Saturday, March 2, 2019

California woman gets 15 years for hitting a 91-year-old man with a brick

(CNN)A California woman who attacked a 91-year-old Mexican man with a concrete brick last year has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Laquisha Jones, of Los Angeles, had pleaded no contest in December to one count of elder abuse, infliction of injury. She also admitted to using a deadly weapon -- a brick -- and that she inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim, Rodolfo Rodriguez. 
"We were able to reach a disposition that I believe accurately reflects her conduct," Deputy District Attorney Frank Dunnick told CNN affiliate KABC. "It provides a significant punishment. And it sends a message to her and the community that this sort of violence is not going to be tolerated."
On July 4, Rodriguez was walking to a park when he passed a woman and a girl, he said. The woman assaulted him without warning, hitting him with a concrete brick and enlisting a group of men to beat him, he said.
Rodriguez, who turned 92 in September, suffered a broken jaw, broken cheekbones, two broken ribs and countless bruises, his family said. 
Prosecutors say Jones, 30, was also convicted in 2017 of making criminal threats, and she was on probation at the time of the attack for that felony. She was also on probation for a misdemeanor.
CNN affiliate KTLA reported the sentence was recommended by prosecutors after a plea deal that dropped an attempted murder charge. It also withdrew a hate crime enhancement that could have added up to three years, Dunnick said. 
Rodriguez told KABC that if God forgives Jones, he forgives her, according to a CNN translation.

Full Article & Source:
California woman gets 15 years for hitting a 91-year-old man with a brick

Coral Gables attorney disbarred after failing to appear at disciplinary hearing

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court has disbarred Coral Gables attorney Timothy J. Chuilli over allegations arising from a single client matter, The Florida Bar said in a recent release.

"After receiving notice from The Florida Bar, Chuilli failed to appear at a final disciplinary hearing and did not participate throughout the proceedings," the state bar said in its Feb. 28 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's order. "In addition, he failed to provide competent representation, failed to communicate and failed to expedite litigation in a civil matter."

Chuilli's disbarment was effective immediately, according to the announcement.

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 Chuilli's disbarment.

Attorneys disbarred in Florida generally cannot reapply for admission for five years and must pass an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the bar exam.

Chuilli was admitted to the bar in Florida on May 2, 1992, according to his profile on the state bar website.

Chuilli was suspended in May, according to information on his state bar profile. In July, Chuilli was also suspended from the U.S. District Court for Florida's Southern District.

His suspension followed a state bar complaint filed in April that alleged Chuilli represented a client in a civil matter after he became delinquent in his continuing legal education requirements in 2016 and his state bar fees the following year. Chuilli, who has since been ineligible to practice law in Florida, ultimately stopped communicating with his client, who subsequently had to represent herself in her case, according to the complaint.

Chuilli did not appear for a hearing in August in the state bar's disciplinary proceedings against him and the referee assigned to the matter recommended Chuilli be found guilty of violating profession conduct rules regarding competence, communication and expediting litigation. The referee also recommended that Chuilli be "appropriately disciplined."
Full Article & Source:
Coral Gables attorney disbarred after failing to appear at disciplinary hearing

Man maps plan to spend 'golden years' in hotel instead of nursing home

Terry Robison thinks he's solved the issue of high-priced senior care.

In a Facebook post, the Texas man said he won't be checking into a nursing home when he gets older.

"We'll be checking into a Holiday Inn," he wrote.

The man estimates that the average nursing home care costs $188 per day.

But with extended-stay discounts and a senior citizen discount, Robison thinks his per-night hotel stay would be about $59.23.

With breakfast included at the hotel, Robison said that leaves him $128.77 "for lunch and dinner in any restaurant we want, or room service, laundry, gratuities and special TV movies." (He doesn't say whether taxes are figured into any of his calculations.)

Robison highlights the amenities included at a hotel, such as the pool, workout room and lounge.

He highlighted other perks such as transportation, included maintenance services, and the ability to check out and visit another hotel.

"Want to see Hawaii? They have Holiday Inn there too," he wrote.

While Robison notes that Medicare will pay for a fall, his plan doesn't include dedicated medical care or other services specific to a senior care facility — things that drive up the cost for care.

A private room in a licensed nursing home facility that offers care for those who are chronically ill or unable to take care of daily living needs is $253, on average, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

A one-bedroom unit at an assisted living facility is $119 per day, on average, the department estimates.

His plan also doesn't account for hotel increases for premium nights and weekends.

But, Robison notes, his family can visit with his hotel plan.

"They will always be glad to find you, and probably check in for a few days mini-vacation," he wrote. "The grand kids can use the pool. What more could I ask for? So, when I reach that golden age, I'll face it with a grin."

Full Article & Source:
Man maps plan to spend 'golden years' in hotel instead of nursing home

Friday, March 1, 2019

Gov. DeSantis: 'There doesn't seem to be anybody held accountable,' describing guardianship oversight

I-Team investigation sparks call for action

SPRING HILL, Fla. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is reacting to an ABC Action News I-Team investigation into the state’s troubled guardianship system.


DeSantis oversaw interrogations of terrorism suspects in the Middle East and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base when he was a military attorney.

Part of his job was making sure everyone played by the rules.

Now, the governor says he intends to hold professional guardians to a similar standard and take action against those who exploit seniors.

“Our seniors, unfortunately, are targets of fraud in a variety of contexts,” DeSantis said. “What troubled me about some of the issues you guys raised was obviously bad things are happening, but there doesn't seem to be anybody held accountable."

Last week, the I-Team reported the state watchdog set up by legislators in 2016 has handed out only 19 warning letters.
They cited guardians for taking property, depositing checks made out to people in their care into personal accounts and failing to disclose past criminal histories.

Despite those serious violations, that state watchdog — the Office of Public and Professional Guardians — has never revoked a guardian's registration.

Among the issues reported to the office was a case involving a local realtor who asked a court to put an elderly beach hotel owner she barely knows into guardianship.

She stated in court documents that she felt the senior citizen was being exploited because she sold part of her property to a relative at too low of a price.

In another case, a court-appointed guardian took the wedding ring off an 85-year-old widow's finger.
Alice Yaniscavitch said the thing she feared the most was going to a nursing home, and she planned ahead of time to avoid it.

But under guardianship, she ended up being moved into a home anyway, as her daughter questioned a trust authored and notarized by an attorney.

It's unclear how many of Florida's 550 registered guardians are under investigation by the state's watchdog, but the agency says it has 132 open investigations into alleged wrongdoing.

“I think that you've had over a hundred and thirty some cases and nothing has happened to anybody. That just doesn't strike me as being acceptable,” Gov. DeSantis said.

That's a concern shared by Pinellas County Circuit Judge Linda Allan, who presided over thousands of guardianship cases during six years as a probate court judge.

“I would like to see some type of higher level of governmental oversight,” Allan said.

Governor DeSantis says he plans to provide just that.

“Whether there needs to be new legal authorities, we're looking at that, but at the end of the day, we want to be on the side of Florida seniors,” he said.

If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, contact us at

Full Article & Source:
Gov. DeSantis: 'There doesn't seem to be anybody held accountable,' describing guardianship oversight

Attorney Kustell disbarred, sentenced for stealing

A Buffalo area matrimonial attorney who pleaded guilty to a grand larceny charge was sentenced Wednesday in Erie County Court.

Carl Kustell, 79, of Clarence, admitted in December he stole $236,250 from an elderly client.

His license to practice law was revoked Feb. 1 by the New York Bar, with a retroactive date of the disbarment set to Dec. 13 when he pleaded guilty to the charge. The license was suspended in October 2018.

Kustell was granted a conditional discharge and ordered to pay $100 a month in restitution and complete 100 hours of community service.

He stole the money from the client in 2017.

Full Article & Source:

Family of man who died from septic shock files lawsuit against Whetstone Care Center

COLUMBUS (WCMH) -- A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in connection with a case of alleged patient neglect at the Whetstone Care Center. James Chandler died as a result of septic shock at the nursing home on March 5, 2017 at the age of 57.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that patient neglect led Chandler to develop a massive bedsore.

Chandler’s sister, Melisa Pierson, says the family was shocked to learn the severity of the bedsore. “You’re trusting where they’re at that they’re getting the care that they need,” Pierson said. “We didn’t have any reason to believe that he wasn’t getting the care that he needed. So to find out that the bed wounds were as bad as they were, it’s just really a shock to all of us.”

Earlier this month a Franklin County grand jury indicted three nurses from the Whetstone Care Center on charges of involuntary manslaughter, gross patient neglect and patient neglect as a result of failing to get the patient timely medical treatment. The three nurses are Sandra Blazer, Jessica Caldwell and Kimberly Potter. They are scheduled for a court appearance March 4.

The case was investigated by the Medicaid Fraud Section of the Ohio Attorney General's Office. "This case goes to the heart of protecting the unprotected," Attorney General Yost said earlier this month. "This man literally rotted to death.” “This is gut-wrenching for anyone who has entrusted a care facility with the well-being and safety of a loved one."

The lawsuit alleges medical negligence, wrongful death and a violation of Nursing Home Resident's Rights.

Ryan Stubenrauch, a spokesman for the nursing home, issued the following statement:

“Understandably, Mr. Chandler’s family is upset about his tragic death in 2017. We were also upset to learn that a former resident of our facility had died. However, Mr. Chandler’s death was not caused by the care he received at our facility two years ago. He passed away in the hospital after a five-day stay there after leaving our facility. As always, the health, safety, and well-being of our residents remains our number one priority.”

Full Article & Source:
Family of man who died from septic shock files lawsuit against Whetstone Care Center

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Florida offers little oversight over state guardians

Professional guardians have become a booming industry in Florida, but in the business of guardianship we've discovered requirements are few, rewards are many and the rules don't always apply to everyone.

James Vassallo of Deerfield Beach has been an open critic of the state's professional guardianship program.

"They are not for the elderly, they are just about their pocketbooks," he told us recently.

In 2014, a sibling squabble over missing money led him to hire a professional guardian to care for his aging father and protect his dad's money.

"It sounded absolutely perfect," he said. But Vassallo said soon after his father's guardian took control of his dad's money she went out of control spending it, from costly guardian fees to outsourcing help including four lawyers.

"Each one of them is sending bills no less than $15,000. They do separate things she told me."

Professional guardians are court-appointed caretakers who manage the lives of those a judge deems are unable to care for themselves. It's a growing business. Today, Florida has 551 registered professional guardians, up 121 percent from a decade ago.

While there are many guardians who protect a person's assets without cause for concern, the state program that grants strangers so much control and power offers little oversight, making way for other guardians to take advantage of the system and the elderly they're appointed to protect.  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source: 
Florida offers little oversight over state guardians

What can Ohio learn from other state guardianship programs?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio isn’t the only state concerned about vulnerable seniors.

Minnesota tackled financial elder abuse in 2012 by establishing a Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP).

It created an online system for uploading records of court-appointed conservators and hired a team of auditors to periodically review them. A related initiative is called the Conservator Account Review Program (CARP). According to Minnesota Judicial Branch Audit Manager Jamie Majerus, roughly 4,800 Minnesotans had assets under conservatorship in 2018 that were monitored by the programs. The value of these assets totalled $950 million.

In both programs, professionals supervised by certified fraud examiners oversee wards’ finances. CAAP audits all conservator-managed accounts after the first year and all accounts with assets exceeding $10,000 every four years. CARP routinely audits all conservator-managed accounts, regardless of size, and can refer those accounts to CAAP if it spots potential problems.

After the audit, judges get an account review report summarizing the auditor’s findings and recommendations. A similar document is provided to the judge before conservatorship hearings.

One expert calls it the model for an auditing system.

Nevada addressed guardianship abuse after a fraud case drew national attention.

Professional guardian April Parks used her court-appointed position to isolate and financially exploit more than 150 people in Las Vegas before she was caught. She got the maximum sentence of 16-40 years in prison after pleading guilty last November.

In 2017, the Nevada Supreme Court created the Permanent Guardianship Commission, made up of judges, advocates and lawyers, to oversee and improve the state’s guardianship practices.

Wards must be present at a hearing, if physically able, and must have legal representation. A proposed ward can hire his or her own lawyer, but many are appointed by the court through legal aid centers.

“Now, protected persons and proposed protected persons have trained lawyers fighting for what they want, not what everyone thinks is in their best interest,” said Jim Berchtold, who leads the guardianship advocacy program at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Berchtold believes that a lawyer independent from the probate system can best serve wards as an impartial advocate. “Even if a protected person is unable to express his or her wishes, the mere presence of an attorney to represent them helps to ensure compliance with the statutes and dissuades financial exploitation and other abuses,” he said.

Nevada also created a Guardianship Compliance Office, which supports district probate courts by reviewing cases and performing investigations upon request. It can investigate the health and welfare of a protected person, locate guardians the court has lost contact with and run forensic audits if a judge is concerned about accounting for a ward’s assets.

“Before, the court didn’t have those resources to dig in and investigate,” said Guardianship Compliance Manager Kate McCloskey. “We have one district court that calls our audits ‘liquid gold.’”

Nevada’s Guardianship Complaince Office also operates a hotline for anyone who has questions about guardianship or needs help reporting guardianship abuse.

Berchtold and McCloskey said Nevada’s 2017 Protected Person’s Bill of Rights was another major step forward. It includes the right to be educated about guardianships, to participate in developing plans that will affect the ward’s future and to remain as independent as possible.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on guardianship for the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism. The second installment will examine how Ohio courts and communities are collaborating to provide responsible guardianship in the face of ever-increasing demand.

Full Article & Source:
What can Ohio learn from other state guardianship programs?

Financial advisors take extra steps to protect elder clients from fraud or abuse

Matt and Dobe Cooney
The Cooneys walked into the office to hear their test results.

Matt Cooney, a 79-year-old retired television sportscaster, was informed that his financial decision-making capacity was in jeopardy. Dobe Cooney admitted that her husband had lost track of their bills a few times lately.

"We don't leave the teeth in the refrigerator or anything like that," said the 75-year-old former nurse. "But as we get older, we seem to forget a lot."

The exam had not been administered by their doctor but by their financial advisor, Carolyn McClanahan.

McClanahan, a certified financial planner and a medical doctor, is the founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida. At her recommendation, Matt went to his own physician with the findings.

As it turned out, Matt indeed, had had a few silent strokes over the years.

Such discoveries are coming to the surface in the offices of financial advisors across the country, as it becomes increasingly common for financial professionals to probe clients for signs that they are at risk of making poor decisions or turning into victims of fraud or abuse.

"Advisors tend to be very close to their [clients]," said Jim Wrona, vice president and associate general counsel at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-funded regulator of the brokerage industry. "They're in a fairly good position to know when something is out of the ordinary."

Demographic shifts are one of the reasons advisors are increasingly discussing memory alongside risk tolerance. By 2035, there will be some 78 million people in the U.S. aged 65 and older.

Up to 20 percent of people over the age of 65 have some form of cognitive impairment, and more than half of people older than 85 have Alzheimer's disease or another kind of dementia.

As a result, older investors are a prime target for exploitation. Seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from fraud or financial abuse, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

"Most advisors' clientele are in their 60s and 70s, and these types of issues are front in mind," said Chris Heye, the co-founder of Whealthcare Planning, a platform that helps people financially prepare for aging and tests their decision-making capacities.
Carolyn McClanahan
Source: Carolyn McClanahan
Carolyn McClanahan
A new spate of regulations is another reason advisors are keeping tabs on their clients' mental state.

Two new FINRA rules aimed at protecting older investors went into effect last year.

One of them requires that financial advisors ask their clients for a trusted contact in case they exhibit red flags, such as wanting to invest their lifetime savings in bitcoin. The other permits financial advisors to put a temporary hold on their clients' bank accounts if they suspect exploitation is occurring.

To be sure, some elderly clients may find their advisors have overreached. Last year, a woman sued Fidelity, after the company froze her assets when it became concerned about her judgement. As a result, the woman claimed, she was unable to pay her electric bill, visit the dentist or take her dogs to the veterinarian.

Still, Wrona said advisors often hear from their older clients with suspicious requests and are unsure of how to respond.

"A [client] will say, 'I won the lottery, but I need to pay the taxes upfront before I can claim the award,'" Wrona said. If the client demands the money even after the advisor has explained that it's a scam, he or she can then temporarily pause their assets and investigate further.

More than a dozen states have also passed laws that allow financial firms to pause disbursals when financial exploitation is suspected.

Congress passed a law last year called The Senior Safe Act, which encourages advisors to get trained in spotting fraud or abuse and report any such instances to law enforcement.

"Getting that training is going to stop a lot of financial exploitation," said Cristina Martin Firvida, vice president for financial security and consumer affairs at AARP.

Chris Heye
Source: Chris Heye
Chris Heye
Beyond looking out for obvious scams and threats, more advisors are proactively planning for the issues their clients could face as they climb up into their later decades.

Gary Vawter, a financial advisor for more than 30 years and the owner of Vawter Financial in Columbus, Ohio, said he quizzes nearly all of his clients over 60 on their decision making abilities. (He uses the Whealthcare Planning platform to do so).

One question on it asks, "What month is it?"

There are also other math and financial literacy problems.

"It's pretty neat when the client brags that their financial advisor is having them do these tests to find out how vulnerable they are," Vawter said. "Their friends are amazed that their doctor isn't doing it."

Another reason Vawter does this: A new law in his state requires advisors to report instances of financial exploitation to the authorities.

Gary Vawter
Source: Gary Vawter
Gary Vawter
After McClanahan and the Cooneys discussed their issues, they talked about how to protect themselves. Now, the couple review their bank accounts more frequently and pay their bills together.

If both of them find their financial decision-making capacity declining, McClanahan has asked their children to pitch in.

"The kids were just so relieved that we were looking out and that we had a plan in action," she said.

Many of the financial plans for older people involve their family members. Yet often it's these relatives who are the problem.

Even in these sensitive matters, advisors can be their client's advocate, Vawter said.

He has one client whom he suspected was being taken advantage of by his daughter. The older man began to pay her thousands of dollars a month, grinding down his lifetime savings. "[It] was bankrupting the client," Vawter said.

The daughter's family, he noticed, was not exactly in need of the money. "They were buying second homes and taking trips — they were just loving the gravy train," Vawter said. "We had to step in and say, 'You can't do this. Your dad needs this money.'"

Vawter thought the conversation went well, but the daughter continued to ask her father for money. That's when Vawter cut off the payments.

"We're not adding rate of return," he said. "But we're watching out for their money."

Full Article & Source:
Financial advisors take extra steps to protect elder clients from fraud or abuse

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hospital Sponsored Guardianships: Another threat to the elderly, disabled and children

by Marti Oakley
2019 PPJ Gazette copyright ©
In the event that your family member or friend is being targeted by the hospital you do have a few options that may be of help, according to various BAR Union members. Of course these things are usually only available if you received due notice of hearing of the intention of the hospital to take your family or friend, prisoner. Still, filing these motions could stall out what is sure to be a dangerous state of affairs for the individual targeted.”
As if the guardianship scams that target the elderly, children, the disabled and those chronically ill, most especially when there is a sizable estate involved by legal predators and equally predatory professional guardians was not enough, the medical industry is now entering into the game. Hospitals, whose only function is to care for the sick, are now openly engaging in the capture and hostage taking of individuals whom they claim are incapacitated. Never mind that their actions most likely caused any actual incapacity. Or most often, what is nothing more than a fraudulent statement claimed by those involved that an incapacity exists, when in fact, no evidence can be provided or will be provided to substantiate the claim.

In any of the instances sighted above, simply asking for a second opinion, or disagreeing with the doctors on types of treatments, medications or other intended services, can trigger a hospital initiated guardianship. In the case of children, disagreeing with doctors about diagnosis, treatment or other measures can result in the medical kidnapping of the child by the hospital.

In virtually all of these medical kidnappings for profit, no due process is observed and no notice of hearing is served. The individual is now a virtual prisoner taken hostage by the hospital, the doctors and the attorney’s. The guardianship is granted before anyone can object and the newly reclassified medical prisoner only finds out about their new classification, after the fact. They can no longer speak for themselves, refuse damaging medications, vaccines, surgeries or other needless or harmful interventions all predicated upon the bottom line profits of the hospital. The medical kidnappings are not about protecting the life of the medical prisoner, but rather leveraging the situation so that the hospital continues to profit. Once the deadlines loom on Medicare and Medicaid, or other insurance, the hospital will move quickly to ensure that their bottom line stays in the black, even if it is detrimental to the life of the patient.

In almost every instance, the attorney for the hospital claims there was no one in the family willing or able to take, or care for the newly declared, incapacitated elderly or sick individual. But that same patient can be readmitted numerous times and bounced between nursing homes and the hospital in order to extract as much profit as possible from the medicare/medicaid programs.

When these medical kidnappings involve a child, that child is held captive in the hospital. Family is not allowed contact or visitation.

In those situations where family members are obviously present and more than willing to care for the individual, the system is set up to move so swiftly to capture the patient that little can be done to fend off the vultures. In these situations, the captured patient is involuntarily discharged to skilled nursing facilities many times in other states or to facilities hundreds of miles from the hospital and family; [a practice highly recommended by many hospital employed attorney’s/guardians]This is done to make visitation as difficult as possible. In many instances, using the same method of operation that guardians routinely use outside of the hospital setting, the family and friends will not be allowed to know the location of the patient.

In almost all these situations, the involuntary discharging is a result of Medicare payment schedules coming to an end. At this point, instead of being a medical ATM for the hospital and doctors, the patient becomes a liability the hospital has no intentions of accepting. So the patient who is now seen as nothing more than a line entry in the profit and loss statement, is involuntarily discharged to a nursing home until adequate time has passed to allow Medicare to be used again. At this point, the nursing home finds some medical issue that requires hospitalization and off the patient goes again back to the hospital. This can be done numerous times until benefits are exhausted or until the patients body succumbs to either, age, sickness or exhaustion, if not all three. Profits before people..always.

Removing the patient to far away facilities has no other purpose than to present an hoped for obstacle to the family and friends that might limit their ability to visit them. What becomes readily apparent in all of these hospital initiated guardianships is that the hospital now can withhold medical records which most likely would expose them to malpractice claims based on the use of chemical restraints, unnecessary medications and services, services never rendered, or abuse and neglect by hospital staff.

In the event that your family member or friend is being targeted by the hospital you do have a few options that may be of help, according to various BAR Union members. Of course these things are usually only available if you received due notice of hearing of the intention of the hospital to take your family or friend, prisoner. Still, filing these motions could stall out what is sure to be a dangerous state of affairs for the individual targeted.

[These are only suggestions and this is not intended as legal advice]

If a capable and devoted family member or friend is willing to serve as guardian and conservator for an adult incapacitated respondent, the proper procedural device for placing the family member (or friend) (now referred to as a”client” by the hospital attorney) properly before the probate tribunal as a party plaintiff with regard to a pre-existing hospital sponsored guardianship petitions, is A Motion to Intervene.

File a Competing Guardianship Petition
In addition to asking the tribunal hearing examiner to recognize you as a plaintiff in opposition to the involuntary hospital guardianship petition, you need to make proper substantive request of the tribunal. Specifically, the Motion to Intervene, along with the competing guardianship petition. Your petition should ask the tribunal hearing examiner to appoint you (family member or friend) as the respondents guardian and conservator as opposed to the involuntary capture of the individual by virtual strangers who have no real interest in the individual other than capturing the individual to leverage control and profits.

Notice of Appearance
If insufficient time exists to file the above noted pleadings, you should promptly file a notice of appearance on your own behalf and that of the family member or friend. At that hearing you must request a brief continuance to allot sufficient time to place the individual before the tribunal.
While none of these motions will guarantee your right to due process, to a notice of hearing, or to intervene in any other way when going up against a hospital with an endless supply of funds to fight you, you do have the right to make your objections known.

The Role of Child Protective Services in Medical Kidnapping

As an example:

Three days later Child Protective Services (CPS) shows up at your door. They say they need to take custody of your child. As they are leaving with your son, you are in total disbelief, crying and yelling at them as your 10-year-old is screaming your name for help, asking what is happening. Your child has been taken away from you. The state’s CPS has literally kidnapped him to force your son to do conventional chemotherapy against your will.

Full Article & Source:
Hospital Sponsored Guardianships: Another threat to the elderly, disabled and children

Former Lawyer Sentenced to Prison for Stealing From Clients

BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — A judge has sentenced a disbarred attorney in Maine to 2½ years in prison and ordered him to repay more than $260,000 that he stole from clients.

The Portland Press Herald reports 69-year-old James Whittemore was sentenced Monday after he pleaded guilty to theft by misapplication of property and theft by unauthorized taking.

Prosecutors say Whittemore held money for his clients in a trust account in three separate instances and took the money for his personal use.

In one case, the former attorney never turned over $100,000 that an insurance company awarded to a woman and her children after her husband died in a motorcycle accident.

A judge ordered disbarment for Whittemore in November, and he apologized in court Monday. He will begin serving his sentence in April.

Full Article & Source:
Former Lawyer Sentenced to Prison for Stealing From Clients

See Also:
Brunswick lawyer disbarred over misuse of funds totaling $287K

Buzz Aldrin Fighting Son Over Control of His Money in Nasty Family Battle

Buzz Aldrin is at war with his own son over access to his bank accounts, and now he has been unable to touch his own money until the court makes a decision on who can touch the cash.

According to court documents obtained by The Blast, Buzz and his son Andrew Aldrin are battling over control of the famed astronaut’s bank accounts.Morgan Stanley filed court docs in the ongoing battle between Buzz and two of his kids pleading for the courts help. They claim to be receiving conflicting instructions on how to handle Buzz’s money held in two accounts with them.

Buzz Aldrin

The accounts are held in Buzz’s trusts and his son previously was the trustee of the trust, before his father filed to revoke it.

Since the lawsuit was filed Morgan Stanley claims to have been given “contrary directions relating to distribution of the Accounts from the attorneys for Buzz Aldrin and the attorneys for Andrew Aldrin, as Trustee, respectively.”

They claim earlier this month Andrew’s lawyer instructed them not to transfer any money out of the accounts. Days later they were contacted by Buzz’s lawyer directing them to transfer money out of the accounts to Buzz Aldrin.

Morgan Stanley says they are ready to transfer the money to whoever but don’t want to send it to the wrong person. They are asking the court to step in and help figure out who will get the cash.

Last year, Buzz sued his kids accusing them of misusing his credit cards and transferring money out of his accounts without permission.

Aldrin claims his son Andrew does not tell him about pending or future business transactions, removed large sums of money from his accounts, and continues to represent him in business and social capacities despite his repeated requests to stop.

Aldrin asked a judge to remove Andrew Aldrin as his trustee and strip him of control of his financial affairs, social media accounts, and several nonprofit and business enterprises.

He also claims his daughter Janice used his credit cards without permission. Buzz alleged that Andrew and his former business manager slandered him by claiming he suffers from dementia and Alzheimer’s.Buzz noted his children filed a petition recently claiming he was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia, and confusion.

They are asking the court to review the records and rely on the reports as evidence in this case. They are asking for Buzz’s lawsuit to be stayed until the outcome of Incapacity Proceedings they filed against their dad.

In October, Buzz’s lawyer even filed documents seeking to drop his client and cease representing him. The case is ongoing.

Full Article & Source:
Buzz Aldrin Fighting Son Over Control of His Money in Nasty Family Battle

See Also:
Lessons From Buzz Aldrin Guardianship: Twin Filings Put Focus on Abuse 

Buzz Aldrin lawsuit shows need to plan for aging parents 

NEW WRINKLES: A man on the moon, brought down to earth

Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin sues his family alleging fraud   

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Belanger Law is investigating a potential class action law suit on behalf of family members whose elderly loved ones have been placed under court appointed guardianship and/or conservatorship by a Probate Court in any county of Massachusetts.


Husbands, wives, adult children and other close relatives of an elderly person declared to be incapacitated by a Probate Court of this Commonwealth who have and/or are enduring a Probate Court appointing a third-party known as a “guardian” and/or “conservator” to make personal and financial decisions for the elder as a “ward” of the Commonwealth.


Appointment of a third-party guardian and/or conservator by a Probate Court judge of the Commonwealth declaring an elder to be incapable of making his or her own personal and financial affairs means the elder has lost ALL right to make these decisions of their own accord-such as: medical decisions, rights of association, where to reside, estate planning, voting, etc.


    • Guardian and/or Conservator disregards prior executed written durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and other advance directive instruments.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator exclude existing family members from decision making.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator refuse to keep family members informed about decisions made.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator refuse to provide financial information about expenses, billing for services, etc.
    • Unusual activity regarding Medicare/Medicaid.
    • Facilitation of elder being prescribed antipsychotic drugs such as: Seroquel, Risperdal, Zyprexa and the like.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator changes a financial instrument ownership to his or her own name.
    • Guardian controlling who can speak with and visit the elder.
    • Guardian taking steps to have elder isolated from family members and friends.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator defaming family members.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator inciting or causing friction amongst family members.
    • Guardian and/or Conservator intimidating family members for questioning or challenging actions of guardian and/or conservator.
    • Guardian removing elder from home to a nursing home or other permanent facility.


The purpose of this investigation is to determine the viability of a class action lawsuit to seek redress for exploitation of elders by Probate Court officials on behalf of Massachusetts citizens who have encountered this type of exploitation. To reiterate, this is strictly an investigation because Belanger Law first needs to hear from people who have experienced these issues to determine whether a class action is possible.  Any information provided may help getting a law suit filed—so please reach out and share your story by providing the following information:  (Click to Continue)

Full Article & Source: 

Unprotected: Swindlers rarely jailed for exploiting the elderly

Ohio swindlers posing as caregivers are rarely jailed for crimes involving financial exploitation of the elderly, despite thousands of complaints statewide, a 5 On Your Side investigation found.

Financial crimes against the elderly have increased. One in 5 elderly people are victims to the tune of $3 billion a year, according to a report released last year by the National Conference of State Legislators.

County-operated offices of Adult Protective Services (APS) are charged with protecting the elderly. They are mandated to investigate complaints of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation within three days of a complaint. They then decide on whether they will refer a case to law enforcement, including county prosecutors and police.

But we found an alarmingly low number of financial exploitation cases are actually referred to law enforcement despite a growing number of complaints.

Complaints mount, few referred

No agency tracks the outcome of investigations by law enforcement, and data is not kept on how many cases actually result in convictions.

But Cuyahoga County data shows in 2017, there were 586 allegations of financial exploitation there. This increased to 810 allegations last year.

There could be even more incidents. A 2018 report by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed, “the overwhelming majority of elder financial exploitation go unreported to authorities.”

We reviewed statewide data filed with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services , collected from county-operated offices of APS, to find out how often complaints are made.

· In 2017, we found 2,955 complaints filed statewide alleging exploitation.

· Last year, that increased to 4,442 complaints. Only 124 complaints were referred to law enforcement for further investigation and prosecution.

One of those complaints involved 89-year-old Chuck Bauer.

Bauer, who passed away in January, was recently widowed and befriended by 37-year-old Latasha Wisniewski who moved in and promised to take care of him.

Instead, she’s charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Bauer’s accounts and even adding her name to the deed to his home.

Wisniewski was indicted last November and has pleaded not guilty in the case that is scheduled for trial on March 25 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

But Bauer’s family insisted Cuyahoga County APS failed to investigate the case despite repeated calls for help, allowing Bauer’s finances to be wiped out.

Both Bauer’s daughter and granddaughter said they quickly grew suspicious of the 37-year-old’s interest and turned to protective services for help.

“We had to constantly contact them — they would never even contact us,” said Bauer’s granddaughter, Jennifer Bugnar.

Parma Heights Police launched its own investigation after the Bauer family reached out to an FBI agent for help.

“I am grateful to the detectives that stepped in but not so much to Adult Protective Services,” said Bauer’s daughter, Debbie Sheridan, “because I don’t think they did their due diligence on this.”

Cuyahoga County APS denied it failed to act quickly and said it is limited in what it can do when the victim fails to cooperate.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brent Kirvel, who is prosecuting the case against Wisniewski, said that even though family members were suspicious, Bauer initially refused to cooperate, believing Wisniewski had his best interests at heart.

In addition, county APS said Bauer was “found to be competent,” and that finding makes it even more difficult to investigate and prosecute “because the elderly have their own rights” to self-determination.

Those limitations are echoed by the National Adult Protective Services Association in a 2018 report that found, “APS cannot take action on behalf of adults who have cognitive capacity to make informed decisions.”

Bauer’s family finally convinced him he was being swindled, but only after his life savings was drained.

A lack of funds

We found APS in Ohio is a fragmented system of underfunded and understaffed agencies — each operated independently across the state.

“You have to understand,” said Marlene Robinson-Statler, Executive Director of Cuyahoga County’s Adult Senior Services , “that we are limited based on funding and based on our state mandate of what we have to do.”

We also uncovered APS is not required to do criminal background checks.

This is critical because our investigation found Bauer’s caregiver had a long criminal history prior to becoming his caregiver, including two prison sentences. One stemmed from a theft from a disabled victim.

Cuyahoga County officials admitted they never checked.

Poor funding and inadequate training have long been a concern to the Ohio Coalition for Adult Protective Services (OCAPS), the state’s leading advocacy group for adult protection.

OCAPS Executive Director Susan Marshall said she is “absolutely convinced” cases of financial exploitation are going without investigation and prosecution across Ohio.

“Some of it might be a misunderstanding of just how much information law enforcement needs to progress in something,” Marshall said.

We found those investigating financial exploitation also have limited training and resources.

“Are they mandated to be licensed social workers? No, they are not,” admitted Robinson-Statler, agreeing that investigators “essentially take a couple of courses and go out.”

In addition, funding varies across the state and is barely enough to hire one staff member.


Last year, Cuyahoga County received only $30,000 in state funding. The remainder is up to county taxpayers through taxes raised by adult senior levies.

Each county across Ohio is on their own, and we found 14 counties that have no APS at all — leaving nearly half a million seniors in those counties unprotected from swindlers.

For example, Cuyahoga County has the highest number of seniors over age 60 with 290,762 residents. The county’s senior tax levy raises $16 million dollars that supports a wide range of programs offered by county APS, including $4 million designated for adult protection.

Overall, the county APS serves 30,722 clients in programs including protective services, homes support, community social programs and options for independent living.

But the funding levels vary dramatically from county to county, and according to a 2018 report by the Center for Community Solutions that analyzed senior tax levies, the inconsistencies result in “a system where your address alone can determine what level of services is available.”

Another report , issued by the same group which functions as a non-partisan think tank, found, 1 in 10 individuals ages 60 and older are living at home, and a “growing number of Ohioans who choose to remain in their homes may experience abuse, neglect or exploitation,” posing an increased risk of financial exploitation and abuse.

Policy Matters is another non-profit group stressing the need for increased funding for adult protection.

In a report they released last year, they found “the state underfunds protective services, leaving counties without enough to address growing needs.”

The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging reports Ohio has the sixth largest overall population age 65 and over in the nation. The Association called on legislators to increase funding with a base allocation of at least $65,000 per county per year, with additional dollars allocated by formula.

Looking ahead

There have been some recent efforts to strengthen adult protective services on a state level.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services is investing $1.3 million to develop an online referral system for reporting suspected elder abuse and develop online training for individuals required by law to report suspicions of elder abuse that recently expanded to include bank employees, financial planners and real estate agents.

Full Article & Source:
Unprotected: Swindlers rarely jailed for exploiting the elderly

Bill would rectify elder exploitation law Missoula judge ruled unconstitutional

Rep. Bill Mercer
A state lawmaker from Yellowstone County is looking to resolve Montana's criminal elder exploitation law, one a Missoula judge ruled unconstitutionally vague last year.

House Bill 334, sponsored by Rep Bill Mercer, R-Billings, has sailed through the House without any opposition. Mercer presented the proposal Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

In its current form, the state law does not require criminal intent. In other words, someone who accepted a gift, like a car, from an elder relative could be charged with exploitation of an elder person. 

Last September, Missoula Judge Robert "Dusty" Deschamps dismissed that charge against 80-year-old Rose-Marie Bowman because the law did not have a firm distinction between criminal and lawful behavior. In that case, Bowman had been handling the money of a man she loved, but wasn't married to. After the case was dismissed, Missoula County prosecutors told detectives to consider theft in such cases in light of Deschamps' ruling. 

"There are concerns among county prosecutors that the criminal provision wasn't as clear and functional for charging," Mercer told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month. "If you couldn't show any intent whatsoever, a jury couldn't find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Both the Montana Attorney General's Office and Department of Public Health and Human Services turned out in support of the bill Thursday in the Senate panel. Barbara Smith, administrator of the senior and long term care division at DPHHS said it would make definitions more consistent in efforts to root out elder abuse. 

"The other thing it does is it helps us raise awareness to the fact that the crime does exist and behind each of those crimes, or a majority of those crimes, exists another form of abuse," Smith said.

In particular, Mercer's bill clarifies that someone charged with exploitation of an elder person or person with a developmental disability must have done so "by means of deception, duress, menace, fraud influence, or intimidation."

The ambiguous language hasn't let others off the hook in Missoula since Deschamps' ruling, however. In November, Missoula Judge Karen Townsend denied requests by two different defendants for their charges to be dismissed on the basis of Deschamps' ruling. In one case, a woman and her husband used the victim's Social Security funds for themselves, leaving the nursing home debt unpaid. In the other, Townsend ruled that even having the power of attorney for a victim did not create immunity for the defendant if the actions were done by means of criminal conduct.

On Thursday, Mercer told the Senate committee repairing the bill this session was a worthy effort for the state's growing elderly population.

"Elder abuse, financial exploitation of the elderly is a huge problem," he said. "This is only going to get to be a bigger problem for us because our percentage of elderly is large compared to the rest of the country. These people are being deprived at the end of life of everything they have in financial security."

Full Article & Source: 
Bill would rectify elder exploitation law Missoula judge ruled unconstitutional

Monday, February 25, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: Zena Crenshaw-Logal from The Law Project

Join us this evening February 25, 2019 at 7:00 pm CST!

Zena Crenshaw-Logal, J.D., widow of NJCDLP’s late co-founder, Mr. Rodney A. Logal, is a founding director as well as Executive Committee board member of the organization, and NJCDLP’s Executive Director. She is one of NFOJA’s (National Forum On Judicial Accountability), POPULAR’s (Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored), Drum Majors for Truth’s, Golden Badge’s, and Opt IN USA’s Co-Administrators.

Dr. Crenshaw-Logal has authored well over 100 articles, online and print, addressing various aspects of grassroots advocacy, First Amendment issues, democracy, human rights, and the administration of justice in America. She is author of “The Official End of Judicial Accountability Through Federal Rights Litigation: Ashcroft v. Iqbal”, 35 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 125 (Summer 2011), and Exploring the Vitality of Stare Decisis in America. Boca Raton: Universal Publishers, 2012. Crenshaw-Logal is a national spokesperson on tactics thwarting proper standards for regulating First Amendment activities among lawyers when their criticism of the judiciary or a judicial officer is involved.

Prior to working full time as a legal reform activist beginning in 1998, Dr. Crenshaw-Logal engaged in a general, civil law practice which primarily consisted of her prosecuting complex, personal injury claims, and advising small to medium, for profit as well as nonprofit entities. She entered the University of Notre Dame at Notre Dame, Indiana in 1977, distinguished as a National Merit, Notre Dame, and Indiana State Scholar. Crenshaw-Logal graduated from the university in 1981 with a dual major in English and Philosophy. She subsequently entered and graduated in 1984 from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois, distinguished as an Earl Warren Scholar. A summer session of her legal education was completed at the Notre Dame Law Centre in London, England.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

Operator of Guardianship Firm Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence

The operator of a New Mexico guardianship form has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for looting millions of dollars from trust accounts of dozens of people needing help with their financial affairs.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The operator of a New Mexico guardianship form has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for looting millions of dollars from trust accounts of dozens of people needing help with their financial affairs.

Paul Donisthorpe of Bloomfield, New Mexico, apologized for his actions as he was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, and U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson later said in a statement that Donisthorpe's conduct was "particularly odious" because he enriched himself at the expense of vulnerable people he was entrusted with protecting and serving.

Anderson's office said Donisthorpe previously entered into a plea agreement acknowledging that he embezzled from client trust accounts managed by Donisthope's now-closed company, Desert State Life Management, a state-regulated guardian firm.

Terms of the plea agreement include restitution of $6.8 million.

Full Article & Source:
Operator of Guardianship Firm Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence

Bronx Lawyer Disbarred on Charges of Client Theft

A veteran Bronx lawyer has been disbarred after being accused of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars in client estate funds for his own use and then failing to respond to Attorney Grievance Committee investigatory requests for at least a year.

Joram Jehudah Aris, who according to an Avvo webpage has practiced in wills and living wills, real estate and nursing home abuse cases, among other areas, has had his name stricken from the rolls of attorneys, effective Jan. 29, by order of a unanimous Appellate Division, First Department, panel.

Aris, admitted to the state bar in 1979, had already been immediately suspended from practicing law on May 10, 2018, by the same First Department panel, after both failing to provide records and documents “repeatedly requested” by the First Department’s grievance committee and failing to “provide an explanation regarding the many questionable expenditures from the estate accounts,” the panel wrote last May.

In the course of battling that potential suspension, Aris had argued at the time, in part, that he would be retiring in February 2018 and thus had suggested, according to the panel’s May decision, that it wasn’t necessary to suspend him.

Meanwhile, the grievance committee had contended that Aris’ “self-proclaimed retirement on February 10, 2018, does not relieve him of his obligation to cooperate, and he remains a New York lawyer until such time as this Court orders his suspension or disbarment,” the panel further noted last May, before it suspended Aris in its May decision and order.

Last Thursday, the panel disbarred Aris. It wrote that “inasmuch as more than six months have elapsed since this Court’s May 10, 2018 suspension order, and respondent has neither responded to, nor appeared for, further investigatory or disciplinary proceedings, the Committee’s motion for an order disbarring respondent pursuant to 22 NYCRR 1240.9(b) should be granted,” citing Matter of Pomerantz, 166 A.D.3d 26, and Matter of Freidman, 162 A.D.3d 14.

According to the panel’s decision, the grievance committee had alleged that Aris failed to comply with demands to produce bank and tax records for the estates of three deceased clients, and that he failed to respond to questions regarding his alleged repeated violations of fiduciary obligations as co-administrator of one of the estates by misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars for his own personal purposes, tens of thousands of which passed through his attorney trust account.

The justices added that “interim suspension [of Aris] was also sought based upon uncontroverted evidence of professional misconduct, including bank records, which demonstrated specific instances of his conversion of estate funds.”

Aris, who was said to be age 65 in the May 2018 decision, could not be reached for comment following the court’s Jan. 31 decision. He is listed in two panel’s decisions as having represented himself pro se.

According to the panel’s May 2018 suspension decision, the grievance committee at one point submitted a supplemental affirmation arguing that it had “uncontroverted evidence in the form of detailed letters to respondent, and bank records from one of the estate accounts and from respondent’s attorney trust account, showing that he ‘repeatedly and flagrantly used estate funds for his own personal purposes over the course of five years,’ with the total amount of misappropriation of funds from one estate alone exceeding $500,000.”

Moreover, the panel, in recounting other grievance committee allegations, pointed out that on Jan. 9, 2018, the committee had allegedly “obtained partial bank records for one of the estate accounts which had been subpoenaed from the bank,” and “upon review, the Committee has questions about the legitimacy of $484,662 in expenditures from this estate account that appeared to be completely unrelated to the estate but rather related to the respondent’s personal finances.”

The panel, in further recounting committee allegations, also wrote that “the Committee sets forth ‘the most troubling examples’: respondent paid more than $44,000 for one son’s university tuition and fees; $9,969 to his psychotherapist for therapy sessions; $82,593 to the IRS and $29,110 to New York State for his own personal tax bills; over $45,000 for various credit card bills; and $174,425 directly to himself.”

The panel’s recounting of grievance committee allegations continued, “Subsequently, the Committee discovered three additional checks respondent had drafted on one of the estate accounts indicating further misappropriation of estate funds. Together, these three checks raise the total amount respondent misappropriated from the estate account to $510,292.39.”

Full Article & Source:
Bronx Lawyer Disbarred on Charges of Client Theft