Thursday, December 12, 2019

PREDATORY GUARDIANSHIPS – Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alledged Retribution

‘Evidently $7 Million Wasn’t Enough … They Needed to Try to Destroy Me’

Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger Now Facing Loss of Law License for ‘Exposing Racketeering Ring that Preys on Seniors’

Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alleged Retribution

by Lonnie Brennan

BOSTON − In an emotional speech before the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (BBO), Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger gave as good as she got. Using her allotted 15 minutes she called out the actions of BBO member Attorney Marsha Kazarosian and the law firm Burns & Levinson for their “fabrication” and exaggeration of charges against her as “retaliation” for her exposure of their “racketeering ring which has preyed on seniors,” including her father, Marvin H. Siegel. The BBO seeks to strip Belanger of her license to practice for two years.

Belanger noted in her speech that despite five years of her filing complaints to the BBO against Attorney Kazarosian, the BBO refused to conduct any investigation against the powerful political figure (and Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s high-profile appointee). She also noted that both Kazarosian and BBO Chair Jeffrey R. Martin were absent from the hearing, and that she was again stripped of the opportunity to question her accusers. She pointed out that Martin serves as partner in the firm Burns and Levenson, a firm also at the center of Belanger’s complaint. (Yes, Belanger took on some of the most connected lawyers in Massachusetts.)

With no relief from the courts for years (fighting against those she documented as preying upon seniors), Belanger finally went public. Her case as well as the systemic draining of millions from her now deceased father’s accounts have been chronicled in a series of articles in The Boston Broadside. Belanger noted that while no actions were taken against Kazarosian, and no charges were ever taken against her, everything changed when her family’s plight became public.  READ MORE HERE

Full Article & Source:
PREDATORY GUARDIANSHIPS – Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alledged Retribution

Attorney indicted for alleged forged deed, real estate theft

HILO — Hilo attorney Paul J. Sulla Jr. was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury on first-degree theft and second-degree forgery charges in connection with a narrow piece of land containing an easement road in lower Puna.

The two-count indictment states on or about Sept. 6, 2016, Sulla “with intent to defraud, falsely made, completed, endorsed or altered … a deed … .” It also states Sulla and Halai Heights LLC “as part of one scheme and/or a continuing course of conduct, intentionally obtained or exerted control over … a parcel of real estate … belonging to Leonard G. Horowitz and/or the Royal Bloodline of David, by deception,” with intent to deprive them of the property.

Halai Heights LLC is listed on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website as a “real estate property management” company, with Sulla listed as manager. Sulla has disclosed in open court that the other member of Halai Heights is Jason Hester.

A bench warrant was issued for Sulla’s arrest. He will be released on his own recognizance without monetary bail required, according to Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville. Damerville said a penal summons will be issued for Halai Heights since a limited liability company isn’t subject to arrest.

According to the county Real Property Tax Office website, the 0.83-acre parcel of land referred to as “Remnant ‘A’” in the indictment is unimproved other than the easement road. It’s zoned agricultural and has both a total market value and an assessed land value of $27,100.

A warranty deed recorded Sept. 6, 2016, the date of the alleged forgery and theft, indicates a sale of the property for $450,000.

Horowitz, 67, a former dentist whose website describes him as a “clinician, prophet, scholar and natural healer” is an author, YouTube speaker and outspoken opponent of vaccinations. He’s been involved in several civil lawsuits against Sulla and/or Hester, as an appellant and a respondent, for more than a decade, and accuses the lawyer of — among other things — impropriety in connection with the non-judicial foreclosure process.

Earlier this year, one civil matter was remanded by the Intermediate Court of Appeals to the 3rd Circuit Court for further consideration.

“The motivation (for Sulla) was to steal a million-dollar property, and it was necessary to have that particular road, Remnant A, in order to access the principal feature of that property,” Horowitz said Thursday. “The main value of the property was to access the coveted steam vent and geothermal warm pools adjacent — which makes that property extraordinarily unique and was the purpose for which we bought it.

“… The adjacent steam bath house and sauna and the adjacent lot … which is our property as well, could not be accessed without Remnant A. So Mr. Sulla did a self-help. He realized he didn’t own it. He realized that the county had deeded it to the Royal Bloodline of David … .”

The civil lawsuits are in connection with two other properties, as well as Remnant A, including the one with the steam baths referred to by Horowitz.

Sulla, 73, denied the allegations in the indictment and said, “It’s ridiculous.”

“This is part of the civil matter Horowitz has cooked up, now,” Sulla added. “We’re not stealing anything. … There’s no criminality in this.”

Damerville declined comment on the civil cases.

“(Sulla is) charged with forgery in the second degree, which involves a deed to a remnant of land, and he’s charged with theft in the first degree regarding that remnant of land, and he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” he said.

First-degree theft is a Class B felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment upon conviction and second-degree forgery is a Class C felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney indicted for alleged forged deed, real estate theft

Peterson pleads guilty to multiple elder abuse charges

Stephanie Peterson, formerly Butler, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 charges related to elder abuse stemming from when she was operator of an assisted living facility.

Peterson was the head of Senior Lifestyles, an assisted living facility in Putnam County, which was raided last year by law enforcement, and Peterson was subsequently indicted on 28 charges related to allegations of elder abuse, financial exploitation, money laundering and obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Thirteenth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Mark Gore questioned Criminal Investigator Randal Slayton regarding his investigation into the allegations against Peterson during Monday's plea hearing in Putnam County Criminal Court.

"Our investigation was initiated as a result of a (Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Team) meeting," Slayton said. "There were a plethora of allegations that ranged, financial malfeasance against residents."

Slayton said during the investigation, which began in February 2018, he found a number of times when Peterson was found to be taking money or prescription medication from patients of Senior Lifestyles. He also discovered poor living conditions in the facility such as bed bugs and residents in urine-soaked clothing.

Slayton said that local law enforcement reports alleged residents had wandered from the facility and that financial crimes were committed against residents.

One of those crimes was against a man who reportedly began his stay at Senior Lifestyles with roughly $7,645.67 in his accounts prior to entering the facility. Slayton said shortly after the man moved in, the account began having withdrawals totaling thousands of dollars, including a roughly $200 purchase at Opry Mills. When Slayton interviewed Peterson, she admitted to the purchase at Opry Mills. Slayton testified that Peterson said she "had a good old time." Eventually, the entire account was drained.

After one patient left the facility, Peterson reportedly took that patient's remaining medication and told her daughter to destroy the packaging of the medication, according to Slayton.

Peterson also would reportedly overcharge rent from patients' bank accounts and take credit cards out under at least one patient's name.

The plea agreement results in an effective 10-year sentence; however, the plea agreement does not cover how Peterson serves the sentence.

Peterson pleaded guilty to 13 of the 28 charges:
• Knowing abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000.
• Theft of property over $2,500
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $2,500
• Identity theft
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult over $2,500
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult less than $1,000
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult less than $1,000.

A sentencing hearing is set for March 23, 2020 in Putnam County Criminal Court. Defense attorneys said they plan to call at least one expert for the defense at the hearing. Judge Gary McKenzie presided over the case.

McKenzie requested she be supervised by the Tennessee Department of Corrections during the time leading up to the sentencing hearing.

"Months of investigation went into preparing to charge Ms. Butler. I am pleased that Butler’s exploitation of the residents of Senior Lifestyles was stopped," 13th Judicial District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway said.

"The effort of investigators and prosecutors in this case put a stop to the victimization of truly vulnerable people who could not help themselves and have prevented the victimization of many others. Our law enforcement community takes elder abuse very seriously.  We get up everyday to do what we can to keep people from hurting others and to punish those who do."

Co-conspirator in the case, Brian Fitzhugh Richey was indicted with Peterson and pleaded guilty in February 2018 to one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, waiving his right to a jury trial. Richey was later indicted on federal charges relating to his time working with MedManagement Inc., which managed Pain MD.

Full Article & Source:
Peterson pleads guilty to multiple elder abuse charges

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Mother, ORMC in court dispute over care of brain-damaged daughter

TOWN OF WALLKILL — Marina Blagodar smiled as her 15-year-old son, Max, and her mom, Nadia Chernyakova, entered the glass-walled room in the cardiac unit at Orange Regional Medical Center last week.

Max moved a chair closer to the bed where his 31-year-old sister, also named Marina, lay. Chernyakova sat and silently rubbed Marina’s foot beneath the bedcovers. Caring for Marina has consumed the family’s life since October 2014, when Marina suffered a cardiac event at a tanning salon in Brooklyn that led to brain damage, leaving her bedridden and dependent upon a ventilator and feeding tube.

After that, Blagodar cared for her daughter at home, with the help of home health aides. Marina was admitted to ORMC Oct. 17 with low blood pressure, and hasn’t been allowed to leave. Her mother wants to bring Marina back home, but the hospital is petitioning for guardianship: It would allow testing of Marina’s brain function to determine the best care for her, according to court papers. But Blagodar said she is afraid the hospital just wants to cut off life support and let her daughter die.

A hearing scheduled for Nov. 21 before Orange County Supreme Court Justice Robert Onofry was adjourned until Dec. 12 to allow the county Department of Social Services, which has temporary guardianship of Marina, to secure her past medical records, which Blagodar at first refused to provide.

About a year ago, the family moved to the Town of Crawford. The spacious house and yard offered fresh air and quiet that their Brooklyn apartment could not. Blagodar found a doctor to provide regular care for Marina in Monroe; Max enrolled at Pine Bush High School, made friends and played football.

As part of Marina’s care, Blagodar said, she brought her daughter to ORMC for check-ups – the last one was in early October, and the doctors and nurses there couldn’t have been kinder, Blagodar said. Two weeks later, on Oct. 17, Marina’s blood pressure became dangerously low, and she returned to the hospital, with Blagodar at her side day and night.

Her condition improved to the point where discharge papers were being prepared, and a hospital bed was ordered to be brought to Blagodar’s home, according to Blagodar. But court records related to the guardianship petition cite otherwise: Marina had pressure ulcers with bone exposure, severe sepsis with septic shock, pneumonia, a urinary-tract infection, and gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Also, Blagodar refused to release previous medical records, and interfered with nurses providing care, court papers stated.

In the preliminary court appearance on Nov. 21, Blagodar refused Onofry’s order multiple times to release Marina’s past medical records, insisting it was not in Marina’s best interest. She said she was concerned that providing that information would smooth the path for the hospital’s intention to test Marina for brain death. Onofry assured her that the hearing itself was postponed, and urged her several times to release the needed records.

“This court believes it is in your daughter’s best interest that medical providers have all past case history,” Onofry told Blagodar, who stood crying with her son at her side. “How is it in your daughter’s best interest to conceal vital information?”

Finally, Max and his mother together named three hospitals and a couple of doctors who cared for Marina over the years, and DSS representatives said they would subpoena the medical records if necessary.

Until the hearing Dec. 12, however, Onofry ruled that Marina stay at the hospital.

“Based upon preliminary reports provided to the court ... because of the serious medical condition your daughter was in when she was admitted to the hospital, it calls into question the safety and efficiency of the medical care your daughter was receiving when she was treated,” the judge said.

“That was a lie!” Blagodar responded to the judge, adding that nurses and hospital staff fabricated reports that Marina’s ulcers had bone exposure.

Blagodar and her son pleaded with the judge for Marina’s return home, saying her weak immune system makes her more prone to infections in a hospital setting.

The judge was not moved: “I am not authorizing her return home, because of the condition of your daughter when she was admitted.”

Earlier in the week, Blagodar explained that the hospital’s push for guardianship took her by surprise. Greeting a visitor to ORMC’S cardiac unit with a tired smile, she straightened Marina’s blankets, plugged in a phone charger for Max, and told her story.

“On Oct. 23, I was told that the palliative care team – hospice, end of life – wanted to meet with me,” Blagodar said, with a thick accent that belied her Ukraine birthplace. “I said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t need it.’ But they wouldn’t let her leave.”

Blagodar points to a whiteboard in the room. “Those people” - nurse leaders and other ORMC caregivers - “they lie about her condition. All they care about is organ donation. They want my daughter’s organs.”

On Nov. 1, Onofry granted Orange Regional’s petition for temporary guardianship of Marina. The petition - for which the Dec. 12 hearing is scheduled - included authorization for the hospital to perform a CAT scan of Marina’s brain and other tests to determine if she has suffered brain death. If brain activity is discovered, ORMC requested authority to choose Marina’s place of abode, either her home or a nursing home.

The alternative, however, is what alarms Blagodar: “If the neurological findings are conclusive that (Marina) is brain dead, the Petitioner (ORMC) requests an order directing the refusal, withholding and/or withdrawing all life support and devices,” additional court papers said.

Blagodar says further testing of Marina’s brain is unnecessary, as tests have been done over the years. She insists Marina responds to stimuli, and that she is not brain-dead.

“Once their testing is over, they could take her off of life support,” Blagodar worried. “This is not in her best interest. Every second I thank God I have her here with me. You don’t have to kill people just because they’re sick.”

Orange Regional Medical Center could not comment specifically on the case, according to Rob Lee, spokesman for the Greater Hudson Valley Health System serving the hospital.

“Our goal as a hospital is to compassionately care for the patients we serve, follow accepted medical standards, and adhere to New York State law,” Lee said. “We are responding accordingly to the situation at hand with the utmost care and diligence, but we cannot comment on the complex specifics of this particular case out of respect for patient confidentiality.”

Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., is head of medical ethics for NYU Langone Health. “The question becomes, if a patient has suffered so much brain damage that she could have brain death, who has the right to take the patient off life support?” Caplan said. “But you can’t ask a doctor to treat a patient without a proper diagnosis. The hospital should have the right to determine if the patient is dead.”

He said that a hospital’s pursuit of guardianship is not a common practice: “It’s difficult to remove a competent mom. They would have to prove she is harming her daughter. If there is no evidence her daughter is suffering or dead, they could rule in favor of the mother. But if the mother is in denial, and not doing what is in her daughter’s best interest, they could remove her.”

In the meantime, Marina is still unresponsive in a bed at the hospital, her eyes closed and mouth partly open. Intravenous lines, a ventilator tube, a feeding tube and other wires snake their way from various machines until they disappear under the sheets and blankets that cover her. Her mother sleeps in a chair beside her, worried what next month will bring.

Full Article & Source:
Mother, ORMC in court dispute over care of brain-damaged daughter

Florida agency to begin rejecting licenses for nursing homes without emergency power plans

Two years after 14 people died at a Florida facility, some haven’t met the legal requirements, according to the AHCA database


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities without emergency power plans and equipment are being put on notice by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency will begin rejecting licenses to facilities that have not met the legally required safeguards.

“I have communicated strongly with the nursing homes, with the assisting living facilities, that I will be reluctant to grant variances beyond the end of this year,” AHCA Sec. Mary Mayhew said. “We absolutely will take action against their license if we can demonstrate that they have failed to make good faith efforts to come into compliance with this law.”

By law, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have backup generators and enough fuel to keep a common area cool for 4 days.

However, according to the AHCA’s Emergency Power Plan compliance database, many facilities still don’t meet the requirements and many have been granted more than one variance or extension to accommodate any delays due to equipment shortages, permitting delays, or other factors.

The law was passed after 14 people died at a rehabilitation facility in Broward County during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. This after they were stuck in sweltering rooms for days with no access to power.

A review of the state law and amendments show facilities across Florida have had two years to get their emergency power plans and equipment approved and installed. But Mayhew said the time for extensions and delays has run out.

"We need our nursing homes and assisted living facilities to be ready, when we are dealing with the next hurricane," Mayhew said.

Mayhew says while Hurricane Dorian did not hit Florida, it did cause her agency to create a laser beam focus on which facilities were in compliance with the new generator requirements, and which ones were not.

"For those who have not made good faith efforts to come into compliance, we have already issued fines, and we will continue to either take further fine actions, or we will be addressing it through their licenses," said Mayhew.

AHCA confirms to date, it has already denied licenses to 3 assisted living facilities and also fined and penalized 280 more for failing to comply with the emergency power rules. One of the ones that closed was located in Central Florida.

State records show Dr. Phillips Residential Living on Vineland Road in Orlando was denied their renewal in July - and had to close their doors permanently. Multiple calls to the facility's owner were not returned.

"Well its about time," said Bob Misko, an emergency management consultant who owns ES3.

Misko says he has helped more than 140 facilities across Florida get their emergency power plans and equipment in place.

He says many places ignored or put off the rules for far too long.

"Somebody had to throw a stop up and say 'Hey! no more!'" Misko said.

For assisted living facility administrators like Jen Brown, who runs 3 facilities in Winter Park, the news is shocking.

“I think it’s very likely that there could be several facilities that could close,” Brown said. “I think that that’s scary! I would hope that AHCA would send out notices because if a facility is finding this out - there’s a lot to consider.”

Brown says that's because pulling a license would mean residents would have to find a new place to live.

"The resident ultimately suffers because they have to be relocated," Brown said. "They're displaced from their home and what they are used to."

Brown says she did have to get an extension for her facilities in order to get all their equipment in place. But she says they are all finally in compliance.

She says she just hopes the state will provide enough notice to facilities in jeopardy of losing their license, so affected families have enough time to find an alternative place for their loved ones to live.

“Hopefully it won’t be necessary,” Brown said. “Hopefully everyone will get what they need on hand.”

A Spokesperson for AHCA says the notice falls on the facility operators.

“The Agency’s goal is compliance, and we are committed to working with facilities to ensure they meet all requirements of the rule,” said Patrick Manderfield, AHCA’s Deputy Communications Director. “Any determinations regarding the removal of licenses will be made once all other remedies or penalties have been exhausted. If a facility closes, the operator is required by law to provide notice to enable alternative placements options for residents. The Agency’s Medicaid managed care plans can assist clients with placement options when needed.”

Misko says the new state directive is a wakeup call for facilities to get compliant -- or else.

“We dodged a bullet this year,” Misko said. " Next year, maybe not so lucky."

Misko says if you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home or ALF, go ahead and ask to see their emergency power plans and to demand to see their equipment.

He says any good facility will have no problem showing you.

Full Article & Source:
Florida agency to begin rejecting licenses for nursing homes without emergency power plans

Drug curbs delusions, eases anger in Alzheimer's patients, researchers find

If regulators approve it, the drug could become the first new medicine for Alzheimer's patients in nearly two decades.

SAN DIEGO — A drug that curbs delusions in Parkinson's patients did the same for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in a study that was stopped early because the benefit seemed clear.

It targets some of the most troubling symptoms that patients and caregivers face — hallucinations that often lead to anxiety, aggression, and physical and verbal abuse.

Results were disclosed Wednesday at a conference in San Diego.

"This would be a very important advance," said one independent expert, Dr. Howard Fillit, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Although the field is focused on finding a cure for dementia and preventing future cases, "there is a huge unmet need for better treatment" for those who have it now, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer's Association's chief science officer.

The drug is pimavanserin, a daily pill sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. It was approved for Parkinson's-related psychosis in 2016 and is thought to work by blocking a brain chemical that seems to spur delusions.

About 8 million Americans have dementia, and studies suggest that up to 30% of them develop psychosis.

"It's terrifying," said Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. “You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs.”

He consults for Acadia and helped lead the study, which included about 400 people with dementia and psychosis. All were given a low dose of the drug for three months, and those who seemed to respond or benefit were then split into two groups. Half continued on the drug and the others were given dummy pills for six months or until they had a relapse or worsening of symptoms. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew who was getting what.

Independent monitors stopped the study when they saw that those on dummy pills were more than twice as likely as those on the drug to relapse or worsen — 28% versus nearly 13%.

There were relatively few serious side effects — 5% in the drug group and 4% in the others. Headaches and urinary tract infections were more common among those on the drug. Two deaths occurred, but study leaders said neither was related to the drug.

Carrillo said the study was small, but the drug's effect seemed large, and it's not known whether the federal Food and Drug Administration would want more evidence to approve a new use.

Current anti-psychotic medicines have some major drawbacks and are not approved for dementia patients.

"They're often used off label because we have very few other options," Fillit said.

All carry warnings that they can raise the risk of death in elderly patients, as does Nuplazid.

Cost could be an issue — about $3,000 a month. What patients pay can vary depending on insurance coverage.

Full Article & Source:
Drug curbs delusions, eases anger in Alzheimer's patients, researchers find

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Minnesota Probate Watch

Minnesota Probate Watch
“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

Hubert H. Humphery
Probate Watch is made up of group of people whose lives and loved ones have been impacted by probate court guardianships. We are looking for others to help lobby our legislatures and state organizations to drive change. We need help to show the need for additional legislation to protect our seniors, respect their rights and show how existing laws are being violated.

Please take our guardianship survey:

We are collecting data through an on-line survey to identify areas where there needs to be reform in the guardianship/conservatorship system. The survey is designed to collect statistics supporting the need for reforms and also provide details on how seniors and families have been affected. Your input is valuable to us and we encourage you to participate.

Survey: Guardianship and Conservatorship in Minnesota

Note: Our survey uses google form documents. Some company IT systems block access to these documents. If you have problems accessing the survey, please try using a different computer or smart phone.

Contact us:

Additional Information:

For more information on the forms of guardianship abuse we recommend contacting the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA).

NASGA Website:

Full Article & Source:
Minnesota Probate Watch

Disgraced ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle in contempt of court for failing to give documents, replacement says

Jack Meagher says his court-appointed guardian, Rebecca Fierle, doesn't respect his wishes, and he doesn't need someone to make decisions for him.
By Jeff Weiner

Though former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigned amid scandal months ago, her legal squabbles continue with some of those appointed to replace her.

In the latest salvo, attorneys for guardian Kelly Pitman are asking Orange County Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe to hold Fierle in contempt of court, after they say she failed to hand over documents regarding at least two of her former wards.

Pitman, through attorneys David A. Yergey Jr. and David A. Yergey III, first filed a broad request Sept. 5, demanding that Fierle hand over contracts, correspondence, reports, financial statements, calendars and other materials related to her handling of the wards.

Months — and a court order — later, she has not complied, they say.

“The refusal of Fierle to comply with the Court’s order was willful and improper, and such unwarranted refusal has necessitated the filing of this Motion,” Pitman’s latest filing says. It asks for Fierle to be ruled in contempt and ordered to pay Pitman’s expenses and attorney’s fees.

In an emailed statement, Fierle’s attorney, Harry T. Hackney, said Fierle “is, in fact, producing voluminous records voluntarily pursuant to an agreed order.”

“Mr. Yergey was advised of this and filed the motion immediately anyway,” he said.

Fierle was a prolific guardian, appointed in hundreds of cases across more than a dozen counties, before a scandal erupted concerning her handling of 75-year-old ward Steven Stryker, who died in a Tampa hospital while under a “do not resuscitate” order Fierle signed against his wishes.

She has since acknowledged routinely filing DNRs for wards. Probes have also found evidence of double-billing, conflicts of interest and cases in which she acted outside her legal authority.

Fierle is being investigated criminally by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody, but has not been charged with any crimes.

The controversy, as well as a series of Orlando Sentinel special reports exposing issues in the state’s troubled and underfunded guardianship system, have prompted calls for reform. Legislation to require court approval for DNRs and close statutory loopholes was filed by lawmakers this week; Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking to nearly double the budget of the state’s oversight agency; and AdventHealth, which had paid Fierle nearly $4 million over a decade, is overhauling its use of guardians.

Fierle resigned as a professional guardian July 25 in a letter to the state’s Department of Elder Affairs. She had stepped down from all Orange County cases weeks earlier.

Full Article & Source:
Disgraced ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle in contempt of court for failing to give documents, replacement says

Why Confusing Laws over Guardianship and Wills are Being Solved by Strong Legal Support

With many complex areas of law in most aspects of life, it can be beneficial to secure the right level of legal expertise to ensure the best protection is in place. Matters relating to wills and trusts, personal injury, elder law and guardianships are particularly emotional issues that have considerable impact on people’s lives.

Given the gaps in data collection across US states and nationwide, it is perhaps no surprise that guardianship remains an area of complex law, with even terminology differing within states and a lack of consistent chronicling of case management issues. With long-running issues with abuse and exploitation blighting the adult guardianship field for decades, repeated changes have been made to laws but it has largely created confusion without actually fixing all the problems.

Why the right legal protection makes the difference

“The area of adult and child guardianship remains a very complex and emotive aspect of law,” says a spokesperson for Hawbaker Law, an estate law attorney based in Georgia. “With the consequences of getting guardianship wrong likely to affect individuals for the rest of their lives, having knowledgeable legal support to provide guidance through local state processes can prevent problems occurring later on.”

Careful, thorough estate planning is another area of law with long-standing consequences for people’s lives. The proliferation of DIY estate planning websites has tempted many people away from what they perceive to be expensive legal routes, but these cheaper short cut approaches risk leaving numerous gaps in the process, which can lead to court involvement and general confusion further down the line.

Hawbaker Law advises clients on wills, trusts and all aspects of estate planning, ensuring people retain control of their assets even after death. “Planning for events post-death is not something any of us want to think about,” added the spokesman, “but putting the right things in place early on means people can rest assured their loved ones will be suitably cared for after they have gone.”

Planning long-term care for older people

The cost of care for older people is a bleak reality for many people, especially those that don’t have family around who can help take care of them. Add the problem of unlicensed care homes and the overall issue of long-term care becomes quite a challenging area to navigate. The cost of long-term care can leave personal assets vulnerable and there are some cases where people have lost their savings and homes because of the cost of care.

Again, the solution lies in good planning. “As with wills, the cost of long-term care – when we all reach that advanced age where health conditions become a regular obstacle – is not something many of us want to think about,” said the spokesperson, “but it really pays to commit to solid financial planning.

Full Article & Source:
Why Confusing Laws over Guardianship and Wills are Being Solved by Strong Legal Support

Monday, December 9, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: HOW DEAD PEOPLE VOTE - with Charles Pascal.

7 pm CST....

"Our guest tonight, Charles Pascal, will educate us on how dead people are able to cast a vote from the grave, along with those who have been taken hostage in the guardianship system.

Join us this evening as we take a look at how all those dead people are able to continue voting. Not only are dead people still voting, but so are many people who have been guardianized and as a result of this, have had all their rights and protections stripped from them.....except in many cases, the right to vote. Now how could a person who is portrayed as being so incapacitated that a total stranger has to be appointed to micro manage all of their affairs and who simultaneously assumes their identity, accesses all of their assets and prohibits them from contracting, buying, selling, marrying, or even managing their own competent enough to vote?

Do you know what "bundlers" are? Do you know what "bundlers" sell? Do you know who buys what they are selling? Republicans and Democrats both buy bundles of votes obtained from guardianized individuals, from those who are deceased but have not been removed from voter rolls."

LISTEN to the show LIVE or listen to the archive later

How a Seattle attorney with ‘heart of gold’ ended up fleecing her brain-damaged client

Helga Kahr, a Seattle attorney, left, at her sentencing Friday in King County Superior Court for stealing money from a former client. At right is... (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
By Danny Westneat

Some crime stories just make me seethe a bit more than the others. One of these played out Friday in a King County courtroom.

When Jeff Barrett won a million-dollar settlement after being hit by a drunken driver, it was hoped the money could help support the severely brain-damaged Boeing Machinist for the rest of his life.

And then when one of his attorneys who had fought his case all the way to the state Supreme Court ended up taking the man into her home, it seemed to the outside world like a feel-good story of selfless community and compassion.

Except, as happens often enough to make one wonder about the human species, she then tried to steal his money — the very money she had helped win for him.

“This is one of the more egregious cases I’ve seen, not just because of the dollar amounts involved, but because it involves someone who had a double duty, as his legal guardian and as an attorney,” said Amanda Froh, deputy prosecuting attorney for King County.

On Friday, Seattle attorney Helga Kahr, 69, was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for a scheme to fleece Barrett out of $283,000 back in 2016, which she used to pay off the mortgage on her home.

Though Kahr was described Friday by friends and neighbors as a woman with a heart of gold — as ready to take on cases pro bono as she was to take in animal strays — the judge wasn’t having it.

“I don’t think you get it, Ms. Kahr,” Judge Kristin Richardson said in handing down the sentence, after Kahr had spoken and not admitted any wrongdoing. “This is a vast and deep abuse of the trust laid in you as a guardian.”

The state logs more than 8,000 complaints per year of financial abuse of incapacitated adults — usually perpetrated by someone they know. But it’s unusual for the thief to be both the court-appointed guardian and the attorney.

This story started back in 1995, when Barrett, then 36, was hit by a driver who had allegedly drunk two or three pitchers of beer at a bar in Kirkland. The accident left Barrett incapacitated for life, and wiped away years of his memories.

“This unfortunate gentleman is suffering from severe traumatic brain injury in many ways,” reads a neuropsychology evaluation from court records. “His ability to learn, retain and recall new information is at less than 0.05 percentile, meaning worse than 99.95 percent of the population.”

Kahr and another attorney won a famous 2004 case that found the tavern could be held liable for “overserving” its customers if then they go out and crash on the roads. According to court documents, Barrett eventually got an insurance settlement valued at $1 million to be used for his care, and went to live with his parents.

After family could no longer care for Barrett, Kahr became his legal guardian in 2014. He later moved into her home. Not long after, a volunteer in the guardian monitoring program, which serves as a watchdog of these arrangements, noticed some strange money moves and requested an official audit of Barrett’s finances.

What Kahr did was fleshed out at a monthlong trial this fall. Facing imminent foreclosure on her Phinney Ridge home, she got Barrett to join a real estate investment scheme in which he would buy a 40% equity stake in the house. In return, he would no longer have to pay rent and his stake could grow with the rising Seattle real estate market.

She pegged the price for his stake at $282,673 — nearly half of his total assets at the time, according to court records.

Of course he didn’t understand what he was signing, prosecutors said. In fact Barrett later told police he had no memory of any real estate deal or that any money had been shifted from his account. A later investigation alleged that after Kahr got the money from Barrett, Kahr never filed a deed granting him the ownership stake. Plus, she kept collecting rent for more than a year, until the scheme came to light.

After a trial stretching over four weeks, the jury deliberated for only about an hour in November before finding Kahr guilty of two felony counts of theft. They added aggravating factors for the victim being so vulnerable.

“He has dementia, he couldn’t take care of himself,” the judge scolded Kahr Friday. “He was reliant on you for everything.”

Kahr was surprisingly unrepentant for someone who had already been found guilty.

“I never had any notion that things would end up as they did,” she told the judge. “There was never any intent to run off with his funds.”

Her attorney suggested she was at most guilty of “sloppy attorney work.” At trial, Kahr had said she had been to a conference about real estate investment trusts and was pursuing one solely as a benefit to Barrett.

This got the judge to seething as well.

“I believed not one word of what you were saying at trial,” Richardson told her Friday.

The judge entered an order barring Kahr from ever assuming a position of trust again with a vulnerable adult — including involving the financial affairs of Kahr’s own 88-year-old mother.

“You’re not going near her money,” Richardson vowed to Kahr.

With that, they handcuffed the attorney and walked her off to jail.

For his part, Barrett, 60, is now in assisted living. After the scheme got uncovered, Kahr paid back the $283,000, using a home equity line on her house (one that she wouldn’t have been able to get if she hadn’t first taken Barrett’s money, prosecutors pointed out).

Like I said up top, this crime, though it’s not violent and didn’t do lasting harm, makes me seethe anyway. It’s one thing to steal money from, say, a bank. But stealing from a man who, through no fault of his own, has already lost everything, including even his memories? That’s low.

A year and a half to think about just how low seems like a light sentence to me.

I wondered if this story suggests there are flaws in the system that’s supposed to protect vulnerable victims from financial abuse. But a guardian told me that as bad as this theft was, the good news here is the system actually worked. A volunteer monitor flagged the suspicious money moves and, ultimately, some measure of justice was done.

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How a Seattle attorney with ‘heart of gold’ ended up fleecing her brain-damaged client

Owners, managers of Lincoln Park nursing home accused in lawsuit of covering up theft of $700,000 from resident

The money represents the life savings of 98-year-old Grace Watanabe, a WWII Japanese internment camp survivor.

Grace Watanabe
When managers and owners of a Lincoln Park nursing home learned employees had stolen more than $700,000 from a 98-year-old resident who has Alzheimer’s disease, they didn’t fire them or go to authorities — they sought to cover it up, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The Cook County public guardian’s office filed a 335-page complaint seeking monetary damages for four entities that own Symphony Residences, several managers and the five employees accused of stealing Grace Watanabe’s life savings.

Public Guardian Charles Golbert’s lawsuit said a nursing home executive resorted to locking Watanabe in her office to keep county social workers from moving her to another nursing home.

Word of the standoff got back to Golbert, who dispatched Dawn Lawkowski-Keller, an attorney who works in his office’s financial recovery unit. 

After a shouting match, Lawkowski-Keller boiled it down for Symphony Executive Director Erika Cruz: “You have 5 minutes or we’re calling the cops.” 

Cruz released Watanabe.

Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park nursing home
Google Maps
An investigation by Golbert’s office later concluded that five nursing home employees used Watanabe as their personal piggy bank — draining her life savings through a series of ATM withdrawals, forged checks and other payments.

While not accused of taking part in the theft, the lawsuit alleges Cruz and other nursing home executives were aware of it and didn’t report it to law enforcement.

A representative of Symphony, reached Thursday via email, reiterated a statement previously sent to the Sun-Times: “Upon learning of the incident involving Ms. Watanabe, we immediately notified law enforcement authorities to investigate and seek restitution for Ms. Watanabe, and we are cooperating with those agencies.” 

Two of the five employees accused in the civil suit of stealing from Watanabe have been charged criminally with financial exploitation of an elderly person.

Bank regulators noticed irregularities and brought the case to the attention of authorities. 

A separate civil suit filed by Golbert’s office seeking information from Symphony is stalled while company executives appeal a September court order compelling them to testify. They are being fined $400 for every day they defy the order and remain silent. 

“We can’t wait for them,” Golbert said. “My client is 98 years old, and they’re trying to run out the clock.”

Should Watanabe pass away before the conclusion of the civil suit against Symphony, the beneficiaries of her will — Misericordia and Mercy Home for Boys & Girls — could step in as complainants, Golbert said.

Watanabe was born in Santa Cruz, California, in 1921 and was held in the Poston internment camp from 1942 to 1946. After her release, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Members of Chicago’s Japanese community have been attending court hearings to support Watanabe.

Full Article & Source:
Owners, managers of Lincoln Park nursing home accused in lawsuit of covering up theft of $700,000 from resident

See Also:
Judge slaps $400-a-day fine for nursing home execs refusing to discuss resident who was allegedly bilked of $750K

Former senior living employees charged with $300,000 theft from resident with dementia

New Port Richey attorney on emergency suspension for allegedly misappropriating more than $82,000

TALLAHASSEE — New Port Richey attorney Hugh Charles Umsted has been placed on emergency suspension following a March 21 Florida Supreme Court order over misappropriation allegations, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"Umsted appears to be causing great public harm based upon his misappropriation of at least $82,647 in client funds," the state bar said in its March 29 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order.

In its four-page order, the high court approved the state bar's petition for emergency suspension before indefinitely suspending Umsted. The court gave Umsted 30 days to wind down his practice but to accept no new clients or do any legal work in that time, in addition to other conditions.

Florida court orders are not final until time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion does not alter the effective date of Umsted's suspension.

Umsted was admitted to the bar in Florida on Oct. 2, 1991, according to his profile at the state bar website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed on Umsted's state bar profile.

In its seven-page petition for emergency suspension, to which almost 600 pages of exhibits and other documentation was attached, the state bar alleged it found evidence of misappropriation during its investigation that began last fall.

Between October 2015 and May 2017, Umsted allegedly transferred more than $82,700 from his trust account and into another account, with a ledger entry indicating the money was for fees, according to the petition. Umsted also disbursed two checks totaling $4,000 from the trust account to the client's personal representative, with a ledger notation that about $200 was for the client's costs.

In September 2018, while acting on a court order to transfer all of the client's savings bond proceeds into another account, Umsted allegedly cobbled together enough funds to obtain a cashier's check that covered the total amount due, according to the petition.

Umstead "misappropriated and utilized $82,647.01 of other clients' funds from the trust account to obtain the cashier's check," the petition said. "The respondent made numerous misrepresentations to the probate court, both orally and in filed pleadings, and to The Florida Bar regarding the status of the funds being held in his trust account for this matter."

Full Article & Source:
New Port Richey attorney on emergency suspension for allegedly misappropriating more than $82,000

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Area families caught in 'nightmare' of guardianship

Kim Hall talks to her stepson Derrick Hall-Fisher, Jr. while he plays video games.

By Mardi Link

TRAVERSE CITY – Derrick Hall-Fisher, 25, hadn’t seen a doctor in years when an abscessed tooth caused him so much pain, he extracted it himself.

After dementia robbed Martha Rothaug, 82, of Suttons Bay, of her ability to live independently, she was hidden purposely away in an assisted living facility so her daughter could not find her.

Franco Nicolanti, 86, of Beulah, was caring for his ailing wife, Flavia, 82, using their social security and a pension from his native Italy, when access to his bank account was cut off and phone calls to the person controlling his money went unanswered.

None of these people know each other, but they do have something in common.

Each experienced a life change that alerted Adult Protective Services caseworkers, who then petitioned the court for a guardian to control their affairs.

Guardianship and the law

“Perhaps no civil proceeding has greater impact upon an adult than guardianship,” said Bradley Geller, of Ann Arbor, an elder rights attorney and author of a handbook on guardianship. “You can lose all your rights. Where to live, who your doctor is, what you can spend your money on.”

Nationwide, critics have continually claimed professional guardians have too much power. That the unscrupulous among them take advantage of vulnerable adults by stealing from their estates, denying necessary medical care and hiding elderly parents from their children and grandchildren.

An estate plan, complete with signed power of attorney, patient advocate designation and notarized will is no guarantee an aging adult will not end up in guardianship, Geller said.

Which is exactly what happened to surgical nurse Jennifer Rodgers.

Guardianship and Martha Rothaug

In March 2017 Rodgers said goodbye to her mother and left Sutton’s Bay for a short-term surgical assignment in Florida. Her mother, a widow, had some health challenges but lived independently, in her own home, and Rodgers said was capable of making her own decisions.

In Roger’s absence, someone – Rodgers believes it was a family member – found rotten food in Rothaug’s refrigerator, called Adult Protective Services, and APS worker Michelle Hagerman filed a complaint.

“Jennifer has had no regular physical contact for 4 years with Martha,” Hagerman wrote, though this was clearly false. Rodgers lived a few miles from her mother, they saw each other regularly, and had said goodbye to each other just days earlier.

Hagerman, who declined comment and referred questions to the state’s department of Health and Human Services, also accused Rodgers of unsubstantiated financial crimes.

“They were lies,” Rodgers said. “Complete lies made up to put me in a bad light.”

Bob Wheaton of Health and Human Services said he could not comment on specific cases.

Before Rodgers could return to Michigan, Hagerman filed an emergency petition with Leelanau County Probate Court and Judge Larry Nelson, who placed Rothaug under guardianship.

Jill Case, a supervisor with Grand Traverse County’s Commission on Aging, was appointed to make all of Rothaug’s housing, medical and financial decisions.

Neither Rothaug nor Rodgers had ever met Case, and surveys of guardianship files in area probate courts show this is not uncommon.

Guardians: Often strangers to their wards

“When there is no relative, no family member willing or qualified to make decisions for an incapacitated adult, probate judges appoint court volunteers or professional guardians,” said Grand Traverse County Probate Judge Melanie Stanton.

Stanton stressed she could not comment about specific cases, but acknowledged clarity on the way professional guardians are allowed to run their businesses is needed. For example, there is no certification or training required and no limit on the number of wards a guardian can have.

“I always want to make sure the person is taken care of,” Stanton said of the wards before her court. “I want to make sure they’re seen every three months, and if someone can’t do that, or isn’t capable of doing that, I do not appoint them. Some people don’t like that, but it’s the law.”

Court documents show Case, who could not be reached for comment, moved Rothaug out of her home and into assisted living, first to a facility in Northport and then to another facility in Grand Traverse County.

“I didn’t know where my mother was,” Rodgers said. “I wasn’t allowed to know. My only recourse was to hire an attorney and fight it in court.”

A change of venue and more than $200,000 in legal bills later, Judge Stanton ruled Rodgers and a different professional guardian, Brenda Miller, of Northern Fiduciary Services, would manage Rothaug’s affairs together.

The arrangement worked. Rodgers could see her mother as often as she liked, but says it was a bittersweet victory.

Rothaug was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the guardianship debacle, Rodgers missed out on time with her mother she can never get back.

“This whole guardianship nightmare took two years from our lives,” Rodgers said. “I still just don’t understand how it can possibly be legal.”

A Lack of Accountability

In Michigan, political discussions about guardianship’s legality, and its potential for abuse, have a long – and mostly impotent – history.
  • In 1998, Gov. John Engler worked with Chief Justice Conrad Mallet, Jr. on the Supreme Court Task Force on Guardianships and Conservatorships.
  • In 2007, Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed 15 bureaucrats, attorneys, law enforcement officers, insurance administrators, finance experts and elder rights activists to serve on her Task Force on Elder Abuse.
  • In 2019, Attorney General Dana Nessel created an Elder Abuse Task Force and went on a statewide listening tour, telling the rankled crowd at the Traverse Area District Library in July, “These issues have been researched and discussed already, ad nauseum. This task force is committed to doing, rather than just studying.”
Geller said guardianship should be a probate court judge’s last resort, not its first instinct, but that two decades of study groups have resulted in little real change.

Nessel’s communications director, Kelly McKinney-Rossman, confirmed no new legislation aimed at regulating guardianship has been introduced this year.

Guardianship and Derrick Hall-Fisher

Kim Hall said she wishes there were better laws looking out for people like her and her stepson, Derrick Hall-Fisher, Jr.

“This whole guardianship thing, it leaves people who can’t afford a lawyer, at their mercy,” Hall said. “It lets strangers make life-long decisions for people they don’t even know.”

In May, Hall said she learned her stepson, who has autism, was in what she described as a “dangerous, difficult circumstance.” She called Adult Protective Services, which assigned a caseworker, Brandi Fitzgibbons.

“She said they had a placement for him, they just needed to get it staffed, and asked if I could house my stepson for four days,” Hall said. “I said of course. The nightmare began from there.”

Weeks passed, Hall learned her stepson had pulled his own tooth before he came to live with her and that his overall physical health was precarious.

She made a series of medical appointments for him, signed him up for counseling and said he delighted in the new superhero-themed clothes and bedding she bought him.

Hall and her stepson’s father, Derrick Hall Sr., divorced in 2009, the two rarely speak and court documents say Derrick Jr. was removed from his father’s care sometime in 2018.

In an interview at the Leelanau County Courthouse, where Derrick Hall, Sr., was called to testify in a hearing about where his son would live, the father said he loves his son and wants what’s best for him.

With a new wife and several much younger children, he was happy to work with APS, because he could not give Derrick, Jr. the specialized care, time and attention his oldest son needed.

“Kim is on a fixed income, that and I’m a happy man now so what she’s doing could be to get back at me,” Derrick Sr. said.

Problems arose when APS could not find a group home willing to take in Derrick Jr.

“I’d say, ‘Today’s the day, buddy. Today’s the day you’re going to move into your new home and it’s going to be great,’ ” Hall said. “But it wasn’t great. It wasn’t great at all. They (APS) canceled time after time. They were treating Derrick like a ping pong ball and I couldn’t bear it.”

Leelanau County Probate Judge Marian Kromkowski granted Hall co-guardianship of her stepson, along with professional guardian Jessica Carnes of Pro-Advocates Guardians & Conservators, LLC, of Benzonia.

Hall said neither she nor her stepson had ever met Carnes, and she wasn’t sure why the court required a co-guardian but she didn’t object.

Attorney Heather Dykstra was appointed guardian ad litem, a temporary assignment that required her to investigate and then advise the court on what would be in Derrick Jr.’s best interest.

She did not return several calls for comment, but said this in her June 10 report:

“Derrick clearly enjoys living with ‘Mama Kim,’ as he calls Kim Hall. She has been transporting him back and forth to school on a daily basis and taking him on many outings. Derrick initially arrived at her home with only one pair of shoes and one outfit but she has provided him with a few additional necessities.”

Despite this, Dykstra said Hall did not have the resources to care for Derrick Jr. long term, recommended a group home, and on July 25, Fitzgibbons told Hall her stepson would be moving out.

“She said I was too enmeshed in his life,” Hall said. “What does that even mean?”

Fitzgibbons, who declined comment for this story, had chosen Piper’s Place, an AFC Home owned by Valerie Freeman, who attends the church where Derrick Hall Sr. works as an associate pastor.

Derrick Sr. said he supports the decision because Freeman could bring his son to church, and the two could see each other regularly.

Hall said she was crushed by the decision, but tried at first to put on a brave face about the change. But then she took her stepson to visit the facility and was disturbed by his reaction.

“When he gets anxious, he likes me to rub his hand or his ear,” Hall said. “And when he gets anxious, he stutters. He was doing all those things and the owner just kept telling him to spit it out. It broke my heart. I don’t want him there.”

The move happened Oct. 18, but Hall kept doing research. After learning the Bureau of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs cited Piper’s Place nine times since 2017, she decided to fight the move.

Hall represented herself in a four-hour closed hearing Nov. 19 in front of Leelanau County Probate Judge Marian Kromkowski. A decision is expected by the end of December.

Professional Guardianship and Fees

Some of the criticism against guardians has come from those, most notably Geller, who said the estates of wealthy vulnerable adults are being pilfered.

That is not what the Record-Eagle uncovered.

Of the three cases examined for this article, Rothaug was the only ward who had substantial means beyond Social Security income, and there’s no evidence any of her guardians (or conservators, the more common title for those who make financial decisions for a ward) misused funds.

What is in evidence is an almost universal lack of communication between professional guardians and their wards.

Derrick Hall Sr. had control of Derrick Jr.’s $780 in monthly Social Security income during the time he lived with Kim Hall, according to Dykstra’s report, though none of those funds were provided to her for his care.

Jill Case had complete control of Martha Rothaug’s finances, her medical care, the schedule and number of her home health care aids, and her living arrangements. According to a letter from Case to Judge Nelson dated July 13, 2017, Rothaug did not understand what was happening to her.

“I spoke to Martha about the assisted living move,” Case wrote to Nelson. “We spoke about the aids coming to her house. Martha asked why I was doing this to her. I reminded her that she has a disease and that the doctor said she needed 24/7 care. I told her that it was my job to make these decisions to look out for what is her best interest and where she lives.”

In another example, at a hearing August 6 in Benzie County Probate Court, Flavia and Franco Nicolanti attended, so they could tell the court that yes, they did still need help with their finances. They just didn’t want that help to come from professional guardian Anna Feala anymore.

“Mr. and Mrs. Nicolanti are not comfortable with how Ms. Feala is handling their money, they find it difficult to get Ms. Feala on the telephone when they have questions, and in general it is simply a poor fit personality-wise,” wrote attorney Brian Johnson.

Johnson had been assigned guardian ad litem, to investigate and deliver a report to the court on what would be best for the Nicolantis.

Their difficulty getting Feala on the phone mirrors the problems with guardianship on a larger scale.

Feala could not be reached for comment and Johnson did not return calls for comment.

Because so many of the details and life events that put a person in guardianship are confidential — family strife and abuse, medical issues and financial details for example — state and local officials have legitimate reasons for not speaking publicly.

Those same issues, however, can provide cover for indiscriminate decisions based on opinion and what appears repeatedly to be an inflated sense of power and authority, and not always on facts.

“I can say this,” Kim Hall said about her efforts on behalf of her stepson. “I know that I did everything that I absolutely could for Derrick when I had him with me. I can’t beat up on myself too much. I know that I did everything I could.”

Full Article & Source:
Area families caught in 'nightmare' of guardianship

Digging Deeper: Police suspect inside job in $190K fraud of elderly victim

TUCSON – There were nearly 11,000 cases involving vulnerable adults in Arizona reported to the Department of Economic Security.

Twenty-two percent of those cases had to do with financial exploitation.

Tucson Police Department detectives are currently investigating a case of financial abuse of an elderly man who suffered from dementia.

The Digging Deeper Team uncovered a search warrant that revealed some disturbing information about the case.

According to Tucson Police, 84-year-old Robert Ouellette was allegedly taken advantage of by an employee who worked at a local credit union.

News 4 Tucson is not naming that person because they have not been formally charged with a crime.

However, the search warrant stated Tucson Police was investigating the crimes of theft, fraud schemes, computer tampering and forgery.

Ouellette lived alone in the Campbell Estates Mobile Home community for 20 years, but died four months ago from injuries he received in a car accident.

Fred Thorpe was the victim’s friend and neighbor.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Thorpe. “I mean the guy was such a nice fellow, probably why they took advantage of him.”

According to the court document, the crimes were believed to have been committed around February 2018 to July 2019.

The search warrant also stated that the suspect was employed at a credit union and was responsible for assisting customers with financial transactions.

The warrant goes on to say the employee took advantage of his position and conducted fraudulent transactions and theft from Robert Ouellette.

The employee allegedly stole from Ouellette’s accounts at the credit union and other bank accounts.

The theft is estimated at $190,000.

Ouellette was a devout Catholic who attended mass at Sacred Heart every morning.

Friends and family of Oullette said he lived a simple life and spent money on necessities and charity donations.

The Digging Deeper Team contacted his niece, Mary Peters, in Michigan.

“He was really a cheerful man, he was always good-hearted and in good spirits,” said Peters as she remembered her Uncle Bob.

Peters is also the executor of Ouellette’s estate.

Peters said family members started noticing changes in 2017.

“I started getting calls from the trailer court where he lived he wasn’t paying his rent. That’s not Uncle Bob,” Peters recalled to News 4 Tucson.

Ouellette was formally diagnosed with dementia in April.

The search warrant stated that Adult Protective Services began an investigation last March.

Records were also subpoenaed from Ouellette’s bank.

It showed transactions to online retailers, utility and cell phone, and the suspect’s credit card account.

Investigators say those transactions were out of character for the elderly victim.

When Peters learned her uncle was missing nearly $200,000 from his account and that the money ended up in the suspect’s accounts, she was shocked.

“They should go to jail. Do not pass Go,” Peters told News 4 Tucson.

News 4 Tucson made repeated requests to TPD to comment about their investigation.

The department repeatedly declined and said it was an ongoing investigation.

To file a report with Arizona Adult Protective Services call 1-877-SOS-ADULT (1-877-767-2385) or a report online can be made here.

Full Article & Source:
Digging Deeper: Police suspect inside job in $190K fraud of elderly victim

Financial Exploitation Case Will Hear Plea Agreement Testimony

By Benjamin Cox

Two women will get to argue that a plea deal in a murder case from 2 years ago holds over to their own. Circuit Judge John M. Madonia said yesterday he would allow motions to dismiss charges against 64 year old Joyce Gill and her daughter 39 year old Jewell Maul to be readmitted and proceed to an evidentiary hearing, according to the Journal Courier.

The two are charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person. They are accused of making $39,449 in transactions from the bank account of 88 year old Norma Notson whom they were charged with taking care of. Their attorneys argue the women cannot be prosecuted, though, because of an oral agreement between then-special prosecutor Ed Parkinson and Gill’s husband, Robert Gill. The agreement was part of a plea deal in Robert Gill’s first-degree murder guilty plea in the 2015 shooting death of Andrew Maul, who was Jewell Maul’s ex-husband. Robert Gill plead guilty to the shooting in 2017 and is serving 49 years in prison for the murder. The agreement allegedly stipulated there would be no charges brought against the two women resulting from the investigation into the shooting as well as no further investigation into Notson’s case.

At a hearing in September, Madonia denied the conclusion that the two could not be prosecuted and scheduled the cases against the women to move forward. He believed new special prosecutor Matthew Goetten originally had filed the charges against the women and could not be held to another prosecutor’s agreement. Madonia has learned since through discovery documents and motions to reconsider that Goetten and Parkinson filed the charges together. The motions to reconsider the dismissal maintained Goetten and Parkinson are representatives of the same office and are “bound by the verbal agreement.” Goetten contends that the plea agreement is not enforceable in the case, according to a report by the Journal Courier. Goetten would not communicate further on the case with WLDS News via email yesterday after the hearing.

An evidentiary hearing has been set for January 9th during which the court has called on Parkinson and Robert Gill’s attorney, W. Scott Hanken to testify on the oral plea agreement.

Full Article & Source:
Financial Exploitation Case Will Hear Plea Agreement Testimony

Saturday, December 7, 2019

In helping elderly parents, caregivers get a peek at their futures — and are inspired to plan for old age

Myrtle Lewis, 76, holds a birthday picture of her late mother, who died at 98. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
By Tara Bahrampour

Even after Myrtle Lewis’s mother reached her late 90s and could no longer drive or care for herself, she insisted on remaining in her home in Northeast Washington. Lewis, who was helping care for her mother, arranged for her to have a live-in companion, another older woman, named Kizzie. But watching her mother’s world shrink as she knocked around a too-big house clarified a few things for Lewis, now 76.

“After a while it just became she and Kizzie. They’d go to bed at 6:30,” she said.

Unlike her mother, who stayed in her house until three months before she died at 98, Lewis is open to someday selling or renting out her house and moving to a senior facility. “I want more companionship,” she said, “multi-age companionship in a group, and people who share some interests, and stay as involved as I can in growth and development and health.”

AARP estimates about 41 million Americans care for their adult family members, a number that has increased as life expectancy has grown. About 4 in 10 such caregivers say they have plans in place for their own future care, according to the organization’s 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. survey.   

Myrtle Lewis, who cared for her mother
 in the last eight years of her life, at her
D.C. home.
(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Often, people who are relatively young and healthy don’t spend much time contemplating what life will look like when they get old and frail — until they see it reflected in the life of a loved one.

“No one wants to think about their own aging. Everybody puts it off,” said Amy Goyer, a family and caregiving expert at AARP. “With our parents living longer, we are getting more involved in it as an ongoing situation. Our parents’ parents didn’t live as long, but for baby boomers it gets harder to ignore — it’s a repeated smack in the face of reality.”

Seeing a parent’s body or mind break down can inform decisions about one’s own old age, from the practical — finding a house on a single level, installing grab bars, touring living facilities — to the philosophical, such as learning empathy, shoring up social ties or accepting one’s own limitations.

Downsizing, Myrtle Lewis sets aside
items to put in storage.
(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
For Richard Lui, 52, an MSNBC news anchor in New York City, becoming a caregiver for his father, who has dementia, forced him to grow emotionally. After his father, a retired pastor in San Francisco, began to have memory problems eight years ago, Lui started flying there each week to help care for him, as his father gradually lost his ability to communicate.

The experience, while wrenching, also resulted in a breakthrough. Seeing his once independent father so vulnerable felt like holding up a mirror on Lui’s own potential frailty. He also began to think more about financial planning and long-term-care insurance. “Eight years ago I thought I was forever young. But no, I’m not, and I need to think about that for my own health and personally,” he said. “I have to run toward the fire. I have to. I can’t run away from it.

Now when people ask how he is, Lui is more willing to share the hardships. “I will try to answer as honestly as possible,” he said. He also serves as a caregiving “ambassador” for AARP; the Alzheimer’s Association; Embracing Carers, a caregiver advocacy group; and BrightFocus Foundation, which supports research on Alzheimer’s and vision diseases.

Such clearheadedness is typical of people caring for family members, said Denise Brown, a Chicago-based caregiving coach who started in 1996. “When you’re a family caregiver, you’re not in denial about death and aging and what happens when we get older,” she said. “We know that we’re not going to live forever — we live it. It’s not necessarily immediate for most people, but we live it.”

Brown started caring for her parents in 2004 and made a vow to herself when, after a medical crisis, her mother was unable to return from a rehabilitation facility to her house. “It was awful to tell her she couldn’t go home,” she said. “I want to make sure I’m set . . . where I don’t have to rely on other people to pack up my house and move for me.”

To forestall this, Brown, 56, has identified a continuing-care facility she is considering for her next move: “It’s beautiful. It’s got a campus. I feel like when I’m 70 I’ll have enough energy for the move and then I’ll have enough energy after the move to enjoy it.”

It wasn’t until he became his mother’s full-time caregiver that Dave DiBella, 71, of Pittsburgh realized how unprepared he was for his own aging. When she fell and injured her hip 10 years ago, he retired early from his job as alumni and gallery director at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and moved in with her.

“That was a year of being tested beyond anything I could have ever imagined,” he said. “It made me so afraid that I’ll be dependent on somebody.”

To stave that off, DiBella said, he is consciously staying fit. He is also taking more seriously the idea of organizing his affairs, such as writing a will and designating beneficiaries. “I was a bit of an ostrich before,” he said. “Now I realize that I’m not the exception to the rule.”

Dale Brown, 65, a retired federal policy administrator in the District who helped care for her parents, is shopping for a condo that, unlike her current one, is all on one level, with an elevator and wheelchair accessibility.

“Once I get it, I’m going to set it up for the 95-year-old Dale,” she said. “I’m going to get lever door handles. I’m going to try to get a walk-in tub, and a room where I can put someone if I need help.”

Caring for a parent can also crystallize what a person doesn’t want. Jeffrey Slavin, 64, the mayor of Somerset, Md., and his sister have been decluttering their 94-year-old mother’s house as they care for her, secretly slipping out with books and other items.

That has convinced Slavin to start getting rid of his own possessions, including art and some pocket watches from a collection his father left him. “I’m giving away things now that I want people to enjoy in my lifetime,” he said.

Lewis, too, is taking steps now to forge a path different from her mother’s. Seeing her mom give up driving prompted her to get cataract surgery to maximize her years behind the wheel. “I’m trying to hold on as long as I can,” she said.

Some have a more radical take. Seeing her parents grow old and frail made Holly Tippett think she might consider ending her life rather than become incapacitated. Tippett, 57, a fundraiser for a nonprofit group in the District, helped care for her father as he was dying and was her mother’s primary caregiver for a year.

“It makes me realize that I don’t want to get super old and I don’t want to be a burden on my children,” she said. “I don’t think the quality of life is worth the burden on family and friends.” Recalling seeing her father, a successful business executive, reduced to incontinence, she said, “I don’t want to live like that, and I don’t want my kids to see me like that.”

For Roberta Youmans, 65, a retired Department of Housing and Urban Development employee in the District, caring for her mother, who had Parkinson’s disease with dementia, made her “a little more worried about aging than I think some of my friends are.”

Because of this, she signed up for Medicare B even though she already has a government pension, and she thinks twice before spending money on things such as travel. She also learned to appreciate small victories: “I spend a lot more time being grateful for what I can do. ‘Oh my God, my legs are still okay,’ having seen my mom not be able to walk. I can still smell. I can still see.”

“Little gifts, like, ‘Oh, she matched up two buttons, that’s great,’ when she used to do 5,000-piece puzzles,” she said. “I really learned a lot about life, death, aging, and what’s important.”

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In helping elderly parents, caregivers get a peek at their futures — and are inspired to plan for old age