Saturday, July 25, 2020

Florida watchdog allowed 8 professional guardians who violated state law to continue practicing

'Mitigating circumstances' cited in letters

Florida’s professional guardians have been in the headlines this past year and under arrest for stealing, abuse and neglect.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s professional guardians have been in the headlines this past year and under arrest for stealing, abuse and neglect.

But the I-Team has uncovered that even when the state’s own investigators found guardians broke the law, they continued with business as usual.

Teresa Kennedy provided us with a 2018 video showing a reunion with her aunt Lillie White, herself and her mother Jane Kennedy at an assisted living facility where White was placed by her court-appointed guardian.
White, a retired school administrator who once sang at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, brightened up as she sang a hearty rendition of “All of Me” with her niece during the visit.

White’s guardian banned most of her family from contacting her years ago.

“We didn't know where she was for two years and then we found her through private investigators in November 2018,” said Kennedy.

After a family dispute over money, a judge appointed a professional guardian to care for White.
“I never thought anything like this could've happened,” White said, in the 2018 video.

White was removed from her home in August 2016 and taken to an assisted living facility.

“They’re saying you don't want to see your sister Jane. Do you want to see her?” Kennedy asked her aunt in the video.

“See how lies can get out? Oh my goodness,” said White. “I've always wanted to see her.”
But before Lillie's family tracked her down, they contacted the Florida Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG).

That’s the watchdog agency set up to investigate complaints against guardians.

“I finally received a call from the inspector general's office saying 'we're opening up an investigation.' So I was very excited,” said Kennedy.

That call came in 2017, about a year after she filed a complaint, but she heard nothing more until almost two years later.

“Every month, I'm calling and saying another year, another week, another month. Where's the report?” said Kennedy.

The I-Team obtained that report showing investigators found Lillie's guardian was not registered as a professional guardian with the state and had billed White’s bank account for attorney fees that were not allowed.

But despite finding problems, the state’s watchdog did not take any disciplinary action.

In a letter to White’s guardian, Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said her conduct was “mitigated by the complexity of the family relationships.”

“I was so angry when I got the OPPG letter,” said Kennedy.

The I-Team uncovered eight other cases in which investigators found guardians violating the law. But the state never moved to take away the license of any of those guardians, each time ruling the problem had been "mitigated".

One guardian was cited for paying a concierge dentist $73,000 for unnecessary visits.

Investigators found another guardian charged a person under her care hourly fees for a caretaker to accompany the ward on a cruise without getting permission from the court.

Another guardian billed a woman’s estate for providing care services using a side business he owned without telling the court, which is also a violation of the state guardianship law.

Those guardians' actions were all mitigated by taking 16 hours of continuing education courses

Kathleen Zagaros complained to the state after her mother's guardian ignored her mother's advanced care directives, then requested a do not resuscitate order.

“She wanted all measures done. She appointed me as her surrogate healthcare provider. And they were ignored by the guardian,” Zagaros said.
The investigator substantiated that allegation. But a letter to the guardian dated October 14, 2019, said the conduct was mitigated by the actions of the guardian to honor veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.
Click to read
What does that mean?

The state did not take any disciplinary action against the guardian because she bought five wreaths for $150 through an organization that lays wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.

Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom, who oversees OPPG, declined an on-camera interview but provided the following statement by email:

“The Department of Elder Affairs is committed to transparency and education regarding this process. Several factors are used to appropriately determine disciplinary actions regarding complaints received against professional guardians. In cases where evidence of intent to cause harm is found, the Department will refer the matter to law enforcement. We are thankful to have the ongoing partnership of Representative Colleen Burton and Leader Kathleen Passidomo to make revisions to existing law to help ensure the Department has more tools to hold bad actors accountable.”

A guardianship reform bill sponsored by those lawmakers was passed during the 2020 legislative session. It was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and took effect July 1.

At least five guardians have been charged with crimes since the OPPG was created, but OPPG has not been able to substantiate which of those cases they referred to law enforcement.

“OPPG to date has been there to protect guardians and not the senior. It's very, very clear,” said Kennedy.

We first spoke to Kennedy about her case in early March, before the pandemic shutdown. We followed up with her recently and she says she’s still not allowed to have any contact with her aunt, including phone calls.

“People who do have loved ones in nursing homes right now during COVID-19 might get a little sense of it, not being able to hug their mother, having to talk to them through the window. But at least they can do that. We can’t,” Kennedy said.

She has filed a new complaint with OPPG involving her aunt’s guardian and is hoping her last reunion with her aunt Lillie in 2018 won't be her last.

Full Article & Source:
Florida watchdog allowed 8 professional guardians who violated state law to continue practicing

Disbarred Sands Point lawyer allegedly stole $150K from clients: Queens DA

By Rose Weldon

The law firm Kohn & Kohn, where Sands Point resident Michael Kohn, accused of withholding funds from his clients, practiced prior to resigning from the bar in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
A Queens-based disbarred lawyer and Sands Point resident has been accused of stealing $150,000 from three of his clients.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Wednesday that Michael Kohn of Sycamore Drive, who had an office called Kohn and Kohn in Fresh Meadows, has been charged with three counts of grand larceny.

“The defendant in this case is accused of breaching the trust of his clients and unjustly enriching himself,” Katz said. “The victims trusted the defendant to act on their behalf, when they hired him to handle various legal matters. Instead the defendant allegedly pocketed tens of thousands of dollars that should have been distributed to his clients. The defendant now faces serious charges and will be held accountable for these alleged criminal acts.”

Kohn was arraigned late Wednesday afternoon before Queens Criminal Court Judge Joanne Watters before being released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on Oct. 27. If convicted, Kohn could face up to 15 years in prison.

According to the charges, an investigation which included interviews with clients and detailed forensic review of bank records allegedly shows that Kohn stole funds held in multiple bank accounts that should have been dispersed to his clients.

“The victims, however, were either left empty-handed or given just a fraction of the funds they were due,” a statement from the DA’s office said.

The office, which withheld victims’ names, said that the first victim was an administrator for a deceased relative’s estate, and hired the defendant to handle the sale of property in Douglaston, Queens.

In June of 2013, the property sold for about $650,000 and the funds were deposited into an account controlled by Kohn.

“However, the victim only received $100,000 in proceeds from the sale of the real estate,” the office stated.

Continuing, the DA said, in July 2015, the second victim hired Katz to handle a personal injury case, whose civil matter was settled for $90,000.

“When the victim asked Kohn for the money, he allegedly told [the victim] that there was a delay due to an outstanding medical bill,” the office said. “That bill totaled about $4300. The victim allegedly never received a dime of the settlement money even though the funds were deposited in a bank account controlled by the defendant.”

The charges then state that on August 30, 2016, the third victim was the executor of an estate and hired Kohn to handle the sale of estate property in Woodside, Queens.

“The real estate sold for approximately $868,000 with $358,000 payable to the executor,” the statement said. “The victim received two checks in the amount of $75,000 and another for $25,000. Bank records allegedly showed that the account which held the funds as of June 30, 20l7 had a balance of just $19,000. The victim never received the remaining proceeds from the estate sale.”

Katz said that Kohn, 70, had voluntarily resigned from the bar in January 2019 for disciplinary reasons.

Assistant District Attorney Karlton Jarrett, of District Attorney’s Public Corruption Bureau, is prosecuting the case.

Garden City-based attorney Brian Griffin is representing Kohn. Efforts to contact Griffin for comment were unavailing.

Full Article & Source:
Disbarred Sands Point lawyer allegedly stole $150K from clients: Queens DA

UNC-Chapel Hill team develops digital tool to fight elder abuse

CHAPEL HILL – UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member Meredith Smith works with North Carolina’s clerks of superior court. In their judicial role appointing and overseeing guardians for older adults who lack capacity, clerks were encountering a three-headed monster related to the abuse and exploitation of older adults.

Among them: guardianship filings to stop abuse, guardians themselves committing the abuse and guardians asking for resources and referrals related to incapacitated older adults in crisis.

On the other side of town, faculty member Aimee Wall, in the course of her work with county social services agencies, heard echoes of the same from directors, staff and attorneys.

Smith and Wall quickly recognized that problems in each of the domains they served were having a ripple effect through communities across the state.

Together with the project’s funders and School staff, Smith and Wall developed resources and an online platform designed to connect and support public officials on the front lines of the fight against elder abuse.

Aimee Wall and Meredith Smith. (UNC-CH photo)
In addition to the manual, the project includes a resource-rich website, forums to connect officials, a map of other North Carolina professionals working in the field of elder protection and tools to help counties create and sustain multidisciplinary teams (MDTs).

Resources have already started to roll out to communities this summer, including the launch of a manual in print and digital formats. This month, the project launched with a free webinar, “Building Elder Protection Networks in North Carolina.” Smith and Wall presented an overview of the legal framework of North Carolina’s network and lead a discussion with individuals from across the state who are doing this work in various ways.

The webinar will also introduce a new web-based tool, the North Carolina Elder Protection Network. The site will connect, inform and support MDTs and professionals working in aging and adult services across the state. Features will include a discussion forum for professionals to share questions and information, a digital map and directory of MDTs and professionals working in this area and a resource library of content.
Elder abuse is not unique
The issues Smith and Wall observed are not unique to North Carolina. As the population of adults over the age of 65 surges in the United States, states and communities find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the growing problem of elder abuse. At least 10% of older Americans are victims of abuse each year, including physical abuse, financial fraud, scams, caregiver neglect, psychological abuse and sexual abuse.

The impacts are staggering: anywhere from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion is lost annually in financial exploitation and fraud schemes targeting older adults. Victims of elder abuse are twice as likely to die prematurely compared to those who have not been mistreated. There is no single set of laws to curb elder abuse, and no one agency exists to combat the problem.

Some communities have established MDTs to help combat elder abuse in North Carolina. An MDT is a collaborative effort bound by a common purpose — in this case, to protect older adults from abuse and stop the perpetrators of said abuse. An elder abuse MDT may consist of judges, clerks, APS social workers and directors, physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, psychologists or victim’s advocates. No two MDTs are the same; each exists to serve the unique goals and vision of the group and its community.

MDTs might exist to review cases of abuse in the community, or they might focus on systemic change to stop the problem. A well-functioning MDT is much like a relay race. When a “baton” is handed off, it isn’t dropped. Instead, it goes to the next runner, who knows where they are going and can transport it there safely.

Smith and Wall worked closely with faculty member Margaret Henderson to guide a group of North Carolina communities in the creation of their own MDTs in September 2019 at their first Elder Protection workshop. Seven counties — Robeson, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Buncombe, Mecklenburg and Hyde — arrived at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for an immersive two-day experience designed to give them the building blocks to create a successful, sustainable MDT.

The concept was simple: The School cannot provide a community with an MDT, but it can give each group the space and the framework to create these teams. Counties were selected by application, ensuring a diverse mix based on population, geography and demography.

“The amount of energy and enthusiasm that people brought was just spectacular,” Wall said. “They were here, they were in it, and they were totally committed to taking some kind of next step. That was really exciting to see.”

After selecting their team theme songs and names (including “Guardians of Guilford County,” “The Elder Crusaders” and the “Queen City Scam Squad”), each MDT set out to write its own vision and mission statement. They also presented their particular challenges and identified other groups that needed to come to the table to make change. Groups shared questions with their fellow attendees, allowing for advice and connectivity over shared experiences.

The workshop was a microcosm of the work this faculty team is hoping to achieve on a broader level. Groups in attendance connected, commiserated, shared problems and gained new insights from their counterparts from other counties.

“We’re supporting them as they go through that group formation process and hit some of the road bumps,” Smith said. “We want to try to ensure long-term success of the teams and their ability to respond to these cases.”

While MDTs are an emerging best practice in the elder protection realm, not every county has the capacity to build a team from scratch. Smith and Wall’s free online resources are designed to be used by officials in any community or situation.

“If you have an MDT or you want to create one, this will be helpful,” Wall said. “But even if you’re operating under standard procedures in your county, the hope is that these resources will make it easier for you.”

Henderson, Smith and Wall hope to have the opportunity to assist more counties with the formation and support of MDTs including the possibility of hosting workshops around the state. The School will also provide ongoing support to existing MDTs, with the ultimate goal of creating communities that are connected and responsive to the needs of their senior populations.

The team is excited for the project’s future — and looks forward to seeing counties put their resources and MDTs into action.

“This is just enough in order to facilitate the partnerships and the connections,” Wall said. “The hard work is up to them, because they have to make those connections and make them work on a day-to-day basis.”

Full Article & Source:
UNC-Chapel Hill team develops digital tool to fight elder abuse

Friday, July 24, 2020

Woman whose mom died of COVID-19 in Crestview assisted living center: ‘What good did it do to keep me out?’

By Wendy Victora

CRESTVIEW -- On a day in early March, Johnnie Kay Ealum and her mom, Patsy Poss, colored pictures together at the assisted living facility where Poss had lived since November.

Poss, who was almost 88, liked to color. She liked it when her daughter sang to her and played the piano. She couldn’t remember how to sing or even her daughter’s name, but she’d hum along and had a new name for her daughter, one she could remember.

She called her “Pretty.”

“To her, I was the probably the most beautiful thing in the world,” Ealum said.

Poss, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 15 years earlier, had been in a slow decline for years.

Pretty would be the last intelligible word Ealum heard her mom speak.

“I love you” and “We can’t give up” were her last sentences, offered during a surprisingly lucid conversation on Mother’s Day.

Both were over the phone as Ealum struggled to maintain contact with her mom after visitors were shut out of Shoal Creek Rehabilitation Center in mid-March. The same thing was happening around the state and the country, as officials struggled to protect the elderly and infirm, particularly those in assisted living facilities.

But in Poss’s case, they failed, Ealum said

Not only did her mother contract the coronavirus, but also lived the last months of her life alone and confused. By the time she died Saturday, she’d lost all connection with reality, spending her days agitated and yelling gibberish.

“What good did it to to keep my mama from me?” Ealum said. “She ended up dying from somebody else giving it to her. I tested negative. I would not have given my mama COVID.

“Somehow COVID got into that facility.”

Ealum had always promised her parents that she would never put them in a facility. She did her best to keep that promise, making sure her mother was cared for 24/7 as the older woman lost the ability to follow simple commands. She poured her tea on her food, sat down where there was no chair and stayed up all night talking.

By late 2019, Ealum knew she could no longer continue to keep her mother safe at home.

Making what she says was the most difficult decision of her life, she placed Poss at the facility in Crestview. Five or six times a week, Ealum drove from DeFuniak Springs to visit.

That decision transformed Ealum from a full-time caregiver back into a daughter. Her mother seemed content. It worked as long as they could still spend time together.

But on March 12, the day after they colored together, Ealum got the call that family members were no longer allowed to visit.

“I didn’t know that was my last time to do anything with her,” Ealum said.

The next months were difficult and frustrating. Ealum tried talking to her mother on the phone, but her mother couldn’t concentrate. They tried Zoom once, but Ealum was confused by it and the nursing home staff had to prompt her responses.

In mid-May, Ealum’s sister, Joy, died unexpectedly. Ealum got the call in the middle of the night and all she wanted to do was talk to her mama. Instead, she called the nurses’s station and sobbed.

“I just babbled to the nurse, ‘I can’t talk to my mama,’” Ealum said. “She said, ‘Honey, I’m the closest thing you’ve got right now.’”

Although Poss was never told about her Joy’s death, Ealum believes she sensed it. From that point on, she spiraled rapidly into full-blown dementia.

It got so bad by the end of May that nurses dressed Ealum in full personal protection equipment and brought her in to try to calm Poss. As she sang, her mother quieted. But when Ealum stopped, and as she walked out the facility’s doors, she could hear her mother wailing again.

She wouldn’t see her again until July 15, the day after her mother’s COVID test came back positive.

By then, there was nothing anyone could do. Nothing left to protect her mother from. Ealum was allowed to visit her mom, as long as she was covered from head to toe in protective clothing.

She held her mother’s hand wearing plastic gloves.

“She opened her eyes to me and she moved her hand and she squeezed my hand,” Ealum said. “I sang to her. I believe she knew I was there.”

Two days later, Ealum went back.

“I told her goodbye. I started down the hallway. I turned around and went back in. she opened her eyes. I told her I loved her and that she was going to be OK, and I was too,” she said. “That it was her time.”

Twenty-four hours later, Poss was gone.

As of Monday, the facility where her mother died had 53 active cases of the virus among patients and another 15 among staff, according to the state’s COVID report.

In the days since her mother’s death, Ealum is grieving the loss of the woman who’d loved to laugh, who’d stayed home to raise five children, who could cook anything and who tried to take care of her husband even after she was no longer able to care for herself.

And she’s angry.

Ealum believes her mother died of a broken heart every bit as much as she died of COVID. She died wondering why she had been forgotten and abandoned. She died without the comfort of human touch and the power of feeling loved.

Poss had long ago signed documents giving Ealum the power of attorney over her affairs, including her medical care.

In those last months, Poss had no voice. She literally couldn’t understand words or speak them. She needed Ealum more than ever, both as her daughter and as her medical advocate.

“I understand the need to protect the elderly. I understand what COVID is. I understand they’re a vulnerable population. There has to be some kind of measure that we take to protect them,” she said.

But that measure should include access to loved ones.

“If they can screen workers and vendors that come and go every day, family members can do the same thing. If our parents are possibly going to get sick and, God forbid, die then what good has it done to protect them behind closed doors?”

Full Article & Source:
Woman whose mom died of COVID-19 in Crestview assisted living center: ‘What good did it do to keep me out?’

Former Georgia Attorney Sentenced To Two Years In Federal Prison For Theft Of Client Funds

Stock Photo: U.S. Supreme Court is shown as the court (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Carla B. Gaines, an attorney formerly licensed in Georgia, has been sentenced to federal prison for stealing client money and lying about the theft.

“Gaines stole over $300,000 in client money and then repeatedly lied about it, including twice under oath,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “We hope that this prison sentence brings a measure of justice to the defendant’s victims, who were abused and had their trust violated.”

            “Gaines compounded her deceit by lying under oath and is another example of the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable anyone who violates their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Her actions not only violated her clients’ trust, but also insulted every lawyer who honors and respects the oath they took.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court:  Carla B. Gaines was an attorney, licensed in Georgia, until she was disbarred on November 18, 2019.  From August 2014 through March 2016, she stole $337,400 that she had received from Clayton County, Georgia, government, to hold in escrow for payment to a Georgia business, Kelete, Inc., which owned a gas station and convenience store in College Park, Ga.  After the theft, Gaines lied to Clayton County and Kelete to lull them into believing that she still had the money and payment was on the way.

In 2014, Clayton County entered into an agreement with Kelete for Kelete to sell a right of way or easement through Kelete’s property to the County, for $712,400.  Gaines was retained to serve as the escrow agent for this real estate transaction.  Clayton County transferred $712,400 to Gaines for her to hold in escrow and complete the transaction. 

In November 2015, Clayton County and Kelete closed the real estate deal.  Gaines paid $375,000 to Kelete and its bank at the time of closing.  Under the settlement agreement, Gaines was required to hold the remaining $337,400 in escrow until Kelete removed certain trade fixtures and improvements on the property.  In March 2016, Kelete completed the removal and requested the remaining payment of $337,400.  But Gaines never paid, despite repeated demands.  Instead of holding the $337,400 in escrow as required, Gaines had diverted the funds to pay for personal and law firm expenses.

Beginning in March 2016, when payment was demanded, Gaines repeatedly made false representations to Clayton County and Kelete about whether she had the money and whether payment was on the way.  For example, Gaines falsely claimed that the wire was “pending,” that the wire was “stuck,” that she had a check ready for Kelete, that she was “awaiting a call from the bank,” that “the bank was holding the wire,” that she had “straightened out the issue,” and that the “wire should be processed Monday.”  These representations were false.  No wires were stuck, pending, held, or on their way; and no check was ready.  Gaines had far less than $337,400 in her bank accounts at the time she made these misrepresentations.  

Kelete sued Gaines to recover the $337,400 it was owed.  As part of that civil proceeding, Gaines lied in two depositions, in March 2017 and June 2018.  Gaines testified that she had paid a portion of Kelete’s funds to another client, a pastor, in error.  Gaines also testified that she had called the pastor and informed him of the mistake, and that he had promised to pay the money back to Gaines.  Those representations were false. 

Gaines, 61, of Mableton, Georgia, was sentenced to two years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $330,900 in restitution.  She was convicted after pleading guilty to theft from a local government that receives federal funding. 

            This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Full Article & Source:
Former Georgia Attorney Sentenced To Two Years In Federal Prison For Theft Of Client Funds

One of the original 'Rosie the Riveters' is now making masks to help defeat coronavirus

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

Click to Watch Video
94-year-old original 'Rosie the Riveter' makes Covid-19 masks 03:56

(CNN)One of the original "Rosie the Riveters" is serving her country once more.

Mae Krier, 94, worked in a Boeing factory during World War II, where she helped make warplanes. Now, she's helping fight a different battle -- coronavirus. 
"I always made (them) for Rosie travel," she told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "We go to Washington and places and whenever we do, they love the bandanas. And I was making a lot of them when the virus started, and I just switched over from bandanas to face masks." 
Rosie the Riveter is famously depicted wearing a red polka dot bandana around her head, but now, Krier is stitching face masks from the same cloth.
"People are starting to send me material and elastic and everything that I need from all over the country," she said, wearing one of the bandanas around her neck. "It's absolutely amazing. I'm just stunned."
She told CNN that on Facebook she mentioned that she ran out of elastic and she couldn't go to a store, and soon a package came with thread and everything she needed.
Krier first started making the masks a few months ago for her family and friends. Then someone posted about her masks on Facebook, and she got requests from folks across the US. Now, Krier has made more than 300 masks, and the requests haven't slowed down.
She told CNN she has more than 1,000 requests.
"So now I have to reach out. A lot of friends have offered to help me. We'll get there. We can do it," she said. 
Krier uses a sewing machine to make the masks, and they're totally free -- though donations for postage are appreciated.
Part of what keeps Krier going is her campaign for Senate Bill 892, which would award Rosie the Riveter with a single Congressional Gold Medal, an effort to recognize the contributions made by women workers and volunteers during WWII. The medal would be displayed at the National Museum of American History. The bill currently doesn't have enough support to pass, but Krier is hoping to change that.
In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged Americans to wear face masks to slow the spread of the virus. Many cities and states have also initiated face mask requirements, too.
Still, some lawmakers have refused to wear masks, causing partisan division over whether the mask requirements infringe on rights. 
Krier said she went through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II and back then Americans banded together and did what they had to do.
"I don't understand why people can't band together now," she said.
Working in the Boeing factory was hard, she said, before pointing out they did it for years.
"Wearing a mask seems simple to me after going through all that," she said. 
CNN's Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

Full Article & Source:
One of the original 'Rosie the Riveters' is now making masks to help defeat coronavirus

Thursday, July 23, 2020

NY bill would rollback COVID-19 liability protection for hospitals, nursing homes

By Bernadette Hogan

The Albany Capitol building
ALBANY — Democratic state lawmakers are considering legislation this week that would partially rollback generous lawsuit liability protections for hospitals and nursing homes related to the coronavirus crisis, The Post has learned.

Legislative leaders in the state Senate and Assembly introduced a bill late Monday night that if passed, would remove immunity protections for healthcare facilities and personnel treating patients that haven’t been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Protections would remain however when treating patients diagnosed with and being treated for the virus.

The Legislature originally voted on and passed the measure within the state’s omnibus $177 billion state budget in April.

Drawing heavy support from the hospital and nursing home industry, the “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act” granted immunity protections for all healthcare facilities and medical professionals that treated, or arranged for treatment of COVID-19 patients, and any other individual who sought health care services during the COVID-19 emergency declaration.

However, the provision came under the microscope in the light of the state’s massive death toll in nursing homes related to the virus — which have now skyrocketed to upwards of 6,300 lives lost per state records.

Family members that have loved ones who died in facilities cannot sue unless they can prove a high standard of gross negligence occurred.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) — a nursing home advocate — told The Post the legislation in its current form does not go far enough, and is pushing for a full, retroactive repeal of immunity protections going back to the pandemic’s start.

“I think it’s a good first step in admitting the original protections passed were wrong, but if it doesn’t go retroactively then it doesn’t provide justice for the people that are in the most pain right now,” he said.

“We need to figure out how to provide retroactive justice.”

“There has to be some sort of victim compensation fund for the people who lost their loved ones,” he added.

But the Greater New York Hospital Association — the powerful hospital lobbying arm directly involved in April’s negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the protections – issued a memo of opposition, arguing the pandemic is far from over and the healthcare system is still facing challenges.

“The bill would prospectively remove protections for non-COVID-19 patients whose care would be affected by the response to another COVID-19 surge. This includes hospitals’ response to State orders by discharging patients early to prepare for a surge; deploying volunteers, staff, and medical students to alleviate severe staff shortages; expedited triage of emergency room patients to make room for an influx of COVID-19 patients; and the conversion of existing and creation of new hospital spaces to care for patients,” GNYHA spokesman Brian Conway said. He added that any retroactive provision would “make an already bad bill much worse.”

“Health care workers should not have to look over their shoulder for trying to save as many lives as possible during a horrific pandemic.”

“The pandemic isn’t over. The intent of passing these protections was to allow hospitals, nursing homes and doctors to do their job,” argued Tom Stebbins executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“The flip that we’ve made on our healthcare workers is alarming. This is not over, every expert would say this is not over.”

State Senate sponsor Luis Sepulveda (D-The Bronx) told The Post Senate Democrats are still discussing the legislation, and would not comment further.

Lawmakers are expected to be in Albany through the end of the week — both physically and remotely — to pass a series of legislation backed up by the COVID-19 emergency.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo could not be reached for immediate comment.

Full Article & Source:
NY bill would rollback COVID-19 liability protection for hospitals, nursing homes

Ex-judge accused of trust theft, his lawyer sanctioned for bid to ‘mislead’ court

by Dave Stafford

An ex-Indiana judge whose former law office is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an estate he established that was meant to go to charity has been sanctioned — as has his defense attorney — after a judge ruled they made false statements and attempted to mislead the court in the charity’s civil lawsuit.

One-time Jasper County Judge Robert Monfort and his attorney, Vincent Antaki of the Reminger law firm, were ordered last week to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs in responding to Monfort’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Jasper Newton Foundation.

Special Judge Mary Harper in Jasper Superior Court found that both Monfort and Antaki asserted repeatedly that no money had been disbursed from the estate of Rose Nagel, who had been a client of Monfort’s when he made her estate plan that included substantial gifts to local Catholic schools through the foundation. The recipients have received no distribution from the estate of Nagel, who died more than three years ago.

“As it turns out, roughly $218,000 had been distributed from the Estate by the time Monfort asserted otherwise,” Harper wrote in a July 13 order. She also found both Monfort and Antaki violated Indiana Trial Rule 11(A), in particular that “(t)he signature of an attorney constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the pleadings; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief, there is good ground to support it; and that it is not interposed for delay.”

Harper found the opposite was true regarding arguments that no loss had been incurred in the Nagel estate. “Clearly, the No-Loss Assertions were false,” she wrote. “There is no question Monfort violated Ind. Trial Rule 11(A). As for Monfort’s counsel, Vincent P. Antaki, the parties argued over an attorney’s duty to verify the information he receives from his client. … Here, Monfort’s counsel argued the No-Loss Assertions arose form a ‘misunderstanding.’ He did not explain this misunderstanding, nor did he inform this Court of what steps he took, if any, to verify what Monfort told him. Also, he made no attempt to correct the record.

“… This Court finds Monfort and Monfort’s counsel attempted to intentionally mislead this Court with false statements designed to obfuscate issues, delay the proceedings, induce this court to make an obvious legal error, waste judicial resources, and escalate the Plaintiff’s costs,” Harper wrote.
She ordered both Monfort and Antaki to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees related to responding to Monfort’s motion to dismiss, preparing for and attending a hearing on the motion as well as preparing the sanctions motion.

Monfort faced discipline for misconduct related to the Nagel case and another estate his former Monon law firm established. He is accused in separate lawsuits of misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his law firm, an office employee and a family member after the clients died.
Last month, Monfort resigned from the Indiana bar rather than face an attorney discipline case. In doing so, he was required to acknowledge there was an Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission proceeding alleging misconduct and that he could not successfully defend himself if prosecuted.

Monfort has not been criminally charged.

Harper set a hearing for Sept. 9 on attorney fees and costs as well as on the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery served on co-defendant Teri Hardin. She was Monfort’s former office manager who also had served as personal representative of Nagel’s estate.

Full Article & Source:
Ex-judge accused of trust theft, his lawyer sanctioned for bid to ‘mislead’ court

Arrests Made in Senior Exploitation Case Following Tip to Attorney General Moody’s Senior Protection Team

News Provided By
Attorney General of Florida
July 21, 2020, 20:52 GMT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Senior Protection Team, Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement today announced two arrests in a case involving the exploitation of a Florida senior. Authorities arrested Audrey Cody and Cody’s adult daughter, Deanna Baptiste, on charges of exploitation of elderly persons, organized scheme to defraud and mortgage fraud as the result of an elder exploitation investigation. The investigation began following a tip to Attorney General Moody’s SPT hotline.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “My office is committed to protecting seniors, working with our partners to bring to justice those taking advantage of older Floridians. The defendants in this case exploited a Florida senior—stealing more than $100,000 from his retirement accounts, life insurance policy and other investments. I want to thank the citizen who reported these crimes to my Senior Protection Team, FDLE for its diligent efforts to investigate the exploitation and my Statewide Prosecutors for doggedly pursuing these charges."

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “I'd like to commend the tremendous work by our members and by our partners at the Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Senior Protection Team in bringing these defendants to justice. Let these arrests serve as a warning to those who would prey on Florida's seniors that we are vigilant and tireless in protecting our citizens."

The tip leading to the arrests came to Attorney General Moody's SPT just days after the
announcement of the new senior fraud fighting unit. The Team took the tip to OSP and FDLE, launching a year-long investigation that uncovered Baptiste and Cody's ongoing scheme to exploit a Florida senior. 

As part of the scheme, the mother-daughter duo worked to gain the trust of the victim. Soon, after being introduced, Baptiste moved into the victim's home in Plantation and promised to provide caretaker services. Baptiste also promised to oversee the maintenance of the victim's property while the victim sought treatment more than three hours away in Tampa. According to the investigation, between November 2017 and March 2019, Baptiste and Cody defrauded and exploited the victim by unlawfully cashing out his pension, retirement account and life insurance policy. The defendants also opened credit cards in the victim’s name, transferred the deed of his home to a limited liability corporation controlled by the defendants and then took out a mortgage on the property.

The defendants utilized the stolen funds, more than $100,000 in total, for personal expenses, such as trips, paying the bills of friends and family, and giving gifts. The investigation revealed that Baptiste even used ill-gotten funds to pay for an online dating service. Both defendants face numerous felony charges, carrying up to a maximum penalty of 125 years in prison.

Attorney General Moody's Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Elisabeth Rodriguez will prosecute the case. If you or someone you know is the victim of elder exploitation, please report the crime to local law enforcement and the Florida Abuse Hotline, by calling 1(800) 962-2873 or report online at Complaints can also be submitted to the Attorney General's SPT, by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or by visiting For more information, visit
The primary focus of the Florida Attorney General’s Senior Protection Team is pursuing senior fraud within the OAG’s civil and criminal enforcement jurisdiction. For elder exploitation issues, typically within the jurisdiction and expertise of local law enforcement or other state agencies, like the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, or the Department of Financial Services, those agencies should be contacted directly.

Full Article & Source:
Arrests Made in Senior Exploitation Case Following Tip to Attorney General Moody’s Senior Protection Team

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dozens, many nursing home residents, receive false-positive COVID-19 results from public lab in Connecticut

The results were from "a widely-used laboratory testing platform."

By Karma Allen

Communities face testing struggles as COVID-19 cases rise in 40 statesPublic health officials in Connecticut confirmed 90 people received false positives. In Hidalgo County, Texas, patients are waiting up to 10 hours for an initial exam.

Connecticut health officials issued a warning on Monday, saying a state-run laboratory had delivered false-positive COVID-19 test results to dozens of patients, including many nursing home residents.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health said it uncovered a flaw in a testing system at the state's Public Health Laboratory, which caused 90 people to receive false positive results between June 15 and July 17, according to a statement released Monday.

Health officials said the results were from "a widely-used laboratory testing platform" that the state laboratory started using on June 15. The exact cause of the false-positive results is still under investigation, officials said.

The patients, many of whom were nursing home residents, were notified through their respective healthcare facilities. The flaw has also been reported to the manufacturer and the federal Food and Drug Administration, the department said.

“We have notified the healthcare facilities for everyone who received a false positive test result from our state laboratory,” Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said on Monday. “Accurate and timely testing for the novel coronavirus is one of the pillars supporting effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Health workers dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) handle a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing station in Stamford, Connecticut. John Moore/Getty Images

She also thanked her team at the state lab for their "quick action" and said adjustments had already been made to ensure the accuracy of future results from the testing platform.

The department said it would still rely on the platform for tests, including those for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Going forward, all positive results will be further analyzed by multiple laboratory scientists, and if indicated, retested using another method, the department said.

The news comes as states across the country struggle to keep up with testing demands amid a resurgence of infections. Last week, Rhode Island officials revealed that a private laboratory had delivered false-positive COVID-19 results to 113 patients. Those tests were taken between July 9 and July 14.

Over 14.5 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 3.7 million diagnosed cases and at least 140,541 deaths.

Full Article & Source:
Dozens, many nursing home residents, receive false-positive COVID-19 results from public lab in Connecticut

Track the Status of Nursing Home Visits in Your State

Some facilities are accepting visitors, but protocols vary widely

by Andrew Soergel

Click for Interactive Map

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in certain states have started to gradually reopen, in some cases adopting outdoor visiting options to help residents reconnect with their loved ones.

The federal government established benchmarks in mid-May for state and local officials to determine when nursing home visits could resume, but urged “extreme caution” and said the facilities should be “among the last to reopen” in communities lifting pandemic-related restrictions. The facilities had been closed to almost all visitors since March, per federal guidance.

States’ willingness to allow visitors for facilities and their vulnerable residents — potentially increasing their risk of exposure to the coronavirus — has varied, and there are huge variations among individual facilities, even in the same state. Nursing homes that don't have access to enough outdoor space, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies may need to think carefully about adopting outdoor visits, health experts say. And some states and facilities are requiring visitors to fill out additional paperwork or sign visitation agreements.

"The responses should really be tailored to your environment — not just your state, but your local microclimates and your local prevalence of disease,” says David Nace, M.D., president of the nonprofit Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine and chief medical officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Senior Communities assisted living and skilled nursing operations.

Assisted living facilities have in some cases opened up to visitors more quickly than nursing homes. Officials in Ohio, for example, approved assisted living visits over a month before they did the same for nursing homes. But guidance for nursing homes and assisted living facilities has been similar at the federal and state levels, and visiting access to assisted living also varies between states and even between neighboring communities.

Some states have started paving the way for indoor visitation at nursing homes, though masks, social distancing practices and temperature screenings are typically required for anyone entering a nursing home or long-term care facility. AARP is stressing safety above all but is advocating for outdoor visitation in facilities that meet federal guidelines and maintain strict visitor protocols. Facilities should be fully staffed, coronavirus-free and have adequate personal protective equipment and testing resources on hand before considering in-person visits, says Elaine Ryan, vice president for state advocacy and strategy at AARP.

"Sadly, many facilities have not met these criteria,” she says. “If facilities meet CDC requirements, then outdoor visitation should be available to all residents. Universality and equity is critical."

Here's where each state stands on nursing home and long-term care visitors:

Full Article & Source:
Track the Status of Nursing Home Visits in Your State