Saturday, August 8, 2020

Police investigating after disturbing photos, videos found on nursing facility employee’s phone

by: Jack Shea

LORAIN, Ohio (WJW) — A now former employee at a Lorain County nursing facility is the focus of a police investigation into her treatment of patients, after detectives stumbled onto disturbing photos and videos on her phone while investigating an unrelated crime.

The story began to unfold after a gunman opened fire on a house on West 21st Street in Lorain on a steamy night in July, killing two-year-old Camily Patterson and wounding two adults inside the home.

Police vowed to leave no stone unturned in their search for the killer.

“Obviously when you see a young child like that murdered in that fashion, you know it’s hard to deal with,” said Lorain Police Detective Sgt. Buddy Sivert.

Police quickly identified a person of interest in the triple shooting, and it led them to question a friend of the potential suspect. Investigators say 26-year-old Jocelyn Wright provided an alibi for the suspect that turned out to be false.

Wright was charged with obstructing official business.

“Basically she lied to us, she admitted that she lied to us,” said Sgt. Sivert.

Police say Wright gave investigators permission to check her cell phone in their search for any communication with the murder suspect. Photos and videos that they found on the phone took their investigation of Jocelyn Wright into a totally different direction.

“Disturbing photos of patients naked, lying on the floor, patients that appeared to have fallen back from their wheelchairs you know basically upside down, patients on the toilet,” said Sgt. Sivert.
Lorain police say their investigation revealed that Wright was a care giver at the Main Street Care Center in Avon Lake, and that the photos and videos on her phone were of patients at the facility.

Police have turned over the evidence they found on Wright’s phone to Avon Lake Police. Detectives are now trying to determine if Wright should face criminal charges for her conduct at the nursing center.

“She would, instead of looking out for these patients, caring for these patients, she would take time to take photos of patients in distress and then send them to other people. That in itself should be enough for her to never work in a facility or an agency where she would care for patients,” said Sgt. Sivert.
The parent company of Main Street, Sprenger Health Care System, issued the following statement:
“Main Street Care Center management is saddened to confirm they are conducting an investigation in cooperation with local law enforcement regarding a past employee who took unauthorized pictures of facility residents. These actions are not only against company policy, but strongly condemned by the organization as a whole. This employee has been terminated from Main Street Care Center. Upon notification of the incident, it was immediately reported to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and resident family members of the involved parties living at Main Street Care Center. Furthermore, once the investigation is concluded, the facility will submit a final report to ODH, the Board of Nursing and take all possible employment related and legal actions to the fullest extent. This type of behavior is not, and will not be tolerated. Main Street Care Center takes the safety and security of our residents very seriously. Re-education is being provided to all staff members to assure they are aware this type of action is not acceptable. While we again, are strongly disappointed by this situation, we would like to assure our residents, families, and the general public that Main Street Care Center has many excellent employees who care for their residents as if they were a member of their own family.”
Avon Lake police are trying to identify the patients and making contact with their families.

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Police investigating after disturbing photos, videos found on nursing facility employee’s phone

Carl Junction man to be tried in exploitation case

by Jeff Lehr

A Carl Junction man waived a preliminary hearing this week on a charge that he financially exploited an elderly woman by gaining access to her bank account and tapping it for more than $1,000.

Garyn L. Adams, 26, waived the hearing Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court on a charge of financial exploitation of an elderly person. Associate Judge Joe Hensley set the defendant's initial appearance in a trial division of the court for Sept. 2.

Adams was arrested on the charge in August 2019 following an investigation by Carl Junction police.

A probable-cause affidavit alleges that he gained access to an 86-year-old woman's bank account without her knowledge and began making fraudulent charges. He purportedly signed her up for online banking, created a PayPal account using her Social Security number and transferred money to PayPal accounts belonging to him and a second person. He also transferred money from the account using the online banking he set up.

Full Article & Source:
Carl Junction man to be tried in exploitation case

FROM THE BENCH & BAR: When elders are victimized

It should come as no surprise that criminals target victims who are innocent, disabled, or vulnerable. Unfortunately, this includes our senior citizens. In fact, communities across the country have seen a rise in the abuse and exploitation of older adults.

Elder abuse is against the law in Georgia and is something we take very seriously in Cherokee County. These crimes occur when malicious individuals commit financial exploitation scams specifically targeted at elderly adults and also happen when trusted family members, friends, or caregivers intentionally harm seniors, fail to provide needed services for them, or steal assets from older adults in their care.

How to prevent elder abuse

Becoming aware of the types of crimes perpetrated against seniors is one way to prevent becoming a victim yourself and to ensure that the people you care about do not become victims. Elder abuse crimes include financial exploitation, physical abuse, and neglect.

Financial exploitation occurs when criminals use force, threats, or deceit to prevent victims from accessing their own financial resources. These crimes are committed by phone, text, email, and in person – sometimes by strangers and sometimes by people the senior knows and trusts. In most cases, criminals use ploys to steal financial assets from victims or commit identify theft.

Seniors can also fall victim to financial exploitation when family members or caregivers steal money from them, use credit cards or withdraw cash from bank accounts without permission, or take valuables without asking. This crime is often hard to detect and sometimes difficult to prosecute given the relationship between the parties.

When strangers commit financial exploitation, the crime typically involves a scam in which victims intentionally or unintentionally give criminals access to their finances. For example, a criminal might pose as a credit card company employee telephoning an individual to inform him/her that an account has been hacked and ask for personal account numbers. Of course, this is a scam, but many people fall for this tactic.

Another common scam occurs when criminals pose as someone from Social Security, the IRS, or other governmental agencies and claim the senior must pay money or go to jail. Some scammers will go so far as to manipulate seniors by claiming to be a grandchild needing money for an unforeseen emergency. In other cases, con artists pose as door-to-door solicitors selling services, such as pine straw or home improvement scams.

If someone calls, texts, or emails you or someone you know to gain access to financial information or to request payment via gift cards, be very suspicious. Scammers often manipulate victims by posing as legitimate callers. Always think about the likelihood of the request, and talk to a trusted person before responding. If the request is genuine, the caller will be willing to wait for you to verify facts.

Physical abuse and neglect of seniors may occur in long-term care facilities, where a patient is mistreated by a staff member, or it may take the form of domestic violence perpetrated by the victim’s spouse or other family member. Victims may suffer physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Elder victims may also be deprived of essential medical care, adequate nutrition, hygiene, or a safe living environment. Victims with dementia and serious health ailments are the most vulnerable to physical abuse and neglect.

An older adult with bruises or other injuries may not be able to verbalize what is happening. If you suspect elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, you should call Adult Protective Services (1-866-55AGING) to report.

How we’re responding

Five years ago, the District Attorney’s Office established the Elder Abuse/White Collar Unit, which specializes in the investigation and prosecution of these types of crimes.

In 2017, the District Attorney’s Office and community partners founded the Cherokee County Adult Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team (MDT), which brings together agencies committed to protecting vulnerable adults from abuse or exploitation. During monthly meetings, MDT members discuss reports of abuse and collaborate to ensure seniors receive the services they need.

In the past three years, this MDT has reviewed and responded to 579 cases of suspected abuse or neglect. Cases monitored include: abuse, exploitation via theft of property, exploitation via scam or identity theft, neglect, and self-neglect.

The 48 MDT members represent the following agencies: Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office, Coroner’s Office, Senior Services, and Solicitor-General’s Office; the Georgia Division of Aging — Adult Protective Services; LiveSAFE Resources; and all Cherokee law enforcement agencies. The Cherokee Triad S.A.L.T., which works to reduce victimization of senior citizens, also actively supports this MDT.

You too can help reduce the prevalence of crimes against elders. Be aware of common scams. Talk to seniors in your life and make sure they are safe and making sound decisions. Check on older friends and relatives. If you or someone you know is a victim of elder abuse and in danger, please call 911.

Shannon Wallace has served as the District Attorney of Cherokee County since 2013. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law.

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FROM THE BENCH & BAR: When elders are victimized

Friday, August 7, 2020

More than 12,000 Texans, lawmakers push for ban on visitation at nursing homes to be lifted

Click to Watch Video
HOUSTON – As some parts of the state have reopened, like stores, restaurants and bars, an entire part of Texas has remained locked down.

We’re not talking about prisons. For nearly five months, nursing homes have been restricting visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic and the high risk the virus poses to residents.

But family members have had enough. Thousands of people with loved ones in nursing homes across the state have joined a movement to ease visitation restrictions.

Kathy Harper, a Katy resident, can’t stop thinking about her 82-year old mother who is in a nursing home.

Older people, like Harper’s mother, need close, personal contact with their families to survive, Harper said.

‘Dying of loneliness’

“So they’re dying in there because they are dying of loneliness,” said Harper. “They’re absolutely dying of loneliness and nobody should have to go through that,” she added.

For nearly five months, tens of thousands of families have been dealing with the pain of not being able to touch or hug or even speak directly to their loved ones in nursing homes. They are separated by stringent rules handed down by Texas governor Greg Abbott.

Families like Harper's are forced to stand outside and peer through windows, their voices crackling over a cellphone.

No contact visits

Channel 2 Investigates tagged-along for a window visit between Harper and her mother.

“What would you like to see change during this mom?” asked Harper.

“I’d like it if we might have more freedom to meet with our families,” Gwynne, Harper’s mother, replied,

For Harper and her mother, these "no contact" visits have begun to take their toll.

"My biggest fear is that mom's just going to give up," said Harper.

For Harper, the worst part has been watching the doctors and support staff having contact with her mom, but she can’t.

“Why is he allowed to and I‘m not?” said Harper. “That’s my mother, that’s my mother and I should have the right.”

12,000 sign Texas petition for change

Many others feel the same way. Harper has found support on Facebook through a group called Texas Caregivers for Compromise - Because Isolation Kills, Too. Harper and more than 12,000 others have signed a petition pushing for changes in the rules governing families visiting loved ones at nursing homes.

Instead of allowing zero contact, they want the state to allow one family member per nursing home resident to be considered an essential caregiver, just like plumbers and electricians are considered essential to a nursing home. The essential caregiver would take the same precautions that caregivers at the facility follow.

55 state lawmakers sign joint letter

“We don’t intend to stand for this situation any longer,” said State Representative Scott Sanford, (R-McKinney).

Both a state representative and a minister, Sanford has written a letter backed by 54 other state legislators asking for the same change because he says heartbreak is killing these elderly residents.

“We need remedy soon because we are losing some of our very precious people,” said Sanford.

Considering easing visitation restrictions

Just this week, Channel 2 Investigates pressed Abbott during a live interview on whether he plans to change the rules that are keeping families apart.

“We do want to do it... and we are considering easing visitation restrictions and we’re developing some strategies to make sure that is going to be able to happen,” Abbott said. “We don’t want to replicate the disaster we saw in New York state that led to the deaths of so many people.”

Now hiring

Meanwhile, Christian Care Communities and Services in North Texas is offering family members paid jobs to work at their facilities just so they can visit their loved ones face to face.

“The benefit is that you see your loved one,” said Sabrina Porter, CEO. “You are assigned to the area where your relative is and we ask you to give care and services to other residents in that area as well.”

Brittni Evetts took a job at Hillside Medical Lodge in Gatesville, just so she could see her mom. After four months of not having contact with her mother, she recently applied to be a housekeeper at the facility. She put in an application and started working at the facility last week.

As for Harper, one terrifying thought that haunts her.

”You worry that [mom] will die in that place, all alone... and nobody should die alone,” she said.

The Texas Health and Human Services Committee will hold a webinar to talk about this topic Friday.
Saturday morning, a rally is planned in Austin to protest the visitation ban.

Full Article & Source:
More than 12,000 Texans, lawmakers push for ban on visitation at nursing homes to be lifted

Pro Bono: Guardian Advocacy Project offers help for families

The program helps those parents or legal guardians obtain legal authority to continue caring for their disabled family member.
By Missy Davenport • JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

When a child turns 18, the child’s parents or legal guardians no longer have the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the person.

For people with a developmental disability, assistance with some matters, such as medical and financial decisions, often is needed beyond the age of 18.

The guardian advocacy process helps those parents or legal guardians obtain legal authority to continue caring for their disabled family member. Many families are in need of help with this process and are unable to afford an attorney.

The Guardian Advocacy Project was established in 2018 to help families achieve stability and ensure that loved ones will be able to receive the care that they need.

It began as a collaboration of pro bono attorney Lisa DiFranza, the Nelson Mullins law firm, TIAA Bank and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

DiFranza developed and presented comprehensive training for volunteers and serves as an expert resource for the project. She also provided templates that can be used to create the necessary documents for a guardian advocacy case.

Attorneys and paralegals at Nelson Mullins and TIAA Bank have taken on several cases and provided much needed assistance.

We receive many requests for help in this area and new volunteers are needed.

Many people are familiar with the full guardianship process, when a court takes away an incapacitated person’s rights and grants those rights to a guardian who acts in the person’s best interests.

Florida Statute Chapter 393 provides for the less restrictive option of an appointment of a guardian advocate. In this situation, a guardian advocate may be appointed without an adjudication of incapacity for a person with developmental disabilities who lacks the decision-making ability to complete some, but not all, of the necessary tasks to care for his or her person, property or estate.

For the establishment of guardian advocacy, the person with a developmental disability must have an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome that was diagnosed before the age of 18 and creates a substantial handicap that can be expected to continue indefinitely.

A lawyer is assigned to the person with developmental disabilities, if they do not have one of their own, and a court hearing will be held so that a judge can determine whether a guardian advocate is needed and in what areas help is needed.

The guardian advocacy option allows for a balance between providing the person with a development disability as much freedom and independence as possible while still ensuring that family members can assist and intervene if needed.

JALA receives many requests for assistance in this area and we need more volunteer attorneys.  We only accept uncontested cases and there usually is just one client meeting and one hearing required.

A basic guardian advocacy training webinar is available to volunteers upon request and attorneys new to this process can be paired with an expert resource attorney.

After the initial meeting with the client (which can be done remotely), the volunteer attorney files the petition, sets the hearing and attends the hearing with the client to get the Guardian Advocacy final judgment.

Several volunteers say they enjoyed working with these families and that it was a profound experience to use their legal ability to dramatically improve the lives of families in need.

If you would like more information about how you can get involved with this important and worthwhile project, contact Missy Davenport at JALA.

To review cases in need of placement, visit and type your county in the general search field. 

Full Article & Source:
Pro Bono: Guardian Advocacy Project offers help for families

Dementia on the Retreat in the U.S. and Europe

Rates of dementia have steadily fallen over the past 25 years, a new study finds. But the disease is increasingly common in some parts of the world.

Credit...Sean Gallup/Getty Images
By Gina Kolata

Despite the lack of effective treatments or preventive strategies, the dementia epidemic is on the wane in the United States and Europe, scientists reported on Monday.

The risk for a person to develop dementia over a lifetime is now 13 percent lower than it was in 2010. 

Incidence rates at every age have steadily declined over the past quarter-century. If the trend continues, the paper’s authors note, there will be 15 million fewer people in Europe and the United States with dementia than there are now.

The study is the most definitive yet to document a decline in dementia rates. Its findings counter warnings from advocacy groups of a coming tsunami of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, said Dr. John Morris, director of the Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis.

It is correct that there are now more people than ever with dementia, but that is because there are more and more older people in the population.

The new incidence data are “hopeful,” Dr. Morris said. “It is such a strong study and such a powerful message. It suggests that the risk is modifiable.”

Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., reviewed data from seven large studies with a total of 49,202 individuals. The studies followed men and women aged 65 and older for at least 15 years, and included in-person exams and, in many cases, genetic data, brain scans and information on participants’ risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The data also include a separate assessment of Alzheimer’s disease. Its incidence, too, has steadily fallen, at a rate of 16 percent per decade, the researchers found. Their study was published in the journal Neurology.

In 1995, a 75-year-old man had about a 25 percent chance of developing dementia in his remaining lifetime. Now that man’s chance declined to 18 percent, said Dr. Albert Hofman, chairman of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of the new paper.

Although it is often said that women are more likely to get dementia than men, Dr. Hofman and his colleagues found that men and women have equal dementia rates.

The reason for the confusion appears to be that there are more older women than older men in the population. At any age when dementia is likely, there will be more women with dementia in the population than men.

One puzzling aspect of the decline is that it seems to be confined to Europe and the United States — it was not seen in Asia, South America or, from limited data, in Africa. There have been reports of increasing dementia rates in Japan, China and Nigeria, the paper’s authors note.

Those increases are puzzling, Dr. Hofman said. The trend may be related to higher rates of smoking, which makes dementia more likely, in those countries.

One leading hypothesis for the decline in the United States and Europe is improved control of cardiovascular risk factors, especially blood pressure and cholesterol. Nearly all dementia patients have other brain abnormalities, including blood vessel damage likely to be the result of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure seems to be most damaging in middle age, Dr. Hofman said. Those with lower blood pressure earlier in life but higher blood pressure later tend to have reduced chances of dementia.

Large swings in blood pressure are a risk at any age, he added.

Another possible reason for declining dementia rates might be better education, which is thought to have a protective effect by giving the brain more capacity — for example, a memory cache of more synonyms for words that were forgotten.

Like control of blood pressure and cholesterol, education levels have gradually improved over the past few decades. “There is a theory, but still not much evidence, that education shifts dementia to a later age,” Dr. Hofman said.

The genetic risk factors for dementia cannot have changed, said Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging. “That means something in the environment has occurred,” he added, which “has to encourage us.”

But if improved education is the answer, the decline in dementia rates may be nearing its end, Dr. Hodes noted. He also cautioned against assuming that factors like blood pressure or education, linked in observational studies to dementia, might signal cause and effect.

Neither can scientists yet assume that various lifestyle factors linked to a lower risk of dementia mean they are protective.

“Many are using these reports to recommend better diets and more exercise,” Dr. Hodes said. “I couldn’t possibly be opposed to more social interactions, more activity, better diets, better control of blood pressure.”

“But we need more research for a greater degree of certainty.”

Full Article & Source: 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Elderly victim who was beaten in viral nursing home video dies

by Breck Dumas

The elderly nursing home resident who was shown being beaten in his room in a video that went viral two months ago has died, his family confirmed this week.

In late May, horrifying footage of a young person beating a helpless elderly person began circulation online, and the disturbing nature of the video sparked widespread outcry and an investigation. It even grabbed the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted, "Is this even possible to believe? Can this be for real? Where is this nursing home, how is the victim doing?"

The victim was identified as 75-year-old Norman Bledsoe, a resident at the Westwood Rehabilitation Nursing Center in Detroit. Shortly after video of the attack went viral, Bledsoe's roommate at the facility, 20-year-old Jaden Hayden, was arrested in connection with the beating.

Authorities said at the time that Bledsoe was hospitalized for "non-life-threatening" injuries.
The Detroit News reported that those injuries included "four broken fingers, broken ribs, and a broken jaw." Bledsoe died Monday morning.

The victim's nephew, Kevin Bledsoe, told the outlet of his uncle, "His eating habits went downhill after (the alleged assault on May 15), and he lost quite a bit of weight."

Kevin Bledsoe noted that the family had been prohibiting from visiting Norman Bledsoe at the nursing home following his release from the hospital, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We finally were able to see him last week," Kevin said. "He wasn't doing very good. I guess there just wasn't anything else they could do for him."

The Bledsoe family is reportedly moving forward with a lawsuit against Westwood.

Anything else?

Hayden is accused of not only recording himself beating up Bledsoe, but posting the footage online and stealing the elderly man's credit card following the attack. The accused reportedly has mental issues, and is due in court Thursday to determine whether he's mentally fit to stand trial.

WJBK-TV pointed out that the 20-year-old was placed in the long-term care facility after being diagnosed with COVID-19 due to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's (D) controversial policy of sending coronavirus patients "to nursing homes as a way to isolate them from the rest of the state to avoid spreading the virus further."

Full Article & Source:
Elderly victim who was beaten in viral nursing home video dies 

See Also:
Detroit police make arrest after video of elder abuse goes viral

3 nursing homes get ‘termination notices’ from state, could force closures

The notices are the first step in being eliminated from MassHealth.

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts’ state Medicaid program has issued termination notices to three private nursing homes in the state for allegedly failing to meet care expectations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hermitage Healthcare in Worcester, Town and Country Health Care Center in Lowell, and Wareham Healthcare received the notices Monday from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The notices are the first step in being eliminated from MassHealth, which could force the closure of the facilities.

Next Step Healthcare, the parent company of Hermitage Healthcare and Wareham Healthcare, said in a statement to The Boston Globe that the state Department of Public Health had found both facilities in compliance with infection control standards on three out of four recent visits.

The company said it would appeal both decisions.

A person who answered a phone call to Town and Country on Monday told The Sun of Lowell that the facility would have no comment.

Hermitage Healthcare has had 12 deaths from COVID-19, Town and Country has had 10 deaths and Wareham Healthcare has had no reported deaths.

The state said the facilities demonstrated poor adherence to basic infection control practices, improper use of protective equipment, had inadequate staffing, and in certain cases, refused support offered by the state when dealing with outbreaks and staffing shortages.

Full Article & Source:
3 nursing homes get ‘termination notices’ from state, could force closures

Tyler woman accused in scheme bilking over 4,000 elderly victims

By Carrie Provinsal

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -Six people have been arrested on a federal indictment alleging money laundering violations. Tracey Lynn Brookshier, 51, of Tyler, is one of the six that’s accused of exploiting older Americans.

U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. said the accused “target seniors here at home through believable scams designed to rob them of hard-earned savings”. Allegedly they formed call centers and contacted victims, some of whom were located in the Eastern District of Texas, directly targeting elder victims to transfer funds to the defendants and other co-conspirators.

The indictment alleges that they impersonated Social Security Administration and IRS/Department of Treasury officials. Callers allegedly claimed that the victim’s Social Security number had been suspended because of suspicious activity and could be reactivated by payment of some amount. Other callers allegedly claimed that victims owed back taxes and were required to satisfy the fictional debt to avoid threatened legal action.

Some callers allegedly posed as employees of mortgage companies. Victims, who included borrowers with mortgages backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Federal Housing Administration, were promised lower rates through fictitious loan modifications and, in some instances, threatened with foreclosure if they did not agree to pay for the loan modification.

The indictment further alleges that victims wired funds to locations in the Eastern District of Texas and elsewhere. The indictment charges that the defendants’ money laundering conspiracy involved more than 4,000 victim wire transfers that totaled over $3.2 million.

The indictment also charges that the defendants created fictitious companies and then deposited victim funds into bank accounts opened in the names of these fictitious companies. The defendants are alleged to have made cash withdrawals of the fraudulently-obtained money and transferred some of the proceeds to other accounts, some of which were located outside of the United States. According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a money-laundering conspiracy from July 2012 to September 2019.

A federal grand jury returned the two-count indictment on June 18, charging a money laundering conspiracy and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business. The individuals charged include:

Jeremy Christopher Jones, 45, of Kansas City, Kansas;

John Arthur Fuss, 69, of Wartrace, Tennessee;

Perry Lewis Crenshaw, Jr., 26, of Pensacola, Florida;

Mary Elizabeth Booth, a/k/a Mary Beaman, 39, of Hammond, Louisiana;

Ronnie Duane Booth, 37, of Hammond, Louisiana; and

Tracey Lynn Brookshier, 51, of Tyler, Texas.

All six defendants were arrested in other districts and then later made court appearances in the Eastern District of Texas. Beaman, Booth, and Brookshier were all arrested on July 6 in Louisiana and arraigned on July 22.

Jones, Beaman, Booth, and Brookshier were separately charged with operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business in the State of Texas.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison on the money laundering conspiracy charge and up to 5 years on the charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Any proceeds are also subject to forfeiture.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. eastern time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

This case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the United States Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Coan.

Full Article & Source:
Tyler woman accused in scheme bilking over 4,000 elderly victims

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

I-TEAM: Investigators cut off from nursing homes as pandemic rages

Click to Watch Video
By Liz Owens

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Families remain cut off from loved ones in nursing homes as COVID-19 continues to ravage long-term care facilities. 

Before the pandemic, families relied on the ombudsman to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, but even they are now cut off from nursing home residents.

But even before COVID-19, lengthy investigations could frustrate family members seeking answers.

We found understaffed agencies, coupled with COVID-19, could make the delays even worse.

Time is of the essence when a loved one is in a possible neglectful situation, but we found it took nearly 100 days for a regional ombudsman and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to investigate a family’s concerns of possible neglect and that’s before the pandemic hit.

But let’s focus on more on our story -- mainly the story of Margaret and Theron Garvin.

You see, life is like a camera -- focus on what’s important, capture the good times, and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.

There are no more shots left for 95-year-old Theron and 82-year-old Margaret. The loving couple moved into Anchor Health and Rehabilitation Center after Theron’s second stroke and Margaret was diagnosed with dementia. They died less than a year later.

We combed through notes written by Kristy Garvin taken when she visited her in-laws.

“Nobody should see their loved one soiled or you have to constantly advocate because she has no clothes on,” Kristy said.

Kristy started sending what she claims she was seeing to the regional ombudsman in August. Ombudsmen are state advocates for nursing home patients. Meanwhile, another visit, another note on Aug. 19, Kristy says she finds Theron shivering in the hallway with a small blanket. Staff check on him. He has a 104 degree temperature. Kristy alleges the director of nursing later tells her she was not informed by her staff. Theron is admitted to the hospital.

“It’s like ripping your heart out,” Kristy said. “This man that you have known all these years to be strong and help others to help you and love you and care for you to be at his weakness moments.”

Theron went into cardiac arrest and died 11 days later. Kristy asks the ombudsman to open an investigation before he passed away. A month later she asks the same ombudsman to investigate the care of her mother in law.

Days and then weeks went by. Kristy asks for an update.

The ombudsman is working on it. She tells Kristy she visited her mother-in-law twice for a total of 5 hours, but didn’t see anything of concern. Kristy asks if she notified DHEC, the state agency which oversees nursing homes. The ombudsman replies, “I have not forwarded any complaints specific to the Garvins at this time.”

Kristy filed a complaint herself with DHEC.

According to documents obtained by the I-Team, DHEC found two violations during the investigation -- both of which are class one violations, meaning the violations present “an imminent danger -- death or serious harm could result therefrom.”

Theron and Margaret both passed away before DHEC closed its investigation. Margaret died of heart failure. DHEC did not suggest that the violations it found in any respect caused either Theron or Margaret’s deaths.

A spokesperson for Anchor Health and rehabilitation sent us this: “We work closely with and communicate at least weekly with DHEC and the South Carolina Long-Term Care ombudsman, and that helps explain why we have a 4-star quality rating from the federal government, exceed state and national averages in improved mobility for patients and discharges for short-term patients and why we are so proud of the services and skilled care we provide residents.”

The I-Team found before the pandemic, the ombudsman investigated more than 9,600 complaints in South Carolina and more than 5,000 in Georgia. But that was then, and this is now. The virus has shut out ombudsman from going inside of facilities since March. The federal government also suspended all non-emergency inspections during the pandemic.

Brian Lee is the executive director of Families for Better Care, a nursing home advocacy group.

“Annual inspections aren’t occurring at facilities anymore,” Lee said. “There are no ombudsman going in there. There is no accountability. No one knows what’s going on in nursing homes right now except the nursing homes.”

DHEC inspectors in South Carolina and Department of Community Health inspectors in Georgia are still mandated to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in nursing homes during the pandemic. However, resources are tight. Georgia is currently short 23 inspectors and only has 33 inspectors to cover every nursing home in the state -- all while still responding to outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

“You try to communicate,” Kristy said. “You advocate like they say.”

Although it took nearly a hundred days to close out the investigation, the Garvins at least had an advocate and an inspector able to go into the facility before the pandemic.

Now with inspections on pause and communication cut off, officials say you are “spinning your wheels.”

More families could be left feeling like their concerns are getting nowhere, too.

DHEC ordered Anchor to re-educate its nursing staff and to audit patient daily records.

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I-TEAM: Investigators cut off from nursing homes as pandemic rages

Maryland to stop paying for mandatory coronavirus testing for nursing home staff

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has warned the state is facing a serious financial crisis. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
By Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason

Maryland’s health department has warned nursing homes that the state will soon stop paying for the weekly coronavirus testing it requires for staff — prompting frustration from some in the industry, who say facilities cannot afford to foot the bill.

State officials say nursing homes should be able to pay for the tests through funding they received from the federal Cares Act. But industry advocates say there is not enough money to cover those costs and other pressing pandemic-related needs, especially for small, independent facilities.

“This is not something that [nursing homes] are set up to be able to continue on their own,” said Allison Ciborowski, chief executive for LeadingAge Maryland, which represents 120 nonprofit operators of long-term care facilities.

She added that it is vital for the state to ensure regular testing at long-term care facilities, where the coronavirus has already killed more than 2,000 staff and residents.

“This will crush us,” says the Rev. Derrick DeWitt, director of Maryland Baptist Aged Home in Baltimore, about figuring out how to pay for testing. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Maryland has required since mid-June that nursing homes test all staff weekly, and offered to pay for facilities that were unable to afford it. Last week, however, the health department informed industry advocates that the state would stop conducting and sponsoring employee testing. The agency said facilities should establish their own testing arrangements with laboratories by Aug. 14.

In response to questions about what would happen to facilities that do not have the funds, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R), said: “We expect the vast majority of facilities to have plans in place, but there’s a range of options depending on the situation.” He said the state will continue paying for testing for residents at facilities where there are coronavirus outbreaks.

Hogan on Tuesday said the state is facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and warned that state agencies may be asked to cut their budgets by 15 to 20 percent.

The federal government in May distributed $4.9 billion to 15,000 Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities. Facilities with more than six residents were eligible for a baseline amount of $50,000, along with $2,500 per bed. This month, the government added $5 billion in relief funding for nursing homes.

In a Friday letter to three nursing home trade associations, state health officials said they “fully expect that your member facilities will make use of those funds to protect your residents from COVID-19 by continuing weekly mandated testing.”

State health secretary Robert Neall released an order that day outlining the requirements and saying failure to comply is a misdemeanor. Maryland has fined multiple nursing homes for failing to meet requirements related to testing.

Nationally, some lawmakers and watchdog groups have expressed concern with how nursing homes are using the federal funding, calling for more government scrutiny. Ciborowski said her organization’s members are following all relevant guidelines.

Ciborowski said it is not immediately clear whether testing staff is an eligible expense under the Cares Act. The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to questions seeking clarification.

Even if facilities can use federal funding to pay for tests, what they have received is “simply not enough” to cover weekly testing on top of other expenses such as additional protective equipment and hazard pay for employees, said Joseph DeMattos Jr., chief executive of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.

Philip Meyer, who owns the 50-bed Althea Woodland facility in Montgomery County, said it is “ridiculous” for the state to make facilities use their federal funding to pay for weekly testing of staff.

The $175,000 in Cares Act money that Althea Woodland received in May has gone toward paying employees and operating costs while revenue declined, and buying protective equipment, he said. The state’s decision to stop sponsoring employee testing, he added, “will wreak havoc on an already over-burned industry.”

At Maryland Baptist Aged Home, a 29-bed nonprofit facility in Baltimore that has had zero coronavirus cases, leaders are scrambling to figure out how to pay for their own testing. “This will crush us,” said Rev. Derrick DeWitt, who serves as the facility’s director.

DeMattos said shifting responsibility for testing to individuals nursing homes also means tests will likely be sent to commercial labs, which are experiencing nationwide backlogs. The state lab has generally turned around results more quickly, he said.

Nursing homes in Virginia and the District will also soon need to begin paying for regular testing, industry advocates said, although there have not been orders stating when funding will be cut.

In Virginia, the state organized and paid for a round of testing and is now shifting responsibility to the facilities, said Amy Hewett, spokeswoman for the Virginia Health Care Association. State guidance says all staff and residents should be tested weekly in the first phase of reopening, until there are no new cases among residents for 14 days. But it is a recommendation, not a mandate.

In the District, the city had been paying for required weekly testing. On Monday, however, one nursing home said it was asked to begin organizing and paying for its own testing, said Veronica Sharpe, president of the D.C. Health Care Association. She said she will ask the city for more funding if it expects nursing homes to pay for their own testing.

Correction: A previous version of this story said Maryland is set to stop paying for coronavirus testing of nursing home staff and residents. It only plans to stop paying for the mandatory weekly testing of staff.

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Maryland to stop paying for mandatory coronavirus testing  for nursing home staff

Arlington Heights firm used DNA from elderly fearing cancer in Medicare fraud, feds say

Kyle McLean, 36, who pleaded guilty to fraud, was part of a nationwide ring that used DNA swabs from old people who thought it was a cancer-detection test, prosecutors say.

By Frank Main

Kyle McLean.
Cook County sheriff’s office
An Arlington Heights company tricked hundreds of people into giving DNA samples that were used without their knowledge in a multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud scheme, federal authorities say.

Privy Health employees visited senior centers, churches and synagogues to convince people to provide DNA swabs taken from their mouths, according to prosecutors.

The donors were told the swabs would be tested for genetic markers to help determine their chances of getting cancer. Some were offered $75 gift cards for the swabs.

Prosecutors say the tests were part of a scam targeting Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors and the disabled. They say the DNA scam exploited elderly people’s curiosity about genetic science and their fears of cancer. 

Kyle McLean, who ran Privy Health, is awaiting sentencing for his role in the scheme after pleading guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

According to court records, McLean previously had been sentenced, in 2014, to three years in the Illinois state prisons for forging the names of other real estate appraisers on documents used in mortgage transactions. His appraiser’s license also was revoked.

In the Medicare case, McLean, 36, of Arlington Heights, and four out-of-state men are charged with defrauding Medicare out of more than $4.6 million. 

Efforts to reach McLean’s attorney for comment were unsuccessful.

The investigation resulted in the arrests last year of 35 people nationwide, and more than $2.1 billion in Medicare fraud was identified, according to the Justice Department.

In one of the biggest cases resulting from the investigation, a man in Georgia has been charged with defrauding Medicare of $154 million through testing labs he owned. Federal prosecutors in Florida, where he’s charged, have said they’ll try to recover that money — along with the man’s red Ferrari 388 Spider.

In the case involving McLean, prosecutors say a Florida physician whose title was medical director of Privy Health submitted fake information so Medicare would pay for the DNA tests. They say Dr. Matthew Ellis told Medicare he was ordering the tests for his “patients.” But he never met the people who provided the samples and signed paperwork falsely indicating they had personal or family histories of cancer, authorities say.

Medicare paid the labs for the tests, which cost more than $6,000 apiece. The testing labs shared some of the money they received from Medicare with McLean, Ellis and the other defendants, according to federal authorities.

Since mid-2018, Privy Health received $789,000 in kickbacks, McLean got $87,000 directly, and another company tied to McLean got $32,000, prosecutors say.

Privy Health promoted its DNA
 testing program on social media.
 Here is a testing kit shown on the
company’s Twitter account.
According to prosecutors, the people who agreed to give DNA samples frequently weren’t even given the results of their tests.

“Several months I went in and did the testing and I was promised a $75 Visa gift card, which I still have not received,” wrote one woman who reviewed Privy Health on a social-media site in 2018. “Nothing but lies!”

In February, the Better Business Bureau revoked the company’s accreditation.

The federal charges against McLean and the other defendants were filed in New Jersey. One of Ellis’ supposed patients was living in New Jersey, and Ellis wasn’t licensed to practice medicine there, prosecutors said.

One other man charged in the case has pleaded guilty. Charges are pending against Ellis and two other men. 

According to Florida health licensing authorities, Ellis has an active medical license with no disciplinary action or public complaints on his record. 

He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Federal officials say they targeted the Medicare fraud operation in a nationwide investigation called Operation Double Helix — referring to the structure of DNA molecules.

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Arlington Heights firm used DNA from elderly fearing cancer in Medicare fraud, feds say

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Adult Daughter Who Relies on "Faith-Based Medicine" Loses Guardianship Over Intellectually Disabled Mother

The Alaska Supreme Court, applying the RFRA-like state constitutional regime, concludes that removing the daughter as guardian is necessary to serve a compelling government interest.

by Eugene Volokh

From yesterday's unanimous Alaska Supreme Court decision in In re Tiffany O., written by Chief Justice Joel Bolger:
A daughter was appointed as guardian for her mother, a woman in her 60s who suffers from epilepsy [and is intellectually disabled]. The daughter relied on faith-based medicine to care for her mother, electing to, in one instance, pray over her mother after she became nonresponsive instead of calling emergency services. The superior court ultimately removed the daughter as guardian, finding that her behavior and "intractable belief system" caused her to deprive her mother of appropriate services and care.
We conclude that the superior court did not abuse its discretion when it removed the daughter as her mother's guardian. We also conclude that removing the daughter as guardian did not violate the Alaska Constitution's free exercise clause because the State possessed a compelling interest in preventing harm to the mother….
The Alaska Supreme Court has, since 1979, interpreted the Alaska Constitution as presumptively requiring religious exemptions from generally applicable laws; but the court held that this presumption is rebutted here:
Alaska's free exercise clause was first interpreted in Frank v. State (Alaska 1979). In Frank we determined that, to invoke a religious exemption from a facially neutral state law, three requirements must be met: (1) a religion must be involved, (2) the conduct in question must be religiously based, and (3) the claimant must be sincere in his or her religious belief. "Once these three requirements are met, '[r]eligiously impelled actions can be forbidden only "where they pose some substantial threat to public safety, peace or order," or where there are competing governmental interests "of the highest order … [that] [are] not otherwise served."'"
Rachel meets the first Frank requirement because her beliefs regarding medical care are strongly informed by her religion. She meets the second requirement because her treatment decisions are based on her religious training and beliefs. And in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we assume that Rachel's religious beliefs are sincere.
With these three requirements met, the second part of the test under Frank requires that a facially neutral statute that interferes with religious-based conduct be justified by a compelling state interest. In other words, the question becomes whether the government's interest in protecting Tiffany outweighs Rachel's interest in following her religious beliefs.
The guardianship statutes reflect the government's strong interest in protecting the health and safety of a vulnerable ward. A guardian has the duty to "assure the care, comfort, and maintenance of the ward" and to "assure that the ward receives the services necessary to meet the essential requirements for the ward's physical health and safety." A guardian may be dismissed if "there is an imminent danger that the physical health or safety of the ward will be seriously impaired." These statutory interests are similar to the government's interests in protecting the life, health, and safety of other vulnerable groups, interests that we have previously found to be compelling.
"[A]fter a court determines that the claimed exemption implicates a compelling government interest," the appropriate question "is 'whether that interest … will suffer if an exemption is granted to accommodate the religious practice.'" Here there is evidence that, should this exemption be granted, Tiffany's health and safety would be at risk. If Rachel cares for her mother following the tenets of her religious beliefs, then she will abandon the duties described by the guardianship statutes, including the duty "to meet the essential requirements for [Tiffany's] physical health [and] safety." By depriving her mother of personal care services and emergency services in favor of prayer, Rachel not only fails to satisfy the essential requirements under the statute, but also puts Tiffany's health and safety at risk.
Granting this exemption would be directly counter to the State's interest in protecting its most vulnerable citizens from harm. Rachel stated that if her mother were to have a heart attack or stroke, she would first pray for her rather than call emergency services. The threat to Tiffany's health, should she be returned to Rachel's care, is not speculative. While serving as guardian, Rachel did not ensure that Tiffany received her epilepsy medication as prescribed, putting Tiffany at significant risk.
Should Rachel be reinstated as guardian, Tiffany's health and safety will be seriously compromised. If Tiffany required immediate medical attention, the results could be fatal. For this reason, while religious liberty is a fundamental right under the Alaska Constitution, the State's actions in this case are justified by a compelling interest.
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Adult Daughter Who Relies on "Faith-Based Medicine" Loses Guardianship Over Intellectually Disabled Mother

Efforts to reopen longterm care visitation too late for some in Nacogdoches

Judy Clardy pictured with her father who died recently while under long-term care. His son-in-law Rep. Travis Clardy suggests that one person be allowed to see residents. (Source: Photo Rep. Travis Clardy)
by Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association says the industry is striving to get back on track with open visitation between long term care facility residents and families. The effort comes too late for some.

Nacogdoches resident Betty Ann Taylor says her mother entered a long-term care facility for rehabilitation after a fall. Betty Ann’s mother never came out alive. She died from COVID-19, alone.

Taylor's grief and anger over how she lost her mother to COVID-19 is too painful for her to talk about publicly, but like so many families the separation was heartbreaking and painful.

Betty Ann Taylor pictured with her mother who died of COVID-19. “My mother didn’t have to die of COVID-19”, writes Taylor.
Betty Ann Taylor pictured with her mother who died of COVID-19. “My mother didn’t have to die of COVID-19”, writes Taylor. (Source: Betty Ann Taylor)
Kevin Warren, President-CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, is trying to find a solution.

"Our focus literally over the past couple of months has been on the issue of visitation."

Warren spoke Tuesday before Nacogdoches Chamber stakeholders. He said visitation between long-term care residents and families must get back on track.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to insure not only the health and safety of the residents and the staff in the buildings, but at the same time we got to find a way to connect those families with the residents and allow them to see each other in person. It’s more than just FaceTime. It’s more than just a phone call.”

Plans were in the process to offer visitation at COVID-19 free facilities and then progressing to those with cases. Then another COVID-19 spike occurred.

“That has, if you will, pushed pause on the visitation process,” said Warren.

Too late for Taylor and the mother she cared for most each and everyday. Too late for Representative Travis Clardy, whose father-in-law recently passed-away during long-term care.

Clardy offered this suggestion in-behalf of his wife, Judy.

“If there was a way for families to designate even just one person of the family, so not an open visitation. And it could be a caregiver. It doesn’t have to be a family member,” said Clardy.

The opportunity is challenged by the silent transmission of COVID-19. Added safeguards are in place, but they will never be 100% effective.

Betty Ann Taylor writes ‘My mother didn’t need to die of COVID-19’.

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Efforts to reopen longterm care visitation too late for some in Nacogdoches

Helena woman charged with exploiting an elderly person

by Tyler Manning

Cory Ann Rucker
A Helena woman is charged with exploiting an elderly person over the course of several months.

Cory Ann Rucker is charged with felony exploitation of an older person and felony theft. The incident allegedly occurred between October 2019 and January 2020 when Rucker had the victim come live with her in Helena. During that time, Rucker allegedly stole approximately $17,500 from the victim, prosecutors allege.

Law enforcement believes that over these months, approximately $11,400 was withdrawn from ATMs in or adjacent to casinos. It was also determined that none of the withdrawls took place at the bank holding the victim's money, court documents say.

Rucker was the victim's power of attorney at the time.

When questioned about the missing $17k, the victim was visibly shocked, according to court documents. The victim told police she was unaware that Rucker had spent so much money from her account.

Rucker later allegedly admitted to spending the victim's money at casino's and agreed that it wasn't reasonable for her to do so. The defendant also allegedly told police she was unaware just how much she had spent.

All charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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Helena woman charged with exploiting an elderly person