use to have Henry Fitzpatrick, who was the lawyer for the court. Fitzpatrick was a brilliant lawyer and a very, very intelligent man. He had been the lawyer for the court since it was created in the 1990s until his untimely death several years ago in an automobile accident. Fitzpatrick, because of his longevity and his knowledge, had the ability to maintain consistency with the court and its prior rulings. With Fitzpatrick's death, there was no one with that institutional memory or institutional experience to guide the court. As a result, the year 2016 was a classic example where the court just seemed to ignore the past and do things very differently. One example is how former Justice J. Michael Eakin's case was handled. Recently, with the case of Judge Angeles Roca, the court issued an order removing her. I am very familiar with that case because I represent Roca. She had ex parte communications with former Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. about getting a rule to show cause so the judgment on her son's tax case could be opened. The rule to show cause was issued and then her son handled it on his own and worked it out with the city solicitor's office. Though she should have never had those conversations, this was a judge who otherwise had a good reputation. But, the thing that was upsetting was it totally ignored years of past precedent where such conduct resulted in either reprimands or minor suspensions. In fact, the court's decision didn't even discuss those cases.

Now, perhaps I have sour grapes and, obviously, that should be considered by the reader, but the concern is the court not following past precedent and letting its own approach ignore the past. That's compounded by the fact there is such rapid turnover.

Whether, for instance, the decision of Roca was right or wrong is not the issue here. Whether the treatment of Eakin was right or wrong, again, is not the issue. There are other cases that also could be thrown in this mix. But, the issue is there cannot be disparate treatment and there has to be uniformity for an institution to fully and properly function. The institution cannot be determined by who is the president judge and the public outcry or lack of public outcry. The institution has to establish a history and pattern of the cases and stay with those unless there is some good reason to deviate. If there is a good reason, then that has to be explained.

That is not happening with the current Court of Judicial Discipline. Perhaps there is a need for a constitutional amendment to extend the time a judge is on the court or there is a need to make this a court where judges are paid salaries and allotted and required to spend substantial time fulfilling their obligations and learning the history and the law with the court.

Perhaps the answer is just as simple as an annual or semi-annual refresher course on all the law and case history of the court where the judges who are appointed are required to sit for two or three days. The seminars would be conducted both by lawyers for the Judicial Conduct Board and also by lawyers who represent judges before the board. Apparently, most judicial ethics and training is conducted by the Judicial Conduct Board lawyers. There is nothing wrong with that, but it might be a better idea to have a more diverse viewpoint. Further, the lawyers who represent judges usually have a long institutional memory. Most lawyers on the Judicial Conduct Board have only been there a few years with the exception of one lawyer who's been there now almost 15 years.

There may be no answer to the question, but there is clearly a concern when the court deviates from past practices and precedent without any real explanation. The bottom line is there has to be a sense of uniformity of discipline and the court in its decision-making can't depend on who is president judge or how loud is the public outcry. If any of that happens, due process fails and the judicial disciplinary system will be ineffective.(Click to Continue)

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There Should Be a Sense of Uniformity in the Judicial Discipline Process

Families Spend More To Care For Their Aging Parents Than To Raise Their Kids

It costs families more to care for a frail older adult than to raise a child for the first 17 years of her life. Yet, while the government routinely provides a broad range of assistance and free services for children, it offers only limited benefits for those needing long-term supports and services—and mostly only for those who are impoverished and very ill.

The other day, the federal government released a headline grabbing report: The average out-of-pocket cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is about $234,000. Among families where an older adult has severe long-term care needs and uses paid care, out-of-pocket costs average $140,000, according to research by my Urban Institute colleague Melissa Favreault. That enormous cost is generally spread over much less time, typically four years in contrast to 17.

But those estimates include only some of the total out-of-pocket expenses families face when a loved one has long-term care needs. They exclude costs of care during the time when a parent or spouse needs lower levels of paid assistance. They do not include costs incurred by their adult children. And, in contrast to the government's estimates of child rearing expenses, they exclude out-of-pocket spending for medical care.

However, health care expenses are a major strain on the budgets of older adults. The average total out-of-pocket cost for health care after age 65 is at least another $100,000. Those with chronic illnesses that lead to many long-term care needs pay far more than that.

What We Do For Kids

Yet, think about what the government does for families with kids. There is, of course, 12 years of free public school. And in many communities, there is access to charter schools or vouchers for private or religious schools.

For low- and middle-income households, there are tax credits such as the Earned Income Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Families with one child can receive up to $3,400 annually from the EITC, and families with more kids can get up to nearly $6,300. They may receive another $1,000 per child from the CTC. Combined, these credits cost the government $26 billion annually.

There are additional credits for adoption, foster care, and child care.

When it comes to health care, there is Medicaid, which provides medical care for low-income families, including kids; and the $25 billion State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that covers children from families whose incomes are a bit too high to qualify for Medicaid.  In addition, private insurance acquired through employers (including family insurance) is heavily subsidized through the tax code.  Last year, this subsidy was worth $145 billion.

What about long-term care for older adults and younger people with disabilities? Well, there is Medicaid, if you are poor enough and need a high enough level of care. Nearly all seniors are eligible for Medicare, of course. But despite a widespread misconception, Medicare covers only medical treatment, not personal supports and other long-term care.

Support for Aging Parents

You can deduct some long-term care costs from your federal income tax, but only if you’re total medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your income. And if you are poor (and if you are disabled you probably are), a tax deduction isn’t worth very much. For low- and middle-income families, it is much less generous than the tax credits available for families with kids.

There also are programs funded through the Older Americans Act, such as Meals on Wheels or information services, but spending for most of them has been frozen for years. Then there is…well, nothing.

If you require long-term care, you are pretty much on your own. Most families just take care of their loved ones on their own, without any paid assistance.  Of the $266,000 in average costs for those families who use paid care, $140,000, or 55 percent, is paid out of pocket.  Medicaid picks up about one-third on average, or about $90,000. But remember, only about 18 percent of Americans age 65 or older will ever qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits.

I am in no way suggesting that the US reduce assistance for families--especially low-income families—who are raising kids. I am suggesting that we recognize that the financial burdens (to say nothing of the physical and emotional costs) are as high or higher for those who are caring for aging parents or younger relatives with disabilities.

A society has an obligation to be sure its kids are well cared-for. But it has the same responsibility for its frail elderly and disabled. The US is doing its share for its children. It is not doing so for its aging parents.

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Families Spend More To Care For Their Aging Parents Than To Raise Their Kids

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dysfunction Disorder

Jama Adams
The young mother was in danger of losing her child when she met with a psychologist in May of 2014. She had been living in a Manhattan shelter for victims of domestic violence, and New York City’s child welfare agency was considering taking the child from the woman, according to the woman’s lawyer. The psychologist was supposed to conduct an assessment and file a report, a finding that could end up before a Brooklyn Family Court judge who would decide the family’s fate.

The interview lasted barely an hour. The psychologist’s subsequent one-page report stated that the mother was “cognitively limited,” and that her “mental status exam” reflected “primitive and irrational decision-making.” The report, signed by a psychiatrist, also noted that the parenting abilities of the mother, an immigrant from Central America, were suspect because of the kinds of foods she chose to feed the baby.

The child was taken from the mother’s custody immediately after the evaluation, and the removal was approved by a judge days later.

In late 2015, a father in the Bronx lost all chance at custody of his child as the result of another similar evaluation. He had met with a psychologist for an hour shortly after the birth of his child, according to the man’s attorney. The psychologist did not ask a single question about the man’s potential to be a parent, and never saw him in the presence of his newborn. He was instead given what the psychologist called an “abbreviated IQ test,” the attorney said. The subsequent report to Family Court concluded the father’s “cognitive limitations” left him unfit to care for his child.

The mental health professionals in both cases had been recruited by Montego Medical Consulting, a for-profit company under contract with New York City’s child welfare agency. For more than a decade, Montego was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by the city to produce thousands of evaluations in Family Court cases — of mothers and fathers, spouses and children. Those evaluations were then shared with judges making decisions of enormous sensitivity and consequence: whether a child could stay at home or if they’d be safer in foster care; whether a parent should be enrolled in a counseling program or put on medication; whether parents should lose custody of their children altogether.

In 2012, a confidential review done at the behest of frustrated lawyers and delivered to the administrative judge of Family Court in New York City concluded that the work of the psychologists lined up by Montego was inadequate in nearly every way. The analysis matched roughly 25 Montego evaluations against 20 criteria from the American Psychological Association and other professional guidelines. None of the Montego reports met all 20 criteria. Some met as few as five. The psychologists used by Montego often didn’t actually observe parents interacting with children. They used outdated or inappropriate tools for psychological assessments, including one known as a “projective drawing” exercise.

The reviewers warned Family Court judges that they should regard the reports from Montego with extreme caution. They encouraged the city’s child welfare agency — known as the Administration for Children’s Services, or ACS — to consider ending its relationship with the company.

But the review was kept secret, and Montego continued for another two years under contract with ACS. In fact, the agency sent more families to Montego in the ensuing years than it ever had before, setting aside millions for the company to use to provide more mental health evaluations.

Lauren Shapiro, the director of Brooklyn Defender Service’s family defense practice, said her organization had worked with dozens of families broken apart in large part because of Montego’s evaluations.

“We were shocked they were even being used by the court given that they didn’t follow the basic minimum standards for evaluating parents,” said Shapiro, who helped initiate the confidential 2012 survey.

Jama Adams, Montego’s clinical director, didn’t contest the findings of the 2012 review at the time, nor does he now. He said he and the clinicians he had hired had done the best they could, and had capably served untold numbers of families not captured in the limited review, before the city terminated its dealings with Montego in December of 2015.

Today, Adams looks back on the entire arrangement with the city as a kind of empty promise. The city, he said, had never been willing to spend the money it would have taken to produce high-quality mental health assessments. Meaningful examinations of parents or children would require taking weeks, not days, spending thousands of dollars, not hundreds. The city, he said, had set Montego up to fail. Adams said that failure had been shared by the judges in Family Court who relied on Montego‘s reports despite their clear limitations.

“These were snapshots,” Adams said of the reports. “But people started taking them as gospel.” (Click to Continue)

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Dysfunction Disorder

Are hospitals helping or hurting the nursing home search?

Elizabeth Fee
At age 88, Elizabeth Fee looked pregnant, her belly swollen after days of intestinal ailments and nausea. A nurse heard a scream from Fee’s room in a nursing home, and found her retching "like a faucet" before she passed out.

The facility where she died in 2012 was affiliated with a respected San Francisco hospital, California Pacific Medical Center, and shared its name. Fee had just undergone hip surgery at the hospital, and her family, pleased with her care, said they chose the nursing home with the hospital’s encouragement.

Laura Rees, Fee’s elder daughter, said she was never told that the nursing home had received Medicare’s worst rating for quality — one star. Nor, she said, was she told that state inspectors had repeatedly cited the facility for substandard care, including delayed responses to calls for aid, disrespectful behavior toward patients and displaying insufficient interest in patients’ pain.

"They handed me a piece of paper with a list of the different facilities on it, and theirs were at top of the page," Rees said in an interview. "They kept pointing to their facility, and I was relying on their expertise and, of course, the reputation of the hospital."

Fee had an obstructed bowel, and state investigators faulted the home for several lapses in her care related to her death, including giving her inappropriate medications. In court papers defending a lawsuit by Fee’s family, the medical center said the nursing home’s care was diligent. The center declined to discuss the case for this story.

The selection of a nursing home can be critical: 39 percent of facilities have been cited by health inspectors over the past three years for harming a patient or operating in such a way that injuries are likely, government records show.

Yet many case managers at hospitals do not share objective information or their own knowledge about nursing home quality. Some even push their own facilities over comparable or better alternatives.

"Generally hospitals don’t tell patients or their families much about any kind of patterns of neglect or abuse," said Michael Connors, who works at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit in San Francisco. "Even the worst nursing homes are nearly full because hospitals keep sending patients to them."

Hospitals say their recalcitrance is due to fear about violating a government decree that hospitals may not "specify or otherwise limit" a patient’s choice of facilities. But that rule does not prohibit hospitals from sharing information about quality, and a handful of health systems, such as Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts, have created networks of preferred, higher-quality nursing homes while still giving patients all alternatives.

Such efforts to help patients are rare, said Vincent Mor, a professor of health services, policy and practice at the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I. He said that when his researchers visited 16 hospitals around the country last year, they found that only four gave any quality information to patients selecting a nursing home.

"They’re giving them a laminated piece of paper" with the names of nearby nursing facilities, Mor said. For quality information, he said, "they will say, ‘Well, maybe you can go to a website,'" such as Nursing Home Compare, where Medicare publishes its quality assessments.

The federal government may change this hands-off approach by requiring hospitals to provide guidance and quality data to patients while still respecting a patient’s preferences. The rule would apply to information not only about nursing homes but also about home health agencies, rehabilitation hospitals and other facilities and services that patients may need after a hospital stay.

"It has a substantial opportunity to make a difference for patients," said Nancy Foster, a vice president at the American Hospital Association.

But the rule does not spell out what information the hospitals must share, and it has yet to be finalized — more than a year after Medicare proposed it. The rule faces resistance in Congress: The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has included it on a list of regulations Republicans should block early next year.

The government has created other incentives for hospitals to make sure their patient placements are good. For instance, Medicare cuts payments to hospitals when too many discharged patients return within a month.

"Hospitals didn’t use to care that much," said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. "They just wanted to get patients out. Now there’s a whole set of payment systems that reward hospitals for good discharges."

But sometimes hospitals go too far in pushing patients toward their own nursing homes. In 2013, for instance, regulators faulted a Wisconsin hospital for not disclosing its ties when it referred patients to its own nursing home, which Medicare rated below average. In 2014, a family member told inspectors that a Massachusetts hospital had "steered and railroaded" her into sending a relative to a nursing home owned by the same health system.

Researchers have found that hospital-owned homes are often superior to independent ones. Still, a third of nursing homes owned by hospitals in cities with multiple facilities had lower federal quality ratings than at least one competitor, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.  (Click to Continue)

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Are hospitals helping or hurting the nursing home search?

Common Viruses a Deadly Threat at Nursing Homes

FRIDAY, Jan. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Common viruses pose a serious threat in nursing homes, often sabotaging standard infection control measures, a new case study suggests.

"Long-term care facilities have unique challenges. Infection-control policies from acute care hospitals cannot simply be mirrored in this setting and expected to work," said study lead author Dr. Schaefer Spires.

His report details a 16-day outbreak of two viruses -- respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) -- that swept through a long-term dementia ward in Tennessee. Nearly three-quarters of the patients became sick and five died.

"RSV and HMPV are viruses that need to be taken as seriously as we take the flu, especially in older adults," said Spires, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

RSV causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. HMPV is a cold virus.

According to the report, 30 of 41 patients contracted at least one of the viruses and 15 were hospitalized.

The outbreak led the facility to implement new protocols for protecting these vulnerable patients.

These included active screening; more efficient separation of ill and healthy residents during cold and flu season; improved hand hygiene; use of personal protective equipment by staff; and faster respiratory viral testing.

But many of the health care providers also became sick, hindering efforts to separate the sick from the healthy, the report said.

Also, dementia prevented many patients from reporting their symptoms, which delayed identification of new cases, Spires said.

The study was published Jan. 9 in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

"Early detection of a contagious pathogen and identification of infected patients is important when trying to prevent an outbreak. However, once a certain number of residents were infected, we had almost no chance at preventing further cases from developing," Spires said in a journal news release.

Thanks to better technology, viruses other than influenza can be detected on a more routine basis. As a result, "we are recognizing the importance of RSV, HMPV, and other viruses in causing [illness] in the older adult population," he added.

"There is a clear need for vaccines and new antivirals to aid our efforts in prevention of these viral infections," Spires said.

Full Article & Source:
Common Viruses a Deadly Threat at Nursing Homes