Saturday, May 25, 2019

Caregivers and takers

“It’s a classic tale of human greed. Their entire business model is predicated on not making payroll.”

— Tia Koonse
legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center

By Jennifer Gollan

She alights from a black Ferrari convertible, her Christian Louboutin stilettos glinting in the sunlight. The lid of her black lacquer grand piano is propped open in the living room of her plush Beverly Hills home on the aptly named Clear View Drive, overlooking a stunning panorama.

“I own a chain of elderly care facilities,” she says into the camera on Bravo’s reality television show “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”

“My net worth is $3 to $4 million, probably.”

Stephanie Costa was 30 and rich by most standards yet believed it was time to fetch a man of means.

“You don’t want to date down,” the show’s host says to her. “You want to date 200 grand and above who treats you like a princess.”

Costa nods. “Before I know it, I’m alone in the nursing home … in my own nursing home.”

Costa’s lifestyle was supported in part by six board-and-care homes she owned in California’s Central Valley that now operate under the names Clear View Retirement Group and Copper River Retirement Group.

About half of Costa’s net worth was threatened when she and her company initially were cited for about $1.6 million for labor violations, including wage theft – not paying 11 employees for working much of 24 hours a day, six days a week. They later would settle for pennies on the dollar.

Costa, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is a rare public face of a burgeoning multibillion-dollar elder care industry that is enabling operators to become wealthy by treating workers as indentured servants. Across the country, legions of these caregivers earn a pittance to tend to the elderly in residential houses refurbished as care facilities, according to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

A home owned by Stephanie Costa in
Beverly Hills, Calif.
CREDIT: Rachel de Leon/Reveal
The profit margins can be huge and, for violators of labor laws, hinge on the widespread exploitation of thousands of caretakers, many of them poor immigrants effectively earning $2 to $3.50 an hour to work around the clock. The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25.

Reveal interviewed more than 80 workers, care-home operators and government regulators and reviewed hundreds of wage theft cases handled by California and federal labor regulators, workers and local district attorneys. The investigation found rampant wage theft has pushed a vast majority of these caregivers into poverty.

Workers are left feeling desperate and trapped. Many caregivers say they rise before daybreak to cook meals, shower residents and scrub toilets. At night, they are deprived of sufficient sleep because they have to wake to change adult diapers, dispense painkillers, return wandering dementia residents to their beds and shift the bedridden every two hours to thwart bedsores.

Workers describe sleeping in hallways and garages, on couches and the floor. Some care homes deduct $25 a day from caregivers’ paychecks for “lodging.”

Exploited caregivers rarely are allowed a day off; even then, they often must pay their substitutes. Two caregivers recounted having miscarriages after their bosses refused to allow them time off or to stop lifting heavy residents.

Because these workers often live where they work, they are under the watchful eye of their bosses. They are bullied into not cooperating with investigators. In some cases, care-home operators have threatened to report undocumented workers to authorities.

Human trafficking – in which workers, particularly Filipinos, are coerced, manipulated and exploited – also is not uncommon, according to prosecutors and attorneys. For example, several family members were charged last year with human trafficking and labor abuse in a case involving caregivers in San Mateo County, California, south of San Francisco.

“It’s a classic tale of human greed,” said Tia Koonse, legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center. “Their entire business model is predicated on not making payroll. It relies on people being willing to work for 24 hours a day for less than a dollar an hour. Only trafficked people will put up with that.” (Click to continue)


Full Article & Source:
Caregivers and takers

Unprotected: How the Sweetheart Swindler got into Rosa’s home

By: Ron Regan , Mark Ackerman 

PAINESVILLE, Ohio — A simple Google search confirmed what Robert Rideout suspected – something was very wrong with the woman he hired to take care of his aging mother.

“It came up with she’s known as the Sweetheart Swindler,” said Rideout after looking at a screen filled with links to old news articles.


When Robert Rideout needed a caregiver for his 83-year-old mother Rosa he contacted a home health care agency in Lake County. In just a matter of hours, he had a caregiver ready to start.
Nightingale Home Health Care
“Two hours for an interview, to be hired, and in my mom’s house,” recalled Rideout.

Within weeks alarms went off.
“My mother was asking for money, regularly,” he said he was asked to authorize hundreds of dollars in unaccounted expenses every couple of weeks.

Thousands of dollars were missing before he searched the internet and read the headline, “Tonya Weiss, The Sweetheart Swindler.”

“I was just alarmed because I hired her from an agency,” he said.


Law enforcement officials say Weiss earned the title by spending years posing as a caregiver and stealing victims’ life savings.

“A monster who preys on seniors” is how former Ross County Sheriff Investigator Dale Gillette described Tonya Weiss. Gillette spent years tracking her crime spree which included a 1997 Florida case for stealing more than $100,000. Weiss was also convicted in Ohio in 2003 for swindling two more victims and again in 2012 for a fraud case .

“She is cold hearted,” said Gillette, “She could take somebody’s money and leave them homeless.”

Gillette recalled a prison interview with Weiss where he remembers her saying, “it wasn’t so much about the money as it was a challenge as to how much money she could get.”
Dale Gillette
Weiss was not convicted of a crime in Rideout’s case, but the family filed a civil lawsuit against Nightingale Home Support and Care, Inc. that hired her and was awarded an undisclosed settlement—alleging the agency failed to perform a criminal background check.

Despite a judge approving the settlement , the Rideout family says they never received a dime.

The 5 On Your Side Investigators contacted Weiss outside of her home near Chillicothe. Weiss declined to comment on her involvement.
Tonya Weiss
5 On Your Side Investigator Ron Regan asking Tonya Weiss about her criminal history.


Weiss worked for Nightingale Home Support and Care in Lake County. The agency is owned by Stella Nsong--a licensed, registered nurse with no history of discipline.

Nsong also promotes other on-line enterprises that describe how opening home care agencies can be a lucrative business opportunity. Plus, she’s hired production companies to create videos that attempt to convince you that Nsong is a recognized expert that can be trusted.
For example, you can see her interviewed on her own website, plus links to her “Six Figures Nurse Academy” where you can also access what Nsong calls “Home Care Biz in a Box” and “Launch Your Agency in a Weekend” .

While we found no complaints involving these enterprises—we did find the Ohio Department of Health shut down a Columbus assisted living center in 2015 founded by Nsong and where she served as its nurse administrator.

The Ohio Department of Health shut down “Woodlands at Eastland” in 2015 citing “conditions presented a clear and present danger”.
Woodlands at Eastland
Plus, we also found 17 Nightingale employees sued Nsong claiming they were not paid—including Amber Boykin who says she was hired without a shred of experience.

“I never worked as a home health aide,” said Boykin, adding that “for weeks I wasn’t paid.”

Her case is being settled and court records show a federal judge ordered $11-thousand in back pay for the remaining 16.


The 5 On Your Side Investigators attempted to speak with Nsong about her business practices, a front desk employee at her agency in Mentor said, “she is not here” and likely in New Jersey, but said he would to let her know we had questions.

Nsong has yet to contact us.

But we did find Nsong operating a series of webinars where she promotes business opportunities for nurses and others who are interested in the home health care industry.

“I started with $1,263 and in 36 months I had made over a million dollars in gross revenue,” said Nsong during the 35-minute webinar.

Finally, we reached her through a phone number provided at the webinar’s conclusion where she told interested participants that she was available for one-on-one counseling that could be scheduled in advance.

On the phone, Nsong told us she was currently in New Jersey but also had an office in Ohio. During the call she began describing how she “coached people to build a successful home healthcare company” and claimed she is “considered the expert in non-medical home care”.

According to Nsong, you can “start a home health care agency for $200 or less”.

“The is some good news for you,” said Nsong, “in the state of Ohio home care is not licensed if you keep it private.” She would later say, “There is big money to be made if you know what you are doing”.

Initially, Nsong spoke for almost eight minutes until being told we were with the 5 On Your Side Investigators in Cleveland and had questions about her business practices.

“I can’t answer questions about Nightingale Home Support because this is not a section of time to answer questions about that,” said Nsong, “you have to make an appointment with me to do that privately.”

When asked if she had ever hired someone with a criminal background, Weiss said “in the private sector home care in Ohio is not regulated so actually an agency could.”

Even so, Ohio revised code specifically bans hiring caregivers with specific criminal convictions such as abuse, neglect or misappropriation of clients funds.

Nsong then hung up when questioned specifically about hiring Tonya Weiss.


The Rideout’s complaint and Nsong’s agency highlight an alarming lack of regulation and oversight in Ohio when it comes to hiring caregivers.

While agencies are required under state law to perform an initial criminal background check—they can hire employees before checks are even completed.

Also, Ohio has no requirements to perform mandated annual checks, no required annual inspection and no licensing requirements to ensure compliance.

Even more alarming, the 5 On Your Side Investigation found agencies like Nightingale cater to private pay clients who do not rely on either Medicare or Medicaid—so they are exempt from any type of “initial certification” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Home health care experts estimate there are hundreds of agencies similar to Nightingale across Ohio but no one knows exactly how many since no one is tracking them.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, “home health agencies are not licensed or registered” by the department but “must be certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if they intended to collect Medicare or Medicaid payments”.

In Ohio, we found there are 763 “certified” home health care agencies, but half of those had no information available on the Medicare or Ohio websites regarding inspections or conditions.

The lack of information leaves families like the Rideout’s in the dark.

“I’ve used the term ‘the underground market’,” said Phil Bongiorno, executive director of the Home Care Association of America a national association pushing for tougher standards .

“You need a license to catch a trout in every state in the country but you don’t need a license to take care of a senior,” said Bongiorno.

The HCAOA, founded in 2002, is a leading trade association representing nearly 3,000 companies that employs more than 500,000 caregivers across the United States.

Bongiorno said, “we actually employ all of our caregivers” rather than what he calls “placement agencies that are independently placing caregivers” with no supervision or liability insurance.

According to Bongiorno, HCAOA members supervise and oversee care, provide training, background checks as part of doing business as compared to what he calls rogue caregivers who have no affiliation and are simply hired in ads or on websites like “Craig’s List”.

The HCAOA supports licensure and is currently working with state officials in Ohio to raise standards.

Full Article & Source:
Unprotected: How the Sweetheart Swindler got into Rosa’s home

When a Nurse and a Social Worker Collaborate for Elder Justice, Good Things Happen

When a Nurse and a Social Worker Collaborate for Elder Justice, Good Things Happen
How Ferrell Moore and Laura Brown developed a powerful hospital training curriculum

The most effective teams, whether in sports, business, or elder justice, comprise people with a complementary set of skills. From that perspective, Ferrell Moore and Laura Brown are a dream team, combining their distinct personalities and talents to create a methodology for training healthcare personnel to detect, treat, and hopefully prevent elder abuse. Both will be honored for their work by receiving the Georgia Anetzberger Award during the Second University of Southern California Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse in the spring of 2018.

The pair works at the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Moore as a Clinical Resource Nurse and Brown as a Licensed Master Social Worker. Early 2014, Moore was asked if she would work on an elder abuse project, figuring at most she would be responsible for making a poster presentation. Moore says, after reviewing the hospital’s grant proposal for the Plough Foundation:
“I quickly realized I’d said yes to a very needed and very huge undertaking. From the first meeting of our Coordinated Response to Elder Abuse (CREA) group, I knew I’d been placed on a path of purpose greater than myself.”
Although familiar with abuse cases, Moore hadn’t imagined that elder abuse was so “rampant” in her community and that people were, as she puts it, “getting away with it.” She quickly focused on creating a program that would respond to the growing epidemic, and realized that while the first response to abuse was typically medical in nature, social workers performed the bulk of the ensuing work. And, she recounts, when that became clear, the one person she wanted on her team was Brown, a social worker in the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). Although Brown had been assigned to the ED for just a short time, she had quickly earned a reputation as a passionate advocate who got things done. While the ED didn’t want to give Brown up, Moore refused to work on the grant without her.

Like Moore, Brown also initially imagined the project would require only a small commitment, before realizing, she says, “how intensive the work would be and how significant an impact” they could make. And though neither woman was fully aware just how well-matched their partnership would be, their interlocking skills soon became evident.

The Perfect Team

Says Brown: “Ferrell is calm and collected, and I am often not either of those things.”

Adds Moore: “Laura is the more outspoken, go-getter type, and I’m more about doing research, on the computer, planning. Laura can work the crowd, but can get a little rambunctious – her passion and drive are inspirational — whereas I’ve learned how to deal with the corporate politics and finesse a situation to get the desired results.”

“As different as we are,” agrees Brown, “we have a lot in common. We are both single moms, both passionate about advocating for people that cannot advocate for themselves. Neither of us commit to work unless we plan to do it well and with conviction. Ferrell has taught me how to focus my energy in a professional way. She has taught me that there is often more power in silence or a calm response than there is in a loud and fast reaction.”

Thus, this duo of neatly complementary differences and similarities attacked the task at hand. With consulting help from Laura Mosqueda, MD, Director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, they collaborated on creating a training curriculum based on best practices in the areas of forensics, law, medicine, risk management, and law enforcement.

Their initial curriculum, which after feedback was winnowed down from six hours to three hours, was pilot-tested on the hundred members of the hospital’s emergency department – doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, and ancillary staff. The plan is for it to be available for implementation in hospital systems. Exactly how and when it will be distributed is still being determined by the organizations that funded the CREA project. Individuals can contact Moore and Brown if they are interested in receiving progress updates and/or learning more about potential implementation in their hospital system.

Overwhelming Positive Response

The response to the curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive. Both Moore and Brown were surprised by the magnitude of the need – and the desire – for such training. They have seen an increase in awareness and knowledge in identifying and intervening in elder abuse. The curriculum has been assessed using extensive evaluation instruments, and the preliminary results have been promising. An overwhelming majority of the medical professionals at Baptist Memorial reported that the curriculum was engaging and resulted in “a significant increase in knowledge” regarding elder abuse identification, response, and referral. Implementation has also led to changes in policy and procedures, making the process more conducive to the identification of elder abuse. A proposal has also been floated for a multidisciplinary team in the Emergency Department where the curriculum was piloted.

Moore and Brown were invited to present their curriculum at the June 2016 meeting convened by The John A. Hartford Foundation in Texas of the “Seen in Hospital, Safe at Home” project. This project is aimed at translating rigorous research results on elder mistreatment into a coherent, practical model of care that will transform real-world practice at scale. The conference led Moore to consider next steps. She says, “That meeting helped me understand how beneficial it would be to have a dedicated multidisciplinary team or lead within the hospital’s ED. As a Clinical Resource Nurse, I’m in a great position to make this happen, and I’m researching it now. After successfully implementing our curriculum throughout our hospital, I plan to draft a proposal to my management team, so that we can continue slowly branching out to the community.”

The immediate goal for both Moore and Brown is to continue to teach professionals how to intervene and advocate for elder abuse victims. Long term, they are considering teaming up to do consulting and certifying in Project Management.

Observes Brown: “If there is anything I have learned, it’s that elder abuse is preventable. If we recognize signs early on, we can provide resources and make appropriate intervention to keep older adults safe, protected from their abusers, and living with dignity.”

Moore adds: “The most rewarding aspect is seeing an older adult who has entered our system in a horrible, life-altering situation receive the love, attention, action, compassion, and resources needed to turn that situation around and begin a new life or better life.”

Laura Brown, LMSW is currently working with the Coordinated Response to Elder Abuse (CREA) to educate professionals on dynamics of elder abuse. Prior to joining the CREA project she worked in various settings as a victim advocate and conducted trainings for professionals and the community on dynamics of abuse. While working in the emergency department at Baptist Memorial Hospital Memphis, she and Ferrell Moore, RN developed and piloted a multi-disciplinary curriculum for elder abuse, which was sponsored by CREA and the Plough Foundation.Laura Brown can be contacted at

Ferrell Moore works at Baptist Memorial Healthcare Memphis, where she has over 12 years of bedside nursing experience in the emergency department. She is a charge and resource nurse of her unit, serves as Chair of the Professional Practice Council of her unit and was honored as one of Baptists’ top 100 nurses of Celebrate Nursing.

Yet her most prized accomplishment is being a loving mother to her creative and gifted 17-year-old son Christopher. Her future plans include continuing her education to obtain a Master’s Degree of Nursing, with the goal of becoming a Certified Emergency Nurse Practitioner with a Holistic Concentration.Ferrell Moore can be contacted at

By Marilyn Harris, an independent writer and editor specializing in business, technology, legal, and social issues.

Full Article & Source:
When a Nurse and a Social Worker Collaborate for Elder Justice, Good Things Happen

Friday, May 24, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network with Co-Host Coz Whitten-Skaife: Wisconsin Fighting Mad! Guardianship & other hot topics

7:00 PM Central Time

Join Marti Oakley and Coz Whitten-Skaife as they host "Allison" a major league activist in Wisconsin.

We will be covering a current abusive guardianship case in the courts right now along with the truth about organ donation, and the attempts across the states to pass laws to starve the mentally ill and those with dementia to death.

 With fully functional seniors are being fraudulently determined to have dementia, the harvesting and euthanizing of the elderly is being kicked into high gear.

Following Hospice's example of dehydration and starvation along with drugging to create the conditions medically necessary to call for futility of care, more of our seniors and those chronically or mentally ill are slated for execution.

We are being culled.

But first! We want to rob you \of your life's work and disinherit your family. Lots to talk about! Please tune in for what is sure to be a hot topic show!

LISTEN LIVE or listen to the archive later

A disabled woman who gave birth at a Phoenix care facility was likely pregnant before, documents allege

By Faith Karimi and Chris Boyette
Click to Watch Video
A disabled woman who gave birth at an Arizona long-term care facility had been raped repeatedly, and had likely been pregnant before, new documents allege.

Her lawyers filed a $45 million notice of claim to Arizona on Wednesday with allegations against the state along with Hacienda HealthCare, where the woman had lived since 1992.

She delivered a boy at the facility in late December, shocking her caregivers, who said they had no idea she was pregnant. She has since left the facility in Phoenix.

Authorities obtained DNA samples from male staff members and arrested licensed practical nurse Nathan Sutherland, 36, who was caring for the woman. He was charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse, and has pleaded not guilty.

New allegations revealed

In the notice of claim filed before litigation for settlement discussion, the family made a series of allegations against the state and the health care facility where the now 29-year-old woman lived.

The Maricopa County Medical Center examined the woman after she gave birth and concluded she'd been "violated repeatedly," the documents allege. Her giving birth was likely a "repeat parous event," which means she may have been pregnant before, the documents say.

From the claim, it's unclear whether she carried the previous pregnancy her family believes she had to term.

It said the woman suffered multiple sexual assaults that caused her permanent physical and emotional pain, and caused her parents significant emotional distress.

The woman has intellectual disabilities as a result of childhood seizures, and is bedridden and nonverbal. But she can move some of her extremities, respond to sound and make facial gestures, according to her family.

Her parents had previously requested that she be cared for by female employees and was assured that would happen, but it did not, the documents allege. Instead, unsupervised male caretakers, including the suspect, were allowed to go into her room, the documents say.

The documents accuse the state of being "vicariously liable for the negligence, gross negligence and medical negligence" at Hacienda.

911 call: We had no idea patient was pregnant

911 call: We had no idea patient was pregnant 02:30

The documents also say there are claims of negligence, gross negligence and "negligence per se" in addition to the vicarious liability. The first two claims arise from the state's "placement of the victim "at Hacienda and subsequent failure to exercise reasonable oversight" regarding her care, the documents allege.

"The unspeakable atrocities ... occurred as a result of systemic and individual misconduct and mismanagement at the Hacienda (facility) and virtually nonexistent oversight on the part of the state," the documents allege.

CNN has reached out to the Arizona Attorney General's office for comment, but has not received a response. CNN is also reaching out to Hacienda HealthCare for comment on the documents.

A spokesman for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said his office is reviewing the notice of claim. "The details in this matter continue to be extremely disturbing -- since day one, the governor has been clear that those responsible for this crime need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Patrick Ptak said.

After the sexual assault allegations were revealed this year, the facility said it was making changes to ensure the safety of its patients.

Among the improvements at the facility are "enhanced security," new security cameras and officers, and retraining for staff members on abuse and neglect protocols.

"Our patients, their families, our team members and the community deserve nothing less than this commitment from us," Hacienda HealthCare said.

Woman allegedly showed signs of pregnancy

Before the patient delivered her baby, there were 83 missed opportunities to diagnose the pregnancy, according to the documents.

"Over the past couple of days to weeks, the staff had noticed increased abdominal distention, and firmness," the documents allege.

The day she gave birth, she was "undergoing a workup for possible GI illnesses such as diverticulitis," according to the documents.

"The nurse on staff had noticed the patient no longer had abdominal distention or tenderness. An hour later, she returned to the room and lifted the sheets, and found that the baby's head had delivered," the documents say.

Her caretakers failed to detect her pregnancy despite signs such as missed periods, a "mass" in her abdomen, growing weight and swollen legs. As a result, she went through her pregnancy without any proper care and in a state of malnutrition, the documents allege.

The claim seeks a $25 million settlement for the victim and $10 million for each of her parents within two months or the lawyers will take the case to court.

Full Article & Source:

Philly lawyer who stole $100,000 from elderly client to gamble gets 4 years in prison

by Erin Arvedlund

Philly lawyer who stole $100,000 from elderly client to gamble gets 4 years in prison

As she grew more frail, elderly Philadelphia retiree Sarah Fauntleroy signed over power-of-attorney rights to a local lawyer John Conner.

Conner, 63, was a well-known criminal defense lawyer – but he also had a gambling problem.

On Thursday, Conner was sentenced in federal court for stealing more than $100,000 from the 88-year-old woman, whose caretaker and neighbor uncovered Conner’s crimes in 2017.

Conner will serve 46 months in prison; his lawyer Arnold Joseph requested that Conner be sent to the Fairton, N.J., correctional institute. Fauntleroy wanted to attend, according to prosecutors, but she died Sunday.

What’s so unusual about Conner isn’t just that he stole from an elderly client, but that the Temple Law graduate worked as a high-profile lawyer with Cozen and O’Conner, and for many years as a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. He started his own practice in 1995.

Prosecutors said the Conner case is part of a national sweep of financial elder abuse crimes that U.S. Attorney William “Bill” McSwain is pursuing under U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s initiative.

“The defendant’s conduct in this case was egregious,” said McSwain. “Stealing an elderly woman’s life savings, gambling it away at casinos, and then lying about it to federal agents – all as an officer of the court, an attorney who took an oath to act in the best interest of his clients and with a high moral standard.”

Sarah Fauntleroy, 88, testified against her former lawyer John K. Conner, who stole nearly $100,000 out of her accounts to gamble. She died Sunday, May 19, 2019, a few days before he was sentenced in federal court to nearly 4 years in prison.
Erin Arvedlund
Sarah Fauntleroy, 88, testified against her former lawyer John K. Conner, who stole nearly $100,000 out of her accounts to gamble. She died Sunday, May 19, 2019, a few days before he was sentenced in federal court to nearly 4 years in prison.
Although she had suffered a stroke, Fauntleroy testified against Conner in writing as part of the trial.

Conner used her ATM card at casinos to withdraw money from Fauntleroy’s bank accounts in the amount of $105,632.01, according to court filings.

She was left with $15.07.

Homer Hills, a close friend and neighbor in Brewerytown, alerted the authorities after Fauntleroy’s phone and electricity were shut off. Hills and Fauntleroy’s caretaker suspected Conner of stealing her assets.

Conner subsequently lied to FBI agents and said Fauntleroy had given him permission to “borrow” nearly all of her money so that he could gamble at Parx and Sugarhouse casinos in Philadelphia and Tropicana and Borgata in Atlantic City, according to prosecutor Mark Dubnoff.

“Elder fraud is a pernicious crime, preying on the most vulnerable in society. She trusted him … and he betrayed that trust,” Dubnoff said during the hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In 2016, Fauntleroy asked her brother for help handling her affairs and health care, and he introduced her to Conner. Fauntleroy was impressed and signed a power-of-attorney agreement that granted Conner authority to manage her finances and pay her bills.

As part of the agreement, Conner promised to keep his assets separate from hers. Shortly after executing the POA, however, Conner added himself as a signatory to a checking account that she maintained at Wells Fargo Bank and obtained an ATM card to withdraw funds.

Conner also opened a joint savings account at Wells Fargo in his and Fauntleroy’s names. He then liquidated an annuity she had set up for her niece and deposited the proceeds, which exceeded $110,000, into that account.

Over eight months, Conner used the POA agreement to drain nearly all of Fauntleroy’s money from her bank accounts. From Aug. 16, 2016, until April 22, 2017, Conner used the ATM card to make 176 cash withdrawals at casinos. Checks to her caregivers bounced.

Fauntleroy revoked Conner’s POA in April 2017 and the U.S. Attorney charged him in 2018.

“I’m very happy with the sentence,” said Hills, who attended the hearing. “He just stepped in and preyed on her. He didn’t have an epiphany about a gambling addiction. He got caught.”

Conner testified that the pressure and loneliness of caring for his 95-year-old father seven days a week and running a law practice prompted him to turn to gambling -- in particular, slot machines.

“I’m not a perfect man,” he told the judge. “I’m a gambling addict. I gambled my own money until I ran out. Then I used her card. I’ve learned that a compulsive gambler’s judgment is flawed.”

Conner “has used this fall from grace to begin his road to recovery,” his lawyer wrote in court filings, by enrolling in the Livengrin Center and participating in Gamblers Anonymous. Conner also voluntarily placed himself on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Self-Exclusion from Gaming Activities list.

Full Article & Source:
Philly lawyer who stole $100,000 from elderly client to gamble gets 4 years in prison

The Uncertain Role of Court Appointed Counsel in California Conservatorship Cases

A conservatorship, once ordered by a Superior Court judge in California, deprives a person of the right to control his or her financial affairs or person, or both.  When the judge appoints counsel for the proposed conservatee, what is the lawyer’s role?  Are the lawyer’s ordinary duties of loyalty and confidentiality diminished in the conservatorship setting?  Should they be?

These are vexing questions that have led to varying approaches in California’s 58 counties.  We sometimes represent siblings in contested conservatorship proceedings, typically in “parent custody” disputes when siblings are vying for control over Mom and/or Dad.  The approach taken by court appointed counsel is an important factor in how these cases move forward and it would be helpful to all concerned to have a more uniform approach.

How Does the Conservatorship Process Unfold?

Probate conservatorship proceedings (called “guardianship” in states other than California) begin when an interested party files a petition in Superior Court to establish a conservatorship of the person and/or estate of an adult.  The court clerk sets the petition for an initial hearing date and notice must be given to close family members.  Depending on calendaring constraints, the hearing may be set out several months from the date of filing.  In urgent situations, the petitioner will also file a petition for a temporary (interim) conservatorship and such petitions usually take at least a week or two to be heard.

Often the petitioner seeks to appoint himself or herself as conservator for a failing relative or friend, but sometimes the petitioner seeks the appointment of a private professional fiduciary to serve in that role.

Under California Probate Code section 1470 and 1471, judges are required to appoint counsel for the proposed conservatee in certain situations and have discretion to appoint counsel even when not required.  Generally, the clerk maintains a rotating list of lawyers (shown here for the probate department of Sacramento County Superior Court) who have volunteered to serve as court appointed counsel and the clerk picks counsel from the next name on the list.  It is randomized matchmaking in that the proposed conservatee is not allowed to pick from potential candidates.

California Rule of Court 7.1101 sets forth eligibility requirements for court appointed counsel.

Once appointed, the attorney will review the pleadings on file with the court, talk to the interested family members and/or their lawyers, and interview the proposed conservatee.  Meanwhile, the court’s probate investigator conducts a limited investigation and reports on the propriety of the conservatorship.

The position taken by court appointed counsel usually has a big impact on the conservatorship proceeding.  The petitioner must establish that a conservatorship is warranted by clear and convincing evidence, a heightened burden of proof, and the proposed conservatee can demand a jury trial, though such trials are rare.

So What’s the Problem?

Anne M. Rudolph and Ralph E. Hughes, attorneys with Hughes & Pizzuto APC in San Diego, recently explored the ethical duties of court appointed counsel in “A Lawyer is a Lawyer is a Lawyer,” a thoughtful and well-researched piece that appeared in Volume 25, Issue 1, of California Trusts and Estates Quarterly.

As they discuss, California law generally imposes duties of confidentiality and loyalty on attorneys without any express exception for those appointed to represent proposed conservatees.  The California Supreme Court’s recent rejection of proposed Rule of Professional Conduct 1.14, which would have given lawyers limited options to protect clients with diminished capacity, shows the court’s continued concern about loyalty and confidentiality.  The authors note, however, that “attorneys appointed to represent proposed conservatees in probate courts are routinely encouraged, and even required, to provide the courts with reports regarding their clients.”

Rudolph and Hughes argue that court appointed counsel should neither be required nor encouraged to advise the judge about what the attorney believes to be in the best interest of the conservatee, and instead should zealously advocate for the client without disclosing confidences.

Under this approach, if the proposed client opposes the conservatorship, court appointed counsel’s role presumably would be to actively defend the conservatorship petition and request a trial on it.  This path would be followed even if counsel has the personal belief that the circumstances warrant a conservatorship and that the client would benefit from it.

Rudolph and Hughes suggest that probate judges consider appointing a person to serve as guardian ad litem (“GAL”) to consider the best interests of the proposed conservatee.  The guardian ad litem, who might be a lawyer (or retain a lawyer), would serve as a special agent of the court and therefore would not owe fiduciary duties of loyalty and confidentiality to the conservatee.  Instead, the GAL would investigate the situation, assess the conservatee’s interests, and report that assessment to the court.

The conservatorship petitioner frames the presentation of the matter to the judge.  Appointment of a GAL would ensure that the judge hears two distinctive perspectives on the imposition and terms of the conservatorship: one from court appointed counsel who focuses on the client’s expressed preferences and the other from the GAL who focuses on the client’s best interests and who can report freely on communications with interested parties.

Of course, appointment of both a GAL and court appointed counsel causes increased expense to the conservatee, who ultimately pays for such services under the court’s supervision.


Ethical issues abound when a California lawyer has a client or prospective client with questionable mental capacity.  When appointed to represent proposed conservatees, requiring lawyers to stay true to their duties of loyalty and confidentiality provides a clearer (if sometimes unsatisfactory) line to follow.  Rudolph and Hughes aptly point out that appointment of a guardian ad litem can allow court appointed counsel to stay in his or her ethical lane while giving the court more information when making the weighty determination of whether to impose a conservatorship.

Full Article & Source:
The Uncertain Role of Court Appointed Counsel in California Conservatorship Cases

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Cleveland lawyer indicted for taking funds from elderly, disabled people she served for as guardian

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Dorothea Kingsbury is an estate attorney. She has worked through probate court for years.

The Cuyahoga County court docket lists more than 400 cases she has had various roles in over the years.

She was indicted in February for theft and money laundering charges.

Since then, she’s had various pretrial appearances.

In the latest, her attorney asked for more time to conduct plea negotiations; a hint that a deal may be in the works.

Cases like this are tough to tell as they involve a lot of paperwork, paperwork that Dorothea Kingsbury was very adept at filing to be appointed to various roles. Most of the roles included control over the financial assets of people who the courts have ruled as incompetent to do so.

In some cases, she made the applications. In others, she requested the disbursement of funds.

The indictment charging her says she made repeated money requests of some accounts.

Individual amounts are listed, but the important thing is the total. More than $1.1 million dollars is now missing.

In indictment papers, prosecutors say the victims were all elderly or disabled adults. Typically, a guardian’s duties in a case like this would be paying nursing home or other bills from assets put aside for the person by a family or family trust.

“That’s me,” was all Kingsbury said when 19 News knocked on her door to ask if she was Kingsbury and if she had anything to say about the indictment.

In probate court records, we found page after page of cases that Kingsbury had a role in, well over 400 entries. The prosecutor’s office lists 18 specific amounts taken from 18 victims.

Full Article & Source:
Cleveland lawyer indicted for taking funds from elderly, disabled people she served for as guardian

Connecticut probate administrator: New checks in place to ensure conservators’ honesty

Paul Knierim (Shana Sureck)
When Bristol attorney Jodi Zils-Gagne swindled more than $100,000 from elderly and infirm clients, she hurt more than those people and their survivors, U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Bryant said last month.

The public’s faith in the legal system was “a silent victim,” Bryant said at a hearing.

To Probate Court Administrator Paul Knierim, that’s a particularly sad outcome — and one that he’d like to remedy.

“There are 22,000 people with conservators in Connecticut, and it’s important to emphasize that the vast, vast majority majority of those conservators are trying their level best to do everything right in a challenging circumstance,” Knierim said.

“And they’re doing it as volunteers or, if they’re being paid, their compensation is well below what would be the normal professional hourly rate,” he said.

The state adopted new training and oversight procedures for lawyers and others who serve as conservators, and Knierim said the public should know they’re working. One, a system of random audits to catch cheats, just got under way last fall.

Knierim’s job is to oversee Connecticut’s probate courts, which are most widely known for handling will and estate settlements after a death.

But they’re also in charge of helping residents who need someone to handle their affairs - typically very elderly or infirm people who can no longer keep up with planning their own living arrangements or handling their finances. It is in those cases where trust in the court-appointed conservators is particularly important, Knierim said.

Probate courts appoint conservators to handle the person’s financial and business affairs and, in some cases, even oversee their health care planning. Conservators are frequently relatives who do the service for free, or may be attorneys - such as Zils-Gagne - who are paid a modest monthly fee from the client’s funds.

In her plea deal with prosecutors, Zils-Gagne conceded that she had overbilled clients, engaged in self dealing and “knowingly and willfully misappropriated conserved persons’ money and property." She also admitted concealing the facts from the probate court.

Knierim would not address individual cases, but wrongdoing by conservators does a terrible disservice to their colleagues as well as their clients.

"And when it’s a lawyer, it’s especially devastating because it involves someone with the ethical obligations of an attorney abusing their position of trust," he said.

The probate court has beefed up its advisory system for guiding conservators when they approach it with questions about potential conflicts of interest or other ethical issues. Two years ago, the state also instituted a system to check on their work.

The court has a periodic financial reporting requirement for conservators to disclose how they’ve handled the client’s finance, and the system an opportunity to notify the court if they suspect misdealing.

“Then in 2017 we sought legislation that authorizes my office to do random audits of conservator’s financial reports,” he said. “The audits look behind the numbers and verify they’re accurate.”

It’s a random system that, because of the expense, audits are only a fraction of cases. But Knierim said it started operating last fall and his is confident it will further encourage honesty by conservators.

“This is very much geared toward rooting out situations where a person is lying to the court,” he said. “As of the fall of 2018, that program is off and running.”

Full Article & Source:
Connecticut probate administrator: New checks in place to ensure conservators’ honesty

Death by organ donation: Euthanizing patients for their organs gains frightening traction

E. Wesley Ely, Opinion contributor

A research team from the University of Maryland is moving forward with modified drone testing, hoping to show that donated organs can be transported safely, and more quickly, between donor and recipient. (Nov. 21) AP

How should society respond to the increasingly long list of people waiting for organs on a transplant list? You’ve no doubt heard of “black market” organs in foreign countries, but are there other options that should be off the table?

If you were on a transplant list, would it matter to you if the organ was obtained from a living person who died because of the donation procedure itself? What if she had volunteered?

Your thoughts on this topic have implications beyond the issue of transplantation.

As the former co-director of Vanderbilt University’s lung transplant program and a practicing intensive care unit physician, I see organ donation an selfless gift to those approaching death on transplant wait lists.

However, I’m wrestling with the emerging collision between the worlds of transplantation and euthanasia.

Cause of death: organ donation?

At international medical conferences in 2018 and 2019, I listened as hundreds of transplant and critical care physicians discussed “donation after death.” This refers to the rapidly expanding scenario in Canada and some Western European countries whereby a person dies by euthanasia, with a legalized lethal injection that she or he requested, and the body is then operated on to retrieve organs for donation.

At each meeting, the conversation unexpectedly shifted to an emerging question of “death by donation” — in other words, ending a people’s lives with their informed consent by taking them to the operating room and, under general anesthesia, opening their chest and abdomen surgically while they are still alive to remove vital organs for transplantation into other people.

The big deal here is that death by donation would bypass the long-honored dead donor rule, which forbids removal of vital organs until the donor is declared dead. Death by donation would, at present, be considered homicide to end a life by taking organs.

The mechanics of obtaining organs after death from either euthanasia or natural cardiac death (both already legalized in Canada, Belgium and Netherlands) can be suboptimal for the person receiving the transplant, because damage occurs to organs by absence of blood flow during the 5 to 10 minutes-long dying process. This interval is called ischemia time. Death by donation purports to offer a novel solution. Instead of retrieving organs after death, organ removal would be done while organs are still being receiving blood. There would be no ischemia time and organ removal would be the direct and proximate cause of death.

Unintended, unavoidable consequences

Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published an article by two Canadian physicians and an ethicist from Harvard Medical School, who contended it might be ethically preferable to ignore the dead donor rule if patients declare they want to die in order to donate their organs.

While literally “giving yourself” to others might seem commendable at first glance, let’s discuss three downstream considerations to abandoning the dead donor rule.

►People with physical and mental disabilities have expressed that they feel stigmatized and that society devalues their lives. Would this send them a not-so-subtle message to get out of the way and do something noble with their healthy organs?

►How quickly would we see expansion whereby those who can’t speak for themselves are included as donors?

►What does it mean for all of us when our healers — physicians — are in a position that directly overrides nearly 2,500 year-long prohibitions against taking life?

Consider the case of Ben Mattlin, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. In a 2012 column for the New York Times, he wrote of the “thin and porous border between coercion and free choice” for those who feel devalued. On the subtle erosion of his autonomy, he wrote: “You also can’t truly conceive of the many subtle forces (to die) — invariably well meaning, kindhearted, even gentle, yet as persuasive as a tsunami — that emerge when your physical autonomy is hopelessly compromised.”

Civil society is measured by how we treat our most vulnerable members. Euthanasia laws are structured to protect vulnerable populations, but what are the facts?

Murder by any other name

According to a 2015 article in the NEJM, of the 3,882 deaths due to physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia in Flanders, Belgium, in the year 2013 alone, 1,047 (27%) were due to medication dosages to hasten death without patients’ consent. Such patients are generally unconscious and may or may not have family members around.

In 2014, a statement on end-of-life decisions by the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine asserts that "shortening the dying process" should be permissible "with use of medication ... even in absence of discomfort.” When discussing these facts, two prominent physicians, one from the Netherlands and another from Harvard, told me that where they come from, they call that murder.

When physicians are participating in a procedure designed to take a person’s life, will patients feel 100% certain that their physician is firmly on the side of healing? What message does it send about the value of every human life when physicians endorse the exchange of one life for another? What affect has it already had on physicians complicit in such death-causing procedures?

In the 1973 science fiction classic "Soylent Green," detective Frank Thorn searches for answers to dying oceans and a deteriorating human race on overcrowded Earth. He discovers the high-protein green food produced by the Soylent Corporation is recycled, euthanized humans. “Soylent Green is people!” he screams.

"Soylent Green" was set in 2022. We are three years away.

E. Wesley Ely, holds The Grant W. Liddle Chair in Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and is the co-director of the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction, and Survivorship (CIBS) Center. He is also associate director of Aging Research for the Tennessee Valley Veteran’s Affairs Geriatric Research and Education Clinical Center.

Full Article & Source:
Death by organ donation: Euthanizing patients for their organs gains frightening traction