Saturday, August 26, 2017

In Memory of Reporter Dwayne "Deuke" Eukel: Reports on Jared Shafer

Dwayne "Deuke" Eukel
07/23/55 - 12/04/15
During the 1990's, I had pleasure of knowing and working with Dwayne "Deuke" Eukel. He was a highly skilled investigative reporter who worked briefly in Las Vegas for a weekly publication. During his tenure, Mr. Eukel authored the following articles that were recently discovered in his personal notes after his death in 2015.
- Steve Miller

"Criminal Extraordinaire"
By Dwayne "Deuke" Eukel
Senior Editor, Las Vegas Tribune, Monday, December 8, 2008

Seven years after writing a series of articles in the Las Vegas Tribune, about the abuses of former Clark County Public Administrator/Public Guardian, Jared Shafer; many individuals are contacting me asking for help to call attention, once again, to what they consider (as would any reasonable person) to be the continued abuse of certain citizens that have fallen into Shafer's hands as a "court appointed guardian."

Shafer started a private "guardianship" (Fiduciary) business in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had his first "client," before he even left the Public Administrator's office in 2003. A hearing conducted by the Clark County Commission's Ethic's Committee looked into the charge that Shafer had used his public office to further a private career.

The results of the hearing determined that while Shafer was indeed still "officially" in office, he took on the clients, with the convenient misunderstanding that he was already out of office. Records show that he had received his last pay check only days before he left office, not to mention a $70,000 payment for all the "sick time" he never took.

Many believe that his paycheck and his "sick leave" payment, wasn't all he took home with him to his new and exciting business of private guardianship. Some believe that Shafer probably got away with hundreds of millions in cash, and jewelry and other valuable items.

Recently, individuals have surfaced to tell me that Shafer's abusive practices are still ongoing. One client, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me that Shafer sits in the back of Family Court, waiting for uncontested guardianship issues that involve wealthy seniors; looks to the judge "who seems to be in his pocket, or on his payroll" and has the judge appoint Shafer as guardian of those individuals.

The law requires that an inventory list of property and assets are to be reported within 60 days by the guardian. It is reported that Shafer has not complied with this requirement -- "ever."

Complaints about personal property being pilfered; cash, known to be in the homes of these wealthy senior citizens, being stolen; antiques, jewelry, and later, real property, becoming liquidated, are numerous. Complaints that his clients get no care, or low quality care is so prevalent that it is incredible he has not been charged with serious crimes.

Jared Shafer seems to have gotten away with more criminal behavior than anyone I know. It is my belief that he does so with the blessing of judges, and lawyers and ultimately, law enforcement agencies that have either turned a blind eye to his practices, or do not have "iron-clad" cases tied up in pretty little packages with neat little bows on top.

In my opinion, the Justice Department should be scrutinizing Shafer with a powerful magnifying glass. And folks, be it known that this kind of thing goes on all over the country. This is an ugly blight in America and ought to be stopped immediately. How about it President Obama - could you look into these charges please?

The following articles are being republished in this format. Originally, I wrote the articles as the Senior Editor for the Las Vegas Tribune from 2002 to 2004. I will add updates to this ongoing story as they come in, because sincerely folks, according to several sources, Jared Shafer continues his so called, "Legal thievery and abuse."

These sources have indicated that Jared Shafer is reinforced through a corrupt judicial system in Nevada; that he continues "confiscating personal property for personal gain, and seizes real estate belonging to families caught in his web of lies."

All of this, we're told, through attorney-driven maneuvering, which on the face of it, seems legal. However, as my investigation back then proved, and sources today still accuse, Jared Shafer, either directly or through "minions," continues elderly abuse, grand theft, and fraud. "It still boggles our minds that he has not been arrested and thrown into jail; if anyone deserves it, it is Jared Shafer," states a family member of one of his Family Court appointed wards.

These latest allegations toward Shafer, are under investigation.


The following news article was originally published June 16, 2002

A News Story That Should Not Go Away
By D. "Deuke" Eukel
(former) - Las Vegas Tribune  Senior Editor

There are some news stories that just won't go away, especially when it involves serious events and determined individuals. Others in high places wish these particular stories and the persons writing them -- would just go away.

Anna Marie Gaule
The story of a wealthy elderly widow named Anna Marie Gaule, 70, and her son Thomas, who have been lifetime residents of Las Vegas; and of the story of Thomas, who was almost murdered by hired thugs, (they used 100,000 volt tasers on him), November 25th 1998, "Because," he said, "Since 1996, I have desperately been trying to rescue my mother from the hold of the public guardian’s office - namely Jared Shafer."

This intertwined story bears more scrutiny than most. Thomas told the Las Vegas Tribune that his mother, Anna Marie, was "abducted from her home by persons associated with the public administrator, Jared Shafer." And he added, "They have used their power and influence to steal every dollar they can get their devious hands on...and now they're trying to kill her with drugs and serious beatings."

The events surrounding Thomas and his mother -- is one of those stories that refuse to fade away. In a recent Las Vegas Tribune article, Thomas Gaule accused Jared Shafer, the retiring public administrator, and formerly public guardian, of being a "thief and a murderer." Gaule is not alone in his accusations. He said he "feels alone his court battle, against the public administrator," which he says, have been able to "control courts, police and even the FBI. None of these entities have lifted a finger to help, or even care," Gaule said.

"This is what we have come to. Police won't take reports, charges aren't filed, courts won't listen to evidence and the FBI has decided not to investigate public officials’ criminal actions any longer," stated Gaule.

Gaule added that, "Maybe if Dan Rather were here... or that show, 48-Hours came to Vegas to look into these events, then people would listen to the emergency cries for help and get off their tush and look into what’s happening here. It’s as if we're screaming and there is no voice. It’s like everyone’s in a coma.... People say, oh that’s terrible, but what they don't realize is that it has been happening wholesale for years. You think my mother is the only one this has happened to? There are thousands of elderly people that have no family that have been taken by the public administrator’s office, stripped of any dignity, raped financially and then eventually drugged to death."

When asked to explain his volatile accusations, Gaule presented the Tribune with documents which gave proof of potentially lethal drugs that were being administered to his mother by at least three doctors in Las Vegas, who according to Gaule, "were being subtly contracted by the public administrator’s office. While in the ‘care’ of facilities controlled by Shafer," Gaule said.

He has continued an ongoing court battle -- " at least get judges to look at the evidence of Shafer’s pilfering of financial accounts, and blatant abuse by employees in at least one Las Vegas nursing home. If the employees at the nursing homes aren't beating her up, the psychiatrists are slowly killing her with drugs. If I hadn't had three different psychiatrists removed because of the drugs they had prescribed to her needlessly, she'd be dead...." Gaule said.

He added, "Look at this," he said, producing pharmaceutical documents, which describe various drug manufacturer's warnings. The pages explained the lethal dangers involved with the intake of particular drugs -- prescribed to persons with certain disorders.

"These are what psychiatrists were giving my mother...she has a minor illness that these drugs have exacerbated and that are slowly killing her," said Gaule.

Gaule then stated, "First it started as high doses of Ibuprofen," (an over the counter drug, which slows the circulation and oxygen to the brain) "... Then they gave her, Zyprexa, Mellaril, Effexor, Paxil and other drugs. All these chemicals have one thing in common: they harm specifically, women, the elderly and those with specific illnesses. There are descriptions of, Sudden Death Syndrome, and in several, unbelievably can create Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other diseases. Also that 'death may occur' - due to respiratory and circulatory depression."

Gaule pointed to another portion of the startling information: "You see this, it's the telltale; ‘no known antidote,’ which is at the tip of the iceberg," he said. "The result of ingesting these drugs and others in certain patients is the same – the cause and conditions and diseases they are supposed to stop, can cause other diseases or death."

Thomas has been in court so often he says he has an in-depth understanding of how the system is working against the victim instead of protecting their rights as the courts should be, "especially here in Nevada," he told the Tribune.

"I have been to the so-called, ‘Family Court’ so many times that I could draw a picture of the stains on the walls." In two separate court hearings, Judge William Voy and Judge Diane C. Steele told Gaule -- that they "saw nothing wrong." Even after viewing pictures of Thomas’ mother, which depicted the results of several beatings she has suffered at the hands of caretakers employed at the now defunct Blanca Retirement Home often used by Shafer.

When Thomas discovered the brutality, he called police, (who filed no charges), and then had her removed and taken to the El Jen Center, where he says, "abuse has continued to take place there also."

A brutal attack on Thomas in 1998 was spotlighted on local TV news, but "....No one except the Las Vegas Tribune has done anything to publicize this story about my mother and Jared Shafer’s involvement, up till now. It was the whole reason for the attack on me. The two attackers were caught in my home riffling through my mother's personal files. Where was the RJ or the Las Vegas Sun then?" Gaule asks. "Reporters did not delve into the probable involvement of the Public Guardian's office," stated Gaule. "The only things taken were my mother's real estate and financial documents."

Though he has power-of-attorney, the courts and attorneys who seem to be controlling the affairs of his estate and his mother have turned a deaf ear, and are accused of violating many of Anna Marie and Thomas' Constitutional rights. "There seems to be no remedy," he said resigned. "If we could only get people to be angry enough for my mother and for the hundreds of others like her..." Gaule said. "They have seen shows, read newspaper stories, heard about the abuse that takes place all over the country. And in our own back yard, here in Vegas, there is an elderly woman, my mom, taken from her home, robbed of her estate, all because she became disoriented one day in 1996. And (formerly) the public guardian, now public administrator literally laughs in court at the injustice he has personally caused. He used my mother’s minor illness as an avenue to proclaim her ‘incompetent.’ He created the original document that had her forged signature on it that put her in guardianship in the first place. Her signature was completely different on the document than her actual signature. Its so tragic," stated Gaule, "That was the document that led to her eventual demise and death."

Gaule continued, “Shafer has taken money directly from our accounts, and, I believe, tried to have me killed, and my pleadings are completely ignored by the police and court. Why aren't people storming the halls of the courthouse? Are they afraid? Of course they are. Have they forgotten what it was we founded this country on? Most likely. and probably because they don't even know the history -- Is America no longer America? Maybe. But I can't believe people have become so callous or afraid that they will let these bullies, who have used a system of Machiavellian law to abuse us and steal our lives from us," Gaule said.

Last year, Anna Marie Gaule was taken to Summerlin Hospital from the El Jen Center from what appeared to be another beating at the Blanca Retirement Home controlled by Shafer. She was going "in and out of consciousness and having seizures," a doctor at the hospital told Gaule later.

Shelly Cher, a caseworker at the public guardian’s office called Thomas and asked him if he wanted his mother to be taken from life support. "I was shocked. I got to the hospital and talked to the doctor on duty and he told me that he 'didn't like what he saw. Dr. Lindsay Hansen, Anna Marie Gaule’s doctor, called the hospital to gloss over the incident at El Jen," according to Gaule. Dr. Hansen explained to the doctor at Summerlin Hospital that Mrs. Gaule was being prescribed Dilantin for her seizures. The Summerlin doctor was so angry that he refused to receive anymore calls from Dr. Hansen. I told the doctor that my mother was having the seizures from being beat up...tell them to just stop beating her," Thomas plead.

Thomas Gaule asked in court for an injunction against El Jen Center and Dr. Lindsay Hansen, to discontinue prescribing and administering ‘Dilantin’, which Gaule pointed out on the manufacturer’s label that it actually, "caused seizures." The Family Court judge refused.

Dilantin is the trade name for Phenytoin, which in the Merck Manual (so-called, chemical bible) states: "causes seizures." But, according to Gaule, under the guise of the public administrator’s office (Jared Shafer) and the El Jen Center, they refused to stop administering the drug, "which attacks the brain and stops blood to the brain of the elderly – with side-effects that could kill a horse.... Dilantin is primarily used to treat epilepsy, even though my mother never had the disease.”

"I thought with all the evidence, the District Court would certainly stop this nightmare. So I went to Judge Mark Gibbons -- where he told me his court only heard injunction cases." But on the day of the hearing, Gaule was told that the case should be sent to the probate court, even though Mrs. Gaule was still alive.

A new hearing in ‘Family Court' is set for Wednesday, June 19, 2002.

"Tell your readers, if they don't believe this is happening, show up in court and see it for themselves," Gaule concluded.


"Public Enemy Number One"
-- Jared Shafer –

By D. "Deuke" Eukel
(Former) - Las Vegas Tribune Senior Editor
Originally published September 11, 2004

A formal complaint was filed with the Clark County Commission in Las Vegas, Nevada, which names retired Public Administrator Jared E. Shafer as responsible for a bevy of crimes allegedly perpetuated by him and staff members while he was the Public Guardian.

The complaint, which was handed personally to Clark County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera by Thomas Gaule, the son of Anna Marie Gaule, who is considered one of many victims of Shafer’s “exploits against the elderly,” names Shafer as the responsible party in the “abduction and exploitation” of Anna Marie Gaule, as well as being responsible for many other crimes concerning the Gaule estate.

Jared Shafer
Court documents show that several lawsuits have been filed against Shafer over the past 23 years, which claim that through his direction as Public Guardian and Administrator, “estates have been pilfered and exploited, beneficiaries discredited, and elderly persons have been drugged needlessly....”

In a previous article published in the Las Vegas Tribune, Shafer was accused by former Clark County employees of ordering that several savings bonds, which were already made out to family beneficiaries, be stamped with the Public Administrator’s seal and then cashed. Shafer has given no comment in that matter, and refuses to answer calls directed to his office.

Gaule calls Shafer, “Public enemy number one,” as do many others. In a letter addressed to Nevada officials, and media sources, Gaule writes: “If the elderly were treated as well as criminals, they would have more rights than what is allotted to them as 'wards of the State.' I ask, what has become of justice? These so called professionals take their victims by force silently out of their homes and imprison them and then poison them for what they say is 'their own good.'” According to Thomas, the very next business day it is down to the routine of stealing, pilfering and ripping-off all the victim’s finances and everything else under the sun, right down to their prepaid burial plots. The victims are warehoused in ‘unmarked group homes,’ or discreet secret facilities....

And then there are the "premature deaths" which occur as the inescapable result of being "under the care and custody and control, of Jared Shafer as the Public Guardian," according to Thomas Gaule.

According to Gaule's documents, Anna Marie is officially number 17,772 in real numbers that are now above 25,000 persons who have become “wards of the State," and in control of the State of Nevada, (and formerly, Jared Shafer.) And there are no more than 500 alive at any time with as many as 3,500 new potential victims added per month. Gaule added that the “cast of crooks" include, attorney Patricia Trent, Shafer’s public and private attorney, "who plays both sides of the fence against all victims." Gardner Jolley, Shafer’s personal and corporate attorney, "who stealthily steals every penny he can get his hands on under the veil of the Wells Fargo Bank," stated Thomas.

When Thomas went to Wells Fargo to withdraw over $2.3 million that was in his family trust account, attorney Gardner Jolly allegedly told him “sue us.”

“There are also judges that come into play from the head States Supreme Court to Family Court Judges, along with a cadre of crooked attorneys," according to Gaule.

In a telephone conversation with then-Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, who is also a partner in the law firm Gardner Jolley, Woodbury, he told the Tribune that if a complaint was filed with the County Commissioners, it would be their practice to “turn it over to the County Manager or the DA, if the complaint is deemed to be serious enough.”

When asked if the County Manager’s office had investigators that would independently check out the allegations, Woodbury said that as far as he knew the County Manager would use whatever means he had to investigate the complaints, including using detectives at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Asked why the County Commission had been ignoring the allegations made by several “victims,” when reports of the abuses had been turned over to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, and other official entities – Woodbury said that though he knew of articles in the Las Vegas Tribune, as well as other media sources, there had been “ formal complaints filed recently with the Commission. "It's my understanding that the U.S. Attorney or other law enforcement agencies would have jurisdiction,” stated Woodbury.

When told of the NRS statutes that explain that the County Commissioners were the investigating authority in any complaint brought against a county official, Woodbury paused and said that he would look into the matter when presented with a formal complaint.
Thomas Gaule filed an official complaint. Other persons who claim to be “victims” of Jared Shafer’s “criminal actions,” told the Tribune they would be filing formal complaints as well.

(Editor's note: On April 22, 2015, the Clark County Commission began taking complaints from guardianship victims and their families. The Commission's action resulted in the removal of Family Court Judges Charles Hoskin and his appointed Guardianship Commission Jon Norheim from all guardianship cases. More Information: )

Hard-Won Advice in Books on Aging and Elder Care

Loretta Anne Woodward Veney and her mother Doris Woodward
Longevity is generally better than its alternative. But when the body or especially the mind wears out, caring for yourself or finding someone else to do it for you can impoverish you in short order.

We fail to plan for it at our peril. So when it seemed that Republicans in Washington were close to passing legislation that could fundamentally change Medicaid, I wrote five straight columns about the program. Already, the majority of Americans need Medicaid to pay for at least some of their nursing home costs or care at home because they’ve run out of money. Proposed caps on Medicaid, which have not come to pass for now, had the potential to cause enormous problems.

In the wake of those articles, you wrote in, hundreds of you, with harrowing stories and hard-won advice, more of which I intend to present in future columns. But a smaller number of people wrote in unprompted to assign me homework — books that they found useful as they were navigating their own changing conditions or those of spouses, close friends or other family members.

This week, I read all four books that came up at least twice in your correspondence. I don’t recommend you do the same, for if you’re more empathetic than average or prone to anxiety, you’ll finish the reading sprint, as I did, emotionally wrung out and worried sick.

Still, these books are all in their own way utterly essential reading. Few of us are prepared for the financial and emotional complexities of managing the last several years of our lives. But as we live longer, drain what may prove to be inadequate retirement savings and lean harder on already strained government programs, we’ll probably find ourselves facing ever more challenging questions and unfortunate compromises.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
Hard-Won Advice in Books on Aging and Elder Care

My father and the dysfunctional, broken VA

Maureen Callahan and her father,Vietnam War veteran Bill
In 2014, after it was revealed that at least 75 US veterans had died while waiting to get appointments at their VA hospitals — with more than 120,000 never tended to, just abandoned or deliberately shuffled from one bureaucratic boondoggle to another — public outcry forced the following: congressional hearings, an internal VA investigation, an Obama administration investigation, an FBI criminal probe, a RAND Corp. investigation, an Office of Special Counsel investigation, and the “early retirement” of VA chief Dr. Robert Petzel and Eric Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs.

“I assure you, if there is misconduct, it will be punished,” then-President Barack Obama said. “I want every veteran to know we are going to fix what is wrong.”

Yes, the federal government was going to internally fix what was wrong with a massive, federally funded institution.

Last Thursday, more than three years and two new secretaries later, the New York Times reported that current head David Shulkin is fighting to keep out the director of the Washington Medical Center, Brian Hawkins, who was fired last month for running a hospital at “the highest levels of chaos.”

Hawkins has appealed to the government’s Merit Systems Protections Board, claiming wrongful termination. The board gave him a stay, even though President Trump signed a law in June eliminating appeals by senior department executives to that body. But because disciplinary action was initiated against Hawkins in April, his lawyer claims wrongful termination — such action predates the new law.

So Shulkin now says he’ll use new evidence to keep Hawkins out, even though Hawkins can then appeal to a new internal review board, about which we know little.

What is clear is that multiple federally appointed boards and committees are working at cross-purposes to ostensibly fix the VA.

Sound absurd? Like the height of dysfunction and bureaucratic infighting, siphoning time, money and attention away from the very people Veterans Affairs and the federal government are meant to protect?

Welcome to the VA.

If you’ve never dealt with the VA, it’s impossible to understand how infuriating, dispiriting and broken it is. My initiation dates back to November 2013, when my father, a Vietnam vet, was scheduled for surgery to remove a supposedly localized mass in one lung.

We were told to arrive at the hospital at 11 a.m., before he’d be wheeled into the OR — which we did, only to find an empty hospital room. Where was he?

Oh, we were told, he was wheeled in at 7 a.m.

Why? No one had an answer.

Four hours later, a very kind resident emerged to tell us they had been wrong: My father actually had Stage IV lung cancer. There was nothing they could do and they were closing him up now. The doctor who’d made this catastrophic misdiagnosis, it turned out, was also the lead surgeon, and I asked to speak with him.

The resident told me that wasn’t possible. Why? He couldn’t say.

“No, really,” I said. “Why can’t I speak to my father’s surgeon?”

“You just can’t,” came the reply.

It was a harbinger of stonewalling to come. The VA loves to claim all kinds of outreach, services and benefits, but you’d better know your way around. At the Brooklyn VA, the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) maintains offices, but if you seek help from them, you can’t seek help directly from the VA — and DAV reps often aggressively pursue confused veterans.

Who benefits and by how much is unclear, but DAV employees aren’t always transparent with these veterans, some of whom my father and I met one winter weekday.

These men were older, sick and frail. One had risen early, made a very long drive, and now sat with the others outside these offices. They were waiting for their representative to show for their scheduled appointments.

I asked how long they’d been waiting. Hours, they told me. Their rep might not show up at all. It happened all the time. They had no choice but to wait.

Couldn’t they complain?

They laughed. To whom?

My dad and I walked down the hall looking for help. There, in a big office overlooking the river, sat a well-fed, well-tended anonymous chief of something. His role was deliberately ambiguous, but he had a corner office. Surely he could do something.

We walked in and I asked where the DAV rep was. Did he know there was a line of older vets waiting for help?  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
My father and the dysfunctional, broken VA

Keokuk woman convicted of theft from elderly relative

Laura Hawkins

QUINCY -- A Keokuk, Iowa, woman was convicted of a theft charge Wednesday stemming from allegations that she stole from an elderly family member living in a Quincy nursing home.

Court records show that Laura Hawkins, 56, was found guilty in a bench trial before Judge Charles Burch after she waived her right to a jury trial.

Hawkins was initially charged with two counts of financial exploitation of the elderly, but those charges were dismissed Wednesday.

After Hawkins' arrest in February 2016, the Quincy Police Department said it was notified by Sycamore Healthcare of a 77-year-old resident who was possibly being exploited by a family member acting as a power of attorney for the resident. An investigation found that several thousand dollars allegedly had been misused.

Sentencing in the case was set for Sept. 6. Hawkins could be sentenced to two to five years in prison. She is eligible for probation.

Full Article & Source:
Keokuk woman convicted of theft from elderly relative

Friday, August 25, 2017

Anatomy Of A Scam: How Lawyers Hurt Clients And Crush Nursing Homes

Nellie Keffer won an $80,000 award from a nursing home she claims had brutally abused her husband. Weeks later, her lawyers sent her a bill for $71,000.

There is no shortage of aggrieved nursing home negligence or medical malpractice plaintiffs who express serious misgivings about the quality of their representation, and the fees lawyers assess against them after securing awards. One such attorney is Michael Fuller of McHugh Fuller, a Mississippi-based firm specializing in nursing home litigation.

A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation suggests that McHugh Fuller and its allies bankroll a nonprofit that promotes litigation in the states where they practice. The firms then collect a huge percentage of the awards they secure, while quality long term care is compromised by their tactics.

Fuller‘s former clients describe an attorney who is elusive and inattentive, but all too eager to collect large percentages of the awards he secures. His firm also evidences a history of misleading advertising that has resulted in sanctions from state courts. What’s more, his law partner, James McHugh, is intimately connected to a Pennsylvania-based law practice that bankrolled a nursing home oversight group called Families for Better Care, which tax records suggests may be a front to provoke litigation in jurisdictions where the firm frequently practices.

As a result of relentless litigation in certain jurisdictions of the sort practiced by these firms, quality longterm care has all but withdrawn from states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

McHugh Fuller declined comment for this story.

Big Awards, Bigger Fees

Fuller represented Mrs. Keffer in litigation she brought against a West Virginia nursing home she claims abused her late husband, Ralph Keffer, while he was in their care. Mr. Keffer subsequently died while in the care of a separate facility. After a lengthy mediation process, the nursing home agreed to settle for $80,000. Mrs. Keffer recovered $50,000 of that award.

Per an initial settlement agreement reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Medicare and Medicaid were entitled to collect a $25,000 lien from the award, and McHugh Fuller kept $5,000 in attorneys fees. However, Medicare and Medicaid declined to collect the lien, so Fuller kept the $25,000.

“He didn’t ask me if he could take it or anything like that, he just took that amount,” Mrs. Keffer told TheDCNF. Thereafter, she attempted to contact him repeatedly over a period of several months.

“Every time I called him he would be out of the office, he would never call me back,” she said. “He just wouldn’t talk to me.”

After settling the case, Keffer received an itemized bill from McHugh Fuller for $71,000. TheDCNF obtained a copy of the statement. Ultimately, she was not made to pay out any of the charges.

In the early going, Keffer says Fuller was diligent in his supervision of the case and in communicating with her on a regular basis. As the litigation progressed over time, however, he became less and less interested.

“In the beginning, he cared about my case, but then as time went on … he didn’t want anything to do with [it],” she told TheDCNF. She further said she regrets her decision to settle the case, especially after learning of the full extent of the abuse to which her late husband may have been subject.

“He treated me very unfairly in the end,” she said of Fuller.

Keffer ultimately lodged a complaint against Fuller with the West Virginia Bar Association, which dismissed the claim. According to documents reviewed by TheDCNF, Fuller said he guaranteed the Keffer estate a $50,000 award. He further claimed that he told Mrs. Keffer any reduction in the Medicare/Medicaid lien would be retained by the firm.

“The remaining allegation in this complaint is a fee dispute,” the Bar Association’s ruling read. “The Lawyer Disciplinary Board will not resolve such disputes unless the fee charged is in violation of law or grossly excessive on its face and that does not appear to be the case here.”

Complaints about Fuller‘s fees have been voiced by other clients. McHugh Fuller represented another litigant, Lora Jarrell, in a wrongful death action she brought against the nursing home where her mother, Ursula Gerencir, died in 2009. Fuller secured a $250,000 award for her and her brother — and kept $150,000 of it.

“I never understood why they needed $150,000 for expenses, but I didn’t argue,” she told TheDCNF.

“They’re taking more of their share of the money than they’re supposed to,” she added.

Like Keffer, Jarrell also claims she did not confer often with Fuller. Neither Fuller nor his law partner came to the case’s final proceedings.

“I wasn’t happy about that,” she said. “But they took all the money.”

Jarrell was unable to produce an itemized bill from the firm for TheDCNF. She also said that she was pleased McHugh Fuller was able to secure an award against the nursing home.

Misleading Advertising

Some nursing homes around the country have accused the firm of deceptive, misleading, or false advertising. An Ohio nursing home, Heartland of Urbana OH, LLC, brought a suit against McHugh Fuller late in 2014 for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and defamation. The firm bought full page ads in a local paper indicating the nursing home had been sanctioned by the federal government for “failing to provide necessary care and service to maintain the highest well-being of each resident.” The ad specifically solicited contacts from individuals whose loved ones may have suffered “bedsores, broken bones, unexplained injuries, or death” in Heartland’s care.

Heartland argues the ad falsely left readers with the impression the facility had been cited recently. In point of fact, the nursing home had not been cited for concerns even remotely similar to those expressed in the advertisement since 2010.

Nursing home citations are assessed across a spectrum of “A” to “L,” with “L” being the most severe. Heartland received an “E” level violation in 2010 because of three instances court documents describe as “relatively minor.” They include failure to document and administer a laxative prescribed for constipation, failure to reassess abdominal pain within 18 hours, and failure to administer an antibiotic. In these cases, no serious harm befell any of the residents, and no person in the nursing home’s care suffered the sorts of injuries referenced in the ad because of staff negligence or poor quality of care.

The facility was also cited for violations in 2012, though they were less severe than the 2010 citation. U.S. News awarded the facility a three out of five star rating, matching or exceeding three of the nearest four nursing homes.

An Ohio appeals court found that McHugh Fuller‘s ad was “literally false” by necessary implication in Sept. 2016. Though the fact, it concluded, of Heartland’s citation was literally true, “the words ‘considered in context necessarily imply a false message.'” A lower court initially sided with McHugh Fuller in the dispute.

A Front Group For Litigation?

McHugh Fuller partner James McHugh practiced law at a Pennsylvania-based firm called Wilkes McHugh for 17 years before joining his current firm. Wilkes McHugh is a multi-service outfit representing clients in appeals proceedings, bankruptcy court, and a wide range of personal injury areas, including nursing home negligence.

Tax records show Wilkes McHugh was the primary financier of an advocacy group called Families for Better Care (FFBC), a nursing home watchdog frequently cited as an authority on quality of care. The group’s director, Brian Lee, was cited in a newspaper report as recently as March 3. Lee previously served in Florida state government as an ombudsman for the Department of Elder Affairs, but was ousted from government service in 2011. He claims the administration of Florida Gov. Rick Scott forced him from office under pressure from the nursing home lobby.

The group frequently publishes a national report card ranking the quality of nursing homes in each state and the District of Columbia. The states in which both Wilkes McHugh and McHugh Fuller are active, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky perform dismally in the reviews.

A review of the organization’s tax records from 2011 to 2014 show that Wilkes McHugh essentially bankrolled the group. For example, FFBC reported $69,400 in revenue on their 2011 990. The same record shows the entirety of that amount came from a donation given by Wilkes McHugh. The following year, the group reported $130,000 in revenue, all of which came from a donation from the firm, as in the previous year. The pattern follows for 2013 and 2014. The firm was the group’s sole benefactor in three of the four years during this period.

“Families for Better Care has a diversity of supporters, that in the past, we can proudly state included Wilkes and McHugh,” the group told TheDCNF in response to an inquiry about their relationship to the firm.

Wilkes McHugh partner James Wilkes II denied that his firm directs the organization in any way in an interview with TheDCNF. He said his firm’s motives were entirely philanthropic.

“I don’t think we are the primary benefactor,” Wilkes told TheDCNF. “We got involved when Brian Lee resigned as ombudsman.” Wilkes claims their professional relationship began when he read accounts of Lee’s dismissal in Florida newspapers.

Wilkes claimed he could not recall if he has ever met Lee. He further claims the cumulative total of their conversations runs less than 30 minutes.

In a separate 2014 interview with local media, Lee went even further than Wilkes, claiming he has never spoken with anyone from Wilkes McHugh.

Wilkes has a five-star AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell for high ethical standing, and has won several awards for his work litigating around longterm care issues. He is a previous nominee for the AARP’s National Aging and Law Award.

FFBC also disputed that their advocacy was meant to promote business for the firm.

“In regard to our nursing home annual report, our methodology is included on the report card’s website, which shows it’s based on federal data,” Lee told TheDCNF. “Finally, we are proud of our determined advocacy on behalf of residents and their rights, to ensure they receive the best care possible.”

Lee’s activities raise questions about the tax-status of the group, which is a registered 501(c)3 group. The IRS requires nonprofits to disclose any and all lobbying activity and lobbying-related expenses on government forms. Lee has written in the Florida press about matters pending in the state legislature, identified as a “lobbyist” in applying for other positions according to court documents reviewed by TheDCNF, and describes himself as an “advocate for changes in laws and regulations” on his LinkedIn page. Despite this, the organization did not disclose any lobbying on its tax forms.

What’s more, Wilkes McHugh’s lobbying and media firm, Vancore Jones, is intimately connected to FFBC. The firm’s two principals, Steve Vancore and Andrew Jones, registered as officers of FFBC.

 Both previously registered as lobbyists for Wilkes McHugh in Florida, according to state records. The registrant-contact for FFBC’s domain name is also an employee of Vancore Jones.

All told, FFBC appears more closely connected to Wilkes McHugh than its principals contend.
In addition to client complaints, court sanctions, and its connection to FFBC, McHugh Fuller attracted notoriety for its involvement in the purchase of a private jet from a judge they had occasion to argue before, and for a bevy of campaign donations to the same judge that campaign finance experts say resembles an illegal straw-donor scheme.

Full Article & Source:
Anatomy Of A Scam: How Lawyers Hurt Clients And Crush Nursing Homes

Kansas AG Launches National Effort To Combat Elder Abuse

Kansas' attorney general is leading a nationwide push to identify elder abuse and find ways to help in the fight against the growing problem.

It's estimated that one out of every 10 elderly people who live at home in their later years will become a victim of abuse. Elder abuse can include physical abuse, neglect and financial abuse or exploitation.

It is a crime in Kansas to commit abuse on seniors which, by Attorney General Derek Schmidt's definition, includes anyone 65 and above. As of 2010, there were more than 40 million people over 65 in the U.S.

Schmidt was elected recently to a one-year term as president of the National Association of Attorneys General and has enlisted the AGs in every state to study the problem and come up with possible solutions.

The results will be presented at a summit in Manhattan, Kansas, next April.

Full Article & Source:
Kansas AG Launches National Effort To Combat Elder Abuse

Gwinnett Special Victims Unit arrests couple for exploiting elderly housekeeper

Ana Zaharia and Daniel Zaharia
BUFORD, GA (CBS46) - On November 17, 2016, a Gwinnett County Police Department Special Victims Unit detective was assigned an exploitation of an at-risk adult case.

The complaint was forwarded to GCPD from the Duluth Police Department after being initially reported by the victim’s bank.

The basis of the case was suspicions that Ana Zaharia, 34, and her husband, Daniel Zaharia, 41, may possibly be financially exploiting a 64-year old Buford woman and her late husband’s estate.

The 64-year old woman’s husband was a successful business owner prior to his death.

A forensic audit was conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Financial Investigations Unit.

After receiving the results of the audit, it appeared as though the Zaharias were diverting significant sums of money--at least a half million dollars--from the victim for their own personal use.

This had been going on for several years.

The detective said that Ana was the victim’s housekeeper.

Ana arranged for her husband and children to move into the victim’s home.

On July 7, 2017, two detectives visited the victim’s home on Anna Ruby Lane in Buford.

Upon their arrival, they noticed the 64-year old woman on the floor of her bedroom suffering from an apparent fall.

She was taken to a local hospital to be treated. After she was transported from the home, both suspects were interviewed.

Following their interview with the suspects, the detectives followed up with an interview with the victim at the local hospital.

On July 13, the detectives, along with Gwinnett Senior Services returned to the residence. Ana and Daniel were then placed under arrest. They were both charged with:

 Exploitation of an At-Risk Adult (16-5-102)

 Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) (16-14-4)

 Theft by Taking (16-8-2)

 Records and Reports of Currency (7-1-915)

The victim refused to be placed in an alternate senior home despite numerous attempts made by the detectives and the representative from Gwinnett Senior Services.

Ana and Daniel were transported to the Gwinnett County Jail on Thursday, July 13, and have since bonded out.

According to the lead detective, Ana and Daniel have special considerations of bond stating that they are not allowed to have any contact with the victim.

Full Article & Source:
Gwinnett Special Victims Unit arrests couple for exploiting elderly housekeeper

Thursday, August 24, 2017

ABA Report To The House Of Delegates Resolution for States to amend their guardianship statutes

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal legislatures to amend their guardianship statutes to require that supported decision-making be identified and fully considered as a less restrictive alternative before guardianship is imposed; and urges courts to consider supported decision-making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship; and
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal legislatures to amend their guardianship statutes to require that decision-making supports that would meet the individual’s needs be identified and fully considered in proceedings for termination of guardianship and restoration of rights; and urges all courts to consider available decision-making supports that would meet the individual’s needs as grounds for termination of a guardianship and restoration of rights.

ABA Report To The House Of Delegates Resolution for States to amend their guardianship statutes

Personal care home worker accused of exploitation of elderly

A personal care home employee accused of withdrawing money from an Alzheimer’s patient’s bank account is in jail on a charge of exploitation of the elderly.

Maxine Donaldson, 51, was arrested Monday on the felony charge that carries a potential prison term of up to 20 years. She is expected to be in Richmond County Magistrate Court on Wednesday for an initial appearance.

According to the arrest warrant, Donaldson added herself to the bank account of a 69-year-old resident of the Shavonna’s Place of Care on Fairview Avenue. The warrant states that Donaldson withdrew $27,989 from the bank account between Oct. 25 and July 24.

The warrant accuses Donaldson of obtaining access to the bank account through undue influence, coercion, duress, deception or false representation.

According to the Department of Community Health, Shavonna’s, a state-licensed home for up to six patients, had no violations during its latest inspection in March. In February 2015, an investigation of three complaints at the home also found no violations.

When The Augusta Chronicle checked earlier in the year on business licenses for local personal care homes, Shavonna’s did not have one, which meant it had not undergone a fire marshal’s inspection. The home has since then become licensed, according to the city’s licensing and inspection division.

Donaldson had been the administrator of another personal care home, Maxi Maxi on Damascus Road.

Full Article & Source:
Personal care home worker accused of exploitation of elderly

Panty-less cartwheeling teacher now accused of squatting in elderly couple’s house

Lacey Sponsler
A former teacher who performed a panty-less cartwheel during a choir class earlier this year is accused of squatting in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, couple’s house. 

Lacey Sponsler, 34, pled guilty to assault earlier this year after the Pawhuska Police Department arrested her for performing a cartwheel in class. She didn’t have any underwear on while cartwheeling and a student caught the disturbing act on video. 

Sponsler was also arrested in March for stealing a woman’s Coach purse from a bowling alley in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, reported NEWSON6.

Now, an elderly couple in Tulsa claims the disgraced substitute teacher is squatting in their home and refuses to move out, reports KFOR

“Do you want to wait 30 days to evict somebody that you tried to be friends with and help?” asked Lloyd Anderson who owns the home in question with his partner Sharon Denney, according to WTKR.

Anderson allegedly agreed to help Sponsler, who he met through a mutual friend. Sponsler asked Anderson if she could use his address as a permanent residence. He reportedly agreed, and Sponsler wrote a letter in Anderson’s name to the judge overseeing her case, explaining she lived in the house and paid rent.

“The deal was after she got her plea bargain form the judge, she would use the money she had coming to by two bus tickets to Seattle, Washington,” Anderson told KJRH

Instead, Anderson and Denney allege Sponsler used a ladder to break a window and move into the home.

“She said that the while time that she’s been here this is her residence and we never gave her permission,” Sharon Denney said.

Full Article & Source:
Panty-less cartwheeling teacher now accused of squatting in elderly couple’s house

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rockford man says father was bilked by younger girlfriend

ROCKFORD — Doug Hillenburg took comfort knowing his father met a female friend to keep him company in 2014.

His mother died two years earlier and his retired father, Tom, had little social life outside of his family and the time he spent at local coffee shops. And even though a 30-year age difference raised some concern when the new relationship appeared romantic, Doug said he looked the other way because his dad appeared full of life again—at least more than he had the previous two years.

But, little did Doug know, Tom was not as healthy on the inside. A diabetic, he also suffered from cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. Thankfully, the support of his children, grandchildren and a budding romance presented a calming port in the storm. But that alleviation would be only temporary.

By 2015, Doug’s financially independent father was suddenly in debt. He mowed through more than an estimated $30,000 in petty cash and increased his use of his only credit card. Attributing the extravagance to newfound love, Doug took no action. Tom’s companion had taken over the duties of paying his bills and the couple appeared to be taking their relationship to the next level. There was no cause for alarm.

But when automatic bank drafts, personal checks and random withdrawals started eating up Tom’s $4,000 monthly pension and household bills were left unpaid, Doug could look away no longer.

“The (electric) bill was $700,” Doug said. “They were going to shut it off. The water bill was racked way up. There was a big Verizon bill. There was no money. At one point, (his bank account) was overdrawn by $1,300.”

But that wasn’t all. When Doug and his fiancĂ©e, Tracy, opened Tom’s books, they were met with a mountain of credit card debt, department store charges and title loans—accounts Tom did not previously have. A $22,000 loan put his new valentine behind the wheel of a Chevy Camaro, the second vehicle she obtained from the union. She still owns the SUV that belonged to Tom’s late wife.

“He signed (the SUV) over to her because she told him she needed a car,” Tracy said.

Doug and Tracy’s nightmare did not end by reigning in the pocketbook chain. His girlfriend had other plans. With mounting debt and Tom without regular doses of medication, the spending continued—trips, expensive jewelry and clothing. Tom was also paying to keep her in a house across town.
Then came a series of twists all too common in thousands of elder exploitation cases each year in the United States.

The first began Feb. 2, 2017, at a police station 80 miles from Rockford.

“He went out to have breakfast and get a haircut but ended up LaSalle,” Doug said. “He stopped for gas but didn’t have any cash.”

A confused Tom attempted to pay for the fuel with a garage door opener so an attendant called police.

Four days later, Tom was diagnosed with dementia. A followup visit was scheduled, but Tom would not keep it. His girlfriend made sure of that.

“She canceled the appointment and took him to the courthouse and married him,” Doug said.

And while Tom and his new bride claimed to be in love, Doug and Tracy, combing through a paper trail of reckless squander, called it something else.

“The only thing left she could try to get was his house,” Doug said of the free-and-clear property that was his childhood home.

And she nearly succeeded.

A records search showed that Tom’s wife put herself on title to the property and applied for a home loan that would eventually be denied. The battle continued though. Because the marriage had been recorded, relief from the courts was Doug’s only option to save his ailing father’s life.

“Personally, I believe he would have been dead if we hadn’t intervened,” Doug said. “He wasn’t getting his medicine. He wasn’t getting his blood-sugar taken. Even though we were told he was being taken care of, I have pictures and proof he wasn’t.”

Doug is now Tom’s legal guardian and the marriage has been dissolved—ruled invalid because of the elder’s state of mind. He is now in a nursing home, safe. Although it was not part of the plan when they realized he was sick.

“We had a visiting nurse all set up,” Doug said. “He could have afforded to stay in the house for as long as he could—probably for the rest of his life. Then when he passed, my brother and I would have just sold the house and that would have been it.”

Instead, Doug has turned to Medicare. That means the house and Tom’s other equitable assets will likely be seized.

In total, he said his father was exploited out of more than $100,000. The $20,000 Doug and Tracy have paid to lawyers and creditors in the last few months have come out of their pocket. Tracy even left her full-time job to sort through Tom’s affairs.

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), home repair, investment and phone scams are common among seniors, along with unauthorized transfer of real estate, theft and fraud.

In Illinois, financial exploitation of the elderly and those with disabilities is a felony, and punishments increase depending on the ages of the victim and amounts taken. It is a Class 4 felony if property value is $300 or less. Class 3 felonies involve property between $301 and $5,000. If the property value is $5,000 or more, but less than $50,000, offenders can be charged with a Class 2 felony. Class 1 felonies involve property of $50,000 or more and the victim is 70 or older, and property value of $15,000 taken from victims 80 and older.

A Class 1 felony is punishable by between four and 15 years in prison.

“We have turned everything over to detectives,” Doug said. “We are now waiting to see what happens, but we are hoping she goes to jail.”

Full Article & Source:
Rockford man says father was bilked by younger girlfriend

Physician Gets Prison for Phony Hospice Certifications

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi physician was sentenced Thursday to 39 months in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution to the federal Medicare program, part of a continuing investigation into fraud by end-of-life hospice care providers in Mississippi.

Dr. Nathaniel Brown of Cleveland pleaded guilty in January to guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, admitting he certified patients as terminally ill and thus appropriate for hospice care, when in fact those patients were not terminally ill. He was sentenced Thursday in Oxford.

One sign of hospice fraud is the share of patients that don't die while under hospice care but are instead discharged. The U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicaid Services found that in 2014, Mississippi led the nation in live discharges, with 20.4 percent of patients outliving hospice care.
That compared with a national rate of 11 percent that year. The share fell in 2015, to 17.9 percent, but Mississippi still ranked third among the states.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has led a multiyear investigation into fraud in Mississippi called Hospice Storm. Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Dabbs has called hospice fraud a "runaway problem" in Mississippi, and at least eight people have been charged in the state since 2014. Angelic Hospice owner Regina Swims-King was sent to prison for nearly six years and ordered to pay back nearly $8 million.

Brown, who was the medical director of two Mississippi hospices, received $47,750 in payments by check, plus additional cash. Those hospices, in turn are alleged to have received $1.94 million in inappropriate payments from Medicare.

Two other people involved in those hospices have also pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Sandra Livingston pleaded guilty in 2015 and was sentenced to three years in prison and $1.1 million in restitution. Lara Lynn Thompson, a nurse who recruited patients for both of Livingston's hospices, pleaded guilty in 2015 and was sentenced to 13 months in prison. She shares the $1.1 million in restitution with Livingston, with $272,000 assigned to Thompson and $737,000 assigned to Livingston.

Criminal charges against Livingston say she took $600,000 from the scheme and gave another $200,000 to relatives.

Investigators say people sometimes go door-to-door to solicit patients. Thompson was such a runner. The recruiter then takes patients to be certified by a medical director, such as Brown.

Full Article & Source:
Physician Gets Prison for Phony Hospice Certifications

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

No one believed he would rape nursing home residents. Now he is going to prison

(CNN)At first, no one believed them when they said the charming, well-liked aide in the nursing home where they lived had raped them.+

Claims like theirs are often dismissed as drug-induced hallucinations, signs of dementia or attempts by lonely residents to get attention. And even when the cases of nursing home residents get to court, they can fall apart when victims' memories prove unreliable -- or they are no longer alive to testify.
This time was different.

The two women made their way to the courthouse in Waynesville, North Carolina, last week to testify against the man entrusted with their care.

One entered the courtroom in her wheelchair, two oxygen tanks behind her, and defiantly described the February night when 58-year-old Luis Gomez lifted up her nightgown. He had entered her room at the Brian Center, a nursing home in the center of town, when she was alone and asked if she needed to go the bathroom. She said she did, and climbed out of bed. As she entered the bathroom and faced the toilet, she heard the door close and lock. Then, she said, Gomez raped her.

At first, no one acted on her accusation, and she feared Gomez might appear in her room again at any moment. But when a nurse insisted on notifying police -- against the wishes of her boss -- the call triggered an investigation. And women just down the hall from the resident came forward, with their own allegations against Gomez.

Now he has been sentenced to at least 23 years behind bars.

"What this man has done for a period of almost a decade is ... prey on Alzheimer's patients because they're forgetful and they can't remember and oftentimes they die," the prosecutor told the judge during sentencing.

"In 2016, Your Honor, he made the grave mistake of hurting the wrong woman. She was brave enough to tell, and she wouldn't be quiet until everybody listened. And because of her, that's the only reason that we are finally able to put him in prison."

After a weeklong trial, Gomez was found guilty of raping both women who testified against him -- convicted on six counts that included forcible rape with a physically helpless victim. He still maintains his innocence, and is appealing the verdict.

At his sentencing, the prosecutor said the two women who testified against him were not his only victims.

Six others have accused him, she said. At three different facilities in the area. Some were in their 50s and 60s. At least one was nearly 90.

None were believed, until the woman who was raped in her nightgown came forward. Gomez's attorney told jurors they shouldn't believe her either.

"He told me I'm untruthful, and I said, no I am not," the victim, now 55, said of the lawyer's questioning. "He made me feel like I was a worm crawling on the ground." CNN does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
No one believed he would rape nursing home residents. Now he is going to prison

Watch This Son's Harrowing Account of Caring for a Mom With Sudden Dementia | NBC News

Source: Watch This Son's Harrowing Account of Caring for a Mom With Sudden Dementia | NBC News

Wall Street Is Failing to Protect Seniors From Fraud, Say Regulators

Financial companies appear to be failing senior investors.

At a time when senior financial fraud is on the rise, financial regulators say those on the first line of defense—brokerages and financial advisors—aren’t doing enough to stop it, according to a recent survey fielded by the North American Securities Administrators Association.

About three out of four state securities regulators say they do not believe the financial industry is doing enough to prevent senior financial fraud, according to the survey. Perhaps even more alarming: Of the cases that do get reported, an overwhelming majority of regulators (97%) say that the abuses have gone undetected far too long.

Such delays can be devastating to seniors, who are usually retired and drawing on their accumulated lifetime savings, rather than bringing in money. And the amounts at stake can be substantial. In Virginia alone, financial exploitation robs victims of an estimated $1.2 billion a year, according to the state's Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

“Early detection and reporting are critical,” says NASAA's president, Mike Rothman. Unlike younger investors, seniors do not have the luxury of time to recoup losses inflicted by financial exploitation, he says, so catching and stopping the fraud early could be the difference between having enough money to live on or not.

It’s not just regulators pointing fingers. In a survey of over 60 broker-dealers in June, about 70% said they didn’t have any policies in place that were specifically tailored to seniors. And less than half said they have developed a form for customers to identify an emergency or trusted contact to be used in case the senior investor becomes incapacitated—a procedure the industry considers a critical step for protecting vulnerable customers.

“Many firms need to put all the pieces together,” Rothman said.

That's especially true when it comes to reporting elder fraud. NASAA found in the June survey that while firms reported suspected cases of senior financial fraud to adult protective services about 62% of the time, they only reported the cases to local law enforcement 4% of the time—and less than 1% of the time to state securities regulators.

In many cases, it's up to investors and their networks of friends and family members to protect themselves. Caregivers should monitor new relationships, Rothman says, adding that early warning signs could be new “friends” who show excessive interest in an individual's finances or accounts.

Another red flag for friends and family: any abrupt changes to financial documents, such as power of attorney, account beneficiaries, wills, trusts, property titles, and deeds. That's especially true if a new caretaker, relative or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of a senior.

Part of helping senior investors is also keeping up with changes to the rules and regulations, as they can differ state to state. And there has been some improvement toward getting more protections put in place. About half of state securities agencies have started to implement newly established rules requiring financial advisors who suspect fraud to report it. About 13 states— Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and Vermont—have actually put the new rules into effect, while many others continue to work on enacting similar legislation.

And a new industry rule going into effect next February will require brokerage firms to ask all customers for the name of a trusted contact who can act as a resource when a financial advisor suspects that the client's mental faculties have declined. That rule will also allow brokerage firms to delay fund transfers when they suspect financial exploitation—giving the firms time to investigate a situation and contact the client, the trusted contact, and even law enforcement if appropriate. This is crucial because it's almost impossible to recover the funds once they're in the hands of a fraudster.

On the federal level, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced the Senior$afe Act in January. While the bill contains numerous provisions aimed at protecting seniors from fraud, there has been little movement to push it through Congress, and Skopos Labs estimates there's only about a 5% chance of it being enacted.

Yet Rothman says it's legislation like this that would help bolster existing protections. “The bill calls for greater training of financial institutions and professionals on how to identify and report suspected exploitation of a senior citizen,” he says.

Full Article & Source:
Wall Street Is Failing to Protect Seniors From Fraud, Say Regulators

Monday, August 21, 2017

Commission: No easy answers on guardianship crisis

A Supreme Court task force charged with recommending ways to reform the state’s guardianship/conservatorship system questioned Friday what can be learned from the pending federal embezzlement prosecution of Ayudando Guardians Inc. and its two principals who are charged with embezzling millions in client funds.

There were no immediate, easy answers.

“Our entire community has been rocked and outraged by the indictment,” said Wendy York, a retired Albuquerque state district judge who chairs the commission that was appointed in April by the state Supreme Court. “Ayudando, unfortunately, gives us a template for recommendations …”

York also noted that a representative from Ayudando earlier this year “made certain statements that may turn out not to be true.”

Sharon Moore, Ayudando’s chief financial officer, told commissioners in May that Ayudando was audited yearly by the New Mexico Office of Guardianship, which serves indigent clients. But an official from that office recently told the Journal the audits aren’t financial but are essentially program reviews of a guardian contractor’s staffing, policies and procedures.

Commission members hope to come up with initial recommendations for reforms by Oct. 1. Those could include recommendations for more detailed annual reports from the guardians and conservators appointed by judges around the state for adults deemed mentally incapacitated.

Commissioner Jorja Armijo-Brasher, director of Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs, said the commission needs to figure out “what’s missing in the process so we don’t let this (Ayudando case) happen in the future.”

Tim Gardner, an attorney with the Disability Rights New Mexico, told his fellow commissioners, “I think the risk has always been there.” He said sometimes guardians and conservators file the required annual financial or guardianship reports to the court about their clients, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes judges have the time to read the reports, he said, but sometimes they don’t.

With the state’s courts financially strained, “There’s almost never a verified audit,” Gardner said. “The system is not there to prevent this from happening.”

Commissioner state District Judge Nancy Franchini, of Bernalillo County, said she understands that Ayudando defendants, which include Moore and Ayudando president Susan Harris, were indicted solely because of alleged embezzlement of Veterans Affairs and Social Security benefits they managed for their clients. A federal indictment unsealed July 19 contends that at least 10 veterans were victims of the scheme. Losses have been estimated at $4 million or more.

“When all this came down, it was only regarding federal money. There’s nobody as far as I know who’s investigated the state money” that may also be missing, Franchini added.

The Journal earlier this week posed several questions to the U.S. Marshals Office, which is overseeing the agency’s operations under court order.

But in an email Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Marshals Service declined to answer them, noting that the Department of Justice policy “generally prohibits us from disclosing information that is not a matter of public record.”

“Ayudando clients will receive notices as part of the transfer process to new representative-payee or guardianship service providers,” the email stated. “The Marshals Service anticipates that it will close the physical Ayudando office at some point, but it will continue to oversee Ayudando’s business affairs and to ensure clients receive necessary services as ordered by the courts. The U.S. Marshals Service is committed to ensuring that all Ayudando clients continue to receive the services they need and deserve.”

Full Article & Source:
Commission: No easy answers on guardianship crisis

AG: Ex-Exeter lawyer financially exploited woman

BRENTWOOD — A Newfields resident and former Exeter lawyer has been indicted on five charges alleging he financially exploited a 71-year-old woman.

Thomas U. Gage, 57, of Newfields, was indicted in Rockingham Superior Court last week on five counts of financial exploitation of an elderly, disabled or impaired adult, the state attorney general’s office announced Monday.

The indictments allege that Gage, through the use of undue influence, acquired possession or control of five credit cards allegedly belonging to the woman. The total amount of the alleged exploitation is $87,165 all between January 2015 and January 2016.

Gage is a former attorney who practiced in Exeter, the attorney general’s press release said. He was disbarred in 2016 for unrelated reasons.

The maximum penalty for each indictment is 7½ to 15 years in state prison and/or a fine of $4,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Brandon Garod, assistant attorney general in the office’s Elder Abuse and Exploitation Unit.

Indictments indicate grand jury found enough evidence to bring the matter to trial.

Full Article & Source:
AG: Ex-Exeter lawyer financially exploited woman

Peggy's Law offers comfort for children of elderly parents | Editorial

The nightmare Peggy Marzolla and her family endured while she was under the care of a Brick nursing home has led to increased protections for residents of the state's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The 93-year-old woman died in 2010, within months of being injured in the facility - injuries that included a broken eye socket, cheekbones and wrist, among other damages.

The staff chalked it up to an accidental fall, but Marzolla's daughter wasn't having any of it. The flimsy excuse, and what she saw as a failure by the state to follow up, drove Maureen Persi to lobby for better protections for institutionalized seniors.

"Peggy's Law," the bill whose name honors her mother, requires workers at state-regulated facilities that care for senior citizens to contact police promptly if they suspect any of their residents are experiencing abuse, exploitation or other criminal harm.

Under current law, staff members are required only to report such cases to the state's Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, but not to the police.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the new measure Monday. In addition to mandating police notification within 24 hours of an incident - or two hours if an injury is involved - it also requires the ombudsman's office to offer a round-the-clock hotline for complaints.

At present, that hotline responds to calls in person only during business hours.
Bringing law-enforcement officials into the picture from the beginning adds an extra element of safety in places where safety should be everyone's No. 1 priority.

Placing a loved one in a facility is often one of the most heart-wrenching decision care-givers can make. Many have exhausted other options in the community, and turn to nursing homes as a last resort - invariably wracked with guilt as they sign the papers to admit Mom or Dad.

Peggy's Law should offer them a measure of comfort.

"When families put their loved ones in the care of a nursing home or other assisted-living facility, they expect that they'll be treated properly and with respect," says state Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-Ocean).

The lawmaker, who represents Brick, worked with Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) as well as with bill sponsor Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) for more than six years to bring the legislation to fruition.

To be sure, the vast majority of the 380 nursing homes and 500-plus other long-term care facilities in the state employ caring and competent workers. Good, decent facilities abound.

But when the unthinkable happens, when residents face abuse or worse, Peggy's Law exists to stand guard - to make sure, in Oliver's words, that this type of misbehavior does not go overlooked or swept under the carpet.

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Peggy's Law offers comfort for children of elderly parents | Editorial