Saturday, May 5, 2018

Pa. takes temporary control of Berks nursing home, 8 others

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's Department of Health and other state agencies have come to the aid of nursing home residents in Berks and several surrounding counties.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced Wednesday that Skyline Healthcare can no longer fiscally operate Exeter Greens Care and Rehabilitation Center in Exeter Township and eight other homes in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, and Philadelphia counties.

"We have installed temporary management at all nine facilities to ensure residents will continue to receive safe care," Levine said. "We are taking this action to ensure residents have continuity of care and their needs are met."

Levine said her department is working together with the state departments of aging and human services to ensure the residents' safety.

"Things will continue to operate. Staff will continue to come to work. Residents will continue to receive care," said Matthew Yarnell, president of the Service Employees International Union.

One woman who spoke with 69 News said she had a close friend who did not have a good experience while staying at Exeter Greens.

"None of his family was happy with his care there," said Mim Erb of Mt. Penn. "The only experience I've had with this facility, and it wasn't a particularly good experience."

Erb said she's not surprised the state stepped in.

"I think it might be a good idea for some change over here, whatever that may be, however that looks," she said.

Union officials said the state's move is not necessarily a precursor to closure.

"I think it speaks volumes to the challenge that the industry is under right now," explained Yarnell. "Over the last couple of years, we've seen all the big companies in Pennsylvania divest."

69 News did reach out to Exeter Greens' administrators, but they had no comment and deferred all inquiry to Skyline Heathcare.

The eight other homes identified by the state are:
  • Doylestown Care and Rehabilitation Center, Bucks County;
  • Lancaster Care and Rehabilitation Center, Lancaster County;
  • Lansdale Care and Rehabilitation Center, Montgomery County;
  • Phoenixville Care and Rehabilitation Center, Chester County;
  • Rosemont Care and Rehabilitation Center, Delaware County;
  • Stenton Care and Rehabilitation Center, Philadelphia;
  • Willow Terrace, Philadelphia; and
  • Wyndmoor Hills Health Care and Rehabilitation Center, Montgomery County.

Full Article & Source:
Pa. takes temporary control of Berks nursing home, 8 others

Oklahoma Caretaker Accused of Stealing $10,000 from Elderly Bedridden Woman

Police officers in Oklahoma said that a woman caretaking an elderly bedridden woman stole more than $10,000 from her client.

Truvenia Cornish has been charged with felony financial exploitation of an elderly person and a warrant has been issued for her arrest, reported KFOR.

Oklahoma City police officers said that Cornish stole more than $10,000 in total from a 75-year-old woman she was caring for over four months.

The victim needed help in daily life after becoming bedridden. Cornish moved into the victim’s home to help her with basic daily functions.

Cornish was initially paid $900 a month but that amount was soon increased to $1,400, prompting the elderly woman to lodge complaints with her son, who was living out-of-state at the time.

When he visited his mother, he discovered that their bank account had been drained.

The affidavit states that Cornish had been using money from the account to pay her bills, including her cell phone bill, and allegedly also made withdrawals from the bank account.

“Unfortunately, we see these kinds of cases all the time, where somebody takes advantage of the elderly, or someone who can’t take care of themselves. Someone who’s in a tough situation as it is and then they prey on the weakness and take advantage of them,” said Officer Megan Morgan, with the Oklahoma City Police Department.

He said that people should keep a close eye on relatives in similar situations, including potentially helping them monitor their bank accounts.

According to Oklahoma law (pdf), financial exploitation of an elderly person mean:”Knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult.”

The law states that the exploitation is typically perpetrated by someone who “stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult, or has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult.”

Full Article & Source:
Oklahoma Caretaker Accused of Stealing $10,000 from Elderly Bedridden Woman

How criminals steal $37B a year from America’s elderly

Marjorie Jones trusted the man who called to tell her she’d won a sweepstakes prize, saying she could collect the winnings once she paid the taxes and fees. After she wired the first payment, he and other callers kept adding conditions to convince her to send more money.

As the scheme progressed, Jones, who was legally blind and lived alone in a two-story house in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, depleted her savings, took out a reverse mortgage and cashed in a life insurance policy. She didn’t tell her family, not even the sister who lived next door.

Scammers often push victims to keep promised winnings a secret, says an investigator who helped unravel this sinister effort to exploit an 82-year-old woman.

Her family didn’t realize something was wrong until she started asking to borrow money, a first for a woman they admired for her financial independence. But by then it was too late, says Angela Stancik, one of Jones’s granddaughters. Jones had lost all of her life savings — hundreds of thousands of dollars.

About one week after calling Stancik at the family business in Ganado, Texas, to borrow $6,000, Jones committed suicide.

That was May 4, 2010. When family members went to her home, they found a caller-ID filled with numbers they didn’t recognize and three bags of wire transfer receipts in her closet. Jones had $69 left in her bank account.

Some 5 million older Americans are financially exploited every year by scammers like the ones who targeted Jones. The elderly are also suffering at the hands of greedy, desperate or drug addicted relatives and friends, among others.

The total number of victims is increasing as baby boomers retire and their ability to manage trillions of dollars in personal assets diminishes. One financial services firm estimates seniors lose as much as $36.5 billion a year. But assessments like that are “grossly underestimated,” according to a 2016 study by New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services. For every case reported to authorities, as many as 44 are not. The study found losses in New York alone could be as high as $1.5 billion.

The CDC drew attention to elder exploitation as a public health problem in a 2016 report, citing groundbreaking research two decades earlier by Mark Lachs. Now co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Lachs says elder abuse victims — including those who suffer financial exploitation — die at a rate three times faster than those who haven’t been abused. It’s a “public health crisis,” he warns.

“I knew these crimes were killing people,” says Elizabeth Loewy, who directed the elder abuse unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. As her exploitation cases steadily rose to hundreds per year, she says, “so many family members told me, ‘I can’t prove it, but this killed him.’”  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
How criminals steal $37B a year from America’s elderly

Friday, May 4, 2018

Call Collett: We're funding our own nightmare

A Lowcountry family says they’ve been funding their own nightmare.  The court has control of all their money, and it’s going to pay for attorneys and court fees they don’t want.   The family can’t get out of the conservatorship without a judge ruling.
When the courts take control of your finances it's called a conservatorship.   They are usually established for the protection of an incapacitated person's finances.
We first introduced you to Benjamin Bennett and his family in the Fall of 2017.  
They had been fighting against a court appointed conservatorship for nearly a year.  
Mr. Bennett’s daughter, Melissa, says Mr. Bennett’s former doctor recommended the conservatorship to protect him and a large inheritance. According to the doctor's report, Bennett showed signs of dementia and had voiced concerns about having so much money in the bank.  He was also dealing with an infection that caused confusion.
In November 2016, the court called an emergency hearing in Probate Court, citing concerns Mr. Bennett was unable to handle his money.  The court drained his bank account, redirected his social security checks, and appointed Family Services to oversee his finances.   
Once that happened, Benjamin and his wife of 60 years, Ida, had to ask permission to spend money on everything from dentures to church tithes.  
“It’s so much to wrap yourself around.” Ida told News 2 during an interview in the couple’s home.
Family Services must approve and allocate any spending for the couple.  
“When you’re children need help and you could help them but now you can’t on account on someone else having control of your money, it hurts,” Benjamin told News 2.
Meanwhile $1,100 in court fees, more than $6,000 in court appointed attorney fees, and nearly $21,000 in service fees to Family Services was taken from the Bennett’s account in 2017. 
Two court appointed health experts examined Mr. Bennett to gauge his mental capacity.  According to those tests, both exams found Mr. Bennett is not incapacitated; should be able to handle his own money; and showed normal signs of aging. They also found the Bennett’s children supportive.  
One court appointed doctor charged the family $850 the other charged $300 for those capacity tests.    
The final test was submitted to the court on October 20, 2017, nearly a year after the court took control of their money.   It took 187 days before the Bennett’s court appointed attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case based on those tests. 
“It’s about time for them to do this,” Ida told News 2 during an interview after the motion was filed.
That motion was filed a week ago.  Consultants tell me there’s no deadline for the judge to rule.  
An attorney, who consulted with News 2 on this story, says once the courts intervene, the process has to run its full course. The goal is to protect vulnerable adults.
The Bennett’s say it’s not necessary and has only cost them money and caused them frustration.
Melissa says with eight other siblings, the family is equipped the handle her parents' affairs. According to court and police reports on the case obtained by News 2 from Probate Court, there had been no signs of mistreatment or mismanagement of the Bennett's money. Ida is Mr. Bennett’s court appointed guardian, but even she can't access their retirement without permission.
"I've never been through nothing like this in my whole life," Mrs. Bennett said.
News 2 sent multiple requests to the court appointed attorneys for interviews.   They didn’t respond.
The Charleston County Probate Court Judge, Judge Irvin G. Condon, told News 2 he couldn’t legally discuss the case. He declined to speak on camera on the topic of conservatorships, but sent information via email.
 Judge Condon sets the fees for everyone involved in handling conservatorships. He capped lawyer fees at $200 per hour. Doctors collect between $450 and $1,200 for exams. Social workers earn $275 to $300 for exams. Conservators, like Family Services, collect roughly one percent of the money they manage each quarter. For the Bennett family, with roughly $500,000 in the account, that's $5,000 every three months.
To avoid the court interventions, Judge Condon recommends establishing a Last Will and Testament, a Declaration of Desire for Natural Death (otherwise known as a Living Will), a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and a Durable Power of Attorney for Business Affairs. Having the Durable Power of Attorney and the Health Care Power of Attorney would allow a family to bypass the Conservatorship/Guardianship procedures.
Melissa says the tests and stress of the legal process are taking their toll on Mr. Bennett's health. Health records show he's losing weight.
"What he has lost is more than the money now," she explained. Melissa said he's been depressed and unable to participate in his normal activities.
Getting out of a conservatorship is a long shot. Fewer than one percent of cases are dissolved by the court each year in Charleston County. The typical case that is dissolved is an accident case where the person is in intensive care then regains capacity.  That means 99% of cases are dissolved only after a ward dies.

Full Article & Source:
Call Collett: We're funding our own nightmare

How Criminals Steal $37 Billion a Year from America’s Elderly

Marjorie Jones
Marjorie Jones trusted the man who called to tell her she’d won a sweepstakes prize, saying she could collect the winnings once she paid the taxes and fees. After she wired the first payment, he and other callers kept adding conditions to convince her to send more money.

As the scheme progressed, Jones, who was legally blind and lived alone in a two-story house in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, depleted her savings, took out a reverse mortgage and cashed in a life insurance policy. She didn’t tell her family, not even the sister who lived next door. Scammers often push victims to keep promised winnings a secret, says an investigator who helped unravel this sinister effort to exploit an 82-year-old woman.

Her family didn’t realize something was wrong until she started asking to borrow money, a first for a woman they admired for her financial independence. But by then it was too late, says Angela Stancik, one of Jones’s granddaughters. Jones had lost all of her life savings—hundreds of thousands of dollars.

About one week after calling Stancik at the family business in Ganado, Texas, to borrow $6,000, Jones committed suicide.

That was May 4, 2010. When family members went to her home, they found a caller-ID filled with numbers they didn’t recognize and three bags of wire transfer receipts in her closet. Jones had $69 left in her bank account.

Some 5 million older Americans are financially exploited every year by scammers like the ones who targeted Jones. The elderly are also suffering at the hands of greedy, desperate or drug addicted relatives and friends, among others. The total number of victims is increasing as baby boomers retire and their ability to manage trillions of dollars in personal assets diminishes. One financial services firm estimates seniors lose as much as $36.5 billion a year. But assessments like that are “grossly underestimated,” according to a 2016 study by New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services. For every case reported to authorities, as many as 44 are not. The study found losses in New York alone could be as high as $1.5 billion.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drew attention to elder exploitation as a public health problem in a 2016 report, citing groundbreaking research two decades earlier by Mark Lachs. Now co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Lachs says elder abuse victims—including those who suffer financial exploitation—die at a rate three times faster than those who haven’t been abused. It’s a “public health crisis,” he warns.

“I knew these crimes were killing people,” says Elizabeth Loewy, who directed the elder abuse unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. As her exploitation cases steadily rose to hundreds per year, she says, “so many family members told me, ‘I can’t prove it, but this killed him.’”

Bente Kongsore, a retired accountant in Creswell, Oregon, says her parents’ mental and physical decline accelerated after an assistant manager at a local bank, Susan Paiz, befriended the octogenarians and subsequently stole $100,000 from them in 2014. To hide the theft, Paiz pretended Kongsore’s father, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 85, gave her the money. The lie soured the last two years the couple had together, as Kongsore’s father questioned himself and his wife questioned him. “It was a total violation of the type of feelings we would want to share with each other at the end of their lives,” Kongsore says.

By 2016, her mother had become bedridden, eventually dying in June of that year. Kongsore’s father died in December 2017, just weeks before Paiz was sentenced to 10 months in jail. Paiz was caught and convicted thanks to a dogged detective in Bellevue and the King County prosecutor’s office in Seattle, which had established an elder abuse unit in 2001. When Kongsore saw Paiz in the courtroom, she says she thought to herself, “How could you do that to older people who could not protect themselves?”

Adding insult to injury, the bank where Paiz worked, Union Bank in Bellevue, didn’t return the money until Kongsore scanned and emailed a bank investigator an incriminating letter Paiz wrote her parents, Kongsore says. She adds that the bank still hasn’t formally apologized. Union Bank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Paiz couldn’t be immediately reached.

Financial exploitation is “a huge problem in the sense that it’s so profoundly destructive,” says Page Ulrey, a senior deputy prosecutor who became the Seattle unit’s first member. The bulk of her cases are financial, involving victims who rarely get their money back. “They’re usually emotionally devastated as a result of having been betrayed,” she says.

In many cases, it may appear the victim gave consent, but it’s often based on manipulation or deception. Like Kongsore’s father, victims often “have some level of cognitive impairment, which makes it really difficult for them to figure out the truth of what’s going on,” Ulrey says.

As a result, many of her cases hinge on showing incapacity. “Obviously, you have the right to give your money to who you want, even if your family disapproves,” Ulrey says. But when you suffer from dementia, you may no longer have the ability to judge whether another person has your best interests at heart, or to understand the consequences of your decisions.

If an evaluation shows a victim lacks capacity to make financial decisions, “we potentially have a stronger criminal case,” she says.

But capacity assessment by adult protective services investigators and police is uneven across the country. “Law enforcement doesn’t have good tools to assess capacity,” Ulrey says, adding that most jurisdictions lack people who can conduct thorough evaluations.

In 2015, Weill Cornell’s Lachs coined the term “Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability,” or AAFV, to sound the alarm. He defined it as a “pattern of imprudent financial decision-making that begins at a late age and puts older adults at risk for material losses that could decimate their quality of life.” Financial judgment can start to falter before normal cognition does, Lachs says, regardless of whether the person was savvy with money when they were younger. In other words, it can happen even when the person seems normal.

Despite the severity of the problem, the federal government’s response has been frustrating, according to practitioners and public officials. Joe Snyder, who served as director of older adult protective services at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, says he’s doubtful necessary funding will arrive in his lifetime. Before he retired, he oversaw 27 investigators with limited resources handling about 3,500 cases a year. Snyder says it was like using water pistols to fight a forest fire.

The Elder Justice Act, the first comprehensive legislation to address abuse of senior citizens, was enacted in 2010 but remained unfunded until 2015—when it was allocated only $4 million. “Dollars appropriated since then have, in Congressional terms, been dribbling,” says Marie-Therese Connolly, a former Justice Department attorney who championed the law, working with the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Originally, the allocation was to be closer to $1 billion, she says.

“Financial exploitation causes large economic losses for businesses, families, elders and government programs, and increases reliance on federal health care programs,” warned a 2014 elder justice report Connolly helped prepare.

Three years later, a Congressional Record Service report bemoaned a lack of progress. “As a result of this limited federal funding, the federal government has not substantially developed and expanded its role in addressing the prevention, detection, and treatment of elder abuse.”

“It's a fundamentally reactive system,” says Connolly. “The big story is the dearth, the complete nonexistence, the shameful scandalous absence of any credible prevention or intervention research.”

Some progress, however, is being made. In February, the Justice Department announced “the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history,” charging more than 250 defendants with schemes that caused 1 million mostly elderly Americans to lose more than $500 million. The alleged perpetrators include people who targeted Marjorie Jones, according to one investigator.

The dragnet, which lasted one year, is part of an ongoing effort “to detect and infiltrate these criminal organizations that are trying to exploit the elderly,” says Antoinette Bacon, a career prosecutor who serves as the DOJ’s national elder justice coordinator. Her position was created through the Elder Justice Prevention and Prosecution Act, a law signed by President Donald Trump in October meant to improve coordination among federal, state and local agencies.

States have been stepping up as well. Thirty-nine of them and the District of Columbia addressed financial exploitation of the elderly in last year’s legislative sessions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than half enacted legislation or adopted resolutions. Still, Snyder worries the federal block grant many states rely on to pay for services that protect seniors could be cut dramatically under Trump. “If that goes away, programs will be crushed overnight.”

The financial industry says it’s doing more, too. On Feb. 5, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an industry body, put into effect “the first uniform, national standards to protect senior investors.” It now requires members to try to obtain a trusted contact’s information so they can discuss account activity. It also permits firms to place temporary holds on disbursements if exploitation is suspected. Loewy, who left her job as a prosecutor in 2014 to join EverSafe, a startup that makes software to monitor suspicious account activity, is underwhelmed by the industry projects.

“They may say they’re focused on it, but they aren’t really doing much more than training employees,” she says. “Exploiters know what they’re doing. They take amounts under $10,000 that they know won’t get picked up by fraud and risk folks at banks. And they steal across institutions over time.” (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source:
How Criminals Steal $37 Billion a Year from America’s Elderly

Long-term care watchdogs to push for restrictions on patient ‘dumping’

For most of the almost four months she stayed at a Springfield nursing home, Susan West says she was so fearful of retaliation from the staff that she communicated with friends and family only by text message.

“I avoided phone calls as much as I could,” said West, 56, a former resident of Lewis Memorial Christian Village, 3400 W. Washington St. “I didn’t want anyone to get any more information than they already had.”

West and local advocates for residents of long-term care facilities who looked into and validated her concerns said she suffered and complained for months about not getting proper care at the 171-bed, not-for-profit Lewis Memorial before she was immediately discharged against her will in early January.

Officials from Lewis Memorial and its parent organization, Lincoln-based Christian Horizons, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment last week on West’s case.

“We believe she was retaliated against,” said Megan Jizmagian, the Springfield area’s regional long-term care ombudsman. “There was a lot of care neglect and retaliation by staff for making complaints.”

Statewide patient advocates say improper involuntary discharges are the top complaint filed against nursing homes.

The advocates will push again this year to enact stricter legislation that guards against improper discharges affecting patients such as West, according to Jamie Freschi, Illinois’ long-term care ombudsman.

The legislation, introduced in the General Assembly last year, didn’t receive a vote of the full House or Senate.

Nursing homes and assisted-living centers in Illinois are allowed to discharge people against their will for reasons that include mental and physical health, behavior and lack of payment.

Long-term care facilities are required by federal law to give 30 days’ notice before evicting someone. That time period allows residents, their families and advocates such as ombudsmen the opportunity to trigger appeals that can lead to hearings decided by a third party, Freschi said.

But notice often isn’t given, leaving nursing home residents stranded in hospitals while nursing homes immediately evict them or give no reason or inadequate reasons for not taking them back, she said.

Long-term care facilities also sometimes pressure residents and their families to leave by making vague statements that a facility isn’t equipped to care for a resident any longer, she said. In those cases, ombudsmen aren’t notified so there’s no chance to educate residents and their relatives about their rights, she said.

A bill expected to be introduced in the next few weeks will again include language to “give voice to our most vulnerable population” when nursing homes and assisted-living centers want to evict people they view as bothersome or difficult to care for, Freschi said.

“The legislation updates the Illinois Nursing Home Act to reflect the newly revised federal nursing home regulations in relationship with involuntary transfers and discharges,” she said. “The legislation also closes loopholes that currently allow facilities to circumvent regulations making it far too easy to be non-compliant.”

Last year, officials from the nursing home industry opposed the legislation, which would have put into place new monetary penalties when nursing homes fail to give the required 30-day notice for an involuntary discharge.

The proposal could have resulted in $370 million in additional annual fines against nursing homes for a problem that exists, but is being overblown by advocates of the legislation, according to Matt Hartman, vice president of public policy for the nursing home industry’s Illinois Health Care Association.

Freschi said she doesn’t know whether the association’s estimate of additional fines is accurate, but the fines always could be avoided.

“My simple answer is, ‘Be compliant,’” she said.

No. 1 complaint

In a state where more than 100,000 people live in long-term care facilities, complaints about improper involuntary discharges that are filed with the state’s network of government-funded regional ombudsmen are the No. 1 complaint.

There were 911 such complaints received by ombudsmen in the fiscal year ending June 30, Freschi said.

Many cases go unreported, said Freschi, who is based in Springfield and previously was the Springfield area’s regional ombudsman.

“Residents and family members are scared, confused and frankly baffled by the current system that clearly provides an advantage to facilities,” she said.

The legislation would have set up a mechanism for more-rigorously enforcing new staffing rules that were phased in between 2010 and 2014 “to assure basic needs are met and proper care is delivered,” Freschi said.

“Quite possibly, if basic needs are met, many of the problems with improper discharges would be resolved,” she said.

Hartman said the Illinois Health Care Association likely will oppose the legislation again.

Last year’s proposed legislation was unnecessary and would have actually increased requiring staffing levels beyond those required in existing law, Hartman said. Freschi disagreed with that contention.

Involuntary discharges represent less than 1 percent of all discharges, Hartman said.

The bill to be filed will make it clear that the Illinois Department of Public Health has authority from the federal government to require that nursing homes readmit patients if a discharge is deemed unjustified after a hearing, Freschi said.

Like House Bill 3392 and Senate Bill 1624, which failed to progress in the General Assembly, the expected legislation also will give long-term care ombudsmen more authority to advocate on behalf of individuals, Freschi said.

Public Health took a neutral stance on the bills last year, agency spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

Prime example

Susan West’s case is a prime example of improper discharge, Freschi said.

Jizmagian said West is “very vocal and very competent” but was punished for her willingness to speak out about substandard care.

Jizmagian added that her office has noticed a “drastic increase” in complaints about the care of residents at Lewis Memorial, which has a one-star overall rating out of five stars on’s Nursing Home Compare website.

West, a widowed mother of two grown children and three grandchildren — all of whom are in Texas — said she grew up in Danville and worked as a hospital clerical worker in Texas before returning to Illinois in search of better health care in 2017.

Among a range of health problems, West has a swelling condition called lymphedema and a non-healing wound on her left foot.

After stays at an Urbana hospital, a Mattoon nursing home and a short time at home — she has an apartment in Springfield — West became an inpatient for several weeks at Memorial Medical Center, where she received care for a skin infection known as cellulitis.

She was discharged in mid-September from Memorial to Lewis Memorial, a facility she wasn’t able to visit but was willing to accept her.

West began receiving rehabilitation services and said she initially had no problems with the care at Lewis.

After a few weeks, however, mistakes began “piling up” related to chronic understaffing, she said.

“The first time you complain about something, that’s it,” she said. “It got so retaliatory.”

The state public health department found that a nursing assistant was wrong to throw out a mini-refrigerator full of home-cooked, nutritious food provided by a friend in November, according to an IDPH inspection report.

The nursing assistant contended the food was attracting roaches, the report said.

State officials also said Lewis’ staff failed to provide pressure-relieving boots on West’s feet to prevent ulcers and put her at risk of a urinary-tract infection by the way they handled a urinary catheter and collection bag.

None of the findings was severe enough to prompt a fine, according to the state.

Jizmagian said state regulators haven’t yet ruled on additional complaints from her office and West related to the involuntary discharge and a Dec. 12 incident in which West was injured.

Two nursing assistants allegedly improperly operated a lift to transfer West from her bed to a wheelchair, Jizmagian said. West, who can’t stand because of the sore on her left foot, said she fell onto the wheelchair, and a part of the lift machine hit her head.

West said she was brought to the hospital at her request and later released but still has headaches and soreness in her left arm, all related to the fall.

West said she missed several appointments with her wound-care doctor because Lewis’ staff failed to get her ready in time to leave and make it to the doctor’s office.

When she complained about the situation, she said the staff several times got her out of her bed and let her sit in her wheelchair for hours — which was unnecessary and contrary to doctors’ orders that her legs be elevated — all to ensure she wouldn’t miss doctor’s appointments.

She said she was discharged in early January in a phone call she received while at Memorial — where she again was treated for cellulitis.

According to West, Lewis Memorial’s business manager told her that she was “not welcome back” because of a $27,000 bill for part of her stay at Lewis that hadn’t been paid.

West said the outstanding bill was part of a dispute between the nursing home and her insurance provider, the Veterans Health Administration’s Civilian Health and Medical Program. She receives the coverage as the surviving spouse of a disabled former Marine and Vietnam veteran.

West later was admitted to a Carlinville nursing home, where she currently receives care. She said she was relieved at first that she wasn’t returning to Lewis.

“I didn’t feel safe there,” she said.

But she said Lewis and other facilities should be punished for treating residents unfairly.

The resulting confusion associated with the immediate eviction led to her being brought to a nursing home that is about an hour’s drive from Springfield, she said.

The distance makes it harder for her to receive regular wound-care visits from her Springfield doctor and face-to-face meetings with the friend who has power of attorney over her health care, she said.

“This has moved me away from everyone I know and my support system,” West said. “It makes it really hard.”

Full Article & Source:
Long-term care watchdogs to push for restrictions on patient ‘dumping’

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Whistleblowers! The People's Center for Law and Justice

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

Our guests tonight are Atty. Lisa Belanger and Pam Julian. Lisa and Pam have created The People’s Center for Law & Justice in response to the growing lack of accountability and corruption taking place in Massachusetts courts and medical system. As the elderly are systematically targeted and abused by both the legal and medical systems, the death toll rises, but not before the estate is looted by the predators gaming the system.

End Judicial & Medical Industrial Complex. The Peoples Center for Law & Justice (TPCLJ) is a nonpartisan collaboration created to protect the legal interests of the general public in the court system; to motivate citizens of all ages and communities through education and activism.

Lisa Belanger, Atty: provides legal services and is the whistleblower working on collaborative efforts to shine a light on this judicial and medical industrial complex corruption and she is Founder and CEO of the Peoples Center for Law and Justice.

Pam Julian provides civic engagement education and public policy assistance. She is the principal author of the non-partisan volunteer based on-campus student voter registration and voter education legislation and system with bills filed in MA, NY and federal legislation.
A former elected president of the League of Women Voters City of Boston Chapter and Board member in the town of Brookline, MA
Graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York
Attended Salem State University Graduate School of Social Work, Salem MA
Political strategist
Former Political Radio Talk Show Host:
WKXL Concord New Hampshire
WNTK Upper Valley, New Hampshire

LISTEN to the show LIVE or listen to the archive later!

Attorney Who Preached Elder Law Stole $1.9M From Elderly: AG

TRENTON, NJ — On the radio and in seminars, attorney Robert Novy stressed the importance of having someone you can trust — a family member, a friend or even an attorney — you can trust to watch over your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.

At the same time as he was giving out that advice, the state attorney general's office says, Novy was taking advantage of the very people he said needed a trusted adviser.

Novy, 66, of Brick, was indicted Monday on 10 counts accusing him of stealing $1.9 million from his elderly clients, several of whom did not have close relatives to guard their interests and in some cases suffered from dementia, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

Novy originally was arrested in October 2016, and authorities alleged he had taken more than $1.2 million, according to the original report. But in the months since then, more victims have been located, and Grewal's office said the investigation is continuing.

As an expert in elder law, Novy hosted a bimonthly radio program "Inside the Law," which focused on topics of concern to senior citizens. He was arrested on Oct. 18, 2016 and detectives executed a search warrant at his firm, Novy & Associates, on Ridgeway Avenue in Manchester, seizing billing records and other evidence. The Attorney General's Office obtained court orders freezing more than $3.5 million in assets held by Novy and his firm and appointed a trustee to oversee the firm's business operations.

"Novy allegedly stole nearly $2 million from vulnerable clients, preying on seniors who were frail and isolated and who trusted him as their attorney to guard their life savings," Grewal said. "It is hard to imagine a more callous personal and professional betrayal."

"We allege that Novy systematically drained his clients' assets, laundering funds through various bank accounts and charging unauthorized fees to enrich himself and his firm," said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. "We urge anyone with relevant information about Novy and his handling of client funds to contact our office."

The indictment alleges that from 2009 through 2016, Novy stole approximately $1.9 million from six elderly clients. The investigation is ongoing, and the Division of Criminal Justice is looking at numerous additional suspicious financial transactions involving funds of other clients of Novy.

The investigation revealed that Novy allegedly stole funds from elderly and deceased clients who often did not have a close relative to claim their estate or challenge Novy's actions. He allegedly used the stolen funds for his own benefit, paying personal and business expenses. Novy gained control through wills, powers of attorney, and trust documents, making himself the sole financial decision-maker for the clients. When clients had sizeable assets in the form of an annuity or life insurance policy, Novy allegedly directed insurance companies to redeem the policies and send the money directly to him. In some cases, when challenged by trustees or relatives about particular funds that had been withdrawn from client accounts, Novy claimed they were "administrative errors" and repaid the funds.

The indictment alleges that Novy engaged in three different schemes by which he stole funds from the six clients:

1. In one scheme, Novy is alleged to have simply transferred funds from his clients' personal bank accounts or from his clients' liquidated personal assets into his own bank account. Novy allegedly stole $322,342 from four of the six victims through this criminal scheme, authorities said.

2. In the second scheme, Novy allegedly transferred funds from his clients' personal accounts or liquidated assets into IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Account) sub-accounts that he controlled. The powers of attorney executed by the victims legally required Novy to place their assets into independent trust funds selected by the victims that would manage their assets, so the act of placing the funds into accounts that he controlled constituted a theft by Novy. It is alleged that Novy stole $929,026 from three of the six victims through this criminal scheme, authorities said.

3. In the third scheme, Novy allegedly transferred client funds from various accounts – including the clients' personal accounts, the clients' IOLTA sub-accounts, or the firm's attorney trust account – into the firm's operating and disbursement accounts. Novy allegedly excessively billed the clients for power of attorney fees without any supporting invoices. Novy allegedly stole $659,457 from three of the six victims through this criminal scheme, authorities said.

Monday's indictment included two counts of second-degree theft by unlawful taking; three counts of second-degee misapplication of entrusted property; one count of second-degree theft by deception; two counts of first -degree money laundering and two counts of second-degee money laundering, Grewal's office said.

The money laundering counts allege that Novy engaged in transactions involving the stolen funds and the various accounts – primarily his attorney trust accounts and/or attorney business accounts – through which he concealed the source of the stolen funds and used them to promote his criminal activities.

Novy allegedly stole $1.9 million from the following six victims – all residents of Ocean County – and/or their estates:

1. Brick Township woman who died in 2015 at age 88. Alleged theft: approximately $738,457.

2. Manchester Township woman who suffered from dementia and died in 2014 at age 87. Alleged theft: approximately $650,700.

3. Brick Township woman who suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in 2013 at age 85. Alleged theft: approximately $242,305.

4. Manchester Township woman who currently is 98. Alleged theft: approximately $130,000.

5. Point Pleasant woman who suffered from dementia and died in 2015 at age 87. Alleged theft: approximately $103,843.

6. Waretown woman who died in 2013 at age 85 (and her husband who died in 2011 at age 92). Alleged theft: approximately $45,520.

The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, assisted by the New Jersey Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation is investigating the case, which was referred to the state by Ocean County Surrogate Jeffrey W. Moran.

Novy also was investigated by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics, which issued an ethics complaint against him on Jan. 26, 2016, and assisted the Division of Criminal Justice, Grewal's office said.

Deputy Attorneys General Peter Gallagher and William Conlow presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Deputy Division Director Christine Hoffman. The case was investigated by Detective Michael Arduini, Detective Michael Woods, Lt. Anne Hayes, Investigator Jordan Thompson, Investigator Wayne Cummings and Analyst Terri Drumm. Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller and Investigator Debra Maiorano are handling the state's forfeiture action.

Attorney General Grewal thanked the Ocean County Surrogate, the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics and the Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation for their valuable assistance in the investigation. Special Agents Mike Mullane and Will Makar investigated for the Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation.

First-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, along with a fine of up to $200,000 and an anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $500,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree money laundering charge carries an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $250,000.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Ocean County, where Novy will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.

Authorities urged anyone with information about alleged misappropriation of client funds or other suspicious transactions involving Novy to contact the Division of Criminal Justice's toll-free tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ to report the information confidentially.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney Who Preached Elder Law Stole $1.9M From Elderly: AG

Hollywood attorney disbarred after failing supervise non-lawyer employee who stole $4.8 million

TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Hollywood attorney Randall Lawrence Gilbert has been disbarred following a March  22 Florida Supreme Court opinion over allegations concerning his firm's trust account and a non-attorney employee, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Gilbert failed to properly supervise the firm’s trust account and a non-lawyer employee who had a criminal past," the state bar said in its April 30 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's opinion. "Over a four-year period, the employee stole $4.8 million from the trust account. The 190 thefts averaged $100,000 per month, and went unquestioned by Gilbert."

Gilbert's disbarment was effective immediately, according to the state Supreme Court's 18-page opinion.

By the end of March 2014, the non-attorney employee "had embezzled nearly $5 million from the firm's trust account" and had "a known history of wire fraud and embezzlement of more than $7 million," said the unsigned high court's opinion.

The non-attorney employee absconded in March 2014, according to a referee's report filed in the matter.

"Whether Gilbert was aware of or personally involved in the theft is not the critical inquiry," the opinion said. "Indeed, this case gives new meaning to the phrase 'turning a blind eye'. Gilbert, as an attorney and fiduciary, was directly responsible for his firm's trust account and for the supervision of employees. As an attorney he owed a duty to the public and to his clients to safeguard their money. Instead, he flouted the system by lying to a federal probation officer and allowing a non-attorney to hold himself out as a law school graduate and a certified public accountant."

Gilbert was admitted to the bar in Florida on Sept. 17, 1999, according to his profile at the state bar website. Gilbert had no history of prior discipline, according to his state bar profile and the Supreme Court's opinion.

A referee in the case had recommended Gilbert be suspended two years, citing mitigating factors including no dishonest or selfish motive, timely good faith effort to make restitution, cooperating with the investigation, interim rehabilitation and remorse.

"On balance, although we do not ignore the mitigation found by the referee, we conclude that it does not outweigh the egregiousness of Gilbert's conduct," the Supreme Court's opinion said.

Full Article & Source:
Hollywood attorney disbarred after failing supervise non-lawyer employee who stole $4.8 million

Homeless shelter volunteer charged with exploitation of the elderly

BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. (WKRG) - Angela Marie Cady, 61, a volunteer with the Christ N Us Ministry in Bayou La Batre according to police, has been charged with exploiting one of the shelter's clients.

According to Lt. Mike Goodin with the Bayou La Batre Police Department, Cady used the homeless person's funds "in a way the client didn't approve."  The amount is believed to be less than $1,500.00.

Cady was booked into Mobile Metro Jail Monday afternoon and released on bond later the same day.

Lynn Harbison, Director of Christ N Us Ministry, says that Cady will no longer be affiliated with the shelter and they are cooperating fully with the police as the investigation continues.

Full Article & Source:
Homeless shelter volunteer charged with exploitation of the elderly

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Guardianship panel recommends changes to closed system

A committee appointed by the state Supreme Court has recommended rule changes for New Mexico courts that would allow the public into previously closed hearings involving people placed under legal guardianship or conservatorship because of their mental or physical condition.

Access to confidential court records involving such cases will remain under wraps for the most part, under another proposed rule.

The first two rules proposed by the committee are open for public comment until Monday before the Supreme Court decides whether to implement them. The law goes into effect July 1.

Family members still won’t be entitled to automatically view copies of the annual reports on the welfare and finances of an incapacitated person under court protection – but will have better ability to seek access.

Those reports are required of guardians and conservators at least annually with the court. But under the proposed rules, state district court judges who hear such cases will have the discretion to permit access by family members or other interested parties.

The rules committee of mostly lawyers and judges has been reviewing ways for courts to implement the 59-page guardianship reform law passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature in February.

“The big picture is changing a little bit,” said state Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, the original sponsor of the guardianship legislation. “People are watching, and judges are trying to make changes to improve things.”

The proposed rule for opening hearings is based on the provision of the new law that states the court, for good cause, can decide to close a hearing.

To close a hearing, the proposed rule states, a judge would have to hold a hearing on any proposed courtroom closure.

The rule proposes that open hearings apply to all cases pending or filed on or after July 1.

The other proposed rule up for public comment affects access to records.

While still allowing only the court docket sheet, which shows the actions in the case, to be public, there would be a list of people who could review the petition for guardianship or conservator before a judge rules on the matter. The judge’s order would also be available for review to those persons.

They would include an alleged incapacitated person’s spouse, adult children or stepchildren; persons responsible for their care; their attorneys, trustees and powers of attorneys; and people known to have assisted the person in the prior six months.

Once the judge’s order granting the guardianship or conservator is issued, the list of those able to review the court records, including medical or financial filings or reports, would be limited to the incapacitated person, their appointed guardian or conservator, and “any other person the court determines.”

Advocates of reforming guardianship laws have hailed the increased transparency to the current closed system, under which hundreds of people, many elderly with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are placed under the control of the appointed guardians or conservators.

One national expert who has been studying the guardianship issue for 30 years told the Journal last fall that New Mexico’s closed system was unusual.

“What struck me when I first looked at New Mexico, I was very surprised as a general matter that guardianship proceedings were not open to the public. That’s not consistent with how most other states address the issue,” David English, a professor at University of Missouri at Kansas City, told a now-disbanded commission appointed by the Supreme Court last year to recommend reforms.

The rules committee is expected to continue proposing rules involving guardianship reform until further notice of the Supreme Court.

The proposed rules can be found and comments lodged at the court’s website, under the “open for comment” rules at

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship panel recommends changes to closed system

Metro home healthcare worker given 3 years of probation for stealing from elderly

OLATHE, Kan. -- A judge in Johnson County sentenced a healthcare worker Tuesday for stealing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from elderly clients.

Aldean Foster, who pleaded guilty to mistreating a dependent adult, was sentenced to 36 months of probation, but she must first serve 60 days in custody.  She was also ordered to pay $46,850 in restitution to the two victims.

Aldean is not allowed to work in home health care or nursing facility settings during the term of her probation.

Since FOX 4 first told you about the charges against Aldean “Suzy” Foster in April, detectives say they've discovered more victims.

Foster was hired through a company, before she had any criminal charges, to care for seniors in Johnson County, but some of those seniors say she was stealing from them instead.

“I was probably watching television, and I paid no attention to her, I know she was in my bedroom for a very long time, but I didn’t think any more about it until after she had gone,” said one victim who wanted to remain anonymous. “I went in there, and I noticed things were not exactly where I had left them.”

Court documents say victims lost as much as $100,000.

“They’re the most vulnerable people, and to take advantage of that trust, it’s a terrible thing,” said Andrew McCarl.

McCarl said he found out Foster was stealing from his mother when police recovered an Overland Park Police Department ring with his dad's name on it from a pawn shop.

“To take something with a family name on it, that’s kind of gutsy. To take a police department ring with a family name on it is fairly incredulous,”McCarl added.

“I’m hoping she doesn’t have that opportunity again,” said the first victim. “She slipped through the cracks, and I paid the price.”

Leawood police say through investigations and speaking with pawn shops, they were able to determine the items stolen from Foster matched several items she had pawned, including items from other jurisdictions. Since then, about a half-dozen more victims have come forward.

“She had been doing this job for quite a while, so it’s unknown how many are out there,” said Detective John Freeman with Leawood police.

Many families say they don’t know the extent of what Foster took from them, as they don’t know every piece of jewelry their loved ones had. Foster will be back in court in May.

Full Article & Source:
Metro home healthcare worker given 3 years of probation for stealing from elderly

Carl Junction man to repay parents $40,000

A Carl Junction man pleaded guilty Monday to financial exploitation of his elderly parents and received a suspended imposition of sentence and placement on probation with court-ordered restitution of $40,000.

Lawrence K. Larimore, 52, pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to a single count of financial exploitation of the elderly in a plea deal calling for the suspended sentence and restitution. Circuit Judge Gayle Crane accepted the plea agreement and placed Larimore on supervised probation for five years.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, the defendant was asked by his parents to assist them in paying their bills and buying their groceries and was given access to their bank account through the use of a debit card and the writing of checks. The court document states that his parents intended that he be a co-signer for the account, but he took the liberty of making himself a co-owner without their knowledge and put himself on his father's credit card.

Between June 2015 and April 2016, the defendant drained his parents' money market account of $40,000 and ran up another $19,000 in charges on the credit card, according to the affidavit.

Full Article & Source: 
Carl Junction man to repay parents $40,000

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio: Hospice Survivors and Victims with Carly Walden

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

We will be talking about Hospice protocols and the medical industry’s growing efforts to euthanize those deemed useless, too old or too sick to waste their time on.

The public is being carefully conditioned to accept the hastening of death. Bills are appearing across the country promoting “assisted suicide”, “right to die” and other benign sounding efforts promoting the early deaths of those deemed disposable. It is a culture of death! A whole system is in place that devalues life and regards the elderly, the disabled and others as unfit to continue living; too costly to survive. Maybe you think this is ok as long as it isn’t your mother, your father or spouse your child, your brother, sister or other loved one,….or maybe even YOU!

Join us as we talk about the culture of LIFE!

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later!

Former model 'eaten alive' while in care of Georgia nursing home

The family of Rebecca Zani, pictured above in her youth, say the former model died from scabies while at the Shepherds Hill Nursing Home.
A former model known for her looks was eaten alive by parasitic mites due to a scabies infestation while in the care of a Georgia nursing home.

An investigation into the 2015 death of Rebecca Zeni, 93, revealed she died from scabies during her stay at the Shepherds Hill Nursing Home in LaFayette, 11 Alive reported.

An autopsy report stated the woman’s cause of death was “septicemia due to crusted scabies.”

State health officials were made aware of a scabies outbreak at the facility but did not investigate or inspect the nursing home, the station reported.

Scabies is an “infestation by the human itch mite. The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a young woman, Zeni was employed at a naval yard during World War II, did some modeling in New York City and worked for a television station in Chicago. She was put in the nursing home by her daughter in 2010. Zeni suffered from dementia, the station reported, citing health records.

Zeni’s family is suing Pruitt Health, which runs the nursing home where the woman died.

“I don’t understand how you can allow a human being to suffer needlessly,” Mike Prieto, the family’s lawyer, said.

Pictures of Zeni before she died showed her skin blackened and flaky. Stephen Chance, an attorney representing the Zeni family, alleged the nursing home staff were told “not to touch Zeni’s hand.”

“There was a conversation at this nursing home with a health care provider about being careful about touching Ms. Zeni’s hand for fear that it might fall off her body,” Chance told 11Alive.

The news station asked Dr. Kris Sperry, a forensic pathologist, to look over Zeni’s autopsy report. Sperry said out of the 6,000 autopsies he has conducted, Zeni’s was “one of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen in my career as a forensic pathologist.”

Sperry believed hundreds of millions of mites were burrowed inside Zeni during the time of her death. When asked if it was fair to say Zeni was “eaten alive,” he said it was likely she suffered a painful death.

“Having seen what I’ve seen with Ms. Zeni, I think that is frankly a good characterization,” Sperry said. “I would seriously consider calling this a homicide by neglect.”

Pruitt Health did not return requests for a comment, according to the station.

Records from the Georgia Department of Public Health showed officials were notified of the scabies outbreak at the nursing home in 2013 and 2015. The records showed 35 residents and staff were exposed to the infestation. The department did not inspect but sent the facility information on how to treat scabies. Zeni died 11 days after the response from the agency.

The outlet noted the state’s department of health “is not required to inspect facilities after learning about an outbreak,” but are expected to notify the Georgia Department of Community Health.

However, the department of health did not have any record showing the department of community health was notified of the outbreak.

Full Article & Source:
Former model 'eaten alive' while in care of Georgia nursing home

Home-care provider Victoria Castro accused in $5,000 theft from elderly client's home

Victoria Castro
A home-care provider was arrested after being accused of stealing $5,000 worth of items from the home of an elderly person, El Paso police said.

Detectives arrested Victoria Castro, 59, of Central El Paso, on Monday afternoon on a theft charge.

Castro was working as a home-care provider when she allegedly stole items belonging to a senior citizen she was supposed to be taking care of, police said.

Castro was arrested following an investigation by detectives with the Financial Crimes Special Victims Unit, which handles cases of financial exploitation of the elderly.

Police said that detectives found evidence linking Castro to the theft.

Castro is being held at the El Paso County Jail in Downtown under a $15,000 bond.

The Special Victims Unit has advised residents to take steps to help protect seniors by always hiring care providers from reputable companies.

Seniors are advised not to share bank account information,PIN and other financial information with a care provider, police said.

Seniors should not entrust debit or credit cards to anyone to make purchases on their behalf. Residents should keep a close eye on financial statements and bank accounts of loved ones.

If a person feels a loved one is being financially exploited by a care provider or anyone else, contact law enforcement, police said.

Full Article & Source:
Home-care provider Victoria Castro accused in $5,000 theft from elderly client's home

Growing number of elder abuse reports in Bucks and Pennsylvania involve family members

Financial exploitation is among the most frequent elder abuse allegations reported in Bucks County and beyond, accounting for nearly one-third of abuse reports locally and in Pennsylvania. The recent arrests of the Weaver family in Quakertown, who are accused of neglecting 84-year-old Albert Weaver Sr. and misusing more than $100,000 of his money, is the latest local example of the growing trend.

When a longtime bank customer applied for a $12,000 loan, Thomas Maclin asked him the usual procedural questions, including what he planned to do with the money.

The answers made Maclin suspicious. The customer, who was in his 70s, told Maclin that he won a lottery, but he needed to pay the taxes upfront before he could get the cash.

Maclin immediately recognized the man was getting scammed. But while his boss at the time encouraged employees to be vigilant for scams targeting older customers, they weren’t told what they should do if they suspect something.

Maclin tried to talk the customer out of the loan, but the man wouldn’t change his mind. Since he met the bank’s lending guidelines, Maclin had to approve the loan.

The experience still weighs heavy on his mind five years later, said Maclin, who left that job and now is vice president of business development and manager at the Doylestown Borough branch of Monument Bank.

Financial exploitation has become one of the most frequent allegations of elder abuse in Bucks County and beyond, according to multiple studies and federal and state data. But its true extent remains largely unknown, under-reported and unstudied, much like elder abuse in general. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, experts have reported that knowledge about elder abuse lags as much as two decades behind the fields of child abuse and domestic violence.

Current estimates are at least one in 10 people age 60 or older are victims of some kind of abuse or neglect, with financial exploitation the fastest growing abuse category, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Those numbers are expected to keep rising with nearly one in five people in the United States age 65 or older by 2030.

Studies cited older Americans as more frequent targets for abuse because of physical and cognitive impairments and social isolation. One study estimated people with dementia are at a 50 percent higher risk for abuse. A 2014 study of more than 4,000 adults age 60 and older found that seniors living with extended family are at an increased risk of abuse, particularly financial exploitation.

Bucks County authorities allege those risk factors were present in a 2016 death of an 84-year-old Quakertown man, who died 12 days after he was hospitalized with what one trauma care nurse described as the worst case of physical neglect she had seen in her career.

Albert Weaver Sr., who had Alzheimer’s disease, was treated for deep, infected bedsores that led to septic shock, as well as infections of the urinary tract and toenails, and severe malnutrition and dehydration at the time of his death, according to court documents. Hospital staff also found bruises and cuts on Weaver, according to court documents.

Last month, four people, including three of Weaver’s family members, were arrested on charges of allegedly neglecting him; three of the four are accused of spending nearly $150,000 of his money on items and services that did not benefit him.

Albert Weaver Jr., 52, daughter-in-law Virginia Weaver, 49, granddaughter Amanda Weaver, 26, and Amanda’s boyfriend James Dorney, 33, all of Quakertown, were charged March 28 with neglect of care of a dependent person and reckless endangering. Virginia Weaver faces an additional charge of theft; Amanda Weaver and Dorney face additional charges of theft and conspiracy.

Authorities allege that Virginia and Amanda Weaver and Dorney all were responsible for Weaver’s daily care; Amanda Weaver and Dorney lived with Weaver Sr. in his home.

After his death, authorities reviewed Weaver Sr.’s bank records and found that during the last three years of his life, his family spent nearly $147,000 on items and services that did not benefit him, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The items and services the family allegedly used the elder Weaver’s money for included satellite TV service for Weaver Jr. and his wife, alcohol highway safety school for Amanda Weaver and her brother, a car loan and insurance for Dorney, traffic and non-traffic tickets for family members, and a loan payment in Weaver Jr.’s name, according to authorities.

An intimate crime

The Weaver case is among the roughly 1,200 elder abuse reports Bucks County receives annually, a number that has jumped 60 percent over the last two years, driven mostly by allegations of financial fraud against senior citizens, according to Chuck Danfield, supervisor of the county’s older adult protective services unit in the Area Agency on Aging. About 20 percent of reports — 240 — were substantiated as abuse, where without intervention the senior was at risk for harm, Danfield said.

At least one out of every three elder abuse reports in Bucks County each year involve allegations of misuse or taking of assets belonging to an older adult, and such cases are referred to the Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force, Danfield said. About half the time, a financial abuse investigation finds evidence of other types of abuse as well, such as neglect or verbal abuse, he added.

Faceless abusers — like the ones behind the lottery scheme that Maclin encountered — are still a problem, Danfield said. A particular pitfall he sees with older adults is scammers promising a potential romantic relationship, but before long making requests for money or requests they be added to bank accounts or asking a victim to co-sign a loan.

Often when the person finally reports the abuse, it’s too late.

“By the time we get the information, the money is long gone and it’s extremely hard for us to help them recover money,” Danfield said.

A growing number of abusers are people the older adult knows, often a family member, Danfield said. Many times, he said, the victim has given the abuser their power of attorney, a legal document gives a person the ability to make all financial decisions on behalf of another person who is incapacitated, including selling a house or stock, or obtaining a mortgage in the person’s name.

“We see that is where a lot of abuse occurs. The perpetrator spends the money in a place the other person wouldn’t be,” Danfield said. “A bed-bound person is not at Victoria’s Secret, going to outlet malls or going to Disney World.”

Danfield recalled a case where a man who had the power of attorney for his 80-something-year-old mother used her money to pay for construction of an in-ground swimming pool. When confronted, the man claimed his mother wanted the pool.

“As power of attorney, (you) have the right to spend the person’s money and assets for them,” Danfield said. “You can’t use the money to buy a pool, to take a trip, to buy expensive things you normally couldn’t afford.”

Older adults also are reluctant to admit they’ve been abused or scammed because they don’t want to appear incompetent, which could result in a loss of independence, Michael Bannon, director of Bucks County Consumer Protection. His department also has seen a rise in family-related allegations of financial exploitation involving older adults.

Family loyalty and fear of abandonment are factors that often keep victims from turning in family members abusing them, Bannon said.

“It’s so intimate, it’s usually hidden, and only people close to that senior citizen may recognize it,” he added.

More vigilance

Pennsylvania, which has the fifth-largest senior citizen population in the U.S., has seen elder abuse referrals double over the last decade, jumping from 13,444 in the 2007-08 fiscal year to 28,632 in 2016-17, according to Drew Wilburne, a state Department of Aging spokesman.

Financial exploitation along with caregiver neglect tied as the most frequent abuse referrals last year in Pennsylvania, with each reporting roughly 7,455 cases opened last year, Wilburne said. Caregiver neglect cases had a slightly higher substantiation rate than financial exploitation — 21 percent versus 17 percent.

Neither Pennsylvania nor neighbor New Jersey include employees of banks and other financial institutions among the entities with a legal mandate to report suspected elder abuse, though both states require employees in the health care, legal and social service field or anyone working in businesses that care for individuals over age 60 to make the reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities has led education and training initiatives for financial institutions about how to prevent, recognize and respond to suspected elder financial exploitation, agency spokesman Ed Novak said. So far this fiscal year, the department has led 37 trainings for about 3,000 people in its latest program, Senior Safe, which helps financial investment professionals identify “red flags” of suspicious behavior of clients, Novak said.

Over the last five years, the department has expanded the reach of its Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation prevention program from medical professionals to other professions such as social workers, cosmetologists and pharmacists. The program offers training on identifying signs of financial abuse or exploitation and how to react, Novak said.

Recently, the department started a separate training program aimed at lawyers and accountants, and it has partnered with the state Department of Revenue to launch a program for tax preparers. The department also is working with the Department of State to promote the training through its professional oversight boards, Novak said.

Novak credited banks and credit unions as among those institutions on the forefront of efforts to better protect older adults from financial exploitation.

After his experience with the lottery scam at his previous bank, Maclin reached out to Bucks County Consumer Protection for advice on how he should handle such situations in the future with older customers. He ended up joining the Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force, which has helped him shape fraud reporting guidelines at Monument.

At his branch, employees are trained to spot signs of fraud and ways they can intervene without violating legal obligations to keep customer information private, Maclin said. One way is employees attempt to isolate the senior customer and ask questions, including if they are being coerced into making a transaction. If an employee spots a red flag, the incident is reported to Maclin, who is designated as the person who files a report with the Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults hotline, the entry point for a task force investigation.

But Maclin still sees a lack of formal employee training in senior fraud prevention and intervention in the banking industry, especially among smaller, independent banks. While employees are encouraged to be vigilant, there remains a disconnect in how to react and report suspicions, he said.

He added that a mandatory reporting requirement might make bank employees feel more comfortable about reporting suspicions. He suspects that part of the reluctance for employees to report suspicions may lie with the legal obligation of financial institutions to keep customer account information and transactions private.

Still, Bannon and Danfield both agreed that they have seen an uptick in referrals among financial institutions over the last five years.

Bucks County’s Area Agency on Aging is fielding 20 to 30 reports of suspected financial abuse a month from banks and credit unions, though family members remain the biggest source of financial abuse or exploitation reports, Danfield said.

Many big banks have developed dedicated fraud departments with someone responsible for making referrals, Danfield said, adding almost all the major banks have made a referral at some point to Bucks County’s hotline.

Danfield is among those advocates who would like to see financial institutions added to the state’s list of mandatory reporters involving elder abuse suspicions.

“It would benefit a lot of victims we never find out about,” he said.

Full Article & Source:
Growing number of elder abuse reports in Bucks and Pennsylvania involve family members