Saturday, September 30, 2017

Planning for incapacity in blended families is essential

Dana and Jerry have been married for 25 years. Both have children by previous marriages. Jerry’s three children never forgave him for divorcing their mother and have never accepted Dana. Consequently, Jerry and the children rarely see each other.

Jerry has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is currently in middle stage of the disease with serious memory problems. Dana recently acquired home health services to assist with Jerry’s care.

Jerry’s children are in their fifties and scattered across the country. Concerned could take action against her, particularly if there are conflicts over Jerry’s care and his property, Dana has not yet informed of his condition.

Dana Should Seek Legal Counsel to Protect Herself

Dana should seek legal counsel to understand her options. The options available will depend, in part, upon the steps Jerry and Dana have taken before he developed Alzheimer’s. If Jerry has signed a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (POA) and a Medical Power of Attorney giving Dana the power to manage his financial affairs and make medical decisions for him, Dana should take over and do so.

Although Jerry’s children might challenge the validity of these documents on the grounds that he was not competent or unduly influenced by Dana when he gave the power, the expense of such a challenge may be a deterrent in Dana’s favor. Also, if Jerry had an attorney prepare the POA and he signed it when there was no question of his competency and Dana was not being present when the documents were prepared or signed, she would be in a good position to prevail against a challenge by the children on these grounds.

If Jerry has lucid moments in which he retains the capacity to contract, Jerry could give Dana the power to handle his legal affairs and make medical decisions on his behalf even now.

If Jerry has a valid will naming Dana as executrix and leaving her property, she should safeguard that will. If Jerry does not have a valid will, Dana should discuss with counsel, her rights in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution. The lawyer can explain the property that Dana will receive. Jerry’s children will inherit the rest.

Additional Steps Could Have Been Taken Prior to Jerry’s Diagnosis

In the instance of blended families such as theirs, an irrevocable trust can be an effective tool to protect both the spouse and the children by a previous marriage.

In blended families - particularly if there is animosity toward the non-parent spouse - each spouse should designate through a Declaration of Guardian in the form provided under Texas Estates Code § 1104.201, the person(s) that they do and do not want to be named guardian of the person and guardian of the estate if the need for a guardianship arises.

If one or more of the children applies to be appointed guardian for Jerry, Dana can join the suit and request to be named guardian instead. In accordance with Texas Estates Code §1104.102, Dana is the preferred guardian if more than one person is eligible.

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm in Fort Worth. She lives and practices in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.

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Planning for incapacity in blended families is essential

Woman who stole from elderly goes to prison

Coliene Moore
With documented losses well into the six figures, Illinois State Police continue to investigate a theft case that already has resulted in a prison sentence.

Coliene Moore, 69, was hit with a restitution order exceeding $636,000 when Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz sentenced her last month to four years for stealing from her elderly aunt. Ruth Lanier, now deceased, was 85 when Moore stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her during a three-month period that ended in February of 2012.

Authorities say that Moore also stole nearly $82,000 from her mother, Mary Catherine Dormire, who was in her 90s when her daughter, her mother’s caretaker, raided bank accounts. Dormire is now deceased.

“Make no mistake, this is a callous, cold, calculating elder abuse crime spree,” Belz said when he sentenced Moore on Aug. 15. “Money was taken in astronomical, almost unbelievable amounts from people who didn’t deserve it.”

Authorities are still trying to determine whether there are additional culprits, as well as the extent of losses from a thief who stole both from relatives and from coworkers at the Illinois State Department of Transportation, where Moore worked as a secretary for nearly 40 years.

“It is still under investigation,” says Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser. “And additional charges are possible.”

Moore convinced friends from work to loan her money – in one case, a former coworker gave her $287,000, according to police files -- and was slow to pay it back. In another instance, Moore convinced a coworker to loan her $48,000. She eventually made good on some debts to IDOT colleagues, according to police files and court records, but with stolen money. When victims asked for their money, Moore would typically tell them that she was expecting a sizable inheritance and would pay up when the money arrived.

“It is apparent that she continually seems to await the death of a relative and an opportunity to inherit their money in order to pay off prior thefts that she has committed,” assistant state’s attorney John Morse told the judge in arguing for a prison term.

In arguing for leniency, Dan Fultz, Moore’s lawyer, told the judge that “the problem may fix itself.”

“Nobody is ever going to trust Ms. Moore with their money again, as they shouldn’t,” Fultz told the court.

If nothing else, Moore was brazen. She gave the state’s attorney’s office a $473,500 check for restitution to cover losses in the Lanier case even before charges were filed in 2013. The check was signed by Moore’s mother, who suffered from mental disabilities to the point that she couldn’t handle her affairs, according to court files.

“The state’s attorney called and said ‘Carol, you won’t believe it – are you sitting down?’” recalls Carol Shepard, executor of Lanier’s estate, of a call she got from the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office when the check was delivered in January of 2013. Shepard says that she advised the state’s attorney’s office to verify that funds actually were in a trust account that was in the name of Moore’s mother. Sure enough, the check bounced. “The state’s attorney called back and said, ‘Carol, you were right again: There’s no money there,’” Shepard said.

The check bounced nine months after police obtained bank records and confronted Moore. But charges weren’t filed until the spring of 2013, one year after police, interrogated Moore. Why weren’t charges filed earlier?

“There were ongoing negotiations as to restitution,” answers Milhiser. The state’s attorney adds that Moore lost power of attorney, which allowed her to raid bank accounts, when losses came to light, long before charges were filed.

Over the objection of Moore’s lawyer, a guardian in the spring of 2013 was appointed to protect Moore’s mother, who continued living with her daughter, described as her primary caregiver in court documents. Dormire, Moore’s mother, continued living with her daughter even after prosecutors in 2014 charged Moore with stealing from Dormire. Charges involving Moore’s mother ultimately were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea in the Lanier case.

Moore spent plenty of money on herself, paying off at least $20,000 in credit card debt and a $16,000 note on a Nissan titled in her mother’s name but that she drove. Checks went to merchants ranging from Walmart to the Fifth Street Flower Shop to Victoria’s Secret. Tens of thousands of dollars also were spent for the benefit of friends and relatives from pilfered accounts belonging to Moore’s aunt and mother, according to court and police files. A hairdresser got a check for $2,500. Moore’s son, Brian, received checks totaling nearly $16,000, and Moore also paid $11,700 in rent for the duplex where her son lived. Meanwhile, a nursing home where her aunt stayed after breaking a hip went unpaid and ultimately sued Lanier and Moore to collect more than $20,000.

“This is an elder abuse ATM,” Judge Belz decreed as he sent Moore to prison.

Shortly after obtaining power of attorney from her aunt, who told police that she didn’t realize that she had given her niece access to bank accounts, Moore in 2011 wrote a check for $19,000 to help Mark and Christine Kolaz buy a 2007 Mercedes Benz sedan, making the check out to the dealership. Kolaz, a lobbyist who was once chief of staff for Central Management Services, insists that he knew nothing about the deal, even though his name appears as a purchaser on the sales invoice and delivery sheet from Friendly Chevrolet.

“I’m not really familiar with that situation,” Kolaz said.

Mark and Christine Kolaz were divorced in 2002 but continued living in the same house. The dealership delivery sheet shows they had the same address and same home phone number in 2011. Mark Kolaz declined to discuss whether he still lives with his ex-wife, who in 2007 was accused by her father’s beer distributorship of embezzling $1.3 million after Christine Kolaz filed for bankruptcy, according to bankruptcy court files and stories published by the Associated Press. The U.S. attorney’s office investigated the alleged embezzlement, according to the Associated Press, but filed no charges.

Fultz, Moore’s attorney, told the judge that relatives “clearly had to understand that she wasn’t able to afford the things that she was providing, based on an Illinois Department of Transportation secretarial salary.” The judge found it odd that people who benefited from Moore’s thievery accepted large amounts of money from a woman who earned less than $54,000 a year.

“This is not stealing from the rich and giving to the poor,” Belz said as he pronounced sentence. “You know, I have to question some of these other people, if they didn’t know what was going on, that were the recipients of this.”

Fultz told the court that Moore’s son and daughter, Kimberly Krum, declined to testify on their mother’s behalf at the sentencing hearing after being told that they could be cross-examined to determine whether they knew that their moher was a thief and whether they benefited from her crimes.

Joby Crum, Kimberly Crum’s husband, said that neither his wife nor anyone else in the family knew about any thefts until last month, when Moore was taken into custody four years after charges were filed. He told Illinois Times that he has been appointed to speak for relatives.

“This completely blindsided the family,” said Joby Crum, who is the boys basketball coach at Springfield High School. “I would consider us to be fairly intelligent people, and we had no idea what was going on. … We don’t want anyone hurt any further than what has happened, and our fear is that might have happened.”

Moore’s husband filed for divorce on Sept. 13, telling the court that he had no idea that his wife was in legal trouble or had stolen money until she was arrested at Memorial Medical Center in August, two days after going to the hospital with complaints of a blood clot instead of going to court, where she was due to be sentenced. The no-show prompted Judge Belz to issue an arrest warrant. In his divorce petition, Jeffrey Moore says he believes that his wife might have a gambling problem.

The first sign of trouble came on Nov. 8, 2011, when a Sangamon County sheriff’s detective was summoned to St. Johns Hospital to speak with Don Lerch, a former IDOT employee who was dying from lung cancer.

Lerch told the detective that Moore, whom he knew from work, had asked to borrow money in 2007 to help a relative who was in a squeeze. Don’t worry, Moore told Lerch: My aunt is about to die and I’ll repay you from my inheritance.

It started out with $6,500, and loans kept coming until Lerch had given Moore $287,000 over a two-year period, according to police reports. Lerch continually asked for repayment, but never got it. Eventually, Moore told Lerch that her aunt had died, but had given all her money to Moore’s mother. Moore told Lerch that her mother was nearly dead and that she’d repay him once she got her inheritance.

Shortly after Lerch spoke with police, Moore obtained power of attorney from Lanier, which gave her access to her aunt’s bank accounts. Using her aunt’s funds, Moore obtained a $246,000 cashier’s check to pay Lerch, who died two weeks before the check was written. Nonetheless, the check cleared, according to police files. It’s not clear how, nor is it clear whether the money ended up in Lerch’s estate.

Police next encountered Moore in March 2012, when Senior Services of Central Illinois reported that Moore had been draining her aunt’s bank accounts since obtaining power of attorney three months earlier. Lanier told police that she was “shocked and very upset” that her niece had been taking money. After being confronted by a sheriff’s detective who asked about questionable withdrawals from Lanier’s accounts, Moore said that she’d been good to her aunt.

“I want you to know, and I’ll put this on the record: There has been no one that has been any better to Ruth than my family and myself,” Moore told the detective. “I have done everything for the last 40 years plus, never ask for anything, OK? I have cared for her, I have taken her to doctor appointments. … I’m not making any excuses for myself, but I did everything I could for her. I don’t know what she’s saying, but I know what she said to me. (It) sounds terrible, but I have been good to her.”

Moore, however, wasn’t an exemplary caregiver for her mother, according to court files. In moving to appoint a guardian for Dormire after thefts from Lanier came to light, Kevin McDermott, Sangamon County public guardian, told the court that Moore’s mother, who was born in 1919, was found alone in her Moore’s home a half-dozen times between August of 2012 and February of 2013 by Senior Services of Central Illinois. Over the objection of Moore’s lawyer, the court appointed McDermott as Dormire’s temporary guardian. But Dormire kept living with her daughter, even after Moore was charged with stealing from her mother.

McDermott says the only other option was a nursing home, and there had never been an allegation of physical or emotional abuse.

“That being the case, she’s probably just as well off with her daughter, staying with her,” McDermott said.

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Woman who stole from elderly goes to prison

Boynton area couple take plea deal in elderly exploitation case

Cindy Heller
A suburban Boynton Beach couple has been placed on probation, barred from working with the elderly and ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution after being accused of stealing money from an 87-year-old woman who was suffering from severe dementia.

Franklin David Squires, 59, and Cindy Heller, 60, both pleaded guilty in their best interest Monday to charges of exploitation of an elderly person and money laundering in connection with money missing from bank accounts of their neighbor, 87-year-old Belle Winters.

Their best-interest pleas, which means they didn’t admit guilt, came as a jury was being selected to weigh the evidence against them. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes withheld adjudication before placing them both on probation for four years.

Howard Gale, who had travelled from Connecticut to testify against the couple in connection with his mother’s missing money, said he was disappointed they weren’t punished more severely. Winters died in 2015 shortly after Heller and Squires were charged.

“If it was up to me, I would have sent them to prison,” Gale said. “When you take advantage of an old person or a kid … you lose your right to live in society.”

But attorney Guy Fronstin, who represented Heller, said the couple didn’t steal money from Winters. The money was to reimburse Heller and Squires, who often dug into their own pockets to pay for Winters’ doctors visits, household expenses and utility bills. They even bought Winters a new refrigerator, he said.

A doctor told Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies that Winters suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was incapable of making decisions. But Fronstin said a bank official who quizzed Winters before she gave large sums of money to Heller and Squires was going to testify that the elderly woman knew exactly what she was doing. Winters wanted to repay the couple, he said.

As his mother’s health declined, Gale said he hired Heller, then Squires, who lived next door, to care for her. In January 2015, he discovered her bank accounts had been cleared out. Palm Beach County sheriff’s detectives said they traced the money to accounts held by Squires and Heller.

While Kastrenakes ordered both to make monthly payments to Winters’ estate, Gale said he doesn’t expect to ever recoup all of it. Fronstin agreed. Both Heller and Squires are disabled, he said.

Gale said his experience should serve as a warning to others whose elderly parents are unable to take care of themselves. “Put all of the assets in your name and don’t trust anybody,” he said.

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Boynton area couple take plea deal in elderly exploitation case

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio with Marti Oakley: Yolanda Bell: Medical kidnap..Anastasia’s condition worsens

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm..... CST … 8:00 pm EST

Sep 26, 2017 —It has been 219 days since my sister Anastasia Adams was abducted by Inova Fairfax Hospital and their designated guardians; 219 of her looking to me to help and save her from the injuries that have been inflicted upon her whether through alleged direct intent, inattention, or neglect; 219 days of wanting to be home sleeping in her own bed and my wanting her home where she will be safe and protected. I miss her smile, her mischievous side, and her laugh…yes she does laugh or at least she did prior before all of this and I pray she will again.

I had a rather interesting meeting today. There were a few red flags but only time will tell if it will bear fruit or if the items discussed will just be pencil whipped and tossed under the rug.

I saw Anastasia today, Thanks be to God. She is pale, more pale than she was last week. It appears she will be receiving another blood transfusion. If you recall she had to receive 2 pints of blood when she was hospitalized on September 6, 2017. Here it is barely 3 weeks later and she needs another one yet to my knowledge still no testing has been done to determine the source of the bleeding. Instead as I posted before the guardians would like to place her in hospice and increase her pain medication which we all know is code for…

The medical kidnapping is now turning to Hospice….palliative care….meaning “futility of care”.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

How to Make Probate Pay: The Ugly World of Human Predators

by Marti Oakley

The redistribution of wealth so often wailed about by the wealthy, whereby they believe if they have to pay taxes in direct proportion to income like every other taxpayer is forced to do, it is somehow because “some people just want a hand-out”, is a true diversion from the actual redistribution of wealth that occurs everyday in probate courts across the country.

The only thing of real value ever possessed by any country is its people. Through successive administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, our country has been robbed of its economic dominance, its ability to produce the best, the most and the most valuable commodities on the globe. The only thing left to buy, sell and trade of any value are the people themselves. And we the people have been commodified…turned into the last market for fast money to facilitate the greed of the few.

While the battle rages in the public as to whom is hellbent on destroying the traditional American family, the truth is, only the government has the power to do this. It is the government through policy, program creation, and bribery (funding) that families are ripped apart. Block grants to states facilitate the unconstitutional tribunal systems for which there is little to no oversight. This is intentional.

What is overwhelming most normal people is the vast number of sociopathic predators who make a parasitic living off assuming the identity of a living human being, then presenting themselves as that person and availing themselves of the benefits of someone elses life work. In legal circles they are called professional guardians. To the rest of the sane world they are predators; parasites on society at large.

Quoted from “The Dark Side..A law treatise on Judging” by Caroline Douglas J.D.

Page 307 para 4,5,6  (Continue Reading)

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How to Make Probate Pay: The Ugly World of Human Predators

Jury pool shrinks for attempted murder trial of former Sarasota deputy

SARASOTA — The pool of around 140 potential jurors who were interviewed Monday in the trial of a former Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputy charged with attempted murder, was reduced to around 65 who will return Tuesday for a final round of questions.

Jury selection was the beginning of the trial for Frank Bybee, 46, who is facing 18 felonies, including attempted murder, exploitation of the elderly, burglary, theft and kidnapping. He faces a life sentence if he is convicted of the first-degree felony charge for attempted murder.

His trial was postponed for 20 days after his attorney withdrew and a former Manatee County judge, John Lakin, joined the defense team causing a conflict of interest with 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Thomas Krug. Lakin is currently under investigation by the Florida Bar for actions taken while he was on the bench.

Krug recused himself from the case and Chief Judge Charles E. Williams asked the Florida Supreme Court to appoint a judge from outside of Sarasota County. Judge Donald H. Mason of Charlotte County was assigned to the case that was original scheduled to begin Sept. 5.

Assistant State Attorneys Karen Fraivillig and Art Jackman, and defense attorneys John Lakin and Ronald Kurpiers, must now choose 12 jurors and two alternates to sit on the jury.

The trial will likely begin Wednesday and is expected to last for two weeks.

Prospective jurors were questioned in two different sessions Monday, with attorneys deciding after each session whether hardships and established opinions produced by jurors were enough to strike them from the roster.

Many jurors raised their hands when asked if they had read or watched coverage of the Bybee case. Some said they already had preconceived notions of guilt and could not be impartial.

Among the reasons jurors gave for being unable to render a fair verdict were being caretakers themselves for disabled relatives, “personal feelings,” and one said a family member was convicted of murder and died in his jail cell. The statements came after jurors were informed that the case could take up to two weeks. Some expressed worries over financial hardships.

“I just could not do it,” said the female juror whose family member died in jail.

Another female juror said she decided she could not be fair after hearing the charges in the case, which involves an elderly woman.

A male juror said he is retired and takes care of his mother.

“I bathe her, toileted her, and fed her,” the male juror said. “You don’t want me on that trial.”

A juror in the afternoon session said she lost a lot of work during Hurricane Irma and is responsible for watching her grandchild.

The hurricane hardship excuse was the most common reasoning for many jurors, besides vacations, seeking to be exempt from the trial. Judge Donald H. Mason of Charlotte County said that nearly every juror present will suffer a financial inconvenience. He said it jury duty was part of living in America.

The attorneys released most of the jurors who cited hardships.

Several jurors felt they could be fair, but made the judge aware of possible issues that could arise during the trial.

“I wanted to let you know that my husband is a police officer,” a female juror said.

Two additional jurors just wanted the court to know they worked with the elderly, but felt “presumption of innocence” was not a problem.

Judge Mason and Fraivillig told the panel to be blunt with their answers.

Fraivillig asked the potential jurists if they would participate in the selection process. When they did not reply, she asked again, sparking a “yes” response.

“The most important thing for you to do is be candid with us,” Fraivillig said. “We are looking for jurors that have no preconceived notions or biases. We need you to be a blank slate.”

Two jurors said they had family members in law enforcement — one said they could be fair, the other said they might be tempted to side with a law enforcement officer.

A female juror said her uncle is a sheriff’s deputy being called as a witness. She said even if he was a plumber, she would trust her relative’s opinion.

Long after the potential jurors were asked if they had conflicts, two men said that they might have issues with “the system.”

“I have had dealings with State Attorney and sometimes I see how things go,” a male juror said. “Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t agree — because I am exposed to it, I’m probably not the best person.”

Both sides agreed to strike one female juror who told the court, “If I’m not getting paid, I will have an attitude.”

A male juror in the afternoon session asked whether he could make a fair judgement based on the charges he heard in the case said, “No, I can’t. I personally feel this guy is a low life.”

Another female juror says she works at the Sheriff’s Office and has been subjected to “negative opinions” about Bybee.

A male juror who said he was had to attend a paramedics test to become a firefighter was also excused. He received soft applause from the crowd when Judge Mason released him.

Bybee, an 18-year employee of the Sheriff’s Office, was arrested Jan. 23 after a 79-year-old woman called the Sheriff’s Office for help on Oct. 21.

Bybee, a patrol deputy, was sent to the call and took the woman to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where the former deputy prayed with her before he left, according to an investigation.

About two months later, the woman reported that Bybee had inserted himself into her personal life and had become too controlling. She asked the Sheriff’s Office for help in severing the relationship with the deputy.

Bybee was placed on administrative leave Jan. 9 and three days later, according to court documents, he went back to elderly woman’s home and attempted to kill her.

The Sheriff’s Office terminated his employment on Jan. 31 after enough information was discovered through an internal affairs investigation to sustain allegations of conduct unbecoming and conformance with laws, on top of criminal charges.

Bybee has been in custody at the Sarasota County Jail on a $380,120 bail.

Jury selection is expected to last until at least Tuesday.

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Jury pool shrinks for attempted murder trial of former Sarasota deputy

Caregiver sentenced for stealing from elderly woman

Berlicia Chambers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – A former caregiver will serve jail time and probation after pleading no contest to stealing thousands of dollars from an elderly woman with dementia.

Tallahassee police arrested 46-year-old Berlicia Chambers in May on elderly exploitation charges.

Court documents allege Chambers stole at least $14,800 over a four year span from a woman who she was hired to care for. Investigators say the 78-year-old victim had memory problems and showed signs of dementia.

Arrest records say Chambers used an ATM card to withdraw cash from the victim’s account, and used the victim’s credit card to pay for personal expenses, including her satellite TV and cell phone.

Chambers was sentenced to 120 days in jail, with 88 days credit for time already served. She was also ordered to serve 6 years of probation and pay restitution of $12,980.

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Caregiver sentenced for stealing from elderly woman

Thursday, September 28, 2017

JPMorgan Ordered to Pay More Than $4 Billion to Widow and Family

JPMorgan Chase & Co. was ordered by a Dallas jury to pay more than $4 billion in damages for mishandling the estate of a former American Airlines executive, but the verdict will probably be knocked down on appeal.

Jo Hopper and two stepchildren won the probate court verdict over claims that JPMorgan mismanaged the administration of the estate of Max Hopper, who was described as an airline technology innovator in a statement issued by the family’s law firm.

Large punitive damages verdicts like the one in the Hopper case are often scaled back because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they can’t be disproportionate to actual damages. In this case, the jury awarded less than $5 million in actual damages.

The bank said it acted in a professional manner and in good faith on Hopper’s estate and is “highly confident” the jury verdict won’t stand under Texas law.

“Clearly the award far exceeds any possible interpretation of Texas tort reform statutes,” Andrew Gray, a spokesman for the bank, said in an emailed statement. “There has been no judgment entered by the court based on this verdict.”

Max Hopper, who pioneered a reservation system for the airline, died in 2010 with assets of more than $19 million but without a will and testament, according to the statement. JPMorgan was hired as an administrator to divvy up the assets among family members.

Putters, Wine

“Instead of independently and impartially collecting and dividing the estate’s assets, the bank took years to release basic interests in art, home furnishings, jewelry, and notably, Mr. Hopper’s collection of 6,700 golf putters and 900 bottles of wine,” the family’s lawyers said in the statement. “Some of the interests in the assets were not released for more than five years.”

"The nation’s largest bank horribly mistreated me and this verdict provides protection to others from being mistreated by banks that think they’re too powerful to be held accountable," Jo Hopper said in the statement.

The court’s verdict form shows jurors awarded $8 billion in punitive damages against the bank. Alan Loewinsohn, attorney for Jo Hopper, said in an interview there may be duplication of some of the damage findings. As a result, he said, the punitive damage award could end up being “somewhere between $4 billion and $8 billion.”

Loewinsohn said he asked the jury to take into account the bank’s worth and asked them for $2 billion in punitive damages. “I believe they used that figure for the other parties in the case as well,” he said.

Fiduciary Duty

The jury found that the bank committed fraud, breached its fiduciary duty and broke a fee agreement, according to court papers.

At the lower end of that range, the jury’s award would erase almost two-thirds of the $6.6 billion profit that JPMorgan generated globally during the second quarter.
And it would rank high among the largest sanctions ever levied against the bank -- somewhere between the $2.6 billion it agreed to pay in 2014 for allegedly failing to stop Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and a $13 billion settlement it reached with government authorities in 2013 for its handling of mortgage bonds that fueled the financial crisis.
The verdict form shows jurors were advised to consider factors including “the net worth of JPMorgan.” Indeed, the bank has a stock market value of about $330 billion.

Full Article & Source:
JPMorgan Ordered to Pay More Than $4 Billion to Widow and Family

“The elders have the right to be heard and respected.”

Me Ann Soden
Instead of going through the courts to address issues of financial exploitation or abuse towards the elderly, Me Ann Soden offers mediation to simplify the process and make the elders a quality of life and the respect of their rights.

The lawyer and mediator licensed montreal is a pioneer in the area of elder Law. It opened in 2007, a legal clinic, a mobile pro bono (free services). She was passing through the area in mid-September, to represent an elderly person.

there are so much injustice to the elderly, this is terrible inhumanity in the face of them. For me it is a privilege and an honor to help them. They are grateful for

Me Ann Soden

“It serves the whole of the province and meeting with seniors in a familiar environment in order to make them more comfortable. It also allows us to check if the people around, often family, control or manipulate our client, stresses Me Soden.

“The elders do not know their rights and families. They do not abuse it, not always intentionally, but in some cases they give themselves the right to take the money, because they take care of the person,” laments the lawyer.

Rights violated

For Me Ann Soden, the cases of injustice and abuse against seniors are many. “The basis, the seniors have the right to be involved in the decisions, of having their wishes honored and to get respect, she said.

“The legal representatives think that as soon as a mandate in case of incapacity is certified, they can take all the decisions without regard to the wishes of their mother or their father. This is not the case, says Me Soden.

“The problem is that they choose depending on their values and decisions will often go against what it wants to the person. It is insulting to the latter.”

Simplified process

The legal clinic founded by Me Ann Soden, is designed to streamline the process in cases of abuse and allows you to avoid prosecution of fraud against the legal representatives, among others.

“The person may have memory loss, but is very capable of understanding that his nephew has neglected to pay for their accommodation. It assists in there, arrangements are made simple with something like a pre-authorized payment and revokes the power of attorney to the nephew, quotes the lawyer as an example.

“It involves the elder in all decisions. We made an assessment of the degree of skill, but also of the legal representative to determine whether he has a heart to help the elder, if he is honest or is a good manager, ” she adds.

“If there has been financial exploitation, are discussed in the presence of a banker, an accountant and a social worker. If the elder has money, we will hire someone to take care of its finances. Otherwise, it puts in place measures of protection. We are trying to recover the money, either directly or on the inheritance on the death of the customer,” mentions Me Soden.

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“The elders have the right to be heard and respected.”

Police looking for woman accused of stealing from elderly man

Lanique Elaine Pettus
A woman accused of stealing nearly $10,000 from an elderly man by falsifying his signature on checks and using his debit card to make rent and car payments is being sought by authorities, according to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office and court documents.

Lanique Elaine Pettus, 32, is wanted on one count of exploitation of an older person, 16 counts of forgery and six counts of fraudulent use of credit card; all felonies, according to a criminal complaint filed in a Henderson courthouse.

The 80-year-old man was victimized through “deception intimidation or undue influence” last year from Feb. 1 to March 31, according to the complaint.

The fraudulent checks were written for amounts ranging from $150 to $780, and the debit card was used for payments in the range of $268 to $888, totaling about $9,500, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors today released photos of Pettus allegedly cashing the fraudulent checks at valley banks.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the case was filed.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or

Full Article & Source:
Police looking for woman accused of stealing from elderly man

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lawyer heads to trial for $400G theft from clients

Gregory G. Stagliano
MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A Delaware County personal injury attorney waived arraignment Wednesday on charges that he stole more than $400,000 in settlement funds that were supposed to go to his clients.

Gregory G. Stagliano, 61, of the 500 block of Chaumont Drive in Radnor, is charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft of services, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property, all felonies of the third degree, in allegedly pocketing money that was supposed to go to nine different victims he represented in personal injury cases. Stagliano is additionally charged with unauthorized practice of law.

District Attorney Jack Whelan said when announcing the charges in May that investigators led by county Detective Michele Deery began looking at Stagliano in July 2016, based on a tip from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Investigators found a similar pattern of theft in each of the nine cases, with Stagliano allegedly depositing funds meant for clients into his own Santander Interest on Lawyers Trust Account for personal use.

In one case, Stagliano received $65,000 that was supposed to go to the victim in a car accident, according to a release from the District Attorney’s office. But prosecutors claim Stagliano paid the victim only $7,500, then warned her to stop contacting him seeking the balance.

“I wish you to cease your continued harassing communications in this regard and if you do not, we will go about it in a different way,” he allegedly told that victim.

An investigation by the Disciplinary Board revealed that Stagliano still owed that victim $40,000. Deery looked into the bank records and found just $133.77 remained in the account, according to the release.

“As prosecutors, we find the violation of his sworn fiduciary responsibly especially disturbing and Mr. Stagliano used this position in order to fund his own lavish lifestyle and pay his own personal debts with his clients’ money,” said Whelan. “Individuals should be able to trust their attorneys and abusing that trust is both unethical and in this case criminal. Today’s arrest of Mr. Stagliano should send a clear message that no one is above the law.”

A pretrial conference date was not immediately available. Anyone who believes they also have been victimized by Stagliano is urged to contact Deery at 610-891-8745.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer heads to trial for $400G theft from clients

Paramedic accused of taking selfies with incapacitated patients gets 6 months in jail

Christopher Wimmer
That'll teach him.

A Florida paramedic accused of taking selfies with incapacitated patients and sending them to a co-worker in a "selfie war" has been sentenced to jail time, according to the Panama City News Herald.

Christopher Wimmer has been sentenced to six months in jail and three years or probation, the outlet reported.

He'll also have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay court fees.

Okaloosa County Circuit Judge William Stone barred Wimmer, 35, from working as a paramedic while completing his sentence, the News Herald reported.

He's said to have told the judge he "deeply regretted" what he had done.

"When I see ambulances drive by every single time in Boston, it reminds me of the mistakes that I've made and how it affected everyone else that was involved," he said.

 "To all the patients and their families, I want you to know how sorry I am for the things that I did and the crimes I committed."

The embattled paramedic reportedly pleaded no contest to seven felony counts of interception and disclosure of oral communications.

Kayla Dubois and Wimmer took compromising photos of patients inside ambulances without their knowledge or consent.
Kayla Dubois and Wimmer took compromising photos of patients inside ambulances without their knowledge or consent.(Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office)
He also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of battery, which he was charged with after it came to light that he held open the eyelids of a sedated woman while posing for a photo.

One patient, Pamela Burman, told the paper she felt justice had not been served.

"For him not to get more jail time than he did is adding insult to injury," she said. "We were devalued as human beings … and he felt that he could laugh at us."

Wimmer and a female paramedic, Kayla Dubois, were investigated and charged in 2016 amid allegations that the pair were locked in an ongoing "selfie war," according to the News Herald.

The duo were believed to have photos of patients that were in their care inside ambulances on their cell phones.

An investigation revealed that 41 patients were photographed and/or recorded without their knowledge or consent.

Dubois was sentenced to two years of probation last month.

Wimmer reported to jail on Sept. 22 to start his sentence.

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Paramedic accused of taking selfies with incapacitated patients gets 6 months in jail

GBI makes arrest in disabled, elderly exploitation case, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made an arrest in a multi-county investigation of the exploitation of disabled or elderly adults.

Michelle Oliver, 39, was arrested Tuesday at her home in Forsyth after investigators with several agencies searched a personal care facility in Albany.

Oliver has been transported to the Dougherty County Jail and will have her first court appearance Thursday morning.

According to officials, the investigation began in July when neighbors told police that residents renting from Oliver were begging for food.

During the search at the homes at South Jackson Street and Flintside Drive, seven disabled or elderly adults were found. They were treated by EMS and Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and relocated to licensed facilities.

The apartments were condemned by Albany Code Enforcement because of the living conditions.

When officials searched Oliver's home in Forsyth and a residence connected to Oliver in Macon, seven additional elderly or disabled adults were found. They were all relocated.

Oliver is facing charges for exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults, elder persons, and residents (felony); neglect of a disabled adult, elder person, and resident (felony); and for operating an unlicensed personal care home (misdemeanor).

The investigation is still active and more charges against Oliver are expected. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the GBI office in Sylvester at 229-777-2080.

Full Article & Source:
GBI makes arrest in disabled, elderly exploitation case

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ambitious guardian changes proposed

A special commission on Friday unveiled a slate of ambitious proposals to strengthen oversight of the state’s ailing guardian and conservator system, which oversees finances and other major decisions for many of New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens.

The Supreme Court-appointed commission’s recommendations include hiring special court employees to hear grievances and requiring more accountability from the professionals appointed to make decisions for incapacitated people.

Other recommendations include requiring mediation or “facilitated family meetings” between feuding relatives in contested cases and creating an “adult protected person” oversight board to regulate professional guardians and conservators, who must be certified and bonded.

The initial set of proposals, due to the Supreme Court by Oct. 1, focus on ways to improve the professionalism of corporate guardians and conservators who handle a protected person’s finances by requiring bonding to protect an incapacitated person’s assets.

The state’s courts are responsible for appointing guardians and conservators for incapacitated individuals who can’t handle their own affairs. Often family members are appointed, but if there is no family or if family members are feuding, courts would appoint third-party professional guardians.

Dozens of families have come forward since a Journal series highlighted the problem, detailing concerns and potential deficiencies in the system, sparking the decision to make changes.

The commission also proposed requiring certification of all corporate guardians and conservators, presumably by a national guardianship agency, but backed off the idea of requiring a state license that an oversight board could revoke for malfeasance or misconduct.

Chaired by retired state District Judge Wendy York, the group was tasked in April with providing the Supreme Court with concrete ways to improve the system that, in an attempt to protect the incapacitated person, operates out of the public eye. All hearings are held in closed courtrooms, with few participants and with nearly all court records sealed.

Enhanced reporting

Typically, the only oversight of such cases has been the guardian’s or conservator’s filing of a several-page annual report to the judge each year, but the commission is recommending enhanced reporting to include bank and financial statements. Such filings would continue to be sealed.

Family members who have in the past been stymied by a lack of access to the courts to air complaints about a loved one’s treatment or a guardian or conservator’s conduct could file grievances with an independent court commissioner who would investigate and, if warranted, report to the judge in the case.

Under the recommendations, judges in appointing a guardian or conservator also would have to make specific findings of fact if they deviate from an incapacitated person’s advance directive, trust, will or estate plan.

“I feel like we’ve made some headway,” said Emily Darnell Nuñez, the sole layperson appointed to the commission. “We haven’t solved all the problems, but we have made a good first step.”

Last year, the Journal series “Who Guards the Guardians?” prominently featured the protracted guardianship/conservator case of Nuñez’s mother, Blair Darnell.

Secrecy issue

The thorny issue of secrecy and sequestration of such cases wasn’t addressed in the initial set of proposals but is scheduled to be discussed by the commission later this year, along with other possible recommendations for changes in state law.

A final commission report is expected by Jan. 1, ahead of a 30-day legislative session, and could include funding proposals for reforms if approved by the Supreme Court and endorsed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Over the past decade, there have been prior attempts at reform involving commissions appointed by the Legislature.

But state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said this marks the first time the state Supreme Court has taken the lead.

“The court, in bringing this to the forefront, has to do something. We (state legislators) have to do something; we can’t let this fester any longer,” said Ortiz y Pino, a commission member and longtime advocate for reform.

The 16 commission members include judges, attorneys, a psychologist, two appointees from Martinez’s administration and current and former legislators.

Although mostly disgruntled family members testified at monthly commission meetings, the commission’s work gathered momentum after July’s federal criminal indictment of top executives of a longtime Albuquerque-based corporate guardianship/conservatorship firm, Ayudando Guardians, for alleged embezzlement of millions in client funds.

Weeks earlier, state financial regulators announced they had found evidence of siphoning of $4 million of client trust funds at Desert State Life Management, which originally handled special trusts and guardianships for special needs clients and still retained some court-appointed conservator cases.

Just this week, State Auditor Tim Keller alerted state officials to an initial audit finding that New Mexico’s Office of Guardianship, which provides guardianship services to about 900 indigent clients through private contracts with guardianship firms, had lax internal controls, failed to investigate complaints about contractors and performed required annual compliance reviews on only two of 21 state-funded guardianship companies last year.

Ortiz y Pino said the recent revelations about guardianship companies “have reinstated the belief that this is a big mess.”

“The question will be: Is the state willing to spend the money to bring about these changes?”

Full Article & Source:
Ambitious guardian changes proposed

Protect nursing home residents, not bad facilities

When they get together in Tallahassee on Friday, the members of Florida’s nursing-home industry can either circle the wagons or lay the groundwork to take a deep, honest look at how best to confront one of the worst tragedies the industry has seen.

The Florida Health Care Association has called a “summit” to address emergency preparedness. This comes after eight, then nine and, as of Thursday, 10 elderly residents in a Hollywood Hills nursing home were left to suffer and die because they were in an stiflingly hot facility that lost electricity as Hurricane Irma blew through.

The industry is rattled by Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency rule requiring that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a generator and fuel to keep buildings cool for four days after losing power.

It’s the right call now, and the right call back in 2006, when a similar proposal died in the Legislature. The industry helped throw it under the bus. And look what happened.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills had a generator, but not to power air conditioning, which made it useless as the residents were overcome. It also had a hospital across the street. But nursing-home residents were never evacuated there, not until after the first deaths among them.

Nursing home officials, inexplicably, blame Scott for their troubles, whom they called for help as the situation got worse. The governor had given his cell-phone number to a group of nursing home owners during a pre-hurricane strategy session.

But in a state report, Scott put the blame where it squarely belongs: “This facility is failing to take responsibility for the fact that they delayed calling 911 and made the decision to not evacuate their patients to one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which is directly across the street.

“The more we learn about this, the more concerning this tragedy is.”

But zoom out from this one particular tragedy, and Floridians will find that, big picture, the Scott administration as well as industry muscle continue to give cover to nursing homes that shouldn’t be in business.

Time and again, the Legislature and the governor have failed to insist that nursing homes and ALFs are responsible actors in caring for sick and vulnerable Floridians. The failed generator legislation is but one example. Pushback against stringent state monitoring is another.

The Herald now reports that nursing home inspection results are heavily censored, blacking out unpleasant findings such as “bruises,” “substance,” and “accidentally.” This means that families looking for a safe facility for an elderly loved one can’t get a full accounting; and troubled families who suspect all is not well in a nursing home are left with more questions than answers — and little recourse.

This is wrong, especially when the state tries to hide behind the federal government’s skirts, alleging that its rules mandate keeping sensitive information from the public. The truth is, the Herald reports, the state must submit inspection reports to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which are available for public scrutiny — uncensored.

The people of this state deserve better than this. The discussion at Friday’s summit can’t stop at generators. Industry leaders must far more discussion about meeting the needs of such vulnerable residents. Why wait for another tragedy?

Full Article & Source:
Protect nursing home residents, not bad facilities

Son pleads guilty to his role in exploiting mother's estate for $340,000

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. — Michael Scott Christie, 63, of Lame Deer, Montana, pleaded guilty Monday in Chippewa County District Court to two felony charges of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult for his role in taking $340,000 from the estate of his mother.

A pre-sentence investigation was ordered and sentencing scheduled for Oct. 31.

Christie's wife, Martina Annette Christie, 61, faces 12 felony charges for alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. She made her first court appearance earlier this month.

The charges allege that the couple exploited $340,000 from the estate of Michael Christie's mother.

They allegedly used more than $40,000 of her financial resources for their own lifestyles. Court documents also allege that Michael Christie transferred two parcels of Chippewa County farmland worth a combined $300,000 to Martina Christie for consideration of less than $500.

Michael Christie's mother died in February 2015.

Prior to that, the Clarkfield woman was evicted from the Clarkfield Care Center for non-payment in late 2014 and accumulated over $72,000 in expenses.

The criminal complaint says Michael and Martina Christie paid the Care Center only $200 during that period, while they spent over $6,000 on clothing for themselves and wrote themselves $6,000 worth of checks.

Full Article & Source:
Son pleads guilty to his role in exploiting mother's estate for $340,000

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio with Marti Oakley: Abolishing the Probate System & Family Courts

5:00 pm PST … 6:00 pm MST … 7:00 pm CST … 8:00 pm EST
This evening we have three guests:

Luanne Fleming & Robin Astin F.A.C.E.U.S.

Brian Kinter: Judicial Accountability Movement (JAM)

We will be discussing the demand to end the probate system in all its forms, including family courts, guardianship/conservator ship, and returning to a system of law where our rights are preserved and protected.



We can no longer allow these unconstitutional administrative tribunals to destroy families and steal the lives of their victims.

We can no longer allow the judiciary to turn a blind eye to the destruction of families and individuals, including children taking place every day across the country. All for profit.


LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Retaliation allegations persist over the years in DDSN system

by Tim Smith

MOORESVILLE, North Carolina – Brenda Bryant wept as she described the pain of living for five years away from her family and friends in South Carolina.

It was April of 2012 when she was arrested during a license check in Asheville. That's when she said she learned that a bench warrant had been issued for her arrest because she said she did not attend a hearing in Greenville related to her lawsuit against various officials and agencies concerning the care of her disabled daughter.

Officials in Asheville refused to extradite her and Bryant refused to return to South Carolina and jail there, believing a judge erred by asking her to pay $10,000 for a guardian ad litem’s fees that Bryant felt had not adequately protected her daughter.

“I have no regrets,” she said in a hotel near Mooresville earlier this year. “I have fought for (my daughter) and I would do it all over again. My security doesn’t mean as much to me as knowing she is safe.”

Bryant believes what happened to her is the result of retaliation, in part for her repeated reporting allegations of abuse and maltreatment of her intellectually disabled daughter when she lived in a group home years ago in Greenville County and in Columbia.

She is not alone. In legislative hearings, courtrooms, in affidavits and court documents, over the past decade various people have alleged retaliation in the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs system after reporting allegations, filing lawsuits, contesting agency policies or speaking out.

“DDSN is known for taking reprisals against providers, family members disability advocacy organizations, and commissioners who speak out against them,” Deborah McPherson, a former commissioner for the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, advocate and mother of a disabled daughter, alleged to House lawmakers in March.

But McPherson admits that proving retaliation is difficult, at best.  In fact, despite multiple allegations that surfaced in lawsuits or trials, The Greenville News could not find any judgements upholding a finding of retaliation.

"I personally know of retaliation that has been taken against DDSN providers, private  and parents," McPherson said. "It seems like none of it sticks. How many attorneys are willing to take these cases? And how many families can afford to pay the legal cost, and how many families have the energy to have these court cases drug out for years?

"So when you file a lawsuit you're going against attorneys paid by the state Insurance Reserve Fund and they've got an unlimited account," she said. "It's like David going against Goliath with five stones."

DDSN Chairwoman Eva Ravenel said she is not aware of any retaliation incidents, which she said is prohibited by the agency.

"Some people have called me but I haven't seen it," she said.

DDSN Executive Director Beverly Buscemi, hired to her post in 2009, said earlier this year that she was not aware of any during her tenure, either.

“We understand that these services are very, very important to families,” she said. “And therefore they would be very fearful that if they had constructive criticism they wouldn’t want that to negatively impact their services. The fear of that in and of itself tells you something.”

But some have alleged it is more than just fear.

Bernice Montgomery worked for the Sumter County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs when she said a registered sex offender was hired by the agency.

She alleged in a lawsuit in 2006 in the Sumter County Court of Common Pleas that she had questioned the executive director then about the hiring of the man. Holder dismissed the concern, she alleged, saying the employee had convinced him that he was unjustly accused.

But the next day, Montgomery alleged in her suit, Holder told her the employee had sexually assaulted a special needs client, who is identified in the suit as Sally Doe.

Montgomery said in her lawsuit that she informed the board of the incident but they took no action. The employee was not charged by police, according to the suit.

In 2006, Montgomery was terminated from her position, she alleged in her suit, after she complained to the board to complain about what she alleged was a campaign of harassment and retaliation due to her opposition to the sex offender.

Her suit was dismissed, though Montgomery testified before a Senate committee in 2015 that she had received a settlement in the matter.

Lennie Mullis, a former director of the Lancaster County Disabilities and Special Needs Board who worked for 30 years as an independent provider of behavioral health services for the severely disabled, also alleged retaliation.

In an affidavit filed earlier this year in a state administrative appeal that also is the subject of a federal lawsuit, Mullis alleges that DDSN and the Department of Health and Human Services – the state’s Medicaid agency – twice attempted to terminate her certification but were reversed by the state administrative law court after she hired a lawyer.

“I have voluntarily withdrawn from the DDSN behavior supports provider list, because of the constant threat of retaliation from DDSN when I advocate for the services my consumers need,” she said in the sworn statement. “There is a pervasive and legitimate fear amongst families and providers that DDSN will retaliate if their illegal practices are challenged.”

According to her sworn statement, before a service coordinator for one of her clients disappeared, Mullis alleged, she told her she was being targeted and set up for ‘Medicaid fraud’ after she testified on behalf of the consumer and advocated for him to receive the hours his physician ordered.

His services had been reduced, Mullis said, after his mother filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.

She said she also is personally familiar with cases where DDSN has retaliated against families who complain or file an appeal.

“In some cases, DDSN has accused the parent or family member of abusing or neglecting the waiver participant to gain advantage in legal actions,” she said in her affidavit.

In another case, DDSN involuntarily committed an individual, Mullis’ affidavit states, after his mother complained that her son was being physically abused in a DDSN-funded facility that was later found by the state’s health agency and federal officials to be placing residents in “immediate jeopardy.”

DDSN moved the individual to a different facility, where he was again physically abused and sexually assaulted, but DDSN continued “to obstruct his mother’s attempts to remove him and bring him home,” Mullis alleged.

“After he returned home, this individual never suffered the ‘unexplained’ injuries which were common when he was involuntarily placed in a DDSN facility,” Mullis stated in the affidavit.

Mullis testified for the same plaintiff in the federal court case, which is now on appeal.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson ruled against the plaintiffs this summer and allegations of retaliation in the lawsuit. He said the plaintiffs mentioned retaliation six times in their second amended complaint but not once in the initial trial.

"This court has attempted to address this issue on the merits and allowed plaintiffs to present evidence in support of their retaliation claims; however, this court finds plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof in this case," he wrote in his order. 

Carolyn Myers of Camden has been a board member of the Kershaw County Disabilities and Special Needs board for 20 years and is the mother of a disabled child.

She said families are “scared to death of losing their services” so they do not speak out to complain.

“They know what will happen, and it has happened to several,” she said.

Myers said when she was contacting families online about organizing advocacy, she received a warning from another parent.

“She said, 'If they don't like you and you are doing something they don't want you to do, they're going to retaliate by taking services away or denying them.'" Myers said. "And that followed shortly after she told me that."

She said her son was denied services sometime between 2011 and 2013 and believes that denial was tied to her advocacy. 

“I probably couldn’t prove it in a court of law but it certainly looks very suspicious,” she said. “I finally gave up on the system and my son is now in a nursing home close to me.”

Bryant had been tangling with the system for years by the time a Greenville judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest.

In 1995, her daughter, whom according to court records had the intellectual maturity of a 7 to 10-year-old, left her group home after everyone inside was asleep and got into a car with two other males and a female who was later dropped off, according to the ruling. One or both of the men later had sex with her. According to the ruling, she initially said she had been raped but later testified she had been talked into the sex.

She contracted herpes at some point related to her sexual encounters while at the home, according to the ruling.

A judge ruled with DDSN and the Babcock Center but the Supreme Court later reversed that decision.

Babcock Center eventually settled the case for $250,000, according to court records. DDSN paid $50,000 in the case.

Bryant said she moved her daughter to a Greenville County group home where she said problems eventually arose. Her daughter told her she was being fondled at a workshop and that she and another female had complained but nothing had been done.

Bryant complained, and an investigation eventually verified the allegation, she said.

In 2008, Associate Probate Judge Edward Sauvain in Greenville ordered Bryant be replaced as guardian after a series of complaints by a guardian ad litem alleging Bryant was uncooperative and had interfered in her daughter's medical care, records show. Bryant said she did not want her daughter taking a medicine she said a doctor told her could harm her.

"While I have substantial concerns about some of the actions of the (Greenville County DSN) Board and DDSN, I find that those agencies were not the motivators for filing this action to remove Mrs. Bryant," he wrote. "Even if they had been the motivators, I would reach the same result."

Bryant was reinstated as guardian in in 2009.

In September of 2011, Sauvain found Bryant in contempt of court and ordered her to jail for six months if she did not pay $10,338 to a former guardian that Bryant had refused to pay on principle, Sauvain ruled. According to court records, Bryant was jailed on the contempt charge and then paid the fees.

By April 2012, Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller had ordered Bryant to pay almost $9,000 in legal fees for the guardian. He then issued a bench warrant that Bryant be jailed for contempt but said she could be released once the bill was paid.

Bryant said she has not seen her daughter in five years, though she has talked to her by phone.

She says she believes her troubles stem from her complaints about her daughter’s care. Her husband has appeared at legislative hearings and testified that what has happened amounts to retaliation.

Bryant said she should not have had a bench warrant issued for her arrest because the case at the time was under appeal. The judge has denied her requests recently to dismiss the bench warrant.

Bryant said she does not have $10,000 to pay anyone’s fees. She said after her awful experience at the Greenville County Detention Center, she will not return to jail again.

“Is it easy to run? No,” she said, weeping. “You can’t look at anything you’ve had in your life, my pictures, my children, even (my daughter), a child I’ve cared for and fought for all my life. No one can ever say I didn’t fight for her.

"I’m so at peace about that," she said. "I know God’s given me the strength to fight for her. I’ve only done what any other good mother would do.”

Full Article & Source:

Who guards the guardians? State auditor says agency fails to oversee firms

State Auditor Tim Keller’s office on Thursday issued an “emergency risk” advisory for the state Office of Guardianship based on an initial review that showed the agency has failed to properly oversee more than 20 private companies that are paid by the state to provide guardian services for vulnerable, indigent New Mexicans.

The Guardianship Office, which has about 900 clients, is responsible for monitoring and enforcing state contracts with private firms appointed by the courts to make the legal and other decisions for people deemed incapacitated through disability.

Keller’s office launched an audit of contract guardianship firms at the request of state District Judge Shannon Bacon of Albuquerque after one of the Office of Guardianship’s contractors, Ayudando Guardians, and two company executives were indicted in July on federal charges related to the alleged embezzlement of up to $4 million in client funds.

“The OSA’s (Office of State Auditor) initial fact-finding revealed a widespread failure of the Office of Guardianship to oversee contract guardians,” Keller said in a letter Thursday to officials with the state Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, which oversees the Guardianship Office.

“In short, although the courts and our citizens rely on the Office of Guardianship to protect against fraud and abuse by contract guardians, the Office has few systems in place or resources to discharge that duty,” the letter said.

For example, the office monitored only two of 21 guardianship contracts last fiscal year, the letter said. The office didn’t address complaints about contract guardians and didn’t have formal approved policies for contract guardians for the last fiscal year.

Required periodic reporting by contract guardians was irregular, and the office failed to follow up with those companies that hadn’t reported.

“Without these basic systems in place, the Office could not have been monitoring the accuracy of billing or identifying early signs of the types of fraud and abuse that led to the Ayudando indictments,” the letter said.

Since the indictment, the U.S. Marshals Service has closed the Albuquerque-based Ayudando Guardians. Ayudando was paid more than $650,000 a year under its state contract but also had private-pay clients and disbursed federal veterans’ and Social Security benefits to other clients.

The letter said that the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council “suggests that a severe lack of resources and capabilities are contributing to the problems at the Office of Guardianship. Monitoring efforts have been hampered by a lack of adequate staffing, expertise and travel budget.”

John Block III, executive director of the disabilities council, didn’t return a Journal request for an interview Thursday.

But in August, Block told the Journal the Office of Guardianship had two compliance officers to monitor the cases of about 900 clients. To be eligible, clients cannot earn more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

An estimated 100 people were on a waiting list for guardianship services, Block said.

With a $6.4 million annual budget, Block told the Journal, “We do the best we can to stretch the funding as much as we can.”

Aside from the Guardianship Office, the only other oversight of the 900 state guardianship clients is through the courts, which require a confidential annual report from each guardian.

The state’s guardian and conservator system has been under study by a state Supreme Court commission that is set to unveil its initial recommendations for reform at a meeting today.

During a May commission meeting, then-Ayudando Chief Financial Officer Sharon Moore testified that her agency is subject to regular audits by the Office of Guardianship.

But Block later told the Journal the audits aren’t financial, but are technical reviews to ensure proper documentation of client information.

Moore and Ayudando President Susan Harris are accused of siphoning client funds to finance a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their families. They have pleaded not guilty.

Keller’s letter to Block, which was forwarded to the state Attorney General, legislative leaders and the state Department of Finance and Administration, was obtained by the Journal.

The letter recommended that the Guardianship Office “immediately be subject to more thorough oversight and management. This may necessitate bringing in staff on loan from other agencies or a contracted firm to assist with the Office of Guardianship’s day-to-day work and to address the backlog of unresolved complaints and irregular reporting.”

It may also require additional funding on an emergency basis or through a budget transfer, Keller wrote.

He also recommended that, in advance of the legislative session that starts in January, the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez consider “possible enhancement, revision or restructuring” of the office and its responsibilities, including evaluating whether the planning council is the appropriate agency to oversee the Guardianship Office. Up until 2003, the Guardianship Office was overseen by the Attorney General’s Office.

Full Article & Source:
Who guards the guardians? State auditor says agency fails to oversee firms

Katrina Nursing Home Owners Acquitted

Salvador and Mabel Mangano
The owners of a nursing home where 35 patients died after Hurricane Katrina were acquitted Friday of negligent homicide and cruelty charges for not evacuating the facility as the storm approached.

The jury took about four hours to acquit Sal and Mabel Mangano, the husband-and-wife owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, just outside of New Orleans.

"I can't tell you how good this feels, how good those people are," Mabel Mangano said outside the courthouse in St. Francisville, the town about 112 northwest of New Orleans where the trial was moved. "This has been a very rough road."

They had faced 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty to the elderly or infirm after the patients drowned — some in their beds — when the monster hurricane swept through the area in 2005.

Judge Jerome Winsberg asked the defendants to stand when the verdicts were read. When Mabel Mangano did so, she buried her face in her husband's shoulder.

Afterward, the Manganos sat back down and hugged each other. Their daughter, Tammy White, sobbed quietly.

"I'm very gratified that the two-year ordeal they've been through is finally over," defense attorney John Reed said.

The victims' family and friends — all wearing black, some with buttons with a picture of the person who died at St. Rita's — sat stoically. None cried.

Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry read a statement from his boss, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti: "I feel for the victims of this tragedy, and my heart goes out to them. I hope they will be able to put this behind them."

Yolanda Hubert's 72-year-old mother, Zerelda Delatte, died when the home flooded; her aunt, Gilda Raklen, 90, survived. Hubert said she traveled from Texas to attend the trial.

"The jury may not have found them guilty, but our savior says they are. When they face our maker, they'll have to answer then," she said. "They still have never said they were sorry. They haven't said 'I'm sorry I let your mother drown like a rat.' They're guilty as hell," she said.

The prosecution maintained that the Manganos should have heeded warnings and evacuated before the massive storm roared ashore. Failing to do so led directly to the patients' death and suffering, prosecutor Paul Knight had argued.

The defense argued that the Manganos had safely sheltered in their brick facility for 20 years, and that if the levees had not broken, the home would have been safe.

The trial lasted three weeks. The prosecution put on 40 witnesses, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who testified that she left the decision on mandatory evacuations to local officials. St. Bernard Parish never called a mandatory evacuation.

The defense featured five people and took just three days. Neither defendant testified.

The defense was prohibited from using testimony or documents showing that the majority of nursing homes in the path of the storm

36 of 57 — did not evacuate, or that there were deaths at other homes, including 22 at a New Orleans nursing home.

The prosecution, however, did show that three other nursing homes in St. Bernard evacuated.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the Manganos by patients injured at the nursing home and the families of people who died there.

The couple were the only people in Louisiana to face criminal charges stemming directly from Hurricane Katrina, and jurors said that played a key role in their decision.

"We talked about that," said juror Kim Maxwell, 46. "There were a lot of mistakes made, and it should have been a lot of people answering for it. So why just these two people?"

Said juror Michael Cavalier, 39: "The state was responsible for the safety of nursing home residents. They didn't do what they should have. They didn't make the decisions they should have. So when the Manganos made their decision, why should they try to crucify them for it? That isn't right."

Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola University's College of Law in New Orleans, said the verdict was not surprising, "given the state was trying to characterize as gross negligence something that tens of thousands of others in south Louisiana did."

"To say what they did was grossly different than what others did, it really raised the question of, 'Why were the Manganos singled out?"' he said.

The only other criminal charges connected to Katrina deaths are against six former or current New Orleans police officers who face murder or attempted murder counts from a shooting after the storm. But the case is not tied to flooding or a direct impact of Katrina.

At one time, Foti's office said investigations into scores of patient deaths at nursing homes and hospitals during and after Katrina were likely to lead to more arrests. Six hospitals and 13 nursing homes in Louisiana were investigated. At least 140 patients died in the storm and its aftermath.

No fewer than 34 people died at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans after the hurricane, but three women arrested by the attorney general's office will not stand trial. A grand jury refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou. Charges against nurses Lori Budo and Cheri Landry were dropped.

Twenty-two people died at Lafon Nursing Home, run by nuns of the Holy Family order in eastern New Orleans. Residents were moved to the second floor as flooding began, but the home lost electricity. Rescuers did not arrive at Lafon until days later amid a heat wave that had gripped the city.

Foti investigated the deaths at Memorial Medical Center, St. Rita's and LaFon. The results of the LaFon investigation were turned over to the New Orleans district attorney a year ago, but no action has been taken. A spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the case remains under investigation.

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Katrina Nursing Home Owners Acquitted