Saturday, March 27, 2021

Webb: #FreeBritney movement big issue for Nichelle Nichols and many Americans

By David Webb

© Courtesy of Archangel Films LA (NV)

The #FreeBritney (Spears) movement raised the flag of the dubious issue of conservatorships on Capitol Hill and has the attention of minority members Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of the House Judiciary Committee.

Over the past few decades, conservatorships have been exposed as institutions rife with fraud, theft and abuse, all under the aegis of probate courts. Recently the stench of this legally sanctioned enterprise has reached the levels of a massive fish kill. In one instance, a court appointed conservator in Nevada was arrested with the bounty from dozens of pilfered estates, and nearly 30 urns of deceased conservatees housed in a public storage unit. Every day, unsuspecting citizens are taken against their will and denied their basic civil rights

But, what of Nichelle Nichols? The now 88-year-old African American actress and former NASA recruiter, best known as Lt. Uhura from the original “Star Trek” TV show, has become the unwitting pawn in a bitter battle between her estranged son, Kyle Johnson, who has been appointed conservator; and her former talent manager, Gilbert Bell, accused of enriching himself with Nichols’s public appearance fees.

Embroiled in this legal quagmire is Angelique Fawcette, a film industry CEO, producer and actress, who hired Nichols for her recent feature film “Unbelievable!!!!!” The two became close friends, with Nichols referring to Fawcette as “like a daughter” to her. Fawcette was granted legal standing by the court, a status she hoped would benefit Nichols, who suffers from early to mid-stage dementia.

I spoke with Fawcette at length and she stated, “Neither the son nor her former manager has Nichelle’s best interest at heart. Her son was absent from her life for six years. He missed Nichelle’s birthdays, Mother’s Days, Thanksgivings and Christmases. It was heart-breaking to watch.”

Fawcette has even less respect for the former manager and stated further, “Gil was the gatekeeper, fiercely controlling Nichelle’s financial affairs and her person. He allegedly used her money to upgrade the home he lived in on Nichelle’s property, and bought new cars while Nichelle’s house sat in decay.  He even contemplated marrying Nichelle, so that her son would be denied his inheritance.”

This revelation forced Johnson to act. He filed with the California District Court to have a conservator appointed to handle Nichols’s health and finances. Judge Barbara Johnson installed a conservator who was immediately exposed for unethical behavior when her attorney was caught on an audio tape trying to bribe Nichols’s caretaker to leave the property using Nichols’s money.

The court appointed a second conservator and professional fiduciary, B.J. Hawkins, tasked to help Nichols’s son with his mother’s conservatorship. In a later deposition requested by Fawcette, Hawkins stated that Kyle Johnson made “inappropriate personal demands for his mother’s money,” that he wanted Hawkins to work for him against his mother’s best interests and that the son was verbally harsh on multiple occasions, even threatening Hawkins and her female assistant. She stated that, in her professional opinion, Kyle Johnson was not “fit” to be his mother’s conservator given his anger management issues. Barbara Johnson completely ignored this admonition and installed Kyle Johnson as his mother’s conservator, after Fawcette had agreed to rescind her objection to the son’s petition for conservatorship and entered a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) with Kyle Johnson, according to court records.

In May 2019, a CBS-TV affiliate in Atlanta released a shocking abuse tape provided to them by Gilbert Bell. On the recording, an unsupervised Nichols wanders over to the former manager’s home and expresses dismay about Kyle Johnson being installed as conservator against her wishes. She becomes agitated about not being able to go to court and never having seen the judge. A few minutes later Kyle Johnson returns from a short, absent-minded errand and tries to force Nichols to leave with him, triggering several blood-curdling screams from the “Star Trek” icon. Terrified, she shouts at her son “get your hands off of me!”

Fawcette was contacted by news outlets for her reaction. Kyle Johnson’s attorney, Jeffrey Marvan, used the opportunity to falsely claim Fawcette violated their NDA. “I wouldn’t breach the agreement,” maintains Fawcette. “But there’s no document on Earth that will stop me from talking when a crime has been committed.”

Barbara Johnson sided with Kyle Johnson’s attorney and refused to allow further visitations from Fawcette until an evidentiary hearing into the matter of the son’s competency as conservator could be heard. Weeks turned into months as the court delayed the hearing. Marvan proposed allowing Kyle to remove Nichols from her California estate and relocate his mother to rural New Mexico. This motion was granted without the evidentiary hearing, and against the videotaped wishes of Nichols. After not following process, Barbara Johnson also retired from the court. The next judge, Ana Maria Luna, punted the entire matter to the state of New Mexico without further investigation. New Mexico is where Nichols lives today, ripped from the home she loved, surrounded by strangers, and with a conservator son who resides over 30 miles away.

Congress can play a role to rectify this outrageous “legal” practice. Gaetz and Jordan have the flag. What will our representatives in Congress, regardless of party, do next? 

Full Article & Source:

Elkhorn City lawyer indicted for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands from family

By Steve Rogers

Timothy Belcher/Justia
PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Pike County lawyer faces more than 200 years in prison if convicted of 10 counts of theft and tax evasion.

Timothy Belcher, of Elkhorn City, was indicted (belcher federal indict) Thursday by a federal grand jury on seven counts of fraud and three of filing false tax returns in connection with the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to the heirs of a Pike County man killed in an accident two decades ago.

If convicted, Belcher faces 30 years on each of the seven fraud counts and three years on each tax fraud cases which stems from his failure to report the stolen money on his tax returns in 2013, 2014, and 2016, according to the indictments.

The charges are similar to state charges filed against Belcher in Pike County almost two years ago.

The family of Samuel Johnson hired Belcher, who at one time was city attorney for the city of Elkhorn City, following Johnson’s death in 2001. According to the indictment, Belcher obtained a large settlement for the family with half going to Johnson’s widow and the other half to be divided among Johnson’s children once it was determined whether he had two or three children.

That was in 2004.

Belcher put the money in an escrow account that contained as much as $817,155 on Dec. 31, 2007, court records claim. By the time the family had become frustrated and hired other attorneys to get to the bottom of what happened to the money, the account was down to $389 on Dec. 31, 2018.

When confronted in 2019 about the money, Belcher admitted he’d diverted it to his own use over the years, spending it on everything from mortgage payments to his cell phone bills, according to the indictment.

After he was indicted in Pike County, the state Supreme Court suspended Belcher’s license, according to state judicial records.

Full Article & Source:

Massive international fraud tricked seniors into sending money to criminals in Baltimore, federal indictment says

By Justin Fenton

A 91-year-old living on the Puget Sound in Washington got an urgent call in January 2019: His grandson was a passenger in a vehicle stopped in Baltimore with a large amount of cocaine, and he was being held on federal drug charges.

He needed $13,000 in cash for bail, urgently, the caller said, which the worried grandparent agreed to send overnight. He later sent another $9,000 so his grandson could retain an attorney.

But the call had come from Canada, with the money directed to a vacant home in Baltimore and intercepted by people working as part of a sophisticated network throughout North America to bilk seniors. Investigators say at least 70 victims lost a total of $1.5 million.

Federal authorities in Baltimore announced Friday that they have indicted three alleged members of the scheme on conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Additional charges were brought in federal court in Indiana, while investigators in Canada said they executed 17 search warrants in the Montreal area and met with 35 people connected to the fraud.

“Any parent or grandparent can relate to the fear and the urgency to act that these victims were experiencing when they received those phone calls,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner, calling the scheme “both ruthless and well-organized.”

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer said the outfit made as many as 1,000 to 1,200 calls a day, the vast majority fruitless. But when they snagged a victim, they continued to collect more cash, and convinced the victims not to mention the situation due to a “gag order” requiring secrecy.

“There were a number of them working in conjunction, each playing different roles as police officer or lawyer, or even (a) member of the family,” Custer said. “They were very well-rehearsed. They knew exactly which levers to pull.”

A Baltimore woman, Amaya English, 21, was among those charged in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Authorities said she tracked packages of cash over the Internet and relayed their delivery status to other conspirators.

Also charged is Medard Ulysse, 37, of Miami, and Eghosasere Avboraye-Igbinedion, 26, of Mirarmar, Fla. Two other Florida men were charged previously and pleaded guilty last fall — admitting they defrauded 28 elderly victims of more than $939,000.

Prosecutors said Ulysse recruited people in Florida, with promises of travel and cash payments, to retrieve packages sent by elderly victims. The conspirators identified locations where no one would be present to receive a package.

In the calls, the conspirators claimed they were calling on behalf of a relative who needed cash for bail money, legal fees or other expenses. In one case, an 89-year-old Michigan woman was called by someone purporting to be “Officer Booth,” who said her grandson had been in a car crash and that drugs were found. She sent $8,000, and eventually $30,000.

Jennifer C. Boone, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, said seniors and others should know that government agents working in an official capacity should not ask for money urgently and secretively, through cash, prepaid cards or gift cards.

“Seniors should also protect their personal information and not divulge it over the phone, through mail or on internet unless they initiated the contact,” Boone said. “They should talk over investments with a trusted friend, family member or financial advisor, and resist the urge to act quickly or secretly, which are frequent tactics used by scammers.”

Victims were encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or by calling 1-800-225-5324. Elder fraud complaints can be filed with the FTC online or at 877-FTC-HELP.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, March 26, 2021

Britney Spears' attorney files petition to remove her father from overseeing her medical decisions

By Chloe Melas

(CNN)Britney Spears' attorney is requesting the judge overseeing her court ordered conservatorship, remove her father, Jamie Spears, as the conservator of her person, and permanently replace him with Jodi Montgomery.

The request came in the form of a petition Samuel D. Ingham III filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday evening. 
Jamie Spears has been the conservator of both her person and estate since 2008. Montgomery has served as the singer's temporary conservator ever since the elder Spears stepped aside due to health issues in September 2019. 
In the filing, obtained by CNN, Ingham cites an order filed on October 10, 2014 that determined Britney Spears had an "incapacity to consent to any form of medical treatment" as the reason why Montgomery should take over full conservatorship. 
CNN reached out to Ingham on Wednesday asking him to elaborate on why the singer is unable to make medical decisions. Ingham stated that he "cannot comment on a pending case."
Jamie Spears' attorney Vivian Lee Thoreen had "no comment."
The filing asks that along with over seeing Spears' medical decisions, that Montgomery be able to "restrict and limit visitors by any means," except from meeting with Ingham. It also asks that Montgomery be able to "retain caretakers" and "security guards" for Spears. 
The singer's father was first court-appointed as conservator of his daughter's estate, along with attorney Andrew Wallet, in 2008, following a series of personal issues that played out publicly for the singer. For most of that period, he also oversaw her health and medical decisions. Jamie Spears became the sole conservator of the singer's $60 million estate in 2019, following Wallet's resignation.
Ingham first filed to officially remove Jamie Spears as conservator last August. In November the judge ruled that Spears stay on as co-conservator of the estate but appointed Bessemer Trust to serve as co-conservator.
CNN has reached out to Bessemer Trust for comment. 
Jamie Spears told CNN in December he has not spoken to his daughter since Ingham's filing last summer.
"I love my daughter and I miss her very much," he said at the time. "When a family member needs special care and protection, families need to step up, as I have done for the last 12-plus years, to safeguard, protect and continue to love Britney unconditionally. I have and will continue to provide unwavering love and fierce protection against those with self-serving interests and those who seek to harm her or my family."
Last month, Thoreen told CNN that Jamie Spears wishes the conservatorship could come to an end.
"[Jamie] would love nothing more than to see Britney not need a conservatorship," Thoreen said. "Whether or not there is an end to the conservatorship really depends on Britney. If she wants to end her conservatorship, she can file a petition to end it."
Interest in the singer's conservatorship has heightened following the New York Times documentary, "Framing Britney Spears," which debuted in February. Celebrities and supporters have advocated for Spears on social media with the hashtag #FreeBritney.
CNN reported last month that Britney Spears quarantined with her father, mother and siblings at the family home in Louisiana at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. CNN obtained videos of the family from their two weeks together. In them, the singer is seen riding bikes and playing in the yard alongside her father, mother Lynne Spears, sister Jamie Lynn Spears, and her nieces.
According to court documents obtained by CNN in December, Ingham said Britney would not perform again as long as her father remained in control of her fortune.
Although Britney has not publicly commented on the ongoing conservatorship battle, she did respond to recent speculation about whether she plans to perform again.
"I'll always love being on stage," she wrote on Instagram in February. "But I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ..... I love simply enjoying the basics of every day life !!!! Each person has their story and their take on other people's stories !!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives. Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person's life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens."
The next court hearing regarding the conservatorship is scheduled for April 27.
Full Article & Source:

Disbarred Manhasset attorney sentenced in stolen funds scheme

By: Adina Genn

A disbarred attorney was sentenced for using stolen funds to pay restitution in an earlier case, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday.

Alfred DiGirolomo, Jr., of Manhasset, was sentenced to 1-1/3 years to four years in prison for stealing $675,000 from clients and using a portion of the stolen money to pay restitution on an unrelated NCDA case in which he pleaded guilty in April 2019 to stealing nearly $230,000.

DiGirolomo pleaded guilty in December to three counts of grand larceny to stealing the $675,000. He had pleaded guilty for stealing the $230,000 in 2019.

When he was sentenced on Monday, he was ordered to pay restitution for $680,000.

“Alfred DiGirolomo swindled multiple clients to pay for country club dues and cigars, and in one case, stole from one client to repay another victim,” District Attorney Madline Singas said in a statement.

DiGirolomo’s attorney, Robert Del Col, told Newsday that his client made “poor decisions” and  got “tangled up with some rather disreputable clients.”

Full Article & Source:

Grand jury indicts woman in elder abuse case at local nursing home

Jatoria Audrey Johnson (WRDW)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Richmond County grand jury has indicted a woman who was accused more than a year ago of an assault at an Augusta nursing home.

According to an incident report, deputies were called to the Golden LivingCenter on the 3600 block of J. Dewey Gray Circle on Sept. 26, 2019. They were called for a suspicious situation.

After speaking with the director of nursing services, deputies learned that a fellow employee had seen Jatoria Audrey Johnson, then 22, grab a 69-year-old male patient by the genitals and twist them.

The director had spoken to the patient after it happened and said it was false, but when the deputy asked the patient, he admitted Johnson had grabbed him, according to authorities.

Deputies did not speak with the employee witness at the scene.

The Richmond County C.A.V.E. Task Force arrested Johnson back in 2019. She was charged with two felony counts of exploitation of an elder or disabled adult.

On Wednesday, the grand jury indicted Johnson on the two counts, according to court records.

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, March 25, 2021

“Heartbreaking”: Elder abuse and neglect reports filed in every corner of Wisconsin

Click to Watch Video

By Sarah Thomsen

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Heartbreaking--that’s the word local health officials use to describe the crisis in many long-term care facilities charged with taking care of our elders.

These officials are investigating thousands of reports of abuse and neglect. They say it’s unlike anything they’ve seen. They worry about what they’ll find as restrictions are lifted and families visit their loved ones again.

It’s a concern for many people as our population ages, impacting 1.2 million people in the United States.

Wisconsin officials tell First Alert Investigation it’s become common to respond to complaint and find people neglected, alone, lying on the floor for a long time without anyone knowing about it.


“You’re assuming that your parents, or whoever, is getting really good care and often times, they’re not,” says Gena Schupp, Brown County Adult Protective Services.

Schupp and her APS team are on the frontlines, called to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect in Assisted Living, Nursing, Adult Family Homes, and private residences.

“The people that we’re seeing are so bad now they’re ending up in the hospital,” says Schupp. “We’ve had several people where we’ve gone into their home and they’ve been in very, very poor shape. Some people have passed away.”

Some people are living in deplorable conditions in their own homes and not able to care for themselves.

“A lot of people with rodents, mice, they have animals that they’re not able to take care of,” says Schupp. “Again, if you think about someone who’s not seen for a long time and they’re not able to even get up to go to the bathroom, what kind of condition they’re in.”

There’s always been concern, but Schupp says it’s reaching a level never seen, all because vulnerable people are doing what they’re told and following COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

“They’re not being seen by people, so no one’s making those reports to us,” says Schupp.

Doreen A. Goetsch is the Adult Protective Services Coordinator for the Wisconsin Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources. “Out of sight, out of mind and we don’t know what’s happening,” she says.

As we started researching and talking with local and state health investigators, we discovered elder abuse or neglect reports in every corner of the state.

“The cases have always been there but they’re more severe,” says Alice Page, Adult Protective Services and Systems Developer, Wisconsin Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources.

First Alert Investigation requested data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in February. We asked how many complaints the agency received involving nursing or assisted living facilities during the pandemic.

The agency says it has an antiquated reporting system, but recorded 10,018 reports for older adults in 2019. That’s the most recent data DHS could provide.

The agency did say complaints and concerns have increased since the start of the pandemic.


First Alert Investigation was told to search thousands of records in the state’s online database. We searched them one-by-one. We started with Assisted Living and Adult Family Homes--the ones the state says are sources of most problems. We looked at 175 facilities in Brown County and found 16 cited for neglect or abuse in the last year. Most of those facilities were fined thousands of dollars by the state’s regulatory agency.

Reports revealed injuries and deaths for people living in long-term care facilities.

Some of the deaths were from COVID-19. One home recorded eight deaths attributed to the virus.

Another facility reported deaths of two residents.

We found cases of staff not wearing Personal Protective Equipment, also known as PPE.

One case involved employees testing positive for COVID-19 and still coming in to work.

We found more incidents of neglect and abuse not related to the coronavirus. That includes multiple facilities that failed to giving residents their medication.

At one facility, two people missed 164 doses of needed prescription medications over three months.

We discovered findings of “inappropriate care.” A resident broke a leg when staff “pulled on their clothing and they fell out of their wheelchair.”

There’s one common factor in multiple complaints. “That they don’t have enough staff,” says Schupp. “Under trained, underpaid... often times they’re required to work double shifts.”

Last summer, police were called to a facility when the staff walked out in the middle of the night. They left 36 residents with one unqualified staff member to care for them.

“People are not getting taken to the bathroom. They’re not getting showers,” says Schupp. “Not getting their three meals a day because their facility basically does not have the staff.”

Goetsch of the Wisconsin Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources says, “We’ve gotten some really tough cases like that and it’s all due to the pandemic and lack of workforce.”


For the first time, the state is tracking another form of abuse--financial exploitation.

Between scams and thefts by family members, $25,867,537 was stolen from seniors in 2020. That’s with 45 of 72 counties reporting.

“I can’t imagine what the number is going to be when we have all 72 counties reporting. I was shocked,” Goetsch says.

In the cases we found--neglect, physical and financial abuse--facilities were cited and most face large fines. No criminal charges have been filed.

State officials describe it as a huge problem.

“It isn’t happening nearly as much as it should. Let’s put it that way: APS for many, many years, has been very frustrated with their ability to get law enforcement to pay attention to some of these cases, because LEO would say these are family matters. This isn’t for us, and that’s not true,” says Page.

Officials blame age and memory, saying it those attributes are unfairly used against the elderly.

In financial crimes, victims don’t always want to turn on family members who are stealing from them.

“Those are cases that are tough to prosecute because you don’t have real stellar witnesses. Doesn’t mean you don’t have a crime and don’t have a victim. It’s just a case that’s going to be difficult to win in court,” says Schupp.


Wisconsin’s Bureau of Aging says the agency was working on training programs to get these cases in the hands of police and prosecutors. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled that effort.

Wisconsin has developed a hotline to report abuse. You do not need proof. If you have an instinct, report it and they’ll take it from there.

Ask a lot of question of your loved ones. Ask them how they’re eating, ask them about medications, ask them about behavior. Try to see them whether it be in person, a window visit, or virtual.

Full Article & Source:

Disney Grandson Bradford Lund Asks House Judiciary Committee to Launch Investigation of Corrupt Nationwide System of Trustees, Guardians, and Conservators Accused of Depriving Beneficiaries Such as Britney Spears and Himself of Due Process Rights

Lund request aligns with prior request from Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz concerning the Britney Spears case

Lund prepared to offer a case study through testimony of alleged hostility and violation of duty by his four trustees, including federally chartered bank, First Republic Trust Corporation

News provided by
Lanny Davis

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., March 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Walt Disney's grandson, Bradford D. Lund, sent a letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, to request the Committee launch an investigation into guardianship and conservatorship abuse across the country. Lund's letter follows that sent by Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan and Rep. Matt Gaetz expressing concern over instances of personal freedoms being deprived through conservatorships. Lund asks that his case, alongside other high-profile cases such as that of Britney Spears, be included in such a hearing.

Lund's letter alleges that he has been denied access to funds left to him by his mother Sharon Lund and grandfather Walt Disney because of false claims of mental incompetence, a claim that has been rebutted by courts in California and Arizona. Lund calls for a referral of alleged wrongdoing by First Republic Trust Corporation ("FRTC"), one of his trustees and a federally chartered banking institution, to federal regulatory authorities. Lund also alleged that the four "hostile" trustees of his trust, FRTC, L. Andrew Gifford, Robert L. Wilson, and Douglas Strode, have displayed similarly abusive and hostile conduct to that raised in Rep. Jordan's letter:

"For the past 11 plus years, four hostile trustees of my trust set up by my mother (from funds derived from her father, Walt)…have, in my opinion, consistently violated their fiduciary duties owed to me, self-enriched themselves without my authority and contrary to my interests, and unjustifiably blocked my receipt of my "birthday distributions."…These trustees have allowed those same distributions to go to my twin sister, Michelle…They have also unlawfully blocked me, my mother, and other family members from visiting with Michelle for all these years. Perhaps one of the reasons they continue to do so is because my sister testified, under oath in 2013, that she considers me mentally competent."

Lund's letter asks the Committee to not only examine the nationwide pattern of guardianship and conservatorship abuse, but also investigate his specific case:

"First, I ask the Committee, after a sufficient investigation, to refer [FRTC], a federally chartered institution, to federal regulators for potential serious violations…I also ask the three individual trustees named above also to be investigated for alleged corrupt acts, together with FRTC, of self-enrichment… In addition, I ask for the law firm used and paid for out of my mother's trust funds by these trustees, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp ("MSK"), to be included in these investigations."

Lund notes that he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and petition to the California Judicial Performance Commission regarding the former probate judge in his case, Judge David Cowan for allegedly prejudicial statements and conduct towards Lund. Lund also questions whether Judge Cowan and other judges like him are abiding by their oaths of office to uphold the constitution.

"It is sad to hear about and see so many others stuck in the similar trap that Mr. Lund is in," said Lanny J. Davis, attorney for Lund and co-counsel in Lund's federal civil rights case. "But I am confident that once the Committee hears the stories of my client and so many others, they will realize that this loss of due process is a national crisis that must be addressed now."

"It appears this is one issue that citizens and members of Congress across the political spectrum can agree on," continued Davis, referring to the recent letter sent by Committee Ranking Republican Jim Jordan and member Rep. Matt Gaetz. "And that is stopping the corrosive and corrupt processes among many probate courts, conservatives/trustees, and law firms financially benefitting from their abuses of the 'captive' fiduciary."

Read the letter here.

Contact: Alex Lange
(202) 480-4309

SOURCE Lanny Davis

Full Article & Source:

NY nursing home whistleblower gets visit from health inspector after calling Cuomo order 'ridiculous'

Whistleblower said visit seemed to be 'just a coincidence and not retaliation'


Nursing home administrator Michael Kraus talks with Aishah Hasnie in an exclusive interview Thursday on 'America Reports'
By Sam Dorman

A New York nursing home was visited by the state's Department of Health days after Fox News reported on the administrator's alleged early warning about the impact of Gov. Cuomo's executive order.

The visit, according to Kraus, started at around 9 a.m. ET Tuesday and stretched at least past 3 p.m. ET. It's unclear why exactly the visit occurred, but Kraus said the health department asked about a resident possibly running away.

"So far it seems to be just a coincidence and not retaliation," he told Fox News via text. "They didn't find any problems."

Last week, Fox News aired a story with Kraus describing his remarks during a conference call with other directors, state officials and hospital leaders.

"I said that's ridiculous," he said, recalling his reaction to the March 25 order. "We can't be doing this. It's just not right to the residents."

He added that he vocalized his concerns during phone conversations but stopped bringing it up afer he was shot down.

"I did vocalize it," he said. "And then once it was shot down, I never spoke again."

Cuomo's order has landed him in hot water as critics argued that it put nursing home residents' lives in danger.

Kraus told Fox News that the department had made three coronavirus-related visits to his facility, in addition to Tuesday's.

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Movie recommendation: “I Care a Lot”

Melanie Gasmen/THE REVIEW
Rosamund Pike stars in the new Netflix original that offers sharp commentary and stylish filmmaking.


March is Women’s History Month, a time to give a little extra attention to all of the amazing accomplishments of strong, determined women. So when I heard that Rosamund Pike, a kick-butt actress who’s best known for her role in “Gone Girl,” won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, I knew I had to give the film a stream. 

And let me tell you, Pike’s character is no Rosa Parks. 

Marla Grayson (Pike) is the icy-cool yet charismatic main character in Netflix’s dark comedy movie, “I Care a Lot.” Poised in towering stilettos and a razor-sharp bob, she makes a living by convincing the legal system to grant her guardianship over elders she pretends cannot take care of themselves. She places them in an assisted living facility, where they are sedated and lose contact with the outside world. She then sells off their homes and assets, pocketing the proceeds. 

With the help from a morally corrupt doctor, a naïve judge and her business partner/lover Fran (played by Eiza González), Marla pounces on her “clients” (really, victims of her scheme) like a lioness on her prey. 

“There’s two types of people in this world,” Marla says in her opening voiceover. “Those who take and those that get took. Predators and prey. Lions and lambs.”

She cares a lot, just not about the people she should be caring about. 

Since the release of this film and “Framing Britney Spears” on Hulu, the world of legal guardianship has been talked about a lot recently in the media. The New York Times Presents documentary explains that conservatorships are put in place for people who are unable to make their own decisions or are mentally incapacitated. Despite Spears working consistently throughout recent years, she lives under a court-sanctioned conservatorship in which she is not in control of the fortune she earned as a performer. Advocates for the #FreeBritney movement believes the singer is unfairly held “captive” by her family and management team.

Although both of these movies show two egregious sides of conservatorship, it makes us think of all the possibilities legal guardians have to exploit and manipulate their wards.  

So far, the first half of “I Care a Lot’s” premise has all the hallmarks of a movie like “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Both leads are filthy rich scumbags who embody glittery portraits of capitalist inhuman greed, except one is a woman. Unlike Jordan Belfort, however, Marla meets her match: an elderly woman named Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest). As a wealthy retiree with no connected family, borderline dementia and an unremarkable life, Marla and Fran see her as a prime candidate, calling her their “golden goose.” 

What those predators don’t realize is that they chose the wrong prey this time, and by conning this seemingly kind old lady, they’ve angered some dangerous and violent people. A mysterious mobster (Peter Dinklage) will go to great lengths to see Jennifer released from Marla’s care. But Marla proudly refuses to back down without a fight, and the plot evolves into a thrilling, criminous chase. 

Essentially, what we’re watching are two equally vile, money-hungry monsters fighting for two hours. I understand the pushback for not having a hero to cheer on. Marla relishes in her amoral, predatory behavior, and watching her game the system in her favor is far from comforting. But I think that’s the point: You have to go into “I Care a Lot” accepting that you won’t really be “rooting” for anyone, and that’s okay when the characters are compelling as they are in this film. 

“I Care a Lot” deals with the guardianship grift in our country. When we don’t have an appetite for what’s nice, sometimes the best way to look at the awfulness of the world is through a stylized, satirical lens.

Full Article & Source:

A Chester County attorney who stole from clients and family is sentenced to state prison

Joshua Janis was sentenced to 11 to 23 years in prison during a hearing Monday at the Chester County Justice Center.

by Vinny Vella

A Chester County attorney who defrauded both his clients and family was sentenced Monday to 11 to 23 years in state prison.

Joshua Janis, 40, was found guilty in December of 31 counts of fraud for stealing from his clients at a West Chester law firm. In a separate case — evidence of which was discovered while investigators were probing the fraud — Janis pleaded guilty in February to identity theft and forgery for opening up bank accounts in the names of his ex-wife and former mother-in-law.

In a statement, District Attorney Deborah Ryan commended the victims for coming forward to “reclaim their lives from the damage he caused.”

“He stole money and caused irreparable legal and emotional damage to victims of all ages in a callous and depraved manner,” Ryan said. “More than that, he stripped them of the valued trust between a client and their lawyer, tarnishing the profession.”

Janis’ attorney, Ryan Hyde, declined to comment.

The investigation into Janis’ conduct began in 2015, when his law license was suspended after clients filed complaints with the state Supreme Court Disciplinary Board.

After a criminal investigation triggered by that suspension, Janis was accused of stealing a total of $90,000 from dozens of clients. Prosecutors said he collected legal fees without working on their cases.

Prosecutors later learned that Janis had opened up several unauthorized credit card accounts in the name of his ex-wife, Jennifer Hulnick. He also created accounts in the name of Hulnick’s mother, Ellen.

Prosecutors estimate he spent $80,000 in the name of Jennifer Hulnick and $5,000 in her mother’s name, using the money for pornography and strip-club visits, among other expenses.

Full Article & Source:

What Families Want from Nursing Home Reform Post-COVID: No More Lockdowns and a Seat at the Table

By Alex Spanko

The federal government last week ended a year-long nightmare for families across the country when it announced the relaxation of visitation bans at nursing homes in all but a few limited cases.

But for the family members who spent 2020 working to reunite with their loved ones, the work won’t end along with the expiration of strict lockdowns.

To learn more about what family members of nursing home residents want from the reform efforts percolating in states and Washington, SNN invited Mikko Cook and Carrie Leljedal to join our “Rethink” podcast.

Cook is a co-founder of the Essential Caregivers Coalition, and Leljedal leads Illinois Caregivers for Compromise.

Each has a unique perspective on the lockdown: Cook’s father has late-stage Alzheimer’s and resides at a skilled nursing facility in Albany, N.Y., while Leljedal became active in the movement while trying to arrange visits with her 33-year-old son, who has a developmental disability and seizure disorder. He lives in a combination intermediate care facility (ICF) and SNF in southern Illinois.

Their experiences were different, but both have concrete and insightful ideas about how families can better be incorporated into decision-making — both at the facility and policy level — when the next crisis strikes long-term care.

Excerpts from the conversation, recorded prior to the formal end of the lockdown, are presented below; listen to the full episode at Apple Podcasts,
Google Play, and Soundcloud as soon as it’s available.

Tell me about your experiences with trying to change lockdown rules.

Cook: As the lockdown happened, my family was scrambling to figure out what actually was happening and how to get more information and access to my dad. Unfortunately, what ended up happening was even though my mom was talking to the facility every day, we had no contact with my dad for over 100 days. Despite pleas to the facility, to the ombudsman, to the Department of Health, to the governor, to our state officials, nobody responded to us.

Initially, it was about a place where people could come and talk about what was happening. But we fundamentally understood that we were all scrambling to learn not just the situation, but the entire breakdown of what the system was and who controlled what — and what did things like the 1135 waiver mean, and who did you contact when you needed help?

We became a national advocacy group to help people learn about: What is the system? How does the system work? Where is your loved one in the system? And how can we all come together to change that system? Especially how we can create a federal designation for an essential caregiver that is put into place so that when the next public emergency happens, and it will, we will never be 100% locked out again.

Leljedal: Our building is one half the ICF; the other half of our building is actually skilled nursing. Ours is one of the few — we’re not corporate-owned, we are privately run. It is a very personal, almost family-type business. But we all faced the same issue. I wasn’t allowed to see my son; I wasn’t able to get in and figure out what was going on. He had to have all his doctor’s appointments cancelled because they weren’t allowed to go into the building. I was 128 days without physically seeing my son without glass between us. And then for the first month, I was only allowed to see him at doctor’s appointments, socially distanced.

We shouldn’t be separated from our families, and children, even if they are adults, should never be separated from their family. I have been, since almost day one, publicly going anywhere and everywhere I could to get somebody to listen, try to get help. Like Mikko, I did the governor’s office. I did state representatives. I’ve been to the media. I talked to our local newspaper here in southern Illinois to do one of the first stories they did about long-term care and the virus because nobody realized what isolation meant, and that no visitors means just that: no visitors.

But we’re not visitors. We are way more than that. We are an essential part of that care team who provides care to our loved ones every day of the week. They’re lost without us.

What are you specifically asking for in terms of a federal designation for an essential caregiver? What would that look like, and what sort of protections and rights are you looking to hopefully have codified?

Cook: When it comes to an essential caregiver, I think the key point to note is what Carrie has already said: We’re not talking visitors. We are talking people who are a massive part of the emotional, social wellbeing — and sometimes physical wellbeing — of residents. The idea is that an essential caregiver is someone within maybe the family circle, or even outside of the family circle, maybe a friend — who is designated.

It would be actually optimal if it was two people — because putting all of this responsibility on one person is a lot — that the resident could designate as their go-to support person. This person would be trained, and tested, and PPE’d up exactly as staff, so that they would not pose any more threat than staff would.

Essentially, when you think about it — Carrie as a mom, or me as a daughter — we are already doing everything we can to protect our loved ones from the virus. So for us to be trained and tested, we really aren’t going to pose any more of a threat, in that we will do everything we can to see our loved ones.

In addition to that, the idea is that you — regardless of the infection rate, regardless of the outbreak situation in a facility — if you are trained and tested and equipped as staff, then you should have the access like staff.

You would be limited to just focusing on the person you’re with, obviously — this isn’t about walking into a facility and wandering around. We want to make sure that everyone is safe. But we don’t want to jeopardize the wellbeing of our loved ones with this blanket approach to just creating safety by locking the doors.

On top of the essential caregiver designation, what other changes would you like to see?

Cook: I would say the number-one change that I would like to see, across long-term care, is giving families a seat at the table when it comes to defining policy moving forward.

Families, who are the voice of the person receiving the care, have kind of been left on the sidelines, and I don’t think that you can really address all the needs and all of the issues of an individual person with a form like my mom had to fill out for my dad that was like: “Tell us about his hobbies.”

This isn’t enough. I mean, this is 70-plus years of a man’s life, and the majority of them lived with these people. So who better to incorporate into the conversation than the families as it relates to their care and wellbeing going forward? I would absolutely say that’s the number-one thing that has to happen.

At a larger scope, conversations around staffing and finances, and all of these [topics] are starting to bubble to the surface, which is fantastic. I definitely think there needs to be transparency into the finances of what is going on in a lot of these institutions. I know that there’s the conversation of: “Well, we can’t just have more staff because we can’t afford it.” And I know that a lot of the facilities are looking at bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus. But really, it’s the same age-old issue for anything, which is you’ve got to follow the money.

Where is that money going? And why is it such an issue to pay people who are dedicating their career to taking care of other people — and paying them less than what somebody at Burger King would make? We have some big issues to tackle, and for that I am really grateful that coronavirus happened.

I agree that extra transparency would probably bring trickle-down benefits to a lot of other long-standing issues — the debate usually boils down to the industry saying it needs more money, advocates saying that it doesn’t, and then nothing really changing because it’s hard to say definitively where all the money is flowing.

Leljedal: In Illinois, you can’t even build here unless you get approval from the state. There’s so many regulations in Illinois, and they tied people’s hands if they wanted to build a new building and make things better. We need some strong federal guidance to help the states try to get in alignment, because there’s no alignment — county to county, city to city, even state to state. There’s no alignment anywhere right now. That adds to the disruption, and the lack of cohesiveness of care.

Cook: I think another good place to start is to look and see what is working. I was just recently told of a facility, I think it’s in Maryland, where they have had zero cases of COVID. Zero. The reason has to do with how much they were putting behind infection training prior to all of this ever happening, so they were ready.

Taking the models that are working, and starting to build from there — you’ve got to start from a positive point, and not just jump into the hole of the negatives. I think that would be very helpful.

Carrie, you seem to have had good experiences with the facility where your son lives. Why is that?

Leljedal: Well, first of all, we don’t have the turnover that the majority of facilities in the country have. We have an executive director and director of nursing that have both been there for more than 20 years. The number of staff we have in our building [who have worked there] 10 or more years is very impressive. Our owner is hands-on; his office is right there on the property. He knows the residents by name on both sides of the building. He gears what they do towards our residents.

Are they perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yes. But the thing I’ve known this whole year was: I never worried about my son being neglected. I never worried about my son being abused. I never worried about him not getting the care he needs. Was it always done the way I would have liked it? No. But it was done, and he was well cared for, and so is every other resident in that facility.

Prior to COVID, the doors were open 24/7. There was never: “Oh, you can’t come visit; it’s two in the morning.” If we wanted to go in at two in the morning, we were allowed. Families were part of it. When you can call and get the director of nursing on the phone, or get the owner of the facility to return an e-mail or phone call consistently, that makes a huge difference. The stories that I hear from people [where] it’s taken a month to get a live person to speak to, it’s unacceptable.

Mikko talked about patient-centered care. Really what this means is family-centered care. If you take the model that’s used in pediatrics and move it to long-term care, how they look at family-centered care, that would make everyone’s life better — because then you have input from everybody that’s part of that team, from the family to the resident to the medical professionals. They’re all on one level playing field.

I had a feeling that would be your answer. If the staff is stable and attentive and available, even the oldest, most outdated facility can provide care that makes everyone happy and safe.

Leljedal: Very much so. We have staff on my son’s side of the building … that have been there 15 and 20 years. They will tell you they’re there because this is their home. This is their residents’ home. On our side of the building, the residents aren’t there for one, two, or three years. They’re there for 10, 20, 30 years, through their entire adult life. Especially in those kinds of settings, you need consistency. Everywhere needs it.

Cook: The staff needs to feel supported, and this is true of any job. How can you give your heart to something that feels like it is not giving anything to you?

I’ve spoken to staff where they love the residents as their own family, so this entire year of lockdown is breaking them just as much. I just recently read a post from a woman who works in activities programming for a facility, and she said she locks herself in the bathroom sometimes and just cries because of how hard this is to see these people go through this.

Among higher-level financial and management folks, there’s this idea that to retain frontline staff, they have to be given pathways for advancement and promotion. I’m sure that’s true for some number of CNAs. But actually speaking with caregivers and their leaders has taught me that for a large number of people in the field, they’re doing exactly what they want to do — they have a very personal and sometimes even spiritual calling to be caregivers. They don’t necessarily want to run a building one day or be a regional supervisor; they just want to be paid well and kept safe while they work in the career they chose.

Cook: Absolutely. I mean, you think about the tasks that a CNA has to go through on a daily basis, with how many residents, right? Now you also are asking them to come to this work in the middle of a global pandemic, where they at any moment could be exposed to the virus. There are so many who are just throwing themselves into the work because they love it. That is a calling. That’s not a job, and we need to respect and reward that level of dedication and support them in that.

What do you want people in the industry to know about your experience over the last year?

Leljedal: The hardest part of the last year has been knowing how many people are just isolated by themselves, that their families don’t even know how to attempt to get in, or attempt to be able to make the next step, because providers are not sharing that information. We need transparency — just information. We need clear-cut, concise information on a regular basis, which doesn’t happen.

To move forward, besides private rooms and private bathrooms, we need to get to smaller buildings along the lines of the Green House Project, or something that is more individually based — so also the staff then becomes more personally tied, because they’re not taking care of 50 residents. There’s 10 or 12 in a house. We’re going to see more consistency of care, which is going to bring more quality of care. And in the end, that’s what we need for our loved ones: quality of care.

Cook: I would say, to speak to your audience within the industry: Make the family members your partners in this experience. This isn’t a you-versus-them kind of situation. I’ve tried to help the people within the Essential Caregivers Coalition, when they come and look for answers, and say: Reach out and see the humanity on both sides. I think more can be accomplished by bringing the families to the table in terms of trying to make a solution that works for everyone, as opposed to just cutting out any one person in the conversation.

That includes everything from reform to public health policy. I think a lot of this could have been avoided. Of course, the lockdown had to happen. But there needed to be a revisitation of what the policy was, and talking to all the people affected and saying: “Okay, here’s where we are, and maybe we’ve made some mistakes, but let’s work together to make this better.”

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

San Antonio lawyer, Netflix sued for defamation over elder guardianship of 83-year-old

By David Yates

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio attorney has been sued for defamation over a Netflix series called Dirty Money, which featured the guardianship of an elderly man who had some $3 million in assets, according to a press release.

Tonya Barino alleges in her 29-page complaint that attorney Phil Ross and his paralegal Jo Anne Rivera participated in a conspiracy that destroyed Barino’s name and reputation while involved in the guardianship proceedings of 83-year-old Charles Thrash.

“Phillip Ross is an attorney of incompetent and reckless charlatan-esque repute,” Barino’s pleading states. 

As previously reported in Southeast Texas Record, Thrash owned an automotive shop on West Avenue in San Antonio for 50 years and had been in the news for marrying his divorcee girlfriend, Laura A Martinez, without his court-appointed guardian’s permission.

Plaintiff Barino also names Laura A. Martinez and her adult children Brittany A. Martinez, Jose H. Martinez, and Michelle C. Martinez as defendants.

“Through various platforms, Laura, Brittany, Michelle, and Joe published statements of and concerning plaintiff that each knew to be false, intentionally disregarded known falsity and intentionally defamed the plaintiff with a specific intent to defame and harm the plaintiff,” the complaint states. 

A Free Charlie Thrash website states that Thrash has not been seen in 741 days and a Youtube channel called Charlie Thrash's Friends features various videos.

Barino's lawsuit references the Netflix series Dirty Money, in which an episode portrayed the alleged misuse of legal guardianship proceedings concerning Charlie Thrash. 

“The gist of the episode is that Thrash and the sources, Laura and Brittany are victims of the plaintiff's overreaching and abusive conduct toward Thrash and that Ross is some type of hero and that the plaintiff is a villain,” Barino’s Austin attorney Carl Kolb wrote. “The episode also gave an audience to Ross and his paralegal Jo Anne Rivera. Both falsely and intentionally defamed the plaintiff.”

The Dirty Money episode aired on March 11, 2020, but has since been removed from the Netflix menu of offerings.

“Martinez’s children, Brittany, Michelle, and Joe, before and after the airing of the episode have all made similar online comments concerning the plaintiff,” Barino’s attorney alleges. “Hundreds of people around the world have chimed in the chorus of lies published by the defendants, republishing the defamatory material and further libelous and obscene comments, which continue today.”

The complaint further states that nearly a year before the episode aired in May 2019, Attorney Ross was sanctioned in the sum of $222,974 for conspiring with Laura to fleece the Thrash estate and is currently being subjected to disciplinary proceedings.

Netflix, Alex Gibney, and Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions are also named as defendants in Barino’s lawsuit.

“The degree to which the episode skewed the facts demonstrates that the Jigsaw defendant did so with actual malice or with a specific intent to sensationalize the defamatory information for the purpose of harming the plaintiff for profit,” Barino’s pleading states.

Gibney is an American documentary film director and producer who graduated from UCLA Film School and Yale University.

“In the midst of an ongoing global pandemic during which much of the world's population has been quarantined at home watching television, the above-named defendants published or caused to be published worldwide and or appeared in an episode of the Netflix series, Dirty Money, entitled Guardians, Inc., in which plaintiff was falsely and maliciously defamed," Plaintiff's attorney states.

The lawsuit was filed in Bexar County's 285th Judicial District.

Full Article & Source:

Janice Dean calls for justice for NY seniors at nursing home memorial: 'We want answers'

By Evie Fordham

Family members of New York nursing home residents who say their relatives contracted coronavirus and died after Gov. Andrew Cuomo's March 25 directive held a memorial on Sunday with attendees including Fox News' Janice Dean.

Dean, who attributes her in-laws' coronavirus deaths to Cuomo's directive, said she and the other rally attendees had become like family.

"I'm here today as a grieving family member, not someone who is politically motivated, which our governor likes to call me," she said. "We are bound togther because we want answers, and we will not stop."

Dean's in-laws, Mickey and Dee Newman, died in spring 2020.

Protesters against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of nursing homes COVID-19 deaths, gather outside Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home on Sunday, March 21, 2021 in New York. (AP Photo/David Crary)

"We had no idea [Mickey Newman] had died of Covid until we saw the death certificate," Dean said. "We had no idea there was a March 25 order for Covid-positive patients to nursing homes. My husband had to deliver the news to his mother that his father was dead, and she was heartbroken. Two weeks later she got Covid."

Family members constructed a "We Care Memorial Wall" with photos of their lost loved ones.

New York City Councilmember Brad Lander and New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim also attended the rally organized by Peter and Daniel Arbeeny, two brothers who blame Cuomo for their father's death in 2020.

"There's 100,000 people like me and those around me who lost the ones they loved most," Daniel Arbeeny said.

Peter Arbeeny thanked nursing home staff and said he does not blame individual nursing homes or workers.

"As a Covid orphan, we need answers, we need an apology and we need a fair investigation," he said.

New York lawmakers are preparing an impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Kim was an early proponent of impeachment.

"When I got that call from Cuomo threatening my career and my livelihood to lie for him ... I was afraid he would escape accountabilty," Kim told the crowd, adding that he lost his uncle to coronavirus in a nursing home.

"His reign of abusive power will end soon because there are way too many decent people in the city of New York to let this guy go unchecked. ... We will find the truth," Kim said.

Attendees held signs with slogans including "Cuomo made our parents 'uncomfortable' #SeniorsToo" and "Apologize Andrew!"

Cuomo has faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for his administration's March 25 directive that barred nursing homes and other long-term care locations from turning away thousands of coronavirus-infected seniors.

Despite Cuomo's efforts to attribute the controversy to partisan politics, as questions swirling around his handling of the pandemic continue, his administration was forced to admit that nursing home deaths had topped 15,000 – nearly 10,000 more than was originally reported by the state at the end of January.

Full Article & Source:

Group creates Easter baskets for those in assisted living, long-term care facilities

A mountain community is getting ready for Easter -- with plenty of baskets!

A group gathered at the Rutherfordton Clubhouse Sunday morning to assemble 600 of them.

All the Easter baskets are going to people in assisted living and long-term care facilities.

A special thanks was offered today to the woman who organized this special event.  

March 21, 2021 - A group gathered at the Rutherfordton Clubhouse Sunday morning to assemble 600 Easter baskets which will go to people in assisted living and long-term care facilities -- those especially impacted by pandemic shutdowns over the last year. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

"I think this past year has been rough on everybody but I think the residents have had a really hard time not getting to see their family members," said Donna Bennett-Cobb, Rutherfordton resident. "As a community, it's good fellowship for us, too, and we've had a good time doing it and just spending some time together. Something good, nothing negative at all."

The group said that Bennett-Cobb did something similar on Valentine's Day, reaching out to pandemic-bound people in Rutherford County.

Full Article & Source:

Monday, March 22, 2021

San Antonio lawyer faces disciplinary proceedings in the guardianship of elderly military wife and her daughter

By David Yates

SAN ANTONIO - A State Bar of Texas disciplinary committee sued a San Antonio attorney alleging he was deceitful and dishonest in the guardianship of an incapacitated person, according to a press release.

The Commission for Lawyer Discipline filed the complaint in Bexar County’s 285th Judicial District alleging that when Attorney Philip Martin Ross represented Sybil Sims and her daughter Suzanne Sims Baker, he transferred Sims’ assets to himself through an irrevocable trust and also obtained $25,000 from her as assets for legal expenses.

“After Respondent [Ross] had been found by a Comal County court to lack authority to represent Sims because of her incapacity, Respondent executed a second trust instrument purporting to convey the assets of the first irrevocable trust into another, thereafter,” wrote Disciplinary Counsel Paul Homburg in the Original Disciplinary Petition.

The lawsuit further alleges that despite court orders, Ross continued to act as owner of the assets of the trust, including Sims’ homestead property from which he sought to evict Sims’ son, and which he purported to list for sale. 

“Respondent took actions in the litigation regarding the Sims guardianship and property that were for his own benefit and adverse to the interest of Sims whom he claimed to represent,” Homburg stated in the pleading. “Respondent engaged in conduct involving deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation.”

Sims was the widow of USAF Lt. Col. Harold "Hal" Sims Sr.

The complaints alleging professional misconduct, which initiated the disciplinary proceedings, were filed by Sims' adult children Harold Sims, Jr. and Cynthia Sims Kirkland. The Supreme Court of Texas has appointed Judge Robert Cadena of the 83rd Judicial District Court to preside over Ross’s disciplinary action. (Case #2019CI21028)

“Respondent [Ross] represented a person when the representation was adversely limited by the interests of the Respondent or another person to whom Respondent owed obligations,” Homburg wrote. “Respondent failed to comply with orders of the court regarding the property of Sybil Sims. Respondent engaged in conduct intended to unreasonably increase the burdens of litigation regarding Sybil Sims and her property.”

The lawsuit further states that Ross purported to represent the interests of Sybil Sims at a time when she did not have the capacity to execute contracts, deeds, or other similar documents.

As previously reported in the Southeast Texas Record, Ross was also sued by Tonya Barino last week for alleged defamation after he appeared in a Netflix series called Dirty Money, which featured the guardianship of Charlie Thrash, an elderly man who had some $3 million in assets. 

“Phillip Ross is an attorney of incompetent and reckless charlatan-esque repute,” wrote Barino who had been appointed guardian of the estate for Thrash.

Full Article & Source: