Saturday, March 11, 2017

NASGA Legislative Liaison Brenda Kelly Nelum Interviewed by NBC Nightly News: Law Aims to Protect Medicare Patients from Surprise Hospital Bill

M.J. Bricout of Texas is still paying off a $28,000 medical bill.
Three years ago, M.J. Bricout broke her leg. And then when she got to the hospital she says she was robbed.

"I was mugged. I feel like it's an appropriate word to use," said Bricout, who got socked with a $28,000 bill because her doctor categorized her as "under observation" instead of as an "inpatient" before she went into two months of rehab.

But on Wednesday, three years after NBC News first told Bricout's story, a new law goes into effect that requires hospitals to tell people orally and in writing that they are "under observation," effectively outpatients, and thus potentially liable for much larger bills that aren't covered by Medicare. More than 1 million patients will get these MOONs (Medicare Outpatient Observation Notices) every year, according to federal estimates.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D.-Texas, who co-wrote the Congressional bill that created the law, said two Nightly News reports on Bricout and others like her in 2014 inspired him to push for change.

Three years ago, M.J. Bricout broke her leg. And then when she got to the hospital she says she was robbed.

"I was mugged. I feel like it's an appropriate word to use," said Bricout, who got socked with a $28,000 bill because her doctor categorized her as "under observation" instead of as an "inpatient" before she went into two months of rehab.

But on Wednesday, three years after NBC News first told Bricout's story, a new law goes into effect that requires hospitals to tell people orally and in writing that they are "under observation," effectively outpatients, and thus potentially liable for much larger bills that aren't covered by Medicare. More than 1 million patients will get these MOONs (Medicare Outpatient Observation Notices) every year, according to federal estimates.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D.-Texas, who co-wrote the Congressional bill that created the law, said two Nightly News reports on Bricout and others like her in 2014 inspired him to push for change.

"In times of sickness and stress, patients should be focused on recovery, not unexpected threats to their bank account," Rep. Doggett told NBC News. "Now, patients will be armed with the knowledge they need to be their own best advocates."

What the new law does not do, however, is eliminate the loophole altogether. A bill reintroduced Wednesday by Congressman Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut, would make days spent "under observation" count towards qualification for Medicare coverage.

Brenda Kelley Nelum successfully challenged a five-figure medical bill.

[NASGA Legislative Liaison] Brenda Kelley Nelum of Virginia fought her husband's designation as "under observation" instead of "inpatient." Had she not succeeded, "It would have been a major hardship," she said. She and her husband, who later passed away, would've owed as much as $30,000 for 30 days of rehab.

"We would have been broke."

Full Article and Source:
Law Aims to Protect Medicare Patients From Surprise Hospital Bill

See Brenda's Original Interview in 2014:
How to Avoid Two Words That Cost Thousands in Medicare Bills
Brenda and her husband, Doc Nelum

Former court-ordered guardian indicted in massive fraud scheme

April  Parks
A former court-ordered financial guardian in Las Vegas has been arrested and charged in an exploitation scheme involving more than $550,000 allegedly stolen from 150 people.

April Parks, owner of the business called A Private Professional Guardian, LLC, was charged along with her office manager, Mark Simmons, her husband, Gary Neil Taylor, and her attorney, Noel Palmer Simpson. A grand jury handed down 270 charges, the Nevada Attorney General’s office, Clark County District Attorney and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police announced in a statement.

The exploitation often involved billing schemes such as overcharging for house check-ins and court appearances, according to the indictment. Investigators said the company engaged in the fraud between December 2011 and July 2016.

The private practice was not affiliated with the Clark County court system.

The charges included 117 counts of perjury, 73 counts of offering false instrument for filing or record, 42 counts of theft, 37 counts of exploitation, and one count of racketeering. Parks received the most felony charges: 212.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson expressed his dismay: “Guardians are appointed to protect and serve their wards, who are some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Eighth Judicial District judge Jennifer Togliatti issued a “no bail” arrest warrant for Parks and Simmons.

Julian Gregory, Simmons’ defense attorney, did not respond to calls for comment.

Parks bolted from the state -- but police said they caught her Wednesday in East Goshen Township, Pa., and charged her with being a fugitive from justice.

Her bail was set at $500,000. Parks was remanded to Chester County Prison pending extradition to Clark County, Nevada.

The indictment was the culmination of a two-year investigation and came after the Nevada Supreme Court created a 25-member commission to study guardianship abuse in 2015.

Elaine Renoire, President of the National Association to stop Guardianship Abuse, told Fox News, “this case has given victims across the country hope.”

Full Article & Source:
Former court-ordered guardian indicted in massive fraud scheme

'Horrific' veteran deaths covered up in Oklahoma state-run nursing home, insiders say

Kevin Kimbrough survived 13 months of combat in Vietnam and the related post-traumatic stress disorder that plunged him into a dozen years of self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.

Between 2013 and early 2015, he even survived a major stroke and the amputations of both of his legs.

But two years at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina has left him battered and bruised, and two months ago, on the brink of death.

His sister, who moved halfway across the country to see to his care, has had enough. She’s transferring him to a state veterans home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the patient-to-aide ratio is a fourth of what it is at Talihina.

“We’re all gonna die. Kevin’s gonna die. But it’s gonna be on God’s time – not because you neglected him or failed to do your job!” said Molly Kimbrough.

Molly Kimbrough & brother Kevin
One state lawmaker is assisting top executives at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs with legislation to relocate the vets’ nursing home at Talihina to a larger city nearby because of two high-profile, questionable deaths in the last five months.

Those state officials have focused their public comments and concerns on local staffing challenges and the age and design of the converted, 1921 tuberculosis sanitorium on the outskirts of a remote, tiny town in the Ouachita Mountains.

But health-care workers from the highest to lowest levels of patient care at multiple ODVA-run nursing homes for veterans say the problems are in no way limited to Talihina – they’re systemic.

In a Tulsa World investigation, sources provided detailed accounts and documentation of systemwide reductions in medical and nursing staff, outsourcing of lab work and one-size-fits-all, top-down medical directives and policy changes. All the corners being cut and administrative decisions are driving out staff dedicated to the mission of veteran care and are compromising patient care and safety, sources say.

The Tulsa World verified the identities and clean state license histories of the workers and agreed to protect their identities because they fear retaliation by superiors.

Consistently, those who work directly with patients cited as the root of their concerns the centralized decision-making by ODVA’s top, new leadership — career military leaders without nursing home or long-term-care experience — and cover-ups and patient-blaming when mistakes, injuries and unnatural deaths occur.

“I don’t think it’s a Talihina problem,” said a high-ranking staffer. “The system is sick and it starts from the top down.”

The individual added: “There are deaths the public isn’t even aware of and there have been a lot more near-misses — lab work not done in a timely fashion or not at all; one nurse having to pass meds to 50 people within one hour of a meal; three aides to feed, toilet and clean 50 patients on a unit. When you spread people that thin, bad things are going to happen. And it’s veterans who are suffering.”  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
'Horrific' veteran deaths covered up in Oklahoma state-run nursing home, insiders say

Governor mulling candidates for Macomb probate judge

Gov. Rick Snyder should be appointing a Macomb County Probate judge in the coming weeks to fill the vacancy created following the fall election.

Snyder has received a list of finalists culled from a field of about 10 candidates to occupy the seat that was held by Judge Carl Marlinga, who was elected to a six-year term of the Macomb County Circuit Court bench last fall, two years before his probate term ended.

The State Bar of Michigan narrowed the field to a smaller number for the governor’s office to conduct additional interviews.

Among the attorneys who applied to complete final 20 or 21 months in the term are several hopefuls who have previously sought judgeships. Candidates include Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Jean Cloud, prior probate judge candidate Sandra Harrision, Patricia Patterson, Warren City Council president Cecil St. Pierre, Armand Velardo and Robert Cella, according to Macomb Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. Biernat said there likely are other candidates of whom he was not aware.

Although Marlinga was elected to begin serving in circuit court in the new year, he has remained assigned to probate court until Snyder appoints his replacement. When the new judge takes over, Marlinga will move to circuit court to begin hearing circuit court civil and criminal cases.

Probate Judge Kathryn George, who was assigned to a family docket in the circuit court building in downtown Mount Clemens, has returned to probate court at North Rose and Dunham roads on the outskirts of Mount Clemens, although she is currently on medical leave.

Marlinga will take the courtroom currently occupied by Judge Rachel Rancilio, a family judge who will move to a smaller courtroom previously used by a juvenile court referee. Marlinga will require a larger courtroom because of security issues involving criminal defendants appearing before him.

Rancilio and Judge Michigan Servitto also were elected to six-year terms in November. Servitto presides over criminal and civil cases.

The new probate judge could seek re-election in fall 2018.

A Snyder spokeswoman did not return a call for comment.

Full Article & Source:
Governor mulling candidates for Macomb probate judge

Friday, March 10, 2017

CONTACT 13: Another guardian charged with abuse

Jason Hanson
by  Darcy Spears

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - Another private guardian was charged with abuse of a vulnerable person on Thursday.

The young victim in the case was the first to come forward and talk with Contact 13 about corruption in the guardianship system.

Jason Hanson's guardianship case was supposed to end when he became an adult. But Contact 13 discovered the court kept it open for seven years after his 18th birthday. And during that time, several so-called professionals came in and out of his life while the money set aside for his care dwindled away.

Darcy: "Did you get lost in the system or do you think it's more sinister than that?"
Jason: "I don't know if I got lost in the system or if it was more underhanded than that. But the system definitely needs to change."

Jason has Cerebral Palsy. He's mentally competent, but has special physical needs as he's confined to a wheelchair.

Susan Rousselle was appointed as guardian by the court to look after Jason when he was 16 after his father died. The court later appointed her as trustee of Hanson's special needs account, which was established for his care by an inheritance from his grandmother.

But a grand jury indictment accuses Rousselle of stealing more than $50,000 from that account and using it for her own personal benefit. She's facing 44 felony counts of theft and exploitation.
Former Clark County Public Administrator Jared Shafer was also involved in Jason's case. At one time, Shafer employed convicted private guardian Patience Bristol, who's now in prison for stealing cash, jewelry and more from her wards.

Full Article & Source:
CONTACT 13: Another guardian charged with abuse

CONTACT 13: Guardianship crimes occurred in courtroom

by Darcy Spears

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - In the past two days, multiple individuals who were supposed to protect our most vulnerable citizens have been indicted, and most are now behind bars.

But their crimes didn't happen in back alleys under the cloak of darkness or in secret back rooms.

Contact 13 continues to investigate the broken guardianship system to see who else should be accountable.

Guardianship cases are handled in Clark County's Family Court, but shockingly, the courtroom is exactly where the accused committed most of their alleged crimes.

Thursday afternoon, Susan Rousselle was indicted on 44 counts of theft and exploitation for stealing more than $50,000 from the special needs trust account of Jason Hanson.

On Wednesday,  private, for-profit guardian April Parks was indicted as the alleged ring leader of a group authorities are calling a criminal syndicate.

The four, arrested Wednesday in law enforcement actions across the country, are facing nearly 300 felony counts.

C-17-321808 by Kean Bauman on Scribd

They're charged with isolating elderly and disabled people from their families and systematically draining their life savings in the last months of their lives.

"I'm saddened to say that most of the victims that are part of this criminal indictment have since passed away," said District Attorney Steve Wolfson in a press conference following the indictments.

April Lynn Parks, husband Gary Taylor, business partner Mark Simmons and attorney Noel Palmer Simpson stole over half a million dollars, according to a criminal indictment.  It was handed down Wednesday--two years after Contact 13 first broke the story about April Parks and her business bilking those the court assigned her to protect.

"When I get to that age and somebody tries to put me in a guardianship, I'm probably going to come out kicking and screaming too," Parks said in an interview with Contact 13 in early 2015.

She was talking about Rudy and Rennie North, who are among more than 150 victims named in the indictment as having lost money and possessions to Parks.

"We do marshal the assets," Parks explained. "Yes. We absolutely do that. And we are instructed to do that. And that's for safe keeping."

But the Grand Jury indictment says she failed to keep much of anything safe.  She's accused of filing hundreds of false documents with the court and committing perjury.  Which begs the question, where was the oversight?  Every one of Parks' alleged victims were wards of the court, conscripted into guardianship by people like Commissioner Jon Norheim--who's been removed from all adult guardianship cases, and Family Court presiding judge Charles Hoskin.

"There are other agencies and other departments within Clark County that are somewhat responsible for what I call a failure," said District Attorney Wolfson.

Part of that failure even included fraudulent medical records, which the court allowed Parks to use to prove people needed a guardian.

Contact 13 wanted to know why all those phony and altered documents were accepted and whether any judges, commissioners or doctors would be held accountable.

"Some of the operational things down in Family Court--some of the checks and balances that perhaps weren't followed," said Wolfson.  "But at the end of the day, I believe changes have been put in place and I'm hopeful that these won't happen again."

We asked Clark County District Court for a response to the District Attorney's comments and questions about how all this fraudulent activity was approved.  The Court provided the following statement:

It is the goal of the court, that improvements made over the past two years to the guardianship system including: hiring an investigator and compliance officer, technological upgrades, and case re-assignment to judges, will stop the potential for those intent on defrauding the most vulnerable in our community.

Protecting our most vulnerable requires not only court commitment, but a commitment of resources by funding authorities in the executive branch, and continued leadership from the legislature. We all need to focus on improving guardianship and must continue until all possible improvements are implemented.

When issues with the guardianship system were brought to the attention of the court, the court took immediate action to address issues and called for a commission to determine what needed to be done to get guardianship in line with national best practices. The court has made changes over the past two years to address issues with the guardianship system including: automating daily compliance reports; moving the caseload from a hearing master to judges, working to implement new specialized software.  A Guardianship Hotline was established and is still up and running to take concerns and questions at 702-671-4614 and an also available at for those who have concerns. 

Full Article & Source:
CONTACT 13: Guardianship crimes occurred in courtroom

With The Indictment of April Parks on the Front Page of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Steve Miller Reminds Us.....

April Parks is the second local private guardian to be caught. Several years ago Patience Bristol, an employee of Jared E. Shafer's Professional Fiduciary Services of Nevada, Inc. was convicted of the same crimes Parks is charged with. In both cases, the women were either employed or trained by Shafer who has not yet been charged with a crime.

Until Shafer and Clark Co. Family Court Judges Charles Hoskin and Jon Norheim who knowingly assigned wealthy "wards" to certain private "guardians," along with the cartel of attorneys who defended the guardians, are convicted of felonies, I believe the problem that originated in Las Vegas in 1979 when Jared Shafer was appointed Public Guardian by the father of newly elected U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, will continue unabated.
- Steve Miller

Note: Pictured are:  April Parks, Patience Bristol, Jared Shafer, the front page of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Elyse Tyrell, Commissioner Jon Norheim,
Judge Charles Hoskin, and Francis Fine

Petition: Top law enforcement officials ignore attorney’s abuse of disabled woman

My mother, Genevieve Rowan, journalist and childhood trauma survivor, sustained abuses and cruelties under the hand of a guardianship attorney, Ronald L. McLaughlin, until she could endure no more.

The crimes he committed are documented in this report: **, showing why the county prosecutor should seek his indictment.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has leaked that every five days a ward of the state of Ohio dies a preventable death in a nursing home due to abuse or neglect. Women have faced mistreatment in the courts for millennium - here’s the measure of that debacle: **. And it’s got to stop. The prosecution of Mr. McLaughlin is a good way to proceed.

Source:  Petition:  Top law enforcement officials ignore attorney’s abuse of disabled woman

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Nevada: Grand Jury Indicts Another in Separate Guardianship Abuse Case

 PRESS RELEASE from Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson
 Issued at 12:23 pm on 03/09/2017

Just one day after the Clark County Grand Jury indicted four co-defendants on a variety of crimes relating to guardianship abuse, today, in a separate case, a second Clark County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Susan Rousselle for her criminal mishandling of the Special Needs Trust account of Jason Hanson.

Ms. Rousselle is charged with 22 counts of Exploitation of a Vulnerable Person (category B felony), and 22 counts of Theft (category B and C felonies). Each exploitation count carries a potential prison term of 1-10 years. The theft counts carry a potential 1-5 years each for the category C and a potential 1-10 years each for the category B.

Jason Hanson
Ms. Rousselle was the legal guardian of Mr. Hanson from the time he was 16 until he was 18. She was then appointed the trustee of his Special Needs Trust account after he turned 18. Mr. Hanson is disabled and confined to a wheelchair. The trust was established for his care by an inheritance from his grandmother.

The indictment alleges that Ms. Rousselle stole more than $50,000 from that account and used it for her personal benefit.

At the hearing today, Judge Gonzalez issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Rousselle and set her bail at $200,000.

“It’s hard not to take this case personal,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Cooper. “When I met Jason I instantly liked him. My focus was to seek justice on his behalf and hopefully bring him some closure in this ongoing case. Ms. Rousselle’s actions will not go unpunished.”

“I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hanson, and he is a very special man,” said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. “He is strong and resilient and we are very pleased that the Grand Jury has indicted Ms. Rousselle in this case. Stealing from anyone is bad enough, but stealing from someone who relies on you, and you are entrusted to protect, takes it to a whole new level. The indictments returned the last two days are proof that we are focused on ending the exploitation and abuse of our most vulnerable citizens.

Edith+Eddie's Successful Premier!

Kartemquin's newest release, Edith+Eddie a enjoyed highly anticipated and enthusiastically-met runs at the True/False Film Fest, running March 2nd-March 5th.
Edith+Eddie world premiered to a sold-out crowd on March 2nd, with Julia Reichert––often hailed as the godmother of the American independent film movement––describing the film as, "One of the most beautiful and quietly furious films I have ever seen."

Director Laura Checkoway was in attendance for all three sold-out screenings. The short doc, following the unusual and idyllic love story of Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison, America's oldest interracial newlyweds, struck chords with audience members and reviewers alike:

Source: Edith+Eddie

REQUEST A SCREENING of Edith+Eddie in your area

Legislation To Combat Abuse Of Vulnerable Adults Passes House

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson
OLYMPIA — On Monday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s legislation to combat both financial exploitation and neglect of vulnerable adults in Washington state passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 92-4.

The measure, House Bill 1153, now heads to the Senate.

In 2015, Adult Protective Services received more than 7,800 complaints of financial exploitation and more than 5,400 neglect complaints — together nearly half of all complaints to APS and thousands more than the agency received just five years ago.

The Attorney General-request legislation establishes a new, specific crime to address the unique circumstances of theft cases involving vulnerable adults. It also makes important changes to the standard for felony criminal mistreatment.

“These are our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our elders,” Ferguson said. “We have a responsibility to protect them, and this legislation bolsters our ability to punish those who mistreat vulnerable adults. I am pleased an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House agrees.”

Under existing law, in cases involving theft from a vulnerable adult, prosecutors must charge first- or second-degree theft, with an aggravating factor added to the charge for victimizing a vulnerable adult. The statute of limitations for theft charges is only three years, however, and it can take years for financial exploitation of vulnerable adults to be uncovered.

In addition, the current aggravating factor is not applied uniformly across Washington’s 39 counties.

To correct this, Ferguson’s proposal would create a specific crime of Theft from a Vulnerable Adult, with a six-year statute of limitations. Thirty-seven other states have such laws.

Ferguson’s legislation also amends the standard of proof for criminal mistreatment cases from “recklessness” to “criminal negligence.” Currently, prosecutors must prove recklessness to sustain a felony criminal mistreatment charge. This standard makes prosecutions difficult, because it is inconsistent with the realities of the crimes, which involve a gross failure to act, rather than reckless affirmative acts.

In 2015, the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit obtained a felony criminal mistreatment conviction in a case where the victim suffered six severe pressure ulcers, at least one of which went to the bone. Due to the difficulty of prosecuting these cases, however, that case represented the first felony criminal mistreatment conviction for the office in the 10 years state law has mandated neglect cases be reported to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Despite the more than 5,000 complaints of neglect of a vulnerable adult in 2015, only 34 felony criminal mistreatment charges were filed, according the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

“This bill is a top priority for me because it will help ensure that vulnerable adults are receiving the basic necessities of life and that anyone who abuses a vulnerable adult is held accountable,” Rep. Roger Goodman (45th Dist., Dem.) said.

Full Article & Source:
Legislation To Combat Abuse Of Vulnerable Adults Passes House

Former April Appointed Guardian April Parks Accused of Theft From Wards

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former court-appointed guardian in Las Vegas, her office manager and her friend are being charged with siphoning more than a half-million dollars out of accounts of people assigned to her as wards of the court.

April Parks
A 270-count criminal indictment filed Wednesday in Nevada state court alleges that more than 150 victims lost money to schemes that April Parks headed with A Private Professional Guardian company office manager Mark Simmons and Parks' friend, Gary Neil Taylor.

Together, they're accused of racketeering, theft and exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Attorney Noel Palmer Simpson faces theft and filing false instrument charges.

Attorneys for Parks and Simmons didn't immediately respond to messages. It's not clear if Taylor has a lawyer.

More than 200 counts name Parks, who officials say now lives in Pennsylvania.

Former Appointed Guardian Accused of Theft From Wards

Contact 13: 4 indicted in unprecedented guardianship abuse case

by Darcy Spears:
What started with a Contact 13 investigation has led to hundreds of felony charges against four suspects for the way authorities say they treated people in their care.

This is the latest move in cases involving more than 150 victims and nearly $560,000 in stolen money.

It's the most significant guardianship exploitation indictment in Nevada's history -- so says Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in what authorities hope will wipe out a long-standing crime wave in our state.

Cheers and fist pumps erupted in the Regional Justice Center lobby from a crowd of people who haven't had much to celebrate over the last few years.

On Wednesday, they went from victim to victor as April Parks, the woman who they say stole everything from their loved ones, was indicted.
April Parks
"Today, law enforcement sends a clear message to those who take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Contact 13 first exposed April Lynn Parks in early 2015 when she told Darcy Spears, "I do it because I love it," in reference to her work as a private, professional guardian.

Guardians are appointed by the court to protect and serve their wards. They're entrusted with every aspect of a person's life, including their health care and their money.

"I can't imagine a class of people more susceptible to criminals than wards of a court," said Wolfson.

Parks, her husband Gary Taylor, her attorney Noel Palmer Simpson and her office manager Mark Simmons are together facing 270 felony counts of perjury, racketeering, filing false records, theft and exploitation.

The charges involve more than 150 victims who've lost more than half a million dollars.

Authorities say Parks and her co-defendants used a position of trust and authority to prey on disabled, vulnerable people ranging in age from 40 to 90, and systematically bilk them out of their life savings.

"I've never been so happy in my life! All the thousands of hours and dollars I put into this was not in vain," said Elizabeth Indig, whose mother was one of Parks' wards.

So were Julie Belshe's parents -- Rudy and Rennie North. Contact 13 broke their story in February 2015.

"When I reached out to you I was very traumatized," said Belshe. "I didn't know what to do!"

As for Wednesday's indictments, Belshe says, "It restored my faith in the people, in the justice system -- that there are good people in our system that are working and they're on our side -- the citizens' side. Because you start to think, who's going to believe me? Because you tell these stories and they're unbelievable!"

"I really think this is going to send a very strong message to the other guardians and the attorneys and the judges who aided and abetted her in this," said Indig. "And I think maybe Nevada will be clean of this crime and people can move here and retire without fear of losing everything."

Source and News Video:
Four Indicted in Unprecedented Guardianship Abuse Case

Others indicted:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Steve Miller: Grand Jury Indicts Four People at the Center of Private Guardianship Abuse Investigation

Today, the Grand Jury returned an indictment against April Parks, Mark Simmons, Gary Neal Taylor and Noel Palmer Simpson in a guardianship exploitation case that has been the focus of an ongoing investigation for activities ranging from 2011 through 2016.

The 123 page indictment explains how April Parks, owner of A Private Professional Guardian, LLC, her office manager, Mark Simmons, her husband, Gary Neal Taylor and her attorney, Noel Palmer Simpson, committed the crimes for which they were indicted. Those crimes include Racketeering (category B felony), Exploitation of an Older or Vulnerable Person (category B felony), Theft (category B and C felonies), Offering False Instrument for Filing or Record (category C felony) and Perjury (category D felony).

Although there were legitimate guardianship activities happening at the company, Parks and Simmons engaged in a pattern of conduct which was illegal and exploitive to the vulnerable people she was charged to protect. The indictment alleges that A Private Professional Guardian, LLC was run as a criminal enterprise, with the goal of maximizing profits at the expense of people they were charged with caring for, disregarding their duties to their wards and to the court.

The investigation, which was a cooperative effort between the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has culminated in a multi-defendant indictment which includes a total of 270 counts on seven different felony charges.

Judge Jennifer Togliatti issued “no bail” arrest warrants for Ms. Parks and Mr. Simmons. The judge also issued an arrest warrant with a $200,000 bail amount for Mr. Taylor. A bail amount of $7,500 cash, or a surety bond, was set for Ms. Simpson, who was in court today, and she is scheduled to appear in court at a future date.

“Guardians are appointed to protect and serve their wards, who are some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They are entrusted with every aspect of that person’s life, including their health and finances,” said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. “These defendants were affiliated with a private guardianship business, not the Clark County Public Guardian’s office. This business was compensated for their services. These defendants took advantage of helpless individuals who did not have the ability to defend themselves. Today, with this indictment, we are moving toward holding these people accountable for their crimes and seeking justice for the victims.”

“I am proud of my investigators and prosecutors for helping deliver the most significant guardianship exploitation indictment in Nevada’s history,” said Attorney General Adam Laxalt. “Working alongside Sheriff Lombardo and D.A. Wolfson, the Attorney General’s Office presented, and the Grand Jury returned, an indictment of four co-defendants in a 270 count case for exploiting approximately 150 victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is an example of law enforcement collaborating on a trending public safety issue in our Las Vegas valley by aggressively combating guardianship exploitation. This indictment should send a message to court-appointed guardians throughout the state that law enforcement is committed to aggressively protecting our elderly and vulnerable populations.”

“These suspects used a position of trust and authority to prey on disabled and elderly people and systemically bilk them out of their life savings,” said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. “The victims were vulnerable and unsuspecting and deserve our protection. Today’s indictment speaks for those victims who are already suffering.”

Breakdown of charges:

April Parks (212 felony charges): one count Racketeering, 33 counts Theft (category B), 19 counts Exploitation of an Older Person, 18 counts Exploitation of an Older Person/Vulnerable Person, nine counts Theft (category C), 74 counts Offering False Instrument for Filing or Record and 58 counts of Perjury

Mark Simmons (134 felony charges): one count Racketeering, 30 counts Theft (category B), 19 counts Exploitation of an Older Person, 18 counts Exploitation of an Older Person/Vulnerable Person, eight counts Theft (category C), and 58 counts of Perjury.

Gary Neal Taylor (7 felony charges): one count Racketeering, 2 counts Theft (category B), 1 counts Exploitation of an Older Person, 2 counts Exploitation of an Older Person/Vulnerable Person, one count Theft (category C)

Noel Palmer Simpson (2 felony charges): one count Theft (category B) and one count Offering False Instrument for Filing or Record.

Las Vegas Grand Jury Indicts Nevada Guardian April Parks on More Than 200 Charges, Including Racketeering, Theft, and Exploitation

by Colton Lochhead
A grand jury indicted a for-profit guardian Wednesday on more than 200 charges that include racketeering, theft and exploitation, in a case that spans more than 150 victims.

April Parks faces 212 felony charges. They include: one count of racketeering, 42 counts of theft, 37 counts of exploitation of an older person or vulnerable person, 74 counts offering a false instrument for filing of record and 58 counts of perjury.

Judge Jennifer Togliatti issued a no-bail arrest warrant for Parks and her business partner, Mark Simmons. Simmons is charged with 134 felonies.

April Parks
Parks was one of the most active private professional guardians in Southern Nevada. She often acted as the surrogate decision maker for 50 to 100 elderly and infirm people, called wards, at a given time. As the guardian, Parks had full control of the wards’ finances, estates and even medical decisions.

Last year, she left Nevada, leaving dozens of wards behind and forcing the already overburdened Clark County Public Guardian’s office to step in to care for them.

Guardianship Judge Cynthia Dianne Steele issued a separate bench warrant for Parks’ arrest last summer after Parks failed twice to appear in court for one of the cases she abandoned.

Attorneys claimed Parks grossly overbilled her wards and called for a law enforcement investigation of her practices.

“This indictment should send a message to court-appointed guardians throughout the state that law enforcement is committed to aggressively protecting our elderly and vulnerable populations,” Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement.

Laxalt and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson both attended the indictment hearing.

Parks’ husband, Gary Neal Taylor, faces seven charges and Parks’ former attorney, Noel Palmer Simpson, was charged with one count each of theft and filing a false document.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Las Vegas Grand Jury Indicts Nevada Guardian on More Than 200 Charges, Including Racketeering, Theft, and Exploitation

Breaking News from Nevada: Former Guardian April Parks and 3 Others Indicted!

LAS VEGAS (by Caroline Bleakley)  - Update: April Parks and Gary Taylor have were arrested Wednesday afternoon.

A Clark County grand jury has indicted four people in a guardianship exploitation case that extends over a five-year period.
The 123-page indictment includes a total of 270 counts and seven different felony charges against the four individuals. It's alleged they exploited approximately 130 victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

April Parks, the owner of A Private Professional Guardian, LLC, her office manager, Mark Simmons, her husband, Gary Neal Taylor and her attorney, Noel Palmer Simpson are accused of racketeering, exploitation of an older or vulnerable person, theft, offering false instrument for filing or record and perjury.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Clark County District Attorney's Office, the Nevada Attorney General's Office and The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

According to a news release from the district attorney's office, although legitimate business was being done at Parks' business, "Parks and Simmons engaged in a pattern of conduct which was illegal and exploitive to the vulnerable people she was charged to protect."

"These suspects used a position of trust and authority to prey on disabled and elderly people and systemically bilk them out of their life savings," said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Grand Jury Indicts 4 in Major Guardianship Abuse Case

Metro Settles Conservatorship Claim

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Metro Nashville has agreed to pay $10,000 to settle a suit filed in behalf of a ward whose assets were depleted by $157,850 thanks to a court appointed conservator now serving an 18 year jail sentence.

The suit in behalf of Donald E. Griggs charged that if the Metro Probate Clerk's Office had done its job of monitoring Griggs' conservatorship, John E. Clemmons would not have been able to steal the $157,850.

Clemmons had failed to file required annual reports, but the clerk took no action. March 2012 was the date when the first missed annual report was due.

Clemmons, 69, entered guilty pleas to charges that he stole over $1 million from estates and conservatorships in Davidson and Rutherford counties.

Paul Gontarek, who was appointed to replace Clemmons as Griggs conservatorship said that the settlement was the best course based on recent rulings in the case.

"Given the earlier court ruling, it did not make financial sense to pursue the claim against Metro," Gontarek said when asked about the settlement.

In agreeing to the settlement, Metro attorneys wrote that "the payment is not an expression or implied admission of responsibility on the part of Metro government and that the Metro government specifically denies all such claims for damages against it."

 Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell ruled that the probate clerk could be held liable for failing to monitor Griggs case but he also concluded that Griggs could only recover amounts stolen by Clemmons after March of 2012.

"Any losses that occurred prior to that date cannot be attributed to the fault of the clerk's office," Cantrell wrote.

Cantrell also ruled against another claim filed by Gontarek in behalf of another ward on different grounds. In the case of William Link, Cantrell concluded that a statute of limitations barred any recovery.

Clemmons admitted to stealing some $500,000 of Link's assets. Clemmons had served as both a conservator and estate administrator for Link and his disabled daughter.

Gontarek is appealing the Link ruling.


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Metro Settles Conservatorship Claim

A Struggle Back to “Financial Independence” After a Brain Injury

While in a coma, Harvey lost his civil rights and all control over his own money, due to a court-ordered conservatorship. A durable power of attorney could have prevented this nightmare situation.

On a beautiful June day in 2009, Harvey was riding his motorcycle up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu as he had many times before. He enjoyed the scenery and the feel of the open road. However, he has almost zero memory of this particular day.

As he neared the Malibu Pier, a woman driving a sedan ahead of him suddenly made an illegal U-turn — turning directly into his motorcycle. Thankfully, he was wearing a helmet that surely saved his life. The highway was shut down and Harvey was airlifted to UCLA hospital where he spent the next two months in a coma.

Harvey had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) along with many physical injuries, and he would spend the next six months in hospitals. From UCLA he was transferred to Kindred Hospital in Culver City, and then to the Bakersfield Centre for Neuro Skills residential program.

It was in those first few weeks while Harvey was in a coma that his independence and civil rights would be terminated through a court-appointed conservatorship. 

Harvey and his wife Sheila had been married for 16 years and had a six-year-old daughter. Having been born into privilege, Harvey had considerable wealth that he had not co-mingled with his wife’s accounts. Additionally, Harvey and Sheila had never prepared a will, power of attorney, or health care directive. Harvey felt that he was a healthy 40-year-old, and he would handle those legal things when he was older.

Sheila and their daughter were living in their family home, where she was responsible for a hefty mortgage, even though she had limited access to Harvey’s money. She hired an attorney and applied for conservatorship of Harvey and his assets. The case was heard by Judge Reva Goetz — who has handled such famous conservatorship cases as Britney Spears and Mickey Rooney.

Sheila was denied conservatorship over Harvey because they had recently separated and were living under different roofs. Even though she immediately rushed to his side in the hospital and resumed her role as his wife, the court decided that they couldn’t be certain whether or not Harvey would want Sheila to have continued access to his money.

Eventually Harvey’s father and his attorney were awarded co-conservatorship and were able to pay general bills such as real estate and income taxes, utilities, groceries, etc. Harvey would eventually be awarded a monthly “allowance” to spend on whatever he wanted, making him feel like he was being treated like a child.

Once you’ve been put into a conservatorship, you can’t hire an attorney, so one is appointed for you by the court. This attorney is called a Probate Volunteer Panel (PVP) attorney. Harvey’s PVP attorney bragged at an initial meeting with Harvey and the family that she enjoyed causing friction between husbands and wives. She felt it was her duty to decide what was best for her client (Harvey) no matter what he or his family members might say to the contrary.

Harvey had a hearing every six months or so to monitor how things were going. He was supposed to be advised by his PVP attorney, however, she kept falsely telling the court that Harvey wanted a continuance of the conservatorship. Harvey wanted his wife Sheila to be conservator, but the PVP attorney would not allow it, and argued for the continued humiliation of the court-monitored allowance. 

At the hearings, the lawyers — which by this point consisted of an attorney for his wife, an attorney for his father, Harvey’s PVP attorney, and eventually a court-appointed attorney for his minor child (known as “guardian ad litem”) — and judge would talk about him as if he were a child (because basically without any of his rights, he sort of was) and they would never refer to him by name — only as the “conservatoree.” Harvey said it was very dehumanizing to be treated this way. 

As Harvey began getting better and better, it was becoming obvious that the conservatorship had to come to an end, but doing so was harder done than said. He had to have a “capacity declaration” performed by a physician. The problem is that when a large amount of money is at stake, doctors are reluctant to say yes, because if they said yes and he lost it all the next day, the doctor’s decision would be questioned.

Eventually Judge Goetz gave him the name of a specific doctor that she trusted. Harvey would endure two days of rigorous testing, and in January 2011, the doctor eventually wrote a declaration that Harvey was responsible enough to control his own life. In March of 2011 the judge terminated the conservatorship and Harvey was once again granted all of his civil rights. After the hearing was over, the court reporter approached Harvey and told him she had sat in on thousands of cases like his, and his was only the third one she had ever seen terminated — it is that rare to have a conservatorship overturned.

However, his nightmare did not end there.

The court-appointed PVP attorney was supposed to charge at a reduced rate; however, she solicited the judge to bill at her full rate, and was granted permission. This frustrated Harvey, as he felt the lawyer really never had his best interests in mind. Harvey had to file for separate counsel to fight the fee petition, which added two more attorneys’ fees. In addition to his PVP attorney’s fees, he also received a bill from his father’s attorney, the attorney who was acting as co-conservator, the guardian ad litem for his daughter, as well as his wife’s attorney — despite the fact that she had dropped her petition to be named conservator 18 months prior. Harvey had to pay legal fees, bonding fees, and mandatory accounting fees.

In total, this cost him just over $1 million dollars — all because Harvey did not know he should have a durable power of attorney for health care and financial matters — which created a situation where others took advantage of his health crisis.

Right after the conservatorship was lifted, Harvey told Sheila he wanted to go to Vegas and gamble…”because it was his money, damnit!” She looked at him and said, “NOT WITHOUT A WILL FIRST!” So in April 2011, Harvey wrote a holographic (handwritten) will in his own handwriting on a piece of paper that said, “Everything goes to my wife.” Shortly afterwards, he hired a law firm to implement all of their trusts, wills, power of attorney, etc.

Harvey wants everyone to understand the importance of having a durable power of attorney drawn up NOW, no matter your age or health because you never know when life takes a drastic turn like Harvey’s did. This durable power of attorney is a simple form you file with your attorney for a few hundred dollars, and it directs who is responsible for you and your estate should you become incapacitated. Had he had one, it would have saved him the humiliation of losing his civil rights, as well as causing his loved ones time and grief — and of course — $1 million in attorney and other fees.

Full Article & Source:
A Struggle Back to “Financial Independence” After a Brain Injury

Guardian blames nursing home operators for resident's injuries

CHARLESTON — An East Bank woman is suing nursing home operators, alleging their negligence brought about injuries to a resident.

Ester Bell, full guardian of Hobart Stafford, filed a complaint Feb. 7 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Golden Living Center-Glasgow, Beverly Enterprises Inc., et al, alleging they breached their mandated statutory duty to provide Stafford with his nursing home resident's rights.

According to the complaint, during different times and at different locations, Stafford was a resident at the defendants' facilities. As a result of the defendants' negligence, the suit says, Stafford suffered serious injuries resulting in pain and suffering, mental anguish and medical expenses.

The plaintiff alleges the defendants failed to provide a safe environment, adequate supervision and safety devices to prevent Stafford from injuring himself and failed to provide health care services in compliance with states laws and regulations and acceptable professional standards.

Bell seeks trial by jury, compensation for all damages, litigation costs and all other relief the court sees fit to award. She is represented by Andrew L. Paternostro, Jeff D. Stewart and Shayla M. Rigsby of The Bell Law Firm in Charleston.

Kanawha Circuit Court Case number 17-c-188

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Guardian blames nursing home operators for resident's injuries

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

State can’t be sued for selling property, euthanizing cat of man in its care, Maine’s top court rules

William Dean died before the conclusion of his four-year case, but now his attorney wants legislation to make the state accountable when ‘the duty of care is so grossly breached.’ 

William Dean plays the organ, an instrument he mastered without any lessons. His family retained his three organs after the state tried to sell them. Dean died in October at the age of 71, while his lawsuit against the state was pending.
William Dean plays the organ, an instrument he mastered without any lessons. His family retained his three organs after the state tried to sell them. Dean died in October at the age of 71, while his lawsuit against the state was pending. 2015 photo courtesy of the Dean family
ROCKLAND — The state is immune from liability for selling the waterfront house of a man in its care for well below its value, allowing another home he owned in Rockland to fall into disrepair, selling off his personal belongings and euthanizing his cat.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday in the lawsuit brought on behalf of William Dean against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The ruling comes nearly four years after the original lawsuit was filed and nearly six months after the high court justices heard arguments on the matter. Dean has died since that hearing, succumbing to natural causes on Oct. 16. He was 71.

Cynthia Ann Dill, Dean’s Portland-based attorney, said Thursday that she respects the ruling but urged the Maine Legislature to expressly provide by statute that when the DHHS acts as a public guardian it is “accountable for damages caused when, as in this case, the duty of care is so grossly breached.”

Dean suffered from mental health issues throughout his life. Among other things, he had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that made it difficult for him to interact with other people.

He also was a musical savant. He never had a music lesson but was able to play a song if he had heard it once. His musical instrument of choice was the organ.

After his mother died, Dean had a mental health crisis and was admitted to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor in May 2012.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services filed a motion on Sept. 5, 2012, in probate court seeking to be named his conservator and guardian. The state said that he was not competent to manage his properties, and that bills had not been paid, including property taxes.

Dean’s cousin Pamela Vose had offered to be conservator, but had a family medical emergency and asked that the state not appoint anyone else while she dealt with that situation.

However, the state filed for conservatorship without letting Vose know, contending there was “no suitable private party available and willing to assume such responsibilities.” A probate judge in Penobscot County approved the temporary appointment of the DHHS as conservator and guardian on Sept. 6, 2012.

Before the end of that year, the state put Dean’s Owls Head cottage and the Rockland family home up for sale, citing tax liens and other bills that had to be paid. He had inherited the properties when his parents died. In January 2013, the waterfront cottage in Owls Head was sold for $205,000, even though the town had the property – 1 acre with 100 feet of ocean frontage and the 1,000-square-foot, two-story cottage – assessed for tax purposes at $476,840.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office, which represents the DHHS in lawsuits, argued that the Owls Head property was not worth the taxable value because of problems with septic and water systems and because it was next to a property that was in deplorable condition.

According to court records, the state moved up the sale date of the Owls Head property by one day after the family found out about the sale and informed the DHHS it would seek a court injunction to stop the sale.

The state also tried to sell the Rockland home on Broadway, but a pipe burst during the winter when there was no heat and caused major flooding, which then led to mold throughout the home, making it uninhabitable.

Money from the sale of Dean’s assets paid for his care and went to his estate, the value of which dropped dramatically, according to court papers filed by David Jenny, Dean’s attorney. He said Dean had $654,000 worth of real estate that was free of mortgages in September 2012, but he was down to $20,000 in assets when he was released from Dorothea Dix in 2013 after less than a year under DHHS conservatorship.

Following his release, Dean rented one apartment and then another in Rockland.

In an October 2015 interview, Dean said the state’s decision to euthanize his longtime companion, a 10-year-old Himalayan cat named Caterpillar, bothered him the most.

Dean said he also was upset that the state sold his 2000 Cadillac Eldorado. The car was sold for $385, even though the book value was roughly $5,600.

Dean was aware the state was trying to sell the Owls Head property while he was in the hospital, but did not learn about the sale and the low price until after he was discharged. “I was not very happy about it,” he said.

Among the possessions that the state tried to sell but were retained when the family took legal action were Dean’s three organs. When asked in 2015 what he would like to come out of the legal proceedings, Dean had a one-word answer.

“Justice,” he said.

Claire Dean Perry, William Dean’s sister, originally sued DHHS on her brother’s behalf in May 2013.

“I feel absolutely devastated. I feel like a Mack truck went over me,” she said Thursday.

Dean Perry said she wanted a jury to hear the case and decide whether the state had acted improperly. She said the loss of the Owls Head home and the loss of the cat and car weighed down her brother in his final years.

“It permeated his whole being,” she said.

In December 2015, Justice Andrew Horton of the Maine Business and Consumer Court in Portland ruled that the lawsuit could go forward on the single issue of whether the state breached its fiduciary duty while it served Dean’s conservator in 2012 and 2013.

The DHHS appealed that lower court ruling. Assistant Attorney General Christopher Taub argued that the state is immune from liability under the Maine Tort Claims Act. He said there are exceptions to the immunity, but only when it is spelled out in other laws approved by the Maine Legislature.

The Supreme Court justices agreed, saying there is nothing in the state’s probate laws that waives immunity, even when the state serves as a conservator for someone in its care. 

Full Article & Source:
State can’t be sued for selling property, euthanizing cat of man in its care, Maine’s top court rules

Ohio Lawmaker Reintroduces Bill Aimed at Curbing Elder Abuse

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio lawmaker has reintroduced legislation aimed at curbing the abuse of senior citizens after the bill failed to pass last session amid criticism that it lacked funding.

State Rep. Wes Retherford's Elder Justice Act unanimously cleared the Ohio House last year, but it was stopped in the Ohio Senate after opponents testified that it was an unfunded mandate, The Hamilton-Middletown Journal News reported (

The bill would require the state Department of Job and Family Services to create and report on a registry to identify patterns of abuse. It would also establish a statewide Elder Abuse Commission to increase awareness of elder abuse and improve judicial response to elder abuse.

Under the bill, employees in financial fields would be required to report suspected elder abuse or elderly victims of financial crimes.

The bill had received support from the Ohio Attorney General's office. State Attorney General Mike DeWine submitted written testimony in both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, indicating the bill "will complement our efforts and enhance the safety of Ohio's seniors."

His office started the Elder Justice Initiative in 2014 to increase prosecution of crimes against the elderly.

Opponent Antonia Carroll, the director of the Franklin County Office on Aging, testified in June 2015 to the Senate committee that the bill would add more workload without any additional funding.

Retherford, a Hamilton Republican, said changes have been made to the bill to address the issues raised.

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Ohio Lawmaker Reintroduces Bill Aimed at Curbing Elder Abuse

Florida man arrested in elder exploitation case

A Tampa, Florida, man has been arrested for elder exploitation for allegedly taking financial advantage of his aunt, a resident at an Alabama assisted living facility, according to the state attorney general's office.

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the arrest Monday of Mitchell Alton Roddam, 60, for first-degree financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Roddam surrendered at the Jefferson County Correctional facility.

The attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit presented evidence to a Jefferson County grand jury resulting in an indictment dated Feb. 9 charging Roddam in the case.

Roddam obtained power of attorney over his 94-year-old aunt to handle her affairs when she entered an Irondale assisted living facility in June 2015. He allegedly misappropriated about $85,000 from that point through October 2016.

Attorneys for the facility contacted the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which initiated an investigation. Financial exploitation of an elderly person in the first degree provides that any person who breaches his or her fiduciary duty under a power of attorney that results in unauthorized appropriations of the person's property is guilty of a Class B felony if the unauthorized appropriations exceed $2,500.

Under the statute, a person is considered "elderly" if he or she is older than 60. A Class B felony carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is tasked with investigating and prosecuting providers who file false claims to the Alabama Medicaid Agency. The unit's other major function is to investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elderly in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

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Florida man arrested in elder exploitation case