Saturday, November 11, 2017

98-Year-Old Aleen Cooper Has Written Almost 7,000 Letters to Soldiers in Six Years

This 98-year-old grandmother doesn’t just write birthday cards to family members – she also writes thousands of letters to military members who are deployed overseas.

Aileen Cooper started writing to service members sometime after WWII. In the past six years alone, the senior has written almost 7,000 letters.

All of her notes are four pages long, and all of them are different from one other. For those of you who aren’t math buffs, that’s about 28,000 pages of thoughtful, individualized writing.

Though her hand must cramp up from time to time, Aileen has made it abundantly clear that she is going to keep writing for as long as she possibly can.

Full Article and Source:
98-Year-Old Has Written Almost 7,000 Letters to Soldiers in Six Years

Bring Kip Home

Source: Bring Kip Home

Man arrested for numerous financial crimes, exploiting the elderly, GA News Weather & Sports
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – A man has been arrested on numerous counts of financial card theft, identity fraud, and financial exploitation of the elderly.

On Monday, The Columbus Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit arrested 40-year-old Jeremy Pritchett and charged him with 17 counts of financial transaction card theft, 14 counts of identity fraud, and 10 counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person.

An investigation conducted revealed 14 victims in this case. The majority of the victims were over the age of 65 and were living on a fixed income.

Columbus Police say the two-month investigation began in September when a woman who identified herself as a member of Hurricane Irma evacuees seeking shelter in Columbus, visited the Wells Fargo bank on 13th Street in Uptown Columbus.

Police say the woman asked for her savings account balance, listed at $90,000, but explained Pritchett was said to be the only person who could give her the account statement. Further investigation led police to the discovery of the alleged crimes connected to Pritchett.

We spoke to Financial Managing Partner Tyler Townsend, of Townsend Wealth Management, who says people should always be cautious with their finances and credit.

"We need to think our information is already out there," says Townsend. "What that means is we need to freeze our credit now. That way no one can take a loan in your name."

Pritchett will make his first Recorder’s Court hearing on November 9 at 9 a.m. ET.

Full Article & Source:
Man arrested for numerous financial crimes, exploiting the elderly

Friday, November 10, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio with Marti Oakley: Tanya Hathaway and Injustice in Oklahoma Exposed

Join us this evening (at 7 central time) as Tanya Hathaway and Mike Volpe discuss the ongoing abuses of the judicial system in Oklahoma.

Mike Volpe is a nationally recognized journalist and reporter who has written and extensively documented the corruption of the courts and how this corruption adversely affects families and individuals.

Tanya Hathaway is an activist, writer and public speaker about the injustices in Oklahoma. Her page is linked below:

Injustice in Oklahoma Exposed is exposing the corruption in the Oklahoma judicial system.

Tanya will relate the corruption in her own case for openers, and then we will move on to these families:

Tonight, we visit with three families

1st guest / Kelly Kimble..mother of Goody Romeo McNeary

2nd guest./ Donna Hughes...mother of Tracie Hughes

3rd guest / Lisa Knight...mother of now 8 yr old Sarah Knight

This will be the first in a series of expose's in the Oklahoma judicial system.

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Attorney steals millions, severely disabled San Antonio woman among the victims

Attorney steals millions, severely disabled San Antonio woman among the victims
SAN ANTONIO — Life for 30-year-old Sharona Dagani has never been easy.

She was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy from medical mistakes made when she was born. By the age of 12, she beat cancer. She's had double-eye and hip surgeries.

She has always been a fighter.

The most recent obstacle she has had to overcome has possibly been the hardest to accept.

Dagani was robbed of her life savings, a house and her remaining money from a $2 million medical malpractice settlement. The major theft is at this hands of her former attorney Robert Graham.

"He took everything that I had. He took all my finances and left me with absolutely nothing," said Dagani.

Her neurological disorder affects her ability to move and speak. She also needs speech, physical and occupational therapy. The money would provide care for her special needs throughout her life.

It was in a special needs trust fund that Graham was trusted to handle.

In September, Graham pleaded guilty to several counts of major theft, exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable person and destroying evidence.

The once-trusted, Las Vegas lawyer is believed to have embezzled more than $17 million. Officials believe he had more than 50 victims.

His victims were among the most vulnerable of clients; disabled, elderly, special needs, and even orphans.

"Like why me? First, it was medical malpractice when I was born. Now, it's legal malpractice," said Dagani.

As part of his plea deal agreement, restitution was ordered but the Clark County District Attorney's office believes it's unlikely anyone will get their money... leaving Sharona helpless.

"How could he do this to people?," said Dagani.

Medicaid only covers 51 hours of at-home care per week but Sharona needs 24-hour help. She relies on her caregivers from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to bed.

Without her money, she cannot afford the basic necessities of life.

"I'm really struggling financially. I can barely afford rent, let alone power, water," said Dagani.

Sharona's strong faith in God has helped her keep going.

If you would like to help Sharona, you can donate here.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney steals millions, severely disabled San Antonio woman among the victims

The Case Against Katherine Kealoha Just Keeps Getting Worse

When the FBI arrested deputy prosecuting attorney Katherine Kealoha last month, one of the more troubling allegations was that Kealoha stole almost $150,000 from two children for whom she was serving as guardian and trustee.

Now allegations about the way Kealoha handled the trust of Ransen and Ariana Taito have gotten worse.

In documents filed Friday, the federal government says that Kealoha not only took the money, but also leaned on a witness in the guardianship case to help her cover it up.

An FBI report says Katherine Kealoha, a Honolulu deputy prosecuting 
attorney, asked a potential witness to call her if he was subpoenaed by
a grand jury investigating Kealoha.

The Taitos’ attorney declined to discuss the newly filed documents, but said the Taitos would have had nothing to gain by helping cover up the wrongdoing.  Their only motive, he said, would have been to help Kealoha, who had been their guardian when they were children — after their father had died and during a time when their mother was often absent.

“There’s always concerns about whether they committed perjury before the grand jury,” said Michael Green, a well-known criminal defense attorney now representing the Taitos.

“If they did, they certainly didn’t benefit from it, if someone took their money,” Green said.

So, he asked, “Why did they do that? Who would have asked them to do that?”

One person who might have benefited, he said, was Kealoha.

And, he said, “She was basically all they had.”

Honolulu attorney Michael Green said his clients, Ransen and Ariana
Taito, would have had nothing to gain personally by lying to a grand jury.

Kealoha, and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, have pleaded not guilty to all of the federal charges filed against them.

Her attorneys, Myles Breiner and Kevin Sumida, did not return calls for comment. However, Sumida has denied Kealoha took money from the Taitos and has said the Taitos testified to that under oath.
“The allegations in the indictment concerning the guardianship matter are shockingly inaccurate,” he told KHON’s “Always Investigating” last month.

Sumida repeated the assertion in a motion filed Tuesday, writing, “as the grand jury transcripts will undoubtedly confirm, both of the then-minor children, who are now adults, testified that they did in fact receive their funds, that they signed receipts for the funds, and that bank records will confirm receipt of such funds.”

Sumida also took aim at allegations in the indictment that said Kealoha bilked her uncle and grandmother, Gerard and Florence Puana, out of tens of thousands of dollars as part of a reverse mortgage and investment scheme. He said the accusations were already found to be untrue when a civil jury sided with Kealoha in a lawsuit filed against her by the Puanas.

He said, “the jury was so disgusted with the claims made against Katherine Kealoha that they had no difficulty awarding her over $600,000 in damages, including over $200,000 in punitive damages against the uncle.”

Sumida added that while Kealoha didn’t seek punitive damages against her grandmother, who is now 98, the elder Puana lost on every claim and was ordered to pay $80,448 in Kealoha’s attorney’s fees. The Puanas are appealing the decision.

But Sumida’s motion did not directly address the FBI report contained in the government’s motion filed this week concerning the guardianship case.

At the time he testified, Ransen was represented by Jacob Delaplane, a former deputy prosecuting attorney who worked with Kealoha in the career criminal division of the prosecutor’s office.

At the center of the new allegation is a document that Kealoha filed in the Taitos’ state guardianship case, which appears to clear her of stealing money from Ransen Taito. The document appears to be a statement, filed by Kealoha, in which Ransen approved a final accounting saying Ransen had gotten about $84,000 from his trust account after he turned 18. The final accounting also was filed by Kealoha.

Federal prosecutors now say the approval document was forged.

An FBI report filed as an exhibit on Friday describes an interview between the FBI and someone described as “Witness 1.” According to the report, Witness 1 told agents during an April 2017 interview that Kealoha called him for a private meeting in June 2016 during which she showed him the approval statement with his forged signature.

The government’s version of the document has redacted the names of two apparent witnesses, which appear in an unredacted version of the document filed in the state guardianship case: Bradley Ito and Elson Honda. They could not be reached for comment and it’s unclear exactly what their relationship is to Taito or Kealoha but they are on the document as witnesses.

According to the report, Kealoha told Witness 1 — apparently Ito or Honda — she didn’t know how his signature had gotten on the document or who had signed it. Kealoha told Witness 1 that if he received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury he should contact her and she would provide an attorney.

According to the FBI report, Witness 1 saw Kealoha’s comment as self-serving. The report quotes Witness 1 as saying he “felt that he has always been a good friend to KEALOHA, but she doesn’t always reciprocate” and that “she only answers (his) calls when it is convenient for her or when she wants something from him.”

Witness 1 did not tell Kealoha when he received the subpoena, the FBI report says.

It’s not clear what relationship Kealoha had with the Taitos before she became their guardian in 2004.

The Taitos’ maternal grandmother, Marlene Drew, said in an interview that she wasn’t aware of a connection, although Ransen and Ariana lived with her. She added that she was often kept “in the dark” about her grandchildren’s affairs.

What is clear is that Kealoha has been in the Taitos’ lives for years, at least since Ransen was 12 years old and Ariana 10. At that time, the Taitos had come into about $167,000 from a medical malpractice claim their father, Pakini, had brought against Kaiser hospital. Paikini and his wife, Lauren, were estranged and Pakini was sick with cancer, Drew told Civil Beat in a previous interview.

Kealoha, who had worked on the malpractice matter as a private attorney, was appointed guardian by a state circuit court in Honolulu. The court ordered the money to be put into trust accounts for Ransen and Ariana. The court also ordered the trust account to require signatures from Kealoha and her co-counsel, Jim Bickerton, in order to withdraw funds.

Federal prosecutors say this document, which appears to clear Katherine
Kealoha of misappropriating money from a trust fund, includes a forged 
But the federal government alleges Kealoha didn’t do that. According to the federal indictment, she and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, used the funds as their own.

Specifically, the indictment alleges the Kealohas used the trust accounts as collateral for approximately $1.2 million in loans, including about $105,000 in personal loans and a $1.1 million home refinancing.

It also says they misappropriated almost $150,000 from the accounts.

Ransen declined to comment, saying he and Ariana have a good lawyer and “I don’t want to jeopardize anything.” Ariana did not respond to an interview request.

Full Article & Source:
The Case Against Katherine Kealoha Just Keeps Getting Worse

Champaign man who swindled elderly woman in his care gets 7 years

Mark A. Stites
URBANA — A rural Champaign man who admitted he stole thousands of dollars from an elderly woman who was his neighbor as he grew up is headed to prison for seven years.

Judge Heidi Ladd also ordered Mark Stites, 64, to repay $5,000.01 to the estate of the woman from whom he stole over a period of years while he acted as her caretaker, power of attorney and tax preparer.

"He siphoned funds from a dependent, vulnerable, helpless, victim. He knew not to commingle the funds. He was draining her assets to the point she had to go on public aid," said Ladd.

Stites pleaded guilty in May to financial exploitation of a person over 80, admitting that between June 2007 and February 2013, he withdrew more than $5,000 from two bank accounts belonging to the woman and used it fraudulently.

The woman was 96 when she died in 2016, just three months after the criminal charges had been filed against Stites, and three years after the financial improprieties first came to light.

The veteran jurist expressed frustration that the paper trail presented her by Assistant State's Attorney Joel Fletcher and defense attorney Blake Weaver of Urbana could not paint a clear picture of what happened to the money that once belonged to the elderly widow who spent her last days in the Champaign County Nursing Home supported by taxpayers.

Ladd heard testimony that the woman's husband, who preceded her in death in 2007, left money to Stites to care for his wife. Some of it he intended for Stites; most was for the care of his wife, who needed long-term nursing care.

Testimony also showed that Stites combined money for the woman's care with his own business accounts, and did pay many of her expenses.

It was in 2013 when Stites sought advice from an attorney with the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation on how to get the woman on Medicaid, after an initial denial, that his mishandling of her money came to the attention of authorities.

That attorney, Valerie McWilliams, testified she thought that it was "extremely odd" given Stites' background as a professional bookkeeper and tax preparer that he would admit to commingling the woman's funds with his own.

She also felt, given what Stites had told her about the woman's assets and income, that she should have enough money to pay for her own care.

Ladd said she wanted the appellate court to know that she felt Stites had stolen far more from the woman but could not order a higher restitution figure because of the incompleteness of the evidence and the records that were before her.

After Stites' plea, Ladd heard evidence in aggravation and mitigation over two days as the attorneys attempted to come to a restitution figure.

Fletcher urged the judge to impose restitution of almost $315,000 while Weaver declined to offer an estimate, saying "somebody smarter than me will have to do that."

"I simply have no reasonable basis factually to determine what that is," Ladd said of the real loss.

Fletcher argued that Stites was in a "position of trust" and "routinely exploited that trust for years on end."

He told the judge he was not naive enough to think that Stites could or would repay the woman's estate the $315,000. He urged the judge to impose the eight-year sentence he agreed to at the time of Stites' plea. The most Stites could have received was 15 years in prison.

Weaver acknowledged Stites had "abused a fiduciary relationship" but reminded the judge of how Stites and his wife were at the beck and call of the woman for years and took on her care because she had no heirs.

He painted a picture of his client as someone in over his head who still didn't own his pickup truck or his own home, even after helping himself to the woman's money.

"I regret all that's happened. I don't understand a lot of it," Stites told Ladd, maintaining there was never any criminal intent on his part.

Ladd said Stites was minimizing his role and said as a business man educated in bookkeeping and tax preparation, that at the very least he knew not to combine the woman's assets with his own.

"In November 2011, he wrote three checks (from her account) for $155,000 and put it in his own work account. For him to commingle, shows he is up to no good," said Ladd. "I believe he took a large amount from her estate but I don't know how much."

Noting Stites' prior theft conviction for stealing from his employer in 2001 — that sentence included $88,000 in restitution — Ladd said he "didn't get the message the first time."

Stites was given credit on his sentence for 45 days already served. He is eligible for day-for-day good time in prison.

Full Article & Source:
Champaign man who swindled elderly woman in his care gets 7 years

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tonight on Whistleblowers with Marti Oakley: Medical Kidnap and the Euthanizing of Anastasia Adams

Special time tonight:  5:30 pm PST ... 6:30 pm MST ... 7:30 pm CST ... 8:30 pm EST 

Whistleblowers! is brought to you in coordination with Marcel Reid and the Whistleblower’s Annual Summit, in Washington D.C.

Yolanda Bell joins us to expose the medical kidnapping of her sister Anastasia and INOVA Fairfax's Virginia stated intention to withdraw nutrition causing Anastasia's death within 10-14 days. This is,in my personal opinion, medical murder. Having taken guardianship as a result of Yolanda refusing to agree to having Anastasia discharged with a 10 inch bloodclot still present in her arm, Anastasia has suffered immense physical and emotional distress while being held involuntarily by this hospital and particpating facilities. The Abduction of Anastasia Adams

As of yesterday, because of the flurry of calls about Anastasia, visitation is severly restricted, so much so that several priests were refused to be allowed to see her last evening. Anastasia is being held The Envoy of Alexandria, Virginia.

As in all these guardianship cases, isolation, the forbidding of touching or comforting the victim, is the standard or is so limited that it is torturous for those subjected to it. What has happened to Anastasia Adams under the care of INOVA is inhumane and the deterioration of her overall health is well documented and noted and supported with photos and reports. Now, after failing to care for this woman, they want to arbitrarily end her life.

IF this is the end for least let her be returned to her family so that her final days are spent with those she loves and those who love her instead of in the hands of strangers who apparently have no ethics, morals or compassion.

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

How did a 9-year-old boy who is disabled buy a $240K house?

CHARLOTTE - Haiden Rivera is a 9-year-old boy with severe physical and mental disabilities. Since shortly after birth, he has had brain damage, cerebral palsy and other health problems. As his attorneys wrote in court documents, he "will never work, live independently, have a family, or even have the capacity to care for himself."

Three years ago, Haiden paid $240,000 for a house on the outskirts of Charlotte.

Now, one or both of his parents could face criminal charges and be held liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars drained from his estate.

Haiden was born Sept. 12, 2008, in an Army hospital at Fort Hood, Texas. Within hours, he had a series of seizures and exhibited signs of brain damage, court records show. He was airlifted to another hospital and eventually diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

“He wasn’t crying when he was born,” his mother, Kasie Rivera, would later tell the Killeen Daily Herald, a newspaper near Fort Hood. “I knew that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t moving; he didn’t cry. He wouldn’t drink out of a bottle.”

Kasie Rivera and her husband, Higinio Rivera III, who was a soldier when Haiden was born, later sued, alleging negligence by military doctors before and during their son’s birth.

In 2013, Justice Department officials settled the lawsuit for $6.5 million.

Most of the money was placed into a reversionary trust that can only be used for Haiden’s medical care — if he dies before the funds are depleted, the balance is returned to the government.

About $550,000, however, went directly to Haiden.

Kasie Rivera told the Daily Herald that her son, 5 years old at the time, was nonverbal and required a feeding tube to survive.

"I fought for (Haiden) because I knew in my heart that there was injustice done, and it’s a sense of pride and relief knowing I was able to fight for him,” she said.

After Higinio Rivera was granted an early discharge from his enlistment, the family — the couple has another son — moved to Michigan.

The settlement check from the Justice Department would be paid directly to Haiden, so Kasie Rivera petitioned the Eaton County Probate Court to be named conservator of her son’s estate.

In March 2014, she was granted management of the estate and soon opened a restricted account at a local branch of Huntington National Bank, court records show. Still waiting for Haiden’s settlement check, she deposited $10 into the account.

By definition, financial conservators are supposed to spend the money they control only in ways that benefit the person they represent. A judge must approve every expenditure, and banks may release funds only in response to a court order.

In Haiden’s case, the money never made it into his bank account.

'Wild personal spending'

On June 24, 2014, Kasie Rivera received a $551,979 check made payable to Haiden’s estate. She deposited the check into her personal account, rather than the restricted one earmarked for Haiden’s money.

Two days later, court records show, she contacted her attorney, Neil Kimball, because she wanted help buying a house, a car and furniture.

Kimball said Kasie Rivera stopped responding to his letters and messages after he advised her against the purchases.

“I believe she’s followed a path I advised against,” he’d later tell Eaton County Probate Judge Thomas Byerley.

Bank officials would ultimately determine that, less than a year after the check was deposited, virtually all of the $551,979 was gone.

Kasie Rivera, who in court documents is alternately listed as Kassie Rivera or Kasie Pruden-Rivera, could not be reached for comment. According to divorce paperwork Higinio Rivera filed earlier this year, the couple has been separated since 2014. No one answered the door Monday at the home outside Charlotte.

More from Christopher Haxel

Rather than deposit the money into the restricted account, and receive permission from a judge before spending the money on expenses directly benefiting Haiden, Kasie Rivera spent the money as if it were her own, said Ken O’Deen, an attorney who was named Haiden’s financial conservator after Kasie Rivera was removed.

O’Deen, in turn, sued Huntington National Bank on behalf of Haiden’s estate.

In a letter to the bank, David Brake, who filed the lawsuit for O’Deen, wrote that it is “difficult to understand how the bank allowed the conservatorship estate funds to be deposited into Kasie Rivera’s personal bank account.”

“The improper use of the (money) should never have occurred,” Brake continued. “It is our position that Huntington Bank shares in the responsibility for the losses.”

In response, the bank reached a tolling agreement, which essentially pauses the lawsuit while Huntington Bank goes after Kasie Rivera for the money it may be held liable for. In the meantime, the bank deposited $20,000 into Haiden’s account.

Peter Rhoades, the bank’s attorney, said the money Kasie Rivera spent was later tracked into four categories: the $240,000 home, about $60,000 for numerous vehicles, transfers to other people and “wild personal spending.”

Rhoades did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Makes my blood boil’

Kasie Rivera, 32, has apparently refused to appear at any of the hearings related to her conservatorship of Haiden’s estate.

And earlier this summer, she was ordered to spend three days in the Eaton County jail because she failed to show up for court-ordered alcohol tests after pleading guilty to driving drunk while transporting a passenger younger than 16.

Kasie Rivera also failed to pay property taxes on the home, O’Deen said, and didn’t have homeowners insurance.

“I’ve paid the taxes,” using Haiden’s money, O’Deen said. “I had to get an insurance policy for the house. That was not easy because she wouldn’t let anybody into the house.”

Concerned about Haiden’s well-being, O’Deen said he asked Eaton County Sheriff’s officials to conduct a welfare check. While it's not clear whether any action was taken after the check, the Riveras have not lost custody of their children.

Byerley has also entered a default judgment against Kasie Rivera for nearly $306,000, which represents the missing money minus what was paid for the house.

Huntington National Bank, which could eventually be held liable for that amount, began garnishing her wages in August.

According to her request for a court-appointed attorney in the 2016 drunk driving case, Kasie Rivera reported earning $4,000 per month for “in-home care for my son." It's not clear if that money is being paid out of Haiden's medical trust or another source.

Huntington National Bank has also moved to hold Higinio Rivera liable for the missing money even though he was not listed alongside his wife as Haiden’s conservator.

Court records indicate O’Deen, Judge Thomas Byerley and other attorneys involved in the case have openly discussed the prospect of criminal charges against Kasie Rivera.

“It makes my blood boil,” Byerley said at a hearing in 2016. “Are criminal charges pending?”

O’Deen responded that he’d been working with a detective about possible charges, and he hoped to have the case “gift-wrapped” for police.

At a later hearing, O’Deen told Byerley that Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd had declined to press charges.

Reached Thursday, however, Lloyd said the case is still under investigation.

“We are still reviewing documents,” he said. “My economic crimes attorney is reviewing that case and no decision has been made.”

In the meantime, Kasie Rivera and her two sons appear to still live in the 2,400-square-foot home just outside Charlotte, which sits on 4.3 acres of land and includes a large outbuilding along with a trampoline, swing set and other toys.

Full Article & Source:
How did a 9-year-old boy who is disabled buy a $240K house?

Woman Accused Of Stealing $851,000 From Elderly, Disabled

Sheila Grochowski
Police have charged a Winsted bookkeeper with embezzling $851,000 from the accounts of elderly and disabled people whose finances were under the control of probate court conservatorships.

Sheila Grochowski, 70, gained access to the victims’ bank accounts through her employment with Barbara H. Hance Associates, a firm appointed by probate courts to handle the financial affairs of people under conservatorships.

According to the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest, she forged the signature of the firm’s owner, Barbara Hance, on 591 checks and two withdrawal slips and stole $851,811 between January 2010 and May 2016, when Hance fired Grochowski.

Hance could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Authorities do not know where the money went, but when confronted by Hance in early 2015 about the embezzlement of $4,829, Grochowski admitted the forgery and said she needed the money for medical expenses, according to the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest.

After that incident, Hance kept Grochowski as an employee, set up a repayment plan and did not notify police.

In May 2016 more problems with checks were found, and Hance determined that Grochowski’s alleged thefts were more extensive. A forensic audit by an accounting firm, and a review of thousands of pages of Grochowski’s bank records by Avon Det. Edward Espinoza and state Inspector Jack Bannan revealed the extent of Grochowski’s alleged thefts.

The investigators identified 25 people they say were victimized by Grochowski, including her own father who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was under a conservatorship. Grochowski allegedly wrote herself checks from her father’s accounts and listed herself as executor of his estate, although he was still alive.

The investigators also found that in 1988 Grochowski was charged by Torrington police with first-degree larceny, second-degree larceny and third-degree forgery. She was convicted in November 1989 and sentenced to five years in prison.

In signing the warrant for Grochowski’s arrest, Hartford Superior Court Judge Laura F. Baldini set bail at $750,000. At Grochowski’s arraignment Monday in Hartford, Judge Tammy Nguyen-O’Dowd released Grochowski on a promise to appear in court.

Full Article & Source:
Woman Accused Of Stealing $851,000 From Elderly, Disabled

More clarity now available on making medical decisions for incapacitated patients

Rachel N. Jordan, an attorney
More clarity available on making medical decisions for the incapacitated

Q: How has the law on making medical decisions for incapacitated patients changed?

A: When a patient is incapacitated and unable to provide informed consent, health care providers in the past have faced a great deal of uncertainty regarding who could make medical decisions on behalf of the patient. This particularly has been an issue when a patient hasn't designated a legal representative and the family members disagree on the best course of action. However, the Oklahoma Legislature recently passed legislation that provides hospitals and other health care providers with clear guidance on what to do in these situations. While not specifically covered, the new law appears to permit individuals who fit specific criteria to make decisions regarding affirmative health care treatment (such as authorizing surgery), as well as decisions to terminate treatment, including life-sustaining treatment (such as discontinuation of a ventilator).

Q: Who now can make decisions on behalf of incapacitated patients?

A: The new law states that when an adult patient is unable to provide consent due to the fact that he or she is persistently unconscious, incompetent or mentally or physically incapable of communicating, another individual that's available and willing may make health care decisions for the patient in the following order of priority: legally appointed guardian, health care proxy designated by the patient, attorney-in-fact with health care decision authority, spouse, adult child, parents, adult sibling, and other adult relative in order of kinship. If members of a class disagree (e.g., the patient has three children, and two consent and one doesn't), a majority within the class may decide. If the patient hasn't designated a legal representative, and no family members are available and willing to act on the patient's behalf, a close friend may provide the requisite consent if he or she signs an affidavit stating that he or she has maintained regular contact with the patient and is familiar with the patient's personal values. The affidavit should include specific facts and circumstances that document such contact. Finally, certain persons charged with and/or convicted of certain crimes or offenses (such as physical or verbal abuse or exploitation) are disqualified from acting on behalf of an incapacitated patient.

Q: What happens if the decision maker doesn't know the incapacitated person's wishes?

A: An individual making health care decisions pursuant to this statute must do so based on the known intentions, personal views and best interests of the patient. If there's sufficient evidence of the patient's wishes, those wishes must control. If there isn't sufficient evidence of the patient's wishes, the decisions must be based on the reasonable judgment of the individual deciding. In the event that either a provider or member of another class believes this standard has been violated, he or she may petition the court for a different health care decision.

Full Article & Source:
More clarity now available on making medical decisions for incapacitated patients

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Who guards the guardians? Estate planning questioned in hearing

SANTA FE – It’s been a nagging question during the months of debate over reforming New Mexico’s guardianship system:

How to ensure that estate plans and trust directives are honored if you or your loved one become incapacitated and are placed under a court-ordered guardianship?

That question from state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, came during the rollout of some 18 proposed guardianship reforms to the health and human services committee of the state Legislature on Friday. The proposals are the product of six months of study by a state Supreme Court appointed commission.

For Rodriguez, the issue of planning for the care of an incapacitated loved one hit close to home.

“Conservators and guardians seem to have quite a bit of authority, in fact, all the authority to take over someone’s finances, their accounts that were going to belong to that person,” she said. “Does that mean a conservator or a guardian also has the authority if a trust is in place for that individual, that (the conservator has) access to the trust? That, too?”

Guardianship commission chairwoman Wendy York responded that under New Mexico’s current system that could happen.

“One of the issues that we heard repeatedly from members of the public was that very issue,” York added. “When a person had an estate plan in place or a trust in place that a conservator could determine that that money should go in a different direction for care of that person.”

Rodriguez explained her worries as the mother of a special needs daughter.

“My daughter now lives in heaven. She had an illness a few years ago. One of the things that crossed my mind all the time was, ‘Oh, my gosh, I hope God keeps me here long enough. I don’t want her to be alone, because she couldn’t take care of herself.’

“I was prepared then to do a trust, specifically for her, thinking back then there would be no way that anyone would have a chance … to possibly make any changes to that trust. I wanted the most secure way to know that our daughter would have enough money for medical needs or whatever it may be.”

“What happens to parents who put a trust in place? To me there should be a document that’s solid stone, that doesn’t get changed,” Rodriguez said.

York, a retired state district judge from Albuquerque, said judges in guardianship cases are confronted with so many different scenarios,”it’s difficult to say there should never be a situation in which a trust would not need to be invaded for the protected person.”

But under a commission proposal, she added, judges in New Mexico would have to make specific findings of fact if they deviate from a protected person’s advance directive, trust, will or estate plan.

“So that the judge goes through the exercise of saying, ‘OK, why am I doing this when the protected person has put another plan in place?” York said.

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, a guardianship commission member, added, “What this does is, it reinforces the notion that the trust takes precedence, unless …. And we don’t have that in law now. Right now the conservator has a great deal of latitude in convincing the court into overturning the trust.”

Rodriguez echoed others on the committee who voiced support for the reforms, which so far don’t have a projected price tag.

“If it was up to me, I would get every one of these (recommendations) into statute,” Rodriguez said, “because we cannot see this happening anymore. Not to one person, at all, anywhere. I think we need to prioritize our funds at the state level. Do what’s right here.”

The legislative hearing, in which no vote was taken, touched upon the lessons learned from the downfall of a leading New Mexico guardianship firm, Ayudando Guardians, whose two top executives are facing federal charges of embezzling more than $4 million of clients’ money. Its clientele included military veterans and special needs or developmentally disabled people. Another Albuquerque firm, Desert State Life Management, is alleged to have diverted millions of dollars set aside in trusts for special needs and elderly clients, but no criminal charges have been filed.

Even with “meager” funding next fiscal year, the state’s budget priorities need to be adjusted, Rodriguez said. “This is something that we cannot let continue to happen.”

State Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, said the Legislature needs to act now.

“There’s no other option for us except to move forward. If we continue to allow this without any oversight and accountability … then we just continue to perpetuate the problem. It should be our political will to make sure this gets done.”

State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, said district judges she has spoken with stressed the importance of conducting audits. “Without admitting anything, I think they (the judges) were aware of the problems,” Ferrary said.

Guardianship companies file annual reports with the courts. But the commission is proposing the legislature fund investigators or auditors who would review such reports and alert the judge in the case about “red flags.”

Ortiz y Pino, a longtime advocate of reform, said the state hasn’t provided adequate resources for oversight of guardianship cases.

Legislative action is needed because the system is “no longer trusted” in New Mexico, he said.

“It operates under a shadow of suspicion … that we may not be doing the best for our loved ones,” Ortiz y Pino said. “We need to restore a level of confidence in the guardianship/conservatorship system in the state. To do that, we need more adequate financing.”

Full Article & Source:
Who guards the guardians? Estate planning questioned in hearing

Former district judge sentenced for theft, mishandling funds

When former District Judge Timothy M. Dougherty spoke more than 17 years ago at the sentencing for a clerk who stole from his court, he said that a clear message must be sent.Dougherty asked the judge to give the woman “the most severe of all penalties” for abusing the trust of the community, saying that it was wrong to treat the court as a way to obtain loans that are only paid when one gets caught.

Dougherty's words came back to haunt him Monday.

The old case was referenced several times as he was sentenced before visiting Senior Judge John L. Braxton of Philadelphia County, for a similar theft that ended his nearly 18-year career as a district judge in May 2016.

Dougherty, 58, of Wyomissing admitted at his guilty plea on Sept. 20 that he stole nearly $100,000 from a volunteer fire company organization and mishandled more than $15,000 from his court office.

Braxton said that he wouldn't be harsh, as Dougherty had asked when he was the victim, but said the ex-district judge must pay his debt for violating the public trust.

Braxton sentenced him to six to 23 months in Berks County Prison followed by five years of probation. Dougherty, also a former police officer, was placed in handcuffs immediately and taken to the prison Monday night.

“I do not believe you are a bad man, but that you engaged in bad behaviors,” Braxton said, adding that the case's significance stretches beyond Dougherty in trying to restore the community's faith in the judicial system.

“I have to bring this to closure … not with just a slap on the wrist to send you home and play house arrest,” the judge said.

The penalty fell between requests from Deputy Attorney General Michelle Laucella and defense attorney Allan L. Sodomsky.

Laucella asked for at least one year in state prison, while Sodomsky asked for house arrest and probation.

Braxton and the attorney general's office handled the case to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

What went wrong?

Before imposing the sentence, Braxton said the unknown reason for Dougherty's fall from grace and where the money went still “truly troubles me” and “boggles my mind.”

“I just don't understand what was going on in the mind of this man,” Braxton said. “He has all of what is reflective of what a quality life is. … What went wrong with the good things?”

Authorities said that Dougherty stole $97,780 from the Wyomissing Fire Company's volunteer component, where he served as treasurer, from November 2008 to September 2015, and also mishandled $15,251 from his court office in September and October 2015.

When investigators asked about the missing funds, Dougherty told them that it was spent on “life,” not exciting things like “drugs or prostitutes.”

Laucella said that her office never gained a clear understanding of where the money went or why the court's finances were mishandled.

Dougherty didn't answer that question either Monday, but hinted at an explanation.

“Someone I cared deeply for needed more of me than I had,” he said. “I made decisions with my heart and not my head and I lost my way.”

Dougherty apologized to his family, specifically his wife, Susan, for making her wear “the scarlet letter that only I deserve.”

He said he will make the fire company whole again and hopes one day his the organization's members will forgive him for his betrayal.

Dougherty was ordered Monday to pay about $70,000 more to the organization after already paying back $27,780.

“I'm not an evil man and I'm no danger to society,” Dougherty said. “I'm not really even a bad person. I just made a bad decision.”

Dougherty was making an annual salary of $88,290 when he was charged in the case. He resigned shortly afterward and lost his pension when he pleaded guilty Sept. 20 to theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of public funds.

He will receive the pension he earned with the Cumru Township Police Department. Before entering law enforcement, Dougherty spent four years in the Navy, including three as an administrator at the Pentagon.

Dougherty's wife and five friends gave statements on his behalf, speaking of various times he came to their aid, calling him loving, dedicated and dependable.

Sodomsky said that he believed the sentence was fair and that Braxton thoughtfully weighed Dougherty's crimes against the rest of his life.

“I'm thankful that the matter's over,” Sodomsky said. “It's a sad day for our justice system.”

Victim impact

Laucella was also satisfied with the sentence and said she believed justice was served. She thanked the many individuals from the fire company organization and court office who testified before the state investigating grand jury and came to the sentencing.

“Without these people and their testimony, we wouldn't have been able to move forward,” she said. “It just shows that there are good people out there.”

Prosecutors said that the money taken from the fire company was largely made up of donations. As treasurer, Dougherty maintained the group's financial records.

Authorities said that his records were full of discrepancies and the balances did not match the actual money in the accounts.

Laucella said that investigators found Dougherty made 127 unauthorized cash withdrawals from the savings account in seven years, noting that bank records did not go back any further.

No one from the organization spoke at the sentencing, but its president, Richard Bare, wrote in a statement they have been subjected to ridicule and that trust in the organization has eroded. He said the theft crippled the organization financially, draining its account to barely $1,000.

The organization does not respond to fires, but does community education on fire prevention and safety, and also preserves firefighting history through a small museum and antique fire engine.

Bare said that Wyomissing Borough Council took on many of those responsibilities in the past year because the organization didn't have enough to buy a charger and batteries for the antique engine so that it could be used at two annual parades.

Bare said the organization “implemented financial safeguards for this to never happen again” and hopes other volunteer organizations do the same.

Two former clerks testified about the tense atmosphere in the court office as the investigation played out.

The investigation began when authorities discovered discrepancies in the amounts in the court's bank account and what was reported to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

The district court collects fines, restitution and court costs in civil and criminal cases and is required to make daily deposits.

Dougherty made the nightly deposits for his office and had final authority over the court's finances.

Investigators determined $15,251 was unaccounted for and questioned Dougherty about the missing funds in early October 2015. He claimed he didn't have the money.

But Dougherty deposited the full amount 20 days later on Oct. 27, 2015, the day before he was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

Former clerk James Caltagirone said that he considered Dougherty to be a close friend as well as an employer.

He said he was at the district judge's side and called for an ambulance when Dougherty fell down stairs the morning he was to turn himself into authorities.

Caltagirone also asked Dougherty to one day pay him back for the $3,000 loan he gave him in April 2015.

Former clerk Margaret Yatron said that she was shocked when she found out what was happening and didn't know how to handle it.

“The tension and fear of him catching on that we knew what was going on was unbelievable,” she said, noting the court employees were initially suspects, too. “It was 15 months that we were there and knew it.”

Full Article & Source:
Former district judge sentenced for theft, mishandling funds

DHS sends letters to seniors, disabled adults notifying of home-care program elimination

"We sincerely regret this action," the letter states. "Should the state Legislature act to restore funding for the ADvantage Waiver before December 1, 2017, DHS will notify you as quickly as possible. "
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services lost $69 million of its
budget due to a state budget shortfall. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier
A program that provides home-based care to seniors and disabled adults will end Nov. 30, according to a letter sent to the program’s participants.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services sent letters out to ADvantage participants on Tuesday, notifying them the program would be eliminated Nov. 30.

“We regret to inform you DHS must eliminate the ADvantage Waiver effective December 1, 2017,” the letter states. “Your participation in the ADvantage Waiver will be funded until November 30, 2017. Since elimination of the ADvantage Waiver affects everyone receiving services through it, there is no right to appeal this action.”
DHS sent a letter on Tuesday announcing the ADvantange program’s 
elimination. Courtesy
The ADvantage Waiver Program is designed to help seniors and adults with disabilities live at home, rather than in a nursing home or a similar type of adult care.

DHS reported the program serves more than 21,000 people and the loss will impact about 450 providers.

The agency estimated when the program is eliminated, about 10,000 of those served will be forced into nursing homes. DHS noted the state doesn’t have enough nursing homes to accommodate those people.

DHS lost $69 million of its state funding for Fiscal Year 2018. Last week, the agency submitted a revised budget to the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

The revised budget included eliminations of DHS services, including the ADvantage program. It also would eliminate funding for adult day services for seniors and adults with disabilities and in-home services for seniors, including home-delivered meals and home-making services.

DHS spokesman Jeff Wagner said the agency will send additional letters to participants by Nov. 20 to tell them whether they are eligible for regular Medicaid benefits. If they are, they likely qualify for nursing-home care, he said.

“We sincerely regret this action,” the letter states. “Should the state Legislature act to restore funding for the ADvantage Waiver before December 1, 2017, DHS will notify you as quickly as possible. ”

On Monday, state lawmakers agreed to pull more than $100 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, to be sent to the Department of Humans Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. However, that would not fill the state’s $215 million budget shortfall.

DHS would receive about $29 million of the $69 million lost.

Full Article & Source:
DHS sends letters to seniors, disabled adults notifying of home-care program elimination

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Sharmian Sowards and mother Wanda Worley
Woodhaven, MI – Thirty-Third District Court Judge Jennifer Coleman Hesson peremptorily dismissed assault and battery charges against Sharmian Sowards Nov. 2. The charges were brought after Sowards tried to defend her mother Wanda Worley against an illegal seizure by notorious guardian Mary Rowan Oct. 6, 2016, from their Brownstown Township home.

The Nov. 2 criminal court hearing is to be followed by a hearing Nov. 6 at 11 a.m., on a petition brought by Worley to remove Rowan as her guardian. It will take place in Wayne County Probate Court in front of Judge David Braxton, Room #1303 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

Braxton is to consider a so-called “Independent Medical Evaluation” (IME) of Worley done by the Probate Court’s regularly-appointed psychologist George Fleming, Jr, Ph.D.

Worley has been denied access to his report, although it is her own medical record. Fleming is not a psychiatrist, and appears to have worked primarily at Probate Court since his graduation as a Ph.D.

See for text of petition.)

Sowards represented herself during the jury trial in 33rd District Court in Woodhaven, MI.

During her cross-examination of the complainant Rowan, she asked whether she knew Debbie Fox and Randy Robinson, children of another Rowan ward, Gayle Robinson, who was forced from her home in Westland to a nursing home. They were waiting to testify about injustices in their mother’s case.

Rowan said she did, but then blurted out, “Why do you have a reporter in the court who doesn’t report the facts?” referring to this reporter.

33rd District Court Judge Jennifer Coleman Hesson
Judge Hesson responded, “That remark could potentially cause a mistrial. This courtroom is a public, open courtroom. The press is welcome to be here. This reporter has been here before.”

She later condemned Rowan’s challenge to the media’s integrity.

Judge Hesson excused the jury and held a half-hour conference in chambers with assistant prosecutor Kathleen Tulacz and attorney Kelly Leimback, who assisted Sowards during the trial.

When court reconvened, AP Tulacz announced that the “complainant” Mary Rowan no longer wished to participate in the proceedings and moved for dismissal of the charges. Judge Hesson firmly ordered the charges dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning they cannot be brought again.

During an impassioned opening statement, Sowards said, “Our system should be made to help people get well so they can go back home to their families, not warehouse them and throw them away.”

She described Rowan’s first attempt to seize her mother and place her in a group home. Sowards said she called an ambulance to take Worley to Wyandotte General Hospital Sept. 7, 2016 because of ailments she was suffering related to previous surgery on her sciatic nerve.

However, doctors there admitted Worley to the psychiatric ward, then refused to let Sowards see her mother. Sowards said she was concerned that they were giving her mother addictive pain medications from which she had been helping wean her.

During cross-examination, Rowan denied that she herself had seen Worley in the hospital. But she admitted that “my provider Wendy Barber met your mother there and said she was an appropriate candidate” to be placed in Barber’s group home.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:

Fee-Based Guardian Carol Hershey - Pennhurst Connection

Court-appointed, fee-based guardian Carol Hershey is exposed for having 100s of wards and allowing one of them to remain in conditions that the PA attorney general's office found so deplorable, they filed legal action against them.

Full Article & Source:
Fee-Based Guardian Carol Hershey - Pennhurst Connection

When a power of attorney is not enough

We often think of a power of attorney as an all-powerful document, a way for an agent – the person taking the power – to take all responsibility for the principal’s – the person giving the power – financial, legal and health care matters. In many cases, that is exactly the effect.

The agent might be a spouse or child, a sibling or even a close friend. However, there are many times when a power of attorney falls short of accomplishing what an individual needs, either because of legal requirements that were inadvertently omitted or because of problems with mental capacity.

For example, the Com­mon­wealth of Kentucky requires a specific provision within a power of attorney for an agent to transfer real property. This means that a power of attorney cannot simply rely on a general catchall provision to buy or sell property. In fact, a power of attorney is not required to be filed with the county clerk except for the transfer of real estate.

Likewise, the power to create, revoke, terminate or amend a trust must be clearly specified within a power of attorney document. Trust creation and termination can be crucial if the principal is applying for veteran’s benefits, Medicaid benefits or requires a special needs trust. At the time when a principal most needs the protection of a trust to obtain necessary benefits, the agent often finds his or her hands tied.

A power of attorney also may not be enough to protect the principal if the principal refuses to give up power during incapacity. A statutorily perfect power of attorney will not prevent a principal from making poor choices. Similarly, an in­dividual with a severe mental disorder or dementia may be unable to protect himself or herself from exploitation with a power of attorney.

In these cases, a power of attorney will fail to truly protect the principal. For agents who have lost the mental capacity to sign a new document, it likely is that a guardianship proceeding will be necessary to prevent the principal from acting on his or her own, and to provide a means for the agent to meet the principal’s needs.

To protect yourself or a loved one, review your current power of attorney. Make sure the document includes any provisions that may be necessary in the future, or in case of an emergency. If you do not want an agent to have immediate powers, consider a “springing” power of attorney, a document that would not empower the agent until your disability. To protect yourself against your own future poor judgment, consider placing assets into a trust that includes specific provisions for your impairment.

Take a proactive approach to protect yourself and your family. Review your power of attorney to make sure it will protect you when it’s most needed.

Cynthia T. Griffin is a local attorney for Burnett Casey Griffin, PLLC.

Full Article & Source:
When a power of attorney is not enough

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tonight on T. S. Radio, With Marti Oakley: Abolishing Probate #5 - Congress' Failure to Act

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

Hosted by Marti Oakley, with Luanne Fleming, Robin Austin and Katherine Hines

Under its duty to the public, Congress has repeatedly failed to act to protect the public from the system of probate in all its forms. Declaring a living, breathing individual dead in the law (civil death) is equal in its consequences to a natural death. They make this declaration of death under the guise of "ward of the state". Once a ward, you have no rights whatsoever. Prisoners who have committed the worst crimes imaginable have more rights [reserved than a "ward of the state". Under this system, the elderly, the disabled and children are trafficked by the government for profit. This system of human trafficking is the result of Congress's failure to act within its duty to the public. As congress is charged under the Constitution for the United States with organizing the courts, it stands to reason these probate courts could not exist without their complicity and their abject failure to act to protect the public from these professional predators.

Inferior Courts Clause Art 111 Sect. 2 Clause 1 Section 1:
The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. (this bill S 178 relieves congress of its duty to end these administrative tribunals and to make laws protecting the public from professional predators and to organize the courts). (emphasis, mine)

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

INOVA GATE: The Abduction of Anastasia Adams

Day 258 – More Weight Loss & New Trailers on INOVA GATE

Yolanda Bell

Manassas, VA
Nov 4, 2017 — It has been 258 days since my sister Anastasia was abducted by Inova Fairfax hospital and their two designated guardians; 258 days since she has known the comfort and security of her family and her own bed.

Anastasia has lost still more weight. She did not have any extra weight to lose. She was rail thin before, now her hands and shoulders are skeletal. You can see and count the vertebra of her spine.

The past couple of visits she has been panting as she breathes. Anastasia watches my every move as I sit next to her and hardly takes her eyes off me. It is as if she is trying to memorize my face. Today she would briefly close her eyes and then quickly open them again to make sure I was still sitting next to her. She was constantly looking me in the eye. If I lowered my head as I took notes she would moan softly. It breaks my heart. She wants to come home.

Anastasia was also burning up today. You could feel the heat coming off her from 6 inches away. She also appeared somewhat dehydrated again. I mentioned it to the nurse after they brought her out to the lobby for our one hour visit. The nurse took her back to her room for 15-20 minutes and when she brought her back said she did not have a fever that she was hot because it was warm in the building and outside. Based on Anastasia’s appearance and her demeanor I’d put money on it that she was in fact running a fever. How can I tell? This is one of those things that I am not at liberty to discuss, but suffice it to say it is almost a sure bet.

I miss my sister terribly and want her home where she will be safe and well cared for, where her life will be valued.

Prayers, prayers, and more prayers.

There are two new trailers out for Inova Gate, a short version 8:18 minutes and extended version 12:36 minutes. Please watch and distribute widely. I can only link one video so will link the extended and post the link to the Short Version:

Full Article & Source:
INOVA GATE: The Abduction of Anastasia Adams

A Futuristic Suit That Gives You a Taste of Old Age

What could it possibly be like to be old? The stooped shuffle, the halting speech, the dimming senses.

An at Liberty Science Center [this past April} in Jersey City answers the question by letting you walk a proverbial mile in your elders’ orthopedic shoes. Slip into the R70i Age Suit, a robotic contraption complete with “augmented reality” goggles, and suddenly you are 85.

It is not very pleasant.

An attendant cranks up a fader and your vision dissolves into melty, grayed-out blobs, like a memorably unvivid psychedelic experience. “This is called age-related macular degeneration,” the suit’s inventor, Bran Ferren, said at a preview on Thursday.

More knobs twiddle, and your hearing is subsumed in a fog of tinnitus, muffling and distortion. A dose of echo is added to the sound mix, interrupting your speaking and simulating the effects of aphasia.

Now it was time to move about. Loaded with hardware and a computer, the suit itself weighs 40 pounds, distributed as uncomfortably as possible. “It’s going to get much worse,” promised Mr. Ferren, a noted special effects designer. “You haven’t lived.”

I raised an arm, as if to reach up on a shelf, and the suit’s system of torquers and electronic disc brakes sprang into action. It felt like my joints had become entirely ungreased. I could barely lift my arm above my shoulder.

Mr. Ferren invited me onto a treadmill. I hobbled up.

“Now let’s start losing muscle strength,” he said.

Why does your grandfather move so slowly? Because, apparently, walking across the parking lot for him feels like hour three of a hike up a mountain, wearing an overstuffed, lopsided backpack. (This may also explain why he’s cranky.)

For an extra frisson, Mr. Ferren set the resistance on one side of my body to a so-called normal level and the other to an extreme. The settings mimicked how he felt while trying to walk just before he had a hip replaced five weeks ago at the tender age of 63.

Full Article and Source:
A Futuristic Suit That Allows You to Experience Old Age

Deer Lodge district court roundup: Woman pleads not guilty to bilking elderly man of $75,886

DEER LODGE — A Deer Lodge woman pleaded not guilty in district court this week to felony elder abuse by exploitation.

According to court records, Cynthia Ward, 62, is accused of bilking a 96-year-old man of $75,886. The fraud allegedly occurred between Jan. 1, 2015, and Sept. 26, 2017. The matter came to light when Ward facilitated the purchase of land south of Deer Lodge from real estate agent Tom Rue using $10,000 paid by the elderly man.

The record states that Rue told Sheriff Scott Howard that he was uncomfortable with the sale after he observed what he felt was undue influence by Ward on the man to pay the down payment.

Ward placed the elderly man in a nursing home on May 3, 2017. Suspicion arose regarding the use of the man’s funds, and it was reported to adult protective worker Janel George.

Ward allegedly had the man's debit card and checkbook and used his Social Security funds for her and other family members’ personal benefit, including ATM withdrawals, two road trips, plane tickets for three other trips, and other expenses.

Ward is free on $25,000 bond pending further court proceedings.
In other recent court proceedings:

• Trevor W. Cuchine, 22, of Deer Lodge pleaded guilty to amended charges of two counts of misdemeanor negligent criminal endangerment.

He was given two one-year deferred sentences to run concurrently, fined $600 and $140 in court fees, and ordered to pay $1,239.86 restitution.

According to court records, on Oct. 30, 2016, Cuchine was with the last group of people to be admitted to the Old Prison Museum haunted house. He ran ahead of the group, and as he ran past a woman actor, he punched her in the face with his fist, causing her head to hit the wall. She was escorted to the hospital where a doctor diagnosed her with post-concussion syndrome.

• Tawnee A. Felde, 27, of Deer Lodge pleaded guilty to felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs, methamphetamine, and to violating conditions of her probation by possessing drug paraphernalia.

On each charge, she was sentenced to a five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections to run concurrent, all suspended, and given credit for one day served.

One condition of the sentence is that Felde complete an in-patient chemical dependency treatment program within six months of sentencing. She must also pay $80 in court fees.

Full Article & Source:
Deer Lodge district court roundup: Woman pleads not guilty to bilking elderly man of $75,886

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Appeals judge: Savitt case shows guardianship system in ‘disarray’

A panel with the 4th District Court of Appeal hears the guardianship case of senior Frances Berkowitz
A state appellate judge said from the bench that one of professional guardian Elizabeth Savitt’s most controversial cases is an example of Florida’s guardianship system in “disarray” — a system that is supposed to protect incapacitated seniors but instead “sucks the ward’s estate dry.”

Last year, then-Palm Beach County Chief Judge Jeffrey Colbath handed down guardianship reforms, many of which targeted specific actions by Savitt — such as the taking thousands of dollars in fees prior to judicial approval. Savitt is married to former Circuit Court Judge Martin Colin.
“The reason why we find ourselves in this Byzantine muck, if you will, is because there is no clear strategy on who is ultimately responsible for that dignity of the ward or the preservation of the decedent’s estate,” said Judge Cory Ciklin of the 4th District Court of Appeal at a Tuesday hearing on the Savitt guardianship of Frances Berkowitz.

“Maybe something will come out of this case that, if nothing else, encourages an appreciation of how terribly the system is in disarray.”
Ciklin’s comments during a hearing Tuesday morning were even more remarkable considering the law firm of his brother Alan — Ciklin, Lubitz & O’Connell — recently got hit with a  $16.4 million verdict for running up fees in a guardianship in front of Colin.

That federal case has since settled for a confidential amount to avoid a lengthy and expensive appellate process. But the troubled guardianship of Frances Berkowitz, a state case, is on appeal.

The Palm Beach Post’s award-winning investigative series, Guardianship: A Broken Trust, outlined the vast conflict of interest for Judge Colin as a sitting guardianship judge while his wife practiced as a guardian. He was removed from overseeing guardianship proceedings and announced his retirement.

The series also reported numerous complaints from families of Savitt’s wards and forced her cases to be moved. Colbath then announced his reforms.

Victim of fraud

The issue litigated Tuesday at the 4th DCA centered on whether a lawyer who sought a guardianship to protect his client, Berkowitz, could challenge Savitt for her actions and get her removed.
Boca Raton attorney Webb Millsaps claimed in court documents that Savitt squandered Berkowitz’s opportunity to recover as much as $1 million from a bank and a Miami lawyer who assisted a caregiver in defrauding Berkowitz of her life savings. The senior died on Dec. 31 at age 86.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Howard Coates last year ruled Millsaps and his colleague, Donna Greenspan Solomon, had only limited standing to challenge Savitt. Coates ended up dismissing Millsaps’ only surviving claim that Savitt’s appointment was invalid and may have been influenced by Judge Colin.

Millsaps also argued that Savitt failed to account for $400,000 missing from Berkowitz’s bank accounts.

Instead, the former tennis pro turned guardian entered into a settlement that let the bank and other parties off the hook and instead used what was left of Berkowitz’s money to sue Millsaps and Solomon for the fees they took in collecting more than $800,000 from the caregiver.

Solomon, representing Millsaps on Tuesday, told the appellate panel the settlement Savitt made with the bank and caregiver never was formally approved by any court.

Solomon told the appellate panel — which included Judge Mark Klingensmith and Associate Judge Mark Belanger — that Savitt paid off a $308,000 foreclosure judgment on a home she owned shortly after receiving her appointment in December 2014.

Savitt’s attorney previously told The Palm Beach Post that documentation was provided to the Clerk of Court & Comptroller showing the money used to pay off the foreclosure judgment came from Savitt’s personal accounts.

No standing

If the appellate court rules in Millsaps’ favor, Solomon said, the decision would allow the Berkowitz heirs to unwind the settlement made by Savitt. The family members have also indicated they plan to sue Savitt.

John Carter, a Boca Raton lawyer representing the family who was present at the hearing Tuesday, said Ciklin’s questions and comments highlighted the core problem with guardianship in Florida: “The need for protection of the elderly and their assets from all persons with a financial stake in the process.”

Attorney Roger Levine, arguing on behalf of the guardianship on Tuesday, told the DCA panel that Millsaps, despite being the one who sought guardianship protection for his client, had no standing under the law to challenge Savitt’s decisions.

Klingensmith, though, said he reads the state guardianship law as giving broad authority to allow interested parties to intervene if a guardian is “not acting in the best interest of the ward.”

Ciklin also indicated Coates could have acted unilaterally to get to the bottom of Millsaps’ accusations against Savitt.

“The stark reality is whatever judge is assigned to a particular case is the person in charge. Period,” Ciklin said. “This, I would suggest, needs to begin and end with that judge.”

Solomon said she pleaded with Coates to look at the Berkowitz case and “find out what is going in our guardianship system in the state of Florida.”

“The absurdity of all this to some extent is that the ward ends up paying for everybody,” Ciklin said. “And all the while the ward’s estate is just being sucked dry.”

Full Article & Source:
Appeals judge: Savitt case shows guardianship system in ‘disarray’