Saturday, October 26, 2019

Fake worker accused of raping 77-year-old woman 10 months ago

By Miya Shay

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Authorities have made an arrest 10 months after they say a 77-year-old woman was brutally raped in a southwest Houston senior living facility.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office has been looking for the suspect seen on video from inside a living facility in the 13800 block of Canyon Hill Drive in the Beechnut area. Investigators say it shows the rapist enter the facility on Oct. 1, 2018 around 8 p.m.

"She absolutely no longer feels secure in her own home," says Jaling Bonnem, the victim's daughter, in an exclusive interview with ABC13. "She thinks everybody who comes knocking on her door is going to harm or hurt her."

"We think of grandparents, especially grandmothers as being sacred beings," said Harris County Sheriff's Investigator Cynthia Routh. "These are very special people in our lives, and to know that a grandmother was violated in this way, it just disgusted me."

Routh was able to pinpoint the surveillance video that captured the suspect, and then spent months gathering enough evidence to get charges filed.

Authorities say the man in the video is 29-year-old Bryan Arellano Monasterio. Monasterio was arrested Wednesday. He has been charged with two counts of aggravated sex assault of the elderly and one count of aggravated robbery of a person over 65.

The Harris County District Attorney's Elderly Abuse Section is prosecuting the case.

According to authorities, the attacker broke into a secure area where he pretended to be a maintenance man. He covered the victim's peep hole before making his way inside her apartment. Deputies say he then dragged the woman to the bedroom, raped her, stole $160, and threatened to kill her before leaving.

An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers helped identify Monasterio, whose DNA was later matched to the case.

According to Assistant District Attorney Mary McFaden, who is the chief of the Elderly Abuse Section, Monsaterio told the victim "he raped her because he had never had sex with an Asian woman."

"He violated her safety zone. He violated her home. He violated her. On so many levels, this is such an egregious assault," McFaden said.

Monasterio was indicted on two counts of aggravated sexual assault of an elderly person and one count of aggravated robbery of an elderly person. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

On Wednesday afternoon, Monasterio appeared before a judge.

"I just want him to realize that what he did was wrong," said Bonnem. "That he is not human for what he did. He's somebody's son. He hurt someone's mother, and he shouldn't have."

Given the heinous nature of the crime, Bonnem said her family is grateful that the case was not lost with prosecutors and investigators.

"They made us feel like they are not just going to blow us off, just another crime in Houston," said Bonnem. "They really made us feel they tried everything they can."

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Fake worker accused of raping 77-year-old woman 10 months ago

Caregiver charged with exploitation of elderly, disabled woman

A woman who was hired to assist a blind elderly woman allegedly exploited her instead.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies arrested 68-year-old Sandi Granat on charges of exploitation of a disabled adult on Friday.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office opened an investigation in August 2018 regarding a complaint from a woman who alleged her aunt's longtime bookkeeper/caregiver was stealing money from her aunt's accounts, according to an arrest report.

According to the report, Granat was a paid bookkeeper and caregiver for 98-year-old Adele Altman for 10 years. Altman is legally blind and required assistance with daily activities and so her family hired Granat to help with certain responsibilities two times a week and she was compensated on a weekly basis.

In 2017, the family noticed discrepancies in Altman's bank accounts, which were eventually traced back to Granat and prompted the family to fire her, according to the report. Altman also told investigators she wanted to press charges.

Investigators say Granat denied the exploitation charges during an interview and said that she had obtained permission from Altman and even had a signed letter from her saying she would give Granat money to help with financial problems she was facing because Granat was "family." During the interview, Granat insisted that Altman suffered from dementia and had trouble remembering things and would ask the same thing six or seven times, which was probably why Altman didn't recall the agreement or signing the letter saying that she would give Granat money.

During further investigation of the case, investigators did not find sufficient evidence to support Granat's claims of Altman suffering from dementia or memory loss, according to the arrest report.
Following the investigation and the contradiction of evidence and Granat's claims, investigators say there is probable cause to arrest Granat and charged her with exploitation of an elderly or disabled person.

Granat bonded out of jail on Saturday.

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Caregiver charged with exploitation of elderly, disabled woman

CMS will crack down on nursing home inspectors

The CMS announced Thursday that it would bolster the system it uses to hold nursing home inspectors accountable.

The agency said in a statement that it will carry out a number of changes to the State Performance Standards System (SPSS) to address concerns about infrequent and ill-timed nursing home inspections. The SPSS will update how it evaluates the performance of state survey agencies who actually inspect nursing homes, as well as update the SPSS assessment tools.

The changes are aimed to ensure that inspections are done correctly and on time, the agency said. They will also ensure that enforcement actions, including civil monetary penalties, are consistently applied.

"By holding inspectors accountable for conducting timely and consistent inspections, we're holding nursing homes accountable for providing safe, high-quality care—helping ensure safe nursing home environments," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.

Survey agencies will experience increased monitoring thanks to new metrics to make sure that states inspect nursing homes on time. The CMS will also review new state performance indicators each quarter to expose problems with nursing home inspections. Those reviews used to occur at the end of the fiscal year to evaluate how well states were inspecting nursing homes.

The agency will step up how it holds survey agencies accountable for their handling of "immediate jeopardy" situations, which are health and safety situations presenting a pressing danger.

The changes are one step in the agency's work to improve nursing home inspections. In the future, states may be allowed to determine how to address problems on their own and create specific plans to help the federal government identify low-performing survey agencies. The CMS also plans to increase states' access to centralized data so survey agencies can figure out how to meet federal mandates.

The Trump administration this month announced that it would make it easier for consumers to learn about nursing homes that have violated rules on abuse, neglect or exploitation through improvements to its Nursing Home Compare website. The website makes available detailed information about Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the U.S.

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CMS will crack down on nursing home inspectors

Friday, October 25, 2019

Gretchen Rachel Hammond Guests on Northwest Liberty News with host James White

The ongoing exposure of the criminal CPS and Family Court system is overshadowing an equally heinous cycle of abuse on the elderly. Award-winning investigative journalist, Gretchen Hammond joins me to dive deep into the abuse in one Michigan county.
Award-Winning Investigative Journalist, Gretchen Hammond Joins Me Live to Discuss Elder Abuse

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Senate bill proposes national database access for nursing home employees' background checks

Photo: MGN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The federal government wants all states to use a national database to conduct background checks on potential nursing home employees.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow it.

The legislation would give all nursing home providers access to a federal database that would make background checks cheaper and more comprehensive.

Right now, hospitals, medical boards and law firms are allowed to use the database, but long-term care facilities are not.

Gillibrand says that if nursing homes could use it, they could re-allocate some resources to provide better care.

She said she was inspired to introduce the legislation after seeing some of News10MBC's reporting and other stories from around the state on the care and conditions inside some nursing homes.

"In recent months, I have been horrified by the numerous reports of neglect and abuse of older adults and long-term care patients, reports of medical providers ignoring residents’ concerns and needs, leaving them in unsanitary conditions and even sexually abusing them are despicable," Gillibrand said.

The state does have rules and regulations about checking the backgrounds of employees, but most nursing homes hire private companies to use the FBI system, which doesn't track malpractice or disciplinary actions like this data does.

The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate but still needs a sponsor in the house.

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Senate bill proposes national database access for nursing home employees' background checks

KC man pleads guilty to nationwide romance scheme, bilking victims out of nearly $900,000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man has pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a nationwide romance scheme and defrauding victims of nearly $900,000.

Ronayerin K. Ogolor, 50, is a naturalized citizen originally from Nigeria.

He pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

He was nabbed by federal agents in October 2018 at Kansas City International Airport before he boarded a plane to Frankfurt, Germany.

According to the affidavit, Ogolor was part of a conspiracy targeting people looking for companionship or romance since 2013.

Court documents say Ogolor used websites such as Facebook,, or to target 13 victims, some who were elderly.

“Conspirators directed the victims to wire transfer or deposit money into various bank accounts, including accounts established and maintained by Ogolor,” the affidavit said.

The affidavit added that once the victims would transfer money into the account, the scammers would say more money was needed.

One victim, a widow in Indiana, sent Ogolor $450,000 because she believed Ogolor was a widower working on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. Another victim, this on in Texas, sent him at least $300,000. That victim believed Ogolor was a widower and U.S. Army general deployed in Afghanistan.

Ogolor faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. In addition, he will have to pay back the $878,489 that he stole from the victims.

Full Article & Source:
KC man pleads guilty to nationwide romance scheme, bilking victims out of nearly $900,000

Thursday, October 24, 2019


INTERVIEW ATTY LISA BELANGER & MARIA ZULLO 10212019 by catchoftheday videonews


Wichita lawyer who stole more than $960,000 from elderly client sentenced

Christine Cate (left) and her daughter, Karen Rader, talk about the sentencing of disbarred lawyer Larry Toomey. Toomey stole more than $960,000 from their elderly family member. By Michael Stavola 

Larry Toomey, a disbarred Wichita attorney who stole more than $960,000 from an elderly client with dementia and spent the money on gambling, a Porsche and a Jaguar, asked a judge Friday during his sentencing if he could continue to visit his former client.

Toomey visited the 104-year-old victim in her nursing home last week, according to court-appointed guardian Becca Hess.

Hess and two of the victim’s family members spoke during Toomey’s sentencing hearing Friday in front of Sedgwick County District Court Judge Eric Williams.

Toomey had already entered into a plea agreement that presumed probation at the sentencing as well as Toomey losing his law license and undergoing an evaluation for a “gambling addiction” — among other things.

Read more here:

Hess asked Williams that Toomey not be allowed to visit the victim.

“Her dementia is to the point where she doesn’t even recognize her own family. So why would she recognize him,” Hess said.

Then, Toomey, who is in his 70s, had a chance to speak.

“The only thing I would do is ask the court accept my apologies on behalf of anyone that’s been harmed,” Toomey said. “I’ve known the (victim and her deceased husband) for over 25 years and they are certainly more than clients. And the extent that it is appropriate, I’d like to continue to see (the victim) since I am the only one on the outside that she recognizes.”

Williams denied Toomey’s request. He added to the list of caveats in Toomey’s sentencing of 24 months of probation with an underlying prison sentence of 26 months. The prison sentence would only happen if Toomey violated his probation.

An arrest affidavit, obtained by The Eagle in an open records request, outlined Toomey’s theft from the victim:

In 1993, Toomey helped draft a trust for the victim. She was in charge of the trust and her husband was the successor.

The trust had been amended five times: one amendment made Toomey the successor of managing the trust after the victim’s husband died and then another in 2012 put Toomey in charge of the trust.

The final amendment came a few days after the change that put Toomey in charge. This one made Toomey a beneficiary for 25 percent of the trust. Three members of the victim’s family also would receive 25 percent each.

Only one of the three family members was alive at the time of the investigation and she was unaware of being a beneficiary. The plea agreement stated Toomey’s claim to the trust represented “at least” $330,000 and at least $660,000 if he outlived the other beneficiary.

Family members said the victim had already been battling dementia for a few years by the 2012 amendments. The victim has been in a nursing home since at least 2011.

Toomey told investigators that a 2012 gift memo allowed him to spend up to $550,000 out of the account. Defense attorney Steven Mank argued that’s why Toomey didn’t take anything he wasn’t entitled to take.

“There was a gift memo that was in dispute here,” Mank told Judge Williams. “An independent attorney met with (the victim) before that gift memo was drafted.”

An FBI accountant observed that transactions of $773,323 from the trust between October 2011 to December 2014 “don’t appear to be for the benefit of (the victim)” as required of a trustee to do under state law.

Those transactions included $395,826 for gambling, $104,357 to local car dealers for a Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar and rent for a family member.

The court document also noted that Toomey deposited $127,952 back into the victim’s bank account shortly after being interviewed by an FBI agent. The document stated Toomey took $961,897, in all, from the victim between 2011 and 2018.

Williams’ ruling included that Toomey and his family member have no future claim to the trust and waived any fees said to be owed to Toomey. During the case, the state argued Toomey’s fees were well beyond the scope of what was reasonable for his service.

Toomey has already been disbarred and underwent an evaluation for his gambling, according to his attorney. Mank said the evaluation found that Toomey would need counseling.

“You practiced law long enough to understand your fiduciary duty that you owe to your clients,” Judge Williams said. “It’s clear to this court from the records before us, hearing the statements of counsel, the statements on behalf of the victim herself, that your actions were for your benefits and not the interest of your client, contrary to your fiduciary relationship.”

A niece and sister-in-law who drove up from Texas said they were happy with the ruling.

“I was anxious today but I am so glad we gave her a voice,” Karen Rader, the victim’s niece, told Sedgwick County Chief Attorney Robert Short after the sentencing.
Rader said her aunt lived with her husband in the same house for 60 years. They both retired from Beechcraft and had no children, she said.

Her aunt lived “very frugally,” Rader said. “But very giving.”

Rader said they’ve talked with legal counsel about filing a civil lawsuit against Toomey. She said they would still need to talk about it as a family before moving forward.

Short would not discuss the case, but said that elder abuse is a growing problem.

“We have seen a steady increase year by year in elder abuse cases referred to the office,” Short wrote to The Eagle in an email. “Most of the abuse is in the financial arena and involves suspects who are close to the victims, such as family members and caregivers who have gained access to the elder person’s personal financial information.”

Read more here:

Full Article & Source:
Wichita lawyer who stole more than $960,000 from elderly client sentenced

University of Texas Health leads effort to investigate financial exploitation of seniors

An elder abuse team at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston is partnering with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, district attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and forensic accounting professionals to make it easier to identify and prosecute individuals who prey on senior citizens to exploit them financially.

The UTHealth Texas Elder Abuse and Mistreatment Institute is the academic coordinator leading the effort to enhance Texas Adult Protective Services’ (APS) financial exploitation investigations and client services. Other partners in the project include the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Harris County Senior Justice Assessment Center, and forensic accountants from Eide Bailly LLP.

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, older Americans are vulnerable to financial exploitation in part due to the trend toward defined contribution retirement savings plans. Defined contribution plans, such as a 401(k) or IRA, place more responsibility on elders to manage their money at a time when the health and cognitive effects of aging may affect their ability to do so. “Senior financial exploitation is a national epidemic with heavy consequences for seniors including financial ruin, loss of financial independence, reduced quality of life, and increased risk for mortality,” said Jason Burnett, Ph.D., co-director of the TEAM Institute and a member of the UTHealth Consortium on Aging. “There is a need for more robust and coordinated responses by social services, forensic accounting, law enforcement agencies, and the courts to protect Texas seniors.”

The three-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living will allow the TEAM Institute and collaborators to enhance APS’ training curriculum for caseworkers to investigate claims of financial exploitation and provide statewide access to forensic accountants to assist with investigations—an unprecedented service in Texas, according to Burnett.

The enhanced training curriculum, along with access to forensic accountant professionals and a new protocol for reporting senior financial exploitation to law enforcement and the courts, will be implemented statewide after the three-year trial.

“Investigating financial exploitation is extremely complex and often requires specialized skills to build strong cases and robust responses. Through these agency collaborations, we expect to be able to build stronger cases leading to better protection of Texas seniors,” Burnett said. “This is an exciting study because it will have a statewide impact for all Texas seniors who become victims of financial exploitation whose cases are reported to APS.”

Full Article & Source:
University of Texas Health leads effort to investigate financial exploitation of seniors

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tampa Bay area hospitals seeking to strip away patients' rights, I-Team investigation finds

By: Adam Walser

TAMPA, Fla. — Hospitals across the Florida are paying lawyers to go to court to take away patients’ rights, a three-month I-Team investigation uncovered.

I-Team Investigator Adam Walser found hospitals in Orlando, Miami, West Palm Beach, Naples and other Florida cities paying private attorneys to file hundreds of court petitions to put patients into guardianship.

An I-Team review of state court records found:
  • Tampa Bay area hospitals, including those owned by Baycare, AdventHealth and HCA, went to court to put more than 100 patients into guardianship since 2017 alone.
  • Tampa General Hospital filed five nearly identical court documents seeking guardianship for patients, describing each as having “disorganized thinking and poor cognition.” A hospital spokeswoman said TGH spent $28,000 on guardianship cases so far in just 2019.
  • An attorney for Florida Hospital Altamonte requested guardianship for a patient because her “Kia Soul that was almost paid off… may be repossessed.”
Tampa guardianship attorney Gerald Hemness questioned hospitals’ widespread use of guardianship.

“Certainly, missing a payment on a car doesn’t seem like it would be a financial emergency,” said Hemness.

Guardianship is supposed to protect people who have been declared incapacitated and are considered in immediate danger – something that doesn’t often fit the bill for people in the hospital, according to Hemness.

“How – if they’re in a hospital – is their physical well-being at imminent risk? They’re in the safest medical place a person in America can be,” said Hemness.

Jay Wolfson, a medical ethicist at University of South Florida, said money can be a factor in the decision to take patients to court.

“It’s costing the hospital too much to keep the patient in that bed,” said Wolfson.

The I-Team found Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point – an HCA-owned hospital where a semi-private room costs $2,100 a day – requested guardianship for a patient on Social Security, stating in court papers, “The hospital is at risk of being over capacity and the ward’s use of a bed may deprive others.”

None of the hospitals contacted by the I-Team would say why they pay lawyers to go to court instead of letting state social workers at the Department of Children and Families handle the cases of patients potentially in need of a court-appointed guardian.

For those in the guardianship system, a judge hands complete control of their lives to court-appointed guardians. Those under the care of guardians also lose most of their rights, including the right to vote, drive, marry, make medical decisions, determine where to live and decide which friends and family members are allowed to visit.

A $4 million guardianship gig

The controversy over hospitals getting into the business of guardianship first gained public attention after a court investigation revealed AdventHealth paid nearly $4 million to disgraced former guardian Rebecca Fierle, who is accused of causing the death of a man under her care.

Invoices show AdventHealth paid Fierle the $4 million to serve as the guardian for 682 patients at its Orlando hospital – part of a secret arrangement hidden from the courts.

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Tampa Bay area hospitals seeking to strip away patients' rights, I-Team investigation finds

GUEST APPEARANCE: NY court reform — Redoing onerous structure not easy but necessary


With its 11 separate trial courts and byzantine design, New York state’s court structure is an outdated can-of-worms that’s bad for families in crisis, bad for litigants, bad for business and bad for the state. Our Chief Judge, Janet DiFiore, wants to streamline the court system, and as the Administrative Judge for the Seventh Judicial District, I can confirm that reform can’t come soon enough.

New York’s court system is uniquely cumbersome. We have a Supreme Court, a Court of Claims, 57 county courts, 58 family courts, 62 surrogate’s courts, two New York City lower courts, two District Courts on Long Island and 61 city courts outside New York City. All those layers upon layers accomplish nothing, except to further traumatize suffering people.

Imagine you are going through a divorce, with child support, custody, domestic abuse, and guardianship issues on the table. That’s quite a burden for anyone to carry, and the current court structure only increases your burden and — quite probably — your legal expenses.

You’ll likely end up in family court to resolve the support and custody issues. But the family court judge can’t grant your divorce, so you will have to go to Supreme Court for that. You may end up in county court for the abuse issue. And for any guardianship issues you’ll probably need to go to surrogate’s court as well. Multiple appearances before multiple judges in multiple courts can result in conflicting decisions on similar issues in the same case and cause delays that are not only costly and frustrating, but potentially dangerous when they involve domestic violence or placement of children in crisis.

Or imagine you are in an automobile accident on a state highway, where you’re injured by a reckless driver at an unsafe intersection.

To sue the driver for damages, you’ll go to Supreme Court. But if you also want to sue the state for creating that dangerous intersection, you’ll need to go to a second court, the Court of Claims, which only hears cases against the state. The Supreme Court justice cannot hear your claim against the state, and the Court of Claims judge cannot hear your claim against the driver. And while there is a Supreme Court in every county, only one county in our district — Monroe — has a Court of Claims presence. So, if you happen to live in Canandaigua you can argue your Supreme Court case right in town. But you’ll have to travel to Rochester for the Court of Claims action. That one crash will bring you to two courts in two different courthouses with two different judges who will preside over two different trials.

New York has more trial courts than any state in the nation, and Chief Judge DiFiore wants to bring this state in line with the rest of the country. She is proposing a common sense, streamlined court structure.

Under her proposal, several courts (county, the Court of Claims, family, and surrogate’s) would merge into the Supreme Court, where one judge, rather than four, could handle all the cases now dispersed throughout multiple courts. Further, 65 lower courts would be abolished and combined into a single Municipal Court that would hear minor criminal matters, housing cases, small claims and other small civil disputes.

The Chief Judge’s plan is simple and straightforward. Implementing it is not.

Similar proposals in the past have invariably run into the opposition of long-entrenched, politically-powerful forces with a parochial stake in the status quo. And because the proposal requires an amendment to the State Constitution, it must be passed by the state Legislature not once, but twice, before going to a public referendum.

No matter the obstacles, an effort to reform our court structure must be started in the Legislature when it reconvenes in January. And this effort must be successful if New York is to have a court system that is well-designed to meet all the needs of a 21st century public.

Hon. Craig J. Doran is a New York State Supreme Court Justice and the Administrative Judge for the Seventh Judicial District. In that capacity, he is responsible for overseeing court operations in the trial courts in Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

Full Article & Source: 
GUEST APPEARANCE: NY court reform — Redoing onerous structure not easy but necessary

Deputies: St. Albans theft ring targets elderly man in nursing home

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Four people were arraigned after allegedly taking thousands of dollars worth of tools from the garage of a man who had been put in a nursing home.

Robin Jackson, 51, of St. Albans, was charged with multiple felony counts, including grand larceny and exploiting an elderly person.

William Aliff Jr., 43, of St. Albans, Mary Ann Malcolm, 45, of Charleston, and David Malcolm, 45, of Charleston, were charged with lesser counts including conspiracy and receiving or transferring stolen goods.

Deputies say the items were sold for money or traded for drugs.

According to the criminal complaint, Robin Jackson took items from her father's garage. She later told police that her father did not allow her into the garage because she was a drug addict.

Deputies say Jackson traded and pawned fishing equipment, tools, and a generator that all had her father's name on them.

Jackson's bail has been set at $10,000 cash only. The other three have a bond set of $2,000 or ten percent cash each.

Full Article & Source:
Deputies: St. Albans theft ring targets elderly man in nursing home

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

3 court-appointed guardians embezzled more than $1M from 108 victims, Delco DA says

by Julie Shaw

Three former court-appointed guardians are charged with embezzling more than $1 million from 108 victims in six Pennsylvania counties, using a shell company and a church to launder the stolen money, Delaware County authorities said Monday.

One of the former guardians, Gloria Byars, 58, of Aldan, the focus of a March 2018 Inquirer investigation, had been separately charged in April 2019 by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office with stealing money, family heirlooms, gold coins, and other valuables from four elderly Philadelphians.

Also charged by Delaware County authorities were Byars’ sister Carolyn Collins, 70, and Collins’ husband, Keith, 59, in their roles as guardians and managing partners at Pinnacle Guardian Services in Ridley Park. The couple, who live in Ridley Park, are founders and pastors at the Church of the Overcomer in Trainer. From 2011 to 2015, Carolyn Collins was a legislative assistant to State Rep. Margo Davidson (D., Delaware).
Keith Collins
Keith Collins
Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland announced the charges at a news conference Monday morning in Media, flanked by members of her office’s Criminal Investigation Division, including its chief, Joseph Ryan. Copeland said unauthorized funds taken from elderly clients of all three ex-guardians were funneled through the church and a shell company set up by Byars called ICU Records & Billing (ICURB).

“These defendants were clearly living the high life,” Copeland said, noting that unauthorized money taken from client accounts was used to lease new cars and to buy vacation timeshares and Louis Vuitton merchandise, among other things. In a photo displayed at the news conference, Byars stood next to a white 2016 Lexus SUV, one of her former cars. Byars also spent some of the unauthorized money on a trip to Spain, Copeland said.

All three turned themselves in on Monday. At hearings in Havertown, District Judge Elisa Lacianca set bail for Byars at $500,000 and for the Collinses at $100,000 each. The three were held in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thornton on Monday evening.

Byars is charged with theft offenses in connection with 90 victims, and with conspiracy. Carolyn and Keith Collins each is charged with theft offenses in connection with 18 victims. The District Attorney’s Office said the 108 victims were in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Lancaster, and Berks Counties.

Byars, her attorney, Sharon Alexander, and Carolyn Collins declined to comment to reporters. The Collinses did not yet have attorneys.

Keith Collins, interviewed while he sat in a car outside the District Attorney’s Office before being driven to the bail hearing, said he had not ripped off the elderly. “The body of my life’s work will speak for itself,” he said, adding that he’s been a minister for 40 years. “I worked with the poorest people in this county. I don’t have a salary. I don’t get paid.… There’s nothing extravagant about me.”

Copeland said investigators in her office were alerted to the alleged embezzlement scheme in February 2017 after learning that Pinnacle was the court-appointed guardian for a 94-year-old “incapacitated” person whose nursing-home bills weren’t being paid.

At an Orphans’ Court hearing that month, a judge ordered Pinnacle removed from all guardianship cases and required Pinnacle to provide accountings of how it spent money in all 25 cases for which it had served as guardian, Copeland said.

A financial analyst in her office then found that of the 25 cases, financial records for 18 showed “numerous improper cash withdrawals and checks,” Copeland said.

During their investigation into Pinnacle, investigators learned of Byars’ company, Global Guardian Services in Lansdowne, and that in 2012 she had set up a bank account under ICURB’s name “and used this account as a shell company to move stolen money from ward accounts to other shell business accounts,” Copeland said. The ICURB account also was used by the Collinses “to funnel money that was stolen from wards,” people deemed by a court to be incapacitated.

“Instead of simply doing their job, they cruelly embezzled over $1 million from over 100 incapacitated individuals,” Copeland said.

More than $28,000 in improper payments were made from ICURB to benefit the church, Copeland said. Byars and the Collinses also used two other shell companies, ACC Medical and CWR Medical, Copeland said.

Before opening Global Guardian Services, Byars worked for a well-known Philadelphia-area guardian, Robert Stump, at his RES Consulting in Havertown, starting as an office manager in 2008, Copeland said. Stump fired Byars in October 2016, and after reviewing his office accounts, on Dec. 20, 2017, reported to the Delaware County DA’s Office an alleged fraud by Byars involving one of his clients, the district attorney said.

In Philadelphia, the District Attorney’s Office announced in April that Byars was charged with stealing from four elderly victims. Copeland said that those cases would be withdrawn in Philadelphia and handled by her office, adding to the 108 victims.

In most of her Philadelphia cases, Byars was appointed as guardian after a recommendation by the Philadelphia Corp. for Aging.

Byars’ Philadelphia theft charges were related to the estates of Edmund and Margareta Berg of Fox Chase and two other alleged Philadelphia victims.

The Bergs’ niece, Heidi Austin, discovered through a Google search that Byars previously had been charged in Virginia with defrauding people. Court records show that in 2005, Byars was charged in that state with defrauding several people by using their discarded credit-card convenience checks, fished from post office trash cans. She pleaded guilty in October 2005 and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $29,503 in restitution.

After Byars’ past criminal convictions were brought to Philadelphia Orphans’ Court’s attention, guardians in the city were required to affirm that they were not convicted of any crime involving fraud, deceit, or financial misconduct. Also, state criminal history reports became required. The requirements mirrored recommendations proposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Orphans’ Court Procedural Rules Committee. Last year, the justices approved new statewide rules requiring criminal background checks, which took effect this June.

Full Article & Source:
3 court-appointed guardians embezzled more than $1M from 108 victims, Delco DA says

Financial, Legal Advisors Scamming Elderly Has Become Big Business

By Nick Leiber

Terry Ann McIntosh’s financial nightmare began four years ago, soon after she hired a caregiver through a family services website. McIntosh, then 75 and in a wheelchair, had assumed that the young woman who eventually showed up at her San Mateo, Calif., home wouldn’t steal from her. She was wrong.

In October 2015, Meletofetofe Uhila began logging into McIntosh’s Bank of America account, using the older woman’s credentials. The first time, Uhila attempted to transfer $10,000 into her own account. The bank blocked it, requesting that McIntosh call in to verify her identity. Uhila called instead, pretending to be her.

Though Uhila failed the bank’s security questions, and McIntosh had never made a similar transfer in all the years she held the account, the bank allowed it to go through. Unaware, McIntosh continued to visit her branch every week, as she had done for the past 15 years. No bank employee ever mentioned the transaction.

Over the next nine months, Uhila made 44 additional transfers, ultimately stealing about $245,000 from McIntosh. Though Uhila was eventually caught and convicted, she had only $8,000 left to return to McIntosh. So McIntosh asked Bank of America for her money back. Despite all the seemingly bright red flags raised by Uhila’s conduct, the bank said no.

Uphill Battle

Tales such as McIntosh’s—of being hoodwinked by a criminal only to face an uphill battle to be made whole—are on the rise, consumer and legal experts warn. Already targeted by phone scammers and greedy relatives, elderly Americans have a “bull’s-eye” on their backs, one Iowa assistant attorney general who specializes in elder abuse cases said, adding that the problem is only getting worse.

And while financial institutions are becoming more responsive and incorporating more safeguards to protect against elder fraud and manipulation, America’s most vulnerable face another, more insidious threat. Increasingly, it’s the professionals—the lawyers, insurers and financial advisers that the elderly trust—who are the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In 2017, financial institutions filed 63,500 suspicious activity reports tied to the exploitation of older adults, quadruple the amount reported four years earlier, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for a total of $1.7 billion in attempted thefts and losses. That estimate, however, is a tiny fraction of the real total. The reports “may account for less than 2%” of actual incidents, the CFPB says. Estimates of total losses ranged as high as $36.5 billion, according to one financial services firm.

One in five older Americans is a victim of financial exploitation, said Jilenne Gunther, who heads the BankSafe initiative at the AARP’s Public Policy Institute, costing U.S. financial institutions $1 billion in deposits annually. The vast majority of such attempts to separate the elderly from their money, both legal and illegal, go unreported.

Shawna Reeves, director of elder-abuse prevention at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, says few understand that such activity can involve professional firms and companies, including banks, financial advisers, insurers and law firms.

“This is big business, perpetrated by actors people think are legitimate,” said Reeves. According to social workers, prosecutors, and other officials across the country, common stratagems involve attempts to sell the elderly ill-advised annuities and reverse mortgages, as well as solar panel installations and access to veterans’ benefits.

‘Nonstop’ Complaints

At the Iowa attorney general’s consumer protection division, complaints about professionals manipulating elderly clients pour in “nonstop,” said Chantelle Smith, an assistant attorney general in Des Moines. They involve “any type of business you can imagine.”

When Investment News surveyed 591 financial advisers about elder fraud in 2017, it found that 62% said they have seen or suspected financial abuse of an older client at least once. Some 39% of them said the perpetrator was another financial professional—but more than half admitted they didn’t bother to report it.

It’s not just financial professionals doing the fleecing. Doug Chalgian, an attorney with the Michigan-based elder law firm Chalgian & Tripp, said some lawyers build a business model helping adult children take control of their parents’ assets. Others encourage older clients to make financial decisions that aren’t in their best interest.

“There’s a sleazy underbelly to elder law,” Chalgian said.

The consequences of such unethical behavior aren’t just financial. Elderly people who fall victim to financial wrongdoing are more likely to die prematurely, research shows. Losing one’s life savings, worrying about maintaining control over assets that remain or simply being embarrassed at having been taken all play a part, Smith said.

“Where do you go after you’ve been exploited by a professional you thought you could trust, and you are now at perhaps your most vulnerable state? Another ‘trusted’ professional?” Smith asked. “They die. It kills them.”

The night before Barbara Williams died in August 2015, she and her husband Tom decided to leave the bulk of their assets to a nonprofit serving the homeless near their Oroville, Calif., home.

Tom Williams had relied on his wife, a former bookkeeper, to handle their finances. Williams, then 78, called American Family Legal Services, the firm he thought had helped them with estate planning in the past, to update their trust.

Not long after, Victor Pantaleoni arrived at his home. An independent insurance agent, Pantaleoni quickly went about selling Williams on purchasing an annuity—one that, unlike the updated trust Williams sought, would earn Pantaleoni a $9,500 commission, according to a lawsuit Williams later filed in the Superior Court of California in Butte County. The agent had Williams sign a blank check and blank documents, ostensibly needed to modify the trust, according to Williams. Instead, Pantaleoni used them to move $100,000 of Williams’ money into a National Western Life Insurance Co. annuity, according to court filings.

Williams, who intended to use those savings for health-care expenses and emergencies, was left with only about $14,000 in his account. When he tried to cancel the annuity and get his money back, National Western didn’t respond. The company instead told Pantaleoni he had five days to “conserve” the annuity or he would lose his commission, according to court filings. Williams alleged that, as a result, Pantaleoni tricked him into signing a second annuity application. National Western subsequently reissued the annuity.

Williams tried a second time to get his money back. He called and wrote National Western, complaining about Pantaleoni. But instead of investigating, National Western slapped Williams with a surrender penalty of almost $15,000 and allowed Pantaleoni to hold onto his original commission, keeping him as an agent, according to the lawsuit. Though the insurer refunded the rest of his money, Williams had spent thousands of dollars on legal fees and other expenses related to his dealings with Pantaleoni. He sued both Pantaleoni and National Western in late 2017 for elder financial abuse, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

In April, a jury found National Western and Pantaleoni liable of elder financial abuse and negligence, and found Pantaleoni liable for fraud. It awarded Williams $3.1 million, declaring the insurer primarily responsible. The company appealed in September. Pantaleoni did not.

“Pantaleoni couldn’t have done what he did without the complicity of a company willing to turn a blind eye,” said Frank Fox, the attorney representing Williams.

This wasn’t the first time Pantaleoni was accused of improper behavior when working with seniors. In 2015, the California Department of Insurance filed a formal accusation against him, detailing his violation of insurance statutes in his dealings with a 74-year-old widow. The agency fined Pantaleoni and restricted his insurance license.

“I never did elder financial abuse and I never would,” said Pantaleoni, 62. However, in the case of Williams, he admitted he was negligent, in part because he didn’t have errors and omissions insurance, a type of liability policy, at the time. But he nevertheless disputed most of the other allegations in the lawsuit. “I did what the client wanted,” he said.

As for National Western, in 2010 the insurer settled a class action claiming it had misled seniors about penalties for withdrawing money from their annuities. National Western’s settlement included an accord with the California insurance commissioner requiring the company to make reforms in its sales, marketing and complaint procedures. The insurer denied any wrongdoing.

National Western, which uses thousands of independent agents to sell its insurance, had just two employees in its compliance department responsible for handling complaints at the time Williams tried to return the annuity, according to court documents. “Our independent agents are careful to ensure policyholders thoroughly understand the agreements they enter into when they purchase our annuity or life insurance products,” National Western’s chief legal officer, Rey Perez, said in an emailed statement.

Aggressive Strategies

When it comes to luring the elderly into a trap, some strategies are more aggressive than others. Earlier this year, a federal law enforcement officer outside Washington started to get glossy flyers at his home, inviting him to a free meal and a “retirement strategies workshop” at a local restaurant. “Expect to have a little fun and obtain some meaningful information with none of the usual financial double-talk,” one read.

By chance, the officer, who requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly, noticed that the retirement planner’s address matched that of an attorney he suspected was targeting the elderly. So on a sticky night in July, he dropped by the dinner, also hoping it might yield clues in a case of suspected elder fraud involving his now-deceased father. The dinner didn’t result in a breakthrough, but it did reveal how a business tries to persuade the elderly to invest in financial products they don’t need.

At an Italian restaurant in Virginia, more than a dozen elderly couples picked at their salads as the presenter asked them to fill out forms describing their assets and then complete worksheets while he extolled the virtues of annuities. “We can get you two to three times as much as a bank and keep you just as safe,” he said.

To the officer, the workshop shared the same traits as so-called trust mills, a term he used to describe schemes in which unscrupulous individuals try to sell seniors questionable investments under the guise of estate or retirement planning. He echoed a warning on the Minnesota attorney general’s website about such con artists: “Once he obtains your financial information, he will usually try to get you to buy an annuity or other insurance product. He may have several meetings with you before he reveals his true intentions: to sell you insurance.”

Kathryn Stebner, the lawyer for Terry Ann McIntosh, is a national expert on elder law. Given how her client’s account was methodically emptied, she said she can’t fathom how the bank missed what happened. “I don’t know how much plainer it could be,” she said.

After discovering what happened, McIntosh became deeply distressed, and not just for her own circumstances; she also needed her savings to support her disabled adult daughter. Last year, she sued Bank of America. As the trial approached this fall, the bank settled. Bank of America spokesman Andy Aldridge said the institution is “working with Ms. McIntosh to help her recover from the criminal actions of her caregiver.”

Detection Software

Financial institutions may have gotten the hint when it comes to making it harder to scam the elderly. According to Marti DeLiema, an assistant professor of research at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, more banks are investing in detection software and training. Executives, she said, “have really strong incentives, because the problem is only going to get worse.”

DeLiema, a consultant for major banks and broker-dealers, said financial institutions “need better communication across lines of business. For example, the brokerage side needs to talk to the banking side if they suspect a customer is at risk.” She added that banks also could benefit from a rule similar to what the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority put in place last year, allowing broker-dealers to pause a disbursement and investigate without worrying about clients suing them.

She said banks also lack the trusted contact form that broker-dealers are supposed to have clients fill out. “Banks need to do that,” said DeLiema. “Banks need another tool in their toolbox to protect us from ourselves.”

Smith, the Iowa assistant attorney general, started pursuing financial advisers, securities brokers and insurance agents for exploiting older people about two decades ago. She said that elder financial abuse is more than a legal issue. It’s societal.

Financial predators aren’t being prosecuted “in any significant number, relative to how many cases there are,” she explained. And when it comes to lawsuits, “most of them don’t go to court.” Meanwhile, perpetrators seek out and spend time with older people who are isolated and lonely. They know many of their targets won’t report what’s happening for fear of embarrassment or of having their children take control of their finances.

“They target, they stalk,” Smith said. “I tell all the older people I talk to: ‘You have a bull’s-eye on your back.'”

Smith said the only way to stem the rising tide of elder financial exploitation is to get family members, friends and community volunteers more involved in their lives. “The underlying issue here is isolation and loneliness, and a devaluing of older people in our communities,” she said. “It’s ageism.”

Full Article & Source:
Financial, Legal Advisors Scamming Elderly Has Become Big Business

A Utah woman refused to sell her vacant house to a neighbor. Police say he moved in anyway.

By Scott D. Pierce

A Salt Lake City man who refused to take no for an answer when a woman declined his lowball offer to buy her house faces multiple charges after he claimed the property as his own.

In charges filed last week, prosecutors wrote that police first were called to the house at 737 E. Roosevelt Ave. on Aug. 30 when someone reported a “belligerent person” was inside and was taking things without the owner’s permission. The officer told the man not to reenter or make modifications to the house.

The next day, police were called again and found tools and an open window at the house; prosecutors wrote that the same man admitted he had opened the window, that he did not have permission to be there and that he had previously been warned by police. He was given another warning.

On Sept. 11, police again were called to the home when a neighbor reported a possible burglary. Again they found the man on the property, prosecutors wrote. He admitted he had cut down trees, shrubs and bushes; removed a refrigerator from the house; and installed new deadbolts, police wrote. According to police, items had been removed from the home.

The man told police he’d written to the homeowner offering $90,000 for the house — “an amount which is not reasonable for that area and that market,” prosecutors wrote. According to Salt Lake County assessor’s records, the market value of the home is more than $363,000.

When the man did not receive a response to his offer, he went to the woman’s current home, prosecutors wrote. She refused to sell him the house and later told police the man threatened her and told her “he would forge any document needed to get the property from her,” the charges state. She told police she had removed nothing from the house and that her keys no longer worked in the locks, prosecutors wrote.

“The victim in this case, who is an elderly woman, has expressed fear to the police about what the defendant may do,” police wrote.

Police once again told the man not to enter the house and sent him a follow-up email with the same warning. In an email reply that day, the man admitted he’d locked the gate to the house with his own chain and lock.

A day later, the man sent the officer another email, writing that he wanted to remove more plants from the yard “just as long as it builds my case to gaining title to the house,” according to the charges. He also admitted he removed the contents of the home; removed the wood covering a broken window; and “upgraded” the deadbolts.

The man also asked for the police officer’s help to get the water turned on at the house, “complaining … that they wouldn’t turn the water on until he could prove that he owned the property,” prosecutors wrote.

On Sept. 20, he sent an email to police admitting he left the lights on at the house; put mulch in the yard and put air in the tires of the vehicles in the driveway, according to the charges.

Other neighbors told police they had seen the man coming and going from the house, removing items and working in the yard — and that he claimed to have bought the house for $5,000, charges state. One neighbor said he helped remove the refrigerator after the man convinced him he owned the house. Another said the man showed her “a large collection of CDs in his own house … that he had taken from the 737 residence,” prosecutors wrote.

According to neighbors, the man said he had contacted Rocky Mountain Power and gotten the electricity turned on to an account he controls, and he was “thinking about finding a way to get the water” turned on “by forging a note” from the owner, prosecutors wrote.

According to the charges, the man signed an application Aug. 30 for water service in which he “purports to be the owner” of the home.

The man was charged with burglary and forgery, both third-degree felonies; class A misdemeanor stalking; and theft, criminal mischief and three counts of criminal trespass, all class B misdemeanors. A warrant for the man’s arrest was issued on Friday; as of Monday morning, he was not in custody.

Full Article & Source:
A Utah woman refused to sell her vacant house to a neighbor. Police say he moved in anyway.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: AUSTRALIA TALKS BACK 10/21

5:00 pm PST…6:00 pm MST…7:00 pm CST…8:00 pm EST...
Australian Government Sponsored Terrorism Against Its Own People

"Our friends in Australia are facing an ever menacing government. The targeting of the elderly for estate theft is rampant. Families who are fighting back are being threatened and harassed. The police appear to be willing accomplices to the kidnapping, isolation and property theft. Quality Aged Care, the equivalent of Hospice here in the States, is quickly dispensing with many of the elderly once the estate has been drained.

The reporting of the abuse of the elderly has been picked up by various media outlets, with promises of publicized reports. Civil tribunals in Australia, populated by what appears to be black robed vultures insures a steady supply of victims for the predators who prey on the public for profit. As this has been exposed, the Australian government is moving ever faster in its terrorizing of its own people.

In addition, the Australian government can now take taxes directly out of personal accounts of all kinds with no notice to the individual being robbed.

Theft of lands sold to foreign corporations, previously unknown to the inhabitants, has stunned large portions of the population..

In an act of unity, the newspapers across Australia blacked out their front pages in protest over the restrictions on freedom of the press and who were bent on reporting to the public, but who were being silenced by powerful actors in the government. I believe the Aussies have had enough!"

LISTEN TO THE SHOW LIVE or listen to the archive later

Nursing Home Blames Incapacitated Sexual Assault Victim

65-year-old Rosa Woodard suffered an alleged sexual assault while living in a Houston nursing home. Despite acknowledging that Ms. Woodard was unable to consent, the nursing home is blaming Ms. Woodard for the crime allegedly committed against her. Now, her family is seeking justice with the help of Houston medical malpractice attorney Charles Brown.

Ms. Rosa Woodard prior to the sexual assault.
Brown, Christie & Green, a Houston medical malpractice law firm, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the heirs of Ms. Rosa Woodard. The Original Petition was filed in the District Court of Harris County, Texas, Cause No. 2018-90891. The plaintiffs are Byron K. Woodard and Rondia Crenshaw. The defendants are Willowbrook SNF and Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center.

The lawsuit was filed in response to an alleged sexual assault that occurred while Ms. Woodard was a resident at Willowbrook Residence and Rehabilitation Center in March 2018. According to the plaintiffs, Ms. Woodard was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male resident. The lawsuit alleges that a male resident was found in Ms. Woodard’s room undressed from the waist down. The male resident was allegedly forcefully engaging in oral sex with Ms. Woodard.

The plaintiffs allege that Willowbrook was negligent in protecting residents, which resulted in the alleged sexual assault of Ms. Woodard. Records indicate that due to her having Stage IV Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia, that Ms. Woodard was not capable of consenting to sexual activity.

“The law acknowledges that nursing home residents have the right to live free of sexual abuse. Ms. Woodard’s family brought suit to hold Willowbrook accountable for allegedly violating Ms. Woodard’s rights,” said the family’s nursing home abuse attorney Charles Brown.

In addition to the alleged sexual assault, the plaintiff’s claim that Willowbrook leadership and staff made a series of errors in how they managed the alleged assault. It is alleged that Willowbrook staff did not take appropriate measures to contact authorities, get medical treatment for Ms. Woodard, preserve evidence, or notify her family. The Department of Health and Human Services has conducted a thorough investigation into these claims, and it is their opinion that some errors were made.

Willowbrook has responded to the Original Petition by denying that they violated the standards of care. The defendant’s Affirmative Defense states that the alleged injuries sustained by 65-year-old Ms. Woodard, if any, were the result of her “own acts or omissions.”

The alleged assailant is not named in the lawsuit, but is facing criminal charges. He is due to appear in court on July 26, 2019.

Plaintiff’s Family Hopes for Justice

Ms. Woodard’s son and daughter are now looking to the District Court to review the allegations made against Willowbrook. If the court finds that the standards of care were, in fact, violated, the plaintiffs hope that the court will hold Willowbrook accountable for any such failures and the harm that their mother allegedly endured.

Ms. Woodard’s daughter stated, “I placed my mother in Willowbrook believing that she would get the utmost care, attention, and safety. Instead, my mother suffered. I will not rest until the facility is held accountable.”

Full Article & Source:
Nursing Home Blames Incapacitated Sexual Assault Victim

Man charged for letting grandmother live in bedbug-ridden home

Anthony Allen Millard, Jr.
FLINT, MI – A 38-year-old man has been charged with elder abuse after his malnourished grandmother was found living in a Flint home with a bedbug ridden mattress. 

Anthony Allen Millard, Jr., 38, was arraigned Saturday, Oct. 5 in Genesee District Court on a single count of second-degree vulnerable adult abuse.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told reporters Tuesday morning that Millard moved into her home in 2016 as the sole caretaker.

The sheriff’s office elder abuse task force was notified by adult protective services “that they suspected a woman was being abused and neglected,” said Pickell.

He did not specify what led to the alert.

Investigators discovered the 82-year-old woman had been diagnosed with dementia and the woman was unable to walk or prepare food for herself.

“When the investigators went out there along with adult protective services they found that the bed was ridden with bed bugs,” said Pickell. “There was feces around (the home) and that the victim was extremely malnourished. At the time she was taken to the hospital she weighed 95 pounds.”

Investigators also learned Millard allegedly had not taken his grandmother to a physician for more than one year or provided her with medication for months, Pickell said.

He urged those in the community who may suspect someone is neglecting or exploiting an elderly person to contact adult protective services or the task force, which began in 2007.

“We’ve arrested hundreds and hundreds of people on warrants for elder abuse,” said Pickell. “It’s a very active team. We work very closely in the community with medical people, adult protective services. We’ve trained all the front-line people, police on recognizing elder abuse.”

The training has included information on guardianship and power of attorney to working credit unions and banks to combat the financial exploitation of seniors.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever find a remedy to it,” Pickell said. “It’s just people taking advantage of people, greed in many cases.”

If convicted, Millard faces up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine, or both.

He’s being held in the Genesee County Jail on a $10,000 cash or surety bond.

Full Article & Source:
Man charged for letting grandmother live in bedbug-ridden home

Don't spend that inheritance money until it's yours

Sharon Cermak
Just because you're set to inherit money soon doesn't mean you get to take it before your loved one dies.

DuPage County Judge John Kinsella made that clear Thursday when he sentenced Sharon Cermak of Villa Park to 120 days in jail and three years of probation for stealing more than $100,000 from her 85-year-old uncle's bank account.

"You took it upon yourself to determine, 'Well, he's not going to live that long,' and spent his money -- that's wrong," Kinsella told Cermak.

Cermak, 63, obtained power of attorney to oversee the care and finances of her uncle in June 2013. DuPage County Adult Protective Services began investigating her three years later.

She was arrested in January 2017, two weeks after her uncle's death, on charges of bank fraud and financial exploitation of a person older than 80. The exploitation charge was dropped when Cermak pleaded guilty to bank fraud in August.

Authorities said she took more than $250,000 from her uncle, with Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Diane Michalak saying Cermak treated his money like a "newfound piggy bank."

"Her justification is: 'There was still money in his account when he died,'" Michalak said.

In court Thursday, Cermak described using her uncle's money to buy a car but said she bought a modest one instead of a Camaro and had intended to reimburse his accounts. She insisted she planned to pay him back for other spending as well, like money she used for a trip to Florida.

"I was not aware I was not supposed to use his money," Cermak said.

Kinsella didn't buy Cermak's explanation.

"I suspect this kind of thing goes on undetected and unreported all the time," the judge said.

Crime pays?

Despite her conviction, Cermak still might get her uncle's estate, which Michalak said could be worth $455,000.

She appears to be the only specified heir left, and no other relatives were to receive anything under the terms of amendments he made to his will in 2014.

But the DuPage County public guardian is disputing those amendments, arguing in probate court that the uncle was incapable of understanding what he was signing due to dementia and that Cermak took advantage of him.

If Cermak had been convicted of financial exploitation, the state's probate law could have prevented her from inheriting the estate. The next court date for the probate case is Oct. 24.

Full Article & Source:
Don't spend that inheritance money until it's yours