Saturday, April 13, 2019

How long does it take to see a doctor in a nursing home? Some patients never do, Penn study finds.

Courtesy of Kira Ryskina
by Stacey Burling, Updated: April 1, 2019

When Kira Ryskina works in Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, she usually sees her patients every day.

When it comes time for them to leave, some are too sick to go directly home or need rehabilitation in a nursing home. She tells them that another doctor will see them there.

But Ryskina, an internist and health policy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, began to wonder how true that was. Her own experience working in nursing homes, plus feedback from patients and their families, told her that patients might not see doctors as quickly as many would expect.

Her curiosity led to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs that supported her theory that nursing home patients can’t be sure of seeing a doctor. Her team’s analysis of records for 2.4 million Medicare patients discharged from hospitals to nursing homes from January 2012 to October 2014 found that 10.4 percent never saw a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Nearly 72 percent of patients were examined by a doctor or advanced practitioner within four days, but there was considerable variability among nursing homes. Smaller and rural nursing homes were the slowest. Ryskina saw little evidence that nursing homes were doing a good job of triaging patients to assure that the sickest ones were seen the most quickly.

Of the group that never saw a doctor, 28 percent were readmitted to a hospital and 14 percent died within 30 days of admission to the nursing home. Among patients who saw a doctor at least once, 14.3 percent were readmitted to a hospital and 7.2 percent died within that time period.

From a policy standpoint, these numbers are important because some modern payment systems, including Medicare's, hold hospitals accountable for what happens after their patients leave. There can be penalties if patients need to return to the hospital too quickly.

From a patient perspective, quick readmissions and excess deaths can be a sign that patients weren't ready to leave the hospital or needed more attentive care.

Ryskina said there is no official guideline for how quickly newly admitted patients should see a doctor, but she’d start by suggesting 48 hours. “I think we need some empirical data to support this,” she said. Medicare’s current rules specify that patients be seen within 30 days of admission, likely a holdover from days when many nursing home residents received “custodial” care, she said. The patients in her study were not long-term nursing home residents.

Physicians are rarely on site at nursing homes every day. Ensuring quicker assessments would be challenging for the facilities, Ryskina said. “I think reimbursement is a big barrier,” she said.

About 20 percent of hospital patients are discharged to nursing homes for further medical care. The rest go home or to hospice. Ryskina said it is often the most vulnerable patients who go to nursing homes, where they can receive physical therapy for joint replacements, intravenous antibiotics, or skilled wound care.

While she assumes that 100 percent of nursing home patients should be seen by a doctor, Ryskina said it is possible that some patients arrived on a weekend and were readmitted to the hospital so quickly that a doctor didn’t have a chance to examine them. However, the patients in the group that never saw a doctor had a median stay of 11 days. “I think it’s concerning,” she said.

Patients in rural nursing homes waited the longest on average to see a doctor: 8.1 days compared with 3.2 in other facilities.

Geographically, doctors saw patients the fastest — 2.2 days — in nursing homes in the Northeast. The average wait was 5.3 days in the Midwest. Patients in large facilities saw doctors faster than those in small ones.

Ryskina said growing numbers of doctors are specializing in nursing home care or in the needs of complex patients at risk for further hospitalization. Telemedicine could also improve access to physicians.

She said the University of Chicago is testing a model where the same physicians treat high-risk patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. David Meltzer, a physician who is leading that effort, said the Comprehensive Care Program originally included following patients to nursing homes, but that was not “sustainable” because patients went to so many different facilities. Volumes were too small at any one place. His health system has considered developing closer relationships with specific post-acute facilities. “I do think such closer relationships of hospitals with post-acute facilities could potentially be quite valuable,” he said.

Full Article & Source:
How long does it take to see a doctor in a nursing home? Some patients never do, Penn study finds.

Pembroke mom sues 14 officials on behalf of son with special needs

A Pembroke mother and her special-needs adult son were reunited last May after a string of court dates and state guardianship hearings; however, Leonia Sanders has now filed a lawsuit against 14 officials who were involved in her son's court proceedings.

Leonia Sanders, mother of 27-year-old Ronald Sanders, filed a complaint Feb. 13 with the U.S. District Court in Paducah, alleging conspiracy, both individually and collectively, among a host of area officials and mental health employees to violate the civil and constitutional rights of Ronald Sanders, for whom Leonia is also legal guardian, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit lists 14 defendants who were to be served, including the city of Pembroke and its Mayor Judy Peterson; former Pembroke Police Chief Mark Reid; two Christian County Sheriff's Office deputies Eddie Frye and Ricky Burgess; Pennyroyal Mental Health Center and employees Reba Pleasant and Janet Tolliver; four Western State Hospital employees Heather Holland, Lindee Monroe, Rebecca Perry and Susan Redmond-Vaught; and Christian County Attorney's Office staff Lincoln Foster and Maureen Leamy.

Phone calls and an email to the Pembroke City Hall, as well as a voicemail to Christian County Sheriff's Office were not returned. Western State Hospital, Pennyroyal Mental Health and Christian County Attorney's Office spokespersons declined to comment.

Sanders directed all questions to her lawyer, Louisville attorney Chris Hoerter, who said he believes there was wrongdoing and abuse of power in Sander's court and mental health proceedings.

"The objective of the conspiracy was simple," Hoerter said in a written statement to the New Era. "In spite of targeting Ronald and luring him into false arrests, the police and the Christian County prosecutors couldn't convict Ronald Sanders of a crime, because he is incompetent to stand trial, which they knew. And that frustrated them. Since they couldn't criminally confine him because of his intellectual disability, they abused a civil proceeding -- that they intentionally excluded Ronald and his mother from -- which resulted in his illegal placement as a ward of the state into the custody of the Cabinet (for Health and Family Services).

"It was audacious and cruel, and beyond doubt a violation of Ronald Sanders' civil rights," the attorney continued. "Each co-conspirator was instrumental in their own way in depriving Ronald of his rights as an American citizen. And we will prove that. While some of the players were more sophisticated than others in trying to conceal their conduct, no person is above the law."

How did this begin

In July 26, 2017, Ronald Sanders, 25 at the time, was arrested on charges of public intoxication.

According to The Eagle Post archives, Sanders was visiting a friend at a home on North Main Street in Pembroke when sheriff's deputies showed up to give him a sobriety test. The deputies told the homeowner they had received a call of a man trespassing at Bluegrass Apartments.

On a copy of the 9-1-1 call, the chief identifies himself as "Reid" then tells dispatch he received a call about a black male wandering around the apartments with a boom box on his shoulder and a brown paper bag.

"He's usually doesn't cause much trouble," the chief said on the call. "He just sings and wanders around, but she said he's been drinking today."

Reid then identifies Ronald Sanders and said they would probably find him wandering in the area. Deputies found him at his friend's house.

According to the sheriff's report, Ronald Sanders blew 0.04 on the preliminary breath test and was arrested. He was held overnight and released to his mother the next day.

Leonia Sanders believed his arrest was unlawful and filed a complaint against the Christian County Sheriff's Office.

What happened next

On Oct. 23, 2017, Ronald Sanders was charged with third-degree criminal trespassing. According to a memo in that court file, Chief Reid, the complaining witness, states Ronald was seen trespassing at a woman's house on Rosetown Road.

"Subject has been warned, by me, against trespass on this property," the memo reads. "Victim called this a.m. to advise the suspect was knocking on her front window wanting in. She did not respond, she just called the police."

Leonia said the woman had been picking Ronald up occasionally and bringing him to her home, but Leonia asked her to leave Ronald alone, sensing their relationship was inappropriate. Leonia said she told Reid how she felt about it.

"Chief Reid told her to stay off my property and told Ronald to stay off of her property," Leonia told the New Era last year. "But you're talking to someone with a 51 IQ, he doesn't understand."

Ronald was arrested a third time Feb. 13, 2018, at what he and his mother thought would be a comprehensive evaluation with his Pennyroyal Mental Health case worker. Instead, sheriff's deputies arrived to serve a judge's order to take Ronald to an institution in Madisonville because of a missed court date.

Ronald ran from deputies into traffic on Fort Campbell Boulevard and was arrested. Video of the encounter showed Leonia Sanders hysterically screaming and asking why he was being taken away.

According to his court file, a letter from the courts returned undelivered; however, the address it was sent to differed from the correct address his other court documents were sent to. Leonia believes it was sent to the wrong address on purpose.

"I've never missed a court date," she said in 2018. "Anyone will tell you, I'm always on top of things when it comes to my son. I had been getting everything else, so they knew our address."

Court date after court date

Following Ronald Sander's arrest, he was admitted to Western State Hospital for a mental health evaluation and then placed in a home in Madisonville.

All of his criminal charges from July 2017 to February 2018 were dismissed in March 2018 with probable cause, on the suggestion of assistant county attorney at the time Lindsey Adams.

Adams suggested the court drop the charges after the judge-ordered psychiatric examination, stating that their priority became getting Sanders "the help that he needs."

A competency and guardianship hearing was set for a few days later; however, the court proceeding was delayed several times and moved to Madisonville where Ronald Sanders was living at the time.

Prior to the April 2018 hearing, Ronald said "I just want to go home" multiple times before being told he couldn't talk to the media by his state-appointed guardians.

Surrounded by a host of civil rights activists, Leonia Sanders was at the Madisonville hearing pleading to Hopkins District Judge David Massamore to allow her son to come home.

The case was delayed once again when the judge scolded state case workers for doing "sloppy work" because an interdisciplinary mental health evaluation was incomplete in Ronald Sanders' file.

"The report in the record was a medical report, but it had no name on it and there was no way to confirm it was a real person," the judge said in the April 2018 hearing. "I have no clue who filled out the report. It has to be authenticatable."

The judge tasked Rebecca Perry, supervisor for the Western branch of Guardianship Field Services, with getting the correct medical report.

Leonia Sanders also told the judge she had filed a complaint against Reba Pleasant, crisis coordinator for the Pennyroyal Center whom she believed Ronald was staying with in Madisonville. Allegedly, Ronald told his mother the coordinator kissed him, but those claims were never substantiated.

When called about the lawsuit Monday, Pleasant personally declined to comment.

Ronald returns home

In a closed proceeding under KRS 387.770, a jury decided unanimously in May 2018 that Ronald is wholly disabled with regard to his financial affairs and partially disabled in his personal affairs.

Later that month, Leonia Sanders and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had to prove who would be the better guardian for Ronald.

The judge decided May 29, 2018, that Ronald Sanders could go home to his mother. Judge Massamore advised Leonia Sanders to work closely with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"We have a safety net in place. Use it," said Massamore in 2018, urging that Leonia Sanders not "make them the enemy."

Filing a lawsuit

Hoerter, a criminal defense attorney in Louisville, said he's never seen a case like this, but he believes it was "hi-tech kidnapping."

"Ronald and his mother were excluded by design from the guardianship hearing that stripped him of his civil rights," the attorney said. "Every American has a constitutional right to a hearing when the government wants to deprive them of life or liberty. That didn't happen here. Even though the guardianship was illegal because of the constitutional violation, for months afterward, the Cabinet and Pennyroyal fought tooth and nail against Leonia from even visiting her son."

The lawsuit complaint alleges, "the defendants did not want him in their community, but they could not criminally confine him, so they conspired to abuse a civil proceeding in order to put Ronald Sanders into custody."

"The defendants' conduct violated the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights to due process and to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizures, and as a direct and proximate result of the defendants' conduct, the Plaintiffs suffered physical injury, extreme emotional distress, and mental anguish, for which they seek to recover actual, compensatory, and punitive damages."

Hoerter said he decided to represent the Sanders because of "Leonia's courage, and her unwavering dedication to her son," and he looks forward to presenting before a judge.

Currently, motions for default against the Cabinet defendants are pending.

Full Article & Source:
Pembroke mom sues 14 officials on behalf of son with special needs

Fake cancer scam gets Madison man six years in jail

A Madison man has been sentenced to six years in prison and five years’ probation for bilking an elderly Wallingford woman out of more than a half-million dollars by claiming to have leukemia.

James J. Cicarella, 36, was sentenced Tuesday by New Haven Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford, according to online court records. Cicarella was sentenced after entering a no contest plea to first-degree larceny charges stemming his August 2016 arrest by Madison police.

Cicarella led an elderly Wallingford woman to believe she was giving him money to cover medical insurance and health care, police said in an affidavit filed in support of the arrest warrant application.

He actually used the money to buy jewelry, electronics and a house as well as furniture and a Cadillac Escalade.

The woman initially sued Cicarella after Wallingford police declined to investigate her complaint, calling it a civil matter. But her lawyer later contacted Madison police after he learned additional information under oath during the civil litigation, the affidavit said.

Among other things, in testimony in the civil case, Cicarella admitted that he wasn’t sick and didn’t use the funds for the purposes stated at the time, according to the affidavit. Madison police pursued the case.

Cicarella was charged with defrauding the woman of $578,466 in 2013 and 2014. Town records show Cicarella bought his two-story home on Yankee Peddler Path in December 2013 for $349,000.

Full Article & Source:
Fake cancer scam gets Madison man six years in jail

Friday, April 12, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: Pennsylvania and The Trafficking of adults, children and the disabled for $$, with co-host Coz Whitten-Skaife

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

Our guest this evening is Ron Shegda, a well known advocate in Pennsylvania who has devoted his time to exposing the depravity of the social services and guardianship systems operating not only in Pennsylvania, but across the country. Ron is also sponsoring the “Grace Packer” Anti CPS bill in the Pennsylvania legislature. The bill is based upon the life and horrible death of an adoptee named Grace Packer who was murdered and dismembered by her adoptive parents. Grace packer was born Susan Hunsicker and was taken from her mother after she suffered a brain injury.

Grace Packer Story

Ron wrote “Easy Essays For Disbanding Social Services”, an excellent treatise on how and why these agencies need to be disbanded. Far from being protective services, child or adult protection agencies would be better described as predator services. These agencies prey on the vulnerable, upon families and the disabled for no other reason than cash incentives created through targeted funding to encourage the predators. They are buying, selling and trading us…the people.

Please join us as we expose more of the trafficking of other human beings taking place each and every day right here in the US….land of the free and home of the prey.

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later



by Lonnie Brennan
“They killed him,” Marvin Siegel’s daughter Lisa Siegel Belanger wrote in a text. She followed up to explain that six years of round-the-clock captivity in his own home and in various medical facilities, together with forced drugging and morphine, lack of proper care and the ability for his family to interact with him and help with decisions, accelerated her father’s death.

As we previously reported in this paper through a multi-part series of articles, including a personal account by Lisa, six years ago her father was taken from his Boxford, Mass. home via ambulance at the direction of a visiting nurse, and  was shortly thereafter placed in a psychiatric facility, forced on drugs, and then, while in the facility, signed over control of his estate to what Lisa detailed as predatory lawyers. That list of “predators” is long, and despite many trips to court to fight them, the lawyers continued to prevail.
Yes, Sometimes It IS All About the Money
At the time of his taking, Mr. Siegel’s known assets exceeded $6 million. During the past six years, attorneys drew off more than $4 million in what they termed as caring for the senior. A large chunk of that money was spent on round-the-clock home health care. But the numbers included more, much more.

Indeed, a review of the finances showed certain attorneys drawing tens of thousands of dollars and more, quarterly from the estate, with some racking up more than $200,000 in billing, and at attorney rates over a wide range, including some at more than $450 per hour.

For their fees they answered e-mails from one another, paid Mr. Siegel’s bills, ensured that he had his trash removed, the utilities bills paid, grass mowed, repairs made, and all the normal things to keep a household going.

With the signing over of his estate, Mr. Siegel lost all control and was appointed a guardian and other lawyers who managed his affairs. He was force-drugged without his knowledge to keep him complacent, and he began a long, slow decline, according to multiple court documents and written and oral testimony and writings by some of his family members.

Having to Beg to See Her Dad, Having to Beg for Information

We’ve covered several takings of seniors by groups such as Jewish Family & Children’s Service where in a seeming instant, things go from fine to horrific, from simple care to snatch and hide, according to the statements and court documents filed by multiple families who are left shocked that such a thing could happen.

With the exception of the money involved, Marvin’s case mirrored others: An individual is taken, isolated from most family interaction, medicated, and his/her assets are liquidated.

What is left are family members who have lost all control. In this case, Lisa had to beg permission to see her dad. She had to beg permission to access any information about him (how he was doing, where he is – what hospital and why), and despite repeated, documented e-mail exchanges with the guardian, including Attorney Brian Bixby, she was always left begging for permission and most often not provided basic information.

Now, think of this: Your father is a retired attorney; he has his will and all his estate documents well taken care of, and in the nightmare blink of an eye, everything is locked down by the courts and controlled by strangers. One of those strangers was an attorney whom Lisa and her father hired to defend him against the forced guardianship. That lawyer, Attorney Marsha V. Kazarosian, initially worked on Marvin’s behalf, stating for the courts that he was not suffering from dementia and could manage his own affairs, then rapidly switched teams, even refusing to accept Marvin’s firing of her, as documented in Lisa’s filings with the court, which also included secured e-mails from Kazarosian.

While we all like to think that the side of good will always win out in the end, occasionally time runs out. But is it the end?

Marvin’s objections and that of two of his three daughters were constantly outgunned, as lawyers used Marvin’s money against him, drawing off his accounts to pay their own fees to maintain control of his money. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. We have obtained multiple records confirming this practice and will print or post these on the Internet as time allows.

Curiously, Marvin’s third daughter appeared to not bring objections against her father’s taking and the lawyers’ expenditures throughout the ordeal. Recent, court-required accountings have revealed that this daughter received multiple, five-figure “gifts” from Marvin’s estate, courtesy of the court-appointed attorneys. Lisa has requested to know why, but as of press time, no answer has been forthcoming.

But Where from Here?

While the Boston Broadside can provide an overview of the case and point readers to our past printed and Web-posted stories, we have barely scratched the surface. Many volumes, folders, recordings, videos, transcripts, e-mails, and other documents we continue to collect show one thing quite clearly: The daughters were provided incomplete, inconsistent, and often disturbing accounts of their father’s health. This included what Lisa termed ice-cold and conflicting updates from various lawyers and elder-service representatives, who one day would push hospice care in an abrupt e-mail and then a day or two later comment how Marvin had made a miraculous recovery, seemingly acting as if the clock had turned back a year or more.

Similarly, Lisa noted that it seemed like on the eve of nearly every court date she had to appear, her father was abruptly checked into a hospital for observation. Lisa said, “I think they just want to mess with me. This, and for some reason, he would be perfectly fine on a Friday, then on a Monday morning they would transport him to the hospital and he would spend one or more days there, then be discharged. I kept asking about what kind of care he was getting on weekends, that it must be a problem. But no, no answers.”

The guardians once had total control; now they have none. The sisters must find out what happens next, how the estate will be settled, how any wounds can be healed. How they can find closure. How their families can function moving forward, and if there will be any justice for their father.

Full Article & Source:

New law creates volunteer guardians for incapacitated veterans

Sen. Paul Rosino
ENID, Okla. — A new law went into effect last week allowing for court-appointed volunteers to serve as guardians for disabled veterans in managing their finances.

Senate Bill 931, which creates the Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act, was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, a retired Navy master chief petty officer with 25 years of service, according to his Senate webpage.

SB 931 allows for volunteer guardians to be appointed by Oklahoma courts to represent veterans who are incapacitated or partially incapacitated to act as fiduciaries for their financial affairs.

"Many of Oklahoma’s disabled veterans do not have anyone to help them make critical decisions concerning their finances, health and other personal affairs," according to an Oklahoma Senate press release. "Now these heroes will have court-appointed, trained volunteers available to assist them thanks to legislation signed into law Thursday."

“Sadly, many of Oklahoma’s disabled heroes are falling victim to financial scams or are making dangerous health decisions because they don’t have anyone to depend on for help,” said Rosino in the press release. “This program will provide trained volunteers who will be appointed by the courts to meet the special needs of each veteran."

Under the new law, veteran-specific guardians will be appointed under the existing provisions of the Oklahoma Guardianship and Conservatorship Act. Guardianships may be general or limited to the specific needs of the veteran. Each guardian will be required to have a bond if managing a veteran’s property.

The measure was requested by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) to meet the needs of incapacitated veterans. According to the Oklahoma Senate press release, approximately 10 percent of Oklahoma’s fully or partially incapacitated veterans do not have family members or friends to serve as their guardians.

“With passage of Senate Bill 931, we now have a tool to help the neediest 10 percent of Oklahoma veterans,” said Joel Kintsel, ODVA deputy director. “Senator Rosino’s bill opens the way to better health care and life decisions for veterans who have no one else to help them.”

The new law applies to disabled veterans both inside and out of the state’s seven veterans centers.

Craig Vance, a chapter service officer at Northwest Oklahoma Disabled American Veterans in Enid and former DAV Oklahoma state commander, said he's cautiously optimistic about the Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act.

"I'm for anything that makes it easier for veterans to live their lives as normal as possible," Vance said, "and sometimes that requires that other person to manage the purse strings."

The Veterans Volunteer Guardianship Act was passed under an emergency provision, and went into effect when it was signed last Thursday.

Full Article & Source: 
New law creates volunteer guardians for incapacitated veterans

Florida nursing home employee accused of molesting elderly patient

MELBOURNE, Fla. (WSVN) — A Florida woman has been arrested after she was accused of molesting an elderly patient at a nursing home.

According to Melbourne Police, officers arrested Guettie Belizaire, in reference to a complaint of sexual battery from December.

Police said that managerial staff explained that Belizaire was found naked inside a patient’s room.
The victim, who suffered from medical ailments, told officers he had been sexually battered by her.

Detectives said Belizaire was missing for over an hour and a half in the facility. Due to her absence, personnel started searching for her, and she was found getting dressed in the victim’s bathroom.

The incident was then reported to management, who then reported it to police.

Detectives said Belizaire denied ever being in the room with the victim.

The victim was taken to a medical center where a rape kit was conducted. Investigators said evidence from the kit confirmed the victim’s claim.

Belizaire has since been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of an elderly person and abuse of an elderly person.

Full Article & Source:
Florida nursing home employee accused of molesting elderly patient

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Federal judge sends suit against probate judge and guardian to state court

HOUSTON - U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal remanded plaintiff Sherry Johnston's breach of fiduciary duty claim against court appointed guardian David Dexel to the 253rd Judicial District of Liberty County, all while letting Harris County Probate Judge Christine Butts off the hook.

“Unlike the claim against Judge Butts, the claim against Dexel raises unsettled issues of Texas law,” wrote Judge Rosenthal on Mar. 14 in a 40-page ruling from the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston.

Johnston sued Judge Butts and Dexel in 2016, alleging that her elderly mother Willie Jo Mills suffered broken bones and a rapid, preventable decline, which contributed to malnutrition and her death when she was a ward of the state residing in a care center under guardianship, according to a press release.

“Because the action would be remanded, not dismissed, Johnston’s claims are not at risk of being time-barred,” noted Judge Rosenthal in her Memorandum and Opinion.

A ward of the state who has a court appointed guardian is typically a younger adult with physical or developmental disabilities. However, the Texas probate guardianship program along with the probate guardianship programs in other states are being confronted with allegations of neglect and malfeasance as they increasingly constrict the elderly who are experiencing cognitive decline.

The cries of elder abuse around probate guardianship programs gained national attention last year when U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine introduced the Guardianship Accountability Act on Nov. 28, 2018.

As previously reported by the SE Texas Record, once appointed by a probate judge, guardians are empowered to sedate the elderly individual with physician-prescribed psychotropic drugs, to deny choice of meals, choice of health insurance, medical care and even visits with friends, disability advocates, adult children and other concerned loved ones by imposing visitation costs and residency in locked care centers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. is currently evaluating the proposed Guardianship Accountability Act, which could, per the release, "impact 98 million Americans nationwide that are expected to reach age 65 and older by 2060.”

Johnston’s breach of fiduciary duty claim alleges that the court-appointed Dexel billed her mother Ms. Mills at his attorney rate of $300 an hour for non-legal services instead of billing at a guardian’s rate of $100 per hour.

“Dexel often charged his attorney rate to arrange payments to and from Mills’ trust, a service which does not appear legal in nature,” wrote Judge Rosenthal in her decision. “Because the court has found at least one factual dispute material to deciding if Dexel breached a fiduciary duty owing to Mills, summary judgment cannot be granted for Dexel on this record.”

Before her death, Ms. Johnston’s mother, Mills, was among the estimated 48,468 Texans conscripted to live under the thumb of a court-appointed guardian in 254 counties, according to Office of Court Administration data.

“The defense presents unsettled Texas- law questions that touch on family relationships, estate management, the Texas probate system, and the care of some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” Judge Rosenthal stated. “They are questions that the Texas courts are better positioned to answer.”

Full Article & Source:
Federal judge sends suit against probate judge and guardian to state court

Sheriff: Local attorney accused of embezzling from vulnerable adult

Click to Watch Video
A local attorney has been charged, accused of embezzling from an incapacitated woman.

Genesee County sheriff Robert Pickell said that attorney Joseph Baessler has been arraigned on one felony count of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult.

This comes after Pickell claims Baessler took money to pay for business and personal expenses.

"Well it's always despicable when someone takes advantage of elderly person," Pickell said.

But Pickell said that's exactly what a Burton-area lawyer did to a client when he was entrusted to protect her.

Pickell said that Baessler was appointed conservator to a 64-year-old woman in 1984 after a car accident left her incapacitated. She received a closed-head injury so severe she still requires 24/7 care, according to the sheriff.

"Rather than helping her and being a support person, he turned out to be a monster," Pickell said.

Pickell said the Elder Abuse Task Force found that while acting as the victim’s fiduciary, Baessler billed for time and services he did not perform in the amount of $87,962.27 dating back to 2010.

Further investigation revealed Baessler used the victim’s money “to pay his legal secretary and make payments on his mortgage and condominium fees. The victim’s money was also used to pay for various personal expenses,” Pickell alleged.

Pickell said the probate court got suspicious and had an audit performed on Baessler. Their findings led to the attorney's arrest.

If convicted, Baessler could serve up to 15-years behind bars, and be forced to pay damages up to three times the amount stolen.

Baessler was arraigned in court on Tuesday, April 9 and is free on bond. He is due back in court later this month.

Full Article & Source:
Sheriff: Local attorney accused of embezzling from vulnerable adult

Man charged with taking house, Mustang, cash from great aunt in Gladwin

A 54-year-old Saginaw man allegedly transferred his great-aunt's Gladwin house and vintage Mustang to himself along with reportedly embezzling more than $200,000 from the 90-year-old woman.

Ricky Bradford Willson, who was his great-aunt's durable power of attorney for 18 months, remains out of jail on a $40,000 personal recognizance bond pending an upcoming hearing in Genesee County 7th Circuit Court.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is prosecuting the case, said instead of Willson looking out for his aunt, he transferred $120,000 in cash from his aunt's bank account into his, signed a quit claim deed transferring her house in Gladwin to himself, and transferred the title of her classic 1967 Ford Mustang convertible to himself. This earned Willson four felony charges.

Willson is charged with embezzlement of $100,000 or more (for the $120,000 cash transfer), if found guilty he faces 20 years and/or a fine up to $50,000 or three times the amount embezzled (whichever is greater); embezzlement of $100,000 or more (for the property transfer), if found guilty he faces; 20 years and/or a fine up to $50,000 or three times the amount embezzled (whichever is greater); intent to pass false title (vehicle transfer) if found guilty he faces 10 years and/or $5,000 fine; embezzlement by an agent or trustee of $1,000 or more and less than $20,000 (vehicle transfer) if found guilty he faces five years and/or $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled (whichever is greater).

The alleged incidents occurred in November 2015.

Judge Christopher Odette of the 67th District Court, bound Willson over to the court for trial. This came one day after Nessel joined forces with the Michigan Supreme Court, members of the legislative and executive branches of government and advocacy groups to announce Michigan's Elder Abuse Task Force.

"This is a classic example of financial elder abuse: a trusted relative who took advantage of his aunt," Nessel said via a press release. "He literally took everything from her: her car, her house and her savings account. However, his actions were discovered because she knew things were amiss. The locks had been changed on her house in Gladwin, her classic Mustang convertible was missing, and her savings account was gone.

"She spoke up," Nessel said.

However, Nessel said that not every elderly person has the capacity to speak up when things go awry. Which is why the Elder Abuse Task Force was established -- to increase awareness of elder abuse and to find and implement the best practices across the state so that the elderly are protected.

Willson's case is expected to be heard by 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Yuille, although no court date has been set.

Michigan residents can anonymously report any signs or concerns about elder abuse to the Michigan Department of Attorney General by calling 800-24-ABUSE 800-242-2873 or online at

Full Article & Source:
Man charged with taking house, Mustang, cash from great aunt in Gladwin

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Lethal Plans: When Seniors Turn To Suicide In Long-Term Care

(Darren Hauck for KHN)

A six-month investigation by KHN and PBS NewsHour finds that older Americans are quietly killing themselves in nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult care homes.

When Larry Anders moved into the Bay at Burlington nursing home in late 2017, he wasn’t supposed to be there long. At 77, the stoic Wisconsin machinist had just endured the death of his wife of 51 years and a grim new diagnosis: throat cancer, stage 4.

His son and daughter expected him to stay two weeks, tops, before going home to begin chemotherapy. From the start, they were alarmed by the lack of care at the center, where, they said, staff seemed indifferent, if not incompetent — failing to check on him promptly, handing pills to a man who couldn’t swallow.

Anders never mentioned suicide to his children, who camped out day and night by his bedside to monitor his care.

But two days after Christmas, alone in his nursing home room, Anders killed himself. He didn’t leave a note.

The act stunned his family. His daughter, Lorie Juno, 50, was so distressed that, a year later, she still refused to learn the details of her father’s death. The official cause was asphyxiation.

“It’s sad he was feeling in such a desperate place in the end,” Juno said.

In a nation where suicide continues to climb, claiming more than 47,000 lives in 2017, such deaths among older adults — including the 2.2 million who live in long-term care settings — are often overlooked. A six-month investigation by Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour finds that older Americans are quietly killing themselves in nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult care homes.

Poor documentation makes it difficult to tell exactly how often such deaths occur. But a KHN analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows.

Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as “rational suicide.”

Tracking suicides in long-term care is difficult. No federal regulations require reporting of such deaths and most states either don’t count — or won’t divulge — how many people end their own lives in those settings.

Briana Mezuk, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, found in 2015 that the rate of suicide in older adults in nursing homes in Virginia was nearly the same as the rate in the general population, despite the greater supervision the facilities provide.

In research they presented at the 2018 Gerontological Society of America annual meeting, Mezuk’s team looked at nearly 50,000 suicides among people 55 and older in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) from 2003 to 2015 in 27 states. They found that 2.2% of those suicides were related to long-term care. The people who died were either people living in or transitioning to long-term care, or caregivers of people in those circumstances.

Briana Mezuk(Courtesy of
University of Michigan School of Public Health)
KHN extrapolated the finding to the entire U.S., where 16,500 suicides were reported among people 55 and older in 2017, according to federal figures. That suggests that at least 364 suicides a year occur among people living in or moving to long-term care settings, or among their caregivers. The numbers are likely higher, Mezuk said, since the NVDRS data did not include such states as California and Florida, which have large populations of elders living in long-term care sites.

But representatives of the long-term care industry point out that by any measure, such suicides are rare.

The deaths are “horrifically tragic” when they occur, said Dr. David Gifford, of the American Health Care Association. But, he added, the facilities offer “a very supervised environment,” and settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required to assess and monitor patients for suicidal behavior.

“I think the industry is pretty attuned to it and paying attention to it,” Gifford said, noting that mental health issues among older adults in general must be addressed. “I don’t see this data as pointing to a problem in the facilities.”

KHN examined over 500 attempted and completed suicides in long-term care settings from 2012 to 2017 by analyzing thousands of death records, medical examiner reports, state inspections, court cases and incident reports.

Even in supervised settings, records show, older people find ways to end their own lives. Many used guns, sometimes in places where firearms weren’t allowed or should have been securely stored. Others hanged themselves, jumped from windows, overdosed on pills or suffocated themselves with plastic bags. (The analysis did not examine medical aid-in-dying, a rare and restricted method by which people who are terminally ill and mentally competent can get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That is legal only in seven states and the District of Columbia.)

Descriptions KHN unearthed in public records shed light on residents’ despair: Some told nursing home staff they were depressed or lonely; some felt that their families had abandoned them or that they had nothing to live for. Others said they had just lived long enough: “I am too old to still be living,” one patient told staff. In some cases, state inspectors found nursing homes to blame for failing to heed suicidal warning signs or evicting patients who tried to kill themselves.

A better understanding is crucial: Experts agree that late-life suicide is an under-recognized problem that is poised to grow.

By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than 65 and 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be of retirement age, according to census data. Of those who reach 65, two-thirds can expect to need some type of long-term care. And, for poorly understood reasons, that generation has had higher rates of suicide at every stage, said Dr. Yeates Conwell, director of the Office for Aging Research and Health Services at the University of Rochester.

“The rise in rates in people in middle age is going to be carried with them into older adulthood,” he said.

Long-term care settings could be a critical place to intervene to avert suicide — and to help people find meaning, purpose and quality of life, Mezuk argued: “There’s so much more that can be done. It would be hard for us to be doing less.”

‘In A Desperate Place’
In Wisconsin, Larry Anders’ children chose to speak publicly because they felt the nursing home failed their father.

Anders, a taciturn Army veteran, lived a low-key retirement in Waukesha, outside of Milwaukee. He grew asparagus, watched “Wheel of Fortune” with his wife, Lorna, in matching blue recliners and played the slot machines at a Chinese restaurant.

Following the November 2017 death of his wife, and his throat cancer diagnosis, he initially refused treatment, but then agreed to give it a try.

Anders landed at the Bay at Burlington, 40 minutes from his home, the closest facility his Medicare Advantage plan would cover. The first day, Lorie Juno grew worried when no one came to greet her father after the ambulance crew wheeled him to his room. The room had no hand sanitizer and the sink had no hot water.

In his week in the Burlington, Wis., center, Anders wrestled with anxiety and insomnia. Anders, who rarely complained, called his daughter in a panic around 2 a.m. one day, saying that he couldn’t sleep and that “they don’t know what the hell they’re doing here,” according to Juno. When she called, staff assured her that Anders had just had a “snack,” which she knew wasn’t true because he ate only through a feeding tube.

His children scrambled to transfer him elsewhere, but they ran out of time. On Dec. 27, Mike Anders, 48, woke up in an armchair next to his father’s bed after spending the night. He left for his job as a machinist between 5 and 6 a.m. At 6:40 a.m., Larry Anders was found dead in his room.

“I firmly believe that had he had better care, it would’ve been a different ending,” Mike Anders said.

Research shows events like losing a spouse and a new cancer diagnosis put people at higher risk of suicide, but close monitoring requires resources that many facilities don’t have.

“It’s sad he was feeling in such a desperate place in the end,” says
Lorie Juno of her father, Larry Anders.(Darren Hauck for KHN)

Larry Anders, a machinist and an Army veteran, enjoyed growing
asparagus and playing slot machines.(Darren Hauck for KHN)

“I firmly believe that had he had better care, it would’ve been a
different ending,” says Mike Anders of his father, Larry Anders. 
(Darren Hauck for KHN)
Nursing homes already struggle to provide enough staffing for basic care. Assisted living centers that promote independence and autonomy can miss warning signs of suicide risk, experts warn.

In the weeks before and after Anders’ death, state inspectors found a litany of problems at the facility, including staffing shortages. When inspectors found a patient lying on the floor, they couldn’t locate any staff in the unit to help.

Champion Care, the New York firm that runs the Bay at Burlington and other Wisconsin nursing homes, noted that neither police nor state health officials found staff at fault in Anders’ death.

Merely having a suicide on-site does not mean a nursing home broke federal rules. But in some suicides KHN reviewed, nursing homes were penalized for failing to meet requirements for federally funded facilities, such as maintaining residents’ well-being, preventing avoidable accidents and telling a patient’s doctor and family if they are at risk of harm.

For example:
  • An 81-year-old architect fatally shot himself while his roommate was nearby in their shared room in a Massachusetts nursing home in 2016. The facility was fined $66,705.
  • A 95-year-old World War II pilot hanged himself in an Ohio nursing home in 2016, six months after a previous attempt in the same location. The facility was fined $42,575.
  • An 82-year-old former aircraft mechanic, who had a history of suicidal ideation, suffocated himself with a plastic bag in a Connecticut nursing home in 2015. The facility was fined $1,020.

Prevention needs to start long before these deaths occur, with thorough screenings upon entry to the facilities and ongoing monitoring, Conwell said. The main risk factors for senior suicide are what he calls “the four D’s”: depression, debility, access to deadly means and disconnectedness.

“Pretty much all of the factors that we associate with completed suicide risk are going to be concentrated in long-term care,” Conwell said.

Most seniors who choose to end their lives don’t talk about it in advance, and they often die on the first attempt, he said.

‘I Choose This “Shortcut”’
That was the case for the Rev. Milton P. Andrews Jr., a former Seattle pastor, who “gave no hint” he wanted to end his life six years ago at a Wesley Homes retirement center in nearby Des Moines, Wash. Neither his son, Paul Andrews, nor the staff at the center had any suspicions, they said.

“My father was an infinitely deliberate person,” said Paul Andrews, 69, a retired Seattle journalist. “There’s no way once he decided his own fate that he was going to give a clue about it, since that would have defeated the whole plan.”

At 90, the Methodist minister and human rights activist had a long history of making what he saw as unpopular but morally necessary decisions. He drew controversy in the pulpit in the 1950s for inviting African Americans into his Seattle sanctuary. He opposed the Vietnam War and was arrested for protesting nuclear armament. His daughter was once called a “pinko” because Andrews demanded equal time on a local radio station to rebut a conservative broadcaster.

In 2013, facing a possible second bout of congestive heart failure and the decline of his beloved wife, Ruth, who had dementia, Andrews made his final decision. On Valentine’s Day, he took a handful of sleeping pills, pulled a plastic bag over his head and died.

Milton Andrews wrote a goodbye note on the cover of his laptop computer in bold, black marker.

“Fare-well! I am ready to die! I choose this ‘shortcut,’” it read in part. “I love you all, and do not wish a long, protracted death — with my loved ones waiting for me to die.”

Retired Seattle minister Milt Andrews, 90, ended his life on
Valentine’s Day 2013 at his assisted living center, leaving behind
 a note written in black marker on the cover of his laptop computer.
(Dan DeLong for KHN)
Christine Tremain, a spokeswoman for Wesley Homes, said Andrews’ death has been the only suicide reported in her 18 years at the center.

“Elder suicide is an issue that we take seriously and work to prevent through the formal and informal support systems that we have in place,” she said.

At first, Paul Andrews said he was shocked, devastated and even angry about his dad’s death. Now, he just misses him.

“I always feel like he was gone too soon, even though I don’t think he felt like that at all,” he said.

Andrews has come to believe that elderly people should be able to decide when they’re ready to die.

“I think it’s a human right,” he said. “If you go out when you’re still functioning and still have the ability to choose, that may be the best way to do it and not leave it to other people to decide.”

Paul Andrews was shocked when his father, the Rev. Milton P.
Andrews Jr., died by suicide at a Seattle-area assisted living
center in 2013. He has since come to believe that elderly people
should be able to decide when they’re ready to die. 
(Dan DeLong for KHN)
That’s a view shared by Dena Davis, 72, a bioethics professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Suicide “could be a rational choice for anyone of any age if they feel that the benefits of their continued life are no longer worth it,” she said.

“The older you get, the more of your life you’ve already lived — hopefully, enjoyed — the less of it there is to look forward to,” said Davis, who has publicly discussed her desire to end her own life rather than die of dementia, as her mother did.

But Conwell, a leading geriatric psychiatrist, finds the idea of rational suicide by older Americans “really troublesome.” “We have this ageist society, and it’s awfully easy to hand over the message that they’re all doing us a favor,” he said.

‘So Preventable’
When older adults struggle with mental illness, families often turn to long-term care to keep them safe.

A jovial social worker who loved to dance, Ellen Karpas fell into a catatonic depression after losing her job at age 74 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Concerned that she was “dwindling away” at home, losing weight and skipping medications, her children persuaded her to move to an assisted living facility in Minneapolis in 2017.

Karpas enjoyed watching the sunset from the large, fourth-story window of her room at Ebenezer Loren on Park. But she had trouble adjusting to the sterile environment, according to son Timothy Schultz, 52.

“I do not want to live here for the rest of my life,” she told him.

Ellen Karpas (second from left) and four of her five children attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2016. The following year, the 79-year-old died by suicide at an assisted living facility in Minneapolis.(Courtesy of Timothy Schultz)

On Oct. 4, 2017, less than a month after she moved in, Karpas was unusually irritable during a visit, her daughter, Sandy Pahlen, 54, recalled. Pahlen and her husband left the room briefly. When they returned, Karpas was gone. Pahlen looked out an open window and saw her mother on the ground below.
Karpas, 79, was declared dead at the scene.

Schultz said he thinks the death was premeditated, because his mother took off her eyeglasses and pulled a stool next to the window. Escaping was easy: She just had to retract a screen that rolled up like a roller blind and open the window with a hand crank.

Pahlen said she believes medication mismanagement — the staff’s failure to give Karpas her regular mood stabilizer pills — contributed to her suicide. But a state health department investigation found staffers were not at fault in the death. Eric Schubert, a spokesman for Fairview Health Services, which owns the facility, called Karpas’ death “very tragic” but said he could not comment further because the family has hired a lawyer. Their lawyer, Joel Smith, said the family plans to sue the facility and may pursue state legislation to make windows suicide-proof at similar places.

“Where do I even begin to heal from something that is so painful, because it was so preventable?” said Raven Baker, Karpas’ 26-year-old granddaughter.

Nationwide, about half of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health is a significant concern in U.S. nursing homes: Nearly half of residents are diagnosed with depression, according to a 2013 CDC report.

That often leads caregivers, families and patients themselves to believe that depression is inevitable, so they dismiss or ignore signs of suicide risk, said Conwell.

“Older adulthood is not a time when it’s normal to feel depressed. It’s not a time when it’s normal to feel as if your life has no meaning,” he said. “If those things are coming across, that should send up a red flag.”

Roland K. Tiedemann was 89 when he took his life
on Jan. 22, 2018, at a Wenatchee, Wash., assisted
living center. The action shocked his daughter, Jane
Davis, and left a void in the life of her daughter,
Jayna, shown here at age 7½ in December
2014.(Courtesy of Jane Davis)
Still, not everyone with depression is suicidal, and some who are suicidal don’t appear depressed, said Julie Rickard, a psychologist in Wenatchee, Wash., who founded a regional suicide prevention coalition in 2012. She’s launching one of the nation’s few pilot projects to train staff and engage fellow residents to address suicides in long-term care.

In the past 18 months, three suicides occurred at assisted living centers in the rural central Washington community of 50,000 people. That included Roland K. Tiedemann, 89, who jumped from the fourth-story window of a local center on Jan. 22, 2018.

“He was very methodical. He had it planned out,” Rickard said. “Had the staff been trained, they would have been able to prevent it. Because none of them had been trained, they missed all the signs.”

Tiedemann, known as “Dutch,” lived there with his wife, Mary, who has dementia. The couple had nearly exhausted resources to pay for their care and faced moving to a new center, said their daughter, Jane Davis, 45, of Steamboat Springs, Colo. Transitions into or out of long-term care can be a key time for suicide risk, data shows.

After Tiedemann’s death, Davis moved her mother to a different facility in a nearby city.  Mary Tiedemann, whose dementia is worse, doesn’t understand that her husband died, Davis said. “At first I would tell her.  And I was telling her over and over,” she said.  “Now I just tell her he’s hiking.”

At the facility where Tiedemann died, Rickard met with the residents, including many who reported thoughts of suicide.

Julie Rickard
(Frank Carlson, PBS NewsHour)

“The room was filled with people who wanted to die,” she said. “These people came to me to say: ‘Tell me why I should still live.’”

Most suicide prevention funding targets young or middle-aged people, in part because those groups have so many years ahead of them. But it’s also because of ageist attitudes that suggest such investments and interventions are not as necessary for older adults, said Jerry Reed, a nationally recognized suicide expert with the nonprofit Education Development Center.

“Life at 80 is just as possible as life at 18,” Reed said. “Our suicide prevention strategies need to evolve. If they don’t, we’re going to be losing people we don’t need to lose.”

Even when there are clear indications of risk, there’s no consensus on the most effective way to respond. The most common responses — checking patients every 15 minutes, close observation, referring patients to psychiatric hospitals — may not be effective and may even be harmful, research shows.

But intervening can make a difference, said Eleanor Feldman Barbera, a New York psychologist who works in long-term care settings.

She recalled a 98-year-old woman who entered a local nursing home last year after suffering several falls. The transition from the home she shared with her elderly brother was difficult. When the woman developed a urinary tract infection, her condition worsened. Anxious and depressed, she told an aide she wanted to hurt herself with a knife. She was referred for psychological services and improved. Weeks later, after a transfer to a new unit, she was found in her room with the cord of a call bell around her neck.

After a brief hospitalization, she returned to the nursing home and was surrounded by increased care: a referral to a psychiatrist, extra oversight by aides and social workers, regular calls from her brother. During weekly counseling sessions, the woman now reports she feels better. Barbera considers it a victory.

“She enjoys the music. She hangs out with peers. She watches what’s going on,” Barbera said. “She’s 99 now — and she’s looking toward 100.”

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at 800-971-0016. IOA also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.
Full Article & Source:
Lethal Plans: When Seniors Turn To Suicide In Long-Term Care

One lawyer used client funds for Heat tickets, another was in a $3.25M scam. Then, trouble

The South Florida lawyers on the Florida Bar’s monthly discipline report include a convicted fraudster, both name partners of one law firm and an attorney who seems to have trouble putting things in writing.
Though the last two discipline reports from the Florida Bar included a relatively light combined total of 19 attorneys combined, the stories behind the disbarments and suspensions have a little more weight.

There’s at least over $1 million in “misappropriated funds,” some of which went to Heat tickets. Lawyers victimized by fraud and lawyers who participated in fraud. And attorneys who took the money and, if not ran, disappeared, at least professionally.

So, below in Part 1 are the alphabetical first 10 of the 19. The remaining nine will be in Part 2, which will post Monday.

Golden Beach attorney Jeremy Alters, admitted 1997 out of UM School of Law, jumped in the deep end of trouble over improper transfers from Alters, Boldt, Brown, Rash and Culmo’s trust account to the operating account.

The Bar alleged that forty-nine such transfers occurred, totaling approximately $2,051,474.32, between September 2009 and December 2010. The Court approved the Bar’s Petition for Emergency Suspension and suspended Alters from the practice of law on December 28, 2011.

The Referee found that Alters should be reinstated because there was “no basis to conclude that Alters had made or authorized the improper transfers, and that no clients had been injured by the improper transfers.”

When the Florida Supreme Court reinstated Alters in January 2012, the Bar filed another complaint alleging Alters violated six Bar rules regarding the transfers. The Referee opined that Alters not be further sanctioned, but that he pay the Bar’s administrative costs ($1,250) while the Bar pays Alters’ legal defense costs ($143,913.35).

The Bar challenged everything in the Referee’s Report but the ink and asked the State Supreme Court to disbar Alters.

The Court found the Referee improperly excluded evidence that Alters lied about his personal tax status and called the Referee’s Report “inadequate.” Not only did the Court find the Referee came to “only the most basic conclusions from the summarized testimony, and oftentimes has failed to make any findings regarding undisputed evidence in the case,” but noted the findings of fact were only four pages of the 71-page report.

“It is inconceivable that the facts of such a complicated case, which has taken years to litigate and the record of which spans thousands of pages, could be reduced to four pages.”

The Court ultimately found that Alters misappropriated client funds and “must be disbarred.”

The Bar’s auditor testified at the final hearing before the Referee that in addition to funds slid straight to Alters, he used trust fund money to cover firm expenses and overdrafts and personal expenses. Among those personal expenses: Miami Heat tickets.

Orlando’s Elizabeth Anderson, a Stetson Law School graduate admitted in 2003, Stetson, has been suspended since Nov. 7 for trust account shortages of $160,000, most of which were in two accounts.

A bar audit found a shortage of $37,000 in the trust account at Seaside Bank that The Anderson Law Group used for matters involving Stoneybrook West Master Association.

“During her sworn statement on August 1, 2018, respondent admitted to the shortage in her Seaside trust account and stated that she would not have been able to pay the balances she owed to Stoneybrook without obtaining either the loan from her parents or using funds from her retirement account.”

The Bar’s audit also revealed that there was a shortage of at least $122,330.62 in another trust account at Fairwinds Credit Union.

From this account, the Bar says in its Petition for Emergency Suspension, she used settlement funds for a client to office rent, rent, herself, American Express, and Florida Lawyers Mutual.
John Borland of Ocala started his suspension Dec. 28, but seems like he suspended his law career well before that. The Bar says Borland abandoned his law practice, client files, fell behind in his Bar fees and continuing legal education credits and then ignored Bar inquiries about all this. The Florida Coastal School of Law had been a Bar member since 2006.
John Borland.jpg
John Borland The Florida Bar
Aldo Busot of Coral Gables has been disbarred. In handling a suit to collect a promissory note, Busot neglected his duties, missed deadlines and kept his client ignorant of the case’s progression. She learned he filed for voluntary dismissal from a friend. Busot was suspended for three years on April 19.

When Busot didn’t submit an affidavit with the clients, tribunals and opposing lawyers notified of his suspension and the names and addresses of people and businesses that got a copy of his suspension order, the Cal Berkeley School of Law graduate was found in contempt and disbarred. He’d been a member since 1987.

West Palm Beach attorney Richard Carey, a Bar member since 2009 out of the University of Pittsburgh’s law school, served a 10-day suspension in December. According to Carey’s guilty plea, non-lawyers at his Pinnacle Land and Title handled a real estate sale that involved a fraudulent court order. Carey said he was on vacation at the time. He tried to rectify matters upon hearing of the problem and eventually reached a settlement with the harmed party.

Miami’s Robert Dixon’s 90-day suspension in May for mishandling his trust account and suffering a shortage in trust funds required he produce trust account records from July 2015 to the present. The University of Florida School of Law graduate, a Bar member since 2006, needed to do this by June 24. Dixon came across with records June 25 that the Bar’s auditor found a day late and several dollars short of accuracy — checks that had cleared listed as outstanding, deposits that had cleared listed as not having cleared. For this failure, Dixon received a public reprimand.

John Eagen of Tallahassee, a Florida State law school man and Bar member since 1990, served a 30-days suspension that ended Jan. 7. Eagen continued to represent a defendant in Volusia County in January 2017 despite being ineligible to practice law. This got revealed after he failed to show up for a scheduled hearing and didn’t tell the judge of his status, even as the judge asked repeatedly over the phone, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Eagen was ineligible because he was delinquent paying $2,500 restitution from a previous Bar discipline case involving how he charged a client.

Peter Fellows of Miami has been disbarred for a conflict of interest in a case involving his baby’s mother and, in a separate matter, lying to Bar investigators. Fellows cases were detailed in this Miami Herald story.

Full Article & Source:
One lawyer used client funds for Heat tickets, another was in a $3.25M scam. Then, trouble