Saturday, December 14, 2019

Guardian bill passes first hurdle in Florida

Click to Watch Video
ORLANDO, Fla. – The House Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee on Thursday unanimously passed a guardianship bill that was recently introduced to the Florida legislature. The bill will now be presented to the Justice subcommittee for consideration.

Stakeholders in Florida’s guardianship program are trying to push legislation to increase oversight on state guardians, especially when it comes to how they handle their clients’ medical directives and money.

HB 709 was created after former Orlando based guardian Rebecca Fierle made headlines for placing do not resuscitate orders on patients who did not want to die. She’s also accused of double-billing both her patients and a local hospital to the tune of almost 4 million dollars without the courts even knowing.

“It helps those who cannot help themselves,” state Rep. Colleen Burton said, who helped draft and filed the bill.

Burton told the committee how the bill would prevent guardians from having absolute power over a patient’s medical and financial affairs and would prevent them from being able to receive any sort of kickbacks.

“We want to make sure we know everything that's coming in,” Burton said.

Burton told the committee the guardianship bill would provide at least one more layer of oversight in cases involving patients with DNR orders. HB 709 would also require more research be done to see if there are any alternatives to putting a guardianship in place.

“We had big meetings with lots of folks over the course of the early fall to talk about what can we do,” Burton said. “How can we craft, how can we narrowly craft a bill around guardianship that makes sure when somebody is in a position to not speak for themselves, that a decision is not made about their lives that may not be the decision they want made.”

Full Article & Source:
Guardian bill passes first hurdle in Florida

Americans Say 'Ageism' Is a Top Concern in the Workplace

Nearly half of Americans have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, a new survey from Zety finds. Buzz60's TC Newman has more.

Full Article & Source:
Americans Say 'Ageism' Is a Top Concern in the Workplace

Ohio bill would require cops to be trained on interacting with people with dementia

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Would-be cops would get at least two hours of instruction on how to interact with dementia patients in peace officer training school, under a bipartisan, newly introduced Ohio House bill.

House Bill 441 comes as Ohio is on the brink of a demographic shift. Seniors are expected to outnumber those 18 and younger, according to the Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio.

Sponsored by Reps. Phil Plummer, a Dayton Republican who served as Montgomery County sheriff, and Thomas West, a Canton Democrat who worked for 25 years in mental health, HB 441 would require police to learn the following:
  • How to identify people with dementia, including its psychiatric and behavioral symptoms
  • Techniques for respectful and effective communication with dementia patients and their caregivers
  • Techniques for addressing behavioral symptoms of dementia, including alternatives to physical restraint
  • Identifying and reporting incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
  • Protocols for contacting caregivers when a person is wandering or in an emergency or crisis situation
  • Local resources for individuals with dementia, and local and national organizations that assist police with locating missing and wandering people with dementia.
No one specific incident prompted the call for legislation. But each year stories come out about incidents with police and dementia patients, said Sarah Sobel, a public policy and outreach manager for the Alzheimer’s Association in Northern Ohio.

More families are choosing to keep their loved ones with dementia at home to be independent and minimize social isolation. The bill is also responding to that trend, trying to keep dementia patients and first responders safe, she said.

“Making sure that our peace officers and first responders are equipped to identify and effectively interact with Ohioans with dementia is crucial,” West said in a statement. “Our bill would ensure that they receive the necessary training to handle these situations and ensure the safety of our loved ones with this disease.”

The Alzheimer’s Association says one in three seniors has dementia and about 220,000 Ohioans currently live with dementia and Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia.
It’s a number that’s expected to grow by more than 20% over the next five years.

“Those who are suffering with dementia deserve to have trained professionals looking out for them and working with them at all times,” Plummer said.

Full Article & Source:
Ohio bill would require cops to be trained on interacting with people with dementia

Friday, December 13, 2019

Wood River nurse charged with killing mother-in-law in hospice

by: Katie Kormann, Dan Gray, Joe Millitzer

WOOD RIVER, Ill. – A registered nurse has been charged with murder for the intentional overdose of her mother-in-law.

According to the Madison County State's Attorney's Office, 85-year-old Wilma Melchert of Gillespie was released from a hospital on June 12 and was murdered hours later. And it was not a mercy killing.

Denise Melchert said for years her mother, Wilma, was a fixture in the Gillespie community. Over the years, she began to slow down, and three years ago she went into a nursing home.

Wilma Melchert
Denise said her mother was aware of her surroundings and wanted to live.

In June, Denise said the family decided to move Wilma to hospice. She would need full-time care but doctors expected her to live.

It was decided that Wilma would live with Denise's brother and his wife, Amy Melchert, at their home in Wood River.

Denise said hours after her Wilma left the hospital, she was dead. Her sister-in-law, Amy, who is also a registered nurse, was entrusted with Wilma's care.

"I still hate to think or see that my mom, at 85-years-old, went out in a homicide," said Denise. "Nobody could've ever told me that that would've happened to her. Not the kind of person she was."

The Wood River Police Department responded to investigate Wilma's death. A deputy coroner noticed discrepancies with her medication.

Investigators later determined that recently purchased prescription narcotics were missing. An autopsy and toxicology screening revealed that Wilma Melchert died from an overdose of morphine.
Amy Melchert
Amy Melchert, 47, was charged with two counts of murder, which means police believe they have alternative theories to prove the killing.

"We investigated this thoroughly and we are absolutely satisfied that the evidence that we have; all evidence, in fact, indicates this was no act of mercy committed here," said Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons. "This was, in fact, the theft of the last days of a person's life who wanted to be with her family."

Amy Melchert’s bail has been set at $500,000. She could face from 20 to 120 years in jail if convicted.

Meanwhile, the state's attorney has not released information on a possible motive.

Full Article & Source:
Wood River nurse charged with killing mother-in-law in hospice

Tonite on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network (at 7pm CST)..."IN THE MIX" with Coz and Marti: A tribute to Coz’s father & News from the North Pole!

Join us this evening for the last “In the Mix” broadcast for 2019.

Tonight, Coz will be giving tribute to her father, a man who was a highly regarded Wall Street investigator. “As an investigator for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Stanley Whitten hunted down Wall Street swindlers who were part of multi-million-dollar investment scams.” Mr. Whitten passed away November 13, 2011 after serious illness. His impact on his family and community were immeasurable. Mr. Whitten had tremendous impact on his children, setting an exemplary example of how to maintain integrity, character and honesty.

ALSO: Coz has news straight from the North Pole! Coz will be reporting this news from the North Pole while in her cookie making bakery as she helps prepare for Christmas.

Apparently, Blitzen is having a fit because he just can’t make the grade to be the lead reindeer for Santa’s sleigh, and is unable to comprehend that it takes the whole team to make the sleigh fly. Blitzen’s inability to work with the other reindeer without whining, grumbling and making up fictitious stories about how “they done him wrong”, when after all, HE is the real leader, have become so outrageous that they have become a source of laughter for the herd. Having bitten, gouged, kicked and attacked all the other reindeer, only one or two other reindeer are willing to be harnessed up with him or even in close proximity.

LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

Limestone County judge arrested for theft, elderly exploitation

LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Limestone County District Court Judge Douglas Patterson was booked into the Limestone County Jail on Thursday morning.

A sheriff's office spokesman confirmed that Patterson, 37, was booked on charges of third-degree theft, financial exploitation of the elderly and using his position for personal gain. The spokesman said Patterson was at the jail for about 30 minutes and posted $30,000 around 9 a.m.

Patterson was appointed a judge in 2016 by former governor Robert Bentley. Prior to that he worked as an attorney, including work as a conservator for incapacitated people,  the Alabama Attorney General's Office said.

Patterson is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars by writing about 70 checks to himself from the Limestone County Juvenile Court Services Fund over a period of years. More than $47,000 that was supposed to go to juvenile programs and juvenile court staff among other things, prosecutors said.

Patterson also is accused of taking money before becoming a judge. According to the attorney general's office, Patterson took $47,800 from the conservatorship account of Charles Hardy. Over a six and a half year period, prosecutors said Patterson drained the account and left less than $200 in it when he was done. Hardy, who was living in a nursing home for military veterans, has since died.
Another person Patterson worked for as a conservator, Rudolph Allen, also had between $499 and $1,500 taken from his estate's account after his death, prosecutors said.

In all of the cases where money was taken, it was placed into accounts for Patterson's business, law firm or personal use, according to the attorney general's office.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a news release that Patterson's actions "debase the judicial system."

"The allegations contained in this indictment shock the conscience and illustrate a callous and selfish disregard for the law as well as the welfare of Alabama's most vulnerable citizens: children and incapacitated seniors," Marshall said.

Patterson faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine for each charge of using his position for personal gain and financial exploitation of the elderly. He faces up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine for the theft charge.

Full Article & Source:
Limestone County judge arrested for theft, elderly exploitation

What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?

Eight years ago America’s baby boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, began to retire. At nearly 75 million, they represent one of America’s largest elder care challenges. Millennials, now in their 30s, will need to begin thinking about how to look after parents as medical, financial and mental health needs arise.

For lucky families this will mean consultations with financial advisors and perhaps even travel agents. For many, however, this will mean talking with doctors and lawyers, and in some cases assuming conservatorships.

What Is a Conservatorship
A conservatorship is a form of legal guardianship of an adult. Under this structure you, the conservator, has legal authority over certain aspects of the ward’s life. This can range from a limited conservatorship, which addresses only specific matters such as health or finances, to a full conservatorship, in which you essentially have the same rights and responsibilities that a parent does over a child.

In all cases, a conservator has full authority over the relevant aspects of their ward’s life. When this structure is applied to a minor it is typically called a guardianship. Some jurisdictions refer to conservatorships as “adult guardianships.”

When Is a Conservatorship Granted?
Conservatorship is granted when the individual in question no longer has the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf. In virtually all cases this is a judgment based on mental incapacity. Physical incapacity will rarely, if ever, create a basis for legal guardianship.

Mental incapacity can be caused by several different circumstances. Some of the most common include:
  • Coma or other form of total incapacity. In this case the individual is physically incapable of responding, making a decision or communicating a decision.
  • Illness or other form of mental incapacity such as dementia, severe mental illness or Alzheimer’s. In this case the individual is considered mentally incapacitated, even if they can clearly communicate intent.
  • Permanent or genetic disability. In this case the individual has a permanent mental disability that prevents them from ever reaching legal maturity or independence.
The general test for a conservatorship is whether the individual is capable of knowing and understanding their actions; whether the individual is capable of providing for their basic needs such as food, sanitation and shelter; and whether the individual might be considered a danger to themselves.

This is a legal proceeding. While the details will vary across jurisdictions, a conservatorship must be granted by an officer or appointee of the court. This matter is typically handled by either a state probate court or a family court with hearings typically held by a judge or a magistrate. With the rare exception of short-term orders during exigent circumstances, a conservatorship can only be granted after a full hearing and could even be part of estate planning.

Most, if not all, jurisdictions require medical paperwork before granting a conservatorship. However, in all circumstances the potential ward must have an opportunity to be heard by the decision maker and present their own case as to why a conservatorship should not be granted. Further, an individual has the right to challenge a conservatorship in court if they disagree with the outcome. This is because a conservatorship involves stripping a free adult of certain aspects of his or her freedom. No court may do that without granting the individual in question the right to be heard.

Forms of Conservatorship

There are several types of conservatorship. While not an exhaustive list, the most common are:

Conservatorships by Duration
  • Short Term  Typically lasting no more than 90 days, this is a conservatorship designed to address a specific and immediate need. This is most common when someone is unexpectedly incapacitated. If the jurisdiction allows conservatorships without a formal hearing, it will limit that authority to short-term conservatorships.
  • Temporary  This is a conservatorship lasting for either a limited amount of time or under limited conditions. For example, if someone enters a medical coma, a judge might grant a temporary conservatorship until such a time as the individual wakes up.
  • Permanent  Barring a change in circumstances, this conservatorship will last for the rest of the individual’s life. The individual may file to have it rescinded but will need to present their case and receive a court order in order to succeed.
Conservatorships by Type
  • Financial  The conservator has full authority over the ward’s finances. While the ward still has full physical autonomy, they cannot access their money, investments or most forms of property without the conservator’s signature.
  • Physical  The conservator has authority over the ward’s health and life. The conservator can choose where the ward lives, how their healthcare is managed and whether the ward needs to be placed in a living facility of some sort.
  • Full  The conservator has full authority over the ward’s finances, physical autonomy, health and all other significant decisions. It is uncommon for a court to grant a physical conservatorship without also granting financial authority as well, so this is more common than a physical conservatorship.
  • Limited  The conservator has authority over some specific aspects of the ward’s life. This is often granted in cases of a mentally disabled adult, to allow their guardian to continue caring for them while also allowing the greatest degree of autonomy possible. The conservatorship may be tailored to the specific needs of the ward.
It is important to understand that a conservatorship is built around the needs of the ward, not the interests of the conservator. The decision maker will typically consult with doctors and social workers and will appoint a conservatorship based on what they believe will best keep the ward healthy and safe.

Conservatorship vs. Power of Attorney
Power of attorney can accomplish many of the same things as a conservatorship. It gives someone the authority to make legally binding decisions on your behalf and the scope can be as narrow or as broad as you choose.

Unlike a conservatorship, however, it is exercised at the discretion of the individual. This means that someone can grant power of attorney to whomever they wish and can revoke it whenever they wish.

This is often an option exercised by individuals who want to prepare for their own incapacitation. They may draft a power of attorney form empowering someone to make financial, healthcare or other decisions on their behalf. Provided that this was drafted when the individual was of sound mind, this will supersede any conservatorship.

Responsibilities of a Conservator
long term care planning

As a conservator you must make decisions on behalf of your ward. You are considered a fiduciary, meaning that you have a legal obligation to make decisions in the ward’s best interest to the best of your knowledge, belief and ability. The court can enforce this on its own authority. So can relatives or other interested parties who can sue you personally if they have reason to believe you did not act in the ward’s best interests.

In the case of a financial conservatorship this means ensuring that the ward’s bills are paid, taxes filed and investments overseen, among other duties. You must make sure that they have money to pay for daily necessities and, if necessary, make those purchases yourself. In the case of a physical conservatorship, this means making sure that the ward receives any necessary health care and is in a living situation safe for them.

Above all else, the conservator must not use the ward’s resources for their personal gain. If a conservator places their ward in a living facility, for example, the conservator may not move into the ward’s former home. A financial conservator absolutely cannot use the ward’s money for their personal benefit.

To ensure this, conservators answer to the court which appointed them. While the details will vary, they are required to keep full records of every decision they make on behalf of their ward and must periodically present this information to the court. For a financial conservator, this means keeping receipts and other financial records along with an accounting of the purpose behind each transaction.

For a physical conservator, this means keeping all health records and medical recommendations that support any decisions. Often the state will require that the conservator have a doctor’s recommendation before making any health-related decisions.

Depending on the state, larger or more permanent decisions may require a court order. For example, some states require approval from the court before the conservator can sell land, securities or other major property. Others will require a court order before allowing the conservator to commit the ward to a long-term care or assisted-living facility.

Rights of a Conservator
As a conservator it is generally wise to receive a court order for any significant decisions even if you are not required to do so. As long as you presented the court with all the information you had, it will provide your actions with legitimacy.

Finally, conservators are entitled to receive pay. Even as a family member or friend you may get paid for the time that you spend managing the ward’s affairs. While this can range widely based on circumstances, most conservators claim between $40 and $100 per hour for their work. You will want to make sure to fully document your hours, not just the time that you spent but what you did during that time, as you must present your hours to the court in order to receive compensation.

In most, if not all, cases the money will be taken from the ward’s finances. As a result, many individuals who hold conservatorships over friends or loved ones choose not to accept pay, as they don’t want to take money from someone already in a difficult situation.

Bottom Line
A conservatorship can ensure that a loved one’s personal finances and healthcare issues are properly handled after that person is no longer able to make good decisions about such matters. It’s best to discuss that option with the potential ward before a conservatorship becomes necessary. Likewise, if you want to make sure that your affairs are prudently and sensitively handled should a disability or disease compromise your abilities to make good decisions, it’s best to discuss that with the person or persons you have confidence would make good conservators.

  • Many financial advisors have training in and experience with conservatorships and can be an invaluable resource for your family. Consider talking to a financial advisor about adult guardianships. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Conservatorships are based on state laws and, in some cases, may even be modified by city laws. That means it’s essential you should consult an attorney; this article should not be construed as legal advice. An attorney who specializes in this field can advise you whether a conservatorship or power of attorney or some other option is the best way to go.

Full Article & Source:
What is a Conservatorship and How Does It Work?

Letter to the Editor, Dec. 12, 2019: Guardianship an option for some requiring care

Guardianship an option

for some requiring care

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In The Times-Dispatch's effort to portray the guardianship issue in its recent series, the presentation was extremely limited and blatantly unfair. There is indeed a dilemma that indigent individuals encounter when they exceed or exhaust the limits of government health benefits for their preferred facility or level of care, or when they lack consistent or reliable family or social supports. However, pointing the finger at attorneys who have stepped up to address this issue is putting the onus on the wrong end of the process. As Attorney Shawn Majette stated, his point of intervention is “at the end of the beginning.”

Determination of medical necessity is made in an effort to apply existing resources to appropriate use. No matter how far medicine progresses, resources will likely never be unlimited. None of us is subsidized by insurance once it has been determined that a particular level of care is no longer clinically required. Use of an acute care hospital to serve in lieu of a family or social support system would bankrupt any health care system.
Guardianship services provided by ThompsonMcMullan lawyers potentially serve a systemic need as well as addressing the individual’s lack of capacity. Acting on behalf of the individual to apply for available benefits and placement provides an option for continued care that friends and family have been unable to effectively execute.
Cynthia Favret.

Full Article & Source:
Letter to the Editor, Dec. 12, 2019: Guardianship an option for some requiring care

Thursday, December 12, 2019

PREDATORY GUARDIANSHIPS – Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alledged Retribution

‘Evidently $7 Million Wasn’t Enough … They Needed to Try to Destroy Me’

Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger Now Facing Loss of Law License for ‘Exposing Racketeering Ring that Preys on Seniors’

Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alleged Retribution

by Lonnie Brennan

BOSTON − In an emotional speech before the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (BBO), Attorney Lisa Siegel Belanger gave as good as she got. Using her allotted 15 minutes she called out the actions of BBO member Attorney Marsha Kazarosian and the law firm Burns & Levinson for their “fabrication” and exaggeration of charges against her as “retaliation” for her exposure of their “racketeering ring which has preyed on seniors,” including her father, Marvin H. Siegel. The BBO seeks to strip Belanger of her license to practice for two years.

Belanger noted in her speech that despite five years of her filing complaints to the BBO against Attorney Kazarosian, the BBO refused to conduct any investigation against the powerful political figure (and Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s high-profile appointee). She also noted that both Kazarosian and BBO Chair Jeffrey R. Martin were absent from the hearing, and that she was again stripped of the opportunity to question her accusers. She pointed out that Martin serves as partner in the firm Burns and Levenson, a firm also at the center of Belanger’s complaint. (Yes, Belanger took on some of the most connected lawyers in Massachusetts.)

With no relief from the courts for years (fighting against those she documented as preying upon seniors), Belanger finally went public. Her case as well as the systemic draining of millions from her now deceased father’s accounts have been chronicled in a series of articles in The Boston Broadside. Belanger noted that while no actions were taken against Kazarosian, and no charges were ever taken against her, everything changed when her family’s plight became public.  READ MORE HERE

Full Article & Source:
PREDATORY GUARDIANSHIPS – Governor’s Appointee Marsha Kazarosian at Center of Alledged Retribution

Attorney indicted for alleged forged deed, real estate theft

HILO — Hilo attorney Paul J. Sulla Jr. was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury on first-degree theft and second-degree forgery charges in connection with a narrow piece of land containing an easement road in lower Puna.

The two-count indictment states on or about Sept. 6, 2016, Sulla “with intent to defraud, falsely made, completed, endorsed or altered … a deed … .” It also states Sulla and Halai Heights LLC “as part of one scheme and/or a continuing course of conduct, intentionally obtained or exerted control over … a parcel of real estate … belonging to Leonard G. Horowitz and/or the Royal Bloodline of David, by deception,” with intent to deprive them of the property.

Halai Heights LLC is listed on the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website as a “real estate property management” company, with Sulla listed as manager. Sulla has disclosed in open court that the other member of Halai Heights is Jason Hester.

A bench warrant was issued for Sulla’s arrest. He will be released on his own recognizance without monetary bail required, according to Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville. Damerville said a penal summons will be issued for Halai Heights since a limited liability company isn’t subject to arrest.

According to the county Real Property Tax Office website, the 0.83-acre parcel of land referred to as “Remnant ‘A’” in the indictment is unimproved other than the easement road. It’s zoned agricultural and has both a total market value and an assessed land value of $27,100.

A warranty deed recorded Sept. 6, 2016, the date of the alleged forgery and theft, indicates a sale of the property for $450,000.

Horowitz, 67, a former dentist whose website describes him as a “clinician, prophet, scholar and natural healer” is an author, YouTube speaker and outspoken opponent of vaccinations. He’s been involved in several civil lawsuits against Sulla and/or Hester, as an appellant and a respondent, for more than a decade, and accuses the lawyer of — among other things — impropriety in connection with the non-judicial foreclosure process.

Earlier this year, one civil matter was remanded by the Intermediate Court of Appeals to the 3rd Circuit Court for further consideration.

“The motivation (for Sulla) was to steal a million-dollar property, and it was necessary to have that particular road, Remnant A, in order to access the principal feature of that property,” Horowitz said Thursday. “The main value of the property was to access the coveted steam vent and geothermal warm pools adjacent — which makes that property extraordinarily unique and was the purpose for which we bought it.

“… The adjacent steam bath house and sauna and the adjacent lot … which is our property as well, could not be accessed without Remnant A. So Mr. Sulla did a self-help. He realized he didn’t own it. He realized that the county had deeded it to the Royal Bloodline of David … .”

The civil lawsuits are in connection with two other properties, as well as Remnant A, including the one with the steam baths referred to by Horowitz.

Sulla, 73, denied the allegations in the indictment and said, “It’s ridiculous.”

“This is part of the civil matter Horowitz has cooked up, now,” Sulla added. “We’re not stealing anything. … There’s no criminality in this.”

Damerville declined comment on the civil cases.

“(Sulla is) charged with forgery in the second degree, which involves a deed to a remnant of land, and he’s charged with theft in the first degree regarding that remnant of land, and he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” he said.

First-degree theft is a Class B felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment upon conviction and second-degree forgery is a Class C felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.

Full Article & Source:
Attorney indicted for alleged forged deed, real estate theft

Peterson pleads guilty to multiple elder abuse charges

Stephanie Peterson, formerly Butler, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 charges related to elder abuse stemming from when she was operator of an assisted living facility.

Peterson was the head of Senior Lifestyles, an assisted living facility in Putnam County, which was raided last year by law enforcement, and Peterson was subsequently indicted on 28 charges related to allegations of elder abuse, financial exploitation, money laundering and obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Thirteenth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Mark Gore questioned Criminal Investigator Randal Slayton regarding his investigation into the allegations against Peterson during Monday's plea hearing in Putnam County Criminal Court.

"Our investigation was initiated as a result of a (Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Team) meeting," Slayton said. "There were a plethora of allegations that ranged, financial malfeasance against residents."

Slayton said during the investigation, which began in February 2018, he found a number of times when Peterson was found to be taking money or prescription medication from patients of Senior Lifestyles. He also discovered poor living conditions in the facility such as bed bugs and residents in urine-soaked clothing.

Slayton said that local law enforcement reports alleged residents had wandered from the facility and that financial crimes were committed against residents.

One of those crimes was against a man who reportedly began his stay at Senior Lifestyles with roughly $7,645.67 in his accounts prior to entering the facility. Slayton said shortly after the man moved in, the account began having withdrawals totaling thousands of dollars, including a roughly $200 purchase at Opry Mills. When Slayton interviewed Peterson, she admitted to the purchase at Opry Mills. Slayton testified that Peterson said she "had a good old time." Eventually, the entire account was drained.

After one patient left the facility, Peterson reportedly took that patient's remaining medication and told her daughter to destroy the packaging of the medication, according to Slayton.

Peterson also would reportedly overcharge rent from patients' bank accounts and take credit cards out under at least one patient's name.

The plea agreement results in an effective 10-year sentence; however, the plea agreement does not cover how Peterson serves the sentence.

Peterson pleaded guilty to 13 of the 28 charges:
• Knowing abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000.
• Theft of property over $2,500
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $2,500
• Identity theft
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult over $2,500
• Financial exploitation of elderly/vulnerable adult over $1,000
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult less than $1,000
• Financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable adult less than $1,000.

A sentencing hearing is set for March 23, 2020 in Putnam County Criminal Court. Defense attorneys said they plan to call at least one expert for the defense at the hearing. Judge Gary McKenzie presided over the case.

McKenzie requested she be supervised by the Tennessee Department of Corrections during the time leading up to the sentencing hearing.

"Months of investigation went into preparing to charge Ms. Butler. I am pleased that Butler’s exploitation of the residents of Senior Lifestyles was stopped," 13th Judicial District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway said.

"The effort of investigators and prosecutors in this case put a stop to the victimization of truly vulnerable people who could not help themselves and have prevented the victimization of many others. Our law enforcement community takes elder abuse very seriously.  We get up everyday to do what we can to keep people from hurting others and to punish those who do."

Co-conspirator in the case, Brian Fitzhugh Richey was indicted with Peterson and pleaded guilty in February 2018 to one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, waiving his right to a jury trial. Richey was later indicted on federal charges relating to his time working with MedManagement Inc., which managed Pain MD.

Full Article & Source:
Peterson pleads guilty to multiple elder abuse charges

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Mother, ORMC in court dispute over care of brain-damaged daughter

TOWN OF WALLKILL — Marina Blagodar smiled as her 15-year-old son, Max, and her mom, Nadia Chernyakova, entered the glass-walled room in the cardiac unit at Orange Regional Medical Center last week.

Max moved a chair closer to the bed where his 31-year-old sister, also named Marina, lay. Chernyakova sat and silently rubbed Marina’s foot beneath the bedcovers. Caring for Marina has consumed the family’s life since October 2014, when Marina suffered a cardiac event at a tanning salon in Brooklyn that led to brain damage, leaving her bedridden and dependent upon a ventilator and feeding tube.

After that, Blagodar cared for her daughter at home, with the help of home health aides. Marina was admitted to ORMC Oct. 17 with low blood pressure, and hasn’t been allowed to leave. Her mother wants to bring Marina back home, but the hospital is petitioning for guardianship: It would allow testing of Marina’s brain function to determine the best care for her, according to court papers. But Blagodar said she is afraid the hospital just wants to cut off life support and let her daughter die.

A hearing scheduled for Nov. 21 before Orange County Supreme Court Justice Robert Onofry was adjourned until Dec. 12 to allow the county Department of Social Services, which has temporary guardianship of Marina, to secure her past medical records, which Blagodar at first refused to provide.

About a year ago, the family moved to the Town of Crawford. The spacious house and yard offered fresh air and quiet that their Brooklyn apartment could not. Blagodar found a doctor to provide regular care for Marina in Monroe; Max enrolled at Pine Bush High School, made friends and played football.

As part of Marina’s care, Blagodar said, she brought her daughter to ORMC for check-ups – the last one was in early October, and the doctors and nurses there couldn’t have been kinder, Blagodar said. Two weeks later, on Oct. 17, Marina’s blood pressure became dangerously low, and she returned to the hospital, with Blagodar at her side day and night.

Her condition improved to the point where discharge papers were being prepared, and a hospital bed was ordered to be brought to Blagodar’s home, according to Blagodar. But court records related to the guardianship petition cite otherwise: Marina had pressure ulcers with bone exposure, severe sepsis with septic shock, pneumonia, a urinary-tract infection, and gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Also, Blagodar refused to release previous medical records, and interfered with nurses providing care, court papers stated.

In the preliminary court appearance on Nov. 21, Blagodar refused Onofry’s order multiple times to release Marina’s past medical records, insisting it was not in Marina’s best interest. She said she was concerned that providing that information would smooth the path for the hospital’s intention to test Marina for brain death. Onofry assured her that the hearing itself was postponed, and urged her several times to release the needed records.

“This court believes it is in your daughter’s best interest that medical providers have all past case history,” Onofry told Blagodar, who stood crying with her son at her side. “How is it in your daughter’s best interest to conceal vital information?”

Finally, Max and his mother together named three hospitals and a couple of doctors who cared for Marina over the years, and DSS representatives said they would subpoena the medical records if necessary.

Until the hearing Dec. 12, however, Onofry ruled that Marina stay at the hospital.

“Based upon preliminary reports provided to the court ... because of the serious medical condition your daughter was in when she was admitted to the hospital, it calls into question the safety and efficiency of the medical care your daughter was receiving when she was treated,” the judge said.

“That was a lie!” Blagodar responded to the judge, adding that nurses and hospital staff fabricated reports that Marina’s ulcers had bone exposure.

Blagodar and her son pleaded with the judge for Marina’s return home, saying her weak immune system makes her more prone to infections in a hospital setting.

The judge was not moved: “I am not authorizing her return home, because of the condition of your daughter when she was admitted.”

Earlier in the week, Blagodar explained that the hospital’s push for guardianship took her by surprise. Greeting a visitor to ORMC’S cardiac unit with a tired smile, she straightened Marina’s blankets, plugged in a phone charger for Max, and told her story.

“On Oct. 23, I was told that the palliative care team – hospice, end of life – wanted to meet with me,” Blagodar said, with a thick accent that belied her Ukraine birthplace. “I said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t need it.’ But they wouldn’t let her leave.”

Blagodar points to a whiteboard in the room. “Those people” - nurse leaders and other ORMC caregivers - “they lie about her condition. All they care about is organ donation. They want my daughter’s organs.”

On Nov. 1, Onofry granted Orange Regional’s petition for temporary guardianship of Marina. The petition - for which the Dec. 12 hearing is scheduled - included authorization for the hospital to perform a CAT scan of Marina’s brain and other tests to determine if she has suffered brain death. If brain activity is discovered, ORMC requested authority to choose Marina’s place of abode, either her home or a nursing home.

The alternative, however, is what alarms Blagodar: “If the neurological findings are conclusive that (Marina) is brain dead, the Petitioner (ORMC) requests an order directing the refusal, withholding and/or withdrawing all life support and devices,” additional court papers said.

Blagodar says further testing of Marina’s brain is unnecessary, as tests have been done over the years. She insists Marina responds to stimuli, and that she is not brain-dead.

“Once their testing is over, they could take her off of life support,” Blagodar worried. “This is not in her best interest. Every second I thank God I have her here with me. You don’t have to kill people just because they’re sick.”

Orange Regional Medical Center could not comment specifically on the case, according to Rob Lee, spokesman for the Greater Hudson Valley Health System serving the hospital.

“Our goal as a hospital is to compassionately care for the patients we serve, follow accepted medical standards, and adhere to New York State law,” Lee said. “We are responding accordingly to the situation at hand with the utmost care and diligence, but we cannot comment on the complex specifics of this particular case out of respect for patient confidentiality.”

Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., is head of medical ethics for NYU Langone Health. “The question becomes, if a patient has suffered so much brain damage that she could have brain death, who has the right to take the patient off life support?” Caplan said. “But you can’t ask a doctor to treat a patient without a proper diagnosis. The hospital should have the right to determine if the patient is dead.”

He said that a hospital’s pursuit of guardianship is not a common practice: “It’s difficult to remove a competent mom. They would have to prove she is harming her daughter. If there is no evidence her daughter is suffering or dead, they could rule in favor of the mother. But if the mother is in denial, and not doing what is in her daughter’s best interest, they could remove her.”

In the meantime, Marina is still unresponsive in a bed at the hospital, her eyes closed and mouth partly open. Intravenous lines, a ventilator tube, a feeding tube and other wires snake their way from various machines until they disappear under the sheets and blankets that cover her. Her mother sleeps in a chair beside her, worried what next month will bring.

Full Article & Source:
Mother, ORMC in court dispute over care of brain-damaged daughter

Florida agency to begin rejecting licenses for nursing homes without emergency power plans

Two years after 14 people died at a Florida facility, some haven’t met the legal requirements, according to the AHCA database


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities without emergency power plans and equipment are being put on notice by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency will begin rejecting licenses to facilities that have not met the legally required safeguards.

“I have communicated strongly with the nursing homes, with the assisting living facilities, that I will be reluctant to grant variances beyond the end of this year,” AHCA Sec. Mary Mayhew said. “We absolutely will take action against their license if we can demonstrate that they have failed to make good faith efforts to come into compliance with this law.”

By law, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have backup generators and enough fuel to keep a common area cool for 4 days.

However, according to the AHCA’s Emergency Power Plan compliance database, many facilities still don’t meet the requirements and many have been granted more than one variance or extension to accommodate any delays due to equipment shortages, permitting delays, or other factors.

The law was passed after 14 people died at a rehabilitation facility in Broward County during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. This after they were stuck in sweltering rooms for days with no access to power.

A review of the state law and amendments show facilities across Florida have had two years to get their emergency power plans and equipment approved and installed. But Mayhew said the time for extensions and delays has run out.

"We need our nursing homes and assisted living facilities to be ready, when we are dealing with the next hurricane," Mayhew said.

Mayhew says while Hurricane Dorian did not hit Florida, it did cause her agency to create a laser beam focus on which facilities were in compliance with the new generator requirements, and which ones were not.

"For those who have not made good faith efforts to come into compliance, we have already issued fines, and we will continue to either take further fine actions, or we will be addressing it through their licenses," said Mayhew.

AHCA confirms to date, it has already denied licenses to 3 assisted living facilities and also fined and penalized 280 more for failing to comply with the emergency power rules. One of the ones that closed was located in Central Florida.

State records show Dr. Phillips Residential Living on Vineland Road in Orlando was denied their renewal in July - and had to close their doors permanently. Multiple calls to the facility's owner were not returned.

"Well its about time," said Bob Misko, an emergency management consultant who owns ES3.

Misko says he has helped more than 140 facilities across Florida get their emergency power plans and equipment in place.

He says many places ignored or put off the rules for far too long.

"Somebody had to throw a stop up and say 'Hey! no more!'" Misko said.

For assisted living facility administrators like Jen Brown, who runs 3 facilities in Winter Park, the news is shocking.

“I think it’s very likely that there could be several facilities that could close,” Brown said. “I think that that’s scary! I would hope that AHCA would send out notices because if a facility is finding this out - there’s a lot to consider.”

Brown says that's because pulling a license would mean residents would have to find a new place to live.

"The resident ultimately suffers because they have to be relocated," Brown said. "They're displaced from their home and what they are used to."

Brown says she did have to get an extension for her facilities in order to get all their equipment in place. But she says they are all finally in compliance.

She says she just hopes the state will provide enough notice to facilities in jeopardy of losing their license, so affected families have enough time to find an alternative place for their loved ones to live.

“Hopefully it won’t be necessary,” Brown said. “Hopefully everyone will get what they need on hand.”

A Spokesperson for AHCA says the notice falls on the facility operators.

“The Agency’s goal is compliance, and we are committed to working with facilities to ensure they meet all requirements of the rule,” said Patrick Manderfield, AHCA’s Deputy Communications Director. “Any determinations regarding the removal of licenses will be made once all other remedies or penalties have been exhausted. If a facility closes, the operator is required by law to provide notice to enable alternative placements options for residents. The Agency’s Medicaid managed care plans can assist clients with placement options when needed.”

Misko says the new state directive is a wakeup call for facilities to get compliant -- or else.

“We dodged a bullet this year,” Misko said. " Next year, maybe not so lucky."

Misko says if you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home or ALF, go ahead and ask to see their emergency power plans and to demand to see their equipment.

He says any good facility will have no problem showing you.

Full Article & Source:
Florida agency to begin rejecting licenses for nursing homes without emergency power plans

Drug curbs delusions, eases anger in Alzheimer's patients, researchers find

If regulators approve it, the drug could become the first new medicine for Alzheimer's patients in nearly two decades.

SAN DIEGO — A drug that curbs delusions in Parkinson's patients did the same for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in a study that was stopped early because the benefit seemed clear.

It targets some of the most troubling symptoms that patients and caregivers face — hallucinations that often lead to anxiety, aggression, and physical and verbal abuse.

Results were disclosed Wednesday at a conference in San Diego.

"This would be a very important advance," said one independent expert, Dr. Howard Fillit, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Although the field is focused on finding a cure for dementia and preventing future cases, "there is a huge unmet need for better treatment" for those who have it now, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer's Association's chief science officer.

The drug is pimavanserin, a daily pill sold as Nuplazid by Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. It was approved for Parkinson's-related psychosis in 2016 and is thought to work by blocking a brain chemical that seems to spur delusions.

About 8 million Americans have dementia, and studies suggest that up to 30% of them develop psychosis.

"It's terrifying," said Dr. Jeffrey Cummings of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. “You believe that people might be trying to hurt you. You believe that people are stealing from you. You believe that your spouse is unfaithful to you. Those are the three most common false beliefs.”

He consults for Acadia and helped lead the study, which included about 400 people with dementia and psychosis. All were given a low dose of the drug for three months, and those who seemed to respond or benefit were then split into two groups. Half continued on the drug and the others were given dummy pills for six months or until they had a relapse or worsening of symptoms. Neither the patients nor their doctors knew who was getting what.

Independent monitors stopped the study when they saw that those on dummy pills were more than twice as likely as those on the drug to relapse or worsen — 28% versus nearly 13%.

There were relatively few serious side effects — 5% in the drug group and 4% in the others. Headaches and urinary tract infections were more common among those on the drug. Two deaths occurred, but study leaders said neither was related to the drug.

Carrillo said the study was small, but the drug's effect seemed large, and it's not known whether the federal Food and Drug Administration would want more evidence to approve a new use.

Current anti-psychotic medicines have some major drawbacks and are not approved for dementia patients.

"They're often used off label because we have very few other options," Fillit said.

All carry warnings that they can raise the risk of death in elderly patients, as does Nuplazid.

Cost could be an issue — about $3,000 a month. What patients pay can vary depending on insurance coverage.

Full Article & Source:
Drug curbs delusions, eases anger in Alzheimer's patients, researchers find

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Minnesota Probate Watch

Minnesota Probate Watch
“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

Hubert H. Humphery
Probate Watch is made up of group of people whose lives and loved ones have been impacted by probate court guardianships. We are looking for others to help lobby our legislatures and state organizations to drive change. We need help to show the need for additional legislation to protect our seniors, respect their rights and show how existing laws are being violated.

Please take our guardianship survey:

We are collecting data through an on-line survey to identify areas where there needs to be reform in the guardianship/conservatorship system. The survey is designed to collect statistics supporting the need for reforms and also provide details on how seniors and families have been affected. Your input is valuable to us and we encourage you to participate.

Survey: Guardianship and Conservatorship in Minnesota

Note: Our survey uses google form documents. Some company IT systems block access to these documents. If you have problems accessing the survey, please try using a different computer or smart phone.

Contact us:

Additional Information:

For more information on the forms of guardianship abuse we recommend contacting the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA).

NASGA Website:

Full Article & Source:
Minnesota Probate Watch

Disgraced ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle in contempt of court for failing to give documents, replacement says

Jack Meagher says his court-appointed guardian, Rebecca Fierle, doesn't respect his wishes, and he doesn't need someone to make decisions for him.
By Jeff Weiner

Though former Orlando guardian Rebecca Fierle resigned amid scandal months ago, her legal squabbles continue with some of those appointed to replace her.

In the latest salvo, attorneys for guardian Kelly Pitman are asking Orange County Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe to hold Fierle in contempt of court, after they say she failed to hand over documents regarding at least two of her former wards.

Pitman, through attorneys David A. Yergey Jr. and David A. Yergey III, first filed a broad request Sept. 5, demanding that Fierle hand over contracts, correspondence, reports, financial statements, calendars and other materials related to her handling of the wards.

Months — and a court order — later, she has not complied, they say.

“The refusal of Fierle to comply with the Court’s order was willful and improper, and such unwarranted refusal has necessitated the filing of this Motion,” Pitman’s latest filing says. It asks for Fierle to be ruled in contempt and ordered to pay Pitman’s expenses and attorney’s fees.

In an emailed statement, Fierle’s attorney, Harry T. Hackney, said Fierle “is, in fact, producing voluminous records voluntarily pursuant to an agreed order.”

“Mr. Yergey was advised of this and filed the motion immediately anyway,” he said.

Fierle was a prolific guardian, appointed in hundreds of cases across more than a dozen counties, before a scandal erupted concerning her handling of 75-year-old ward Steven Stryker, who died in a Tampa hospital while under a “do not resuscitate” order Fierle signed against his wishes.

She has since acknowledged routinely filing DNRs for wards. Probes have also found evidence of double-billing, conflicts of interest and cases in which she acted outside her legal authority.

Fierle is being investigated criminally by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody, but has not been charged with any crimes.

The controversy, as well as a series of Orlando Sentinel special reports exposing issues in the state’s troubled and underfunded guardianship system, have prompted calls for reform. Legislation to require court approval for DNRs and close statutory loopholes was filed by lawmakers this week; Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking to nearly double the budget of the state’s oversight agency; and AdventHealth, which had paid Fierle nearly $4 million over a decade, is overhauling its use of guardians.

Fierle resigned as a professional guardian July 25 in a letter to the state’s Department of Elder Affairs. She had stepped down from all Orange County cases weeks earlier.

Full Article & Source:
Disgraced ex-guardian Rebecca Fierle in contempt of court for failing to give documents, replacement says

Why Confusing Laws over Guardianship and Wills are Being Solved by Strong Legal Support

With many complex areas of law in most aspects of life, it can be beneficial to secure the right level of legal expertise to ensure the best protection is in place. Matters relating to wills and trusts, personal injury, elder law and guardianships are particularly emotional issues that have considerable impact on people’s lives.

Given the gaps in data collection across US states and nationwide, it is perhaps no surprise that guardianship remains an area of complex law, with even terminology differing within states and a lack of consistent chronicling of case management issues. With long-running issues with abuse and exploitation blighting the adult guardianship field for decades, repeated changes have been made to laws but it has largely created confusion without actually fixing all the problems.

Why the right legal protection makes the difference

“The area of adult and child guardianship remains a very complex and emotive aspect of law,” says a spokesperson for Hawbaker Law, an estate law attorney based in Georgia. “With the consequences of getting guardianship wrong likely to affect individuals for the rest of their lives, having knowledgeable legal support to provide guidance through local state processes can prevent problems occurring later on.”

Careful, thorough estate planning is another area of law with long-standing consequences for people’s lives. The proliferation of DIY estate planning websites has tempted many people away from what they perceive to be expensive legal routes, but these cheaper short cut approaches risk leaving numerous gaps in the process, which can lead to court involvement and general confusion further down the line.

Hawbaker Law advises clients on wills, trusts and all aspects of estate planning, ensuring people retain control of their assets even after death. “Planning for events post-death is not something any of us want to think about,” added the spokesman, “but putting the right things in place early on means people can rest assured their loved ones will be suitably cared for after they have gone.”

Planning long-term care for older people

The cost of care for older people is a bleak reality for many people, especially those that don’t have family around who can help take care of them. Add the problem of unlicensed care homes and the overall issue of long-term care becomes quite a challenging area to navigate. The cost of long-term care can leave personal assets vulnerable and there are some cases where people have lost their savings and homes because of the cost of care.

Again, the solution lies in good planning. “As with wills, the cost of long-term care – when we all reach that advanced age where health conditions become a regular obstacle – is not something many of us want to think about,” said the spokesperson, “but it really pays to commit to solid financial planning.

Full Article & Source:
Why Confusing Laws over Guardianship and Wills are Being Solved by Strong Legal Support

Monday, December 9, 2019

Tonight on Marti Oakley's TS Radio Network: HOW DEAD PEOPLE VOTE - with Charles Pascal.

7 pm CST....

"Our guest tonight, Charles Pascal, will educate us on how dead people are able to cast a vote from the grave, along with those who have been taken hostage in the guardianship system.

Join us this evening as we take a look at how all those dead people are able to continue voting. Not only are dead people still voting, but so are many people who have been guardianized and as a result of this, have had all their rights and protections stripped from them.....except in many cases, the right to vote. Now how could a person who is portrayed as being so incapacitated that a total stranger has to be appointed to micro manage all of their affairs and who simultaneously assumes their identity, accesses all of their assets and prohibits them from contracting, buying, selling, marrying, or even managing their own competent enough to vote?

Do you know what "bundlers" are? Do you know what "bundlers" sell? Do you know who buys what they are selling? Republicans and Democrats both buy bundles of votes obtained from guardianized individuals, from those who are deceased but have not been removed from voter rolls."

LISTEN to the show LIVE or listen to the archive later

How a Seattle attorney with ‘heart of gold’ ended up fleecing her brain-damaged client

Helga Kahr, a Seattle attorney, left, at her sentencing Friday in King County Superior Court for stealing money from a former client. At right is... (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
By Danny Westneat

Some crime stories just make me seethe a bit more than the others. One of these played out Friday in a King County courtroom.

When Jeff Barrett won a million-dollar settlement after being hit by a drunken driver, it was hoped the money could help support the severely brain-damaged Boeing Machinist for the rest of his life.

And then when one of his attorneys who had fought his case all the way to the state Supreme Court ended up taking the man into her home, it seemed to the outside world like a feel-good story of selfless community and compassion.

Except, as happens often enough to make one wonder about the human species, she then tried to steal his money — the very money she had helped win for him.

“This is one of the more egregious cases I’ve seen, not just because of the dollar amounts involved, but because it involves someone who had a double duty, as his legal guardian and as an attorney,” said Amanda Froh, deputy prosecuting attorney for King County.

On Friday, Seattle attorney Helga Kahr, 69, was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for a scheme to fleece Barrett out of $283,000 back in 2016, which she used to pay off the mortgage on her home.

Though Kahr was described Friday by friends and neighbors as a woman with a heart of gold — as ready to take on cases pro bono as she was to take in animal strays — the judge wasn’t having it.

“I don’t think you get it, Ms. Kahr,” Judge Kristin Richardson said in handing down the sentence, after Kahr had spoken and not admitted any wrongdoing. “This is a vast and deep abuse of the trust laid in you as a guardian.”

The state logs more than 8,000 complaints per year of financial abuse of incapacitated adults — usually perpetrated by someone they know. But it’s unusual for the thief to be both the court-appointed guardian and the attorney.

This story started back in 1995, when Barrett, then 36, was hit by a driver who had allegedly drunk two or three pitchers of beer at a bar in Kirkland. The accident left Barrett incapacitated for life, and wiped away years of his memories.

“This unfortunate gentleman is suffering from severe traumatic brain injury in many ways,” reads a neuropsychology evaluation from court records. “His ability to learn, retain and recall new information is at less than 0.05 percentile, meaning worse than 99.95 percent of the population.”

Kahr and another attorney won a famous 2004 case that found the tavern could be held liable for “overserving” its customers if then they go out and crash on the roads. According to court documents, Barrett eventually got an insurance settlement valued at $1 million to be used for his care, and went to live with his parents.

After family could no longer care for Barrett, Kahr became his legal guardian in 2014. He later moved into her home. Not long after, a volunteer in the guardian monitoring program, which serves as a watchdog of these arrangements, noticed some strange money moves and requested an official audit of Barrett’s finances.

What Kahr did was fleshed out at a monthlong trial this fall. Facing imminent foreclosure on her Phinney Ridge home, she got Barrett to join a real estate investment scheme in which he would buy a 40% equity stake in the house. In return, he would no longer have to pay rent and his stake could grow with the rising Seattle real estate market.

She pegged the price for his stake at $282,673 — nearly half of his total assets at the time, according to court records.

Of course he didn’t understand what he was signing, prosecutors said. In fact Barrett later told police he had no memory of any real estate deal or that any money had been shifted from his account. A later investigation alleged that after Kahr got the money from Barrett, Kahr never filed a deed granting him the ownership stake. Plus, she kept collecting rent for more than a year, until the scheme came to light.

After a trial stretching over four weeks, the jury deliberated for only about an hour in November before finding Kahr guilty of two felony counts of theft. They added aggravating factors for the victim being so vulnerable.

“He has dementia, he couldn’t take care of himself,” the judge scolded Kahr Friday. “He was reliant on you for everything.”

Kahr was surprisingly unrepentant for someone who had already been found guilty.

“I never had any notion that things would end up as they did,” she told the judge. “There was never any intent to run off with his funds.”

Her attorney suggested she was at most guilty of “sloppy attorney work.” At trial, Kahr had said she had been to a conference about real estate investment trusts and was pursuing one solely as a benefit to Barrett.

This got the judge to seething as well.

“I believed not one word of what you were saying at trial,” Richardson told her Friday.

The judge entered an order barring Kahr from ever assuming a position of trust again with a vulnerable adult — including involving the financial affairs of Kahr’s own 88-year-old mother.

“You’re not going near her money,” Richardson vowed to Kahr.

With that, they handcuffed the attorney and walked her off to jail.

For his part, Barrett, 60, is now in assisted living. After the scheme got uncovered, Kahr paid back the $283,000, using a home equity line on her house (one that she wouldn’t have been able to get if she hadn’t first taken Barrett’s money, prosecutors pointed out).

Like I said up top, this crime, though it’s not violent and didn’t do lasting harm, makes me seethe anyway. It’s one thing to steal money from, say, a bank. But stealing from a man who, through no fault of his own, has already lost everything, including even his memories? That’s low.

A year and a half to think about just how low seems like a light sentence to me.

I wondered if this story suggests there are flaws in the system that’s supposed to protect vulnerable victims from financial abuse. But a guardian told me that as bad as this theft was, the good news here is the system actually worked. A volunteer monitor flagged the suspicious money moves and, ultimately, some measure of justice was done.

Full Article & Source:
How a Seattle attorney with ‘heart of gold’ ended up fleecing her brain-damaged client