Saturday, December 21, 2019

Some nursing homes are illegally evicting elderly and disabled residents who can't afford to pay

By Katie Engelhart
 
BISHOP, Calif. — When Jamie Moore arrived home on a Thursday evening in March, she was surprised to find her mother-in-law in her living room. Glenda Moore, 67, had been sitting in her wheelchair for hours. Without anyone to help her to the bathroom, she’d had an accident. She was also having trouble breathing. “It was awful,” Jamie Moore recalled.

Glenda Moore told Jamie that she had been discharged from the Bishop Care Center nursing home, in Bishop, California. She had been living at the nursing home — a sprawling brick building on the side of a state highway — for several weeks, recovering from a back surgery that unexpectedly left her unable to walk much or take care of herself.

Several days earlier, nursing home administrators had shown Glenda Moore a letter from Medicare, explaining that her rehabilitation coverage was ending. She was unable to pay the nursing home’s more-than-$7,000 monthly fee, so, thinking she had no other options, she left. (A relative dropped her off at Jamie’s home, where Glenda Moore had lived previously, without telling Jamie.)

“They pushed her out and she was not ready,” Jamie Moore, who has worked as a nursing assistant, said. “She was not ready at all.”
Glenda Moore went to a nursing home to recover from a back surgery that unexpectedly left her unable to walk much or take care of herself.
Glenda Moore went to a nursing home to recover from a back surgery that unexpectedly left her unable to walk much or take care of herself.Valerie Bischoff / for NBC News
As the family later learned, Glenda Moore had the right to appeal the Medicare decision, or to apply for Medicaid — and, if she qualified (which she later did), to stay in the nursing home on Medicaid for as long as she needed nursing care. Instead, Moore’s family said, Moore became one of thousands of Americans discharged against their wishes or evicted from nursing homes each year. (The Bishop Care Center maintains that Moore's health had improved and that she voluntarily left the facility, and points out that they gave her a document noting her right to appeal the Medicare decision.)

Nationally, long-term care ombudsmen, who advocate for elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, received 10,610 complaints about discharges and transfers in 2017, up from 9,192 in 2015. The ombudsmen, whose work is federally mandated and state-funded, receive more complaints about discharges and transfers than any other grievance.

The complaints likely expose just a small fraction of the problem, said Kelly Bagby, vice president at the AARP Foundation, a nonprofit that serves vulnerable people over 50.

“Most people don’t even know they have rights,” she said. And many complaints never result in a formal state investigation.

Advocates, experts and the federal government say that nursing homes tend to evict low-income, longer-term residents who receive Medicaid, to make room for shorter-term rehabilitation patients who are covered by Medicare. Medicare reimburses nursing homes at a higher rate than Medicaid, so it’s more lucrative for facilities to house Medicare patients who stay for short stints before recovering and moving elsewhere.

In California, for example, the average state Medicaid reimbursement for a nursing home is $219 per day, according to the California Association of Health Facilities, while Medicare may reimburse more than $1,000 per day, but only for up to 20 days, when patients must begin paying part of the fees. (Medicare coverage ends completely after 100 days.) Advocates say that eviction notices are often handed out around the 20-day mark.

“It is illegal to discriminate against residents based on payment source, but it happens all the time,” said Tony Chicotel, attorney at the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit that supports long-term care residents in the state. “It feels like there’s just a tidal wave of cases.”

Chicotel said he receives calls every day from panicked residents or family members being threatened with discharge from a long-term care facility.

Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs at the California Association of Health Facilities, a trade association representing nursing homes, told NBC News that improper and illegal discharges are “a really rare thing,” and that the issue is exaggerated by media attention.

She added that California’s Medicaid program, Medical, does not provide “adequate funding” to care for many patients with complicated health issues and behavioral disorders. “Medicare pays more. Those people are rehab patients; they’re in and out,” she said. “That is how they break even,” she added of nursing homes. “Society’s problems are manifesting themselves on the doorsteps of nursing homes.”

‘You’re just a piece of garbage’


Nursing homes are legally permitted to evict residents under several conditions: if a resident’s health improves sufficiently; if his presence in a facility puts others in danger; if the resident’s needs cannot be met by the facility; if he stops paying and has not applied for Medicare or Medicaid; or if the facility closes. Facilities are obligated under federal law to give 30 days’ notice, in writing, and also to work with the resident on a transition plan.

Bagby, of the AARP, said that while some residents are issued formal discharge letters with advance notice, others are asked or pressured to leave with “no due process rights, no notice.”

In one case in Los Angeles, in April 2018, Ronald Anderson said he was woken at night by the nursing home staff at the Avalon Villa Care Center and told he was being evicted. Anderson, 51 at the time, had moved into the facility over a year earlier to recover from a partial foot amputation. He said he was loaded into a van and dropped off on a sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles, which has one of the largest homeless populations in the country, according to a report from the California Department of Public Health.

Anderson, who is diabetic, was left in a wheelchair without his insulin or testing supplies — on a street cluttered with tent encampments and broken glass. The Department of Public Health report noted that he could have slipped into a coma or died.

“You’re just a piece of garbage,” Anderson said, from the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter in Los Angeles where he now lives. “They’ll kick you right out on the curb.”
Ronald Anderson now lives at the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter in Los Angeles.
Ronald Anderson now lives at the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter in Los Angeles.Valerie Bischoff / for NBC News
Avalon Villa Health Care, which runs the nursing home, later paid $450,000 to settle a civil complaint filed by the Los Angeles city attorney in response to Anderson’s case and other evictions of homeless residents, with the money going toward civil penalties, hiring and training Avalon Villa staff and finding temporary housing for the facility’s homeless residents. The city attorney set up an emergency hotline and invited members of the public to report cases of resident abandonment.

A lawyer for the Avalon Villa Care Center told NBC News that the facility “strongly disputes that it has inappropriately discharged any patients” and “rejects the allegations of the city attorney.”

The Rev. Andy Bales, director of the Union Rescue Mission, said “resident dumping” from nursing homes and hospitals is so common that the shelter set up a security camera outside — which Bales calls “the dump cam” — to capture evidence of it. He said he is aware of at least four instances from the last year in which people have been dropped off on nearby streets by hospitals or nursing homes — though he believes the number is higher. As a result of the security camera, he said, “They won’t dump them off in front of us anymore.”

California’s long-term care ombudsmen received 1,404 complaints about nursing home evictions in 2018, up from 1,022 in 2014. Several lawsuits concerning nursing home discharges have recently been filed in the state.

Molly Davies, a California long-term care ombudsman, said that in addition to receiving more complaints about evictions, “there has also been an uptick in the egregiousness of some of these cases.”

In some instances, she and other experts said, nursing homes drop residents off at a low-cost motel and pay for a night or two. “We’ve seen cases with residents who have dementia put into a van and dropped downtown onto the streets, without the ability to care for themselves,” she said.

The California Department of Public Health does not track where nursing homes discharge patients, according to a department spokesman, nor does the California long-term care ombudsman program. In some instances, however, routine state inspections and inspections following complaints uncover problems.

In a 2018 incident, described in a California Department of Health and Human Services report, a Rosemead nursing home discharged a resident to a hotel without any medical equipment and without ensuring that the hotel was “a safe environment.” The female resident still required assistance with activities such as using the toilet and bathing, and was found to lack “the capacity to make her needs known.” The nursing home received a federal “deficiency” citation.

In another case that resulted in a deficiency citation, a nursing home resident who “needed extensive assistance” to move between locations in his bedroom was discharged to a motel — and, a few days later, ended up in a hospital for emergency care.

These practices are not unique to California. In Maryland, one nursing home resident was dropped off in Baltimore, a city she had never been to, according to the state attorney general’s office. In another instance, a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy accused a nursing home of discharging a resident to a storage unit on a hot summer day.

Even when residents appeal eviction decisions through a state process and win the right to return to a nursing home, that nursing home sometimes refuses to readmit them, a group of plaintiffs told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found in July. The case is still pending, but the appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs that federal law does not allow “meaningless show trials that allow nursing homes to persist in improper transfers and discharges.”

The California Department of Health Care Services, the California Department of Public Health and the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services all declined to comment, citing department policy not to comment on pending litigation.

A push for enforcement


In 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services strengthened regulatory requirements around nursing home discharges and transfers, specifying that residents cannot be evicted for nonpayment while they are in the process of applying for Medicaid or appealing a Medicaid denial. A year later, the agency announced an initiative to prevent illegal nursing home discharges, acknowledging that “some discharges are driven by payment concerns, such as when Medicare or private pay residents shift to Medicaid as the payment source.”

So far, the agency has approved $784,630 for a program in California that focuses on training nursing home staff on discharge regulations, a spokeswoman said in an email. The agency also provided $84,00 for a smaller project in Montana. Beyond that, the agency is not acting directly to address illegal evictions but is instead encouraging states “to propose projects that seek to address facility-initiated discharges that violate federal regulations,” the spokeswoman said by email.

Advocates for nursing home patients said more is needed. They want both federal and state agencies to do more to enforce existing rules on evictions.

“We haven’t seen any change in practice,” said Davies, the California long-term care ombudsman. “We haven’t seen a reduction in inappropriate transfers and discharges. There are certain enforcement tools that they have that they aren’t using consistently.” These tools, she said, include substantial fines.

But the federal government has made changes that reduced fines against nursing homes that harm or endanger residents. Nursing homes used to receive fines for each day a violation was observed, but after a change the Trump administration implemented in July 2017, nursing homes are now usually fined just once per retroactive violation.

Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, an advocacy group, says this change can affect the way illegal evictions are punished. For instance, a nursing home that evicts a patient and refuses to readmit the person may be fined one time, instead of every day that the resident is denied access to a bed.

In the first 18 months following the change in guidelines, nursing homes across the country paid about $47 million less in fines for all violations compared to the previous 18-month period, said Dr. David Gifford, senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the American Health Care Association, the nursing home industry’s main lobbying group.

Gifford told NBC News that the change was not about saving the industry money, but was meant to ensure consistent standards. He said the new fine structure incentivizes nursing homes to report violations and improve resident care.

‘I thought I was completely covered’


After she left the Bishop Care Center nursing home in March, Glenda Moore grew sicker. Over the following weeks, she cycled among her son and daughter-in-law’s home, several emergency rooms and another nursing home an hour away. According to her son and daughter-in-law, she was diagnosed with a bladder infection and pneumonia.

“I don’t want to be a burden on the kids,” Glenda Moore told NBC News in an interview in April. “I had retirement insurance, I had Medicare, I thought I was completely covered. That doesn’t count for anything … I had no idea.”

In May, her family appealed her discharge from the center. At a hearing conducted by the California Department of Health Care Services, the nursing home’s administrator said Glenda Moore had left willingly, according to the state’s summary report.

The state’s hearing officer ultimately found that the facility “failed to meet all of the regulatory-mandated discharge planning requirements.” However, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the nursing home, noting that Glenda Moore agreed to leave and was given paperwork notifying her of her right to appeal Medicare’s noncoverage decision.

By late July, her weight had dropped to about 80 pounds. She was hospitalized, and on Aug. 2 she died from acute renal failure and cardiopulmonary arrest.
Glenda Moore lived for a time with her son and daughter-in-law.
Glenda Moore lived for a time with her son and daughter-in-law. Valerie Bischoff / for NBC News
Her family believes she wouldn’t have become so sick if she had been able to stay in the Bishop Care Center for a few weeks longer, until she was more stable.

Jamie Moore said her mother-in-law’s experience has changed the way she thinks about her own retirement.

“I never thought about it much until now. It scares the crap out of me,” she said. “The system is the system. What are you doing to do?”

Full Article & Source:
Some nursing homes are illegally evicting elderly and disabled residents who can't afford to pay

Cooperstown ex-lawyer's fraud conspirator sentenced

A man convicted of conspiring with a former Cooperstown lawyer to steal millions of dollars was sentenced Thursday to a term in prison.

According to a media release from the U.S. Department of Justice Northern District of New York, Richard J. Sherwood, 59, Guilderland, was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison for conspiring to steal approximately $11.8 million from estates for which he served as an attorney and fiduciary. He appeared in federal court in Albany.

Senior United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn also ordered Sherwood to serve a one-year term of supervised release, to pay $5,560,505 in restitution, and to forfeit 12 bank and brokerage accounts, and a house overlooking Galway Lake in Saratoga County.

In a related case prosecuted by the New York Attorney General’s Office, Sherwood pleaded guilty in Albany County Court to first-degree grand larceny. He will be sentenced to a concurrent term of 3 to 10 years in state prison on that charge, the release said.

Sherwood’s co-conspirator, Thomas K. Lagan of Cooperstown, was sentenced on Dec. 11 to 78 months in federal prison, to run concurrent with a state sentence of four to 12 years in prison.

United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith said in the release, “Our society depends on attorneys to be honest and ethical. Richard Sherwood desecrated that trust when he stole millions of dollars from clients who relied on him to transfer their money to churches and other beneficiaries after they died. His seven-year criminal conspiracy is all the more disturbing because Sherwood was also Guilderland Town Justice at the time. Today’s sentence punishes Sherwood for his despicable conduct and requires him to repay every last dime that he stole.”

Sherwood practiced primarily in the area of trusts and estates. Starting in about 2006, the release said, he provided estate planning and related legal services to Capital Region philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman, and to Pauline’s sister, Anne Urban, all of Niskayuna. Sherwood was advising the Bruggemans when, in 2006, they signed wills directing that all their assets go to charities, churches and civic organizations, aside from bequests to Anne Urban and Julia Rentz, Pauline’s other sister.

Warren Bruggeman died in April 2009, and Pauline died in August 2011. At the time of her death, Pauline had personal and trust assets valued at approximately $20 million.

Sherwood admitted that he and Lagan stole $11,831,563, and that nearly $3.6 million was transferred outright to him, with an additional $1.96 million transferred to an entity, Empire Capital Trust LLC, that he and Lagan controlled. Sherwood also admitted that he transferred to himself the Bruggeman family camp located on Galway Lake.

Sherwood admitted that he and Lagan induced Anne Urban to create a trust whose purpose, unknown to her, was to allow him and Lagan to transfer assets to themselves. Sherwood and Lagan also set up more than 10 bank accounts, and created a limited liability company (Empire Capital Trust LLC), to first conceal the theft of the money and then transfer the money to themselves.

Sherwood pleaded guilty to filing false federal tax returns in 2013 and 2015. Those returns were false because he did not report, as other income, about $4.7 million that he received from the fraudulent scheme, the release said.

Sherwood served as Guilderland Town Justice from 2014 until his arrest on Feb. 23, 2018. He resigned his position on March 5, 2018. He was disbarred on Sept. 13, 2018.

Full Article & Source: 
Cooperstown ex-lawyer's fraud conspirator sentenced

As her grandparents’ love was tested by dementia, a photographer focused on their bond

Sofie Mathiassen’s grandparents — Poul and Else — always kept a journal, jotting down in a sentence or two — sometimes more — the small joys of each of their days together. Eight years ago, Poul was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and, for the past four years, their granddaughter has been photographing their daily lives in Denmark, creating a record of Poul’s last moments on earth.

The work has won the Bob and Diane Fund grant, a cash prize dedicated to raising awareness through photography of the medical crisis around Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“I have always been very close with my grandparents and spent a lot of time with them throughout my childhood,” Mathiassen said. “So, when my grandfather began to get sicker I started photographing him. I wanted to keep him as I knew him, and I could see him fading away from me and from my grandmother and the rest of the family.”

Poul, 82, at the dinner table with his wife, Else. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Poul, 82, at the dinner table with his
 wife, Else. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Else, 83, at the dinner table with her husband, Poul. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Else, 83, at the dinner table
with her husband, Poul. (Sofie Mathiassen)

Mathiassen’s photos show the bond between Poul and Else as one’s dementia becomes overwhelming and the other works to hold onto what’s slowly disappearing.

“Their story is just one example of what many families are going through,” Mathiassen said. “I hope that people see the love before they see the disease.”

“Photographing your family takes a certain risk and vulnerability,” said Getty Images photographer Chip Somodevilla, one of this year’s judges. “And Sofie has shared her world with us in an intimate and beautiful way. Denmark may have a sophisticated welfare system — but dementia still has the same impact.”

Mathiassen will receive $5,000 to publish her images in a photo book in 2020, Gina Martin, the fund’s founder and executive director, said.
Poul and Else Mathiassen in their house in Skanderborg, Denmark. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Poul and Else Mathiassen in their house in Skanderborg, Denmark. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Dinnertime at Poul’s nursing home. (Sofie Mathiassen)
Dinnertime at Poul’s nursing home. (Sofie Mathiassen)
A mural at Poul’s nursing home. (Sofie Mathiassen)
A mural at Poul’s nursing home. (Sofie Mathiassen)
One week after Poul died, Else celebrated her 84th birthday. She lives alone in their house and plans to stay there. (Sofie Mathiassen)
One week after Poul died, Else celebrated her 84th birthday. She lives alone in their house and plans to stay there. (Sofie Mathiassen)

Full Article & Source:
As her grandparents’ love was tested by dementia, a photographer focused on their bond

Friday, December 20, 2019

Guardian accused of financial exploitation

MANKATO — A Litchfield woman allegedly used a Mankato vulnerable adult’s money to pay bills.

Jill M. Schut, 57, was charged with a felony for financial exploitation Monday in Blue Earth County.

Schut was responsible for paying a vulnerable adult’s rent for an assisted-living facility in Mankato. The adult was set to be evicted due to about $2,427 in owed rent when the investigation began.

Schut told a Mankato detective she unexpectedly lost her job in June, used the adult’s money to cover bills, but intended to pay it back, according to a criminal complaint. She reportedly took about $1,757 over the course of five months.

Additional money was taken out between January and May when the adult lived in North Mankato. Schut has since paid back $2,000 to cover the money taken out between January and September.

Full Article & Source: 
Guardian accused of financial exploitation

Sen. Gounardes & Assemblywoman Weinstein Sponsor Reverse Mortgage Protections for Seniors

A bill protecting seniors from predatory reverse mortgage foreclosures, sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Helene Weinstein (S.4407/A.5626), was recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

Among other stipulations, the new law mandates that independent counseling must be provided for homeowners before they enter into reverse mortgages, prevents all-too-common false and deceptive advertising designed to try to entice seniors into reverse mortgaging their homes, even where they have insufficient equity for it to make sense for them, and prevents foreclosures based upon hyper-technical defects. “New York is proud to lead in the effort to protect seniors from financial exploitation that can result from a reverse mortgage. With the signing of this bill into law, we are fighting back against aggressive foreclosures that uproot seniors from the homes they have lived in for decades. Our communities are better when our senior residents can age safely and comfortably in place, and when we ensure our seniors are cared for, not exploited,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes.

“While there are some reverse mortgage lenders who are no doubt reputable, there are also some whose business model is predicated upon taking advantage of senior citizens, via unfair or deceptive advertising and enticement to purchase their reverse mortgage. I’m proud that my bill will give the Department of Financial Security the tools and the ability to regulate these unscrupulous predators out of business, and otherwise make the reverse mortgage process a fair one for all concerned,” said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein.

Full Article & Source:
Sen. Gounardes & Assemblywoman Weinstein Sponsor Reverse Mortgage Protections for Seniors

Buffalo’s Center for Elder Law and Justice to link elder abuse victims with social workers

Credit Center for Elder Law and Justice
By Tom Dinki

The Center for Elder Law and Justice helps older adults navigate the legal side of elder abuse, like getting an order of protection or recovering stolen funds. Now the Buffalo nonprofit legal services agency will help elder abuse victims with their emotional, social and health needs, too.

CELJ announced Monday it has received a $50,000 grant from the Garman Family Foundation Fund, which will allow CELJ to link their legal clients to free transitional services from social workers at Elder Care Solutions of Western New York. 

CELJ and Elder Care Solutions offered the social work services earlier this year on a pilot basis, helping about 10 elder abuse victims. They now hope to assist at least 22 victims in the coming year with this new round of funding.

“I always liken it to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where you need food, you need shelter,” said Sarah Duval, a supervising attorney for CELJ. “If those basic needs aren’t being addressed for our clients, then it’s really hard for us as an agency to have them focus on legal needs.”

A 2011 study found that one in 13 New York state older adults had been abused in the previous year. The study found that financial exploitation was the most common self-reported form of elder abuse, ahead of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse, respectively.

However, the study also found that elder abuse is underreported. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.

Duval said some older adults are hesitant to come forward against an abusive family member or caregiver out of fear there will be no one to take care of them and they’ll lose what independence they have left.

That’s why CELJ’s new social work services will help elder abuse remain living independently, Duval said. Social workers will help victims apply for affordable housing, Medicaid and services like a fall prevention assessment or life alert bracelet.

“No one should feel they have to remain in an abusive situation because they don’t know what would happen or where to go,” Duval said. 

The services will be offered beginning next month.

Full Article & Source:
Buffalo’s Center for Elder Law and Justice to link elder abuse victims with social workers

Thursday, December 19, 2019

92-year-old World War II veteran from California scammed out of life savings


FRESNO, Calif. -- A California World War II veteran is struggling after an acquaintance scammed him into making a loan he hasn't paid back.

Floyd Smith keeps a stack of paperwork to remind him of the scam.

"I'm 92 and I don't remember stuff like I used to," he says.

Smith served in the Navy as World War II came to a close.

"I went to Nagasaki and Hiroshima and Tokyo and all those places and where the bombs dropped. You could still see their shadow etched in the concrete."

Even as the fog of war melted away, Smith got along with nearly everyone he met.

70 years later, around the time he went on one of the first Central Valley Honor flights and shortly after he lost his wife, Smith crossed paths with Mark Gleizer, who helped him get new windows for his home.

"So I thought he's a nice guy, you know?" says Smith.

But the relationship went sour by 2016.

"He said he's in real financial trouble and he needs $10,000," says Smith. "The money that I loaned him was money I set aside for my retirement. And we planned to do a little traveling."

Smith hasn't been able to take a honeymoon with his new wife, but Gleizer seems to be traveling. Posts by him on social media show him in London, possibly making trips on the money loaned to him, Smith says.

"I feel like he just really took unfair advantage of me."

Smith got a judgment against Gleizer in small claims court but hasn't gotten any money from him.

Police in Sanger have arrested Gleizer as recently as October 2019 for drug possession, but they didn't take him to jail and he disappeared afterwards, skipping a scheduled November court appearance.

Private detective Rocky Pipkin is trying to track him down now and a GoFundMe page could help him recover some of the money, but not his trust for his fellow man.

Full Article & Source:
92-year-old World War II veteran from California scammed out of life savings

McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Pinkin Bill to Establish Protections from Financial Exploitation for Vulnerable Adults Passes Assembly

McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Pinkin Bill to Establish Protections from Financial Exploitation for Vulnerable Adults Passes Assembly


(TRENTON) – With the goal of preventing the financial exploitation of elderly New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Nancy Pinkin to increase protections for adults at risk of falling victim to financial crimes was approved Monday by the full Assembly, 77-0.

“Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for senior citizens to be taken advantage of by people seeking to take their money, property, assets or identities,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “These crimes often go unreported and untracked. The good news is financial exploitation can be prevented with the right protections in place.”

The bill (A-5091) would provide that when a qualified individual believes the financial exploitation of an eligible adult has occurred or been attempted, they must notify the Bureau of Securities in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety and the applicable county adult protective services provider. A “qualified individual” is defined under the bill as any agent, investment adviser representative or other person who serves in a supervisory, compliance, or legal capacity for a broker-dealer or investment adviser.

Additionally, the qualified individual must notify any third party previously designated by the eligible adult, unless the third party is the party suspected of the financial exploitation.  The qualified individual who makes disclosure in good faith would be immune from administrative, civil or criminal liability.

An eligible adult would be defined as a person 65 years of age or older or a person subject to the “Adult Protective Services Act.”

“Elderly people are often the target of scammers aiming to trick them into giving them money or divulging information, from telemarketing calls to solicitation for fake charities or causes,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “In fact, one in 20 older adults has indicated some form of perceived financial mistreatment, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. Our senior citizens deserve far better. The protections outlined in this bill will help keep older adults safe from financial exploitation and bring perpetrators to justice.”

“It’s heartbreaking to think that scam artists are ready and willing to solicit money from senior citizens, simply because they are vulnerable,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “No one deserves to fall victim to these crimes, especially our seniors. This bill takes an integral step to safeguard the elderly from financial exploitation.”

The measure would also provide that a broker-dealer or investment adviser may delay a disbursement from an eligible adult’s account if it may result in financial exploitation. In such cases, a broker-dealer or investment advisor would be immune from any administrative or civil liability.

Additionally, the broker-dealer or investment adviser would be required to provide access to or copies of records that are relevant to the suspected or attempted financial exploitation of an eligible adult to agencies charged with administering state adult protective services laws and to law enforcement.  The bill would provide that those records shall not be deemed to be public.

The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Full Article & Source:
McKeon, Vainieri Huttle & Pinkin Bill to Establish Protections from Financial Exploitation for Vulnerable Adults Passes Assembly

Chicago Nursing Home Delays Financial Exploitation Case

by Levin & Perconti

Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park Stalls Courts, Exploited Resident Waits for Justice


Grace Watanabe is a 98-year-old Japanese American survivor of the World War II Japanese internment camps. Her time spent working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helped her save for her retirement. As she aged, Ms. Watanabe required much more care and moved to Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park. Without any family, she had to make the choice to become increasingly reliant on the Symphony facility and staff, paying them more than $3,600 a month for her care. Shockingly, she was taken for much more. This is the most recent update of an alarming example of a vulnerable nursing home resident being financially exploited by care staff.
  • During Watanabe’s time at Symphony, seven workers wrongfully received more than $700,000 from her.
  • The workers say the money was given to them as gifts.
  • Under the corporate policy, the seven workers at Symphony who took Ms. Watanabe’s money were not supposed to accept gifts from residents — but Symphony’s administration did not actively enforce that rule.
  • In October, Tameeka Wolfe, the nursing home’s business manager, and Christina Wright, its activity director, were arrested and charged with one felony count each of financial exploitation of an elderly person for having allegedly stolen $136,900 and $205,197 respectively from Watanabe.
  • Prosecutors say the women wrote themselves checks from Watanabe’s bank account without her permission.
  • Watanabe, who battles dementia, did not have the cognitive capacity to consent to the checks.
  • Symphony has since fired all of the workers after the fact.
Charles P. Golbert is Grace Watanabe’s court-appointed guardian. His office manages about $100 million in assets belonging to people under guardianship. Over the past ten years, they have recovered more than $50 million stolen from individuals like Watanabe. The elderly lose as much as $36 billion every year through scams and financial exploitation.  Levin & Perconti attorneys Steven Levin and Mike Bonamarte have been aiding and supporting Golbert’s efforts to protect Ms. Watanabe since the beginning.

“We stepped in when this situation was discovered and removed her from Symphony, moving her into another facility with our oversight and took immediate steps to protect her remaining savings,” Golbert recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Full justice for Watanabe requires both that the perpetrators be brought to justice criminally and that we recover her money, which we’re seeking through a civil lawsuit we filed against Symphony, its parent corporations, and employees.”

As of today, Symphony continues to stall and delay taking any responsibility for their employees’ wrongdoing. In a hearing on Sept. 20, Judge Aicha MacCarthy found Symphony in contempt of court and ordered them fined every day until they complied with the order to produce four individuals for deposition.

“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied”


While we continue to work with the Cook County Public Guardian’s office and seek justice for Ms. Watanabe and others like her, we see the limitations and slow process of using the criminal and civil court systems to deal with these cases. But we also have experience in these cases and remain determined to support the financially misguided or exploited.

Full Article & Source:
Chicago Nursing Home Delays Financial Exploitation Case

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Florida lawmakers demand guardianship reform as I-Team finds investigation backlog at state watchdog


Federal and state lawmakers are demanding major reforms after the ABC Action News I-Team uncovered that Florida’s broken guardianship system is failing seniors, including new findings that show an investigative backlog at the watchdog agency charged with policing the state’s guardians.

“You start to realize after your great reporting – and thank you very much for that – the incidents and how often this is happening in Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-FL. “It’s very troubling.”

Crist and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-FL, have proposed legislation to create a national database to better screen guardians caring for the estimated 1.3 million seniors across the nation who the courts have declared are unable to care for themselves.

Read the Guardianship Accountability Act.
 
“Obviously whatever steps have been taken thus far haven’t been sufficient to stop the kind of activity that at least we’re seeing in Florida,” said Crist. “But obviously it’s happening in other parts of the country.”

I-Team Investigator Adam Walser, who has spent six years covering the state's broken guardianship system, recently uncovered Florida guardians routinely issuing do-not-resuscitate orders on people under their care without court approval.

The I-Team also found hospitals across the state paying private attorneys to go to court to put patients in guardianship for questionable reasons, including a shortage of hospital beds and because a patient with a Kia Soul that “is almost paid off... may be repossessed.”

State lawmakers look to crack down on broken system


“It really shone a spotlight on the issue,” said state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, about the I-Team’s findings.

Passidomo is sponsoring a bill at the State House to regulate how professional guardians are appointed and paid. The legislation would also require guardians to get a judge to sign off before do-not-resuscitate orders are issued on people in guardianship.
SB 994 by wftsweb on Scribd

“The bottom line is we do not want to make a mistake. Because a do-not-resuscitate (order) is final. It’s death, so I’d rather err on the side of caution,” said Passidomo.

State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, told ABC Action News she plans to support the bill after receiving calls from constituents about problems with guardians.

“This is evil. What’s happening here is really evil,” said Cruz.

State Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, who is co-sponsoring a companion bill in the House, said, “When I first heard about this, I was like, ‘What do we need to do? And we need to do it now.’”

State watchdog falling down on the job


New internal documents obtained by the I-Team shows the Office of Public and Professional Guardians – the state agency charged with policing problems in guardianship – is fighting a growing backlog of investigation reports.

In most cases, an investigation report had been completed for at least 200 days before the agency officially closed the case.

Records also show the backlog existed even before the entire agency staff resigned earlier this year in the wake of the I-Team’s reports on the state’s troubled guardianship system.

Kathleen Zagaros, who complained to OPPG about a guardian ignoring her mother’s wishes and issuing a do-not-resuscitate order, waited more than a year to find out the results of the investigation into her case.

The office opened an investigation after she complained in 2017. Investigators turned in the finished report on Sept. 25, 2018, but the case wasn’t officially closed until more than a year later on Oct. 14, 2019 – the date of the warning letter the agency sent to the guardian.

“They weren’t supposed to keep investigating,” said Zagaros. “They just sat on it.”

The I-Team obtained work calendars for senior agency staff during that time which showed conference calls and budget meetings, but also more than a dozen office social events. Including birthday lunches, a bake sale, a chili cook-off and something called a “rainy day pizza party.”

Zagaros said she believes the state only sent her mother’s guardian a warning letter after the I-Team got involved in her case and began asking questions.

“It just took off. The story took off and everything has happened since then,” said Zagaros. “People are more aware. We’re finally being listened to.”

The I-Team uncovered OPPG spent more than $600,000 in tax dollars paying Florida county court clerks to investigate 84 guardians, including some for multiple complaints. But despite its own investigators finding serious issues, the office has only revoked one license in the three years since it opened.

In February, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for change at the agency after an I-Team report at the time found OPPG had 132 open investigations for verified complaints against guardians.

“What troubled me about some of the issues you guys raised was obviously bad things are happening, but there doesn’t seem to be anybody held accountable,” said DeSantis at the time. “That just doesn’t strike me as being acceptable.”

Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom released this statement on Monday morning.
The Department of Elder Affairs is committed to ensuring vulnerable elders in the care of professional guardians are protected. After discovering inefficiencies in the program in July 2019, I took direct control of the Office of Public & Professional Guardians (OPPG) and asked for the resignation of its Executive Director. Following the director’s resignation, I worked with our agency’s General Counsel to swiftly clear a backlog of approximately 80 cases. I have been working closely with the Governor’s Office to recommend increased funding and have been working with Representative Colleen Burton and Senator Kathleen Passidomo on new legislation seeking improvements to the guardianship program. Under current law, our agency has limited ability to hold bad actors accountable and may only refer complaints to the courts. The new legislation addresses issues of conflicts of interest, compensation and strengthening and formalizing the process by which a professional guardian obtains a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order on a ward.
If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email adam@abcactionnews.com.

Full Article & Source:
Florida lawmakers demand guardianship reform as I-Team finds investigation backlog at state watchdog

Ex-Livingston County judge Brennan pleads guilty to perjury

A former Livingston County judge pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying under oath, six months after she was removed from the bench for multiple ethics violations.

Former 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan pleaded guilty to perjury, a 15-year felony, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

Two other lesser charges against Brennan, misconduct in office and tampering with evidence, were dropped.

"Her guilty plea will require her to notify the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission of her criminal conviction, which may lead to future licensing sanctions, including the possibility of disbarment, against the embattled former judge," a press release from the Attorney General's Office said.


The Michigan Supreme Court removed Brennan from office in June, after charges of judicial misconduct were filed and heard by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission.

"This defendant violated the very tenets we as a society hold dear: truth, honor and justice," Nessel said in Tuesday's release. "She made a mockery of her oath of office and undermined the integrity of the bench.”

Dennis Kolenda, an attorney representing Brennan, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Livingston County judges recused themselves from hearing the case, which was assigned to Judge Paul Cusick of Wayne County Circuit Court. Sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 17.

In April, the Judicial Tenure Commission recommended that the state Supreme Court remove Brennan from the bench after the commission found she failed to disclose relationships with a state police detective and an attorney who had appeared before her; tampered with evidence in her divorce case; lied under oath; "was persistently impatient, undignified, and discourteous," and ordered employees to perform personal tasks during work hours.

The commission also recommended Brennan pay about $35,570 in costs and expenses for making misleading statements to the commission.

In a June ruling, the state's high court adopted the commission's recommendation to remove Brennan from the bench.

"The cumulative effect of respondent’s misconduct convinces this Court that respondent should not remain in judicial office," the ruling said. "Therefore, we remove respondent from office and conditionally suspend her without pay for a period of six years, with the suspension becoming effective only if respondent regains judicial office during that period."

Full Article & Source:
Ex-Livingston County judge Brennan pleads guilty to perjury

Florida Men Indicted For Scamming Elderly Victims Of More Than $1.5M In Mail Fraud Case



MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A federal grand jury has indicted two Florida men for allegedly defrauding dozens of elderly people of more than $1.5 million.

David James Green, 24, of Miami Gardens and McArnold Charlemagne, 32, of Miramar are charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

According to the indictment, the duo would pose as a police officer, lawyer or other person and persuade their victims to send thousands of dollars in cash to various addresses to help with relatives’ legal expenses.

They would claim, says the indictment, that the victim’s grandchild had been jailed due to a car accident or traffic stop involving a crime and needed money for bail and legal fees, often tens of thousands of dollars. It also states that sometimes they would claim drugs had been found in the car or someone was hurt.

The men had the victims send money to homes that were vacant or for sale so no one would be there when the money arrived. They also told the victims there was a gag order on the case that prohibited them from telling others, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, at least six packages containing between $7,900 and $20,000 were shipped to addresses in Baltimore, Maryland between May 2018 and January 2019. The victims were from Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan and Florida.

In total, 65 victims sent the men at least $1.5 million, the justice department said.

Both men face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Green, while Charlemagne appeared in court on Friday and was released on a $100,000 bond.

Full Article & Source:
Florida Men Indicted For Scamming Elderly Victims Of More Than $1.5M In Mail Fraud Case

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Crane, Mo. man pleads guilty to sexual abuse against nursing home residents

By Kadee Brosseau

CRANE, Mo. -- A Stone County man has been sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to first degree sexual abuse.

Paul Christianson, 44, of Crane was originally accused of raping two mentally handicapped women at Ozark Mountain Regional Healthcare in Crane.

According to online court records, Christianson accepted a plea deal on December 2, 2019. In addition to being sentenced to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for the sexual abuse conviction, Christianson will also undergo the 120 day Sex Offender Assessment Unit (SOAU) program. Under state law, if Christianson successfully completes the program, he could be released on probation after serving 120 days.

On December 2, Christianson also plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual conduct with a nursing facility resident or vulnerable person. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for that charge, which he has already served.

According to court documents obtained through the Stone County Prosecutor's Office at the time of the June 2018 crime, investigators went to Christianson's home and arrested him after they interviewed a victim of the crime. Detectives say Christianson admitted to having sexual intercourse a minimum of five times with two different females in the residential home. Christianson also admitted to committing other sexual acts with the women. According to investigators, the women have diminished mental capacity and lacked the ability to consent. Documents also show that the crimes happened between June 1, 2018 and August 15, 2018.

Full Article & Source:
Crane, Mo. man pleads guilty to sexual abuse against nursing home residents

Iowa's New Laws for Adult Guardianships: What You Need to Know

Written by: Davis Brown Law Firm

The Iowa Legislature recently passed House File 610, which makes several important changes to the way guardianships for adults are handled in Iowa. This new law will take effect on January 1, 2020.

The Legislature also has passed House File 591, which changes the way guardianships for minor children are handled in Iowa. This article focuses on House File 610 and guardianships for adults only. House File 591 and guardianships for minors will be the subject of a separate article.

Changes in Terminology

  • House File 610 replaces old terminology that was seen by many as outdated and offensive. A respondent is a person who is proposed to be subject to guardianship. This term replaces “proposed ward.”
  • Once a court officially appoints a guardian, the respondent becomes the protected person. A protected person is a person who is currently under guardianship. This term replaces “ward.”

 

New Rules for Starting Guardianships


House File 610 changes the procedure for how guardianships begin. Before a guardian can be appointed, the following must happen:
  • Background Check. The court must perform a statewide background check of all individuals who are proposed to serve as guardians, including a check of criminal records as well as the child abuse, dependent adult abuse, and sexual offender registries. The person asking for the guardianship (the petitioner) must pay a $15.00 fee for the background check.
  • Attorney. Respondents are always entitled to an attorney unless the respondent is also the petitioner. The court can appoint an attorney for a respondent who cannot afford or hire an attorney. The attorney’s job is generally to advise the respondent and advocate for the respondent’s wishes.
  • Professional Evaluation. Before the court may begin, change, or end a guardianship, the court generally must require a professional evaluation of the respondent or protected person. The evaluation must be done by a professional such as a physician, psychologist, or social worker, who must file a written report with the court.
  • Court Hearing. Before a guardianship can begin, there must be an in-person hearing in front of a judge. At the hearing, the petitioner may tell the judge why the guardianship is needed, and other parties may argue against a guardianship. The respondent has the right to attend the hearing in person. If the respondent does not attend, the court must be given a good reason for the respondent’s absence.

 

New Rules for Administering Guardianships


House File 610 also changes how guardianships are implemented. Some of these changes are as follows:

Initial Care Plan


All guardians must file an Initial Care Plan within 90 days after their appointment as guardian. The Plan must include the following:
  • The protected person’s current residence
  • The guardian’s plan for the protected person’s living arrangements
  • The guardian’s plan for paying the protected person’s living expenses and other expenses
  • The protected person’s health status and health care needs, and the guardian’s plan for meeting the protected person’s needs for medical, dental, and other health care needs
  • The guardian’s plan for other professional services needed by the protected person, if applicable
  • The guardian’s plan for meeting the protected person’s educational, training, and vocational needs
  • The guardian’s plan for facilitating the protected person’s participation in social activities, if applicable
  • The guardian’s plan for facilitating contacts between the protected person and the protected person’s family members and other significant persons
  • The guardian’s plan for contact with, and activities on behalf of, the protected person

 

Annual Reports


Guardians must file an Annual Report each year. There are no exceptions to this rule, and guardians may not go longer than a year between filing Annual Reports, even if they had done so in the past. The Annual Report must include the following:
  • The protected person’s current living arrangements
  • The sources of payment for the protected person’s living expenses and other expenses
  • The protected person’s physical and mental health status and the medical, dental, and other professional services provided to the protected person, if applicable
  • The protected person’s employment status and the educational, training, and vocational services provided to the protected person, if applicable
  • The protected person’s contact with family members and other significant persons, if applicable
  • The nature and extent of the guardian’s visits with, and activities on behalf of, the protected person, if applicable
  • The guardian’s recommendation as to the need for continuation of the guardianship
  • The guardian’s ability to continue serving as guardian
  • The guardian’s need for help in providing or arranging for the protected person’s care and protection

 

Actions that Guardians May Take


The new law also changes the list of actions that guardians may take on behalf of the protected person.

A guardian may take any of the following actions at any time, and does not need to ask the court’s permission first:
  • Making decisions regarding the protected person’s care, maintenance, health, education, welfare, and safety
  • Establishing the protected person’s permanent residence, subject to certain limitations
  • Taking reasonable care of the protected person’s clothing, furniture, vehicle, other personal effects, and companion, assistance, and service animals
  • Assisting the protected person in developing maximum self-reliance and independence
  • Consenting to and arranging for medical, dental, and other health care treatment and services for the protected person, subject to certain limitations
  • Consenting to and arranging for other needed professional services for the protected person
  • Consenting to and arranging for appropriate training, educational, and vocational services for the protected person
  • Maintaining contact, including through regular visitation with the protected person if the protected person does not reside with the guardian
  • Making reasonable efforts to identify and facilitate supportive relationships and interactions of the protected person with family members and significant other persons. A guardian may place reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on communication, visitation, or interaction between the protected person and another person, subject to certain limitations

Guardians may also be able to take the following actions on behalf of an adult protected person, but only after obtaining court permission:

  • Changing the protected person’s permanent residence to a nursing home, other secure facilities, or a secure portion of a facility that restricts the protected person’s ability to leave or have visitors
  • Consenting to the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures from the protected person, or the performance of an abortion or sterilization of the protected person
  • Denying all communication, visitation, or interaction with the protected person by a person with whom the protected person has expressed a desire to communicate, visit, or interact, or with a person who seeks to communicate, visit, or interact with the protected person

 

What Current Guardians Need to Know


If you were appointed as guardian for an adult protected person before January 1, 2020, you should keep in mind:
  • No Background Check. The new law says that the court will run a background check before deciding whether to appoint a person as a guardian. Because the court has already appointed you as guardian, you will not need to undergo a background check.
  • Annual Reports. Starting January 1, your Annual Reports will need to include all of the information listed above. If you have not filed an Annual Report each year in the past, you will need to begin doing so now.
  • Initial Care Plan. You will need to file an Initial Care Plan, but you do not need to do this until you file your next Annual Report. There is no deadline for filing the Initial Care Plan, so long as you file it at the same time you file your next Annual Report.
  • Your Powers as Guardian. The list of actions that you may take for the protected person will change as set forth above, but these changes will not apply to you until you file your Initial Care Plan. Until that time, you will have all the same powers that you had before January 1, 2020. 

 

Conclusion


House File 610 includes many important changes designed to provide better protection to people under guardianships. If you are serving as guardian for someone else or if you or someone you know is in need of a guardianship, you should consult with a lawyer to ensure these new requirements are met.


Full Article & Source:
Iowa's New Laws for Adult Guardianships: What You Need to Know

State report confirms verbal abuse at Albert Lea nursing home

ALBERT LEA, Minn. – State investigators say a resident at an Albert Lea nursing home was verbally abused by a staff member.

The Minnesota Department of Health Office of Health Facility Complaints filed a report in November about abuse it says happened in June 2019 at St. John’s on Fountain Lake. The report says the female staff member called the resident insulting names, asked “do you think you have a hole in your brain,” and place her hands over the resident’s face and tapped back and forth in a slapping motion.

The report says this behavior was recorded on cell phone video and the resident had medical problems which required assistance with all daily activities.

State investigators say the staff member in this matter is no longer employed at St. John’s, all remaining staff have been educated on the Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act and how to report incidents of abuse. The report states the abuse resident has no memory of being mistreated.

The state has issued a correction order to St. John’s on Fountain Lake.  To read the full report, click here.

Full Article & Source:
State report confirms verbal abuse at Albert Lea nursing home

Monday, December 16, 2019

Regulations for guardians and conservators? Lots of talk, no action

Michigan AG Dana Nessel and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh


TRAVERSE CITY — During a recent interview with Grand Traverse County Probate Judge Melanie Stanton, she explained that “conservator” and “guardian” are legal constructs, conveyed by the court, after someone has been found incapacitated.

The reasons are many, from dementia to Alzheimer’s disease to developmental disability, advanced aging and even repeated substance abuse.

Conservators manage finances; guardians make medical and housing decisions.

“Before I make an appointment, there has to be a finding that the person is incapacitated,” Stanton said. “And when a petition is filed, I have to have some form of documentation. Often that is a statement from a physician.”

Professional guardians are allowed by law to bill for their services. Wards whose only income is from Social Security pay a flat fee — $83 per month — while wards with financial means are billed at various, unregulated rates.

Critics like attorney Bradley Geller, of the Michigan Center for Law and Aging, say the power probate judges and adult protective services workers have over people’s lives makes such appointments, especially to professionals, ripe for abuse.

“This for-profit business has been described by the mantra, ‘Litigate, isolate, sedate, and take the estate,’” Geller said.

He said in many cases, an older adult may believe they’ve planned well by setting up a living will and naming a power of attorney, but those wishes can quickly be set aside by judges.

Once a probate judge names a guardian or a conservator, there’s little oversight and no timely way for the family to object. The argument of a “dysfunctional family,” he said, is common.

One of the few rules probate courts place on guardians and conservators is making regular reports. Conservators must file an annual financial accounting for their wards, and guardians must file an inventory of their ward’s assets, and must meet in person with their wards at least every three months.

Laws regulating guardianship and conservatorship are either useless or non-existent, Geller said.

In 2017 he sued the State of Michigan and its 78 probate courts for violating wards’ rights. The federal court case was dismissed in May, and Magistrate Judge David R. Grand said Geller’s allegations weren’t specific but rather, “sweeping in nature.”

Partly in response to Geller’s lawsuit, Attorney General Dana Nessel in March created an Elder Abuse Task Force and went on a statewide listening tour.

She developed a number of initiatives, which included recommending conservators and guardians be certified, and that the legislature pass laws limiting the number of wards a guardian can serve.
Currently, there is no such limit, though the Michigan Guardianship Association, a trade group for professional guardians, recommends 25.

Similar recommendations were made by Gov. John Engler’s and Chief Justice Conrad Mallet, Jr.’s 1998 Supreme Court Task Force on Guardianships and Conservatorships, and by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s 2007 Governor’s Task Force on Elder Abuse.

Geller, who served on the 1998 Supreme Court Task Force and wrote a guardianship handbook, said few recommendations from either task force were ever enacted.

Nessel acknowledged as much in June, when her listening tour brought her to the Traverse Area District Library and she said the studies had been done and it was time for legislative action.

Stanton said she’d welcome some sort of oversight for professional guardians.

“I think it would be helpful,” she said. “I don’t understand why it isn’t already a requirement.”

Nessel’s Communications Director Kelly McKinney-Rossman said the attorney general’s office anticipated the introduction of elder abuse legislation sometime in the next several weeks, though could not say whether it would address guardianship and conservatorship.

Full Article & Source: 
Regulations for guardians and conservators? Lots of talk, no action

Pak: Disbarred attorney arraigned on federal fraud, theft charges in $337K College Park escrow case

Carla Burton Gaines faces federal fraud & misuse of client funds charges.
by Robin Kemp

ATLANTA—An attorney who allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in county escrow funds that were to go to a College Park business has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of fraud and misuse of client funds.

Carla Burton Gaines, 60, of Mableton, was disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court on Nov. 18. According to a press release from U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. "BJay" Pak, Gaines "allegedly stole $337,400 that she had received from the Clayton County government to hold in escrow for payment" to Kelete, Inc. of College Park.

"After the theft," which according to the indictment took place from August 2014 through March 2016, "Gaines allegedly lied to Clayton County and Kelete to convince them that she still had the money and payment was on the way."

The money came from a right-of-way sale agreement between Kelete, Inc., a convenience store, and Clayton County. The county paid Kelete $712,400, which Gaines was to have held in escrow. The deal closed in November 2015 and Gaines paid Kelete, Inc. $375,000. The rest was to remain in escrow until the company "removed certain trade fixtures and improvements on the property."

Kelete, Inc. finished the work in March 2016 but, despite asking repeatedly for the rest of its money, never got it.

"For example, Gaines falsely claimed that the wire was 'pending,' that the wire was 'stuck,' that she was 'awaiting a call from the bank,' that she had 'straightened out the issue,' and that the 'wire should be processed Monday,'" Pak's office said. "Those representations were false." What's more, the government alleges, "Gaines had far less...in her bank accounts at the time she made those representations."

Kelete, Inc. then sued Gaines, who allegedly lied under oath in two depositions on March 2017 and June 2018, claiming that she had accidentally paid the money to another client, a pastor, who she said repeatedly promised to pay her back.

"Attorneys who allegedly lie and steal abuse the trust owed to their clients and violate the law," Pak said. "The indictment alleges that Gaines stole client money that should have been held in escrow, and then lied about the theft in an attempt to lull her victims into a false sense of security."

FBI Special Agent in Charge of Atlanta Chris Hacker added, "It is very disheartening when a lawyer, sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the jurisdiction they are licensed in, violates that oath."

According to her bio on the Gaines and Associates website, "Gaines is an attorney with over 23 years of experience in her field of law. She was a founding partner of Miller & Gaines, P.C., an Atlanta real estate closing firm, for over 15 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and her Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Tennessee School Of Law. Since 2010, Mrs. Gaines and her team has successfully negotiated over 100 loan modifications, principal reductions, settlements, and short sales for clients in need, maintaining a 95% success rate. Mrs. Gaines sees this firm as a ministry allowing her to use her legal skills to help God’s people suffering in today’s tough economy."

Gaines is presumed to be innocent unless the government proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The News attempted to reach Gaines but did not hear back before press time.

Full Article & Source:
Pak: Disbarred attorney arraigned on federal fraud, theft charges in $337K College Park escrow case