Saturday, September 29, 2018

Alert Burton senior center director uncovers $50,000 embezzlement case

BURTON (WJRT) (9/25/2018) - "We are always on the lookout. That is one of our number one missions. So, when anybody comes in and starts talking to us about an issue that's going on, it's really important that you listen and that you ask questions," explained Burton Senior Activities Center Director Jean Johnson.

She said that approach is what brought to light two years of abuse endured by one of the seniors she works with.

"She was brave enough to tell me that there was some issues going on," Johnson said.

"You know, Jean Johnson is really I think, the heroine in this case," Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said.

He explained earlier this year, she alerted his Elder Abuse Task Force, who found 58-year-old Virginia Brown had stolen $50,780 from the woman.

The Sheriff said the two met at church shortly after the woman's guardian passed away; and, Brown convinced the woman to sign her money over to her. Once she did, Brown immediately had the woman buy her a new home, which she moved the woman into.

"What happened next was a tenant was paying the victim money on a land contract; and several months of those payments on the land contract were put into the defendants pocket, they never made it to the bank," Sheriff Pickell said.

With that $7,600, plus another $5,000 that Brown wrote in checks from the woman's bank account, she took a trip to Florida.

"The worst is yet to come," Sheriff Pickell added. "In January 2018, the defendant Virginia Brown, without the consent of the victim, withdrew $40,000 from the victim's annuity."

That money was also spent on a trip to Florida.

"These are my friends and to see that somebody would see a situation that someone could be taken advantage of and then do that, that just, it makes me very angry and disappointed in our society," Johnson said.

Brown is facing up to 15 years behind bars.

Johnson said the woman is doing much better now that the situation is under control.

For more information on the Sheriff's Elder Abuse Task Force, click on the 'Related Links' section of this story.

Full Article & Source:
Alert Burton senior center director uncovers $50,000 embezzlement case

New law offers alternative to guardianship for seniors and those with developmental disabilities

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — In a bill signing Thursday, Gov. Bill Walker created another way for a person to be helped by others besides restrictive, traditional guardianship.

In signing House Bill 336, Rep. Charisse Millett’s popular final bill, Walker created new law allowing so-called “Supported Decision-Making Agreements.”

The bill signing occurred at the Fourth Annual Disability & Aging Summit at the Special Olympics building on Mountain View Drive for a reason: Decision-Making Agreements are primarily for Alaska’s rapidly growing senior population and for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In an interview, Millett, an Anchorage Republican who lost her seat to a primary challenger in the August primary, said her bill was essentially nonpartisan and was a fitting way for her to leave the Legislature. The legislative votes and long co-sponsorship list demonstrate the measure’s popularity — it passed the House 39-1 on April 14 and the Senate 19-0 on May 11.

Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla was the sole no vote. He said the bill offered too big a grant of immunity for decisions made on behalf of another. In a telephone interview, he said he was unable to amend the bill to his liking.

The bill emerged from the previous year’s disability and aging summit, according to participants. Millett had warned it might take two years for the Legislature to move such a measure, but she praised her staff and others for shrinking the time to three months and getting the bill passed last session.

The new law allows a disabled person or senior citizen to name a “supporter” or team of supporters — perhaps children, parents or friends — who would sign an agreement with the disabled person or senior naming the help that was needed.

“It could be part of anyone’s natural support network,” said Anne Applegate, an attorney on the staff of the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education.

The bill itself has several sample agreements among its 19 pages of text.

A team could agree to do something like help a senior with computers, Wi-Fi or a smartphone, Applegate said, or an agreement could focus on health care or legal advice.

In capital letters, one of the law’s sample agreements says: “A supporter appointed under this agreement does not make decisions for me.”

“It’s innovative legislation that will end up saving the state money and will allow the freedom that seniors — and folks with intellectual and development disabilities — to gauge how much support they need,” Millett said in an interview.

Full Article & Source:
New law offers alternative to guardianship for seniors and those with developmental disabilities

Losing a Parent Is Hell, So Stop Telling Me to 'Get Over' My Grief

As I held the phone to my ear, listening to the sounds of the ICU in my father’s hospital room as he lay dying, I thought, This is the hard part. This was the part that I’d prepared my heart for, the inevitable day that we all knew was coming after my father’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer nine months prior. Every chemotherapy setback, every hospital admission, every missed family gathering had led us here. We knew cancer was going to rob us of our father and my kids of their grandfather.

He was dying, and his cancer-ridden body would finally be at rest.

I was 1,600 miles away and helpless to do anything but whisper to my father through the phone I clutched in my hands as I sobbed.

When the nurse got on the phone and said, “It’s over. He’s gone,” I breathed a sigh of relief.

My father was at peace.

The worst was over, I told myself.

But my grief journey was just starting. And it’s been excruciating, painful, and wonderful, all in different stages.

Though it’s been five years since the day I said goodbye to my father, I still grieve him every day. Not a day goes by that my heart doesn’t feel the pang of sorrow when I want to share a professional success with him or when I catch a glimpse of his smile on my son’s face.

I am not over my grief, and I never will be.

And I’m grateful.

Grief is not an emotion that is fleeting like anger or sadness. Some say grief is a process, but I disagree. By calling grief a “process,” the implication is that there is an end. A final moment where you say, “Yup! I’m done now. I don’t miss my dad anymore.”

But that is simply not the case.

My grief is here to stay, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop asking me to get over it.

In fact, if I’m being honest, I like who I’ve become since I’ve had to process my grief over my father’s death. Grief has made me a better friend when my friends have lost their parents. Through my experience, I know that doing a friend’s laundry during a crisis means more than any lasagna you can shove in their fridge. And I know that funeral flowers just wind up dying and in the garbage, so I show up with wine instead.

Grief has made me more empathetic to strangers. I don’t judge as quickly when a cashier is short with me or when someone cuts me off in traffic because I wonder if they are having a day like I did shortly after my father passed away. The day when I had an anxiety attack in the parking lot at the grocery store and had to abandon my cart because I was crying too hard to lift the bags.

The man who screamed at me that day for not replacing my cart can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned. People who are carrying the burden of grief aren’t wearing T-shirts that say, “Be nice to me, my sister just died.” I’ve learned to practice kindness more often, thanks to grief.

I know not to tilt my head at a PTA meeting and say “How are you doing?” to a friend who has just lost her mother. Because I know she is fucking falling apart, and and it’s all she can do not to break the school windows with the gavel in her hands. Rather, I say “Death fucking sucks” instead. Because it does, and I needed someone to say that to me in the early months. Grief has stripped away my social filter and has made me braver, bolder.

On the day my father died, I became part of a club that I didn’t know existed. The “I’ve Lost a Parent” club members quietly and bravely carry their pain as they go about the business of raising kids, chasing job promotions, and managing a household.

The members of this club wearily welcome new members by simply saying, “Me too,” and I’ve been welcomed with open arms. The friends who have shared their experiences and the ones who haven’t judged me for my anger as I’ve navigated my grief path are the people I try to emulate when I’m offering support.

You will never hear me say “He’s better off” or “It was God’s plan” to a friend who tells me she is hurting from grief that threatens to swallow her whole. My grief has taught me that sitting in silence with a friend as she cries or the simple act of saying “I see your pain” is what will really make a difference.

Simple gestures like showing up to take care of carpool when you know a friend is struggling or arranging to show up with a hot meal for her family says that you understand where she is in her grief. Grief has made me understand that actions really do speak louder than words.
I didn’t ask for grief to enter my world, and watching my father die was absolute hell. But for all the sadness and pain, the days when my heart hurts so bad that I think it might actually be breaking, I wouldn’t trade my grief for anything.

Grief has been a gift in my life because it causes me to feel deep, raw emotion. And those feelings remind me that cancer didn’t erase my father from my memories. Yes, death fucking sucks, but through the tapestry of memories and a whole lot of tears, my father feels closer to me than ever, thanks to the grieving process.

So stop asking me to get over it. I don’t want to get over it.

By: Christine Burke

Full Article & Source:
Losing a Parent Is Hell, So Stop Telling Me to 'Get Over' My Grief

Friday, September 28, 2018

‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years

ITHACA, N.Y. — Most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government for years, according to new federal data, bolstering the long-held suspicions of many families that staffing levels were often inadequate.

The records for the first time reveal frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends. On the worst staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.

The data, analyzed by Kaiser Health News, come from daily payroll records Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Medicare previously had been rating each facility’s staffing levels based on the homes’ own unverified reports, making it possible to game the system.

The payroll records provide the strongest evidence that over the last decade, the government’s five-star rating system for nursing homes often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely identified the periods of thin staffing that were common. Medicare is now relying on the new data to evaluate staffing, but the revamped star ratings still mask the erratic levels of people working from day to day.

At the Beechtree Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing here, Jay Vandemark, 47, who had a stroke last year, said he often roams the halls looking for an aide not already swamped with work when he needs help putting on his shirt.

Especially on weekends, he said, “It’s almost like a ghost town.”

Nearly 1.4 million people are cared for in skilled nursing facilities in the United States. When nursing homes are short of staff, nurses and aides scramble to deliver meals, ferry bedbound residents to the bathroom and answer calls for pain medication. Essential medical tasks such as repositioning a patient to avert bedsores can be overlooked when workers are overburdened, sometimes leading to avoidable hospitalizations.

“Volatility means there are gaps in care,” said David Stevenson, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s not like the day-to-day life of nursing home residents and their needs vary substantially on a weekend and a weekday. They need to get dressed, to bathe and to eat every single day.”

David Gifford, a senior vice president at the American Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group, disagreed, saying there are legitimate reasons staffing varies. On weekends, for instance, there are fewer activities for residents and more family members around, he said.

“While staffing is important, what really matters is what the overall outcomes are,” he said.

While Medicare does not set a minimum resident-to-staff ratio, it does require the presence of a registered nurse for eight hours a day and a licensed nurse at all times.

The payroll records show that even facilities that Medicare rated positively for staffing levels on its Nursing Home Compare website, including Beechtree, were short nurses and aides on some days. On its best staffed days, Beechtree had one aide for every eight residents, while on its lowest staffed days, there was only one aide for 18 residents. Nursing levels also varied.
Jay Vandemark, who entered Beechtree after he suffered a stroke that immobilized his left side, complained that the center didn’t have enough workers on some shifts. “It’s almost like a ghost town,” he said.CreditHeather Ainsworth for The New York Times
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing home inspections, said in a statement that it “is concerned and taking steps to address fluctuations in staffing levels” that have emerged from the new data. This month, it said it would lower ratings for nursing homes that had gone seven or more days without a registered nurse.

Beechtree’s payroll records showed similar staffing levels to those it had reported before. David Camerota, chief operating officer of Upstate Services Group, the for-profit chain that owns Beechtree, said in a statement that the facility has enough nurses and aides to properly care for its 120 residents. But, he said, like other nursing homes, Beechtree is in “a constant battle” to recruit and retain employees even as it has increased pay to be more competitive.

Mr. Camerota wrote that weekend staffing is a special challenge as employees are guaranteed every other weekend off. “This impacts our ability to have as many staff as we would really like to have,” he wrote.

In April, the government started using daily payroll reports to calculate average staffing ratings, replacing the old method, which relied on homes to report staffing for the two weeks before an inspection. The homes sometimes anticipated when an inspection would happen and could staff up before it.  (Continue)

Full Article & Source:
'It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years

Brooke Astor's Grandson Fights Against Elder Abuse

Philip C. Marshall went to court to protect his wealthy socialite grandmother from being financially exploited by her own son. His crusade continues today.

Philip C. Marshall, grandson of Brooke Astor and founder of Beyond Brooke. Courtesy Financial Advisor Magazine, Alec Marshall
The 2009 trial of Anthony Marshall, son of New York philanthropist Brooke Astor, brought nationwide attention to the issue of elder abuse. Marshall was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from his mother and, along with a lawyer, fraudulently changing her will. Astor’s grandson Philip C. Marshall filed a guardianship petition in 2006 seeking to protect his grandmother—and today, years after the deaths of his father and grandmother, he continues to campaign against the financial exploitation of seniors. In this edited conversation, Marshall speaks with Senior Editor Eleanor Laise about how seniors and their loved ones can recognize and combat abuse.

Based on your experience, what are the key elder-abuse red flags that family members and friends should watch for?

Isolation of seniors is one of the biggest red flags. If a senior is isolated, that sets the stage for potential perpetrators to come in. Old friends vanishing, new friends—in quotes—showing up. This is what happened with my grandmother. New lawyer, new accountant, new best friend. All should signal possible warning signs.

In your case, combating the abuse meant testifying against your father. What’s your advice to people who suspect their close relatives are the perpetrators?

My inbox and my voice mail are full of people who are desperately trying to figure out what to do. Yes, there’s a huge angst about addressing abuse with a family member you’ve had a lifetime relationship with. But the angst is really among people who say, ‘I’ve gone to law enforcement and Adult Protective Services, and they say this is a family affair or a civil matter.’

Very typically elder abuse is criminal and needs to be treated as such. That’s one of the things that came out of my grandmother’s case: It wasn’t just a battle of the bluebloods—it was criminal.

You have founded an organization, Beyond Brooke, which seeks to provide elder-abuse education and empower seniors. What do you tell seniors about how to protect themselves against financial abuse? 

It’s back to engaging in relationships and making sure you’ve got people in your life who will watch your back. It sometimes takes just one person or three or five people in your life who are checking in—and cultivating those relationships.

Seniors are often encouraged to designate a power of attorney to carry out their wishes if they become incapacitated. Yet this can also open the door to elder abuse. What’s your advice on designating a power of attorney? 

I filed for guardianship because my father had power of attorney for his mother, which he was using as a weapon and a shield. I would say have two agents, for starters. It’s a check and balance system. And one could be a professional. If folks happen to have a trust or two, make sure there’s a professional fiduciary as a trustee, so you’ve got this check and balance.

There’s so much power of attorney abuse. And as a reminder, power of attorney abuse is criminal. People are being told it’s a civil issue, and that’s not true.

Your grandmother was abused while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. What should be done to protect people with dementia from elder abuse? 

That’s where folks in the financial industry and in health care need to talk. When someone has mild cognitive impairment, they’re potentially still able to do financial [tasks] and have testamentary capacity. But there’s this huge grey zone between mild cognitive impairment and advanced Alzheimer’s. It’s really difficult to figure out when to act.

There are three things we usually don’t like talking about: health, wealth and death. And perpetrators know this is to their advantage. So we have to throw these right on the table. Generally speaking, people are relieved when their families talk about these critical issues.

Full Article & Source:
Brooke Astor's Grandson Fights Against Elder Abuse

See Also:
From Whistle-Blower To Elder Champion

Too Sick for Court?

Brooke Astor heir Anthony Marshall leaves sons out of his will; millions will go to second wife and her children

Brooke Astor's Lasting Legacy

Settlement Reached in Brooke Astor Estate Battle

Astor's Son Found Guilty

Why You Should Protect Your Investments By Designating A Trusted Contact

Occasionally, I’ll walk into a room and forget why. Or, my adult children will say, “Mom, you already told us this story” or “Mom, you just asked me that question.” It happens to all of us, but sometimes I wonder—am I a little forgetful or is it something more serious?

senior couple looking at financial forms
Credit: Getty Royalty Free
It's natural to fear age-related cognitive decline but it might be less of a threat than you imagine, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College study “Cognitive Aging and the Capacity to Manage Money.” The study finds that most people in their 70s and 80s will be able to manage their own finances despite normal cognitive changes associated with age. That’s great for the majority; however, individuals who develop a cognitive impairment (whether mild or more severe like dementia or Alzheimer’s) may see a substantial reduction in their financial capacity and need someone to step in for them.

The research indicates that cognitive impairment is increasingly likely for those in their 80s and older. And the severity of the impairment increases with age. These individuals are usually unaware their cognitive faculties are slipping and can become more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

This year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) addressed these concerns by implementing new rules designed to help protect the finances of vulnerable individuals. One provision requires broker dealers to make a reasonable effort to obtain the name of a trusted contact for their brokerage and other retail customer accounts.

A trusted contact is an individual identified and selected by the account owner who can be contacted by the financial firm if something seems amiss. For example, if the firm is concerned that the account owner is no longer able to handle their financial affairs, if the account owner cannot be reached, or if there is a reason to suspect fraud or financial exploitation, the firm is authorized to reach out to the trusted contact for guidance. Additionally, the financial firm can temporarily withhold the disbursement of funds or securities while any matters are being investigated.

The firm is authorized to share transaction information, specific securities, beneficiary designations, and the account owner’s contact information with this individual. So, it is important the account holder selects someone he or she fully trusts.

At the same time, the trusted contact will not be able to act on the account. This is a protective measure – and it’s preferable that the individual selected to be the trusted contact is not already authorized to act on the account. Unfortunately, financial exploitation is often committed by those who may be closest to the account holder.

Institutions that deal with clients on a regular basis may recognize changes in behavior or unusual account activity before family members or friends do. So, when you are tackling items on your annual to-do list, contact your financial institution to add a trusted contact to your brokerage and other investment accounts. Make sure your trusted contact knows about your directive as well.

Designating such an individual to serve on your behalf provides another layer of account protection to keep you financially secure.

Full Article & Source:
Why You Should Protect Your Investments By Designating A Trusted Contact

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Texas Supreme Court to Weigh Ethics of Lawyer's Role in Elderly Woman's Guardianship Case

Texas Supreme Court building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Texas Supreme Court will soon decide whether a lawyer should be disqualified from a contested guardianship case involving an 88-year-old woman because he helped his legal assistant get a $350,000 loan from the woman, wrote her will and later helped his employee be appointed as her guardian.

The case, In Re Thetford, concerns Verna Thetford, who resides in a Graham assisted living facility, according to documents. In 2012, Thetford loaned her niece, Jamie Rogers, money to purchase property. Graham attorney Alfred G. “Rusty” Allen III, Rogers’ longtime employer, prepared the loan. Three years later, Allen prepared a will for Thetford that appointed Rogers as power of attorney.

However, when Thetford attempted to revoke the power of attorney in 2017, Rogers pursued guardianship over Thetford and used Allen as her lawyer, documents said.

Thetford later filed a motion to disqualify Allen from the guardianship, alleging his representation of Rogers was adverse to Thetford, and that Allen’s adverse representation in the guardianship matter is substantially related to his prior representation of Thetford.

Allen argued that Thetford was declared legally incapacitated by her doctor, and that it was his affirmative duty under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to protect Thetford’s wellbeing and to initiate the guardianship proceedings.

A trial court denied Thetford’s motion to disqualify Allen. Thetford later filed a writ of mandamus with Fort Worth Second Court of Appeals challenging the decision, but the court denied her petition.

Thetford later appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Texas disciplinary rule of professional conduct 1.02(g) does not permit Allen’s representation of a third party with adverse interests to his client.

The high court accepted the case for review and is to hear arguments in the case Oct. 10.

“The issue in this case is whether the ethical rules authorize Mr. Allen as Verna’s longtime lawyer to represent Verna’s niece, who is indebted to Verna and to sue Verna in Guardianship,” said Mary Barkley, a partner in Fort Worth’s Cantey Hanger, who represents Thetford. “Rule 1.02 (g) says that when a lawyer believes their client is lacking in mental capacity, they shall take reasonable action in securing a guardian or someone to act on their behalf. The issue here is that Mr. Allen believes that 1.02 mandated him to sue Verna and pursue the guardianship.”

“And what we’re saying is that statute for that rule is contemplating reasonable action. Reasonable action could be any number of things,” Barkley said. “But when [Allen] represented a third party—the niece who was admittedly indebted to Verna at the time he accepted the representation and was also his employee—he ran afoul of the ethical rules.”

In his brief, Allen notes that, at the time the 2012 loan was transacted, Rogers was not an employee of his firm—she worked there from 1985 to 2005, and returned in 2016—and that the loan was eventually paid to Thetford in full. He also argues that the conflict of interest rules do not apply to the case because the guardianship proceeding is not adverse to Thetford as a matter of law, and Allen’s prior representation of Thetford is not substantially related to the guardianship proceeding.

Allen said he plans to argue the case himself at the Supreme Court but will be assisted by Don Herrmann, a partner in Fort Worth’s Kelly Hart & Hallman.

“In view of the fact that we’ve got an argument in front of the Supreme Court in a few weeks, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment about the case except to say I’ve done my best and I feel like I acted appropriately in accordance with the Texas disciplinary rules in all of my representation of Mrs. Thetford and this guardianship,’’ Allen said.

Herrmann also believes that Allen acted ethically.

“I think Mr. Allen acted appropriately within the rules and I’m reluctant to comment about the case in advance of the hearing on Oct. 10,’’ Herrmann said.

Full Article & Source:
Texas Supreme Court to Weigh Ethics of Lawyer's Role in Elderly Woman's Guardianship Case

Paulding County Probate Court to launch volunteer guardianship program

PAULDING – Paulding County Probate Judge Michael A. Wehrkamp has announced the creation of a volunteer guardianship program to help those in the community live with the dignity they deserve. Judge Wehrkamp and his staff will host two informational open houses in October for those interested in serving their fellow residents as a volunteer guardian.

“Sometimes an adult is not able to manage his or her own affairs because of advanced age or a mental or physical disability, and when this occurs, it may be necessary for a guardian to assume the decision-making responsibilities for the person,” said Wehrkamp. “In recent years, the demand for this individualized care has grown beyond capacity, and our new program aims to provide a pool of screened and trained volunteers to serve as guardians to fill the gap.”

A guardian is an adult appointed by the Probate Court to protect, act and make decisions for a person in need of a guardian, known as a ward.

Currently in Paulding County, there are residents who do not have a family member or other suitable person willing to serve as their guardian. In the past, the Court has turned to local attorneys to serve as guardians in these cases.

However, the number of cases in the Probate Court has grown to the point that local attorneys no longer meet the demand.

Those interested in serving in this volunteer role are invited to attend an upcoming informational open house on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 5- 7 p.m. at the Black Swamp Nature Center, 503 Fairground Drive, Paulding, Ohio.

Alternatively, individuals may contact the Probate Court at 419-399-8256 to learn more.

Full Article & Source:

Paulding County Probate Court to launch volunteer guardianship program

"Who's Guarding the Guardians"

The nation's guardianship system is a failure. It puts people in the hands of others with little or no evidence of necessity, but to create a for profit industry for court-appointed lawyers.

"Who's Guarding the Guardians"

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Officer describes disturbing scene incapacitated adult was left in as accused parents head to trial in Norfolk

Georgia Arenz
NORFOLK, Va. - Two parents charged with neglecting their disabled son are going to trial after a judge found enough evidence during Tuesday's probable cause hearing.

A timeline was established in court, stemming from an initial call to 911 on May 22, 2018 for a domestic disturbance. Officers testified Philip Arenz, 55, had called police because his wife was not allowing him to take their son to the ER.

54-year-old Georgia Arenz was described by all parties to be the main caregiver of her and Philip's son, 24-year-old Jason Arenz, a disabled man born with cerebral palsy. Police allowed Philip to take Jason to the hospital after seeing the need for treatment.

The Commonwealth's Attorney called witnesses to testify about the condition Jason was in when police got to the Harrell Avenue residence. The responding officer described the home as "filthy," with a "smell that was very pungent and horrible."  This officer said he never observed the victim in his bed because his view to the bedroom was blocked with items stacked on top of each other.

Phillip Arenz
When Philip Arenz removed his son from the house, the officer described the victim to be frail and skeletal, "looking like a Holocaust victim."

After the initial call, detectives took over the case and visited the victim in the hospital, where court documents describe medical staff recorded seeing severe bed sores, open wounds showing bone and tissue, open skin infected with maggots and severe undernourishment.

A detective who interviewed Philip and Georgia Arenz testified that he went to the home as well and saw the state of Jason's bed, with stains and filth. He also describing the putrid smell as a "stench consistent with undetermined death investigations."

This detective told the court that Philip told him he was often at work and Georgia was Jason's primary caregiver. According to evidence, Georgia had always been the one to feed and bathe Jason, as he has always needed care due to his cerebral palsy.

The detective said in his recorded interview with Georgia Arenz she made statements like, "This is why I am not a good mother," and admitted to neglecting her son.

Evidence presented shows Georgia had serious medical issues of her own, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and kidney diseases. There were also statements made during the investigation that Philip had to pass by Jason's room multiple times a week, but many times his son was covered with a blanket.

After interviews were conducted, the testimony is court concluded that Jason was neglected for at least four weeks, left bedridden without proper medical treatment or enough to eat.

In May 2018, Philip and Georgia Arenz were arrested, both charged with abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult and aggravated malicious wounding.

Defense counsel moved to strike the aggravated malicious wounding charge, saying there was no "act" committed to harm Jason, more an inaction. The judge ruled the injuries to the victim are so severe that the inaction itself was malicious.

The court ruled to seal the file for many of the pictures of the victim and the home are graphic and disturbing.

A trial date for Philip and Georgia Arenz will be set once charges are heard by the grand jury.

Full Article & Source:
Officer describes disturbing scene incapacitated adult was left in as accused parents head to trial in Norfolk

Kaliman sentenced for exploitation

| Stories by Jeff Smith of Anderson Broadcasting for the Valley Journal

The former Financial Coordinator of Mission Mountain Enterprises, Jessica Lynn Kaliman, 39, of Clayton, Washington, was committed to the state Department of Corrections for three years with all but one day jail time already served suspended. Kaliman had entered a plea of guilty at District Court in Polson on Aug. 16 to one count of exploitation of an elder or disabled person.

According to charging documents, Kaliman became Financial Coordinator at MME June 27, 2017. Among other services, MME manages funds for people who are incapacitated or developmentally disabled. As the Financial Coordinator, Kaliman was responsible for managing funds of MME’s residents and was in charge of ordering any goods they might need. Alongside the orders needed by the residents, Kaliman allegedly purchased $1,895.13 worth of goods for herself through Amazon and Harvest Foods from the residents' funds. Kaliman was fired Feb. 9.

In addition to the suspended sentence, District Judge Kim Christopher ordered Kaliman to pay restitution in the amount of $2,167.52.

Full Article & Source:
Kaliman sentenced for exploitation

NSW woman spared jail over elderly assault

A Sydney nursing assistant who repeatedly slapped an 85-year-old dementia patient and hit her in the face with her own bathroom rubbish has been spared jail.

Dana Maree Gray, 59, was in August sentenced to 17 months' imprisonment with a six-month non-parole period for assaulting the "entirely dependent" woman while working at The Poplars nursing home in North Epping in August 2017.

However, at Burwood Local Court on Thursday, magistrate Robyn Denes ordered Gray serve the sentence by way of home detention.

Gray had worked in the dementia unit of the home since December 2013 when she walked into the "vulnerable" woman's bedroom and unleashed the "domestic violence" attack, Ms Denes said upon sentencing last month.

The magistrate condemned Gray's abuse of her "position of trust" and the way her offending came to light.

Footage of the assault, tendered in court, was shot on a GoPro camera hidden by a colleague of Gray's who feared for the residents' safety.

It shows Gray raising the woman's bed to chest height so she can't sit or lay down, aggressively pulling off her clothes, slapping her repeatedly and grabbing her hair before hitting her twice in the face with a bag of rubbish.

Ms Denes refused in June to hear the matter under the Mental Health Act and Gray was also deemed "unsuitable" to serve any sentence via community service due to an arm disability.

Her home detention sentence expires on February 19, 2020.

Full Article & Source:
NSW woman spared jail over elderly assault

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tonight on Marti Oakley's T. S. Radio Network: What are Courts of Record? What Courts are Not?!

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

Please join me with Brian Kinter of Judicial Accountability Movement, and David Jose who is one of the foremost experts on the system used to illegally steal children from their parents for profit. This show is important to all families out there who have been targeted by the human trafficking of children, the disabled and the elderly through these abusive and unconstitutional contract courts. You would know then better as tribunals. No crime, no wrongdoing, NO JURISDICTION! But lots of federal and state funding to make it a very lucrative business.

Child Protective Services and the abuse of these so-called courts will be front and center. Listen in as David explains what kind of “court” you are actually being subjected to. As he will explain …it is NOT a court of record. Neither is probate! This will explain why they do not adhere to due process, rules of evidence or codes of civil procedure as they would be forced to in a court of LAW.

David will be discussing the use of Title 42 USC statutes used to deploy this system and other resources specifically created to facilitate this system of trafficking on all levels.

Please be sure to tune in and have paper and pen handy to take notes. The show will be available in Archive also and can be downloaded as an MP3.

LISTEN to the show LIVE, or listen to the show later

NY Illegally Moving Sex Offenders Into Group Homes With Disabled, Report Says

Registered sex offenders with some of the state’s worst designations are being illegally moved into group homes with developmentally disabled individuals, according to a report by upstate radio station WENY. 
The report states that as many as 25 sexual offenders have been moved within group homes and facilities by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The report notes that those figures come following an investigation of “only a few counties,” and have been connected to the Jonathan Carey Foundation .

According to the report , “the few counties researched to date paint a picture of a massive extremely dangerous problem that must be immediately addressed and stopped now.”

As of Monday, Sept. 24, there were convicted Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders at group homes and OPWDD facilities in Washington, Saratoga, Franklin and Suffolk counties. Level 2 threats are deemed an offender is a “moderate risk to repeat the offense, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice. Level 3 offenders are a “high-risk repeat offender and possible threats to public safety.”

In response to the discovery of the sex offenders living in his homes and facilities throughout the state, Michael Carey, the founder of the Jonathan Carey organization where the offenders were found, has repeatedly claimed that it illegally endangers the welfare of the disabled, according to multiple reports. He has also questioned the legality of placing sex offenders with developmentally disabled. Carey has reportedly already reached out to law enforcement officials throughout the state to make them aware of the situation.

OPWDD officials declined to comment about specific cases, but noted that the organization “only provides services for people with a diagnosed developmental disability as defined by state law and (the OPWDD) is obligated under the law to provide needed services to those who qualify regardless of a person’s clinical or forensic history.”

Full Article & Source:
NY Illegally Moving Sex Offenders Into Group Homes With Disabled, Report Says

$1.3 million 911 victim’s compensation case in court

HARTFORD — The Connecticut Supreme Court is poised to decide a 17-year-old fight over $1.3 million awarded to an underage daughter whose father died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Carolyne Hynes, a Weston resident and mother of the now-16-year-old girl at the center of the dispute, brought the issue to the state’s highest court after years of losing in probate, state and appellate courts.

The case revolves around guardianship and who has the right to distribute nearly $1.3 million from the September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund awarded to Hynes’ daughter. The money has been frozen in an account for years.

An undercurrent of allegations — vigorously denied by the family — that the mother attempted to take her daughter’s money swirl around the case.

“(The daughter) was the victim of horrific circumstances,” said Michael Kaelin, a Stamford lawyer representing Hynes. “Now it’s hurting her all over again.”

The Supreme Court is being asked to dismiss a court-appointed guardian, Sharon Jones, and authorize Hynes to spend the money to support her daughter.

A lawyer representing Jones did not return a request for comment.

A hearing before the Supreme Court is scheduled for Monday morning.

Falling buildings

On Sept. 11, 2001, Hynes was pregnant with her daughter when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center where her husband, Thomas Hynes, 28, was working for Thomson Financial. He did not survive and his daughter was born the following year.

To help 9/11 victims and survivors, Congress established a compensation fund. Carolyne Hynes received $2.4 million for the death of her husband, with $1.3 million of that total allocated for her daughter.

Kaelin said the case never should have become a legal battle, noting the mother signed an agreement to use her daughter’s money for her expenses and support.

“It was to pay for the child’s needs,” said Kaelin, who said he is not receiving compensation for his legal services. “It was supposed to replace the father’s support had he lived. That’s what it was set up for.”

At one point, there were allegations that Hynes had improperly used her daughter’s victim compensation money — some $385,000 — to buy a home in Weston for herself and her daughter.

Kaelin said that money was properly used at the time, and said the funds were later returned to the account.

Guardian appointed

The legal case began in 2003 in Norwalk Probate Court; the family lived in Norwalk at the time. The Probate Court appointed Hynes guardian of the child’s estate and administrator of her late husband’s estate. The probate judge also appointed a guardian to oversee the child’s interests.

The Probate Court refused to allow Hynes to use any of her daughter’s award for her support.

A Superior Court dismissed an appeal filed by Hynes to free up the money and a state Appellate Court affirmed that decision, ruling the fund should be treated as an asset of the estate and the Probate Court could assert jurisdiction and control over the award.

“It was not supposed to be a guardian situation, or reserved for when (the daughter) reached legal age,” Kaelin said. “If the child does not get the money until then, the whole purpose of the award is defeated.”

In a summary of the case, the Supreme Court said it will “determine whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that a September 11th Victim Compensation Fund award paid to a surviving spouse as a representative payee for the benefit of a minor child is subject to the jurisdiction and control of Connecticut Probate Courts.”

Asked if similar cases had occurred in other states, Kaelin said he was not aware of any, noting courts have recognized that victim awards are governed by the agreement with the federal government.
“To its credit, the Supreme Court took this case,” Kaelin said.

“The money is still sitting there,” Kaelin said. “Her daughter is going to parochial school. She was a victim of horrible circumstances. It’s hurts her all over again every time this has to come up.”

Full Article & Source:
$1.3 million 911 victim’s compensation case in court

Estate planning: A guide to avoiding the terrors of the guardianship system | Opinion

After writing an overview of Florida’s Guardianship laws, I was overcome with emails asking what measures can be taken to ensure one doesn’t fall victim to an inescapable situation.

First and foremost, be proactive! Proper estate planning is key.

A misconception frequently occurs with what estate planning actually is. I’ve encountered people who believe such a concept is only for those in the top of our tax brackets or for those with assets to leave to their loved ones.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Estate planning documents are not just for a group of elite individuals, they are for everyone — and they include much more than just a will.

Proper estate planning documents can include: 
  • A will: a document that in essence is the instruction manual expressing your wishes after death.
  • A living will: a document setting forth your desired medical treatment if a situation occurs where you may not be able to give express informed consent.
  • Financial durable power of attorney: a designation selecting a person of your choosing whom you have given the power to make decisions pertaining to your finances and other non-health care choices.
  • Health care power of attorney: a designation of a person of your choosing whom you have given the power to make decisions regarding your health care if a situation arise where you are no longer able to do so.
  • Preneed guardian: a designation of a person to serve as guardian of your person and/or property if you are determined to be legally incapacitated.
The way to avoid a professional guardianship situation is to designate a preneed guardian. Designating a trusted person for a time when you are most vulnerable is critical to navigating this complex and often confusing system.

Even with proper estate planning, Florida’s Guardianship system is in dire need of reform. Proactivity is the first step in avoiding the grips of a system designed for the benefit of everyone other than the true person in need — however, it is not the end.

The next step has to come through advocating for legislative reform and working with all parties involved — the ward, the professional guardians, and the associated attorneys — to remedy a situation that we all know is less than ideal.

Florida law allows a guardian or an attorney to receive fees from the ward’s assets even for going against the ward’s own desires (i.e., fighting against the termination of a guardianship). So long as the guardian or attorney justifies the fees as acting in the best interests of the ward, he fees can be taken from the ward’s assets.

Ultimately, the system has created a business for professional guardians and associated attorneys. Instead of protecting the interests of a ward, Florida law allows for a cash cow to exist at the expense of those truly in need.

At this point, further guidance and oversight is needed to ensure that those who find themselves in need don’t fall victim to abuses of this ever-growing business in Florida.

Full Article & Source:
Estate planning: A guide to avoiding the terrors of the guardianship system | Opinion

Monday, September 24, 2018


Love landed Elinor Frerichs in a secured facility for people with dementia.

Twelve days after the death of her husband, 95-year-old Frerichs married a friend 26 years her junior, a man who watched the same TV shows and made her feel “happier than ever.” But shortly after saying “I do,” Frerichs was placed under a court conservatorship at the recommendation of a psychologist and Adult Protective Services. She was hospitalized and her marriage was annulled, partly to shield her estate, estimated at $1 million.

Despite concerns over her mental capacity, Frerichs appeared lucid in a transcript of a rare visit with friends, vowing, “I’m not going to sit there and rot and die in that damn room.”


ABOVE: The very legal system Betty Lou Lamoreaux served as a judge is now “sucking up my aunt’s money,” says her nephew, Duff McGrath.

TOP: Kennett Taylor displays a photo of his ex-wife, Elinor Frerichs, who was put under court conservatorship and her marriage to him annulled.


...She also had a few words for her conservator: “You are a bastard if I ever met one. Somehow, I’m going to get rid of you. Somehow.”

Frerichs’ case in Alameda County has caught the attention of prosecutors and reformers examining a flawed nationwide system in which strangers appointed by the court decide where people live, how their money is spent and even who they can see.

How can legal professionals have such power over the life of a noncriminal to the point that even family has no voice?

It’s called probate court, and — used properly — it can be a way to protect the elderly and disabled from physical and financial bullying by family and friends. But probate court also can open the door for high-priced professionals to swallow a client’s life savings and the family’s future inheritance.

An investigation by the Southern California News Group reveals that conservators, guardians, fiduciaries, their attorneys and judges become almost cliquish in running people’s lives.

‘Buddy-buddy system’
It’s a sticky situation that can become a strain on the limited resources of the client, who is billed for the salaries and legal fees of the professionals involved in probate cases. Critics say these professionals often play one side of the family against the other.

• In Santa Ana, court-appointed officials drained a retired judge’s savings and then forced her into a jumbo reverse mortgage on her $1.8 million house in Newport Beach to keep the money flowing.

• Again in Santa Ana, a conservator sold part of an elderly woman’s real estate to the owner of a land brokerage where he worked. The conservator then tried to collect a $9,800 commission on the sale.

• In Las Vegas, a guardian was indicted in 2017 on charges of stealing $559,205 from 150 clients from 2011 to 2016. April Parks allegedly overbilled for such things as grocery trips and making bank deposits, according to the 125-page indictment prosecuted by the Clark County district attorney’s office.

• In Berkeley, the husband of an elderly woman defied court instructions and removed his wife from what he considered to be a substandard board-and care home where she had been placed by her conservator. The judge took no action against the husband, whose family said he could no longer sit idly by while his wife suffered.

“It’s happening again and again. It’s like a plague on our senior citizens,” said Berkeley Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett, who is among those calling for reform.

“We need to turn the operation upside down. What you see is an incentive to work up attorney fees,” Bartlett said. “There is no incentive to preserve the liberty of the person. We need greater oversight with more opportunity to challenge.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who launched a task force to review complaints inside her county’s probate court, agrees the process may need retooling because of the expense.

“If you have 20 court appearances, it might add up,” O’Malley said. “It’s a system that needs to be evaluated, [but] we can’t shortchange protecting the senior.”

Courts jammed
Fiduciaries statewide are regulated by a small bureau that opened in 2007 after media coverage of unlicensed conservators.

The Judicial Council of California reported that probate filings reached 47,170 cases in fiscal 2015- 16. California’s Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs, has one investigator and two fulltime administrators to oversee 995 licensees.

Last year, the bureau issued four citations for a total of $4,000 in penalties. One license was surrendered and three were placed on probation.

Amy Olson, executive director of Irvine-based Professional Fiduciary Association of California, defended her members, insisting they are genuinely concerned with the welfare of their clients.
“[They] operate under the strict rule of the court,” Olson said. “It is not as if they are going willy-nilly. Their goal is the care of the client.”

No one is immune
Betty Lou Lamoreaux was a giant on the Orange County Superior Court bench. Her work with children was so impressive that the county named the seven story family courthouse after her: the Lamoreaux Juvenile Justice Center.

Lamoreaux, now 94, has Alzheimer’s disease and is unable to care for herself. But she has nephews who want to help. Because of disagreements with another part of the family, they took her case to probate court, believing that a retired judge whose name adorns a courthouse would get top consideration.

Instead, nephew Duff Mc-Grath said, he has watched helplessly as no fewer than nine lawyers and a handful of contractors swallowed “Auntie Lou’s” $273,700 nest egg and forced her into a jumbo reverse mortgage. McGrath, a trustee, said he agreed to the real estate deal, but only because he believed the conservator would remove him as trustee if he didn’t agree. “If we fight it, they will fight us and use my aunt’s money to fight us,” complained Greg McGrath, Duff McGrath’s brother. “They’re just sucking up my aunt’s money.”

All this occurred under the watch of Superior Court Judge Kim Hubbard. The case has since been handed over to Judge David L. Belz.

Conservator under fire
Much of the McGraths’ criticism is aimed at Laguna Hills conservator Sally Cicerone, one of the more active conservators in Orange County. State records show she managed $26.7 million in assets in 2017.

After her first year with Lamoreaux, she billed the estate $42,210, according to records.

Among the family’s complaints: Cicerone waited four months to get a replacement for Lamoreaux’s broken wheelchair. And even then, the new chair didn’t fit and quickly broke. Cicerone billed $700 for her time.

Other documents show Cicerone billed $250 to visit Lamoreaux and take delivery of a new leather recliner in April 2017. But in a sworn declaration, Cicerone contractor Julie Sebestyen testified that it was she who visited Lamoreaux and monitored the chair delivery, not Cicerone.

Cicerone also had a system that allowed her to miss visits with Lamoreaux, but still charge for them, according to a court declaration by Sebestyen.

“On at least four different occasions, Sally told me that she deliberately did not sign in at the front desk so that no one could track her visits. By not signing in, she could allege she had visited when she had not,” Sebestyen testified. Lamoreaux has since been moved home.

“Petitioner has already demonstrated that she inflates her time and thus fee request, bills for services she has not performed, bills for services performed by others, intentionally and fraudulently falsified her time sheets … and neglected the conservatee,” the McGraths alleged in a court declaration.

Cicerone also charged for telephone calls to her attorney that did not appear on the attorney’s log of their conversations, according to allegations in court records.

Kathy Gardner, a former Cicerone employee and client, joined the chorus of people unhappy with Cicerone.

Gardner, in a court declaration, said she made bank deposits on behalf of clients, usually depositing them in batches, a process that takes about 15 minutes. Gardner said Cicerone charged for them as if they were deposited by herself, one by one, at $100 apiece. Cicerone billed Lamoreaux $2,600 to deposit her banking.

Gardner testified that Cicerone hired her at the same time that Cicerone was the conservator for Gardner’s 82-year-old father. Because of a potential conflict, Cicerone advised Gardner to use a fake name at work, said Gardner’s sworn declaration.

More allegations can be found in an appellate court ruling — Cicerone v. Kennedy — that listed overbilling in a Santa Barbara case. Justices ruled that Cicerone inappropriately paid herself $14,519 and her attorney $18,231 after they had been removed from a conservatorship case. They were ordered to return the money.

Cicerone did not return phone calls seeking comment. But in court records, Cicerone and her attorney, Neil Knuppel, denied the allegations in the Lamoreaux case, calling them “false and misleading” and made by disgruntled and spiteful former workers. They are “nothing more than an attempt to discredit … Cicerone’s character,” Knuppel wrote.

Added Cicerone: “Although there were times I did not sign in at the front desk … it was not so I could hide my visits.”

Real estate flipping
Besides the attorneys, fiduciaries and conservators, probate court also can mean a windfall for other contractors.

Joyce Marie Johnson, 74, once was a real estate broker who owned properties in the mountain town of Lytle Creek, north of Fontana, as well as in Long Beach and Seal Beach. Now she sits in an Orange County board-and-care home, dementia eating away her mind while a court conservatorship liquidates her real estate and isolates her from family members.

Like a quiet prayer, she murmurs, “Don’t forget me here.”

Johnson’s problems began after her two daughters disagreed on who should have power of attorney. The family squabble was taken to probate court and the judge appointed an attorney to represent Johnson.

After a year, Johnson’s real estate holdings were withering from a lack of attention, alleged one daughter, Purita Myers. Rents were not being collected, she said, and repairs were not being made. Long Beach fiduciary Timothy Mock was brought in by the attorney to straighten out the real estate mess. Mock, a former Torrance city councilman, is a would be lawyer who failed the bar exam four times.

Mock’s answer was to sell some of the Lytle Creek properties to the owner of a real estate office where Mock worked, Long Beach Brokerage Inc. Mock sold the property to his boss for $270,000, court records say. Within days after closing escrow, Long Beach Brokerage listed the property for $570,000. The real estate was taken off the market when Myers complained.

Mock also sought $9,800 in sales commissions. And he listed his own fiduciary fees at $19,000 in the property deal.

Mock gave back the commission but remains as Johnson’s fiduciary. Under his stewardship, Johnson’s monthly expenses have climbed from $3,000 to $33,000, Myers charged in court papers.
“They don’t care about the people, they care about the money,” Myers said.

Mock defended the Lytle Creek sale, saying it was approved by a judge and that no one else would buy the property. He said he was unable to speak further because he has cancer.

The state Professional Fiduciaries Bureau investigated a complaint from Myers and found no wrongdoing on the part of Mock.

However, a June 2016 deposition of Mock was especially telling in how his clients generally fare. Mock was asked, “How do your conservatorships typically come to an end?”

He answered: “They run out of money.”

Some families are so frustrated with the probate court process that they decide to defy the court.

For years, well before Katherine Carter got sick, Credell Carter was in charge of his wife’s estate. Then, at age 84, she dissolved into dementia and stage 4 kidney failure. When Carter tried to represent his wife, an Alameda County Superior Court judge suspended him as her conservator.

Katherine Carter was placed in a home where she got substandard care, leaving the family no choice but to physically remove her, said daughter Venus Gist. They went on Valentine’s Day. “We just acted like normal. We wheeled her out, put her in the car and took her home,” Gist said. “They could have called the police, put us in jail, but they didn’t.”

No court action was taken against the family, which is trying to have Katherine Carter removed from conservatorship. In the meantime, she remains at home. Her conservator is trying to get her returned to a board-and-care.

“It’s like a circus,” Gist said of the whole ordeal. “God, please get me out of it.”

Former Orange County Superior Court Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, here in 1988, had the juvenile courthouse named after her.

Duff McGrath stands outside the Orange County courthouse named after his aunt, Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, whose life savings, he says, are in danger of being drained by attorneys and contractors assigned to manage her estate.

Full Article & Source:

Charge dismissed against Gloria Morvan, Northbridge woman accused of bilking elderly man

WORCESTER - A charge that a Northbridge woman allegedly stole $195,000 from an elderly, legally-blind man she took care of was dismissed at the request of the commonwealth in Worcester District Court Tuesday. The action came after a grand jury declined to indict Ms. Morvan on Friday.

Timothy J. Connolly, spokesman for District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office, said the motion to dismiss was based on the evidence presented to the grand jury.

Ms. Morvan, 63, of 51 High St. in the Whitinsville section of town, had been arraigned in Uxbridge District Court in April 2017, after police said she cleaned out an elderly man’s checking account. She did not work for a home care agency, but informally helped Harold Swart, then 83, with shopping, errands and bill paying. Mr. Swart paid her in cash for her help.

She allegedly had Mr. Swart sign a blank check in January, which she then filled out to herself for $195,000. In her statement to police, Ms. Morvan claimed that the money was a gift from Mr. Swart.

Ms. Morvan used the money to buy a condominium in Whitinsville for $160,000 and make renovations to it, among other things.

Northbridge Police helped Mr. Swart file a claim of fraudulent activity with Santander Bank, which processed the unauthorized check without question, even though it was significantly larger than other checks Mr. Swart had signed. Santander Bank later reimbursed Mr. Swart for the money taken from his account.

In another case, a charge against Ms. Morvan for leaving the scene of property damage after she allegedly backed into another vehicle at a Northbridge sports bar on June 30, was continued without a finding after Ms. Morvan admitted sufficient facts for a guilty finding on Monday. Ms. Morvan was ordered to three months administrative probation.

Full Article & Source:
Charge dismissed against Gloria Morvan, Northbridge woman accused of bilking elderly man

TBI: Midstate senior home director, nurse stole money, medication from residents

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said an operator and nurse at a senior home facility in the midstate stole money and medication from residents.

Operator Stephanie Lee Butler, 44, is charged with conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud, one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit financial exploitation of an elderly/ vulnerable adult, 11 counts of financial exploitation, one count of theft over $2,500, four counts of identity theft, six counts of money laundering, and one count of tampering with evidence.

Nurse practitioner Brian Fitzhugh Richey, 36, is charged with of conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud, one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit financial exploitation of an elderly/ vulnerable adult and one count of financial exploitation.

According to TBI, from 2016 to 2018, Butler financially exploited several of the residents from The Senior Lifestyle in Cookeville, using their financial assets for her personal use. TBI also said that Butler and Richey diverted residents' medication for their own personal use.

Butler was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Putnam County Jail with a $150,000 bond. Richey was arrested Thursday morning and booked on a $40,000.

Full Article & Source:
TBI: Midstate senior home director, nurse stole money, medication from residents

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Ex-judge’s wife Betsy Savitt kicked off county’s guardianship registry

James Vassallo holds a photo of his parents, Albert Vassallo Sr. and Geraldine Mickey Vassallo, in November 2015. His father was a senior “ward” of Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, wife of Circuit Judge Martin Colin. (John Pacenti/The Palm Beach Post)
It’s on a loop that runs in James Vassallo’s mind. He repeats it every time he is asked about court-appointed professional guardian Elizabeth Savitt.

When he confronted Savitt over her billing practices, over the care of his incapacitated father, over the depleting of his father’s estate as her cadre of lawyers fought him through litigation, the former tennis instructor told him:

“There’s nothing you can do to me. My husband is a judge.”

For the first time since The Palm Beach Post exposed the vast conflict of interest between Savitt and her husband, Martin Colin — who at the time sat as a guardianship judge — the former tennis instructor no longer can be appointed new cases.

How long will Savitt be on the sidelines? At least a year, and maybe forever, depending on how an administrative judge rules on whether to impose sanctions against the guardian.

In the meantime, her husband is being investigated by the Florida Bar.

Chief Circuit Judge Krista Marx confirmed Savitt has been removed from the registry for guardians in Palm Beach County’s judicial circuit. The action was taken because Savitt failed to notify the circuit that she was the subject of an administrative complaint filed by the state’s Office of Public and Professional Guardians. She also was removed from the guardianship wheel for random assignment to cases. She can reapply next year.

“It is true that because I inadvertently did not notify court administration of the administrative complaint, I am off the wheel for one year only and this applies only to new guardianship cases in Palm Beach County,” Savitt told The Post. “None of my current guardianship cases are affected and I am continuing to provide guardianship and other related services to my clients.”

Savitt’s true fate rests in the hands of a state administrative judge, who is mulling the complaint, which seeks sanctions that could knock her off the registry for good.

If the administrative judge recommends that Savitt lose her state certification as a professional guardian, she would automatically be removed from the six cases she still has, Marx said.

Savitt is the first guardian to face an administrative complaint filed by the guardianship office, which was given regulatory authority over professional guardians by the state Legislature in March 2016 in an effort to reform the industry. Only the office can take away a guardian’s registration.

Marx added that applications of all guardians in the judicial circuit are reviewed by a committee annually and Savitt still would have to be approved in Palm Beach County to be eligible to again be appointed to cases.

IG report

Marx also addressed a damning Inspector General’s report on Savitt and Colin that serves as the basis for the administrative complaint, saying the issues predate reforms adopted in the wake of The Post’s 2016 investigation, “Guardianships: A Broken Trust.”

The reforms announced in October 2016 addressed many of the complaints from families about Savitt. For example, it banned her practice of taking thousands of dollars from the savings of her wards — which she called “retainers” — prior to a judge’s approval. To address favoritism, the judicial circuit created the wheel where guardians would be appointed randomly if the family of the incapacitated ward could not agree on one.

“Since the implementation of these procedures, court administration has not been made aware of new allegations related to Ms. Savitt,” Marx said.

Savitt vigorously fought any complaint about her actions — such as when she insisted on funneling an extra $54,000 to Vassallo’s sister for reasons still unknown. Or when the former attorneys of Frances Berkowitz alerted the court to $400,000 missing from the incapacitated senior’s banking account.

The State Attorney’s Office subpoenaed financial records and found no criminal activity, according to a close-out memo on that office’s investigation.

The IG report, emanating out of the Clerk and Comptroller’s Office, noted that while there was insufficient information to reach the high bar to file criminal charges, there was “circumstantial and anecdotal information of criminal corruption and collusion of the guardian and the judges, court staff and lawyers.”

The IG report named at least 14 Palm Beach County judges who appointed Savitt and approved her fees, approved improperly filed petitions and were involved in cases in which Colin funneled work to his wife. The report concluded the blatant conflict of interest she had with her husband resulted in “corruption and collusion of judges and lawyers in Delray Beach for financial gain.”

Colin himself signed orders in his wife’s cases and funneled guardianships to her by appointing certain attorneys, the report said. They were attorneys who relied on him to approve their fees in other matters.

Marx said she couldn’t comment on whether the IG’s report has been forwarded to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which recommends discipline for judges to the Florida Supreme Court. It doesn’t make its investigations public unless probable cause is found.

Accusations ‘nonsense’
Colin was moved out of the Probate Division in 2016 after The Post’s investigation and announced he would retire at the end of that year.

He called accusations he guided cases to his wife “nonsense” at a hearing on the administrative complaint this month. He said he accidentally signed the orders.

Families often had to dip into their own pockets to fight Savitt. Vassallo said he paid about $20,000 to lawyers only to watch Circuit Judge David French — a close friend of Colin’s and Savitt’s — approve one law firm’s bill over his objections. Savitt said in a deposition that she and Colin had vacationed with French and his wife at the time before Savitt was a guardian.

Clifford Hark, an attorney named in the IG report, was hired by Vassallo after his sister took $130,000 from his father, Albert Vassallo Sr. He urged him to get Savitt as a guardian. The IG report said Hark funneled guardianships to Savitt.

“It all came back to hiring the lawyer. He talked me into it, knowing what kind of lady she was,” Vassallo said.

The Deerfield Beach plumber said that Savitt did next to nothing to recoup the money that was taken from his father and that he estimates that six family heirs lost at a minimum about $38,000 from their inheritance because of her inaction.

The administrative judge will make her recommendations on Savitt in about a month. It will then be up to the Department of Elder Affairs to decide whether to accept that recommendation.

Savitt’s lawyer, Ellen Morris, has said she plans to seek legal fees from the department for the action against her client, saying it was brought in bad faith.

Bar complaint

In the meantime, the Florida Bar confirmed it is investigating Colin, who is working as a mediator in his retirement.

In Broward County, Circuit Judge John Patrick Contini resigned from the bench as he was being investigated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for ethical violations for allowing a judicial assistant to work on his personal business. He agreed this month to not practice law for five years.

Robert Jarvis said it remains to be seen whether the Florida Bar can discipline attorneys for actions they took while they were on the bench. It’s not unusual for judges who fall under scrutiny for ethical violations simply to step down, thus avoiding disciplinary action by the JQC.

Jarvis pointed to a case out of Manatee County in which a former judge and now practicing attorney, John Lakin, has been recommended for discipline by the Bar for taking baseball tickets from lawyers who appeared in front of him. That case is in front of the Florida Supreme Court.

“The Florida Bar is going after former judges. I’m not sure that they have the ability to do that. It is an unsettled issue,” Jarvis said.

“I would think they could go after lots of people if in fact they are found to have the jurisdiction.”

On the reform front, Dr. Sam Sugar, co-founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said he is researching how families can go after the $50,00o bond required of guardians. However, he said families who choose to go this route often have to pay an attorney up front at least that amount to make a claim.

Despite the reforms passed by the Legislature and action by the state, little can be done to recoup the emotional and financial damage to families wrought by rogue guardianships.

“This is one of those Don Quixote things,” Sugar said. “There is no recourse.”

Full Article & Source:
Ex-judge’s wife Betsy Savitt kicked off county’s guardianship registry

See Also:
EXCLUSIVE: Betsy Savitt guardianship report alleges ‘wrongdoing by sitting judges’

Judge Martin Colin had a hand in his wife’s guardianship cases, state says