Saturday, September 28, 2019

Las Vegas police lieutenant acquitted in elderly exploitation trial

Tom Melton
By David Ferrara Las Vegas Review-Journal

A Las Vegas police lieutenant lowered his head and cried Thursday as a jury acquitted him of 13 felony counts.

As the panel of nine men and three women left the courtroom after a two week trial, James “Tom” Melton embraced his attorneys, Josh Tomsheck and Jean Schwartzer. Prosecutors had leveled elderly exploitation, theft and perjury charges against the 52-year-old veteran of the force.

“Since the first time we saw the evidence in the case, we were able to confirm what Tom has always said: that he was not guilty of the allegations against him,” Tomsheck said.

Jurors deliberated about four hours before finding Melton not guilty on all charges he faced.

Prosecutors had alleged that Melton, who started working for the department in 1994, deceived an elderly couple, Beverly Flaherty and her husband, Jerome Flaherty, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars between December 2010 and May 2017.

Prosecutors have said Melton hired April Parks, owner of A Private Professional Guardian LLC; her office manager, Mark Simmons; and attorney Noel Simpson.

This year, District Judge Tierra Jones, who oversaw Melton’s trial, ordered Parks to serve 16 to 40 years behind bars for stealing from elderly victims for whom she was supposed to care. Simmons and Parks’ husband, Gary Taylor, also were given prison time.

Melton, Parks and Simmons were accused of using Simpson’s services to file false and misleading legal papers with the court in order to obtain guardianship and name Melton as the successor trustee of Beverly Flaherty’s family trust.

Simpson has cooperated with prosecutors, pleading guilty in November to one count of elderly exploitation. She testified at Melton’s trial.

Tomsheck had argued Wednesday that Melton loved that Flahertys and cared for them.

“It’s an undisputed, uncontroverted fact that he loved the Flahertys,” the attorney said after the verdict. “At the end of their lives there was one person that cared about them, that’s willing to do what needed to be done to take care of them, and it was Mr. Melton … Our client is someone who has a big heart and follows directions. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, he was following the directions of people who would prey on the elderly.”

Melton, who most recently worked in the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homeland Security division, has been on unpaid suspension since July 2017, when authorities launched the investigation. As a result of the verdict, he is expected to be placed on paid administrative leave while the department conducts an internal administrative investigation, Metro officials said.

“He believed a jury would do the right thing,” Tomsheck said. “And I’m very happy that today they did.”

Full Article & Source:
Las Vegas police lieutenant acquitted in elderly exploitation trial

Carson City Looking For Alleged Elder Exploitation Suspect

The Carson City Sheriff’s Office is looking for a woman accused of pretending to be a nurse. The woman approached an elderly man July 30th and said she needed the man’s debit card and pin number or he would be moved to a care facility. The woman is believed to have accessed the victim’s bank account multiple times. She is believed to be in her 40’s, with dyed, blond hair and a tan complexion. She was dressed in black medical scrubs with white accent lines. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Carson City Sheriff’s Office.

Full Article & Source:
Carson City Looking For Alleged Elder Exploitation Suspect

Fighting Fraud: A Guide to Keeping Your Money Safe

OHIO— Scams targeting the elderly are on the rise, and it's not just strangers who try to take advantage of aging adults.

It's often those who are closest to seniors — neighbors, friends, and even family members are responsible.

An Ohio law is on the books, designed to reduce how often older Ohioans are defrauded and increase the financial penalties for those who exploit the elderly.

The bill increases financial penalties for theft from someone older than 65. It mandates someone convicted to pay full restitution, plus a fine of up to $50,000.

Even with increased awareness and efforts by lawmakers, more than 3,630 cases of elder exploitation were reported across Ohio in 2018, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Fraud against elder citizens are on the rise and the myriad way con artists use to gain access to your money continues to grow. Learn the signs of elder abuse and neglects, and make yourself aware of the many scams that prey on the elderly.

We've listed just a few of the most common ways that criminals try to seperate you from your money.  This list could literally go on for pages and pages.  Visit the common fraud page at the FBI for more details.

  • Advance Fee Schemes
An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.
  • Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Counterfeit prescription drugs are illegal, fake medicines that may be hazardous to your health.
  • Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property.

  • Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act.

  • Internet Fraud
Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them.
  • Reverse Mortgage Scams
Reverse mortgage scams are engineered by unscrupulous professionals in a multitude of real estate, financial services, and related companies to steal the equity from the property of unsuspecting senior citizens or to use these seniors to unwittingly aid the fraudsters in stealing equity from a flipped property.
  • Telemarketing Fraud
When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.


There are typically warning signs or red flags. Below are just a few.
  • Watch for unusual or unexplained bank account withdrawals, wire transfers, or other financial changes.
  • There may be missing cash, belongings, or valuables from an older adult's home.
  • The sudden or dramatic shift in investments can be a red flag.
  • Unexpected changes in wills, trusts, power of attorney, or beneficiaries should be questioned.
  • Older adults may exhibit concern or confusion about missing funds or credit card charges for items they typically don't purchase.
  • Money borrowed from family or friends that are not repaid.
  • Change in lifestyles or becoming more isolated from friends and family is another warning sign.


If you're a professional caregiver, and older adult, or are concerned that a family member is involved in a scam or financial fraud, help is available.

Suspected elder financial abuse may be reported to the Federal Trade Commission or 877-FTC-HELP and to the Senate Special Committee on Aging at 855-303-9470

Full Article & Source:
Fighting Fraud: A Guide to Keeping Your Money Safe

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: Harold Jackson and Michigan Probate Abuses

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

"Join us this evening as Harold Jackson reports on the involuntary guardianship of his mother in …you guessed it!! MICHIGAN. Mr. Jackson took his experience with the blatant corruption in the probate system and channeled that into not only exposing the corruption, but researching and documenting lawful remedies that can be used to hold the perpetrators accountable. Having done extensive, exhaustive legal research, he has come up with what looks to be a bonafide plan for recovery.
(Mr. Jackson is NOT an attorney and has never claimed to be one.)
Names such as Judge Ryan and John Munger show up repeatedly in Oakland probate court. These individuals work as a team along with other routine players, working under the guise of elder services and protections, they prey on members of the public for no other reason than self enrichment while abusing the not only the system meant to protect the elderly, but also the targeted victim.
John Munger has profited handsomely and of course there are no limits on how much he can charge the estate or how often.
He has billed my Mother TENS OF THOUSANDS for his “services” at $250/hour – while giving side contracts to people like James Cassidy who then charged MY MOTHER’s estate to clean up evidence of the damage caused by the negligent conservator. They removed EVERYTHING in the house. Judge Kathleen Ryan authorized this.”

LISTEN TO THE SHOW LIVE or listen to the archive later

Read the Hammond report

Las Cruces educator, civil rights figure Dorris Hamilton under court-ordered guardianship

Dorris T. Hamilton, retired educator and civil rights activist, listens to a blessing given before the 2017 Martin Luther King Day march in downtown Las Cruces. (Photo: Photo by Paul Ratje)

LAS CRUCES - Dorris Hamilton, 91, a longtime educator and the first African-American school principal in Las Cruces, has been placed in the custody of a private corporate guardian, removed from her home and is currently residing at an assisted living facility in Las Cruces, according to her son. 

On Sept. 17 and 19, Bobbi Green, president of the Doña Ana County branch of the NAACP, alerted her membership via email about a custody hearing over Hamilton, a lifetime NAACP member, last week.

The hearing was postponed. Court documents obtained Monday show a guardianship hearing scheduled for Oct. 16 in district court.

Rio Hamilton, her son, grew up in Las Cruces and now lives in New York City.

Hamilton told the Sun-News on Monday that he and his mother consulted with Las Cruces attorney CaraLyn Banks in July about acquiring a power of attorney so he could help her finalize her estate and provide for her care.

Instead of the power of attorney, Hamilton said he received court papers several days later indicating his mother required an emergency medical evaluation following an inspection of her home.

His mother was placed in the temporary custody of Advocate Services of Las Cruces, LLC, a private guardian company founded by Sandy Meyer in 2002.

Hamilton said his mother was taken first to Memorial Medical Center and then to a rehabilitation facility for senior citizens so her home could be cleared of mice and cleaned.

"I basically said that yes, of course they could start to do the cleanup," Hamilton said Monday. "I didn't know that this meant that they were going to have the power of attorney and guardianship over my mother and her bank account. I was thinking we were all working together and they were just going to report to me what they were finding and I could say yea or nay." 

Over the next few weeks, the guardian assumed control of Dorris Hamilton's finances, removed her car and changed the locks on the door of her home. Banks informed her son the house had been broken into twice last week.

"We have no will, we have no power of attorney, and my mother is trapped," he said. When he visited her at the Las Cruces facility last week, he said he was not permitted to take her for a walk outdoors.

He also visited Banks again, he said, this time with another attorney. At this meeting, he said it was clear to him Banks was going to petition the court, against his wishes, for Advocate Services to be appointed his mother's permanent guardian and conservator.

Hamilton said he demanded to see an invoice, which showed a total so far — paid from his mother's assets — of $3,500.

'She obviously needed help'

Banks said Hamilton met with her on his way out of town and that "it was clear that his mother needed to have someone appointed immediately to make sure that she was safe."

She said Rio Hamilton agreed to the appointment of a temporary guardian, with the possibility that he would be appointed her permanent guardian in the future.

"The only option, since his mother was unable to sign a power of attorney and she obviously needed help, was through guardianship," she said, adding that Rio Hamilton appeared to understand and agree to a temporary guardian. 

Banks said her own role was to represent the best interests of Dorris Hamilton, and that the law requires professional medical recommendations and reports by the court-appointed guardian to be filed prior to a hearing when a judge appoints a permanent guardian. 

As the petitioning attorney, Banks said her responsibility included "making sure that information is presented to the court, getting an order so all these folks can do their jobs, making sure contact information is exchanged so they can do the appropriate interviews." 

Banks said Advocate Services is one of three guardian services to whom she refers wards. She described Meyer's company as "one of the few that has the resources and the level of staffing where they can step in and get things done." 

Hamilton broke segregation barriers

Dorris Hamilton, who has lived in Las Cruces since 1961, was the principal of Lynn Middle School for 20 years. She retired from the Las Cruces Public Schools around 1996.

In addition to being the city's first African-American school principal, Hamilton broke a segregation barrier at the University of Arkansas when she enrolled as the school's first African-American female student. She later met civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. early in his activist career.

At the rehabilitation facility, Hamilton seemed "a little confused," Rio Hamilton said. She was categorized as "difficult," he said, because she physically struggled when she was removed from her house to be taken to the hospital.

"She seemed somewhat happy" at the facility, Hamilton said. "This is a woman who's been living alone for 40 years, so I think she's happy to have people around her on a day-to-day basis." 

While the care she received seemed satisfactory, he said, "she's bored out of her mind. ... She was just sitting in the middle of the commons space by herself staring off into space. It was the saddest thing I think I ever saw."

Hamilton also said he saw parallels between this case and a previous one involving Advocate Services that aroused controversy last year.

Advocate Services of Las Cruces

Meyer, owner of Advocate Services, said statute requires her firm, upon appointment, to undertake a "discovery mission" including personal interviews, reviewing medical records to assess their needs, and securing their financial assets.

"We don't change anything except to open a conservator account so we can pay their bills," Meyer said Monday.

Meyer claimed that attempts to reach Rio Hamilton by phone and email were unsuccessful for weeks, and that he did not contact the firm until after his mother was in the hospital.

Hamilton denied he had failed to respond to messages, saying he had retained email and phone records. 

"We try to be very collaborative with the families," Meyer said. "We don't want to interfere with family relationships. We don't want to keep anybody from visiting with family, communicating with family in any way, shape or form."

Past reports questioned guardian

A series of reports on New Mexico's guardianship system by the Albuquerque Journal in 2018 found that Advocate Services was not in compliance on statutorily required annual reports on the wellbeing and finances of adults under its care.

Meyer said Monday that the company is now current on reporting requirements.

"I know there are bad corporate guardians out there," Meyer said. "We are scrupulously honest, and here's why: I don't like jail. We account for every penny."

She said securing homes and vehicles is also part of her firm's legal responsibility as guardians.

The Journal also reported on an 85-year-old La Mesa resident, Kise Davis, who was placed into Advocate Services' custody in 2016 without a hearing or notice to her stepson, who lived out of state. Davis was moved to an assisted living facility and her home was put up for sale. 

Larry Davis struggled in court for 14 months before he was allowed to move his stepmother near him in California. 

Meyer said previous reports on the Kise Davis case omitted information she had provided and misrepresented comments she made.

Asked how often her firm's guardianship met with conflict among family members, she estimated, "40 percent of the time, unfortunately."

Advocate Services does not advertise, Meyers said: "We get called and invited in."

Yet Rio Hamilton said it was Banks who invited Advocate Services in.

"I never signed anything," Hamilton said. "I have no working agreement with CaraLyn Banks. She did all of this on her own without any signature from me."

Full Article & Source:
Las Cruces educator, civil rights figure Dorris Hamilton under court-ordered guardianship

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

“I think they’re hoping they’ll get off the hook if she dies,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert, who’s representing Grace Watanabe.


Grace Watanabe
Several executives of a Lincoln Park nursing home are refusing to share what they know about employees who allegedly bilked a 98-year-old resident out of more than $750,000 — so a Cook County judge on Friday imposed a fine of $400 a day until their lips loosen.

The fine was levied as part of a contempt order against executives of Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park who are refusing to sit down for a deposition in a civil lawsuit during which they’d be asked about the treatment of Grace Watanabe, who has advanced dementia.

As of Monday, the fines against the company totaled $1,200.

Neither a company spokesman, nor an attorney representing Symphony, commented on the court-imposed fines. 

“This appears to be yet another attempt to delay having to repay Ms. Watanabe the money that was stolen from her at their facility,” said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert.

Golbert took emergency custody of Watanabe and removed her from the nursing home in September of 2018 after bank officials alerted authorities to a series of irregular withdrawals.

Golbert said the company is stalling the civil suit as much as possible — waiting for Watanabe to die.

“It’s not clear how much longer she’ll be with us,” Golbert said. “And I think they’re hoping they’ll get off the hook if she dies because as long as she’s alive, they know 100 percent that I’ll be going after them aggressively.”

Should Watanabe, who has no living relatives, pass away before the conclusion of the civil suit against Symphony, the beneficiaries of her will — Misericordia and Mercy Home for Boys & Girls — could step in as complainants, Golbert said. 

“If that happens, those charities will have a decision to make,” Golbert said.

Symphony plans to appeal the contempt order and daily financial penalties to Illinois’s First District Appellate Court. 

Several of the Symphony employees accused of stealing from Watanabe chose to exercise their Fifth Amendment rights when asked about stealing from Watanabe during depositions in the civil case in recent months.

Watanabe’s money — largely stolen through forged checks and using Watanabe’s ATM card — was spent on jewelry, travel, ride-hailing services and fast food, according to Golbert. 

Hovering over the civil proceedings is the chance that criminal charges could be brought against the nursing home workers who allegedly stole Watanabe’s money.

A decision on criminal charges is expected in the next two weeks, according to Golbert, who recently learned of the timeline from a prosecutor in Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office.

Watanabe, who has no living relatives, is a Japanese American who was held in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during World War II. 

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

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

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

NJ Board of Nursing Temporarily Suspends Certification of Homemaker-Home Health Aide Charged with Reckless Manslaughter in Nursing Home Death

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For Immediate Release: For Further Information:
September 26, 2019
Office of The Attorney General
- Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
- Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director
Division of Law
- Michelle Miller, Director
Media Inquiries-
Lisa Coryell
Citizen Inquiries-

NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Nursing (“the Board”) temporarily suspended the certification of a homemaker-home health aide (“CHHA”) charged with recklessly causing the death of an 85-year-old woman in her care at an Essex County nursing home.

Monique Beaucejour, 46, of Bloomfield, was working as Certified Nursing Assistant (“CNA”) at Genesis Waterview Center in Cedar Grove last month when she allegedly left an elderly woman, who required total assistance with care, sitting on her bed. The woman suffered a fall with serious head injuries, but instead of immediately summoning medical assistance, Beaucejour allegedly placed the woman back in bed, and left her there. Beaucejour later returned to the room and summoned help for the woman, pretending to have just discovered her lying injured in bed, according to the accusations. The woman was transported to the hospital and died later that day.

Police charged Beaucejour with reckless manslaughter, obstructing the administration of law, suppressing evidence to hinder prosecution, and abandonment/neglect of an elderly person in connection.

“Elderly patients in nursing homes are dependent upon caregivers who are duty-bound to ensure their wellbeing. When a caregiver recklessly disregards that duty, the results can be tragic,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Protecting this vulnerable population is paramount.”

Beaucejour, who was not working under her CHHA certification when the incident occurred, agreed to the temporary suspension of her CHHA certification pending the outcome of the criminal charges against her and pending further action by the Board.

“Any time a certified homemaker-home health aide is arrested, either on or off the job, it raises serious concerns about their ability to provide quality care,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “But when the charges involve the death of an elderly patient, the risk of harm is extreme and public protection demands that the licensee be removed from practice until the matter is resolved. We are pleased the Board took that step.”

Beaucejour was fired from her job immediately after the alleged incident, which occurred on August 13. The Department of Health, which regulates nursing assistants employed in health care facilities, suspended Beaucejour’s CNA certification.

Under the Interim Consent Order with the Board, Beaucejour cannot practice, identify herself, or be employed as a CHHA. She also must surrender all copies of her CHHA certificates to the Board of Nursing.​​​

The suspension of Beaucejour’s CHHA certificate is temporary, pending the outcome of the charges against her. The Board of Nursing may take further disciplinary action after the disposition of the criminal charges. The surrender of her CHHA certificate is not considered an admission of liability.

The Board of Nursing is charged with regulating nursing and homemaker-home health aide services in the State of New Jersey, and making sure those who practice these professions are qualified and competent to do so.

Full Article & Source: 
NJ Board of Nursing Temporarily Suspends Certification of Homemaker-Home Health Aide Charged with Reckless Manslaughter in Nursing Home Death

Thursday, September 26, 2019

State moves to discipline Orange County probate conservator accused of improperly removing money

Sally Cicerone of Laguna Hills managed $27 million in client assets in 2017

Sally Cicerone faces an accusation by state regulators that could take away her license.  
 By Tony Saavedra

State regulators have accused an Orange County probate conservator with transferring tens of thousands of dollars without consent from the financial accounts of a former client who died.

An accusation filed this month by the state Professional Fiduciaries Bureau alleges Sally W. Cicerone of Laguna Hills repeatedly transferred money out of financial accounts for the Santa Barbara-based Brouhard Trust even though she no longer represented the client, and failed to notify the probate court.

The state bureau, represented by the California Attorney General’s Office, could suspend or revoke Cicerone’s license to work as a fiduciary if the charges are sustained. The bureau is not seeking criminal charges.

Cicerone, one of the most prolific conservators in Orange County, did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

According to the accusation, Cicerone had transferred more than $63,500 out of the client’s trust and placed it in her attorney’s trust account without proper consent. She also closed out the client’s checking account and transferred the $33,574 balance to her attorney’s trust account. When notified of errors and poor record-keeping, she charged thousands of dollars to correct it, the complaint said.

Cicerone and her attorney, who is not named in the accusation but identified as Jeffrey Vanderveen in a separate appellate ruling, also charged $3,425 in traveling fees to attend a court hearing on the improper transactions in Santa Barbara.

Cicerone works in a field that is unfamiliar to most people, the probate system. The court system, when operated correctly, protects the elderly or mentally disabled from being exploited by family or friends. However, the system can be abused by high-priced conservators, lawyers and other professionals who drain the estates and isolate the clients from their friends and families.

State records show Cicerone managed $26.7 million in client assets in 2017.

Duff Lamoreaux McGrath in 2016 outside county courthouse named
after his aunt, Betty Lou Lamoreaux, works to reform the probate system
 in California. (Courtesy of Duff McGrath)
State regulators aren’t the only ones with complaints. Among those unhappy with Cicerone is the family of late Orange County Superior Court Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, whose name adorns the county’s family law complex.

Among the family’s complaints: Cicerone waited four months to get a replacement for Lamoreaux’s broken wheelchair. And even then, the new chair didn’t fit and quickly broke. Cicerone billed $700 for her time.

Other documents show Cicerone billed $250 to visit Lamoreaux and take delivery of a new leather recliner in April 2017. But in a sworn declaration, Cicerone contractor Julie Sebestyen testified that it was she who visited Lamoreaux and monitored the chair delivery, not Cicerone.

Cicerone also had a system that allowed her to miss visits with Lamoreaux, but still charge for them, according to a court declaration by Sebestyen.

“Petitioner has already demonstrated that she inflates her time and thus fee requests, bills for services she has not performed, bills for services performed by others, intentionally and fraudulently falsified her time sheets … and neglected the conservatee,” Lamoreaux’s family alleged in a court declaration.

Cicerone and her attorney, Neil Knuppel, denied the allegations in the Lamoreaux case, calling them “false and misleading” in court documents and insisting they were made by disgruntled and spiteful former workers.

Similar probate problems are occurring throughout the nation, with some officials calling for massive reform of the system.

“It’s happening again and again. It’s like a plague on our senior citizens,” said Berkeley Vice Mayor Ben Bartlett in a previous interview.

“We need to turn the operation upside down. What you see is an incentive to work up attorney fees,” Bartlett said. “There is no incentive to preserve the liberty of the person. We need greater oversight with more opportunity to challenge.”

Full Article & Source: 
State moves to discipline Orange County probate conservator accused of improperly removing money

Execs of Chicago nursing home where patient was bilked fined

CHICAGO (AP) — A judge has imposed a $400-a-day fine on executives of a Chicago nursing home who haven’t shared what they know about the alleged theft of more than $750,000 from a 98-year-old resident suffering from dementia.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports executives of Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park have yet to submit to a deposition in a civil case involving the treatment of Grace Watanabe.

Neither a company spokesman, nor an attorney representing Symphony, commented on the fine, imposed Friday.

Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert says Symphony Residences executives appear to be stalling until Watanabe, who has no living relatives, dies.

The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court alleges employees of Symphony Residences cashed checks, made ATM withdrawals and transferred money from several Watanabe bank accounts for about a year.

Golbert took emergency custody of Watanabe and removed her from the nursing home in September 2018 after bank officials alerted authorities to the withdrawals.

Full Article & Source:
Execs of Chicago nursing home where patient was bilked fined

Wisconsin lawmakers introduce legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide

By: Brittany Lewis

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- State lawmakers have introduced legislation that gives terminally ill patients the option to have doctors help them end their lives.

"I think it is immoral to keep those people suffering the last days of their life," said State Senator Fred Risser, D - Madison.

Sen. Risser says the first time he introduced the legislation was in 1993 and he believes people's opinions on the topic have changed since then.

The End-of-Life Options Act (LRB 1624-1) would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with less than six months to live the ability to end life on their own terms.

The Executive Director for Wisconsin Right to Life says she has concerns there aren't safeguards in place for people who think this is the best alternative.

"It's not a doctor's job to take life, it's not a doctor's job to assist in the killing of someone at the end of life," says Heather Weininger, Executive Director for Wisconsin Right to Life. "What they should be doing is providing comfort care to those people. That's what they should be doing."

Sen. Risser says the bill is being circulated among lawmakers to see what kind of support it receives.

 Full Article & Source:
Wisconsin lawmakers introduce legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Executors of Leona Helmsley's Estate Awarded $100 Million in Fees

by Anna.Sulkin

In a recent New York surrogate court decision, according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the court awarded the executors of Leona Helmsley’s estate $100 million in fees, to be split equally. Additionally, the court awarded $6.25 million to her brother, Alvin Rosenthal’s, estate for his services as executor prior to his death.

Instructions in Will

Helmsley, a New York City hotel operator and real estate investor famously dubbed “the Queen of Mean,” passed away in 2007. She left an estate in excess of $5 billion, nominating her brother, her grandsons David Panzirer and Walter Panzirer, her attorney Sandor Frankel, and her longtime friend and business advisor John Codey as executors. In her will, Helmsley specifically stipulated that her executors are “entitled to receive reasonable compensation” for their services in lieu of following the statutory commissions scheme. Such language is standard practice, according to Kelsey A. Brock, an associate at The Blum Firm in Dallas, who says that “In general, the testator’s documents will allow for ‘reasonable compensation.’ This leaves the most room for flexibility, which is important since the testator will probably not know exactly who will end up serving in that role,” and in the case of Helmsley’s estate, how burdensome the task may be.

In June 2014, in accordance with Helmsley’s instructions, the remaining four executors asked the court to fix their final compensation at $100 million (plus the $6.25 million for Alvin’s estate). The New York State Attorney General’s office (AG) objected to the amount, arguing that it’s excessive and that the determination of compensation should consider only the reasonable amount spent multiplied by an appropriate hourly rate. Additionally, the AG urged the court to appoint a neutral expert to advise on the reasonable value of each executor’s services.

Multifactor Approach
In its decision, the court agreed with the executors’ position that a multifactor approach should be used, finding that “a single hourly rate [cannot] accurately reflect the many varied services executors perform and the inevitable risk they incur in performing them.” The court went on to point out the particular “magnitude and complexity” of Helmsley’s estate and the myriad difficulties the executors faced. It highlighted the fact that the executors were able to increase the value of the estate by approximately $400 million during a challenging economic environment brought on by the financial crisis. The court also took into consideration the fact that the executors decided to forgo insurance coverage, choosing to bear the brunt of financial risk, because they reasoned that the costs to the estate would have been “prohibitive.”

The court also didn’t take kindly to the AG’s call for an expert, reminding her that it’s “uniquely qualified to determine compensation to be paid from an estate or trust based upon a reasonableness standard.” It further noted that the process of using an expert would be time-consuming and costly for both the executors and the estate.

Lastly, the court pointed out that had Helmsley called for the statutory commissions scheme to be applied, as is often the norm, the appropriate compensation for an estate of this size would exceed $215 million, more than double the fees that Helmsley’s executors are seeking.

AG’s Involvement

In case you were wondering, the reason that the AG was able to object to the amount to be paid in fees is because its Charities Bureau is responsible for “supervising charitable organizations to protect donors and beneficiaries of those charities from unscrupulous practices in the solicitation and management of charitable assets.” This role includes the authority to challenge unreasonable or excessive fees associated with the administration of an estate that leaves a bequest to charity.

Full Article & Source:
Executors of Leona Helmsley's Estate Awarded $100 Million in Fees

2 former nursing home assistants accused of abusing 94-year-old woman, posting video online

CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio — Two former nursing home resident care assistants were indicted on patient abuse charges after authorities say they sprayed a 94-year-old woman in the face with hairspray at a Canal Winchester facility and posted a video of it to social media.

Franklin County Prosecutor said a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted both 28-year-old Roberta Bower and 22-year-old Makiah Chane’I Halsell on one count of patient abuse, a fourth-degree felony.

The women are accused of abusing the victim in an incident that took place on June 3, 2018, at the Inn at Winchester Trail.

According to the indictment, Bower sprayed hairspray in the victim’s face, getting it into her mouth and eyes, while presumably caring for her in her wheelchair.

The indictment then alleges that Halsell recorded the incident and posted the video to Snapchat, where both aides can be heard laughing throughout the video that lasted about 15 seconds.

The two women were immediately suspended and have been terminated from the facility.

Bower and Halsell are expected to be arraigned on Monday.

Full Article & Source:
2 former nursing home assistants accused of abusing 94-year-old woman, posting video online

Audit: Florida guardian had wards with no court supervision

by Mike Schneider

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida guardian accused of filing "do not resuscitate" orders without her clients' permission had authority over hundreds of wards without court supervision, according to an audit released Thursday.

The audit by the Orange County Comptroller's office said Rebecca Fierle billed $3.9 million to the AdventHealth medical system in the past decade for acting as a guardian for 682 incapacitated patients in legal and health care matters.

Less than a third of those clients were in Florida's guardianship system, while the rest weren't and had no court oversight. AdventHealth paid Fierle $2.8 million for clients under court supervision and another $1.1 million on behalf of those clients without court supervision, according to the audit, which refers to the unsupervised wards as "Group 2" patients.

Florida law prohibits a guardian from having business relationships with a ward without court approval or notification.

"It is clear how guardianship is established under Florida law," the audit said. "However, it is not entirely clear how Ms. Fierle obtained the authority to act and exercise discretion over the Group 2 patients."

Fierle had 450 guardianships when she resigned amid a criminal investigation this summer. Authorities began probing her work after the death of a 75-year-old man in a Tampa hospital whose doctors were barred from trying to save his life because Fierle had filed a "do not resuscitate" order. Investigators said that order went against his family's wishes.

The controversy prompted the resignation of Florida's director Office of Public and Private Guardians, Carol Berkowitz, at the request of Florida Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom this summer.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also called for a vigorous investigation into the state's guardianship program.

According to the audit, in one case, Fierle was paid almost $289 for paying bills and discussing with the ward about a storage unit whose contents were about to be auctioned off because a $299 bill wasn't paid. The storage unit bill was never paid to stop the auction, despite Fierle being paid, the audit said.

The audit identified other cases where Fierle double-billed AdventHealth or billed the health care system for cases that belonged to other guardians.

The audit also uncovered instances where "do not resuscitate" directives had been obtained for Fierle's wards not under court supervision. The audit recommended a review of those decisions.

Fierle's attorney, Harry Hackney, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Thursday.

AdventHealth spokesman Bryan Malenius said in an email that officials at the hospital system were "surprised and dismayed" by the audit findings that Fierle improperly billed them and withheld information from the court.

"We are committed to lending our voice to reforming the guardianship system because it is core to our mission to ensure those who need this kind of help are cared for and protected," Malenius said.

This story has corrected the spelling of AdventHealth. It is AdventHealth, not Advent Health.

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Audit: Florida guardian had wards with no court supervision

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

U.S. Government Report Shows Hospice Abuse. Sacrificing Patient Care for Profit.

By Mark Hodges.

Groups opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide have been advocates of good hospice care. Stories about hospice abuse have created great concerns as we recognize that good care will reduce the demand for assisted dying while hospice abusive feeds the demand to legalize assisted suicide. Promoters of assisted suicide will often compare hospice care to assisted suicide and refer to hospice abuse to advocate for "more options" at the end of life.

The Trump Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General has released two scathing reports concerning the Hospice end-of-life-care industry, with the hope of cleaning up hospice abuse. These reports include stories of maggots in stomach feeding tubes; failing to clean wounds which ultimately became gangrened requiring leg amputations; ignoring pelvic injuries from sexual assault and giving wrong treatment that put patients in the hospital.

The reports specify “significant vulnerabilities” and “deficiencies” which put patients at risk and “jeopardize safety.” Patients were seriously harmed when hospices showed gross negligence or failed to report patient abuse.

Eighty-seven percent of hospices had at least one deficiency. One-third of hospices had complaints filed against them. Over 300 hospices (18%) had at least one “serious” deficiency or at least one “substantiated severe complaint” in 2016 alone. Most of those had a history of deficiencies or substantiated complaints.

Medicare, which pays for almost all hospice treatment, looks to state agencies and accrediting organizations to make sure hospices maintain quality of care for patients. Inspectors review clinical records, visit patients, investigate complaints, and report any deficiencies discovered.

The new government report includes both state and accrediting agencies’ findings. Nearly all hospices were surveyed.

Deficiencies included mismanagement, lack of quality control, improper vetting of staff, inadequate assessments, and poor care planning. As a result, patients suffered.

Horror stories abound. One woman was repeatedly abused by her caregiver/daughter, who literally chained her to her bed, and would “leave her mother in a wheelchair in the bathroom with the lights off and would spray her with water when she called out for help,” according to the government report. Hospice was told of the abuse, but did nothing --not even visit the patient for several weeks.

Another patient had an abusive neighbor, who frequently burst into his apartment “naked, high, and drunk” stealing the patient’s prescriptions. Hospice knew this was going on, yet did nothing to protect the patient, the government reported.

“These hospices did not face serious consequences,” the report says, because Medicare “cannot impose penalties, other than termination, to hold hospices accountable for harming beneficiaries.” Medicare’s only enforcement power is to take the offending hospice out of the Medicare program. It cannot levy fines, or issue sanctions, or close a facility.

One of the report’s recommendations is for Congress to give Medicare “enforcement tools” and “statutory effectively protect beneficiaries from harm.”

Medicare began dispersing tax dollars for hospice in 1982. As medicine advanced, hospice promised tax savings, with terminal patients cared for at home rather than in hospitals under ever-more-expensive and almost-always-futile medical procedures.

“At the first meetings of our national hospice organization, we were nearly all women, mostly volunteers working on making our communities better,’’ Dr. Joanne Lynn told the Washington Post.

As soon as government money for hospice was unleashed, for-profit companies began invading the industry. For-profit hospices have exploded twice as fast as non-profits.

The industry has quadrupled since 2000. That year, 70 percent of hospices were run by nonprofit organizations or government agencies; by 2012, the percentages were nearly reversed.

Today, hospice cares for more than 1.5 million patients.

“Once Medicare started paying for hospice, it was more men in suits, and the focus shifted to administration and sustainable financing,” Dr. Lynn lamented.

In other words, Big Business horned in, and with it came bottom-line-only concern and its inevitable corruption.

A Washington Post analysis found per-patient profit rose from $353 in 2002 to $1,975 in 2012. A Huffington Post investigation found for-profit hospices charged Medicare nearly 30 percent more per patient than nonprofits.

Medicare doled out $18 billion to hospices in 2017. A company’s profit is capped, on average, at $25,000 a patient.

With that kind of money at stake, sales became a top priority. Hospice salesmen, dubbed “Outreach Specialists,” aggressively sought customers from doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and Meals on Wheels groups. “Community Education Representatives” went to “health fairs” at senior centers with blood pressure testers and pitched families caring for an elderly loved one.

Whistleblowers from leading hospices testified that recruiters were told to stress the urgency of committing to hospice. Bonuses were given to reps who met new patient goals.

It gets worse. Ben Hallman’s 2014 exposé, “How Dying Became A Multibillion-Dollar Industry,” found for-profit hospices pressured staff to illegally enroll unqualified patients, and falsified health records to get more tax dollars. Hospices also illegally-obtained hospital records, submitted insufficient documentation and did not adequately train caregivers.

Hospices even admitted patients who were not dying. The whole idea of hospice is to comfort the terminally ill --rules are two doctors have to certify the patient has only six months to live.

But healthier patients require fewer visits and stay longer, making for-profit companies more money.

“A longer length of stay is going to be more lucrative,” one hospice marketer explained. “If they come in very sick and die right away, it’s difficult to run a business that way.”

Medicare pays by the day, not the visit. Hospice companies can charge the government nearly $200 a day per patient ($6000 a month) for the first 60 days, then about $150 a day --regardless of how much care the patient needs, or how often hospice visits.

“They’re paying for a day of hospice with no accountability for what was done on that day,’’ Icahn School of Medicine Professor Melissa D. Aldridge said, “with a payment mechanism that is completely opaque as to what is being done.’’

Not surprisingly, average length of stay at for-profits is far longer than at non-profits (105 days/69 days).

The number of patients who didn’t die in California hospices jumped 50 percent from 2002 to 2012. At one Mobile AL hospice, 78 percent of “terminal” patients left alive.

A 2014 study found one woman who refused to take her cancer medicine, yet she kept getting better. After a year of hospice, she was finally tested. It turns out she never had cancer.

Multiple allegations from former employees charge hospices with enrolling patients who weren’t terminal --wasting well over $1 billion in tax dollars. Lawsuits also allege that patients received expensive care they didn’t need. The Trump Justice Department has joined several of those lawsuits.

According to the rules as they are now, hospices help determine whether a patient is terminal. At the start, two doctors certify a patient’s diagnosis. But re-approvals are routinely done by hospice physicians.

And corruption is made easy by Medicare’s acceptance of overly vague diagnoses, such as “debility” and “failure to thrive.” Next year, Medicare will prohibit such generalization in primary diagnoses.

“It is important that an initial step toward payment reform be taken as soon as possible,” industry watchdog MedPAC understated to Congress.

Hallman’s six month investigation also revealed over a thousand hospices hadn’t been inspected for more than seven years. The legal minimum was six years, until Congress under the Trump administration increased inspections to every three years.

Additional problems include “rogue” and false front hospices stealing tax dollars. Over billing, patient referral kickbacks, unneeded treatment, charging for therapies never administered, underqualified (lower paid) staff, and other methods of theft plague the industry.

From 2006 to 2014, the U.S. government charged that nearly every major for-profit hospice company committed billing fraud.

And there are even more serious charges.

Deaths from lethal doses of morphine and sedatives while under hospice care were brought to light by Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post. Patients who were not dying when they started hospice, died from excessive doses of painkillers.

In 2009, the New York Times ran a story about “terminal sedation.” The article explained that a strong sedative, typically lorazepam, and a strong pain killer, typically morphine, are administered by an IV drip until heart rate and breathing are slowed until the patient can no longer eat or drink.

Patient overdosing “can intentionally hasten death,” the NYT article stated. A national survey found 83 percent of doctors said this is ethically permissible.

It is not known how often slow murder under the guise of palliative care is perpetrated. No data is collected about such lethal abuses.

Sandra writes, about the death of her father:
“I am absolutely certain that my father died because of the medication he was administered by hospice ...particularly the various forms of morphine he was given... These opioids caused the respiratory failure he went into as soon as hospice administered them to him. He was eligible for hospice with the diagnosis, ‘Failure To Thrive’ and ‘Debility’ after breaking his hip... He was just as alert (after the hip injury) as he had always been until hospice ‘snowed’ him... I didn’t hire hospice to push along my father’s demise.”
The new government report concluded with recommendations to begin righting the hospice industry. The Trump Inspector General urges 
  • tighter, more extensive oversight of hospices, 
  • changing laws to allow Medicare to enforce violations, and 
  • public posting of reports finding deficiencies and violations on Medicare’s website, “Hospice Compare.”  
President Trump’s 2020 budget includes a proposal to allow disclosure of survey reports from accrediting organizations.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition believes good hospice care eliminates the falsely-perceived “need” for “mercy killing” (an oxymoron). “The principles and practice of good palliative hospice care already developed and utilized, makes it abundantly clear that there is no need to die in pain, loneliness and anxiety.”

We believe in caring, not killing

But we are deeply concerned about the abuses and fraud that the U.S. government’s new report reveals. “Hospice abuse leads to a greater demand for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide,” EPC Executive Director Alex Schadenberg explained.

We applaud the Trump administration’s Inspector General for a thorough investigation, support its recommendations as a start, and urge the strictest compliance to ethical standards throughout the hospice industry.

The only way to effectively "save hospice" from abuse is to return it to its roots, as expressed by Cicily Saunders. Good caring people who care for the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of a person as they approach a natural death.

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U.S. Government Report Shows Hospice Abuse. Sacrificing Patient Care for Profit.

Judge Rules Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Under Father Jamie Spears Should Continue

Britney Spears‘ conservatorship under her father, Jamie Spears, appears set to continue unabated after new courthouse developments from this past week begin to come to light on Sunday morning.

Per media reports, Jamie has “withstood a fierce challenge” by ex-wife Lynne Spears, Brit’s mother, in the contentious conservatorship battle over the pop star’s affairs. According to TMZ, a judge sided with Jamie and ordered the dad ought to remain in his role as Brit’s conservator.

Sources with knowledge of what went down this past week say that Lynne made a hard push to oust Jamie as conservator, but the judge summarily rejected her claims, opting to side with the ex-husband and order that he “should” remain in the controlling seat. Lynne, of course, has long been saying her ex is doing a bad job at the helm, ever since the Free Britney movement really launched early last year.

But for Jamie, this means business as usual (no pun intended) in managing Britney’s business affairs, which he will apparently continue to do now after the court decree. As you no doubt remember from our earlier reporting, Jamie has however backed away from the other part of the conservatorship — managing Britney’s medical needs — and a case manager the father hired named Jodi Montgomery will continue to do that until January, when the plan is for the pop star’s dad to re-up in that realm, as well.

But That’s Not All…

There are some other problems here, too, though.

For one, TMZ reports that Britney and Jamie haven’t spoken to each other in more than a month. Yes, part of it is over the incident between Jamie and his grandsonSean, but several sources are now saying the father and daughter actually weren’t speaking even before that. Tough to manage affairs together if you can’t manage a relationship!

Britney Spears and her children at Disneyland. / (c) Britney Spears/Instagram
Beyond that, several insiders are keen to note that Britney isn’t doing very well right now, to boot. She’s struggling with the drama surrounding her dad, not only in court here, but also regarding everything that’s been going down between him and her son, Sean.

One source speaking to the outlet summed everything up succinctly and sadly, saying, “she goes through cycles, and hopefully we’re at the bottom now.” Ugh… not good.

Obviously, there’s a lot going on in this family drama and quite a lot at stake — much more than money and assets — so we can only hope that everyone involved continues to do right by Britney and truly do what’s best for her health and mental outlook, conservatorship or not.

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Judge Rules Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Under Father Jamie Spears Should Continue

No penalty for staffer who stole from cognitively impaired resident in Sauk Rapids

by Nora G. Hertel

SAUK RAPIDS — No arrests were made or charges filed after a pool staffer at a Sauk Rapids nursing home attempted to steal $1,420 and financially exploited a vulnerable adult. 

A contracted employee at Good Shepherd Lutheran Home in Sauk Rapids took and used checks from a resident's checkbook last year, according to a Minnesota Department of Health report that concluded in March. 

The Sauk Rapids Police Department followed up in April and hit a brick wall: the victim had died, the nursing home had destroyed his records, the bank had closed and the victim didn't have family members to contact, according to the police incident report.

The Benton County Attorney's office did not receive anything about the suspect and didn't file any charges, according to Assistant County Attorney Bob Anderson. 

Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise called it a "perfect storm" for the suspect. One of the checks was used in Missouri, placing it in a different jurisdiction, plus the victim wasn't available and no one actually saw the suspect take the checks, he said.

Kristine Sundberg, Executive Director of Elder Voice Family Advocates, called the situation a travesty. 

"The reason we do investigations is to result in accountability," said Sundberg. "In this case no one was held accountable, first and foremost the person who stole from this man."

he alleged perpetrator was named in the police report but not in the Office of Health Facility Complaints Investigative Public Report, which found her responsible for maltreatment at Good Shepherd. 

She worked for a contractor at the facility, according to the state report. "The director of nursing said the (alleged perpetrator) worked two shifts at the facility in June 2018, and was asked not to return due to an unrelated incident."

Why no charges? Why no bank documents?

A bank flagged the resident's account and alerted Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of potential fraudulent activity, according to the Department of Health report. One check went to Papa John's, one to a Missouri Walmart and another to the alleged perpetrator. A fourth check from a different account had the victim's routing and account numbers written in. That check was also written out to the suspect.

"At that time, the resident was moderately cognitively impaired and required the assistance from others for decision making," stated the Department of Health report.

The resident died prior to the maltreatment investigation, according to the state report. The investigator tried to contact the alleged perpetrator and sent a subpoena, with no response.  

The Sauk Rapids Police Department started to investigate the incident in August 2018 and followed up in April, after the Department of Health report concluded.

In April an investigator called Good Shepherd to see if the bank documents existed for possible criminal charges, according to the incident report. The documents had been destroyed. 

"At this time I have no further follow-up that can be completed as I have no victims to obtain information from and I'm unable to locate any of the bank documents," Investigator Sean Gales wrote in the report. 

When asked whether it was standard practice to destroy a resident's documents after death, Good Shepherd's Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jodi Speicher wrote in an email to the St. Cloud Times: "We have a record retention policy and we follow all state and federal requirements."

The nursing home takes all complaints seriously, Speicher said by phone Wednesday. The facility reported the situation with the pool staffer to the state and the police as soon as it arose, per policy.

The Department of Health placed responsibility for maltreatment on the staffer. Good Shepherd Lutheran Home told the state of plans to educate staff to "routinely monitor resident rooms and encourage them to use the locked drawer."

"The facility recognizes that a contracted employee participated in conduct that is inconsistent with professional and ethical behavior," according to the report. "It is difficult in today's society for a facility to predetermine a staff member's ethical standards and behaviors."

Why are the elderly targeted? 

Beise has seen a lot of older people fall victim to theft and scams, he said. And scams are nearly impossible to investigate. 

"Crooks who do fraudulent things like to target the elderly," Beise said. Older people don't check their accounts as often and might assume people are being nice, rather than trying to exploit them.

A lot of residents in facilities across the state have memory or cognitive issues that make them easy to exploit, Sundberg said. 

Staff and others stole nearly $117,000 from residents of assisted living facilities and housing with services establishments from mid-2013 to mid-2018, according to an analysis of state records by a founding member of Elder Voice Eilon Caspi. That's not including nursing homes. 

"I think we've just scratched the surface," Sundberg said. 

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No penalty for staffer who stole from cognitively impaired resident in Sauk Rapids