Saturday, June 10, 2017

Metro Detroit dad says probate scandal nearly cost him $70,000

(WXYZ) - The 7 Investigators have been exposing a disturbing pattern of some public officials and real estate brokers taking over estates after someone dies, leaving the rightful heirs with very little.

Here’s what’s been happening: Real Estate Broker Ralph Roberts has teamed up with some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators. The Public Administrators and Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes that are at stake in the estates after someone dies. The Public Administrators then take legal fees from the estate.

“I find properties. I believe there’s a benefit, so I then tell a public administrator, here’s the benefit there,” Roberts told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo in November 2016.

Cecil St. Pierre was one of those Attorney General-appointed Public Administrators. He’s also the Warren City Council President.

“They messed with the wrong family this time,” said Petar Georgievski. When Georgievski’s mother passed away last August, she used a Quit Claim Deed to give her Warren house to her son.

Georgievski says he later found out that money was owed for a small loan on the home, and his lawyer tried to address it with the bank. But without warning, Georgievski says the house was sold at Sheriff’s Sale.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Metro Detroit dad says probate scandal nearly cost him $70,000

Oregon Senate Committee Passes Bill to Allow Starving Mentally Ill Patients to Death

Yesterday the Oregon Senate Rules Committee passed out Senate Bill 494 on a party-line vote. Touted as a “simple update” to Oregon’s current advance directive, this bill is designed to allow for the starving and dehydrating to death of patients with dementia or mental illness.

Senate Bill 494 is little more than the state colluding with the healthcare industry to save money on the backs of mentally ill and dementia patients. This bill would remove current safeguards in Oregon’s advance directive statute that protect conscious patients’ access to ordinary food and water when they no longer have the ability to make decisions about their own care.

“It’s appalling what the Senate Rules Committee just voted to do,” said Gayle Atteberry, Oregon Right to Life executive director. “This bill, written in a deceiving manner, has as its goal to save money at the expense of starving and dehydrating dementia and mentally ill patients to death.”

“Oregon law currently has strong safeguards to protect patients who are no longer able to make decisions for themselves,” said Atteberry. “Nursing homes and other organizations dedicated to protecting vulnerable patients work hard to make sure patients receive the food and water they need. Senate Bill 494, pushed hard by the insurance lobby, would take patient care a step backwards and decimate patient rights.”

“Oregon Right to Life is committed to fighting this terrible legislation every step of the way,” said Atteberry. “We have already seen the outrage of countless Oregonians that the Legislature would consider putting them in danger. We expect the grassroots response to only increase.”

SB 494 was amended in committee yesterday. However, the amendments did not solve the fundamental problem with the bill. To learn more about what SB 494 will do, please watch testimony made to the Rules Committee on behalf of Oregon Right to Life yesterday by clicking here. SB 494 likely heads to a vote of the full State Senate in the coming weeks.

Three additional bills (SB 239, SB 708 and HB 3272) that also remove rights from vulnerable patients were introduced this session.

“There is a clear effort to move state policy away from protecting the rights of patients with dementia and mental illness and toward empowering surrogates to make life-ending decisions,” Atteberry said.

Senate Bill 494 makes many changes to advance directive law, eliminating definitions that can leave a patient’s directions left open to interpretation. SB 494 would also create a committee, appointed rather than elected, that can make future changes to the advance directive without approval from the Oregon Legislature. This could easily result in further erosion of patient rights.

Full Article & Source:
Oregon Senate Committee Passes Bill to Allow Starving Mentally Ill Patients to Death

Issues for elders: How to obtain a power of attorney for a parent

Jill Burzynski
Adult children often call lawyers asking them to prepare durable power of attorneys for parents. This question inevitably leads to further conversation.

The threshold question is, "Why are your parents not calling themselves?" If an attorney is going to be able to do legal documents, the clients need to be able to express what they want and understand the documents that they asked to be prepared.

If the child is calling because the parents lack the cognitive ability to express their desire or to understand the implications of the documents, no attorney is going to be able to ethically proceed with preparing a power of attorney.

Sometimes the children are calling because the parents are unwilling to seek legal and long term planning advice. Again, if that is the case, an attorney will not be able to comply with the requests by the child.

If either of the above situations is occurring, an attorney may be able to assist the child, but the answer may not a power of attorney. If the parents have lost legal capacity, a guardianship may be necessary. Guardianship is an involved and expensive legal proceeding which should not be used if there are other less restrictive options.

So before advising a family to seek guardianship, an attorney should analyze how assets are held, and what problems are being encountered. If the problems can be solved in other ways, guardianship is not an appropriate solution.

Sometimes the family members call when they do not agree with the elder’s choice of fiduciary named in existing documents. The attorney should then determine whether there are acts of exploitation or self-dealing taking place that are legally actionable. If there is a misuse of trust or if there is a criminal exploitation occurring, appropriate civil or criminal action should be pursued. If, however, it is merely a child second-guessing the parents’ decision of fiduciary, no legal action should be pursued.

Sometimes at this juncture, families attempt "DIY" remedies by finding a power of attorney form online or copying another family member's power of attorney. No legal requirement exists that requires attorneys to be involved with the preparation of a durable power of attorney. However, in 2011, the Florida Legislature significantly changed the power of attorney statute, making a Florida durable power of attorney a very complex document. Many powers have to be specifically enumerated and initialed to be operative. Using a family member’s document as a template may cause the document to be unenforceable if it is not compliant with current law.

Many families often start thinking about powers of attorney for their parents when they begin to notice changes in health and cognitive functioning. The elders may have a window of time to put legal documents in place. Further, this is the time to analyze not only the sufficiency of the legal documents, but also a realistic plan of care going forward. Estate planning documents that were done for other situations may not include sufficient flexibility to engage in asset protection planning that should be considered if long term care needs are foreseeable.

Twenty-four-hour care in the home costs between $180,000-$200,000 per year in Collier County. If the family cannot afford to pay this cost from income, then planning for this type of care long-term will cause a depletion of assets that could mean total impoverishment. While 24-hour care is seldom needed initially, planning must include consideration of the disease trajectories and comorbidities. If home care is not feasible with the assets available, other options have to be considered.

The use of government benefits including VA Aid and Attendance and Medicaid can significantly help to prevent impoverishment. Asset protection planning requires appropriate legal authority which must be built into the legal documents, including the durable power of attorney. If a DIY power of attorney was used while the elder had capacity and that DIY proves insufficient when government benefits are needed, the family will have made a costly mistake.

Full Article & Source:
Issues for elders: How to obtain a power of attorney for a parent

Friday, June 9, 2017

Clemmons Parole Bid Denied

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A Tennessee board has turned down  parole for a disbarred Nashville attorney who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1.3 million from wards and estates he had been appointed to oversee and protect.

The state Board of  Probation rejected  parole for John E. Clemmons, 69, who is serving a 25 year sentence after pleading guilty to stealing funds from wards and estates in Davidson and Rutherford Counties.

Clemmons began serving the sentence on Nov. 8, 2013. He is currently an inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville.

He will not be eligible for another try at parole until May of 2020. Without parole his sentence will not end until 2038.

A spokeswoman for the board said the decision to deny parole was based on the seriousness of the offenses he committed. According to board records Clemmons could have been released next month had the board approved.

Board spokeswoman Melissa McDonald said the first votes cast on Clemmons' case were three concurring votes to deny parole and review again in three years. The vote affirmed a recommendation from a board hearing officer, she said

Clemmons' thefts were first detected by John Bratcher, clerk and master of the Rutherford County Chancery Court.

Bratcher said he had no sympathy for Clemmons and he was pleased with the board's decision.

"John Clemmons stole from the people he had taken an oath to protect. He stole from the weak and incompetent, and he did it over a period of 10 years. He caused almost unspeakable anguish for the families of his victims. He should serve his sentence day for day," Bratcher said.

Clemmons had been named conservator for Russell Church, a retired Rutherford County teacher then living in a nursing home.

In 2013 Bratcher testified that Clemmons stole over $123,910.02 from Church's estate. He said that overall Clemmons took $1.3 million from four victims  Clemmons eventually entered a guilty plea to Rutherford theft charges. Church, court records show, was the only victim to fully recover the stolen funds.

In court documents Bratcher said that Clemmons' began stealing from Church on the very first day of his appointment. On that day, Nov. 22, 2011, Batcher said, Clemmons took $21,644.46 from three of Church's accounts. He said in a statement to the court that Clemmons apparently used the funds to gamble at a Mississippi casino.

Following the discovery in Rutherford County an investigation of the dozens of cases Clemmons was appointed to oversee in Davidson County turned up three more cases in which Clemmons had stolen thousands of dollars.

He entered guilty pleas in all three Davidson cases.

Tersesa Lyle, whose mother, Nannie Malone, was one of Clemmons' victims, said she only learned of Clemmons' parole bid when contacted by a reporter.

She said the family was only able to recover a small fraction of the amount Clemmons admitted to stealing. The recovery came from a bond Clemmons was required to post when he was appointed as Malone's conservator in 2008.

But Lyle said the bond value was well below the nearly $1 million in assets, including a 68-acre farm, Clemmons took control of. Records show some of Malone's properties were sold off at auction for back taxes Clemmons failed to pay.

Records show within a matter of  days of his appointment as Malone's conservator by Davidson Probate Judge David "Randy" Kennedy, Clemmons began writing checks to  himself.

Malone died on Oct. 25, 2012.

One of the Davidson victims, Donald Griggs, did recover $10,000 under a court settlement with Metro. The February settlement came in a suit filed by Paul Gontarek, who replaced Clemmons as Griggs conservator. He charged that had court officials  done their job in monitoring Clemmons' activities, the $157,850 could never have been stolen.


Full Article & Source:
Clemmons Parole Bid Denied

Venice lawyer charged with stealing over $400K from elderly clients

VENICE — A family whose members said they are victims of a Venice lawyer arrested Tuesday for exploiting the estates of at least three elderly clients said they were going to use the money from their deceased uncle’s estate to pay for their children’s college education in the fall.

The family said they spoke to detectives Friday morning and that estate attorney Adam Miller, 38, of Venice has not been charged in connection with their case yet. A family member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Miller was placed in charge of their uncle’s estate after he died in 1999.

“All I know is that my children’s trusts are gone, almost $500,000,” the woman said. “My youngest was supposed to start college after summer vacation; my oldest daughter has two small children, and my son is only 10.
“I can’t believe that he did this, I find it so unreal.”

The woman said that even after Raymond Miller — the father of Adam Miller — was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to four years in prison for stealing nearly $1 million from the estate of Holocaust survivor Beila Millet of North Port, her aunt transferred the account to Adam Miller.

The aunt passed away in 2014, the woman said.

“It makes you lose trust; my children are devastated,” the woman said.

The woman said her uncle made his money operating bowling alleys. She said she expected detectives to file charges in connection with their case this week.

On Tuesday, Adam Miller was charged with one count of exploitation of elderly, and three counts of scheme to defraud three different estates. He allegedly misappropriated $408,850 from the estate of a deceased Englewood couple.

Raymond Miller had pleaded no contest to a charge he stole $941,256 from Beila Millet of North Port. She reportedly survived medical experiments in a Nazi concentration camp.

As part of the plea agreement, Raymond Miller was sentenced to four years in prison and was placed on probation until he paid back the money.

Millet had left the money to Israeli hospitals, schools and veterans’ groups when she died at age 93 in 2006. Raymond Miller only disbursed about $122,000 within months, but more than 50 beneficiaries never received their money, which is now gone.

According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office:

Adam Miller, who was not involved in the 2010 case, also was tapping into the trusts of his clients.

George and Eileen Johnston hired Adam Miller as their trustee and power of attorney in August 2013 to control six financial accounts, but immediately following their deaths (Eileen in 2014, and George in 2015) Adam Miller allegedly began to write and deposit high-dollar checks to himself or his law firm from accounts belonging to the Johnstons’ Trust. The funds were beyond normal attorney’s fees, detectives stated in the report.

Financial records show that Adam Miller received an estimated $130,000 from the Johnstons’ Englewood Bank account from July 2014 until George Johnston died in Febrary 2015. The attorney also received an estimated $24,500 from a Fifth Third Bank account from November 2014 until November 2015. The checks were drawn by Miller or counter withdrawals.

After the sale of the Johnstons’ Englewood home in March 2015, Adam Miller opened an Englewood Bank and Trust account to deposit a check for $264,389.37 under an account titled “George and Eileen Johnston Trust.”

Adam Miller allegedly received another $231,000 from the Englewood bank account from November 2015 to March 2016.

Detectives determined that Adam Miller paid the Johnstons’ beneficiaries only $25,500 after the couple’s deaths. None of Adam Miller’s business or personal bank accounts show the funds being disbursed to beneficiaries, the sheriff’s report said.

Sheriff’s detectives, along with the FBI, executed a search warrant on Adam Miller’s business and home and identified at least two other estates that were allegedly victims of fraud.

The Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be filed in the case.

Full Article & Source:
Venice lawyer charged with stealing over $400K from elderly clients

Bill protecting elderly exploitation passes House unanimously

Some of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents, elderly people often residing in retirement homes and hospitals, might gain new legal protections under a bill unanimously passed Wednesday by the House.

House Bill 68 would expand laws typically used to protect minors from sexual exploitation and obscenity to include impaired people — an intentionally broad definition that covers people recovering from strokes to those suffering from mental impairments such as dementia.

The legislation would make a broad array of crimes a third-degree felony — essentially treating sexually explicit material created with an impaired person the same as if it was created with a minor.

“Basically (the bill is) to protect those who are vulnerable to predators, whether they are suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or of advanced age and they don’t know what’s happening to them,” Rep. Marlene Anielski, the bill’s sponsor, said. “It’s adults that have any type of mental or physical condition that they are impaired. It could be of advanced age, but not necessarily.”

The Cleveland-area Republican proposed the legislation to address what she said is a shortcoming in state law that leaves adults with cognitive impairments vulnerable. The bill was supported by Cleveland-area detectives and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. No organization provided dissenting testimony during committee hearings.

The impetus of the bill is a 2014 case in Cuyahoga County in which about a dozen people in a health care facility were exploited by their caregiver. Two Cuyahoga County detectives detailed the case while providing proponent testimony in a March committee hearing.

All of the victims suffered from cognitive impairment, either recovering from a severe stroke or suffering from a developmental disability, dementia or Alzheimer’s. The explicit photographs of the elderly victims were found on the suspect’s cellphone when police served a warrant during an investigation into the sexual abuse of four young boys.

The county prosecutor did not press felony charges, saying current law does not protect elderly or impaired individuals — only children — from certain types of pornographic exploitation.

Kristen Henry, an attorney with Disability Rights Ohio, warned that the intentionally broad new bill has the potential to infringe on the rights of disabled people. While the intention is positive, she said, there could be unwarranted criminalization for consenting behavior. However, her group does not oppose the proposal.

“With bills like this, it’s important to strike a balance to ensure persons with disabilities have full rights to engage in sexual activities they consent to,” Henry said. “We certainly are opposed to acts of exploitation. ... We just want to make sure the legislature is careful in crafting a response so they don’t restrict the rights of people with disabilities.”

The House on Wednesday also elevated Perry County’s part-time judge to a full-time position. The bill arose after the Ohio Supreme Court determined that a full-time municipal court judge was necessary in the southeastern Ohio county.

Full Article & Source:
Bill protecting elderly exploitation passes House unanimously

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Guilty plea in sex scheme at assisted-living facility brings 14 years

Dean Goble
URBANA — A former Vermilion County man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to being involved in a sexual assault scheme that preyed upon dementia patients at a local assisted-living facility has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Dean Goble, 22, was sentenced Friday morning on the single count of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault of an 88-year-old woman living at the Bickford of Champaign Senior Living and Memory Care, 1002 S. Staley Road, C.

Goble was one of four men arrested in 2015 in connection with a scheme to sexually assault women with dementia and videotape the activity.

Goble is already serving a seven-year prison sentence for a Vermilion County burglary conviction, which he received in 2015, and he also was convicted of possession of a stolen vehicle in 2012.

Goble's attorney, Katie Jessup, said her client is young and came from an early life in foster homes.

Testifying on his own behalf, Goble said he was the one who brought the Bickford Senior Living acts to light by disclosing them to Vermilion County authorities in August 2015.

Assistant State's Attorney Matt Banach sought the 14-year sentence.

Champaign County Judge Heidi Ladd acknowledged Goble was relatively young and had a less than ideal childhood, which included adjudication as a delinquent minor in 2006, being made a ward of the state in 2010, early alcohol use, then mental health issues.

However, she also called his crime despicable and deplorable, and said the gravity was enhanced, if possible, by the fact that he was paid to do it.

"It is conduct that crosses every line of decency in a civilized society," Ladd said.

Full Article & Source:
Guilty plea in sex scheme at assisted-living facility brings 14 years

Lawyer arraigned on 14 theft charges

BOWLING GREEN — A local lawyer found himself on the wrong side of the defendant's table Tuesday as he was arraigned on 14 felonies charging him with stealing more than $400,000 from a client.

Robert Searfoss III, 40, of Perrysburg was named in a secret indictment handed up by a Wood County grand jury last week charging him with two counts of aggravated theft, four counts of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, four counts of money laundering, three counts of theft, and one count of grand theft.

The indictment alleges that between April, 2015, and April, 2017, Mr. Searfoss stole about $435,000 from Eric Walker and the Alice C. Walker Revocable Trust, for which he was the trustee.

The indictment includes numerous specifications that seek forfeiture of real estate he owned on Georgetown Drive in Bowling Green and Shawnee Drive in Perrysburg, his law practice on Oak Street in Bowling Green, and two vehicles.

Mr. Searfoss appeared in court shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and was returned to the Wood County jail on $500,000 bond.

His court-appointed attorney, Kurt Bruderly, had asked the court for some kind of supervised recognizance bond saying Mr. Searfoss would voluntarily surrender his law license, reside with his parents in Bowling Green, and seek a “blue-collar” job.

“A search warrant was executed at his residence about six days prior to this, and he did not flee the area,” Mr. Bruderly said. “He remained in … the Wood County area. He had every opportunity to know what was coming and flee, but he did not do that.”

Thomas Matuszak, chief assistant county prosecutor, told the court that Mr. Searfoss had a pending disciplinary case before the Ohio Supreme Court and an outstanding arrest warrant issued in Michigan.

“We have not been able to trace all of the stolen proceeds, which is believed to be in the neighborhood of $435,000, so the defendant might have the ability to post some sort of cash bail or bond,” Mr. Matuszak said.

Judge Alan Mayberry agreed.

“Given the Michigan warrant, given the number and severity of the counts as well as the [potential] forfeiture and fines, it would appear that there is a risk that the defendant may not appear,” the judge said. “Given that, the court would set bond sufficient to cover the alleged amount” of stolen funds.

Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said members of the public often entrust their attorney with large sums of money, for a variety of reasons.

“Lawyers operate in a system of trust,” Mr. Dobson said. “As lawyers, we take that position very seriously and are intolerant of allegations of violations of that trust.”

Mr. Bruderly said Mr. Searfoss, a father of seven children, has a child living in Grand Traverse County, Mich., and the warrant from there was likely related to missed child-support payments.

A graduate of the University of Toledo college of law, Mr. Searfoss established his law practice in 2007 and was “committed to clients,” the firm's Facebook page says.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer arraigned on 14 theft charges

Sentencing of Christina and Donald Halter Announced by AG Hawley

JEFFERSON CITY, MO/June 5, 2017 (STL.News) Sentencing – In a case jointly prosecuted by the office of Attorney General Josh Hawley and St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin, St. Francois County Circuit Court Judge Sandra Martinez has sentenced Christina Halter, 52, and her husband, Donald Halter, 56, to 82 years and 60 years, respectively, in the Department Corrections. Judge Martinez also ordered the Halters to pay $10.3 million in medicaid fraud penalties and $331,709 in restitution.

Christina and Donald Halter co-owned a residential care facility in Park Hills, Missouri. The Halters used their position as facility owners to financially exploit a veteran under their care, taking some $115,000. In addition, the Halters submitted to Medicaid over 1,000 false claims for services that were not provided to residents of their facility, amounting to over $28,000. Finally, the Halters failed to file an income tax return, failed to pay their income tax liability, and attempted to evade income tax liability for tax year 2012.

On March 23, 2017, a St. Francois County jury found Christina Halter guilty of one count of medicaid fraud, two counts of financial exploitation, one count of obstructing a medicaid fraud investigation, one count of failing to file an income tax return, one count of failing to pay income tax, and one count of attempting to evade income tax liability. Following Christina Halter’s conviction, on March 28, 2017, Donald Halter pled guilty in St. Francois County Circuit Court to the same seven counts.

On June 2, 2017, Judge Martinez sentenced Christina Halter to 7 years for medicaid fraud, 1 year for obstructing a medicaid fraud investigation, 30 years for each count of financial exploitation, and 5 years a piece for her failure to file, pay, and attempt to evade income tax liability. Judge Martinez sentenced Donald Halter to 7 years for medicaid fraud, 4 years for obstructing a medicaid fraud investigation, 20 years for each count of financial exploitation, and 3 years a piece for his failure to file, pay, and attempt to evade income tax liability. Judge Martinez ordered that both Halters sentences be served concurrently. In addition to their prison terms, Judge Martinez ordered the Halters to pay $10.3 million in medicaid fraud penalties, $115,000 in restitution to the veteran victim, $28,273.70 in restitution to Missouri’s Medicaid program, $169,642.20 in damages to Missouri’s Medicaid program, and $18,793.79 in tax liability, interest, and penalties.

The case was tried by Assistant Attorneys General Shannon Kempf and Brad Crowell from the office of Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Full Article & Source:
Sentencing of Christina and Donald Halter Announced by AG Hawley

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Arrest of Williamson County judge included in judicial complaint

WSMV Channel 4
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A complaint filed with the Board of Professional Responsibility about Judge Casey Moreland and attorney Bryan Lewis also included a mention of a 2010 solicitation of prostitution charge for an attorney who would go on to become a Williamson County judge.

The complaint was filed one day after the Channel 4 I-Team investigation on a death investigation of a woman just days after she went on a weekend trip with Moreland and Lewis.

The complaint also includes a section that mentions the arrest of Williamson County Judge Michael Binkley, who was an attorney at the time.

According to the complaint, and confirmed independently by the I-Team by a source who was there at the time, Binkley’s case was heard by Moreland.

The complaint reads that Binkley’s charge was dismissed and then quickly expunged.

The I-Team has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of this case for two months.

Last week, the I-Team asked Moreland for an interview to discuss Binkley’s case and other topics.

Moreland later told chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley by phone that he could not discuss the case because it had been expunged.

There is no record of Binkley’s case in the Davidson County court system, which is typical when an expungement occurs.

The complaint described the dismissal and expungement as done in a, “highly unusual manner, both in timing and procedure.”

The I-Team did speak with Judge Binkley, who said he had no comment.

Binkley’s attorney at the time, Ed Yarbrough, also said he had no comment.

Full Article & Source:
Arrest of Williamson County judge included in judicial complaint

See Also:
Casey Moreland to take leave from bench

Judge dismissed tickets, fines for female friend

Metro General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland resigns as presiding judge

Ethics Complaint Levels Charges Against Two Judges, Lewis

Investigation underway into inmate/deputy relationship in judge’s court

Judge Astacio arrested, sent to jail until Thursday's hearing

June 05, 2017 11:25 PM

Judge Leticia Astacio was handcuffed and escorted by deputies to her court hearing Monday morning.

Judge Aronson made an offer good for 24 hours: plead guilty to the charge of declaration of delinquency and get 45 days in jail, plus two years of probation. The declaration of delinquency is for Astacio's failure to give a court ordered urine sample after an interlock reading that tested positive.

On Monday Judge Astacio declined the offer. She will remain in jail until a hearing on Thursday.

Judge Astacio walked into the Hall of Justice Monday morning for her meeting with her supervisor, Judge Craig Doran. The meeting was in Judge Doran's office on the 5th floor.

About 15 minutes after Judge Astacio arrived, three Rochester Police Officers arrived on the 5th floor and walked towards Judge Doran's chambers.

Judge Astacio's attorney, Ed Fiandach said, "This is not good. This is not a good sign."

There was an outstanding bench warrant waiting for Judge Astacio.

Judge Astacio was ordered back to Rochester from Thailand where her attorney said she was living in the mountains with monks. Judge Doran said leaving the country for an extended period of time was possibly in violation of her job. Judge Astacio's lawyer says he couldn't reach her because she was in Thailand and Verizon shut down her service over an unpaid bill.

Judge Astacio also missed a court date last week involving alleged interlock violations from her DWI arrest last year. When she missed the court date, the judge for the DWI case, Judge Aronson, issued a bench warrant for her.

"You buy a ticket and come from halfway around the world to appear in court, that's I think good enough evidence that you intend to appear,” says Ed Fiandach. “Our state's highest court has made it very clear that the purpose of bail is only to ensure that a person shows up in court and I think she's already expressed an ability and the desire to be in court by virtue of the fact that she's here today knowing - quite frankly - what was going to happen to her."

Voters react

"She deserves a second chance, but maybe not a second chance as a judge -- doing something else," says Krash Myz.

Krash Myz of Rochester says judges are held to a higher standard. He says City Court Judge Letitia Astacio has failed to maintain that standard. He questions if she can't manager herself, how can she judge the actions of others?

"You think that a judge is suppose to be more responsible and set an example to the people she is suppose to be judging," says Myz.

Monday, after Astacio appeared in court and was remanded to jail, people told us it's not Astacio's apparent problem with alcohol, but her behavior and seemingly constant run-in's with the law since her initial arrest last August. In particular, leaving the country and missing her last court appearance.

"I don't think she should get a second chance, but I'm happy that she did agree to come back to the country," says Stephen Welker.

Melodie Valenciano says everyone messes up and makes mistakes. She thinks if Astacio can show that she is seeking help and changes, she should be able to return to her job.

Valenciano tells us: "There's been a lot of statements made. I haven't heard that they've been verified... Everything's like hearsay to me. That's why I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt."

"She needs to prove herself, that she can be a good judge and make good decisions," she adds.

Full Article, Videos & Source:
Judge Astacio arrested, sent to jail until Thursday's hearing

Statewide judges’ meeting underway here

About 140 judges and magistrates from around Ohio are in the Mahoning Valley for the four-day annual conference of the state’s probate, domestic relations and juvenile court judges.

The event, based at the Avalon Inn, began Monday with a 41/2-hour program for probate judges and magistrates concerning the probate court’s role in combating financial exploitation of elderly people.

“It’s beyond frequent; it’s epidemic,” retired Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas Swift said of financial abuse of the elderly.

Sometimes, family members, who are substance abusers, take elderly people’s medications and money, said Judge Swift, who sits three or four days a week as a visiting judge.

“We’re starting to see more and more in the abuse area, people taking advantage of power of attorneys of the elderly, and scams from flim-flam artists,” as the population ages, said Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert Rusu.

The opening speaker, Dr. Ronan Factora of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Geriatric Medicine, said most elderly victims of financial exploitation aren’t wealthy.

“Just that Social Security check – a little bit of money on a monthly basis – is enough for a family member to be tempted to take advantage of them,” Dr. Factora said.

Physically frail and mentally- impaired elderly people have an elevated risk of being financially exploited because they’re dependent on other people to care for them and manage their affairs, he said.

One conference attendees is Judge Mark Spees of Auglaize County Common Pleas Court, who handles probate, juvenile and domestic relations matters.

“It’s a good way to get education and a good way to affiliate with your other judges and swap ideas,” Judge Spees said of the gathering.

Judge Spees, who has held his combined judgeship since 1993, is a graduate of Canfield High School, Youngstown State University and the Ohio Northern University School of Law.

The conference “brings together colleagues from across the state, who will work together to improve the judicial system,” said Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.

“The Mahoning and Trumbull County specialty judges have been planning for the event since last August and are honored to host this year’s conference,” Judge Dellick added.

“It’s for [continuing] education and for networking,” among judges and magistrates, Mahoning County Domestic Relations Judge Beth A. Smith said of the gathering.

“I’m excited to showcase our area,” Judge Smith said.

Today, the judges and magistrates will get legislative and case law updates and discuss confidentiality, sealing records and access to records, best practices for jury trials, dealing with the media and use of language interpreters in court.

This evening will feature a tour of Mill Creek Park’s Fellows Riverside Gardens and a reception and dinner there with Jim Tressel, Youngstown State University’s president as the guest speaker.

Wednesday’s topics will include avoiding common pitfalls of social media, alternatives to juvenile detention and handling special needs litigants in the courtroom, followed by the annual banquet at the Avalon Inn featuring Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor of the Ohio Supreme Court as the guest speaker.

Thursday’s agenda includes sessions on complex trauma and brain injury, civil protection orders, child custody and community outreach and collaboration.

The Mahoning Valley previously hosted the conference in 1985, 1995 and 2003.

Full Article & Source:
Statewide judges’ meeting underway here

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Attorney called Mr Conn who stole $600m worth of social security from the government VANISHES one month before his sentencing

  • Eric Conn, the flamboyant Eastern Kentucky lawyer who pleaded guilty in March in a $600 million Social Security fraud scheme, has disappeared
  • Conn removed his electronic monitoring device in violation of his bond and authorities don't know where is is 
  • He pleaded guilty to stealing from the Social Security Administration and paying bribes to a judge to rubber-stamp disability claims for thousands of his clients
  • Conn remained free on bond pending his sentencing next month, but a judge had ordered him to be on home detention with electronic monitoring
  • Employees in Conn’s office had heard him say he would flee to Cuba or Ecuador to avoid criminal charges
  • Conn is believed to have wired substantial sums of money out of the country
A Kentucky disability attorney who stole $600 million from the federal government has vanished, according to the FBI.

Eric C. Conn, a flamboyant Kentucky lawyer who billed himself as 'Mr. Social Security,' was indicted on allegations in March that he made millions by paying a doctor and a judge to rubber-stamp false disability claims using phony medical evidence.

He was ordered to pay back tens of millions of dollars and was due to be sentenced next month.

Bit now the FBI said has revealed that Conn violated the conditions of his bond by removing his electronic monitoring device prompting the U.S. District Court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

General counsel for the FBI's Louisville office, David Habich, said that Conn's 'whereabouts are currently unknown.'

Conn was charged with designing an intricate scheme and using his expertise and positions of authority, to fraudulently induce payment of $600 million in federal disability and healthcare benefits,' Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said at the time.

Incredibly, Conn had escaped legal consequence for years, even after the Social Security Administration last summer cut off disability payments to hundreds of his clients in the impoverished coalfields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

Conn continued to practice law and remains in good standing with the Kentucky Bar Association.

In 2013, the U.S. Senate released a scathing report titled 'How Some Legal, Medical and Judicial Professionals Abused Social Security Disability Programs for the Country's Most Vulnerable: A Case Study of the Conn Law Firm.'

 For 161 pages, the report detailed the lengths to which investigators say they went to hide the alleged scheme.

It accused Conn of paying the doctors, whom he called his 'whore doctors,' to sign dubious medical reports showing his clients were disabled. The claims were then approved by another doctor,often without a hearing.

At the time of his arrest, the federal prosecutor, Trey Alford, argued against Conn's release, saying he poses a flight risk and has indicated he would flee, that he has transferred money overseas, including in others' names to make it harder to track, and that his home is for sale.

Such fears now appear to have been well founded.

Conn opened his practice in a trailer in 1993 in his hometown of Stanville, Kentucky, population 500, according to the Senate investigation.

 From there he built the third-most lucrative disability firm in the nation, bringing in more than $20 million in fees between 2001 and 2013.

He became a local celebrity for his over-the-top advertising campaigns. He dispatched crews of 'Conn Hotties' to events, hired Miss Kentucky to appear in commercials and had a 19-foot replica of the Lincoln Memorial erected in the parking lot of his office.

A senate investigation alleges Conn's firm shredded 26,000 pounds of documents, more than 2.5 million sheets of paper, and destroyed more in a bonfire behind his office that burned for four days.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney called Mr Conn who stole $600m worth of social security from the government VANISHES one month before his sentencing

New York judge arrested, led from courthouse in handcuffs

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — An embattled City Court judge was escorted Monday from judicial chambers in handcuffs.

Rochester court deputies and city police officers executed a bench warrant issued for Judge Leticia Astacio's arrest last week after she missed a Tuesday court appearance related to an August drunken-driving conviction.

Astacio, a Rochester City Court judge, smiled and said hello to the gaggle of reporters waiting for her at the fifth floor elevator bank of the Monroe County Hall of Justice where officers marched her off to be processed at the nearby Rochester Public Safety Building. She returned later to the courthouse for an arraignment before Judge Stephen Aronson of Canandaigua City Court, who issued the warrant and is overseeing her drunken-driving case.

He ordered her held without bail in Monroe County Jail until a Thursday hearing. The reason she missed her court appearance last week was because she had been living in a temple with monks in the mountains of Thailand since May 3, she had texted to her lawyer.

"You're doing everything to show you don't care what happens to your public trust," Aronson said.

In court Monday, Aronson offered Astacio a deal: Plead guilty to violating her initial drunk-driving sentence and receive 45 days in jail, two years of probation and six months on an ankle monitor. She declined and was ordered to jail.

On Feb. 13, 2016, Astacio was arrested around 8 a.m. ET on her way to City Court after New York state troopers were summoned to what appeared to be a one-car crash Interstate 490. She refused to take a Breathalyzer test

On Aug. 22, she was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge that was extended to February 2018 after she admitted violating two conditions: abstaining from alcohol and not driving under the influence.

Astacio, a Democrat who was elected to a 10-year term in 2014, also was in court in March when she beat four allegations that she violated the conditions of her sentence. One alleged that she twice drank alcohol, and three others were related to the use and maintenance of her ignition interlock device, which prevents a vehicle from starting if a driver has had too much to drink.

In May, Astacio was summoned to court after her interlock device on April 29 registered a blood-alcohol-content reading of 0.0651%. A vehicle will start only if a person's blood-alcohol content is below 0.03%.

Astacio, who worked as a prosecutor for a time in 2009 in the Driving While Intoxicated Bureau of the Monroe County District Attorney's Office, denied consuming alcohol and contended that her daughter had registered the reading, said her lawyer, Ed Fiandach. It is not illegal for another person to drive a car outfitted with an interlock device meant for someone else.

After the reading, which Fiandach said occurred near the beginning of May, Aronson asked that Astacio take a urine test that detects ethyl glucuronide, a byproduct of alcohol, and submit the results to the court. She did not, so she was summoned to court Tuesday and did not appear because she was in Thailand.

Why Astacio had not been arrested when she returned to the United States over the weekend was not immediately clear. She had told Fiandach that she had bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and would be there until some time in August.

She returned to Rochester because her supervising judge, Justice Craig Doran of the New York State Supreme Court, had directed she attend a 9 a.m. Monday meeting in his office at the Monroe County Hall of Justice, expressing concern in a letter that her behavior constituted a "voluntary abandonment of public office" that would be deemed a breach of her judicial responsibilities if she failed to show up.

"You are self-sabotaging any chance you have to return to the bench," Aronson said in court, telling Astacio that her attitude appeared to be contemptuous.

Though she still receives her paycheck, Astacio has been prohibited from presiding over cases since before her drunken driving conviction in August and has been barred from entering non-public areas of the courthouse since November. She has continued to receive her $173,700 salary because she remains an elected judge.

Astacio will again be working for her pay upon her release from jail — whenever that may be.

Her supervisors, state Supreme Court Judge Craig Doran and City Court Judge Teresa Johnson, told Astacio Monday that she will required to conduct research in the courthouse law library Monday through Friday, whenever court is in session.

Full Article & Source:
New York judge arrested, led from courthouse in handcuffs

Awareness Day aims to end financial abuse of the elderly

Marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day next week, hundreds of awareness and information sessions will take place throughout the United States, and across the globe, observing the theme of “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue.”

“As we see the proportion of elderly increase in all societies, the strain on the usual forms of care becomes intense,” said Dr. Christiaan Morssink, executive director for the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia.

“In such scenarios, the opportunity to exploit the frailty of the elders among us increases.

Heartbreaking stories can be told from police and medical records in each country on this planet. It is with a bit of sorrow that I need to applaud the United Nations and the world community for declaring a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,” said Morssink.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.

Statistics from the National Council on Aging show that 1 in 10 Americans 60 and older have experienced elder abuse, and there is broad consensus that the crime is significantly under-reported. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans $36.5 billion per year and financial exploitation is self-reported at rates higher than emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.

“Banks are on the front line for detecting signs of financial abuse, such as changes in typical banking patterns, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money and sudden insufficient funds,” said Joseph Snyder, director of Older Adult Protective Service at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and a former president of the National Adult Protective Services Association.

Collaborating with law enforcement, social workers, banks and community agencies is essential to prevent senior financial exploitation, according to Snyder. Along with the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging will sponsor “Safe banking & financial management tips for seniors,” a free forum for seniors and caregivers at West Philadelphia’s Ralston Center.

In the mid-west, the Minnesota Elder Justice Center will host its 11th annual Minnesota World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center.

“It’s designed for professionals, but it’s absolutely open to the public,” said Elder Justice Center Outreach coordinator Katie Behrens. “Anyone with an interest in working to eliminate elder abuse” is welcomed to attend the conference, “Accelerating Towards Justice,” which focuses on professionals who work with older adults.

AARP Maryland and Baltimore County Restoring Elder Safety Today (BC-REST) will host a forum and document shredding event at Baltimore County’s Randallstown Community Center, one of many AARP and its network are hosting throughout the nation commemorating the Day.

“Here in Virginia, the Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services is charged with investigating reports of elder abuse, including acts of financial exploitation, and assisting seniors who may be victims of abuse and their families to obtain help,” said Elizabeth Boehmcke. a lawyer practicing estate planning.

“As practitioners within the elder law community, we also run across situations in which a family member expresses concern about how their loved one is being treated by a neighbor, caregiver or sometimes even other family members. Determining when it is appropriate to call APS to report suspected elder abuse in our clients can be a difficult dilemma,” said Boehmcke.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations. This year’s theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation, in the context of elder abuse, to the enjoyment of older persons’ human rights.

Through the many events and activities acknowledging World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the public will have ample opportunities to improve its understanding of this form of elder abuse and discuss ways of ensuring the participation of older adults themselves in ending victimization.

Full Article & Source:
Awareness Day aims to end financial abuse of the elderly

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tonight on T.S. Radio: 65 Minutes

Join us this evening at 7:00 PM CST as Teresa Tozo Lyles speaks about her book, “65 minutes: a tale of torture and murder in guardianship”, discusses the guardianship of Teresa’s mother and the events that led up to it, and the aftermath.

The book is mostly about my mom, but it is also about my relationship with my mom. She was put under guardianship in May 2011 after a 65 minute competency hearing, where she went without her attorney. In Alachua County, Florida, this is against the law. Our county is not “pro se.” I confirmed this with the State Attorney and a probate attorney. My mom died on May 24, 2015 in a nursing home that was operating illegally without a license:

1) In 1999, my father died after an illness from lung cancer due to asbestos poisoning. After he passed, I worked with a Miami based law firm to file multiple law suits on behalf of my dad for my mom. My 2 sisters refused to be a part of the process. Within a year, my mom was receiving settlement checks.

2) My mom, aunt and uncle moved to the Gainesville area in December 1999.

3) In 2001, I started my Ph.D. at the University of Florida

4) In 2004, I went through a very bad break up after being married 25 years and 3 children. I was still in grad school. I got no child support for 5 1/2 years. My mom, aunt and uncle helped my children and I get through these difficult times, while I tried to get on my feet.

5) In 2007, my uncle passed, and then my 2 sisters began talking about putting my mom and aunt in a nursing home. My 3 daughters and I were the primary caregivers for both ladies.

6) In 2009, my mom gave me a loan to buy a truck after my old car died. My sisters found out and began to harass me about the loan.

7) My sisters continued to make attempts to put my aunt and mom in facilities in 2009, 2010. In late 2010 and early 2011, one of my children got very ill, and was basically in ICU for a long period of time. It was during this time that they began their plot to put my mom under guardianship. They hired a local attorney to begin the process.

8) In April 2011, I was contacted by DCF for the first time. There were three calls all together. They were called by my older sister and her abusive boyfriend at the time. They claimed I was abusing my mom, and taking her money. DCF dropped all charges and found them unsubstantiated. This was the same for the 2nd and 3rd calls.

9) In June 2011, she was appointed an emergency temporary guardian, who was personal friends with one of my sisters, and who also had the SAME attorney as the one that my sisters had hired. This is cause for recused. In September 2011, she was appointed a permanent guardian. My mom had a will, but it was ignored.

10) My mom’s wishes were to stay her in home, but she was drugged and removed from her home on May 25, 2012 and taken to the lock down portion of the facility . I had no idea where they were taking her or what day they were doing it.

11) After only 26 days in the first facility with drugging, taking away her glasses and her dentures, my mom was taken to the ER for the first time with dehydration, a UTI and malnourished. She called me from the ER on my cell phone. According to all three guardians, these actions were “in my mom’s best interest.”

12) The first guardian was asked to resign in June 2013. During this time, the harassment continued, and constantly trying to prevent me and my children from seeing my mom. During this time,I lost visitation because I refused to agree to “speak English only” to my mom, and also because I approached my mom in church and gave her a kiss.

She continued to be drugged, including issuing a “Chemical Restraint.”

13) A new guardian was appointed in August 2013, she moved my mom to another facility, which was ant infested and in a horrible neighborhood in the next county. I didn’t know where my mom was for 48 hours. This 2nd guardian died in January 2014. She had a terminal illness and was on multiple medications, which was never disclosed in court and according to law, she was not eligible to become a guardian. I did not see my mom for 6 weeks from Nov. 12 to Dec 25, 2013 without a court order.

14) My mom’s 3rd guardian was appointed in April 2014, which mean my mom was without a guardian for about 3 months. She continued to be drugged.

My mom fell about 30 times in the time she was out of her home, including multiple head injuries. While she was under my care up until 2011, she never went to the ER for a fall.

15) 9 months prior to my mom dying, this 2nd facility lost it’s license to operate, but they kept paying the guardian, and kept taking my mom’s money to pay this facility. The co-owner of this facility was a convicted felon, who also happened to be a friend of the 3rd guardian.

16) In March 2015, the guardian attempted to convince a medical team at the local hospital to put my mom under Hospice, but they refused. Three days later, the guardian contacted the local hospice, and put my mom under hospice care. I was not “put on the list” of family to speak to hospice. I was unable to even speak to hospice about my mom.

My mom’s money was running out, so they needed to kill her quickly.

17) 5 days before she died, I was threatened with arrest, which they had done numerous times during the guardianship.

Let me know if you have any questions.

~Teresa Tozzo-Lyles, Ph.D., CHES

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

See Also:
NASGA:  Carmen Tozzo Hernandez, Florida Victim

After Brooklyn Nursing Home Controversy, Legal Aid Sues N.Y. Over Eviction Laws

After a landlord’s mass eviction at a heavily Jewish Brooklyn nursing home caused panic three years ago, the Legal Aid Society is suing the state’s Department of Health to keep it from happening again, the Daily News reported Thursday.

The suit stems from the 2014 effort to evict seniors from the Prospect Park Residence in Brooklyn. Advocates fought those evictions, effectively postponing them by three years before winning residents significant cash payouts.

Now, Legal Aid’s lawsuit seeks to force the Health Department to adopt new rules to help seniors when landlords seek to shut down nursing homes. The suit demands that the Health Department help seniors relocate when evicted from nursing homes regulated by the department, according to the Daily News.

The Health Department said in a statement to the paper that it had acted appropriately with regard to the evicted seniors. “As part of the department’s oversight of Prospect Park Residence, all federal and state laws pertaining to the operation of the facility and resident’s rights were followed,” the department said.

Full Article & Source:
After Brooklyn Nursing Home Controversy, Legal Aid Sues N.Y. Over Eviction Laws

Editorial: Astacio case shows need to reform how New York disciplines judges

There is no pretty way to put this: The saga of Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio has been ugly and utterly disappointing.

Since a judge convicted Astacio of driving while intoxicated in August 2016 and sentenced her to a conditional discharge of a year:
  • Her sentence was extended to February 2018 after she pleaded guilty in November 2016 to violating two of her conditions — abstaining from alcohol and not driving under the influence.
  • An arrest warrant was issued for her on May 30 after she failed to appear for a court hearing (she was reportedly in Thailand).
  • A declaration of delinquency was also filed against Astacio for neglecting to submit to a urine test previously requested.
Eight months ago, this Editorial Board called on Astacio to resign. Barred from non-public areas of the county's judicial buildings and relieved her of all her judicial responsibilities, she cannot do the job voters entrusted her to do when elected.

We stopped short of calling for her to be removed from the bench, however. We sincerely hoped she would seek help for what could be alcohol use disorder and return to the bench as an inspiration for others. In her short time on the bench, she earned a reputation as a judge who is more interested in rehabilitating defendants than punishing them. She is respected and appreciated by communities that believe the judicial system treats people of color too harshly. 

But that has not happened and now, she is the subject of derision. Cries for Astacio to be removed — a decision that would mean she could never serve in New York as a judge again — grow louder.  Questions abound about why she continues to collect a salary and why she can't simply be fired.

Yes, a judge who flouts the law seriously jeopardizes the confidence of the public in the legal system.  But this case is an example of a bigger problem that must be addressed: the need for more transparency about disciplinary proceedings and more options to discipline a judge.

Since the late 1970s, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct has advocated for an expansion of authority of the Court of Appeals to suspend a judge with or without pay and for the ability of the commission to make its investigations public after a decision to formally charge a judge with misconduct.

The state Legislature should make this longtime request a reality by working with the commission to create smart legislation and voting for a change in the law.

In 35 states, formal disciplinary proceedings against a judge become public at the point the judge is served with charges, In New York, the entire process is confidential unless a judge waives confidentiality. New York must become more transparent.

The Court of Appeals must also be given expanded authority to suspend a judge without pay as an intermediate measure. It cannot do so right now. Currently, the Court of Appeals can suspend a jurist only if the judge is charged with a felony or with a misdemeanor that involves moral turpitude, or if the commission has filed a determination that the judge should be removed from office.

Only two of 27 judges disciplined for excessive use of alcohol have been successfully removed by the commission over the past 40 years. Both were drunk while presiding in court.

The removal of a judge from the bench should not be taken lightly. But it shouldn't be this difficult, either. Justice demands a better approach.

Full Article & Source:
Editorial: Astacio case shows need to reform how New York disciplines judges

Laurel woman convicted of financial exploitation of a vulnerable person.

LAUREL, Miss. (WHLT) — A Laurel woman is convicted of exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Attorney General Jim Hood said 54-year-old Lisa Byrd Mozingo pleaded guilty last week to three counts of the charge.

While employed as a caregiver for the victim, Mozingo is accused of transferring money belonging to the victim to her own account. They said she bought cars and made withdrawals and transfers from the victim’s accounts.

She converted more than $100,000 in mone and purchases during the nearly two years of her employment as the victim’s caregiver, Hood said.

Jones County Circuit Court Judge Dal Williamson sentenced Mozingo to 20 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 10 to serve, 10 suspended, and five post-release supervision.

She was also ordered to pay restitution of $100,000 and complete mandatory community service upon release.

“I thank Judge Williamson for sentencing this woman to jail and ordering nearly full restitution,” said General Hood. “Not only is what she did against the law, but it is morally wrong to take advantage of someone for whom you have been entrusted to care.”

Full Article & Source:
Laurel woman convicted of financial exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fade to Blank

Missing memory lane

The meandering country road, and the prison at the end of it, were untouched frontiers for David Hilfiker.

But, as the Buckingham Correctional Center came into view, he was pricked with a slight twinge of déjà vu. The facility at the end of the lane looked vaguely familiar, but that was to be expected and could easily be explained away as an anomaly born of past experiences.

The archetype of the traditional prison façade was not an unfamiliar sight for David. He had spent a significant portion of his career as a physician providing care and support for drug addicts with HIV and AIDS. He’d also been making regular trips to various prisons to see his friend, convicted murderer Jens Soerig, whom David believes to be innocent.

Preoccupied by his impending visit with Jens, David didn’t give much thought to that brief brush with déjà vu until the center’s chaplain came over to where they were sitting. David’s introduction and outstretched hand caused a quizzical look to cloud the chaplain’s face. “Yeah, I remember. You were here a couple of months ago,” he said.

It was David’s turn to appear perplexed. He’d never been to this particular prison, and he’d certainly never met this particular chaplain.

Always a bad one for remembering names and faces, David brushed off the incident, placing the burden of blame on his chronically shoddy memory.

Once the chaplain had moved on, David looked to Jens for confirmation that he had, in fact, never been to Buckingham before. But his friend refused to lie. “Of course you have. Three or four months ago,” he said.

Still confused, David let the matter drop, spent a few more hours with Jens, and drove home.

After returning home to the townhouse he shared with his wife, Marja (mar-ee-yah) David immediately consulted his calendar. One glance told him everything he needed to know. Jens and the chaplain were right—it was six months to the day since David had first been to Buckingham Correctional Center.

Between driving to and from Buckingham and spending time with Jens, David estimated that the trip he does remember took him about ten hours total. He was flabbergasted; an entire half day had faded from his mind. “I remembered nothing from that visit—I still don’t,” he admits.
And that was only the beginning.

It would take David a few years after the incident at the prison to seek out and receive his diagnosis: mild-cognitive impairment, most likely Alzheimer’s disease.

7 years, 17 minutes

Over two decades of experience as an emergency medical technician (EMT) wasn’t enough to prepare Rick Phelps for what would happen during his final run.

An early morning dispatch led Rick and his team to the house of a four-year-old girl who was in the throes of a serious seizure. A blue hue was beginning to overtake the child’s skin as the oxygen slowly drained from her blood. She survived the trip to the hospital, but an hour’s worth of resuscitation efforts proved ineffective and the young girl died soon after arriving.

Being in the emergency medical field for so long, Rick was no stranger to death. But as the news of the child’s passing washed over him, the veteran responder was astonished by the unusual intensity of his emotions. “This one was different. I knew it was different and I knew I just couldn’t do this type of work anymore,” he says.

Rick had been having trouble remembering important things for some time; the names of streets during dispatches, the meanings of particular codes, the shortcuts that could shave precious seconds off the time it took to respond to an emergency. These instances caused him great concern—what if he made the wrong turn when time was of the essence? What if his mistake cost another human being their life?

It hadn’t happened yet, but the possibility of disaster haunted Rick each time his crew received a call. Torn between a passion for helping those in need, and the fear that one day his mind might betray him, Rick made the heart-wrenching decision to retire.

For nearly seven years, Rick had been mentioning his cognitive concerns to his doctor. The physician first attributed Rick’s troubles to depression, ignited by delayed grief over the death of his daughter, Jody, who passed away suddenly in 1997.

Rick missed Jody terribly, as any father would, but he didn’t think her death was the cause of his problems.

Yielding to the knowledge and experience of his doctor, he agreed to adopt a regimen of antidepressant and antianxiety medications. When the prescriptions failed to make any significant difference in his condition, job stress was named as the next likely culprit.

Again Rick was skeptical; he loved being an EMT, and harbored an abiding passion for the work that trumped any stress inherent to the profession. He resolved to push for an answer that made sense.

Finally, two weeks prior to the call that heralded the end of his EMT career, Rick’s doctor referred him to a neurologist. The specialist performed a series of cognitive functioning tests before calling Rick and his wife, Phyllis June, in for a follow-up appointment.

The life-changing visit with the neurologist lasted 17 minutes. Rick left the office with an Exelon patch and a terminal diagnosis: early-onset dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s disease.

A mother’s instinct

Jean DelCampo had a motherly spirit that pervaded every aspect of her life. When her children were young, she prided herself on keeping an immaculate house and having dinner on the table by 5:00 pm every night.

So when Jean drove by a gentleman on the side of the road who looked tired and alone, she felt
compelled to stop and offer him a ride. After driving the man to the next city, he got out of the car and walked off. Before he left, Jean gave him her coat so he wouldn’t catch cold. It was only later that Jean would realize the potential danger that her motherly instincts had exposed her to.

The incident was the latest in a series of unexplained driving mishaps for Jean, who seemed to keep getting lost, even though she knew every street in town. Her doctors said her troubles were being caused by anxiety, bipolar disease, depression—but none of their treatments were very helpful.

Jean eventually moved in with her daughter, Michele De Socio, because she could no longer live safely on her own.

One weekend Michele and her husband went away, leaving Jean in the capable hands of Michele’s sister, Gina. Everyone assumed Jean would make the transition with ease, but soon after Michele and her husband left, Jean suddenly began to shake uncontrollably.

An emergency trip to the hospital led to a stint in a psych ward that Michele refers to as “19 days of hell.” A neurologist eventually ordered a CAT scan that revealed the frontal lobes of Jean’s brain were all but gone, and she was sent to a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation.

The doctors still couldn’t decide on Jean’s diagnosis, but the caring mother had made a decision of her own. She knew she was sick and would only get sicker. She would protect her family, even from herself. “I’m not coming home,” she told her daughters. “I want to stay here.”

Soon after Jean’s decision—which Michele and Gina fought tooth and nail—a neurologist eventually named Alzheimer’s as the cause of the older woman’s cognitive troubles.  (Click to Continue)

Slide Shows, Full Article & Source:
Fade to Blank

Part Two - The View From Inside

Love in translation

It was 1962 and, for 17-year-old David Hilfiker, it was not love at first sight.

Marja, the Finnish foreign exchange student, intrigued him on an intellectual level, not an emotional one. An unquenchable feeling of curiosity compelled him to ask Marja out, just to learn more about her. From the beginning, he made sure to let the young woman know that he was not motivated by amorous feelings of any kind.

“He was just interested in me because I was the foreign exchange student, and he told that to me very plainly when he first introduced himself,” Marja says.

Her reaction the first time she saw David—a handsome man standing at the front of the classroom, talking animatedly with the instructor, a briefcase under one arm—could not have been more different. “I remember thinking, ‘He looks so sweet. I wonder what it would be like to be married to that man. Maybe we would live in the suburbs and have two children.’”

By the end of the year, David’s curiosity had given way to a deeper sense of connection, and the two officially became a couple just two weeks before Marja had to return to Finland. Seven years and countless letters later, she would obtain the answer to her love-at-first-sight-fueled hypothetical.

The two celebrated their union on June 12, 1969. They married in Minnesota, but planned the ceremony to coincide with the summer solstice, Finland’s biggest holiday.

Over the course of four decades, the couple rode the highs and lows of life together. They crafted a family of three children and multiple grandchildren, they spearheaded community outreach initiatives making use of David’s skills as a physician and Marja’s talent for teaching, and they learned how to cope with his depression, and her doubts about her abilities as a mother.

Reflecting on his relationship, David says, “I think about the 43 years we’ve spent together, making love, taking walks, doing chores, raising children—all of those things that normal people think about their wives.”

But “normal” was left by the side of the road the day that David visited Jens at Buckingham.

David is still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, so those who aren’t around him on a daily basis don’t see the cognitive slips that creep into his day-to-day life. But friends and family notice the differences; the little ways that Alzheimer’s is re-defining what normal really means for David and his wife.

There are many times when David looks upon his wife with sadness, knowing the uncharted challenges that lie ahead—challenges that she will likely have to face alone, as he will be “out of it.” He knows she will be an amazing caregiver, but fears the heavy burden his disease will inevitably place on her shoulders.

“It’s very painful, to look at this woman that you love and to know what’s coming for her.”

Small town sweethearts

After just a few dates, Rick confesses to being completely “smitten” with his future wife.

Rick and Phyllis June had known each other for four years, but it would take a chance meeting at a local watering hole to kindle a deeper relationship between them.

Rick’s parents owned the popular tavern where Phyllis June’s mother worked. One day, when Phyllis June came in to visit her mother on the job, she and Rick struck up a conversation. Both were fresh off a recent divorce and found they had a good deal in common.

Despite his other cognitive losses, the image of his future wife on their first date remains firmly fixed in Rick’s mind. “I will never forget. She had on a red crushed velvet blazer, navy blue slacks and a white blouse. Her hair below her waist. Her green eyes. Her smile. Her smell.”

The two continued to see each other for five years before getting married. At the ceremony, their flower girl was Phyllis June’s daughter, Tia, from her previous marriage, while their ring bearer was the son of one of Rick’s closest friends.

Eleven years later, in a quaint act of kismet, Tia and the ring bearer would themselves get married.

Community has always been immensely important to Rick and Phyllis June. They’ve lived in the same area for their entire lives, serving as EMTs and volunteers at a local health clinic for individuals without insurance.

Their passion for helping their neighbors mirrors the passion they have for each other.

“We have been married for 30 years and we love each other as much today as we did the day we first met,” says Rick. “We are not only husband and wife, we are best friends.”

The couple’s loving bond has served them well as Phyllis June has had to take on more of a caregiving role for Rick. She knows her husband so well that, when he forgets the words he’s looking for, she can often anticipate his needs and finish his sentences for him.

It’s a rare relationship that has been (and will continue to be) tested as Rick’s Alzheimer’s progresses.

He is somewhere in the moderate phase of the disease. With the help of his specially-trained therapy dog named Sam, Rick can still manage on his own while Phyllis June goes to work—sometimes running squad for extra hours, to make sure they have enough money to cover Rick’s medical bills.

“Sam’s done more for me than any medication could ever do,” Rick says of the steadfast German Shepherd who officially became a Phelps in 2012. “He’s not going to cure my disease, but he has certainly changed how I live my day-to-day life.”

The two formed a special bond the moment they first laid eyes on each other.

Alzheimer’s service dogs are selected to match the temperament and specific needs of their cognitively impaired handlers. Bob Taylor, Sam’s primary trainer and the founder of Dog Wish, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to people with psychiatric conditions, admits the animal was an “unusual candidate.” Unquestionably intelligent and very loving, Sam lacked the ideal level of maturity for a service dog.

In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), Rick and Sam share a unique connection, the depth of which surprises even Taylor himself. “I have found very few dogs that I have been that excited about. Sam is perfect for Rick and that’s all that counts.”

The clever canine offers Rick both emotional and functional support, taking some of the day-to-day caregiving weight off of Phyllis June, whose no-nonsense demeanor has served her well as her husband’s increasing impairment seeps into their daily lives. When asked how she copes with Rick’s advancing illness, she offers a simple reply: “I live it one day at a time.”  (Click to Continue)

Slide Shows, Full Article & Source:
Part Two - The View From Inside