Saturday, June 5, 2021

‘Spirit-of-the-Law’ vs. ‘Letter-of-the-Law’: What It Means for Alabama Guardianship Legislation

One early memory of my law enforcement career was the day I learned the concept of the-letter-of-the-law versus the-spirit-of-the-law.
Simply put the-letter-of-the-law means the law is applied exactly as written. For example – the speed limit on highways is 65 mph, any vehicle traveling at 66 mph or greater is in violation of traffic law and shall be issued a speeding ticket.
The spirit-of-the-law leaves room for officer discretion. This means I could consider other factors when deciding to issue a ticket, give a warning, or ignore a violation all together. Following the spirit-of-the-law allowed me to apply the law as the legislature intended, especially in situations with extenuating circumstances or a warning was more appropriate.
I think we would all agree, darting across the middle of a busy street can create a dangerous situation for all and could be grounds for a jaywalking violation, but casually walking across the middle of an empty street would not warrant a ticket. Endangering others by driving under the influence is not the same as not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.
Sometimes, however, the enacted version of a law does not quite hit the mark. The spirit is clear, but the letter of the law leaves room for interpretation – a loophole. We all know, just as water follows the path of least resistance, if there is a loophole in the letter of the law – there’s a lawyer who will take advantage.
Terri LaPoint, an investigative journalist with RealNewsSpark, has written extensively on the exploitation and civil liberty destroying nature of Alabama’s guardianship laws.
In early April of this year, LaPoint testified before the Alabama House Judiciary Committee on the need for guardianship reform.
LaPoint gave a powerful speech in which she pointed out the guardianship and conservatorship system started out as a way to protect the most vulnerable among us – our elderly. However, LaPoint has seen the system fail even though the 5th Amendment’s guarantees that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
She went on to say some who have been trusted to look after our most vulnerable have used loopholes personally benefit from the way the current laws are written. In her reporting, LaPoint has also found a system, which uses fear tactics and a lack of accountability to exploit seniors and drain their estates of assets meant for their families to inherit.
She said so many seniors have been victimized by the current system that something must be done. At this moment, violent criminals in Alabama prisons have more rights than a senior put under guardianship. LaPoint closed by saying this could not have been the intent of the legislature and called for reforming this system.
I too do not believe Alabama’s guardian and conservatorship laws were intended to be abusive, but as written, the letter-of-the-law permits exploitation. If a loophole can be exploited for financial gain or billable hours, we all know there will be more than a few attorneys who will take advantage.
In most situations, the spirit-of-the-law is sufficient to protect most people, but as seen in Terri LaPoint’s excellent reporting on Alabama seniors, Joann Bashinsky, Marian Leonard, and Marguerite Trent Caddis – it isn’t always enough.
This is why I support Alabama Representative Joe Lovvorn’s (R-District 79) House Bill 603. Rep. Lovvorn’s bill will bring much needed reform to Alabama’s guardian, conservatorship, and probate court rules and procedures.
Among the many improvements proposed in HB603:
  • “undue influence exerted on a person is not, alone, adequate grounds for determining that person is incapacitated and in need of a guardian”
  • bill would prohibit the appointment of a guardian or conservator when a valid power of attorney or health care directive exists and the person chosen is willing and able to perform needed functions.
  • HB603 would declare a guardianship void if the due process rights of the alleged incapacitated person were determined to have been violated.
The American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct states, “The legal profession is largely self-governing” and the “legal profession’s relative autonomy carries with it special responsibilities of self-government.”
When there is a loophole in a poorly worded law, we expect people to do what is right, not what is what is allowed. Unfortunately, history has shown us, especially in Birmingham, we cannot leave the fox to guard the hen house and expect it to “self-govern.”
Predatory attorneys across this country know exactly what they are doing…and it is disgusting. They are pillaging the hard earned wealth away from their victims, sometimes leaving their heirs with pennies (as in the Marguerite Trent Caddis case – link).
I trust the Alabama legislature will do the right thing and pass Alabama HB603 into law.
Bernard B. Kerik was the 40th Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and is a New York Times bestselling author.
Full Article & Source:

Iowa lawyer who admitted stealing money from his employer and clients loses his license

An Iowa lawyer who admitted taking money from clients without doing any work on their cases has had his Iowa law license revoked by the Iowa Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Judicial Branch)

By Clark Kauffman

An eastern Iowa lawyer who two years ago admitted embezzling money from his employer, and who now admits improperly taking money from his clients, has had his Iowa law license revoked by the state’s Supreme Court.

According to the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board, attorney Curtis W. Den Beste, formerly of Cedar Rapids, took money from clients, transferred money from client trust accounts into his own checking account, then neglected his cases and lied to clients about the true status of those cases.

“Ultimately, Den Beste abandoned his practice and simply kept client funds that had not been earned,” the board said in a recent filing with the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa.

The board said that because a “convincing preponderance of the evidence” established that Den Beste deliberately converted client funds to his own use, it is unnecessary for the Supreme Court to “dwell on” the other alleged violations he had allegedly committed.

In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, Den Beste, now living in Nevada, admitted that in 2018, he took $2,500 from an Iowa man named Mickey Harris to represent him in a guardianship case.

“I did not file anything on behalf of Harris in the guardianship matter, and I did no work on the case,” Den Beste stated, adding that he never provided Harris with a refund. “After several weeks, Harris asked me about the status of the case, and I responded that I had taken care of it, despite the fact that I had not filed anything.”

Den Beste has consented to the Iowa Supreme Court’s revocation of his Iowa law license. Under Iowa court rules, he will become eligible for readmission after five years.

In 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended Den Beste’s license for a minimum of four months after he admitted accepting thousands of dollars in cash from clients and keeping the funds for himself instead of depositing the money in the general account of the law firm where he worked.

At that time, Chief Justice Mark Cady, writing for the majority of the court, said Den Beste had committed theft, but noted that the court typically treats theft from an attorney’s employer less harshly than theft from an attorney’s own clients.

In a partial dissent, Justice David Wiggins wrote that Den Beste’s actions amounted to felony second-degree theft — the sort of offense, he said, that often leads to a license revocation.

“Plain and simple, Den Beste admitted to stealing someone else’s money several times,” Wiggins wrote. “The state would almost surely charge a non-lawyer who embezzled over $9,000 from his or her employer with theft, but this attorney, who stipulated that he embezzled over $9,000 from his employer, avoids criminal punishment and this court gives him merely an insignificant disciplinary sanction.”

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Memphis caretaker accused of abusing 83-year-old woman, hitting her with car

Melvin Brooks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis caretaker was arrested after he was accused of beating an 83-year-old woman and then hitting her with her own car.

According to police, officers discovered the injured woman when they responded to the 1500 block of Marianna Street on June 1. She told authorities Melvin Brooks, 64, struck her several times in the face so hard that her dentures fell out of her mouth. 

He then reportedly proceeded to hit her in the body and chest before jumping into her car and hitting her.

Brooks was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, attempted second-degree murder, vulnerable adult abuse and misdemeanor assault.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Judge puts reproductive rights case on hold

Woman’s guardian seeks contraceptive implantation

by Kay Stephens
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The guardian of a 25-year-old woman with intellectual disabilities is asking a Blair County judge to order reimplantation of a birth control device to keep the woman from becoming pregnant.

The question surfaced Wednesday when Judge Timothy M. Sullivan allotted seven days for attorneys representing the guardian and the woman to submit legal authority, relevant court rulings and arguments in support of their positions.

It will be up to Sullivan to decide if he wants to schedule a court hearing in the reproductive rights case.

The woman’s guardian, represented by attorney Stephen D. Wicks of Altoona, filed a petition in late March seeking a court order for reimplantation of a birth control device that would require a general anesthetic.

While the woman used to have a contraceptive device in her arm, the petition states that Altoona physicians removed it Aug. 17, 2020, at the woman’s request.

In support of the petition, Wicks advised the court that he notified those physicians, in a Jan. 19, 2017, letter, that they did not have the authority to remove the device without consent of the woman’s guardian at that time.

He also included a June 25, 2016, letter from Dr. Khadia M. Phillip, who described the woman as lacking capacity to make her own health, safety and financial decisions, thereby warranting appointment of a guardian.

The woman’s current guardian, appointed in De­­cember, acknowledged that the woman has expressed a desire to conceive.

But according to the petition, the current guardian maintains that the woman lacks “the intellectual capacity to appreciate the consequences or risks of that act, and does not have the ability to care for a child.”

Because of her intellectual disability, the woman requires “significant support” to live in her own apartment, according to the guardian’s petition.

Upon receiving the petition in late March, Sullivan signed an order designating time on Wednesday’s court schedule to address the matter. He also named Altoona attorney Maryann Joyce Bistline to represent the woman in the matter.

Both Bistline and the woman were in court Wednesday, but neither had a chance in court to address the matter.

Instead, Sullivan met in his chambers with Wicks and Bistline, then entered the courtroom and issued the order granting the attorneys seven days to render documents in support of their positions.

National organizations representing those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have acknowledged an ongoing debate within their communities regarding reproductive and parenting rights.

An October study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Boston University’s School of Public Health found that women with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a greater risk of pregnancy complications. It also found that those women were often subject to biases and preconceived notions about their inabilities to parent.

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Four hospital workers sentenced for reckless abuse of an adult

By Steve Rogers

EDGEWOOD, Ky. (WTVQ) – Four former hospital employees have been convicted of and sentenced on charges related to the reckless abuse of an adult, according to Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Ellyssa Klein, 28, Sandra Nobbe, 31, Gary Ray, 74, and Ashley Flower, 33, were employees of Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Edgewood, Ky. Klein and Nobbe were employed as certified nursing assistants with the hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit, and Ray and Flower were employed as registered nurses with the facility.

Between July 1, 2015, and July 2, 2015, they participated in and aided one another in the improper restraint of an elderly patient assigned to the Behavioral Health Unit, Cameron said.

This restraint was accomplished by arranging furniture around the patient’s medical recliner chair and placing two therapeutic water bags, each weighing in excess of 35 pounds, on the patient. The restraints remained in place for approximately 15 hours, Cameron said.

“The most vulnerable members of our Kentucky family deserve protection, and we will not tolerate abuse or neglect by those charged with their care,” said Attorney General Cameron.  “I appreciate the work of our Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control Unit to hold accountable those responsible for these terrible actions, and I urge anyone with information regarding suspected abuse to contact our office at 1-877-ABUSE TIP.”

On April 1, 2021, Klein, Nobbe, and Ray pleaded guilty to Reckless Abuse or Neglect of an Adult, a Class A misdemeanor, and they were sentenced to 12 months in jail, conditionally discharged for two years. As a special condition of the plea, they agreed to resolve an administrative case with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services arising directly from their neglect of the patient.

This resolution resulted in their placement on the Caregiver Misconduct Registry for a period of seven years. They also agreed to forfeit their professional licenses.

On May 20, 2021, Flower pleaded guilty to Reckless Abuse or Neglect of an Adult and was sentenced to 12 months in jail, conditionally discharged for two years. Flower agreed to forfeit her professional license as a part of her guilty plea.

The Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigated the case.

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in a Medicaid facility, join us in our fight to protect Kentucky’s most vulnerable by contacting the Attorney General’s elder abuse tip line at 1-877-ABUSE TIP (1-877-228-7384).

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Tri-Cities area home health care aide accused of attacking her patient

By Annette Cary

A Tri-Cities area home health care aide is accused of assaulting a patient and trying to kiss and grope her, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The Washington state Department of Health has suspended the license of Ivy Metcalf, which was issued in Benton County.

According to allegations in state documents, Metcalf was upset when she arrived at the patient’s home on Sept. 10. She had been caring for the patient for seven months.

Metcalf said that she had been diagnosed with a personality disorder and her name was Sarah.

Then she tried to kiss the patient, grabbed her breasts and buttocks and pulled her to force her into the bathroom, according to Department of Health documents.

The patient made a video call to a friend, describing what happened, and when Metcalf overheard she left.

Shortly after that, Metcalf crashed her car.

She was screaming belligerently and had to be physically restrained by police, according to the state report.

Her pupils were constricted, her eyelids were drooping and she admitted to using acid, according to the state report.

However, the state report blacked out the results of a drug screen given at a hospital and said further test results are pending.

The state order to suspend her license was issued Saturday. She has 20 days to respond and ask for a hearing.

Her home care aide license expired March 13, but the Department of Health suspended it because it is eligible for late renewal.

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

The American Legion Announces Recipients of 4th Estate Journalism Awards



WFTS’s “Compensation for Protection” Survey Receives Highest Broadcast Honor of American Legion | Ohio

Cincinnati, May 26, 2021 / PRNewswire / –WFTS, TampaThe ABC station, owned by EW Scrips Company (NASDAQ: SSP), won the highest broadcast award at the 4th Estate Awards in the American Region in the 2020 survey series.Compensation for protection: Court-ordered guardianship issues.. “

Over the course of seven years, ABC Action News’ Team I survey investigated the issue of many parents ordered by Florida courts sacrificing vulnerable older people while benefiting from care. Their report, which culminated in the multi-episode broadcast series “The Compensation for Protection,” brought about a major change in the system. These include fluctuations in state government leadership and reforms passed by the state legislature to protect vulnerable older people.

“With our commitment to make influential people accountable and give voice to those who have no voice, Scripps’ local television station takes its role as part of the Fourth Estate very seriously,” he said. Local Media President said Brian Christopher“The ABC Action News I team survey on abuse in the guardianship process is a powerful example of the important role that local journalists play in our community across the country. Abuse of power over light.”

The 4th Estate Awards have been awarded annually by the American Legion for outstanding achievements in the field of journalism since 1958. The 2021 nominations were considered in three categories: broadcast, print and online media.They were selected and announced by the organization’s Media Communications Committee earlier this month. Monday, May 24..

“The American Legion has always respected the important role of the free press,” said James W. “Bill” Oxford, commander of the American Legion, in a press release. I will. “The American Legion would not have been as effective without our position at the national and community levels and media coverage of the program. The 4th Estate Awards were the best of the best. It’s much better than regular media coverage, but it also has positive consequences for people’s lives and problems. ” 

View the complete list of winners at.


Judge rejects bid to toss DNA in incapacitated woman’s rape

A former nurse charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility has lost a bid to throw out DNA evidence that authorities say links him to the crime

PHOENIX -- A former nurse charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman who later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care facility has lost a bid to throw out DNA evidence that authorities say links him to the crime.

A judge on Monday rejected Nathan Sutherland’s claim that investigators made a misrepresentation when saying in a request for a court order that 36 male Hacienda Healthcare employees whose DNA was being sought had direct access to the victim. Sutherland’s lawyer argued police were unaware of the job duties of the 36 men or whether they had contact with the then-29-year-old victim.

“The victim had been in a vegetative state since the age of three," Judge Stephen Hopkins wrote. “It was a very logical deduction that one of the male employees/agents who were present at the facility would be the father.”

The judge also rejected Sutherland’s characterization that police had a casual approach to the investigation. Hopkins said there was no evidence to suggest, as Sutherland has, that a routine order to collect evidence was signed by a court official to save face politically in a high-profile investigation.

It’s unknown whether Sutherland will appeal the ruling. His attorney, Edwin Molina, didn’t immediately return a phone call and email Tuesday morning seeking comment on the decision.

The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 when an employee at the Hacienda Healthcare facility in Phoenix was changing the garments of the victim and noticed the patient was in the process of delivering a child. Employees told police that they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

Police have said Sutherland’s DNA matched a sample taken from the woman’s son. The victim’s mother is the boy’s guardian.

The surprise birth triggered reviews by state agencies, highlighted safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated, and prompted the resignations of Hacienda’s chief executive and one of the victim’s doctors.

It led to a lawsuit from the victim’s parents that alleged Sutherland had cared for their daughter on hundreds of occasions from 2012 through 2018, despite promises from the state — which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities — that only women would tend to her.

An expert on behalf of her family has said many of Sutherland’s encounters with the patient occurred overnight, when fewer staff members and visitors were around.

Lawyers for the family also said Hacienda missed dozens of signs that the woman was carrying a baby, pointing out that she had gained weight, had a swollen belly and missed menstrual periods in the months before the child was born.

They said the victim, who has a feeding tube and whose nutrition was reduced in response to her weight gain during the pregnancy, delivered the boy while severely dehydrated and without pain medications.

The victim lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the child’s birth. Her medical conditions stem from a brain disorder that caused motor and cognitive impairments and vision loss. She was also left with no functional use of her limbs.

Full Article & Source:
See Also: 
Arizona, 2 doctors sued over rape of incapacitated woman 

Trial Date Set For Man Accused Of Raping Incapacitated Woman At Hacienda Healthcare

Judge orders former Hacienda nurse accused of raping patient to take HIV test pending appeal

Arizona care unit where incapacitated woman gave birth to stay open

Hacienda HealthCare to cease operation at South Phoenix facility

Arizona governor calls for stronger protections after incapacitated woman’s pregnancy

Ex-nurse accused of impregnating a severely disabled Arizona woman pleads not guilty

Lawyer: No proof nurse raped Arizona patient who had baby

Nurse arrested in rape of woman in vegetative state who gave birth at care facility

Center where comatose woman had baby faced criminal probe

Lawyer: Incapacitated woman who gave birth not in coma

Patient alleges abuse at Hacienda Healthcare, two staff members placed on leave

Facility CEO resigns after woman in vegetative state gives birth; new allegations emerge

Patient in vegetative state gives birth, sex abuse investigation underway: report

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

DMVA is partnering with the Ministry of Aging to protect older veterans from abuse

WILKES-BARRE — The Military and Veterans Affairs Department (DMVA) is a webinar recently aimed at educating veteran advocates on how to identify and properly report abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older veterans. We have partnered with the Aging Bureau (PDA).

More than half of Pennsylvania veterans are over 60 years old. Factors that endanger older veterans include social isolation, disability, cognitive impairment, mental illness, substance use disorders, accessible assets, family / caregiver sense of rights, dependence on caregivers, and generations. There is a history of abuse during.

Four free 60-minute webins provided by DMVA and PDA’s Conservation Services Department educated advocates of the Elderly Protection Services Act (OAPSA) Act. Webins focused on how to recognize signs of abuse (injury, deprivation, harassment), neglect (failure to provide essential goods and services), exploitation (unwelcome behavior by caretakers), and how to write reports. It was.

The law requires facility employees or managers to report allegations of abuse, but veteran advocates are not required to report. Free webins are an important tool for caring and advocating veterans to learn how to properly report signs of neglect, abuse, and concerns. The webinar was attended by over 230 veteran advocates.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Aging Department and other veterans advocates to assist veterans,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Sindler, Deputy General of Pennsylvania and Deputy Secretary of DMVA. Served as an excellent means to educate and inform citizens about the vulnerabilities experienced by many older veterans. Our veterans are our limit to their services. We have earned no support and gratitude, they deserve it, and we need to do everything we can to prevent them from experiencing fraud. “

Aging Secretary Robert Torres said the Elderly Protection Services Act plays an important role in much of what the Ministry of Aging does.

“Learn about conservation services helps defenders, veterans, and all seniors understand how OAPSA can help protect the vulnerable aging population in Pennsylvania,” Torres said. “DMVA has brought together members of the government, aging, law, finance, law enforcement, and medical fields to create a practical solution to prevent economic exploitation of the elderly. Financial exploitation of the elderly. He is also a good collaborator in the Task Force, mitigating the effects of such exploitation. “

With the continued increase in economic exploitation and other elder abuse, the Ministry of Aging is calling for a significant renewal of OAPSA. More than 30 years after OAPSA became a legal guide to the protection of senior Pennsylvanians on PDAs, the agency said, the amount, type and extent of abuse has increased dramatically.

According to the Department’s Annual Report on Elderly Protection Services from 2019 to 2020, cases of suspected elder abuse have increased by 80% over the past five years.

When someone faces the decision to take care of an elderly family member, their ability to handle that responsibility and its impact on other family members should be considered in the following ways:

• Be realistic about what you can do.

• Know your financial resources and the cost of caring for that person.

• Seek external help and support groups.

• Look around the house. Is it easy for the elderly and disabled to move around?

• Know if other family members will occasionally lend a hand.

If you suspect abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly veteran, you can report it by calling 1-800-490-8505.

“For those who served” package

Bill passes House Committee

House Rep. R-Harveys Lake, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, decided to support veterans and their families by increasing state funding and strengthening the state’s veterans program. Announced a unanimous passage of the focused bill. ..

Additional legislation aims to further improve the state’s Veterans Oversight Commission.

“It is imperative that we bravely serve, recognize and respect all those who have fought for this great federation and nation,” said Bobuck. “We are approaching Memorial Day. , July 4th celebration, as the founding of this great country approaches, the Commission unanimously passed 12 bills and resolutions. I retired through the legislation passed by the Commission this week. We are very proud of what we are doing to honor military personnel and military personnel in various ways. Some of the legislation passed is to add members to the Veterans Commission to propose reforms. Yes, and some will increase the funding needed for many state veteran programs that Pennsylvania must offer. We look forward to each being enacted. “

House Bills 164, 941, 995, 1055, 1057, 1220, 1389, 1421, 1427. House Resolutions 96 and 103; Senate Bill 155 unanimously passed the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparation Committee.

The bill is currently being considered throughout the House of Representatives.

Veterans Commemorative Trust

The fund provides an ideal way pay

Pay tribute to those who have served

Memorial Day Holiday is a permanent respect for the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Anvil, Lebanon County, for those who served our state and nation during times of war and peace. Is reminded every year.

The largest veterans monument in the National Cemetery.

The Military and Veterans Affairs Department (DMVA) suggests that donating to a monumental trust fund is an ideal way to pay homage to those who have served our country.

“Many American military heroes are no longer with us, but their legacy of service and sacrifice lives on in our hearts and our commitment to commemorate their lives. “I’m on behalf of the Deputy General of Pennsylvania, DMVA. “The Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial is a reminiscent of the true sacrifices of war and a sacred place to visit and reflect on all those who have done selfless service to our country before us. . “

According to Schindler, 100% of the donation will go to ongoing maintenance costs such as landscaping, lighting and fountains, as well as the necessary maintenance of the entire monument’s structure and cosmetics.

Donations to the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial Trust Fund can be made online at:

— Mail the check to or the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial Trust Fund and mail it to:

— DMVA office, building of the Department of Veterans Affairs. 9-26, Fort Indiantown Gap, Anvil, PA 17003-5002. Donations can be made “as a memorial,” “as a memorial,” or “on behalf of you.”

Full Article & Source:

Moment of Remembrance | Memorial Day 2020

Every year on Memorial Day, the Moment of Remembrance invites Americans to pause for one minute to remember those who served, while listening to Taps—the bugle call played at military funerals.

Shouldn't we remember everyday - not just one day a year?

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Exploitation case puts veteran’s wish for cremation, honor guard on hold

Retired Marine Peter "Chris" Christoff poses for a picture with his longtime friend Steve Miller in 2009. (Courtesy of Steve Miller).

By Briana Erickson

In the months before he died, Peter “Chris” Christoff began to decline.

The retired Marine had long been a feisty figure at local government meetings, where he sported a clenched fist and earned the nickname “Pissed off Christoff.”

But his mind started to fade in August when Veterans Affairs doctors diagnosed him with dementia and revoked his driving rights. Agitated by losing his freedom, Christoff cut off his longtime friends.

In November, he bequeathed his entire estate to his neighbor, Carolyn Richardson. He died less than three months later.

The decorated war veteran was “systematically isolated and exploited by” Richardson, according to the woman’s arrest report.

While she controlled his money, $30,000 and his car went missing.

Officers arrested Richardson on May 7 after a monthslong investigation by Adult Protective Services and the Metropolitan Police Department. She is charged with two counts of attempted theft, exploitation of an older or vulnerable person, neglect of an older or vulnerable person, isolation of an older or vulnerable person and theft.

Christoff, who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, didn’t have a family. He had named his longtime friend, former Las Vegas Councilman Steve Miller, as his fiduciary and gave him power of attorney before Richardson.

Although the Las Vegas police report only identified the victim as a military veteran, documents Miller provided to the Review-Journal identify the victim as Christoff.

With Memorial Day approaching, Miller said he is committed to carrying out his friends’ dying wishes. Christoff wanted to be cremated and have an honor guard ceremony at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

But those plans are in limbo. Until the ongoing probate case is resolved, Christoff’s body will remain at La Paloma Funeral Services.

“This is so disrespectful for a man like him, a war hero,” Miller said. “Mr. Christoff would want people to know what happened to him so it wouldn’t happen to anyone else.”

A veteran’s final months

Christoff was discharged from the VA on Aug. 9, and his doctors recommended that he be placed in a 24-hour-care facility. Miller said he would find a facility for him.

The veteran stayed with Miller and his family for two days before he found his hidden car keys and angrily drove to his mobile home. He felt he was being held captive because he couldn’t drive, police said.

It was the last time Miller saw his friend of more than 30 years, despite attempts to reconnect with him.

Christoff was like family to the Millers. He was there when their daughter, Sarah Ann, was born. She called him grandfather. He spent every Thanksgiving at their home.

But last Thanksgiving, he was alone in his mobile home while Richardson traveled to Texas, according to the arrest report. He was dehydrated and malnourished.

On Dec. 17, Christoff checked himself into the hospital and later was transferred to a nursing home. On Jan. 29, he was placed in Nathan Adelson Hospice.

While he was at the hospital, he continually told doctors that he “didn’t do anything wrong,” according to the arrest report.

Christoff died Feb. 7 from senile degeneration of the brain.

When a detective interviewed Richardson, she said Christoff was of sound mind. But later, she told the detective that his dementia was worsening, according to her arrest report.

She told the detective that she started to care for Christoff because her husband had just died and Christoff lived two doors down.

“He just started coming over and we started talkin’,” Richardson said, according to the report. “I was in a bad way, and I guess he was too. And he kinda asked me if I would, you know, take care of him.”

Noted in the arrest report was that Christoff intended to leave tens of thousands of dollars to military and children’s charities.

A copy of the updated will shows that $130,000 meant for those charities was reduced to $19,000 and the rest of the estate was to go to Richardson.

Activism in the community

Christoff was a decorated war veteran and frequent character in the political theater of Las Vegas City Council and Clark County Commission meetings. He even filed lawsuits against the city to make himself heard.

He ran unsuccessfully against Michael McDonald, a former Las Vegas city councilman, to represent Ward 1. Though they battled it out in politics, McDonald said he connected with Christoff on veterans issues.

“We had some colorful times,” McDonald said. “It’s sad to lose someone like that for Nevada and for Las Vegas. He put a lot of energy into trying to make the city better.”

Christoff pushed officials to address dangerous and deadly bus shelters and to install cameras in cabs to deter armed robberies, and he fiercely supported the installation of the USO station at McCarran International Airport.

“He took on the whole town,” Miller recalled. “With so much goodwill, and always for the right reason and so much humor. He was so funny and so clever and so obnoxious.”

Whenever he was particularly heated, he would say, “The Marines have landed.”

“Whenever he told people that, I’d say, ‘Get out of his way,’” Miller said. “He was like a bull in a china shop.”

In 2010, the airport was the only major airline hub in the country with no designated rest area for military personnel, including those who have long layovers while en route to war zones.

At times, 200 service members would be sleeping on the floor in the airport, recalled Chuck Lombardo, an Air Force veteran who worked at the airport and teamed up with Christoff for the cause.

One time, Christoff ordered pizza and sodas for the hundreds of troops sleeping at the airport. He made billboards that drove up and down the Strip to call attention to the need for a USO station.

In a Review-Journal article from 2009, Christoff described himself as the “squeaky wheel” that kept bringing the issue before the commission.

“To really know him was to sit down with him,” Lombardo said. “I was gifted to be able to be a friend.”

Christoff also vehemently opposed the Crazy Horse Too gentlemen’s club and the violence that surrounded it.

City law prohibited a liquor license from being granted within 1,500 feet of a church. So after the Crazy Horse Too lost its liquor license, Christoff opened Little Church of Las Vegas, a 500-square-foot space in a rundown strip mall nearby. He became a deacon and installed a pulpit and a giant cross.

In a 2006 interview with the Review-Journal, Christoff denied opening the church to scuttle liquor license efforts.

“I didn’t find God. God found me,” Christoff said.

Brad Jerbic, who served as city attorney, disagreed and advised the council not to consider the church in making a decision on the Crazy Horse Too.

“He was never a person who was very shy. He was very vocal and very passionate,” Jerbic remembered recently. “I appreciated the fact that he brought that with him, even if we disagreed on some things.”

A Memorial Day tradition

Christoff grew up in Boston in a Greek family and had a sixth-grade education. He was a fantastic ballroom dancer and a confirmed bachelor. He worked in the restaurant and limousine business.

Miller said he met him while he was serving as a city councilman and Christoff had just moved to Las Vegas from Cupertino, California. The retired Marine staff sergeant approached him with a sharp-looking mustache and asked him to help put on the city’s first Veterans Day Parade.

Navy veteran Mike Christ, another longtime friend, said that was typical for Christoff.

“Chris was the epitome of an American patriot,” he said.

Every year on Memorial Day, Christoff would visit Nevada Veterans Memorial near the Sawyer Building. One aspect of the memorial always bothered him: It’s not etched with the names of the state’s fallen service members.

“I swear to God, he cried when he couldn’t get them to finish that wall,” Christ said.

In a 2018 interview with the Review-Journal, Christoff was emphatic about the names that had not been etched on the state memorial.

“When I pledge something, I do it. We need to fulfill our respects to our men and women,” he said. “Life is really rare and very precious.”

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2012 Holliston Citizen of the Year arraigned on larceny charges, misusing clients' money

by Norman Miller 

WOBURN – A former Holliston “Citizen of the Year,” who served 12 years as a town selectman, is accused of misusing clients' money when he was an attorney.

Andrew Porter, 58, who now lives in Whitinsville, pleaded not guilty at his Middlesex Superior Court arraignment on Thursday to four counts of larceny by false pretense of more than $250. He is accused of using more than $71,000 of fraudulently obtained money for his own use.

Judge Helene Kazanjian released Porter without bail, but ordered him to not engage in selling securities, loans and other investments. He is due back in court on June 11.

Porter had already been disbarred for the financial fraud. In 2018, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers disbarred Porter, alleging financial misconduct. That included billing his former firm and clients for personal expenses, intentional misuse of client trust account funds, and keeping a client’s retainer instead of giving it to his firm.

Andrew Porter, left, is seen in this 2016 Daily News file photo.

Former Holliston Citizen of the Year

Porter was temporarily suspended from the bar in October 2015 while the investigation was underway. The March decision was retroactive to October. Porter was admitted to the bar in December 1988.

Later that year, Porter was found to be in contempt of that order when he offered divorce mediation services despite not having a license to do so. Porter denied the allegation but said he was not going to fight the order.

A list of accomplishments on his former business website included several family law awards, as well as his involvement in Project Just Because and Celebrate Holliston, his 2012 Holliston Citizen of the Year award and his four-time chairmanship of the 495 Corridor Partnership.

He was also a Holliston selectman for 12 years, according to Daily News archives.

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St. Anthony: How a lawyer built a business helping seniors visit the places they've dreamed about

Retired Dr. Tony Stifter and Carol Giuliani, owner of Senior Travel Companion Services, on a tour of Scotland in 2018.

A couple of years ago, Carol Giuliani was helping an elderly fellow from Iowa dress for a wedding at a resort on a lake in central Minnesota.

Giuliani, no longer a stranger with the man after a long drive, learned about his experience in the Korean War.

"I remember at one point, while he was getting dressed, that he looked at me and said, 'You're a lawyer and you're here helping me get into my Depends,' " Giuliani recalled with a chuckle. "I told him, 'That's OK, everybody needs some help sometime.' "

Guiliani, 62, is a one-time securities lawyer who became a Volunteers of America (VOA)-trained legal guardian and now owns Senior Travel Companion Services, a business that combines her experience caring for older folks with a passion for travel.

"I raised three sons," Guiliani said. "I can do anything."

The trips have ranged from an 87-year-old's first tour of the United Kingdom to helping a dementia-plagued senior from Bangladesh visit his daughter in Florida to escorting elderly who need assistance to enjoy the wedding of a grandchild.

"I feel that I've always been pretty good with seniors," Giuliani said. "I understand them."

At 15, Giuliani would visit with elderly, including Holocaust survivors, when she worked at a St. Louis Park nursing home during high school. She's an empathetic listener.

"Now I help veterans of the Vietnam War," Guiliani said. "People say I have the right personality."

Guiliani was in her 20s and studying law when her father was incapacitated by a stroke at age 56. She learned the legalities and practicalities of overseeing his care, which lasted for 25 years.

After leaving securities law, she formalized her work by training to become a court-appointed guardian and conservator. They make medical and financial decisions for people who are unable to make their own decisions due to age, illness or injury.

"I did that for 27 years," Giuliani said. "I was one of the few guardians who was a lawyer. I took it up because of my dad. The VOA trained me and referred folks to me and I worked pro bono for those who lacked money.

"I also would be asked to step in and take over when there was a dysfunctional family. But I mostly worked for folks who didn't have a family. I also was raising my family. At most I would have six or seven clients. It can be tough. I could be in bed at 1 a.m. and get a call from a doctor about an operation for a client."

Giuliani phased out of that work but she didn't want to retire completely. Her kids were out of college and her husband was still working at his boutique law firm. She wanted to travel more. She assisted an elderly acquaintance with a trip and enjoyed it.

Some colleagues started referring clients. And families who couldn't agree whether an elderly relative should travel or on who should help discovered her.

"I plan my trips like a military operation," Giuliani said. "Including the oxygen tanks, the hotels and the Ubers. I do my best to always get them from door to door and back safely."

Guiliani charges an upfront fee of $100 and a daily fee of around $400 to $500. Some added costs come in depending on transportation or the mental and physical health of the traveler.

Giuliani is a frequent flyer and her ability to find discounts and seat upgrades with airlines and rental car companies means she often can work out discounted packages for clients. She said she prefers to stay with friends and relatives in several cities rather than a hotel, which can also save money for the client.

Dr. Tony Stifter, a retired Minnesota family doctor who lives in suburban St. Paul, hired Giuliani to travel with him on his inaugural trip to the United Kingdom in 2018. He was 87 and needed a walker as he recovered from a broken leg.

"We had a great time," Stifter said. "We flew to Edinburgh and wound up in London. We went everywhere and we didn't stop for much of anything.

"That's the first time I've had a guide, as such. With her help, she studied our plan of where we wanted to go, got the transportation, the tickets for the train and tours. She was worth the money. She has quite a niche."

Giuliani joked that she should charge more for extremely demanding families and once upped the ante for the wife of a man with Parkinson's disease, for a second assisted trip, "because her dog bit me."

"I present people an estimate on what everything will cost for that trip," Giuliani said. "And if they don't agree or can't afford it, we chat and I try to work with them. And I will give you a better rate to go to Mexico in January than July."

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Monday, May 31, 2021

The Grandmother Who Won Her Elder Fraud Case Against Her Grandsons

By Richard Eisenberg

The Beverley Schottenstein $80 million elder financial fraud story is one you won't believe. But, as my "Friends Talk Money" podcast co-hosts and I explained in our two latest episodes, it's one you need to know about to protect your parents from becoming victims themselves.

Schottenstein, 94, recently won $19 million in her arbitration case against J.P. Morgan Securities and her grandsons Avi and Evan Schottenstein, her brokers there for five years, ostensibly managing her millions. (Schottenstein is matriarch of the family's Columbus, Ohio retail dynasty, whose stores included Value City and American Eagle Outfitters AEO -1.5%.)

Problem is, the grandsons wouldn't tell their grandmother what stocks they were buying and selling. They made hundreds of transactions this way, Schottenstein said.

"I would call and say, 'Now, what's going on, boys? I want to know.'" Schottenstein, who lives in Florida, told "Friends Talk Money" co-host Pam Krueger. (You can listen to the whole episode wherever you get podcasts.)

But, Schottenstein said, her grandsons told her only that they were doing well for her.

When the Brokerage Statements Stopped Coming

After Schottenstein insisted they check with her before trading in her account, her brokerage statements stopped coming. When she complained about that to her grandsons and got no satisfaction, Schottenstein got J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on the phone.

"I was very upset talking to Jamie," Schottenstein recalled. "He said: 'I'm going to let you talk to my Number One Man." She then spoke to that man, told him her story and started crying. "And he said: 'I'm going to take care of it immediately. Don't worry. Don't worry.' I never heard back from any of them."

Ultimately, Schottenstein went to arbitration through FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) because retail investors can't take their brokers to court.

"J.P. Morgan made millions of dollars just in commissions and those commissions were also split with Evan and Avi," Schottenstein's granddaughter Cathy, a first cousin of Avi and Evan Schottenstein, said on the podcast. She's writing a book about the case and her grandmother, who she calls Nanny ("Twisted: Conflict, Madness and the Redemptive Power of a Granddaughter's Love"). 

Schottenstein's granddaughter sad that at one point, J.P. Morgan Securities froze her grandmother out of her own account and that the grandsons wrongly said she had dementia.

"Friends Talk Money" co-host Terry Savage said that after Schottenstein persevered and won the case in February 2021, J.P. Morgan Chase issued a statement saying that "the brokers involved are no longer with our firm" and "do not reflect the values of our firm." The grandsons' attorney said the $19 million award was inconsistent with the evidence presented at the FINRA hearing. 

FINRA permanently banned Evan Schottenstein in April 2021. The Schottenstein brothers have asked a court to nullify the arbitration panel's ruling.

The Lousy Odds of Winning in Arbitration

Most investors going through FINRA arbitration — where decisions are final — don't win a dime. When I checked the FINRA site, I learned that customers were only awarded damages 32% of the time in 2020, and that's down from 45% in 2019.

Even if you do win, Louis Straney, managing partner at the Arbitration Insight firm in Lamy, N. M., told "Friends Talk Money," you're "seldom fully made whole, because of attorney's fees and litigation costs and other expenses." The average filing fee with FINRA is about $1,200; the larger the case, the higher the fees, according to

The new Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler recently told Congress he favored legislation known as the Investor Choice Act that would let investors take brokers to court rather than arbitration.

Schottenstein's case and the FINRA arbitration realities show why it's so important for investors to watch their brokers like a hawk. And if they spot irregularities — such as churning of their accounts through excessive trading — they need to report this to the firm and to financial authorities.

"It's important that you have someone on your side to speak up," said Savage. And, she advised, put your accusations about unauthorized trading in writing.

First, send them to the brokerage firm's branch manager. If you get no results, Savage said, take it up the chain of command.

"Don't be shy about reaching out to the state securities administrator," said Krueger. "It's really important that people can recognize the red flags and follow in Beverley's footsteps and speak up."

Savage noted that the FINRA site's BrokerCheck area can also tell you whether there have been regulatory actions, arbitration cases and complaints against a broker.

Elder Financial Abuse: A $3 Billion Problem

While the dollars in Schottenstein's case may be astronomical, elder financial abuse is a serious problem for many mere older mortals on the planet. As Savage noted: "It's such a sad story. And unfortunately, it's not all that uncommon."

Estimates of elder financial fraud and abuse vary, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation said older Americans suffered $3 billion in losses in 2019. The average loss per case: about $18,000.

"About ninety percent of perpetrators of elder financial abuse are actually the children of the spouses or the caretakers," said Savage. But, I noted, many of these cases aren't reported because the victims are embarrassed or humiliated or they don't want to get a loved one in trouble or cause a family rift.

Schottenstein told "Friends Talk Money" that the whole financial exploitation experience was very upsetting for her. "I started losing my hair," she said. "Thank goodness it's coming back to me."

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Disbarred Bellmore attorney accused of stealing escrow funds

Gregg A. Luckman charged by Nassau County DA's office

An Appellate Division committee disbarred him a month later amid an investigation of professional misconduct. (iStock)

The Nassau County District Attorney’s office has charged a disbarred Bellmore attorney with grand larceny, and accused him of stealing $372,500 in escrow funds from a client, according to Newsday.

Gregg A. Luckman represented a client in the $7.4 million sale of a Manhattan apartment in June 2018.

An Appellate Division committee disbarred him a month later amid an investigation of professional misconduct, including allegations of misappropriation of client funds and failure to safeguard escrow funds. He had requested his resignation as an attorney.

He agreed that no money would move from accounts he had access to, but continued to represent that client in the deal, according to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

He took a $555,000 down payment from the purchaser, but instead of releasing those funds to his client, he allegedly used those himself and paid his client $175,000 from other accounts.

The 53-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison, according to the report.

Similarly, New York attorney Mitch Kossoff is under pressure for going silent when his clients started asking about their escrow accounts, fearing he had stolen their money. In late April, news came that Kossoff forged his mother’s signature for $2.6 million in loans. [Newsday] — Dennis Lynch
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N.J. man charged in 'grandparent' scam targeting Keene resident


A New Jersey man has been charged with conspiring to steal $50,000 from an elderly Keene resident in an alleged “grandparent scam” in November, according to court documents.

The N.H. Attorney General’s Office obtained indictments Monday charging Elvis Guzman, 43, of Paterson, N.J., with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. Both are class A felonies.

Keene police previously arrested another person — Starlyn J. Lara Pimental, 27, of Hyde Park, Mass. — in connection with the alleged scam.

Prosecutors claim that Guzman worked with Lara Pimental and at least one other person to defraud an 86-year-old Keene man. The charges allege an “unknown coconspirator” contacted the man on Nov. 2 pretending to be the man’s grandson, claimed he’d been arrested after an accident and asked for $18,000 for bail.

Guzman traveled to Keene that day, met the man in a parking lot and received $18,000 in cash from him, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors say one of the conspirators contacted the Keene man again the next day requesting another $32,000 and sent Lara Pimental to Keene to pick it up, where he was arrested.

In announcing the arrest of Lara Pimental in November, Keene police said a bank teller recognized the scam when the Keene man tried to withdraw cash a second time, and convinced him to contact his family and the police. According to a news release from the Keene Police Department, officers arranged a sting resulting in Lara Pimental’s arrest when he showed up to obtain the cash.

Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s Office announced Guzman had been indicted in Rockingham County on four other counts, alleging he “conspired with others to obtain cash from 11 elderly victims throughout the State” over several days in late October, according to a news release from the office. The Attorney General’s Office said the suspects falsely told people their grandchildren had been arrested, asked for money to post bail and — as is also alleged to have happened in the Keene case — sometimes told the grandparents a “gag order” prohibited them from talking about the arrest.

The Rockingham County indictments allege Guzman and his partners stole more than $100,000 from New Hampshire residents in those four days. He was arrested Nov. 6 by Londonderry police, according to the news release.

Grandparent scams are common and can involve callers claiming they are the victim’s grandchild and have been robbed, arrested, in an accident, hospitalized or stuck in a foreign country, according to the AARP. Often, the supposed “grandchild” will hand the phone over to someone seemingly authoritative, like a supposed doctor or lawyer, and ask their grandparent not to tell their parents.

To report elder abuse or financial exploitation, call your local police department or the N.H. Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services at 1-800-949-0470.

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