Saturday, March 30, 2019

Tim Conway 'Unable to Make His Own Healthcare Decisions,' Conservatorship Granted to His Wife

Tim Conway‘s wife and daughter have settled their differences about the actor’s health.

According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, on Tuesday, Conway’s wife Charlene was appointed conservator of her husband after the court found “clear and convincing evidence” that a conservatorship of Conway was necessary. Charlene was found to be “suitable and qualified” by the court, and Conway consented to her appointment.

According to the filing, Conway, 85, is “unable to make his own healthcare decisions.”

PEOPLE previously reported that the Carol Burnett Show star is suffering from dementia, with his wife and daughter at odds over his medical treatment.
Tim Conway with wife Charlene Conway
Tim Conway with wife Charlene Conway
Greg Mathieson/REX/Shutterstock

Conway’s daughter Kelly filed court documents in August asking to be appointed the conservator of her father, because she alleged Charlene was “planning to move [Conway] out of the excellent skilled nursing facility he is currently at” and place him into a lesser quality home.

At the time, she claimed her father cannot “properly provide for his personal needs for physical health, food, and clothing” and is “almost entirely unresponsive.”

A week later, Kelly was granted a temporary restraining order, preventing Charlene from moving Conway to a new residence.

Then, in September, according to MyNewsLA, a judge rejected Kelly’s petition for a temporary conservatorship. In October, Charlene said in court papers that she did not believe Conway needed a conservator, but that she should be the one appointed if need be.

Charlene is Conway’s second wife. The veteran actor was previously married to Kelly’s mother Mary Anne Dalton from 1961-78. (In addition to Kelly, they share daughter Jackie and sons Jaime, Tim Jr., Pat, Corey and Shawn.)

The actor starred on McHale’s Navy, co-starred on the 1970s comedy The Carol Burnett Show, acted as the voice of Barnacle Boy on Spongebob Squarepants and even made a special appearance on the second season of 30 Rock, for which he received an Emmy.

He also won a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor for The Carol Burnett Show, on which he was best known for characters including the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball.

Conway’s other TV credits include guest appearances on Married… With Children, Mad About You, Glee, Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly.

Full Article & Source:
Tim Conway 'Unable to Make His Own Healthcare Decisions,' Conservatorship Granted to His Wife

Suspended NKY attorney accused of taking funds from dead woman's estate

Dale Anthony Brinker
A suspended Fort Wright attorney has been charged with stealing from clients' estates, according to prosecutors. 

On Wednesday, Dale Anthony Brinker, 60, was charged with two counts of felony theft after a complaint about suspected misappropriation of funds entrusted to Brinker, according to the Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney.

Prosecutors said the Kentucky Bar Association lists Brinker as a "former member" and said he has been suspended from the practice of law since 2010.

According to the arrest warrant, Joan Siemer signed a will that was prepared by Brinker in 1994. When Siemer died in February 2006, the money did not go to heirs, instead, $110,000 sat in a bank account.

In January, two transfers of $10,000 were made to accounts controlled by Brinker and one $5,000 check was cashed by Brinker, police said. 

Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said prosecutors are seeking the public's assistance to locate the heirs of Siemer's estate.

Sanders said investigators are looking into at least two other complaints of allegedly misappropriated funds.

Sanders advises anyone concerned about Brinker to contact Kentucky State Police.

Anyone who believes they have information which would assist in the investigation or who may be a victim, should contact Detective Charles Hazelwood at Kentucky State Police Post 6 in Dry Ridge at 859-428-1212.

Full Article & Source:
Suspended NKY attorney accused of taking funds from dead woman's estate

Care facility worker accused of feeding jalapeno peppers to dementia patient

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A former employee at a senior care facility is accused of feeding one of the patients hot peppers in order to hurt him.

Kyra Johnson, 30, is charged with abuse by a caretaker, according to KFOR.

The allegations stem from an incident at The Village on the Park near S. Penn and Kingsridge Dr., where Johnson was still a caretaker at the time.

The victim was an 81-year-old man who police said suffers from dementia and relied on those working in the Memory Care Living Unit.

One morning, Johnson is accused of taking advantage of that trust.

According to the affidavit, other employees saw her chop up a jalapeño and mix it in with his eggs.

One witness stated, “I hope that is not hot,” to which Johnson allegedly replied, “I hope it is.”

Investigators reported Johnson was seen feeding him the eggs with the jalapeño in them, even though he was “not accustomed to eating spicy food,” and “did not need assistance feeding himself.”

The affidavit states he was seen “fanning and gasping for air to cool his mouth.”

Witnesses told investigators Johnson meant to cause him pain and suffering.

KFOR reached Johnson by phone, who declined to comment without a lawyer.

Full Article & Source:
Care facility worker accused of feeding jalapeno peppers to dementia patient

Friday, March 29, 2019

What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors

Michael Hackard
Wicked stepmothers are the stuff of Grimm’s fairy tales. Widowed stepmothers are the root of real-life inheritance wars. In fact, Alzheimer’s, widowed stepmothers and estate crime are the three biggest causes of inheritance messes, as veteran estate and trust attorney Michael Hackard tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview.

Financial advisors can play an important role in helping to sort out or even prevent these bitter feuds, says the founder of Hackard Law, whose new book is sweepingly titled “Alzheimer’s, Widowed Stepmothers & Estate Crimes: Cause, Action, and Response in Cases of Fractured Inheritance, Lost Inheritance, and Disinheritance” (Hackard Global Media, March 1, 2019).

Mostly, FAs should be on high alert for red flags, such as signs of client dementia, questionable asset transfers and sudden changes in risk profile.

“Family estate fights can truly feel like civil war,” writes Hackard, who in the book and our interview, peers into the nasty battles of showbiz legends such as Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Jerry Lee Lewis.

For example, Lewis’ seventh wife and third wife’s daughter have been slugging it out in court for almost two years now. Wife 7 claims that her stepdaughter financially and physically abused the famed rock singer, 83; the daughter countersued, charging her stepmother with drugging Lewis into incoherency.

This month Lewis’ health took a bad blow when he suffered a stroke. All upcoming shows are canceled, and he was just admitted to a rehab facility. In the interview, Hackard comments on what could come regarding his financial affairs in the not-too-distant future.

The attorney also discusses both the alarming increase in Alzheimer’s diagnoses every year and the high prevalence of second marriages characterized by blended families. Both realities set the stage for elder abuse, which the American Bar Association calls “the crime of the 21st century.”

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Hackard, on the phone from his office near Sacramento. The author of “Wolf at the Door” (2017), about undue influence and abuse of older people, discussed with us crooked conservators, cognitively impaired clients, disinherited children, and stepmoms freezing out their husbands’ kids from an earlier marriage, while changing Dad’s estate plan to their benefit.
Here are excerpts from our conversation:

THINKADVISOR: You write that the three main causes of “inheritances gone awry” are Alzheimer’s, widowed stepmothers and estate crimes. How can financial advisors try to prevent fractured inheritance?

MICHAEL HACKARD: Pay attention. The striking statistics are that over the next 20 or 30 years, $30 trillion of baby boomer assets are going to be transferred. More people are getting older, so the incidence of cognitive-related disease is higher. Advisors need to get smart about that because the more attention you pay to it the better off you and your clients will be.

What exactly is an “estate crime”?

The unauthorized, unlawful taking of someone’s assets while they’re alive. You can see that where property has been transferred prior to a death; for example, a personal representative — such as a trustee — suppresses assets and takes them for himself or herself. You can see it when people, particularly entrepreneurs or recent immigrants, have a lot of cash in a safe — maybe as much as half-a-million dollars — but that money almost always is gone at their death. These experiences are common. So if someone’s keeping a lot of cash around, they should have proof of it and give that documentation to a person they trust.

You write about high-profile celebrities whose estates have been subject to family fights and litigation. For example, rock ‘n‘ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, 83, is reportedly a victim of financial abuse. His seventh wife and third wife’s daughter are battling it out. Following a stroke on March 1, he resides in a rehab center.  What will happen with that litigation at his death?

It seems like he’s cognitively impaired, and it gets down to: While cognitively impaired, what was he doing with his assets, and what influence was being exerted upon him for those assets? [Attorneys] would be looking for any transfers that occurred prior to the time he [will have died] and questioning whether they might have been a result of undue influence or undue pressure on him. They would also be looking at all his estate-planning documents, particularly later changes, those closer to his death or when his health was identified as being very precarious. They’ll be looking for medical records and doctors’ reports.

About asset transfers, would lawyers speak with Mr. Lewis’ financial advisor?

Absolutely. Financial advisors are great resources, especially now that the law has given them a little more power with regard to financial exploitation: FINRA Rule [4512] allows them to seek out a trusted contact person for the client’s account, and Rule [2165] allows them to put a temporary hold on disbursements.

Do you know of an example?

I had a litigation just resolved concerning a transfer of $5 million to a caregiver. We contacted the financial advisor and asked that they put a stay on funds. We followed up with a court order. It all worked [out].

Hollywood star Mickey Rooney, a victim of financial abuse, reportedly died with $18,000 to his name. Lawsuits claimed that his caregiver and stepson abused him physically and financially. Ultimately, a conservator took over his finances. How should an FA deal effectively with a client’s conservator?

If the conservator is good, there’s an annual accounting they might present to the local court. A conservatorship, or guardianship, as some states call it, can be the saving grace for someone if they’re losing everything and get a strong, honest, ethical conservator who’ll look out for them.

What could happen if it turns out the conservator is dishonest?

There have been cases where a conservator and an attorney have basically looted the conservatorship accounts. I had a case like that in which the other side was getting, like, $59,000 for one day’s mediation. Well, that money wasn’t coming out of the air. It was coming out of some poor old guy’s conservatorship account. So that situation can be very abusive.

Actor Tony Curtis, a year before he died, wrote a new will and redid his trust. This disinherited his five surviving children and left his entire $46 million estate to his sixth wife. The children — including actress Jamie Lee Curtis — filed suit alleging that their father was mentally impaired, but the case was dropped. What can an FA do if he or she suspects that a client plans to disinherit?

Any time a disinheritance is going on, justified or unjustified, it’s an invitation to a dispute. Reasonable inquires to the client would be: “If you’re disinheriting people, they often want to challenge your estate. Have you thought about that? Have you talked to your lawyer about this?” In the case of Curtis, it’s possible that his children’s suit was settled confidentially.

What should advisors be aware of if a client is actually proceeding to disinherit an heir or change their estate plan? 

When an elder wants to put other people on his or her account, sometimes it’s very logical; other times it’s questionable and ought to be looked at. It’s one thing to put your spouse on the account; it’s another to put someone who appears to be a stranger on it. Advisors need to take the time to talk to their customer about that.

Anything else to be aware of?

Know your customer. If they’re a longtime customer, you’ve probably seen how they approach their investing and what kind of risk they normally take. If you see some fairly dramatic changes in their risk profile — usually going toward more risk — those are signs.

Four days before Alan Thicke, the actor and talk show host, wed his third wife, he required her to sign a pre-nup agreement. After his sudden death, his sons by previous marriages, fearing their stepmother would seize control of the estate, filed suit. But the judge ruled there was no evidence that she would challenge the pre-nup.

This goes with the idea of know as much as you possibly can about your client. Some things are red flags. Half the country is on a second marriage, and there’s a much greater likelihood of estate challenges in second marriages. When someone has a substantial amount of liquid assets, that’s certainly a target of disinherited children.

Why are stepmothers at the center of so many inheritance disputes?

The longer the marriage, the more the law and the facts are going to favor the stepmother. If the second marriage is, say 35 years old, and the stepmother gets everything, well, in a way, that’s hardly a surprise. Where you see the egregious cases is when some guy 80 years old gets married; and a year before his death, suddenly all his estate [plans] have changed.

When disc jockey Casey Kasem was suffering from Parkinson’s, dementia and other serious medical problems, his second wife and adult children from his first marriage got embroiled in a hateful battle over his care and the children’s wishes to visit him. After Kasem’s death in 2014, the family filed other lawsuits concerning his estate. The case has yet to be resolved.

That’s the thing about litigation: You’re getting two sides. Kasem had top lawyers to assist him, but it all ends up being a kind of free-for-all and a “he said/she said.” Of course, the bigger the estate, the greater the invitation to get into something like this.

How common is it for a stepmother to restrict her husband’s children of a prior marriage from visiting their sick father?

My experience is that it’s more common because I get the bad cases! Statistics say that of the 11 million stepmothers [in the U.S.], only about 20% of stepchildren — stepdaughters in particular — have affection for their stepmother and get along with her.

What have you found in your own practice?

What I’ve seen quite a lot are biological children of a first marriage frozen out during the last days or months or years of a father’s life — and during that time, changes in the estate plan favoring the stepmother and/or maybe her own biological children.

In the case of late actor and senator Fred Thompson, his sons from a first marriage sued their stepmother, who had been named primary beneficiary of his estate. They claimed they were being deprived of their rightful share. However, they later dismissed the suit, stating that discovery docs substantiated their stepmom’s claim that she was sticking to Thompson’s wishes. What did the suit allege?

The sons were arguing undue influence. Challengers have a very hard uphill battle trying to overturn a trust or will just on the basis of undue influence or lack of [cognitive] capacity because there’s a higher standard of proof required: the clear convincing evidence standard of proof. I prefer to do elder financial abuse challenges, which aren’t directly tied to overturning a will but to making a wrongdoer responsible.

The American Bar Association calls elder abuse “the crime of the 21st century.” Why has it grown so?

A good part of it is the numbers: We have about 40 million people 65 and above and if you include baby boomers who aren’t 65 yet, there are even more [seniors]. The other thing is that we’re all living longer and are therefore more susceptible to cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s is said to be growing at around 500,000 [cases] a year.

You write that just because someone has Alzheimer’s “there’s no such thing as a slam-dunk case.” Why is that?

You still have to test it and say: Was there undue influence, and did the person lack cognitive ability? Sometimes it’s really clear: People can no longer even write their name. Other times it’s not so clear because one of the things about Alzheimer’s is the lack of awareness that you have it, which is called anosognosia.

Billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke appointed her butler, who allegedly was financially abusing her, executor of her estate. After she died, he gave up control and settled the case by taking a payout. Can an advisor step in if they suspect something fishy going on with a client?

Financial exploitation is [first noted by] a kind of smell test. If an advisor sees a lot of money flowing out when there’s a conservator, they could certainly question: Where’s the money going? If they find the conservator’s fees and attorney’s fees running $25,000 a month — which could be small compared to some — they should ask about that because they have the right.

Prince, Sonny Bono, Amy Winehouse and even Abraham Lincoln died intestate. Why do you think people chose not to make out a will?

Part of it is trying to avoid thinking about death or else [procrastinating]: Someday I’ll do a will. What often happens with intestate cases is that a neighbor says, “We were really close friends, and old Joe always told me I was getting his house.” Well, old Joe dies, and there’s no will — and the neighbor isn’t getting the house. Or you see it when Grandma says to her granddaughter: “You’re my favorite. You’re going to get the ranch.” But when Grandma dies, the only son — who maybe has been estranged for twenty years — gets the ranch. That creates other issues. Intestacy is just a matter of blood relations.

Full Article & Source:
What the Nastiest Celebrity Estate Battles Can Teach Advisors

Woman sentenced to prison for scamming $20K from elderly Boulder County victim

Marina Thelma Scotti
A woman accused of ripping off thousands of dollars from an elderly Boulder County woman through a magazine subscription scheme has been sentenced to prison.

Marina Thelma Scotti, 49, pleaded guilty to one count of exploitation of an at-risk elder and was sentenced to six years in prison followed by five years of parole on March 15. Scotti will get credit for the 108 days she has already served in jail.

The exploitation charge, a Class 3 felony, carried a presumptive prison sentence of four to 12 years.

According to court records, Scotti has yet to be assigned to a prison and remains in custody at the Boulder County Jail.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the original 16 counts Scotti was facing after her arrest in 2017.

"This defendant preyed upon the victim and stole her money, her pride, and her sense of security," Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a statement. "The victim had a successful career and a very positive impact on our Boulder community; the defendant was able to take advantage of her due to her medical issues. Thankfully, the victim's friends intervened on her behalf and contacted the police.

"Securing justice for the most vulnerable victims is an absolute priority for the District Attorney's Office and a sentence to state prison is the just outcome."

Prosecutors said Scotti ran a company called Publications Marketing out of Florida, and from 2015 through 2017 called the victim to solicit money for magazine subscriptions. The victim was living on her own but was 89 at the time and suffered from dementia.

Prosecutors said the victim felt threatened by some of Scotti's calls and sent checks totaling more than $20,000 for magazine subscriptions she never received.

The victim, a former principal and vice principal at various Colorado schools, is now in a memory-care facility, according to the DA's office.

Full Article & Source:
Woman sentenced to prison for scamming $20K from elderly Boulder County victim

Financial exploitation of seniors: how to protect yourself and loved ones

Beckley, WV (WVNS) - On Tuesday, March 26, Fayette County deputies arrested a caretaker for stealing money from her elderly client. Susan Harrah allegedly took the victim's credit card without permission and used it at multiple locations.

Social worker at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging, Crystal Foley, said financial exploitation of senior citizens is not uncommon and comes in many forms.

"Whether it's a scam, whether its stealing out of their checkbook, going out grocery shopping for them and taking some off the top before you give them their checkbook back..." Foley said.

She said it is important to educate the elderly on what to look for and how to protect themselves. Foley advised to never give a caretaker access to your finances, regularly check bank accounts, and hire caretakers from an agency that requires background checks.

"Seniors are a vulnerable population anyway and then if you open up your home to a perfect stranger that doesn't have anyone backing up their credibility, then you open up a whole new set of issues that can come out of it," Foley said.

She also said just because a person is a close family friend does not mean they can be trusted as a caretaker. In fact, she said a lot of financial exploitation cases come from family or close friends.

"If you can avoid letting them have access to that family member's financial that," Foley explained.

If you think you or a loved one might be a victim of financial exploitation, contact local law enforcement immediately. You can also reach out to adult protective services or your local commission on aging for more information.

Full Article & Source:
Financial exploitation of seniors: how to protect yourself and loved ones

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Settlement Reached in Conway Conservatorship Spat

Tim Conway’s wife and daughter settled their differences over whether the entertainer should be placed under a conservatorship, attorneys told a judge Tuesday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan was informed during a hearing Tuesday that the issues were resolved prior to Tuesday’s hearing. No details could be immediately ascertained.

Michael Harris, Conway’s court-appointed attorney, stated in court papers filed March 20 seeking fees for his work that the case was settled during a final mediation session on March 13.

Kelly Conway maintained her 85-year-old father has dementia and that she should be named his permanent conservator. Charlene Conway said her husband did not need to be placed under a conservatorship, but that if a judge decided he needed such protection, she should be the person selected as conservator.

On Sept. 14, Judge Robert Wada rejected Kelly Conway’s petition for a temporary conservatorship, finding that her concerns about her stepmother’s medical decisions regarding her father were moot at the time because he was hospitalized Sept. 3 and underwent brain surgery.

The actor/comedian is bedridden and cannot speak, according to conclusions reached by his doctor and detailed in court papers previously submitted by Forer. Conway is under 24-hour care at a rehabilitation facility.

Dr. Maurice Zagha said he evaluated the entertainer on Jan. 5. According to Zagha, Conway understands what people are saying to him, but is unable to reply. Zagha said the verbal impediment makes it hard for him to determine Conway’s overall mental capacity, but that over time he has been able to read the actor’s facial expressions.

Conway was a cast member on the 1961-62 ABC variety series, “The Steve Allen Show,” before landing the role of Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker on the 1962-66 ABC comedy “McHale’s Navy.” In the 1970s, he became a cast member on “The Carol Burnett Show.”

In addition to Kelly, Conway and his first wife Mary Anne Dalton had five other children, including KFI-AM (640) talk show host Tim Conway Jr. They divorced in 1978.

Full Article & Source:
Settlement Reached in Conway Conservatorship Spat

See Also:
Doctor Says Actor/Comedian is Nonverbal, Bedridden

Judge Rejects Conway Daughter’s Temporary Conservatorship Petition For Now

Judge Defers Ruling on Tim Conway Conservatorship Amid Dispute Over Care

Tim Conway, 84, Suffering from Dementia: He's 'Almost Entirely Unresponsive,' Says Daughter

Tim Conway's daughter gets temporary restraining order against his wife over star's care

Professional guardian reacts to state's new elder abuse task force

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the creation of an Elder Abuse Task Force Monday. One issue they will tackle is reforms to the state's guardianship system.
Credit Pixabay
A professional guardian is reacting to Michigan's new task force for monitoring guardianship of vulnerable adults.

Georgia Callis is with the Michigan Guardianship Association. She told Stateside the MGA hopes to educate the task force on how valuable public guardians are to the state.

“I'm looking forward to educating the task force that the public guardian is the safety net; we're not the bad guy,” Callis said.

Caliss says guardianship companies in Michigan are closing at a rate of 10 per year. She says without those companies, Michigan would have to create its own public guardianship division.

Caliss says guardians care for about half of their clients without getting paid.

"We are saving the state of Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars, but we can't get anybody to hear that they need to help save what they already have for free," she said.

Caliss says the MGA represents 149 professional guardians in Michigan. She says that is down from 300 a decade ago.

You can hear the full conversation with Stateside above.

Full Article & Source:
Professional guardian reacts to state's new elder abuse task force

Chester County Orphans’ Court seeks guardian program volunteers

WEST CHESTER — The Chester County Orphans’ Court is seeking volunteers to serve county individuals who require guardianship — assisting the court in maintaining contact with any person deemed by the court who cannot make decisions about their daily lives, where they live, or medical or financial matters.

The amount of volunteer time for visits to individuals who need guardianship is flexible, and training for the guardian program includes topics such as the guardianship process, individual’s rights, Alzheimer’s disease and information on public agencies that provide the guardianship services.

“Our trained volunteers are the eyes and ears of the Court and help us to be alert to and deal with issues of fiscal safety for those whom we declare incapacitated,” explained Katherine B. L. Platt, administrative judge with the Chester County Orphans’ Court.

Anyone interested in becoming part of the Orphans’ Court guardian program is invited to take part in a free training session that will be held on Wednesday, April 10, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Chester County Justice Center, 201 W. Market St., West Chester. A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

For more information about the program or to request an application for the upcoming training, please contact Kim Bainbridge at 610-344-6484 or email

Full Article & Source: 
Chester County Orphans’ Court seeks guardian program volunteers

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network - What Happens When the "Ward" is Dead? With Guest, Lisa Belanger

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

Our guest tonight is Lisa Belanger. After a seven year battle to free her father from a predatory guardianship, on January 28, 2019 Lisa issued an alert that the guardians were attempting to put her father Marvin Siegel into hospice. The message was clear…Marvin’s estate had been successfully depleted to a great degree, (they claim there might be a balance) by the guardians and attorney’s. These same professional predators refuse to give a current accounting of where the estate stands now.

Having no further value to them, hospice was the clear choice for hastily ending his life. Lisa was successful in stopping that effort. but somehow his death appears to have been hastened, none the less.

Despite Lisa’s ongoing efforts, her father passed away on March 15, 2019. But the questions remain. Marvin’s estate had been valued at $9 million when he was taken hostage in the probate/guardian system. What could these predators possibly have done for him over the last seven years that would have cost $9 million dollars?  He was held prisoner in his own home.  Denied contact with his own children and grandchildren until just recently, and drugged incessantly against his will. During this time his assets were liquidated, real property re-titled to the predators, and valuable personal property simply disappeared.

So what happens when the “ward” dies? Join us as we attempt to discover just what happens once the “ward” is deceased and can’t be used anymore to justify the theft of the estate?

LISTEN TO THE SHOW LIVE or listen to the archive later

Elder abuse group expected to address guardianships, financial fraud, family rights

Victoria McCasey of Holly and Randy Asplund of Ann Arbor protest outside a Lansing press conference announcing a statewide elder abuse task force on Monday, March 25, 2019. The small group protesting Monday expressed hope that the task force launched by Attorney General Dana Nessel would investigate the legal system around guardianships, conservatorships and estates. (Photo: Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News)
Lansing — A statewide task force will address the legal, social and judicial shortfalls that have in some part allowed for the abuse of roughly 73,000 older adults in Michigan.

The Elder Abuse Task Force announced Monday by Attorney General Dana Nessel has support from prosecutors and law enforcement, probate courts, health care associations and elder law groups. The task force will include members of the Michigan Supreme Court, the governor’s office, county prosecutors, state and federal lawmakers, advocacy groups and 13 people from the Attorney General's office.

Other task forces in 1998 and 2007 studied the issue, Nessel said, but gaps remain prevalent throughout a social and legal system that is supposed to protect vulnerable and elderly adults.

Nessel promised the task force would produce real results and launched the group with nine initiatives that would tighten guardianship rules, require more training for law enforcement and adult protective services personnel, establish basic rights for families, mandate reporting by banks of suspected exploitation and create multi-disciplinary teams at the local level. When the group attains those goals, it will move on to other initiatives, she said.

“This has been studied to death,” Nessel said. “To me, it was time for some action.”

The task force will hold public hearings across the state to gather public input starting with a tentatively scheduled meeting on June 14 in Kent County, Nessel said. In addition, people who suspect elder abuse or are victims of such can call (800) 24-ABUSE (22873) or report it online at

A small group of protesters gathered outside the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing prior to the press conference. The group expressed hope that the task force would do more than focus on families as culprits in elder abuse, but also explore potential corruption in the legal system surrounding guardianships, conservatorships and estates.  

“They are stealing our assets," Victoria McCasey of Holly said of the state's current public administrator system. "And what’s sad about it is that we, the family members, have to take our life savings to fight to get what’s rightfully ours back,” 

Nessel is looking closely at the state public administrator system, which allows the attorney general to appoint county public administrators responsible for settling an estate when someone dies with no will or apparent heir, her spokesman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said. 

The task force also expects to work with the court and legal systems to ensure better protections for wards receiving guardians and create regular reviews of each guardianship, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein said.

At the end of 2018, 32,137 adults had full or limited legal guardians, according to the State Court Administrative Office. Of the 9,285 guardianship petitions filed last year, 7,337 were granted, 1,766 were withdrawn or dismissed and 116 were denied.

Judges need to do a better job assessing those arrangements and asking the right questions to suss out the qualifications and intentions of each guardian, Bernstein said.

“It is absolutely essential that the judges make sure that the ward has a voice,” he said.

The Attorney General’s Office has collaborated on dozens of elderly financial exploitation investigations in the past two years. But with one in 10 elderly expected to be victims of such abuse, a concerted effort was needed to identify crimes that often go unreported, Nessel said.

Like domestic violence cases, elder abuse incidents often involve a family member or person of authority with emotion ties to the victim, making it difficult for the victim to come forward, she said.

“The good Lord willing, we’re all going to be elderly one day,” Nessel said. “This affects every single one of us and that is why it’s so incredibly important.”

Full Article & Source:
Elder abuse group expected to address guardianships, financial fraud, family rights 

Lawyer seeks to remove judge in Thrash case

Laura Martinez and her attorney Phil Ross
 Photo: Carlos Javier Sanchez /Contributor
by John MacCormack, San Antonio Express-News 

The acrimonious legal fight over Charlie Thrash, 81, a mentally incapacitated millionaire, came to a dead halt Tuesday.

Thrash’s legal guardians went to court to seek a permanent injunction against his girlfriend Laura Martinez, her lawyer and various family members. But the matter was put on hold when Phil Ross, the lawyer for Martinez, asked to recuse Probate Judge Oscar Kazen.“Today would have been the hearing on all the marbles but Mr. Ross, at the midnight hour, filed a motion to recuse,” said Kazen, who declined to step down.

Kazen signed a temporary restraining order March 14 that accused Martinez and her family of fraud, converting Thrash’s property, committing assault and battery against Thrash and interfering with his court-appointed guardians. That order expires Thursday.

Another judge, yet to be appointed, will hear Ross’s motion, possibly this week.

On March 15, Kazen annulled the March 4 marriage between Thrash and Laura Martinez, citing a court order that Thrash, because of his mental incapacity, not be allowed to drive, vote or make important personal decisions.

A few days later, District Judge David Canales voided the March 5 adoption by Thrash of Martinez’s two adult children, Joe and Brittany Martinez.

Martinez says she began dating Thrash in 2012 when he was still operating his business, CT Thrash Differential & Axle Service on West Avenue.

Thrash’s estate is worth an estimated $3 million, and Martinez said she is his sole heir.

In his recusal motion, Ross cites a host of reasons why Kazen should step down, ranging from the judge’s decision not to hold a political fundraiser that Ross offered to host in 2018, to ignoring pertinent evidence about Thrash’s restored mental state, to scolding Ross in open court about unprofessional conduct.

Lawyers for Thrash’s two court-appointed guardians said the recusal motion was little more than an attempt by Ross to delay.

“We will argue it is a motion filed in bad faith, a dilatory tactic,” said Laura Cavaretta, who represents Tonya Barina, the guardian who last week attempted to make an inventory of Thrash’s assets, including his classic car collection.

“I was able to go to his home and the hanger and take pictures and make an inventory,” Barina said.

Barina said that all but one vehicle — a $100,000 Corvette — have been recovered. It is believed to be in Junction.

Thrash was not present at Tuesday’s hearing. On March 6 ,he was removed from the home in Shavano Park he shared with Laura Martinez by his personal guardian, Mary Werner.

Werner said she took the dramatic action, backed by Shavano Park police, because she feared for Thrash’s safety. Since then, she said, Thrash has been staying with a relative.

“He’s doing good. He’s getting out and about. Yesterday he got his hair cut,” Werner said.

Ross, who has been publicly criticized by both Kazen and Canales, said he is trying to rid Thrash of the guardianships on the grounds that his mental capacity has been restored and to reverse the annulment of the marriage to Martinez and the voiding of the adoptions of her children.

“We are fighting for everything,” he said.

“We’ve also asked Judge Kazen to appoint a medical expert and make a report to the court on whether Charlie has capacity,” he added.

Full Article & Source:
Lawyer seeks to remove judge in Thrash case

See Also:
Judge nullifies mentally incompetent San Antonio man’s adult adoptions, scolds lawyer for misleading him

San Antonio millionaire marriage annulled after abuse, exploitation and ‘abduction’ claims


Scammers bilk elderly Mass. residents out of $44k

DEERFIELD, Mass. — Police said that two elderly Massachusetts residents were scammed out of a total of $44,000 recently in separate incidents involving random telephone callers saying they needed money to bail their grandchildren out of jail.

The two incidents, one resulting in the loss of $14,000 and the other of $30,000, are the latest in ongoing scams where telephone callers target the elderly, said Deerfield (Mass.) Police detective Adam Sokoloski.

The callers pretend to be the lawyer or legal representative for a grandchild who has been arrested, and they need money for bail or to pay for legal representation.

The department gets calls daily from people reporting getting a strange call from someone asking for money. In most instances, the people receiving the call do not give any money, he said. But there are cases when the people getting the call agree to send money to the caller.

“We get calls all the time and it’s heartbreaking when people lose money,” he said.

He said there have been four or five cases just this year in Deerfield where people have given large amounts of money to scammers.

Police would rather hear about it before any money is exchanged than afterward. Because once payment is made, the money is basically gone and there’s very little chance of getting it back.

In the two recent incidents, money in one instance was sent by FedEx to an address in Florida where it disappeared. In the other, $30,000 was wired to Wells Fargo Bank, and once it was received, the account was closed out.

Full Article & Source: 
Scammers bilk elderly Mass. residents out of $44k

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

San Antonio millionaire marriage annulled after abuse, exploitation and ‘abduction’ claims

Laura Martinez married Charlie Thrash, 81, a wealthy man who is legally mentally disabled, on March 4. The marriage was annulled Friday. 
Photo: Carlos Javier Sanchez /Contributor
by John MacCormack, San Antonio Express-News

On March 4, Charlie Thrash married his girlfriend Laura Martinez in a five-minute ceremony at a 19th-century mansion overlooking Salado Creek.

The next day, Thrash, 81, who is mentally incapacitated and a ward under guardianship, adopted Martinez’s two adult children, Joe, 27, and Brittany, 25.

One day after that, Mary Werner, Thrash’s court-appointed permanent guardian, went to his upscale home in Shavano Park with at least four police officers and took him away.

His new wife has not seen him since.

“I don’t know where he is. I just want Charlie back. I love him,” said Martinez, 54, who had lived with Thrash for the last few years. “They just want to get rid of me because I’m in the will.”

Calling the event “an abduction,” Martinez’s lawyer, Phil Ross, quickly filed for restraining orders against Thrash’s two guardians in Bexar County Probate Court.

Ross and Martinez have also tried to file criminal complaints over the matter but have found no takers.

“They are going to brainwash him into saying he loves his kin more than he loves the woman he’s been living with. They somehow think they can get control of his estate if they get control of his mind,” said Ross, who is known for unconventional legal tactics.

Adult welfare officials and others paint a darker picture. They say Martinez and her family members have been controlling and exploiting Thrash, who for decades owned a successful specialty auto repair shop on San Antonio’s near North Side. A report by the probate court’s investigator includes claims of physical abuse.

Werner, a former Shavano Park City Council member and an experienced professional guardian, said she went to police — something she said she had never done before in a guardianship case — after becoming concerned for Thrash’s safety.

Recently, she said, she received a series of calls from Thrash’s cell phone, apparently dialed by accident, and overheard snatches of a disturbing conversation.

“It was a female and two men talking. Their voices were muffled. One said, ‘We have to do something by the end of the month,” Werner recalled in an interview.

She said she also heard someone mutter the word “arson.”

Werner was also alarmed by a comment that Brittany Martinez allegedly made to the probate court investigator, Elaine Damian.

“Brittany asked me directly, ‘What happens if Charlie dies? What happens to the will and all this?’” Damian wrote in her report, which is strongly critical of Martinez and her family.

Werner said that just a week earlier, Thrash had voiced his strong aversion to matrimony.

“He was very adamant about not getting married. He said his last divorce had cost him $1 million,” she said.

Werner said Thrash currently is staying with a relative and is doing well.

“He said, ‘Get me divorced and undo the adoptions,’” she added.

Vintage planes and cars

As the longtime owner of Thrash Differentials and Axle Service on West Avenue, Thrash did well for himself. A skilled mechanic and machinist, he was frugal in his personal life and hard-nosed with his customers, including friends and family members.

“He never allowed anyone to have a free ride. If they couldn’t pay for their driveshaft work, he wouldn’t give them their car until it was paid in full,” his step-daughter Donna Galvanauskas said in a letter to the court.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Thrash graduated from South San Antonio High School and served two years in the U.S. Army.

He was married and divorced twice before meeting Martinez and had no children of his own.

Among his pleasures was flying planes and going to car shows and races.

His estate, worth over $3 million, includes real estate and airplanes, among them a 1992 Beechcraft F33A and a 1989 Stoddard-Hamilton Glasiar. His collection of classic cars included a 1966 Ford Shelby Mustang and Ford Roadsters from the 1930s.

After becoming involved with Martinez about five years ago, he bought an expensive Corvette and a $750,000 house in Shavano Park. Before that, he lived in an apartment above his repair business.

“Like a dad to me”

Next door to his now-closed differential shop on West Avenue is his original repair shop, Thrash Automotive, which opened in 1974.

In 1979, he sold it to a young employee, Mike Van Den Berghe, who retained the shop’s name.

“He’s been like a dad to me. He helped me get started,” said Van Den Berghe, now 61, who worked side-by-side with Thrash for decades.

He said things began to go downhill at the differential shop about five years ago after Martinez and other family members got involved in the business.

“She alienated Charlie from everyone. She wouldn’t let any of his friends talk to him. She wouldn’t even let us talk to him. If he came over here, she was right over to take him back,” he said.

About two years ago, an anonymous complaint was filed on Thrash’s behalf with Texas Adult Protective Services, which began an investigation.

According to an affidavit filed in Bexar County Probate Court by Jacqueline Berry-Jones, an APS supervisor, the complaint alleged that Thrash “was being exploited by his paramour, Laura Alicia Martinez,” who by then had power of attorney for him.

The affidavit said Frost Bank had detected unusual activity in Thrash’s business and personal accounts and was refusing to process certain invoices.

“Financial records at Frost Bank show that the Proposed Ward’s Money Market Account is down from a balance of $302,546.45 as of May 8, 2017, to a balance of $108,173.19 as of July 7, 2017,” the affidavit asserted.

An affidavit by Andrea Roelofs, an APS guardian specialist, expressed concern that Thrash was being isolated socially.

“Mr. Thrash does not have his own phone number and all social and business calls are through the cellular phone belonging to Laura Martinez,” Roelofs wrote.

Roelofs said Martinez showed her a list of “black listed” individuals who were barred from contacting Thrash. They included former friends and business associates.

Roelofs also noted that Thrash’s ex-stepchildren complained that they were unable to get in touch with him. A sister made a similar complaint in a letter to the court.

“Totally without capacity”

On Aug. 23, 2017, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission asked the probate court to appoint guardians for Thrash and his estate.

“Under the influence of his roommate, the Proposed Ward recently named his roommate and her family as beneficiaries of his will and there seems to be a conversion of assets into the roommate’s name, excessive spending, and isolation from friends and family at the direction of the roommate,” the commission’s court filing said.

The request for guardians was granted by then-Judge Tom Rickhoff.

In October 2017, Dr. Raymond Faber, a psychiatrist, examined Thrash to determine his mental competence.

“He was able to discuss the fine points about axles and drive shafts. This was in marked contrast to his fund of information regarding his finances,” Faber said. “He estimated his net worth at about a half million dollars. This was a seriously low estimate.”

Charles Thrash Psychiatric Capacity Examination by My San Antonio on Scribd

Faber said Thrash had only a spotty awareness of how his business was being run by Martinez, and did not know that her son, Mario, was the highest paid mechanic in the shop.

He wrote that Thrash did poorly on memory, mathematical and other written tests, and thought the year was 1917.

He concluded that Thrash was “totally without capacity” to care for himself or handle his business and financial affairs. The diagnosis: “most probably dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.”

With the finding of incapacity came instructions from the court that Thrash was not to marry, drive a car, vote or do other things that require mental competence.

“A bigger ring”

Laura Martinez insists she has only Thrash’s welfare and happiness at heart.

“The gold-digger thing is not true. Before Charlie Thrash, I had a man who was 25 years older. Charlie is poor compared to him. If I wanted money, I would have stayed with him,” Martinez said in an interview at the Black Swan Inn off Rittiman Road, where she recently married Thrash.

“I’ve been accused of orchestrating a wedding for an incapacitated person, and that’s not true,” Martinez said.

In preparation for the marriage, Martinez and Phil Ross, her lawyer, first took Thrash to DeWitt County to obtain a marriage license.

Werner, Thrash’s personal guardian, said she was not notified as required that Thrash was leaving Bexar County, much less that he was getting married.

Both Martinez and her lawyer contend that Thrash has regained his mental capacity since he was examined by Dr. Faber.

Ross produced a letter from Dr. Manuel Naron, a family practitioner who apparently treated Thrash for diabetes and anxiety.

“In my opinion he is mentally capable of making financial and health care decisions for himself,” Naron wrote.

Martinez denied trying to isolate Thrash from his family and friends, and said he had been eager to become her husband.

“Charlie said, ‘Yeah, we’re finally going to do it.’ He was happy and excited. He said, ‘Later, we’ll get a bigger ring,”’ she said.

She said both of her adult children love him, and wanted to be adopted by him, and that Thrash agreed to it.

“I have no idea how this will end. I want to get my Charlie back as quickly as possible. I do love him, and this is a horrific experience,” Martinez said.

Asked how a neutral person would view their relationship, she said, “It’s a no-brainer that Laura has Charlie’s best interests in mind. She provides all the support he needs.”

“Concerning acts”

Since the surprise March 4 wedding, the legal battle over Thrash has intensified. Both the marriage and adoptions are being contested by his guardians.

On Tuesday, Tonya Barina, who is Thrash’s niece and the permanent guardian of his estate, filed an eviction notice against Martinez and others living in Thrash’s house in Shavano Park.

Four days later, she filed a motion demanding that Martinez turn over all vehicles and airplanes belonging to Thrash.

Citing “threats and aggression” from the Martinez family, Barina stated she could not make an inventory of Thrash’s assets without the assistance of the court.

On Thursday, Judge Oscar Kazen signed a temporary restraining order that imposes numerous restrictions on Ross, Martinez and her family.

They were directed to vacate any property owned by Thrash and were ordered not to convert any of his assets to their own use, come within 500 feet of him or engage in “aggressive, violent or threatening behavior” toward his guardians.

On Friday, after a 90-minute hearing, Kazen annulled the marriage between Thrash and Martinez on the basis of his mental incapacity.

The judge was critical of some of Ross’ professional conduct involving Thrash.

“There are some concerning acts, that, if true, could prove to be either unethical or criminal,” he said.

Earlier last week, Van Den Berghe got a surprise visit from his old friend. A relative had brought Thrash by.

“He walked around the shop for over two hours. He was in good spirits. He remembered a lot of things,” said Van Den Berghe. “That was the first time I’d seen him in eight or nine months.”

Full Article & Source:
San Antonio millionaire marriage annulled after abuse, exploitation and ‘abduction’ claims

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane Disbarred

Former Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane

Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is serving a jail sentence for various criminal offenses, finally lost her license to practice law in the state.

On Friday, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered Kane’s disbarment on consent from the state’s Bar.

In September 2015, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania temporarily suspended Kane’s law license. At the time, she submitted her unconditional resignation from the practice of law in the state because she was facing criminal charges.

Criminal offenses

On August 2016, the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas convicted her of criminal offenses including perjury, false swearing, obstructing administration of law, conspiracy to obstruct administration of law, official oppression, and conspiracy to commit oppression to deny rights.

During the sentencing hearing in October 2016, Kane pleaded for leniency citing the reason that she has teenage children. She also argued that losing her law license and position as attorney general was already a punishment. Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy disagreed and sentenced her to 10-23 months in jail and 8 years of probation.

Judge Demchick-Alloy explained that Kane deserves a prison sentence. According to her, “a violation of this magnitude and severity is an extraordinary abuse of the sentence.

Kane appealed the conviction. She argued that the judges in Montgomery Court recused themselves from handling her case. She alleged that the judges had connections to the grand jury investigation. The disgraced former attorney general also argued that he prosecutors used vindictive tactics to obtain her conviction.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court rejected her arguments and upheld her conviction. Kane filed a petition for allowance of appeal at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

On November 26 last year, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Kane’s appeal and ordered her to serve her sentence.

Full Article & Source:
Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane Disbarred

See Also:
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane resigns after criminal conviction

Pennsylvania's attorney general found guilty in perjury case
Pennsylvania's top prosecutor says justice violated ethics

Attorney General Kathleen Kane disciplines 61 in pornographic email case

Kane's office begins punishing workers in porn email scandal: report

Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspends Justice Seamus McCaffery

Judicial board to review McCaffery e-mails complaint

Porn Email Claims Could Trigger Discipline For Pa. Justice

California among states considering caregiver tax credits

Gloria Brown is the primary caregiver for her husband, Arthur, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago. She estimates she has spent roughly $72,000 on caregivers, medications and supplies. (Emma Marie Chiang for Kaiser Health News)
Gloria Brown didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Her husband, Arthur Brown, 79, has Alzheimer’s disease and had spent most of the night pacing their bedroom, opening and closing drawers, and putting on and taking off his jacket.

So Gloria, 73, asked a friend to take Arthur out for a few hours one recent afternoon so she could grab a much-needed nap. She was lucky that day because she didn’t need to call upon the home health aide who comes to their San Mateo, Calif. house twice a week.

The price of paying for help isn’t cheap: The going rate in the San Francisco Bay Area ranges from $25 to $35 an hour. Gloria Brown estimates she has spent roughly $72,000 on caregivers, medications and supplies since her husband was diagnosed four years ago.

“The cost can be staggering,” said state Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), author of a bill that would give family caregivers in California a tax credit of up to $5,000 annually to help offset their expenses.

A 2016 study by AARP found that the average caregiver spends $6,954 a year on out-of-pocket costs caring for a family member. The expenses range from $7 for medical wipes to tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit a home with a walk-in shower or hire outside help.

AARP, a lobbying organization for people 50 and older, is pushing similar bills in at least seven other state legislatures this year, said Elaine Ryan, the group’s vice president of State Advocacy and Strategy Integration. Arizona, Illinois, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are considering legislation, and AARP expects measures also to be introduced in Florida, Massachusetts and Ohio.

In Wisconsin, two Republicans and two Democrats are behind that state’s tax credit measure.

“We need a whole discussion about how we can best keep people at home and meet their needs,” said state Rep. Debra Kolste, a Democrat who explained that most people know someone who is caring for a family member. She hopes the measure can make it through the Republican legislature and be signed by Wisconsin’s Democratic governor.

New Jersey approved a state income tax credit in 2017 specifically for caregivers of wounded veterans. However, efforts in other states have failed, including in Arizona last year and Mississippi and Virginia this year.

At the federal level, bills that would have created a federal income tax credit of up to $3,000 never got out of congressional committees last year.

“Whether I’m in Billings, Mont., or in Mississippi, the caregiver tax credit is something that people are asking for,” Ryan said. “All they’re asking for is a little financial help to offset these costs.”

A tax credit, said Brown and other caregivers, would be welcome relief to the estimated 4.5 million family caregivers in California who care for a loved one with a chronic, disabling or serious health condition. Nationwide, the AARP estimates there are about 40 million people caring for family members.

The Browns, who have been married 51 years, have good medical coverage, but like most seniors, they live on a fixed income. As her husband’s disease progresses, Gloria Brown expects costs to escalate. For instance, she wants to install bars in the bathroom to help prevent her husband from falling, and anticipates she will need more professional help.

“I think we’re just moving into that stage where I’m going to see the dollars going out for things that will help to make things easier for him at home and more comfortable,” Brown said. “It’s a cost you just hadn’t anticipated.”

Long-term caregiving has emerged as one of the major issues in California’s Capitol this year, with proposals ranging from naming a state “Aging Czar” to funding a new cash benefit for long-term care services. In his State of the State address last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a master plan for aging.

“I’ve had some personal — and painful — experience with this recently,” Newsom told the joint session of the legislature.

Newsom, whose father had dementia and died last year, also has tapped former first lady Maria Shriver to lead a new Alzheimer’s Prevention and Preparedness Task Force, and has asked lawmakers to approve $3 million in state funds for Alzheimer’s disease research.

Patterson’s bill would provide up to a $5,000 state income tax credit to family caregivers for five years, starting in tax year 2020. They would be reimbursed for 50% of eligible expenses, such as retrofitting a home, hiring an aide and leasing or buying specialty equipment. The credit would be available to individuals who make up to $170,000 a year, or joint income tax filers who make up to $250,000.

Patterson, a Republican in the minority, is hopeful he can convince his colleagues that giving people a tax credit is financially sound because it would enable caregivers to keep their loved ones at home rather than relying on more expensive government services.

“If members of the legislature and the governor would look through the eyes of their own families, friends and neighbors … I think it can be passed and be signed,” Patterson said.

But the measure faces competition for a slice of California’s $21-billion surplus, from proposals by the governor and lawmakers to boost funding for education, healthcare, housing and dozens of other programs.

For Pam Sogge of Oakland, Calif., a tax credit would allow her to hire a home health aide for an additional three hours a week. Her husband, Rick Sogge, 61, has early-onset Alzheimer’s and becomes frantic when left by himself. Sometimes when she leaves him alone in another room of their home, he searches for her every two minutes.

Because Rick Sogge is still physically healthy, most of the couple’s caregiving expenses pay for part-time help to take him on outings so Pam can work, run errands or go to the doctor’s office.

“You have a very uncertain financial future. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know how long it’s going to take. So you’re very conservative,” said Pam Sogge, 56, who has been caring for her husband for five years. “A tax credit, in a way, it’s permission and encouragement to get some help.”

Samantha Young is a correspondent for Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent publication of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Full Article & Source:
California among states considering caregiver tax credits

Monday, March 25, 2019

Guardianship registration revoked for Betsy Savitt, wife of retired judge

The state on Thursday revoked the registration of professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, the wife of former guardianship Judge Martin Colin and the subject of criminal and administrative investigations based on complaints first reported in The Palm Beach Post.

The ruling by the Department of Elder Affairs came despite a December recommendation by an administrative law judge to drop disciplinary proceedings against Savitt. The judge had found that the new guardianship office lacked jurisdiction and failed to make its case.

But Elder Affairs’ reversed parts of the recommendation and the end result. The ruling should give Florida seniors and their families confidence that the state will do everything under the law to protect them, Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said.

“I hope our action today serves as a deterrent for anyone seeking to exploit individuals under guardianship.” Prudom said. “Revoking Ms. Savitt’s registration is simply the right thing to do based on her repeated bad behavior and shows our seriousness and commitment to removing those self-serving bad actors who act unlawfully.”

It marked the first time a professional guardian has been disciplined in Florida since the Legislature allowed such action in a 2016 reform package. The state’s new Office of Public and Professional Guardians called the ruling against Savitt “historic.”

“We will not tolerate the exploitation of Floridians in the guardianship system that was established to help them,” said Carol Berkowitz, executive director of the guardianship office.

Savitt eroded the public trust with “repeated violations of law” and deserved the harshest discipline available to prevent any further harm to the public, Berkowitz said.

Savitt can’t be appointed to any cases in Palm Beach County without her registration and faces removal from her current cases, the chief judge’s office has stated.

Savitt was the subject of a 2016 Palm Beach Post investigation that showed how lawyers who represented her also relied on her husband to approve fees in other cases, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The inspector general of the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office determined in March 2017 “that Savitt was involved with corruption and collusion of judges and lawyers in Delray Beach for financial gain.”

The clerk’s office received at least four calls about Savitt to its guardianship hotline and referred matters to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, which found no probable cause to charge her.

The guardianship office, relying on the newly passed state law, used the clerk’s report in its administrative complaint filed last year. It pointed out that Savitt, as first reported in The Post, took more than $20,000 in fees from the savings of her wards prior to judicial approval.

Savitt’s attorney responded to questions late Thursday night, claiming the process was rigged against her client and that the guardian would seek an appeal of the final order in the courts.

“It is important for the public to know that the plaintiff, the Department of Elder Affairs, who brought the administrative complaint against Ms. Savitt, and who lost in the trial before an independent judge who recommended that the complaint be dismissed, is the same party who is now deciding to overturn the independent judge and rule against Ms. Savitt,” Morris said in an email.

The guardianship office said Savitt violated three sections of the state guardianship statute by taking the retainers and thus failing to act in good faith, failing to act in the best interests of the ward and abusing her power as a guardian.

“Thank God, really. It is like a load off my back,” said James Vassallo, whose father was one of Savitt’s wards. “Finally, she is not going to be out there hurting anybody, taking money from the kids and grandkids and from hard-working people from the Depression days.”

Dr. Sam Sugar, the founder of American Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, was a key force in getting the Legislature to pass the reforms.

Sugar on Thursday praised the Department of Elder Affairs, heralding that it “has finally seen fit to take the bold and long overdue action of decertifying one of the many notorious professional guardians in Florida who for years have preyed upon seniors in our state.”

He added that he hoped the Savitt decision is “our long-awaited tipping point with the department and law enforcement to finally realize the danger posed by out-of-control abusive guardians.”

Colin and Savitt have long denied any wrongdoing. Savitt says she has never been removed as a guardian — though she has resigned from cases following complaints from the loved ones of seniors put in her guardianships.

After The Post’s publication, Colin was transferred out of the guardianship division and announced his retirement. All of Savitt’s cases were moved out of Delray Beach. The 15th Judicial Circuit then put in place guardianship reforms aimed at Savitt, such as banning the use of retainers.

The decision Friday rejected the recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy, who oversaw a two-day hearing in September. Creasy recommended the effort to revoke Savitt’s registration be dropped, noting the law puts the onus on the courts to suss out conflicts of interest, not the guardian.

The 34-page Elder Affairs final order says her finding flies in the face of the Legislature’s intent to grant authority to the guardianship office to discipline guardians.

Complaints from families of Savitt’s wards varied.

They said in court records that the guardian ginned up fees with needless litigation and funneled money to certain relatives of wards. In one, Savitt tried to annul a marriage, in another she tried to tap into a lucrative trust of a stroke victim, court records showed.

Former attorneys of one senior tried to get Savitt removed, telling the court they suspected that $400,000 was missing from the ward’s bank account, but a judge sided with the guardian.

West Palm Beach attorney Thomas Dougherty fought Savitt in court on behalf of Vassallo and the family of another ward. He said the ruling Friday is “hopefully the wake-up call for all involved:” guardians, lawyers and the judges.

“There is no room for self-dealing when it comes to vulnerable people who need the protections guardianships were intended to afford,” Dougherty said.

Full Article & Source:
Guardianship registration revoked for Betsy Savitt, wife of retired judge

See Also:
Judge deals Florida’s new guardianship office big setback in Elizabeth Savitt case

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

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

Post investigation: Another blow to Judge Colin

Judge in Post series moved from guardianship cases

Chief judge keeps public waiting on details of guardianship shakeup

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Attorney: "Courts Have Allowed This Culture"

Guardianships: A Broken Trust, 115 Recusals in Six Months

Guardianships: A Broken Trust: Judges Socialized, Planned Trips Together