Saturday, June 20, 2020

Daughter says nursing home "cover-up" example of what can happen without visitation

by Anne McCloy

Photos show how Gloria Caldaroni-Ford found her mother Donata in a five-star nursing home in Saratoga County, bruises under her eyes, a huge knot on her head and a big cut on her nose. (WRGB PROVIDED)
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SARATOGA NY (WRGB) - What goes on behind closed doors?

A Saratoga County woman says COVID-19 policy that has prevented families from visiting nursing homes has made it so families have no idea what's happening to their loved ones.

After her mother was mistreated in a nursing home, she says no family should ever be completely banned from visitation.
You don’t think it’s going to happen to you.
Photos show how Gloria Caldaroni-Ford found her mother Donata in a five-star nursing home in Saratoga County, bruises under her eyes, a huge knot on her head and a big cut on her nose.

“We were there almost all day every day and that one window we weren’t there that’s when the injury occurred,” Caldaroni-Ford said.

The incident happened before the COVID-19 pandemic. Caldaroni-Ford says her family only learned about the injury when they came to visit her mom the next day. The aide accused of causing her mother to fall was charged for not following procedure and for failing to report what happened.

Caldaroni-Ford is now fighting for new laws after COVID-19 nursing home policy that has banned families from visiting their loved ones. (WRGB)
“It is so important you don’t assume everything is okay behind closed doors,” Caldaroni-Ford said.

That's why Caldaroni-Ford is now fighting for new laws after COVID-19 nursing home policy that has banned families from visiting their loved ones.

“It should be illegal to prevent someone from taking care of their loved ones. You have to be your loved ones advocate, you can’t be their advocate if you are not there with them,” Caldaroni-Ford said.

Caldaroni-Ford argues during a pandemic at least one family member should be allowed in to ensure proper care wearing proper PPE and taking the same precautions at staff.

“They would be careful, if not more careful because they don’t want to bring COVID-19 into their family,” Caldaroni-Ford said.

She also believes cameras should be allowed in rooms so families always have eyes on their loved ones. (WRGB PROVIDED)
She also believes cameras should be allowed in rooms so families always have eyes on their loved ones.

“If I had a camera in the room, I could feel that much better, I could feel that much safer,” Caldaroni-Ford said.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Sullivan) has a bill that would put cameras in patient's room with consent from any patient's sharing that space. It's currently in committee.

Friday, CBS 6’s Anne McCloy reached out to Governor Cuomo’s Office, and brought Caldaroni-Ford’s concerns to their attention. She also asked for more detailed information on when guidance will be issued on re-opening nursing homes.

Gary Holmes from NYSDOH responded Friday saying the following:

“The Department of Health takes tremendous steps to protect our most vulnerable populations in nursing homes — and all complaints are kept confidential and thoroughly reviewed to ensure New Yorkers’ safety. As we’ve said, we are reviewing the data to determine the appropriate time to reinstate a nursing home visitation program that protects the health and well-being of residents, their visitors and staff.”

Full Article & Source:
Daughter says nursing home "cover-up" example of what can happen without visitation

AG's office warning of adult abuse after Flint woman found dead weighing 62 pounds

by Blake Keller, AnnMarie Kent

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Friday morning Lori Rosebush and Robert Stilwill were charged with first-degree murder and vulnerable adult abuse after Rosebush’s sister Bonnie Fisher was found dead and neglected.

Fisher was found weighing only 62 pounds on June 12.

“She was in very, very terrible condition, she was skin and bones literally,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.

Rosebush has also been charged with embezzlement. Leyton says she was receiving money from the state to care for Fisher.

“I believe these people were overwhelmed,” Leyton said. “They didn’t know how to care for this person, they should’ve reached out for help, they certainly shouldn’t have been taking the state’s money to care for her.”

Scott Teter with the Elder Abuse Task Force from the Michigan Attorney General's Office that vulnerable adult abuse almost always involves money.

“What I tell them is when you come on scene and you see signs of abuse or neglect, there will be financial exploitation,” Teter said. “I’ve never seen it fail”

The task force handles more than 73,000 cases of vulnerable adult abuse a year. After light came to this case in Genesee County, they’re sharing warning signs.

“The bottom line is, nobody has direct contact with the older adult because that’s how they control not only the adult but also the ability to perpetuate the secret,” Teter said.

Both Rosebush and Stilwill have entered a not guilty plea in court. No bond was issued for either individual.

Teter believes more needs to be done in Michigan to address this issue.

Full Article & Source:
AG's office warning of adult abuse after Flint woman found dead weighing 62 pounds 

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Two people charged with murder after Flint woman found dead, weighing 62 pounds

Caregiver arrested on charges of financial exploitation

By Ashlynd Huffman

Ashlynd Huffman/ Stillwater News Press The Payne County Courthouse.
A Stillwater caregiver is being accused of pawning a gaming system that belonged to a client.

Richard Allen Foster Jr., 38, of Stillwater, was charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

On March 11, Stillwater Officer John Stanbery responded to the Community Access office regarding a larceny investigation.

Community Access is a company that provides live-in care for developmentally disabled individuals.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the program coordinator, Jason Grant, reported a Nintendo gaming system was stolen from a client. The gaming system was valued at $250.

Grant said Community Access is the legal financial representative for the victim, and the victim’s mother is the legal guardian for the victim.

Stillwater Officer David Adney Conducted an investigation into the incident,

“The investigation revealed Foster pawned the gaming system on Jan. 14, 2020 at EZ Pawn,” Adney alleged in the affidavit.

The affidavit said Foster claimed to have owned the gaming system for a year.

On April 20, Adney made contact with Foster by phone and interviewed him regarding the stolen gaming system.

According to the affidavit, Foster said he purchased the gaming system from the victim and then pawned it for $50.

“Foster admitted he was not supposed to enter into any financial agreement with a client who was developmentally disabled,” Adney alleged.

The affidavit said Foster attempted to rationalize his actions and said, “everyone is doing it, they just don’t get caught.”

Officer Adney said based on the investigation it is evident Foster took advantage of his position as a caretaker.

Full Article & Source:
Caregiver arrested on charges of financial exploitation

Friday, June 19, 2020

Two people charged with murder after Flint woman found dead, weighing 62 pounds

by Jonathan Jackson, AnnMarie Kent

A woman and a man have been charged with murder after the woman’s sister was found dead, with broken bones and weighing just over 60 pounds.

Flint Police were called to Bloor Avenue in Flint just after 1 a.m. on June 12.

A woman in her late 60s was found dead inside a home. She had fractured bones, had been neglected, had been in the same position for months and weighed 62 pounds. Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said.

She was being cared for by her sister and a man her sister had asked for help.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the sister was getting money from the state to care for the woman.

The woman has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree vulnerable adult abuse and embezzlement from a vulnerable adult.

The man was charged with first degree murder and first-degree elder abuse.

Leyton believes the two got overwhelmed and didn’t know how to care for Fisher.

He says if you need help taking care of senior citizens, to reach out to the Genesee County Office of Senior Services (810) 424-4478.

Full Article & Source:
Two people charged with murder after Flint woman found dead, weighing 62 pounds

Elderly exploitation case continues to grand jury

by Cliff Williams

Bettye Baker
A charge of first-degree financial exploitation of an elderly person against Bettye Wells Baker will go to a grand jury.

Baker, 56, of Alexander City appeared before Tallapoosa County district court Judge Kim Taylor as prosecutors presented enough evidence to convince Taylor proceedings should continue.

Alexander City Police Department Det. Drew Machen said he got the case when the victim and her representative at a local bank called the department because the victim thought she was missing $95,000 from her accounts. Machen said the victim, a family member of Baker, reported the money went missing over a period of two years.

“(The victim) explained to me she was living in California and moved here,” Machen said. “She told me she added Baker to her accounts.”

A representative from the victim’s bank testified there were three joint accounts listing the victim and Baker as owners — a money market account, a certificate of deposit and a checking account. The representative said the money market account had no debit card and up to six checks per month could be written on it. The representative said she noticed nothing unusual about the transactions on the accounts.

Machen said he subpoenaed bank records through the district attorney’s office and determined Baker transferred about $44,000 from the victim into three of Baker’s personal accounts.

“It went to two separate accounts with Ms. Baker’s name and another with Ms. Baker and her husband,” Machen said.

Machen said Baker did not have power of attorney rights for the victim. He said the victim told her she added Baker to help out with paying bills.

“(The victim) said because of her age, her memory wasn’t as good as it once was,” Machen said.

Machen said some of the funds transferred from the victim’s accounts by Baker could be attributed to work on the victim’s home air conditioning system.

Machen said Baker assisted the victim with other transactions related to the move from California.

“When she moved her she had a vehicle,” Machen said. “It was registered in California and transferred to just Ms. Baker. It is now in the name of (the victim).”

Machen said he didn’t know if the victim had a driver’s license or insurance on the car.

Other allegations were made by the victim against Baker which Machen could not support with criminal charges.

“(The victim) said Ms. Baker was not allowing her to leave her residence,” Machen said. “She said Ms. Baker was parking behind her. I didn’t find a criminal act.”

Machen said the victim’s car was blocked by Baker’s car in the driveway.

Baker supplied the court signature cards from the bank showing her as one of the joint account holders through her attorney Derrick Blythe.

Machen said he never spoke with Baker in the investigation and banking records were initially supplied by the victim.

“So the entire case is based on what (the victim) told you and what (the bank representative) told you and what you got in the subpoena,” Blythe said.

Taylor bound the case over to a Tallapoosa County grand jury to determine if Baker should be indicted to move the case to trial in circuit court.

Financial exploitation of an elderly person in the first degree is a Class B felony and if found guilty, Baker could be sentenced to between two and 20 years in a state prison.

Full Article & Source: 
Elderly exploitation case continues to grand jury

More Than 70 Residents At Oakmont Nursing Home Evacuated After Crews Cleaning Clogged Sink Cause Chemical Reaction

OAKMONT, Pa. (KDKA) – Seventy-six residents at Oakmont Nursing and Rehab Center were evacuated Thursday afternoon. 

Allegheny County Emergency Services Chief Matt Brown says maintenance employees poured a drain cleaner into a clogged slop sink, which had a reaction and started fuming.

“The cause of the chemical odor was a reaction caused by the use of a drain cleaner and other chemicals to unclog a sink,” Allegheny County HMRT 420 said on Facebook.

The facility chose to evacuate its residents, with Emergency Services implementing its mass casualty incident protocol to help evacuate 76 residents.

Port Authority brought in two buses and operators for temporary shelter until the building is ventilated by HAZMAT and firefighters.

“MCI plan was put into effect bringing ambulances in from all over the county just to make sure we can properly care for the patients. Port Authority busses were brought in,” Asst. Chief Steve Imbarlina of Allegheny County Emergency Services.

There are no unusual meter readings, Brown says, and the facility is now being cleaned.

“They start to make sure that it is safe to reoccupy and that the air quality is just as good as the air out here,” Imbarlina said.

Officials say no one was taken to the hospital and residents were allowed back in on Thursday night.

“As a general reminder, drain cleaners are harsh chemicals and should be used cautiously under close supervision,” Allegheny County HMRT 420 said on Facebook.

Full Article & Source:
More Than 70 Residents At Oakmont Nursing Home Evacuated After Crews Cleaning Clogged Sink Cause Chemical Reaction

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lawyer Taken to Task for Seeking to Represent Both Conservatee and Would-Be Conservator

The lawyer on appeal for a woman who wants to be appointed as her husband’s conservator, in place of his daughter by a first marriage, has been derided by Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal based on his effort to become, additionally, lawyer for the conservatee.

Justice William W. Bedsworth wrote the unpublished opinion in each of two cases, filed Tuesday, dealing with the conservatorship of Edward Raymond who, since January 2016, has been in need of care.

In Conservatorship of Raymond, G056805, Orange Superior Court Judge Jacki C. Brown’s order appointing Raymond’s daughter, Darlene Azar, as the conservator was affirmed. In that case, Laguna Beach attorney James G. LeBloch contested the appointment of Azar over his client, Dawna Ludwig—and also argued that he, not then-Deputy Public Defender Jon Feldon (now a private practitioner), should have been appointed by Brown as attorney for Raymond.

At the May 3, 2016 hearing at which Feldon was designated as the attorney for Raymond, LeBloch represented that he had drafted Raymond’s estate plan and, accordingly, was still his attorney.

In Azar v. Ludwig, G057920, the appeals court affirmed Orange Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer’s order disqualifying LeBloch from representing Ludwig in an action brought against her by Azar, in part on behalf of her father and his estate, alleging elder abuse and fraud. The complaint accuses Ludwig, 69, of fraudulently inducing Raymond, 84, into marrying her.

No Standing

Bedsworth wrote in Conservatorship of Raymond

“To the extent LeBloch is appealing on his own behalf—which appears to be the case—the appeal is dismissed. LeBloch is not a party to this proceeding, and he has no standing to appeal on his own behalf. He also does not represent the conservatee, Raymond, so he has no authority to speak for Raymond. The obvious conflict of interest represented by his current representation of one of the adversarial parties—Ludwig—would also militate against his appointment as Raymond’s attorney, even if we could consider such a thing.”

His purported appeal was dismissed.

Evidentiary Support

The decision to appoint Azar as conservator for her father, who is in a nursing home, was found to be supported by the evidence. The justice said:

“In this case, the court had plenty of evidence to support its choice of Azar over Ludwig as Raymond’s conservator. The court alluded to this evidence in the statement of decision: Ludwig’s refusal to listen to healthcare providers, her obvious financial motivation for seeking to care for Raymond at home, her disregard of others’ needs and her self-absorption. Even if Raymond could have been safely cared for at home, Ludwig was not the person to be entrusted with this task.”

Bedsworth remarked in a footnote:

“Ludwig rather unwisely characterizes the epic as a ‘Cinderella type story,’ a conflict between a stepmother and a stepdaughter. Apparently Ludwig has forgotten that in the Cinderella story, the stepmother is the villain.”

Incongruous Positions

Addressing the disqualification order, appealed in Azar v. Ludwig, Bedsworth declared: 

“Attorney LeBloch appears not to appreciate the incongruity of his position in each of the two appeals decided today. If he had prevailed in the conservatorship appeal, he would be representing the conservatee, Raymond. If he had prevailed in this appeal, he would be representing Ludwig, who is being sued by, among others, Raymond’s person and estate. His inability to see the conflict in these two positions is perhaps the best reason of all for refusing to allow him to participate in either proceeding.”

Although barred from representing Ludwig in the Superior Court, LeBloch was her attorney in both appeals decided on Thursday. Azar made no appearance in the case in which her appointment was challenged; she was represented by Jonathan L. Gerber and Nicole M. Peterson of the Irvine firm of Miller Miller Gerber in the appeal from the order disqualifying LeBloch.

Full Article & Source: 
Lawyer Taken to Task forSeeking to Represent Both Conservatee and Would-Be Conservator

Franklin Securities Broker Charged With Stealing From Elderly Clients

NASHVILLE, Tenn – June 15, 2020 – A former Investments Vice President at Raymond James & Associates, Inc. (Raymond James), has been charged with stealing $933,500 from two elderly clients, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.

A criminal Information charged Fredrick M. Stow, 65, of Franklin, Tennessee, with securities fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. In a separate action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday filed a civil action against Stow, alleging violations of the antifraud provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

“The conduct alleged here is detestable,” said U.S. Attorney Cochran. “Protecting our senior citizens from fraudsters like this is one of our highest priorities. Today marks the 15th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and now more than ever, we remain steadfast in condemning elder abuse, neglect and exploitation and remain committed to preventing and prosecuting fraud on America’s seniors.”

According to the charging documents, beginning in 1982, Stow acted as the registered representative for three brokerage accounts owned by a client who was a retired airline pilot and WWII era veteran. Stow changed firms numerous times and the client elected to move his accounts with Stow each time, ultimately transferring his accounts to Raymond James when Stow joined the firm in 2013. Over time, Stow inserted himself into the personal and financial affairs of this client and in the later years of the client’s life, he frequently visited him at his home, where he lived alone but received full-time nursing care.

In October 2015, Stow began misappropriating funds from this client’s IRA account by forging wire transfer letters of authorization to permit transfers from the client’s IRA account to a SunTrust Bank account that Stow owned jointly with his wife. Stow also began selling securities in the client’s IRA account and transferring the proceeds to Stow’s own bank account.

At the time of this client’s death at the age of 98 in March 2018, Stow had made 74 unauthorized transfers and had stolen more than $900,000 from him. The charging documents also allege that within weeks of this client’s death, Stow stole $32,000 from another elderly brokerage customer, by transferring money from the customer’s brokerage account to another SunTrust bank account that Stow owned.

If convicted, Stow faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million. The government also seeks a monetary judgement and the forfeiture of any property derived from the proceeds of the criminal conduct.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service and the SEC. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Toussaint is prosecuting the case.

Full Article & Source:
Franklin Securities Broker Charged With Stealing From Elderly Clients

For people with disabilities, an extended stay in a rehab or nursing facility during a pandemic can be especially worrying

A comics journalism story on Covid-19

written by Kate Blaker with illustrations by Stacy Innerst

About the project:
“I have had a career of being a strong advocate for other persons with disabilities, and I tell people that I will die in the streets protesting. (Sorely, I miss doing this for the present.) It was empowering to work on this issue of the nursing facility’s treatment of people who require that care — whether it be a short-term stay or a more involved term — where many people become not a person, but someone that the facility staff tends to recognize as no longer a contributor. It was easy for them (NFs) to hide what was going on for the last two months. The cost of living in the community is a third of a nursing facility cost; 70% of Pennsylvania’s population that passed away from the virus were in nursing facilities. Shame on the Governor and the Secretary of Health for not doing more to protect them.”
— Kate Blaker 

“I was honored to be asked to illustrate Kate Blaker’s story about her experiences in a nursing facility during the Coronavirus pandemic. Hers is one of the many voices that should be heard as society comes to terms with how we treat our most vulnerable members, especially in times of crisis.” — Stacy Innerst

Full Article & Source:
For people with disabilities, an extended stay in a rehab or nursing facility during a pandemic can be especially worrying

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Protected or Prisoner Part 3: One Alabama daughter’s struggle with Judge Alan King, Greg Hawley, and a flawed conservatorship system

By Apryl Marie Fogel

Imagine you’ve done everything right to prepare your family for the realities that come with aging. You’ve created a power of attorney that specifically notes that your daughter is to be your conservator and guardian, should the need arise. You and your second-wife have a prenup to protect your assets, and spell out the use of funds for your future. You think you’re ready.

Then the day that you and your family hoped never would come, does, and with advancing age slight dementia begins. All that’s left to do is execute your pre-planned system. 

Your daughter goes to court, documents in hand, but the judge won’t hear her case. It turns out that after the dementia set-in, the step-mother also had a power of attorney signed.

So the judge appoints a “temporary” conservator and a guardian-ad-litem until a full hearing can be held. The father tells the guardian-ad-litem he has chosen his daughter and wishes for her to be the conservator, but again the court refuses to listen.

Hearings come and hearings go, and the daughter’s voice is failed to be heard, her father’s wishes go unmet. What’s worse, in one hearing a witness tells the court the two family members have argued in front of the father, and the judge uses that as the basis to make the temporary conservatorship permanent. The witness statement — untrue according to the daughter. Complete fiction. 

Five years go by and the daughter still has not had her day in court. Meanwhile, the court-ordered conservator has been paid $15,000 plus expenses and is on-track to be paid at a minimum another $15,000. Unless of course he can either wait it out or convince the family to liquidate assets such as selling property. Then he’s paid even more.

In addition, the costs of attorney fees for the family totals nearly $65,000 of which $55,000 is being paid-out of the estate. Money that could and likely should have stayed with the family and estate, if not for the judge’s order. 

This is the story of Susan Evans and her father James Belew.

Evans is the only child of Belew. Her mother, his first wife, passed away in 2008. He remarried in 2012. Belew was in the baking industry and was the general manager of the Dolly Madison Plant in Columbus, Ga. when he retired. 

Evans, a mother of two and grandmother of one, just retired after 18 years at Viva Health.

The judge is none other than Jefferson County Probate Judge, Alan King.

The conservator is none other than veteran litigator and probate lawyer, Greg Hawley.

The witness whose alleged false and unconfirmed testimony caused the court to move the temporary conservatorship to permanent? Is none other than Hawley’s own assistant, Margaret Holland.

If you’ve been following along in this series those names will sound familiar. They’re the same two players involved in the Joann Bashinsky case. As a matter of fact, they’re the same players as a number of cases in Jefferson County, Alabama. I’ll be writing about more of these horror stories in the coming days. (Don’t worry, if you’re missing Hawley’s “friend” Amy Davis Adams from Balch & Bingham, she too will return in several future installments of this series beginning later this week.)

Evans is one of a handful of people who personally reached out to me after seeing my first story in this series. I’ve spoken to her several times. Her father’s case is as frustrating as the Bashinsky case because it was Evans herself who went to the court with no reason to doubt that the judge would hear her case and allow her to perform the role her father chose her for. Of course, that’s not what happened as Judge King seemingly went against her father’s expressed written and verbal wishes.

I want to bring attention to some specific points of her case and hopefully, I want to give you something you can do to help this family, yourselves, and others.

Individual judges have unquestionable amounts of power and discretion with little to no accountability: 

Evans echos the sentiments I’ve heard from a number of people wrapped up in the conservatorship system. It’s designed in such a way that the judge might as well be a God. 

In her father’s case, Hawley’s guardianship was initially meant to be temporary. This is a familiar refrain from those with loved ones and family members involved. However, hearing after hearing it became clear that unless something changed, Hawley will be Belew’s conservator for the rest of his life. 

Lack of transparency and accountability

Until this week, after five years of Hawley being the conservator, Evans had not had a full accounting of her father’s assets or of the costs associated with the conservatorship. This week Holland provided that breakdown for the first time. You may remember Holland from the first post. Holland is the assistant who sent confidential medical and financial documents to Adams “accidentally”.  

It states, “Fees are based off of a percentage of the Estate which in total is roughly 9%. It is calculated only at a Partial and/or Final Settlement Hearing. This is an Alabama State Statute = 2.5% of what’s received, 2.5% of what’s disbursed and 4% attorney’s fees.”

As I mentioned, records indicate that thus far, $15,000 has been paid to Hawley’s firm. 

The incestuous nature of the lawyers and those who work for them

One of the often unspoken problems faced by family members fighting the court orders is the closeness of the attorneys and judges involved in the cases. Evans has had two attorneys paying approx. $22k of her own money in order to fulfill her father’s wishes. The step-mother has also hired an attorney.

If you couple this with the fees associated with Hawley’s representation, and the fees associated with Evan’s step-mother’s lawyers this amount ballons.

The costs to families aren’t just monetary

The monetary costs aren’t necessarily even the biggest problem for those involved. Many have explained it’s the stress of the unknowns and the time associated with fighting the judge’s order, working through the conservatorship process, and making sure their loved one is taken care of, and not exploited, that is the part that really takes a toll.

“What bothers me the most about the money… my dad was a frugal man who made a good living and lived within his means. He saved so that I and my children could have it. He worked hard for it and scrimped and saved, and now there’s not much left.”

We need to do better as a state. We need to demand our lawmakers require more of our courts. We need more transparency and accountability within the system. We need for families to be kept together and not set against one another. We need change.

Follow this series for more one-on-one stories with those involved in the system here. Beyond those, we’ll be sharing detailed reports of what’s happening here in Jefferson County and how you can get involved to reach out to lawmakers to fix this broken system. 

Editors Note: This is an op-ed. Emails from Alabama Today to Greg Hawley went unanswered. We relied on interviews and research for the dates and amounts cited in this article. This included reviews of both legal and personal correspondence associated with this case. We will update this story if additional information becomes available.

Full Article & Source:
Protected or Prisoner Part 3: One Alabama daughter’s struggle with Judge Alan King, Greg Hawley, and a flawed conservatorship system

See Also:
Protected or Prisoner Part 2: How our grandparents and their livelihoods are being stolen by the court system

Cuomo silent on who approved coronavirus nursing home policy

By Bruce Golding
Andrew Cuomo
He once likened the threat of coronavirus to seniors to “fire through dry grass,” but Gov. Andrew Cuomo still won’t say who came up with his administration’s controversial policy forcing nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients and how many of more than 6,000 resident deaths to date came as a result of it, according to a new report.

The head of a medical society that represents nursing homes and other long-term care facilities also accused New York officials of ignoring the industry’s advice before issuing that fateful March 25 mandate from the state Department of Health, ProPublica reported Tuesday.

“The Cuomo administration would not say who conceived of the order or answer the question of whether it believed the order had led to additional deaths,” the report says.

Christopher Laxton, of the Society For Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (AMDA), told the news organization that Cuomo and his Health Commissioner Howard Zucker “unaccountably failed to include clinical expertise in operational leadership when these policies were formed and we don’t know why.”

Laxton said other states, including California, had adjusted their policies on discharging coronavirus patients to nursing homes in response to industry concerns about potentially spreading the deadly disease.

And a Columbia University expert, Dr. Charles Branas, told ProPublica that the March 25 directive may have increased the state’s COVID-19 death toll by an as-yet-unknown order of magnitude and cited an Associated Press estimate on the number of coronavirus patients who were admitted to nursing homes as a result of the order.

“If you introduce 4,500 people sick with a potentially lethal disease into a vulnerable and notoriously imperfectly monitored population, people are apt to die,” said Branas, chairman of the Epidemiology Department at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Branas also said the since-abandoned policy “looks like it was intended as a ‘reverse triage’ strategy to clear acute and critical care hospital beds, regardless of whether those beds had people with COVID-19 or not.”

“Possibly, the positive trade-off they had in mind with the policy was that more lives would be saved with additional open critical care beds than would be lost in transfer to nursing homes,” he added.

Cuomo rescinded the DOH mandate on May 10 and ordered coronavirus testing of nursing home workers amid mounting criticism and calls for independent investigations of his nursing home policies related to the pandemic.

The ProPublica report also highlighted how Rensselear County Executive Steve McLaughlin defied Cuomo’s order and refused to admit any coronavirus patients to Van Rensselaer Manor, a nursing home run by the county, which lies east of Albany.

The 320-bed facility hasn’t had any deaths from COVID-19, compared with 18 at Diamond Hill, a privately run, 120-bed nursing home also in Rensselaer.

“Uncalled for, unnecessary, should never have occurred, and wouldn’t have but for a tragically misguided order from the state,” McLaughlin said of those fatalities.

DOH spokesman Jonah Bruno told ProPublica that a “thorough review” of the impact of the coronavirus on nursing homes was underway.

“Science will determine whether the spread in nursing homes came as a result of returning residents or from asymptomatic staff who were already there,” he said.

Bruno denied that the state ignored outside advice, saying officials began holding weekly webinars with health care professionals on Feb. 2 and also spoke with experts, doctors, nurses, family members and advocates.

“There’s been no shortage of industry, expert or stakeholder opinions in anything we’ve done during the most devastating global pandemic in a century,” he said.

The state also told ProPublica that New York ranks 35th among the 50 states in terms of its percentage of nursing home deaths compared to total coronavirus fatalities.

Full Article & Source:
Cuomo silent on who approved coronavirus nursing home policy

Woman charged with financial exploitation

Brown County Courthouse
NEW ULM — A woman is accused of stealing nearly $37,000 from a vulnerable New Ulm resident.

Ann Margaret O’Callaghan, 57, of St. Paul, was charged with felony counts of theft and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult Thursday in Brown County District Court.

O’Callaghan took $36,800 from a woman’s retirement account without authorization last year while she had power of attorney, the charges say.

Another person who shared power of attorney told authorities there was not enough money left in the account to pay for the woman’s nursing home care.

Full Article & Source: 
Woman charged with financial exploitation

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ayudando guardian sentenced to 6 years in federal prison

This 2017 photo was filed as an exhibit in the criminal case against Craig Young, a guardian with the now-defunct Ayudando Guardians Inc. Prosecutors say the framed national guardian certification found by federal investigators in his office was forged. (Source: U.S. District Court)
By Colleen Heild

As a court-appointed guardian entrusted to help New Mexico’s most vulnerable people, Craig Young spent at least $1.4 million of client funds, while drawing an $80,000 yearly salary and seldom reporting for work.

Even his national guardianship certificate was a forgery, federal prosecutors say.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez dismissed his plea for home confinement as punishment and sentenced him to federal prison for the next six years.

“The harm is unspeakable, Mr. Young,” Vázquez said of the near 1,000 victims who lost a total of $11 million in the multi-year embezzlement that involved his mother, Susan Harris, his stepfather and a family friend – all employees of the nonprofit firm based in Albuquerque.

Susan Harris, 73, was founder and president of the now-defunct Ayudando Guardians Inc.

As the boss’s son, Young regularly used the company credit card for personal expenses, but claimed he didn’t know that client trust funds and savings were paying for his luxurious lifestyle that included a home in Tanoan, seats at the Final Four basketball tournament and casino gambling.

Young, 54, pleaded guilty last November to two conspiracy charges in the high-profile federal prosecution that helped spur state lawmakers to reform the state’s guardianship system in recent years.

During a four-hour hearing streamed online on Thursday, Vázquez lamented the “extraordinarily vulnerable victims” who lost their financial lifelines in the scheme that dated back to at least 2010.

Some clients, deemed incapacitated by the courts, had physical limitations, others had mental difficulties handling their finances and all relied on Ayudando, which the judge noted was Spanish for “helping.” Others who weren’t wards of the state opted to put their savings and trust funds in the company’s hands for safekeeping.

“You were their link,” the judge said. “You failed to protect. You failed them.”

At issue during Thursday’s hearing was whether Young knew the funds he was receiving came from client accounts.

Ryan Villa, Young’s attorney, asked for 12 months of home confinement, with three years’ supervised release. Prosecutors recommended 15 years in prison.

Villa told the judge that, for a “very long time,” Susan Harris and family friend, Ayudando chief financial officer Sharon Moore, “were able to fool the entire world and the New Mexico community of lots of very, very smart attorneys, judges and clients” that their financial operations were legitimate.

Young was among those “tricked,” his attorney said.

“All he knows is he’s getting money … and obviously it’s too much money to be lawful, but that doesn’t mean he knows it’s stolen from clients,” Villa told the judge. “He didn’t know, he didn’t inquire, he didn’t do what he should have done as a fiduciary.” Young was also on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

Young told the judge before sentencing that he was sorry and hoped to repay some of what was stolen from clients if he could continue working in the community.

“I’ve always tried to be a nice guy,” said Young, who admitted to having a gambling addiction. “I feel horrible, I really do. I didn’t even really call them my clients. They were my friends. I loved those guys.”

Prosecutors contended Young lived a carefree existence courtesy of Ayudando, one of the most prominent providers of social services in New Mexico. “He could work without so many of the burdens that weigh upon most social workers,” stated the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a sentencing recommendation.

With a yearly salary more than twice that of other Ayudando’s guardians, Young didn’t have to worry about how to pay for his mortgage on his home in Tanoan, his new Jeep, his recreational vehicle, his vacations or his meals, the recommendation stated.

“As he knew well, Ayudando money paid it all and all the money came from the extraction of millions of dollars from hundreds of disadvantaged and disabled people,” stated the prosecutors’ recommendation.

Young’s mother was the “ringleader” of a “deeply corrupt scheme” inside what appeared to be a family-owned charity operation, prosecutors have said.

His mother “surrounded herself with a core group of people” that included Moore, Young and her husband, William Harris, that “she could trust with a terrible secret.” Each lived for years on client money.

Harris and her husband, who entered guilty pleas last year in the embezzlement conspiracy, fled New Mexico before they could be sentenced in the case March 2. They were captured in mid-April in Oklahoma and returned to New Mexico. Neither has been sentenced.

Moore, who is serving a 20-year sentence, “cooked the books,” Villa said. She is accused of covering up the fraud and forging documents submitted to auditors.

“Virtually every client to walk through the door into Ayudando’s offices lost their money to the defendants’ greed,” stated the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation.

Vázquez told Young that though the legal issues in the case “were difficult, the fact remains that you were not living within your means. You were using your company credit card as a slush fund.”

Villa said the government had no evidence that Young was involved in any of the transfers of client money for personal use.

Prosecutors argued that Young’s employment as a guardian provided a pretext for him to obtain a huge stream of benefits from the company.

They noted his lapsed certification by the National Guardianship Association. When federal investigators searched his Ayudando office, they found he had prominently displayed a forged guardianship certificate showing his certification was current until 2018. It expired in 2011.

“He wasn’t an asset to the business: he carried only half a caseload and his clients complained about him constantly. He never answered his work phone, so his voicemail was full. He never checked his email; his desktop computer didn’t even have a mouse attached to it,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in its recommendation.

“Co-workers reported that he was rarely at work,” stated the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “and it was widely believed he was usually at casinos.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Pena told the judge Thursday that even after Young’s mother and Moore were initially arrested in July 2017, and the scheme exposed, Young misled federal investigators and quickly sold a $90,000 recreational vehicle purchased with client funds.

Instead of returning those funds to victims, Young lived on the $37,000 proceeds from that sale, and continued living in his home in the gated Tanoan community in Albuquerque for another year.

“He offered himself up as a person to make life-and-death decisions for his clients,” Pena told the judge. “That is the standard we have to hold him to at this juncture.”

Full Article & Source:
Ayudando guardian sentenced to 6 years in federal prison

Indianapolis attorney who took assistant’s Social Security withholdings disbarred

An Indianapolis attorney who converted his only employee’s Social Security withholdings for his own personal use for more than a decade has been disbarred from the practice of law after the Indiana Supreme Court found that he had committed attorney misconduct.

Supreme Court justices unanimously concluded in a Monday per curiam order that disbarment was the best option for attorney Steven Fulk, who “committed attorney misconduct by neglecting a client’s case, converting an employee’s tax withholdings for his own personal use, and failing to cooperate with the disciplinary process.”

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a two-count disciplinary complaint against Fulk in May 2019 and although he was served, Fulk never properly appeared or responded. After a hearing officer took the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the justices accepted the allegations against Fulk, finding no petition for review of the case’s hearing officer’s report was filed in the case of In The Matter of Steven T Fulk, 19S-DI-00277. 

Justices had already indefinitely suspended Fulk, who was twice suspended in 2019 for his noncooperation with the disciplinary commission’s investigations of grievances against him.

In Count 1, the Supreme Court’s order says Fulk represented Client 1 in post-dissolution matters in Hamilton County. When the client’s ex-wife filed a motion for rule to show cause alleging Fulk’s client had failed to reimburse his portion of uninsured medical and dental expenses for several years, a hearing on the matter was scheduled.

However, neither Fulk nor Client 1 appeared for the hearing, despite both the court and opposing counsel having sent notice of the hearing date to Fulk. As a result, Client 1 was found in contempt and ordered to pay back medical and dental support and attorney fees within 45 days.

The order also says that Client 1 later filed a letter with the court indicating that the first he had learned of the hearing or the court order was in an email sent by his ex-wife about five weeks after the hearing. In that letter and a subsequent letter, Client 1 informed the court that he had attempted without success to contact Fulk multiple times and by multiple means, the order says.

Client 1 subsequently requested that the court vacate its contempt order, remove Fulk from the case, and allow Client 1 to proceed pro se. Client 1’s pro se efforts to obtain relief from the contempt order were unsuccessful, and the court later reduced that order to a civil judgment against Client 1 in the amount of $2,545.35. When the Commission opened an investigation, Fulk failed to substantively respond to the Commission’s demand for information or comply with a subpoena duces tecum for Client 1’s file, the order says.

In Count 2, the order says that Fulk employed an assistant from 2005 until the assistant quit in early 2018. During that time, the order says Fulk withheld money for Social Security from assistant’s earnings, but instead of depositing those sums with the federal government, he instead converted those funds for his own personal use.

In late 2017, assistant received a Social Security statement showing she had no earnings for any of the years she had worked for Fulk. When assistant confronted Fulk about it, he promised he would get it corrected, but Fulk never did. He also failed to respond to the commission’s demand for information on the matter, the order states.

Thus, the high court found Fulk violated the following Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct:
  • 1.4(a)(3): Failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter;
  • 3.4(c): Knowingly disobeying an obligation under the rules or an order of a court;
  • 8.1(b): Knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority;
  • 8.4(b): Committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer, and;
  • 8.4(c): Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
“Respondent stole earnings from Assistant (his sole employee) during the entire twelve plus years of her employment, violating both state and federal criminal law in the process. Respondent severely neglected Client’s case, resulting in financial detriment to Client. Respondent has shown absolutely no remorse for, or insight into, his misconduct. Respondent refused to cooperate with the Commission’s investigations, has refused to meaningfully participate in these disciplinary proceedings, and has filed no petition for review, brief on sanction, or responsive brief in this Court. Under these circumstances, and based on the record before us, we conclude that Respondent should be disbarred,” the justices wrote Monday in a per curiam order.

The disbarment is effective immediately.

Fulk, who was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1995, shall fulfill all the duties of a disbarred attorney under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26). The costs of the proceeding are assessed against him.

Full Article & Source:

In the Matter of Joanne Black

The third Colorado Court of Appeals opinion relating to the conservatorship of Joanne Black was issued recently.  The opinion addresses an issue of first impression in Colorado involving jurisdiction over a foreign trust funded with assets misappropriated from a Colorado conservatorship.

The history of this case centers around assets that Joanne Black’s mother, Renata Black, left to her via payable-on-death (“POD”) designation.  The POD assets were disclaimed by Joanne’s brother, Bernard Black, while he was acting as Joanne’s conservator.  As a result of the disclaimer, the POD assets were diverted through Renata’s estate, two-thirds to a Supplemental Needs Trust (“SNT”) for Joanne’s benefit and one-third to a trust for Bernard and his children.

After discovering that her brother diverted one-third of her inheritance to a trust for himself and his children, Joanne pursued claims against him.  Joanne ultimately obtained a $4.6 million dollar judgment against her brother for breach of fiduciary duty, surcharge, civil theft and attorney fees, which was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals (“Court”) in a prior published opinion.  Black v. Black, 422 P.3d 592 (Colo. App. 2018)(cert. denied).  The Court also issued an unpublished opinion in a second appeal in 2018, remanding for the Denver Probate Court (“Probate Court”) to make additional findings regarding the basis for the Probate Court’s jurisdiction over the SNT.

The most recent opinion primarily relates to orders from the Probate Court approving distributions from the SNT to Joanne Black for payment of attorney fees relating to ongoing litigation involving Bernard Black and related family members.  The opinion also addresses an order suspending Bernard Black and his son as trustees of the SNT and the Probate Court’s order on remand from the unpublished opinion mentioned above.
In this recent opinion, the Court considered a matter of first impression in Colorado: “whether a Colorado probate court can exercise jurisdiction over the trustees and assets of a foreign trust when that trust was funded with assets misappropriated from a Colorado conservatorship.”

The Court reasoned that the Probate Court had jurisdiction over the POD assets as part of the Colorado conservatorship, because the assets were in control of the conservator.  The Court then held that the Probate Court properly retained in rem jurisdiction over the POD assets, despite Bernard Black’s transfer of the POD assets into a foreign trust as a result of the disclaimer.

The Court also addressed interesting issues relating to in personam jurisdiction over the trustees of a foreign trust, including the application of waiver and Colorado’s long arm statute.

View the opinion (opinion dated April 9, 2020; Petition for Rehearing denied, and opinion modified June 11, 2020).

Full Article & Source:
In the Matter of Joanne Black

Monday, June 15, 2020

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - What You Can Do to Help!

The significance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this year cannot be understated. In nursing and long-term care facilities across the country, our nation’s most vulnerable are isolated from their loved ones, who are still unable to visit or ensure that they are receiving the proper care due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Yet, whether people believe the coronavirus is a danger or a conspiracy, there is no denying the fact that the elderly are dying in these facilities, sometimes without the knowledge of their families, at horrific rates (46,000 nationwide according to a USA Today study).

The industry’s lobbyists have used the crisis to successfully garner liability protections in 20 states including New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut and Kentucky. According to the Washington Post, this is part of an “agenda to use immunity to evade long-standing liabilities.”

Even with a federal law that now mandates long term care facilities must disclose the number of cases and deaths due to COVID-`19, there are still states that are refusing to release data or have divulged unreliable numbers.

In New York and Michigan, both governors came under fire came under fire for mandating that nursing homes accept COVID-19 patients.

We know that, during the lockdowns, probate and family courts nationwide still heard guardianship/conservatorship cases by phone or Zoom meetings. This was a huge concern for the vulnerable who may not have had access to the technology to attend. Without the proper monitoring of these cases, we do not have a clear idea as to whether guardians and conservators were continuing the practice of moving the elderly out of their homes and into a facility, despite the dangers of doing so.

Today, NASGA reaches out to people across the country to ask for their help while offering some help of our own:

Please take our COVID-19 guardianship survey by clicking: HERE. This six-minute survey is designed only to help us gather data on how guardianships have been dispensed over the past four months and what has happened to wards. Answers will be used for no other purpose than to formulate a study to distribute to the media and lawmakers while assisting where possible on individual cases.

Our full guardianship survey is available HERE. In just 20 minutes, you can help us accomplish the kind of nationwide data collection the lack of which has muddied the waters in terms of understanding the level of guardianship abuse that has and continues to victimize our most vulnerable.

Today, NASGA announces that it has made available documentation gathered by investigative journalist Gretchen Rachel Hammond and her team for the Lisagor Award-nominated series on a massive alleged guardianship abuse ring operating out of Oakland County, Michigan.

These case files offer an insight into the practices employed by four guardians including allegedly fraudulent petitions for guardianship, billing and real estate practices, questionable ward progress and Guardian at Litem reports and heartbreaking letters to the court from the wards themselves. Each folder comes with a brief, explanatory paragraph and each file is highlighted to show questionable behavior.

You can access the files by clicking these links:

*Guardian Accounts:
*Ward Letters to the Court

People nationwide are invited to add to this wealth of information by sharing their own documents and video stories.

Click HERE for details as to how

On this elder abuse day, it is more important than ever to come together, share information and build a movement that neither media nor lawmakers can continue to ignore. Together, we will end the abuse and exploitation of our most vulnerable once and for all!

(Note: Surveys are a joint project of NASGA and ProbateWatch)