Saturday, March 13, 2021

State fines ex-stock broker, firm $220K for exploiting five Bend-area seniors

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation issued $220,000 in civil penalties, and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. agreed to pay $123,279 in restitution to the victims of a former Bend stock broker's excessive trading practices.

Gary Dodds, a stock broker for Raymond James Financial Services, conducted churning, a method of excessive trading to receive additional commissions, on several of his clients’ accounts from 2016 to 2018, the agency said. 

The division’s investigation revealed Dodds made unsuitable recommendations and sales of securities for his clients and failed to maintain proper documentation of his trading activities. The division also said it learned that Raymond James Financial Services was aware of his actions, but did not take adequate corrective steps.

Under Oregon law, securities professionals can be held liable for financial exploitation of vulnerable people and investment firms are expected to supervise their representatives to prevent churning and similar violations.

The division issued a cease-and-desist order and assessed civil penalties of $100,000 against Dodds. As part of the order, Dodds agreed to not apply for any financial services license or registration in Oregon for five years. 

A civil penalty of $120,000 was also assessed against Raymond James Financial Services, and the company agreed to provide restitution to five Bend-area seniors totaling $123,379.

“Securities and financial professionals first concern should be the customer, not the commission,” said Division of Financial Regulation Administrator TK Keen. “Investment firms also have a duty to supervise advisors in a way that prevents churning, excessive trading and other violations of Oregon law.”

The division has three tips to help Oregonians avoid these types of fraudulent activities:

  • Be aware of all activities in your accounts, especially when trades made on your behalf provide commissions.
  • Find out if your securities professional is a fiduciary. A fiduciary must act in your best interest at all times. Visit the division’s choosing a financial professional website to learn more and to check a license.
  • Ask questions. It is important to learn about all commissions, fees, and costs associated with buying, selling, and servicing your investment accounts.

To learn more about financial services, investments, and protecting yourself from fraud, visit the division’s financial services for consumers page.

The outcome of this investigation is an example of what can happen when people report possible financial exploitation of a senior. Oregon Adult Protective Services reported the incident, which prompted the division’s investigation. The division encourages everyone to report potential financial exploitation of vulnerable people by visiting its protect yourself and others from fraud website.

If you need to report financial exploitation or file a complaint on a financial services company or professional, call the division’s advocacy team at 888-877-4894 (toll-free) or email  

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Republicans Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan try to free Britney Spears

By Kris Van Cleave, Rebecca Kaplan and Gisela Perez

Pop star Britney Spears and her efforts to be free of her father's control of a court-ordered conservatorship of her finances have landed an unlikely supporter in Congress: conservative Congressman Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, who is wondering if Spears is being "overprotected" and whether authority over her finances should be returned to her. Spears would like her father to be replaced as permanent conservator by an adviser who is a fiduciary, specifically, by Jodi Montgomery, who has been installed on a temporary basis.

In a toxic legal battle, Spears' case to wrest control of her finances from her father has sparked the viral hashtag #freebritney and was the subject of a recent documentary. Now, Gaetz and House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, are calling for a hearing on the conservatorship process. 

"The most striking example is perhaps the case of multi-platinum performing artist Britney Spears," Gaetz and Jordan wrote in a letter this week to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Democrat of New York. "Since 2008, Ms. Spears has been under a court-ordered conservatorship. The facts and circumstances giving rise to this arrangement remain in dispute but involve questionable motives and legal tactics by her father and now-conservator, Jamie Spears."

The Judiciary Committee has yet to commit to or decline the hearing request but Nadler isn't exactly saying, "gimme more" on the subject. "The Chairman has received the request," a committee spokesperson told CBS News. "This Congress, the Committee will work to advance critical legislation to protect and strengthen civil rights and civil liberties for all Americans."

Spears landed in conservatorship in 2008 after a period when she struggled with mental health issues after her marriage ended in 2007. Her father argues the court put conservatorship in place because people were taking advantage of his daughter while her life and health were at risk.  

"From the beginning, the court has closely monitored Britney's situation, including through annual accountings and in-depth reviews and recommendations from a highly experienced and dedicated court investigator who annually meets at length with Britney and all involved in her conservatorship," Vivian Thoreen, an attorney for Mr. Spears told CBS News.  "Any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it. Britney knows that her Daddy loves her, and that he will be there for her whenever and if she needs him, just as he always has been — conservatorship or not."  

Gaetz and Jordan want Congress to probe the process of conservatorships over concerns about their use to deprive Americans of personal freedoms by others through the courts, according to their letter. They cite a 2010 GAO report that identified examples of guardians improperly obtaining millions of dollars as well as "hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010."

Britney Spears has not responded to a request for comment. Her next court date is set for March 17. 

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About 40% of Frederick DSS staff opt to get COVID-19 vaccine

WINCHESTER — About 40% of the roughly 80 employees in the Frederick County Department of Social Services have received the COVID-19 vaccine, despite it being offered to all of them.

Those who didn’t get vaccinated weren’t asked why, though some expressed concern about the safety of the vaccine while others cited pre-existing medical conditions, DSS Director Tamara Green said following Tuesday’s Frederick County Social Services Board meeting.

Green told the board that the department continues to make safety a priority.

Some employees have been teleworking as many as four days a week as a precaution during the ongoing pandemic, she said. But the department hopes to soon return to a full A/B schedule, where half of the staff works in the office one day and the other half another day. This could happen if public schools expand in-person learning or at the start of the summer. She said staff are being encouraged to start thinking about child care arrangements now, as day care centers have limited slots available.

“One of our concerns for staff that we continue to discuss is there’s going to be limited child care,” Green said. “... It is a concern, we continue to try to be flexible and adaptable. Telework has been working so far and when issues do arise we address them, but so far we have been able to meet all of our mandates, and we’ve been successful with keeping people out of the office. So when you walk through you’ll notice there’s about anywhere from 40% to 50% of the staff here. We are just waiting to get back to normal. I think we all have a bit of Zoom and WebEx fatigue.”

Also at the meeting, Susan Hockensmith, the department’s supervisor for Adult Protective Services, said in normal years there’s usually an increase around January in the number of adults referred for protective services.

“This year with COVID, we didn’t really have the January slam, as we call it,” Hockensmith said. “We’ve just been busy all along.”

The county’s APS investigates reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults age 60 and over and incapacitated adults over age 18, then provides services if deemed necessary. According to the county website, the goal of APS is to protect a vulnerable adult’s life, health and property without a loss of liberty.

There were 47 APS reports in November, 30 in December, 38 in January and 36 in February.

Hockensmith said self-neglect continues to be the biggest problem among adults the department is helping, while there has been a “significant dip” in financial exploitation cases.

“With COVID, the last four months or so, we’ve seen a real dip in the referrals coming in for financial exploitation, which is concerning because we know it hasn’t stopped,” she said.

As a result of the pandemic, she said it continues to be difficult to secure Medicaid waiver providers to provide in-home care to elderly/disabled adults who are Medicaid eligible. Most providers have waiting lists. She said the department is seeing delays of weeks and months to get providers into homes, which means those adults are at a higher risk of abuse and neglect for longer periods of time.

The lack of available home care has led to hospitalizations and resulted in some clients entering nursing facilities for long-term care sooner than they may have under normal conditions. She added that nursing facility placements continue to be difficult to secure during the pandemic.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Daughter steals $750K from mom in nursing home to buy farm, AG says

Lisa Braniff, 59, of Mount Vernon, began using her mother's money for her own self purpose around 2015, the AG said. (Source: WXIX)

By Jared Goffinet

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (FOX19) - A daughter is now facing charges for taking around $750,000 of her mother’s money to furnish her own lifestyle instead of paying her mom’s medical and nursing home bills.

Lisa Braniff, 59, of Mount Vernon, along with her husband, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her mom over the course of several years, according to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Braniff had power of attorney for her mother in 2015. It didn’t take long after that for her to begin liquidating her mother’s assets, Yost said.

Braniff’s mother, the woman she was stealing money from, suffered from severe dementia, the AG said.

Instead of using the money to pay for her mother’s health care at the nursing home, Braniff used the money for herself, the AG said. To this day, Yost says the nursing home is owed for years of care service.

Braniff even bought a farm on Daniels Road in Mount Vernon with the money, Yost said.

“Stealing from your own mom when she’s in a nursing home — what a wretched abuse of trust,” Yost said. “A power of attorney is not a license for theft.”

In 2018 the money ran out, and Braniff was removed as her mother’s caretaker, according to the AG.

The investigation began when Susan Wasserman was appointed guardian of Braniff’s mother and contacted authorities about the situation, Yost said.

The 59-year-old Braniff was indicted this week for theft and forgery charges, according to Yost. Her husband, Joseph Braniff, 63, was indicted on theft charges, the attorney general said.

As for Braniff’s mother, she died in December of 2020 due to COVID-19.

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Thomas Girardi DISBARRED, Senile & Homeless Amid Fraud Allegations!

AATT Staff

Tom Girardi

Thomas Girardi, the estranged  husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, Erika Jayne, has been stripped of his law license according to a new report by Page Six. The outlet reported on Wednesday that according to state records, the lawyer’s license was revoked by the California State Bar, making him ineligible to practice law. 

Erika Jayne

Thomas Girardi long-standing law firm, Girardi and Keese, has been battered by several legal battles in recent months. Erika filed for divorce in November, only weeks before the couple was hit with a lawsuit alleging that the duo had embezzled money designated to the victims of Lion Air Flight 610. They were subsequently accused of staging the divorce to dodge accountability.

Thomas claimed poverty in court, in a case that is ongoing. Thomas’ former law partner, Robert Keese, sued to dissolve their business venture, 1126 Wilshire Partnership. Thomas was accused of not paying out the estimated $315k in earnings, instead keeping the money for “his own personal gain.” Wells Fargo also slapped the once famed lawyer with a lawsuit, claiming that he had breached agreements.

Tom Girardi

As reported last month, Robert Girardi, the brother of Tom Girardi, is serving as his brother’s temporary conservator.

Robert claimed that his brother wasn’t able to participate in an early  February hearing because he suffered a medical emergency in late January. 

Robert requested to take control of his brother’s estate amid the 81-year-old’s legal battles, but the judge only consented to Robert handling the former famed lawyer’s affairs until March 30.

Tom Girardi

Robert also asked the judge to allow him the authority to place Thomas in a facility that treats neurological disorders, such as dementia.

“There was an urgent need for Bob Girardi to have the power to engage counsel in the bankruptcy proceeding on his brother’s behalf, and Tom’s court-appointed counsel clearly agreed, as did the court today,” Robert Girardi’s attorney said in a statement to Page Six in early February.

Erika Jayne

Robert filed documents addressing Thomas’ involuntary bankruptcy case, alleging that his brother was experiencing short-term memory loss, and needed a conservator. He alleged that Thomas is “incapable of realizing” the consequences of the legal filings.

Erika Jayne

Robert initially alleged that Thomas is “incompetent and unable to act for himself” because he’s suffering from short-term memory loss.

“My brother is incapable of realizing and understanding the repercussions of the bankruptcy filings pending against him and his law firm Girardi Keese notwithstanding having [it] explained to him over and over and by various people,” Robert said. “Furthermore, my brother is not capable of making rational decisions with respect to his financial responsibilities and offers solutions and opinions that are factually impossible.”

Tom Girardi

As reported, Tom Girardi was evicted from his California mansion in February amid his ongoing legal battle.

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Missouri gradually reopening mental health facilities to visitors

An image of Fulton State Hospital from the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

by Kurt Erickson

JEFFERSON CITY — After nearly a year in lockdown, visits are beginning to resume at Missouri’s state-run mental health facilities.

Missouri Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Debra Walker said some of the state facilities for developmentally disabled residents are already allowing face-to-face visits and contact visits with guardians and guardian-approved family members.

Other facilities, such as mental hospitals, could begin allowing visits within weeks.

“As the positivity rate of COVID-19 in Missouri has dropped to less than 5% and approximately 70-90% of our residents/patients have been vaccinated, DMH is working on allowing family visits widely within our facilities by the end of March,” Walker said.

The gradual reopening does include a caveat: All visitors must undergo a screening for the coronavirus “to ensure safety for residents/patients.”

The department’s decision came as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said nursing home residents vaccinated against COVID-19 can get hugs again from their loved ones, and all residents may enjoy more indoor visits.

Nursing homes and similar facilities housing groups of people have been hit hard by the pandemic. Long-term care facilities represent about 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 1 in 3 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Department of Mental Health has seen a total of 2,244 positive cases of COVID-19, including 467 residents and patients.

The hardest hit facility was the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center in Farmington, where 105 tested positive.

As of Thursday, 12 patients and five staff members have died of the disease.

There currently are no active cases among residents. DMH reports six active cases among employees.

Visiting currently is suspended in all Missouri Department of Corrections facilities.

While limited visiting has resumed, all visitors must call to schedule an appointment.

Although visiting will be increased to four days per week at most facilities, the visiting rooms will be open at only 30% capacity, with two-hour slots, with two visitors per offender.

Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the department is waiting to see how the COVID-19 vaccination rollout goes among staff and offenders as well as in the community before setting target dates.

More than 5,200 inmates have signed up to get the vaccine, and nearly 4,000 have received the first dose, she said.

“Those who are eligible but initially decline vaccination remain eligible and can get vaccinated at any time. However, the rest of the offender population won’t be eligible until Phase 3, and there’s no way to know when Phase 3 will begin,” Pojmann said.

The department reports that 45 inmates have died from complications related to the virus.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

"Mama B" Bashinsky Guardianship Abuse Case Goes Back To Alabama Supreme Court

News provided by   
Mar 10, 2021, 10:30 ET

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., March 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, legal counsel for the estate of the late Joann "Mama B" Bashinsky, the beloved Alabama philanthropist, announced several developments in the case of the permanent guardianship petition that haunted her for the last 18 months of her life before she passed away on January 3, 2021.

On Friday, Bashinsky's counsel filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court on one motion challenging an order issued by Judge A. Lee Tucker to pay a guardian ad litem fees for his own attorney on a prior matter. Following their appeal, Judge Tucker hastily ruled on numerous motions that have been delayed for weeks. Most notably, Tucker made a highly unusual ruling to deny the motion to dismiss the case in light of Mrs. Bashinsky's death, further highlighting the numerous conflicts of interest among those involved in the case, including the judges and petitioners. The family is now forced to have to go to the Alabama Supreme Court once again because Judge Tucker won't let the case die.

"These new decisions by Judge A. Lee Tucker are extremely disheartening, and confirm the corruption within the Jefferson County guardianship system at the hands of temporary conservator Greg Hawley and  guardian ad litem Ken Guin, as directed first by Judge Alan King and now by Judge Tucker," said attorney Susan Walker. "In my opinion, his latest rulings show that this court is failing to provide justice and fairness, as the Judge continues a case that has tormented the friends and family of Mama B, who suffered great distress for the last months of her life because of the permanent petition for guardianship and for conservatorship that threatened her finances and independence."

The case has taken many unseemly twists and turns from the first day Mrs. Bashinsky's fomer employees, John McKleroy and Patty Townsend, filed a petition to place her under a guardianship the very day she appropriately terminated them. On July 2, 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an opinion declaring the emergency petition failed to establish an emergency and holding Mrs. Bashinsky was denied her constitutional due process rights. Since her death, the burden of exorbitant and unnecessary expenses on her family has endured as they navigate a case that would have typically died with the subject.

"Since the Alabama Supreme Court last saw this case, in my opinion it's clear that petitioners McKleroy and Townsend along with former temporary conservator Hawley and guardian ad litem Guin are not acting in the best interests of Mrs. Bashinksy, but in their own financial interests, especially considering that they continue to pursue the assets of an elderly widow no longer alive to defend herself," said attorney Walker. "There is no plausible explanation in my opinion as to why Judge Tucker would drag out the case of a deceased woman other than that it's in the best interests of his friends in a system ripe with corruption and financial exploitation."

There is currently unprecedented national attention on the issue of guardianship abuse, spurred on by major motion pictures, documentaries, and passionate opinion pieces from national political leaders like Gov Mike Huckabee, who called conservatorship abuse of seniors "a nationwide epidemic" deserving of "bipartisan reform and a grassroots campaign" when speaking of Mrs. Bashinsky's legal battle against predatory and exploitative petitioners.

People are becoming aware of the injustices suffered by vulnerable individuals, and they're ready to come to the defense of those who have been subjected to abusive treatment by a system that was supposed to help, not hurt them. People can help by reaching out to their elected officials, calling the Attorney for Jefferson County and their state legislators and demanding justice for Mama B, and starting conversations within their spheres of influence

"Every person in the state of Alabama who has an elderly loved one should pay close attention and realize the implications of this case," said Walker. "With a national spotlight on guardianship abuse currently, there's never been a better time for reform," she concluded.

Reference: CASE NO. 19BHM02213

For more information about Joann Bashinsky and guardianship abuse, go to:

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Justices vacate judge’s recent orders in case alleging law firm estate theft

The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday vacated orders of a trial court judge in a case involving a former law firm’s alleged theft from an estate. The case brought by a Jasper County charity that claims it was defrauded of a bequest is proceeding before a new judge.

Justices issued an order Friday in a mandamus action, granting partial relief to Jesse Hardin, whose wife, Teri, was formerly a nonlawyer assistant of the Monfort Law Office in Monon.

Jasper Newton Foundation alleges in the underlying suit that former attorney and one-time Jasper County judge Robert Monfort and his law office stole upwards of $775,000 from the estate of widow Rose Nagel, who intended for proceeds from her estate to benefit Catholic schools in Rensselaer. Monfort represented Nagel and Teri Hardin was her guardian; both are defendants in Jasper Newton’s suit.

After Jesse Hardin was added as a third-party defendant facing allegations that he may have benefited from the alleged scheme, he moved for a change of judge in December. Special Judge Mary Harper, however, continued to exercise jurisdiction until shortly after Hardin filed the original mandamus action in January.

On Feb. 19, Porter Superior Judge Michael Fish assumed jurisdiction as a special judge in the case.

“In light of these developments, JNF’s counter-petition is moot, and the relator’s petition is partially moot to the extent it seeks to compel a change of judge from Judge Harper, which has occurred,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote Friday, issuing a permanent writ of mandamus in State of Indiana ex rel. Jesse L. Hardin v. Jasper Superior Court No. 1, et al., 21S-OR-23.

“However, ‘[w]hen presented with a timely motion for a change of judge, the trial judge is divested of jurisdiction to act in the case on any matter other than the motion for change of judge or emergency matters.’ State ex rel. Wade v. Cass Cir. Ct., 447 N.E.2d 1082, 1083 (Ind. 1983).” Justices accordingly granted the writ in part, ordering the trial court “to vacate the non-emergency orders issued by Judge Harper after the filing of the change-of-judge motion and before her granting of that motion. This writ is effective immediately.”

The order appears to apply only to procedural, discovery and scheduling matters in the underlying case, Jasper-Newton Foundation, Inc. v. Teri L. Hardin, Robert V. Monfort, Robert V. Monfort Attorney-at-Law, P.C., 37D01-1808-PL-703.

There have been no criminal charges related to the accusations raised in the suit, but Monfort resigned from the practice of law last June. The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a formal complaint last April alleging Monfort engaged in engaging in criminal acts and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” among a litany of other ethical charges related to his handling of two estate cases, including Nagel’s.

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An audit of guardian program is greeted with hostility, the wrong response | Editorial

By Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board

It’s bad enough when an audit finds a government office has fallen down on the job.

It’s worse when the government office doesn’t own up to those shortcomings.

That scenario played out in a recent examination of the way the Orange County Clerk of Courts handles its responsibilities to monitor cases where guardians are appointed to oversee the affairs of someone who is unable to do it themselves.

The audit submitted earlier this month by Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond documented multiple shortcomings by the Clerk of Courts office, which is run by Tiffany Moore Russell. As is the nature of audits, Diamond’s office brought the receipts.

Rather than being chagrined, Moore Russell answered many of the criticisms with what amounts to a not my job response. She rejected in whole or in part 11 of the comptroller’s 13 recommendations for improvement.

Her response is not an encouraging sign that the clerk’s office is redoubling its efforts to ensure guardians don’t rip off or abuse their wards.

Lack of scrutiny goes to the heart of the widespread scandal centering on Orlando-based guardian Rebecca Fierle, who is facing criminal charges in one of the cases she handled.

Guardians like Fierle essentially are granted the ability to exercise legal rights that belonged to someone who, for any number of reasons, has become incapacitated. It’s an awesome responsibility, and one that requires intense scrutiny by the court system to ensure the guardians’ wards are kept safe and don’t get cheated.

Some of the responsibility for oversight falls to Florida’s clerks of courts, the elected offices whose many responsibilities include serving as a bureaucratic watchdog for the guardian program.

Keeping watch is primarily where the comptroller’s office found Moore Russell’s office came up short.

Problems included failing to monitor guardianship cases, failing to notify the court when problems were discovered and insufficient training of the clerk’s employees, which seems particularly important given the complex and arcane nature of this kind of work.

Tiffany Moore Russell
Some cases went unmonitored by the clerk’s office for years, according to the audit. In one instance, the clerk’s office was unaware that a guardian’s ward had died nearly three years earlier.

Audits are complicated, so rather than attempt to summarize the entire 86-page report, here’s just one illustration:

The audit checked 24 guardians and found 19 of them hadn’t provided all the legal documents they’re required to file, including credit histories, criminal background checks and proof of a bond, which is kind of an insurance policy.

These documents are important because guardians often have access to their ward’s finances. If someone’s been charged with embezzlement, for example, that’s good to know.

Moore Russell’s answer to that criticism, and the recommendation to do better, was that if something is found to be missing, the clerk’s office makes a note of it. Problem is, those notes don’t automatically get forwarded to the judge in charge of a guardian’s case, according to Diamond’s office.

The other problem is that the audit found the clerk’s office had noted missing information just once in the 19 instances where legal documents were lacking.

It’s as if the clerk’s office views itself as little more than a glorified Dropbox, a depository for information rather than a critical evaluator of information.

No one is perfect, especially when it comes to keeping track of countless documents as a clerk of courts office is expected to do.

Audits are a way to identify weaknesses and strengthen the way things are done.

That only works if the people who are subject of the audit are willing to demonstrate some self-reflection and humility.

In politics generally, and with this audit specifically, the preferred response is “we’ll do better” instead of “nothing to see here.”

Editorials are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board and are written by one of its members or a designee. The editorial board consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Send emails to

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Former Rock Hill home health worker exploited, stole from vulnerable patient, police say

By Andrew Dys

A former Rock Hill home health worker has been charged with exploitation and financial crimes after stealing more than $1,500 from a patient, police said.

It’s the second time in a month a home health worker has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a vulnerable adult.

Tracy Regina Thomas, 36, is charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult, three counts of forgery, financial identity fraud, and larceny, according to police, jail, and court records.

The investigation went on for months, according to a Rock Hill police report. The female victim, 56, reported to police last year about a negative balance in her checking account, Rock Hill Police Department Lt. Michael Chavis said.

Officers found about $1,500 had been stolen, Chavis said.

Thomas had access to the victim’s finance accounts for a brief period of time while working for a home health agency, Chavis said.

The exploitation of a vulnerable adult charge is a felony that carries up to five years in prison for a conviction under South Carolina law.

Thomas was sentenced to three years in a South Carolina prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to three counts of financial card fraud in York County criminal court, according to York County Clerk of Court and online records.

Thomas remains in the York County jail under a $65,000 bond, records show.

Scams an ongoing problem for vulnerable victims

Read more here:

Police in York, Chester and Lancaster counties, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, and the FBI have repeatedly warned the public about thefts and scams that target vulnerable or elderly adults.

Rock Hill police charged a home heath worker in February in a case where the suspect with access to the victim’s financial information allegedly stole more than $4,000.

This week, York County Sheriff’s Office deputies posted several social media warnings to people to be careful of scams.

In 2018 and 2019 in York County criminal court, caregivers were convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from elderly people in their care, court records show. In those cases, the suspects had access to financial cards.

Elderly victims lose more than $3 billion annually in financial exploitation and scams, according to statistics from the FBI and National Institute of Justice. And, as many as one in 10 vulnerable adults are targets.

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New training for grocery workers will try to protect Pennsylvania's elderly from being victims of scams

Scammers often use gift cards to get money and personal information, targeting seniors, and now the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania wants grocery workers and convenience store clerks know how to recognize those scams.

The State Department of Banking & Securities will soon be training workers how to protect seniors from becoming victims.

The department is partnering with the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association for the training.

“Elder financial exploitation is a scourge on our commonwealth that has not yielded with the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Tina Kotsalos, Director of the Investor Education and Consumer Outreach Office. “We are thrilled to work with our partners to reduce exploitation through gift card scams and help inform consumers about how to protect their assets.”

Scammers target the elderly to try to get them to pay a fictitious debt or fee by using a gift card. Using this method makes it difficult to trace once the scammers have the gift card numbers.

It will help employees give seniors the tools to stop those types of transactions.

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Common Questions and Answers About COVID-19 for Older Adults and People with Chronic Health Conditions

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans and can cause illnesses ranging from mild respiratory infections like the common cold to serious illnesses, such as pneumonia or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 has been detected in more than 200 countries, including the US.

Why are older adults and those with chronic health conditions at higher risk?

Older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension are at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness and death. This is because our immune systems grow weaker as we age, which makes it more challenging for older adults to fight off infectious diseases. Chronic diseases are also more common with age, and can compromise the immune system, making older adults more vulnerable to serious complications. Because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for people who are at the highest risk for severe illness from the virus. It is imperative that older adults and others who are at high risk follow the advice of CDC.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and how is it different from flu and allergies?

The main symptoms of COVID-19, which may appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure, can include: fever or chills, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. There are other symptoms that are not as common—like a rash or discoloration of the hands or feet—that may be a sign of COVID-19 so contact your healthcare professional if you are concerned. Not everyone with COVID-19 will experience symptoms, or symptoms may be mild enough that they are dismissed, but individuals may still be contagious without symptoms.

When should I call a healthcare professional?

Call 911 and seek emergency care if you or a loved one have trouble breathing, feel pain or pressure in the chest, experience new confusion, are unable to wake or stay awake, have bluish lips or face, or think you may need immediate care.

If you think you may have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who had COVID-19, contact a healthcare professional or the public health department to see if you are eligible for a COVID test and where to go if you are.

How do they test for COVID-19?

To diagnose a potential case, healthcare professionals may run tests to rule out influenza and other common infections. Not all healthcare facilities are able to test for COVID-19. There are a number of different tests, some involving swabbing the nose and throat, while others required taking samples of saliva. Others may require a blood draw. Note that COVID-19 tests that detect active infection will not detect previous infection or antibodies.

Will I have to pay for testing?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking important steps to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19-related testing and treatment to ensure all patients who need it have access to care. Medicare and Medicare Advantage Plans will cover lab tests for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket costs, any necessary hospital care, and telehealth services including virtual check-ins and full visits for those living in rural areas.

How can I best protect myself?

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly between people in close contact with one another through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes. It may also be transmitted when you touch a surface or object with the virus on it, then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

It is important to avoid people who may be infected. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions that can put them at increased risk should stay home to avoid being around others. Nursing homes and retirement and long-term care facilities should continue to limit all visitors, including social visits.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Restrictions and recommendations vary by state and city but generally, it is best to avoid

  • Gatherings where social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart) is not possible,
  • Any indoor gatherings where masks are not required/used,
  • Non-essential air travel, and
  • Cruise ships (Note that major cruise lines have suspended trips and others are restricting passengers over the age of 70)

For older adults and adults with underlying health conditions, CDC advises taking extra measures to put distance between yourself and others including:

  • Staying home whenever possible
  • Wearing a mask whenever you go out—especially in settings where social distancing is not possible. Cloth masks can keep people from spreading the virus through talking, coughing, or sneezing, even among those who may not realize they are carrying the disease. Studies show that people can spread the virus before they have symptoms, or even if they are infected but never develop symptoms.
  • Take hand sanitizer when you go out and use when soap and water are not available
  • Use proper handwashing techniques—using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the bathroom
  • Avoid handshakes and touching high-traffic surfaces in public places—for example, elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, or counters. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or fingers if you must touch shared surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth as much as possible

Until there are licensed vaccines widely available in the US to prevent COVID-19, you should still ensure that you and your family are up to date on all recommended vaccines, including influenza (flu) and pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines. Experts are concerned that individuals who get sick with flu or pneumonia, while sick with COVID-19, will have worse outcomes and will be at higher risk of death. In addition, simultaneous outbreaks of flu and COVID-19 would overwhelm the already stressed US healthcare system. Learn more about the benefits of influenza and pneumonia vaccination.

How can I prepare to be at home for an extended period of time?

Here are some important but simple steps you can take in preparing to remain at home for an extended period:

Getting Medicines and Medical Supplies

Ask your physician or local pharmacy if ordering your medicines online is an option. Many online pharmacies (including national chains) will fill valid prescriptions and ship them directly to your door allowing you to avoid going to the pharmacy in person. CMS is also working with private plans to waive prescription drug refill limits and to relax restrictions on home or mail delivery of prescription drugs. However, only order from a reputable online pharmacy. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about rogue online pharmacies that claim to sell prescription medicines at deeply discounted prices. Read the FDA warning. If you have questions, call a healthcare professional. Also, be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (fever reducers, tissues, hydrating beverages, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms.

Ordering Groceries

Have enough basic household items and groceries on hand so you are prepared to stay at home for an extended period of time. Most major grocery chains have made it possible to order groceries online and have them delivered to your door. Check the websites of local or national grocery stores that may allow you to select your items online and then arrange for shipping. Keep in mind, however, that many of these services are experiencing delays due to the high volume of people choosing the safety of online ordering rather than in-person shopping. This means you will need to plan ahead. If you have questions or concerns about the delivery timeline, speak to a customer service representative.

If you must go out for groceries, try to find a local grocery store that offers hours just for older adults. Most of these hours are earlier in the day and offer a chance for older adults to shop without as much exposure. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a face covering, stay vigilant with handwashing, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose since COVID-19 can remain on certain surfaces for hours and in some cases, days.

How can I help loved ones at risk?

Everyone has a role to play in reducing community spread. The same recommendations for people at risk should be adhered to by everyone to help protect the more vulnerable in our communities. Businesses, schools, and local and federal government should all work together to mitigate community spread of COVID-19 and help protect older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you are a caregiver for someone in a long-term care facility, respect their rules on who can come and go, ask about the health of the other residents frequently, and know the plan if there is an outbreak.

If your loved ones live alone, check on them frequently and find out what services your local Area Agency on Aging offers.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you do get sick, first call a healthcare professional. Unless you need immediate medical care, you should stay at home to avoid spreading your illness. Stay in touch with others by phone or email. You may need to ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, and others if you become sick. Determine who can provide you with care if your caregiver gets sick. If you or a loved one needs help, contact your local public health department to connect with caregiving services.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, call 911 and get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse and/or
  • Bluish lips or face

What are other reliable resources for the most up-to-date information?


Note: This resource is based on content developed jointly by NFID and the Alliance for Aging Research, reflecting the latest  information about COVID-19.

Reviewed: December 2020

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Disney Grandson Bradford Lund Demands "Hostile" Trustees Not Pay Legal Fees to Their Law Firm From His Trust Funds

Court of Appeal upholds Lund's petition in one sentence - rejecting Trustees and their counsel's opposition to the right to replace a judge as a matter of law

Lund sees "negligence" and "indifference" to the law in filing by Trustees' law firm, Mitchell Silberberg and Knupp

News provided by
Lanny Davis

LOS ANGELES, March 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Walt Disney's grandson, Bradford D. Lund, today sent a letter to his four trustees – L. Andrew Gifford, Robert L. Wilson, Douglas M. Strode, and the First Republic Trust Company (collectively "the Trustees") – demanding that they refrain from using any trust funds for which he is the beneficiary to pay any legal fees to the Trustees' law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp ("MSK").  

Lund won a decisive victory on February 23, 2021 when the California Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the Trustees' and MSK's attempt to block Lund's request for a new judge and issued an alternative writ ordering the lower court judge to vacate his prior order denying the peremptory challenge and issue an order granting the same. Alternatively, the appellate panel issued an Order to Show cause why it should not issue a Writ of Mandate. The appellate panel's decision in favor of Lund was made in a single sentence, rejecting the 33-page filing by MSK at the behest of the "hostile" Trustees, as Lund referred to them in his letter. In its decision, the Court of Appeal cited the clear California precedent virtually ignored by the Trustees' attorneys, MSK, but cited by Lund's lawyers: 

"Opposing counsel on behalf of the [Trustees] were finally forced to admit the indisputable precedent of Truck Insurance Exchange and Grant (of which they were aware when Mr. Lund initially requested Judge Suzuki to correct his original denial) that: A previously denied § 170.6 challenge does not remove that party's one opportunity to duly and timely file another." – Lund's Reply to Trustees' Opposition to Writ.

Lund wrote in his letter to the Trustees: "MSK should not be paid legal fees out of my or my sister's trust," citing the summary dismissal of MSK's opposition to his motion. 

He continued: "You are also on notice that I continue to believe that each of you individually and collectively have again taken actions hostile to my interests in what I feel is clear violation of your fiduciary duties owed to me.  I am still seriously considering taking additional legal action for this and past violations of your duties." 

Lund wrote that the Trustees and MSK "should be embarrassed" by the Court of Appeal's summary dismissal and repeated his demand that the Trustees "not use any trust funds associated with the trust of which I am the beneficiary to pay MSK."

Contact: Alex Lange 
(202) 480-4309

SOURCE Lanny Davis

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Local attorney disbarred after stealing millions from clients

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

By Eileen McClory

A local attorney has been disbarred after stealing more than $2 million from clients and spending it on cosmetic surgeries, child support, gambling, property, a boat and jewelry.

Brian Wiggins, 37, pleaded guilty to 16 felony counts on Feb. 12 in Greene County Common Pleas Court, including aggravated theft, money laundering and possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay back about $1.9 million in restitution.

The Ohio Supreme Court issued the disbarment on Monday.

Wiggins allegedly mishandled several estates or trusts he represented.

“The bulk of the charges in the indictment allege fraudulent activity related to transfer of estate and/or trust funds from the estate of a man named Ronald Lentz,” Greene County prosecutor David Hayes said during a March 2020 media briefing.

Lentz, of Beavercreek, died in August 2018. Wiggins was the attorney of the estate as well as the trustee of the trust, which were valued at more than $3 million, Hayes said. The majority of the estate was to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Smile Train, a nonprofit for children with cleft lips and palates.

Tom Kollin, an attorney who represented Wiggins in the criminal proceedings, said Wiggins apologized during the sentencing hearing and intended to pay the money back. Kollin said he did not represent Wiggins during the disbarment process.

Judge Daniel Hogan, a visiting judge, heard the criminal case against Wiggins.

Wiggins originally was charged with 55 criminal counts, enough to end up with more than 70 years in prison. The other counts were dismissed in the plea deal.

In the request filed with the Ohio Supreme Court for an interim default suspension last April, which later granted in May, an investigator accused Wiggins of misappropriating estate funds from multiple estates or trusts, and noted he may still have access to additional estates and trusts.

Wiggins is incarcerated at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction’s Correctional Reception Center in Orient.

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Guardianship and conservator questions answered

by Sandy Meyer
New Mexico’s Third Judicial District Court.
New Mexico's Third Judicial District Court

Guardians of last resort are appointed for incapacitated persons when no family or interested friends are located, or if family refuses or is unable to serve. In the guardianship process, there is a guardian ad litem, an attorney appointed by the court, to present the alleged incapacitated person’s declared position to the court.

He or she, as an arm of the court, may also make independent conclusions and recommendations based upon statutorily mandated investigation. The court also appoints a court visitor to investigate the client’s needs, interviews all the other professionals involved, all family members and interested persons, as well as reviews any available medical records.

The court appoints a qualified health care professional, who is to test the person for capacity or incapacity. All file reports with the court prior to the final hearing. The process for initiating the guardianship, notice requirements and the duties of the guardian, visitor, qualified health care professional and guardian ad litem are spelled out in the New Mexico statutes. The alleged incapacitated person may also retain his or her own attorney to represent them during the process.

If a family member surfaces after the appointment of a guardian of last resort, and expresses interest in serving, the guardian ad litem and the court visitor will interview the family member, and report to the court. The decision on who will be appointed is left to the discretion of the court. Once the court has read the reports, hears the testimony from all involved parties, the court then can decide to terminate the guardianship and conservatorship, limit the guardianship as it sees fit, or make it a full guardianship.

As a court-appointed conservator, statutes require the appointed person to marshal and secure all assets, which includes bank accounts, investment accounts, real property, vehicles, and all items of value. Conservators are required to file an inventory within 90 days, detailing all assets of the protected person. Thereafter annual reports are required to be filed with the court. There are auditors hired by the courts who are charged with reviewing these reports. If there are any questions or concerns, the court schedules a status conference to inquire about the auditor’s findings.

Placement of protected persons is chosen based on their needs, their financial status, and the availability of open beds. There is a relationship built with health care facilities to make certain protected persons are receiving the appropriate care.

Guardians of last resort are just that. There is no solicitation for clients from physicians, health care facilities or hospitals. There are no “kickbacks” or funds accepted from any physician, facility or hospitals, nor are referrals accepted from any of those entities. There is a fee for guardian and conservator services provided by guardians of last resort. Guardians and conservators do charge for their services. The hourly rate can be from $85 to $125 an hour, charged by the tenth of an hour. None of the expenses are paid by Medicare or Medicaid. The State Office of Guardianship does pay for guardian services for indigent people but has a long waiting list.

As nationally certified guardians, we are all required to follow the National Guardianship Association Model Code of Ethics and the Standards of Practice. These documents can be found at National Guardianship Association website. Nationally Certified Guardians are required to have continuing education to recertify every year.

Sandy Meyer, a national certified guardian, owns Advocate Services of Las Cruces, LLC

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