Saturday, June 19, 2021

$2.5M Expansion Of Program To Fight Elderly Abuse: Cuomo

"We believe in standing up for the fair, equal treatment of all of our citizens and protecting our most vulnerable, including the elderly."

by Lisa Finn 

The effort is meant to help adults 60 or older who are at risk for harm or exploitation due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment or dementia, and social isolation, the governor said. (Courtesy Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office.)

LONG ISLAND, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $2.5 million expansion of a program meant to fight back against abuse of the elderly in New York State.

On Friday, Cuomo announced the infusion of funding to benefit the enhanced multidisciplinary teams initiative, which protects vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.

The funding, which will be provided annually through September 2022, assists adults 60 and older who are at risk due to physical limitations, cognitive impairment or dementia, and social isolation and expands access to forensic accountants, geriatric psychiatrists/mental health professionals, and civil legal services, Cuomo said.

Developed by the State Office for the Aging and the state's Office of Victim Services, the program currently serves 51 counties covering 92 percent of older adults, making New York's program the first of its kind in the nation and tripling the number of teams targeting elder abuse, a release said.

"In New York, we believe in standing up for the fair and equal treatment of all of our citizens and protecting our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly," Cuomo said. 

The initial three-year investment that launched the E-MDT initiative in 2017 totaled $8.4 million; the investment consisted of federal Victims of Crime Act funds provided by the Office of Victim Services combined with a state investment provided by the New York State Office for the Aging. NYSOFA partnered with Lifespan of Greater Rochester, based in Monroe County, and Weill Cornell Medicine's New York City Elder Abuse Center to manage, monitor, and distribute the funding, Cuomo said.

Since 2017, E-MDT coordinators have received approximately 1,600 referrals and 670 victims have received advocacy services; in that same time period, E-MDT interventions resulted in approximately $645,000 in restitution being ordered by the courts for victims of financial exploitation cases, Cuomo said.

OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin reflected: "The isolation that is a reality for many elderly citizens creates conditions that make them especially vulnerable to exploitation and less likely to report when they are victims of crime."

Crime victims who were 60 or older filed a total of 5,673 claims for assistance between January 2018 and December 2020, and 3,789 were approved by OVS during that time, a release said.

Statistics show that one in 10 people older than 65 fall victim to some form of elder abuse each year, Cuomo said. New York State's committee for the coordination of police services to elderly persons, which is supported by staff from the state's division of criminal justice services, assists law enforcement agencies and programs by providing training and tools so they can better serve New York's older population.

Training covers topics including strategies to use when responding to calls for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and how advocates, service providers, and adult protective services professionals can collaborate with law enforcement on elder abuse cases. The committee also developed an elder abuse toolkit outlining various forms of elder abuse; investigative checklists; training documents, videos and online courses; New York State specific statutes related to elder abuse; and informational brochures.

In addition, the state said, OVS provides a "safety net" for crime victims and their family members, compensating eligible individuals for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, in addition to other assistance. For additional information, click here.
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3 arrested, accused of illegally selling elderly woman’s land in Coconut Grove

By Raphael Pires

MIAMI (WSVN) - Authorities have announced the arrests of three people accused of illegally selling an elderly woman’s land, as they work to crack down on elderly exploitation in South Florida.

State and local officials gathered on Friday to put a stop to a growing problem in South Florida.

“We will not tolerate elderly abuse and exploitation,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “Without a doubt, those who exploit and prey on our elderly residents have a cold, cold heart. These types of deed scams appear to be on the rise.”

Fernandez Rundle announced the arrests of Otis Lathen Powell, Shantel Vennissa Chang and Jason Webley Sr. in connection to a recent false deed fraud case. The three stand accused of illegally selling a piece of property in Coconut Grove owned by an elderly woman. 

“She only discovered the deed fraud when she went to go pay her annual property taxes to the Tax Appraiser’s Office, and she was told they had been paid,” Fernandez Rundle said.

The three allegedly targeted a plot of land owned by 86-year-old Shirley Gibson. The plot, which had been in her family for over 100 years, was stolen and sold without her knowing, according to officials.

Investigators added that someone had forged Gibson’s name onto a quitclaim deed.

“Thank God they caught the people who were involved,” Gibson said. “Be aware, be cognizant of what’s going on because it could happen to you.”

Elderly exploitation is a problem in Florida that has worsened since the coronavirus pandemic began last year. In 2020, there were 9,252 cases in Florida, which ranks second in the U.S. behind California.

“These scams are becoming all too common, especially after COVID-19,” Miami-Dade Police Assistant Chief Armando Aguilar said.

Earlier this week, a masseuse was captured on video stealing jewelry from an elderly woman in Coral Gables, police said.

“Detectives in this case set up a surveillance camera, and it was able to be easily confirmed, as you see in the video, that the masseuse was actually stealing jewelry from her,” a Coral Gables Police detective said.

Officials said it is important for family members to stay connected and educate their elderly loved ones to help prevent fraud from happening.

“Our grandparents, our elderly neighbors, they need more,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “They need all of our help.”

Fernandez Rundle and Levine Cava said they want to create a task force to combat crimes against the elderly.

Gibson, meanwhile, is expected to get her property returned.

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Former group home employee stole $81K from residents, Van Buren County deputies say

by Beth Waldon

An audit revealed $81,964.35 had been stolen from 13 residents living at Tenco of Center Village in Keosauqua, sometime between April 2017 and April 2018/KTVO

KEOSAUQUA, Iowa — A former caretaker at a Van Buren County residential facility is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from residents’ accounts.

Marris Romel Whitfield, 45, of Burlington, was arrested in May after an audit revealed $81,964.35 had been stolen from 13 residents living at Tenco of Center Village in Keosauqua.

Court documents allege Whitfield stole the money from residents’ personal allowance accounts. She’s also accused of pocketing their social security checks. It happened sometime between April 2017 and July 2018. Whitfield was the only employee with authority to access those accounts, according to investigators.

Whitfield was no longer an employee of the facility when the suspicious activity was discovered in an audit.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals assisted with the investigation. Van Buren County authorities were notified in January.

Whitfield is now charged with 13 counts of dependent adult abuse, three counts of first-degree theft, nine counts of second-degree theft, one count of third-degree theft and ongoing criminal conduct. She made her first court appearance in Van Buren County Thursday, and she has been released from custody on her own recognizance.

An arraignment is set for July 9, 2021.

First Resources Corporation, which merged with Tenco Industries last year, oversees operations at the Keosauqua facility. Marc Roe, Chief Strategic Officer at First Resources, declined to comment on the case since it is an ongoing legal matter.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Senate Holds Hearing On Caregiving For Older Americans And People With Disabilities

 The Senate Aging Committee holds a hearing entitled, "21st Century Caregiving: Supporting Workers, Family Caregivers, Seniors, and People with Disabilities."


Disbarred lawyer can't discharge debt he owes state bar for client losses, bankruptcy judge says

By Debra Cassens Weiss

A disbarred California lawyer can’t use a bankruptcy to discharge more than $2 million in debt that is owed to a fund used to reimburse his former clients, a federal bankruptcy judge has ruled.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ernest M. Robles of Los Angeles ruled against former lawyer Anthony Joseph Kassas in a June 14 opinion.

The State Bar of California’s Client Security Fund had made more than $1.3 million in payments to 356 of Kassas’ former clients. With interest and processing costs, Kassas owes the state bar more than $2 million.

Kassas was disbarred in 2014 partly for misconduct in representation of financially distressed homeowners.

According to Robles, Kassas falsely stated in advertising that he had filed litigation against various banks. He then collected fees ranging from $1,500 to $4,500 to help the homeowners obtain loan modifications but “failed to competently perform the promised legal services,” Robles said.

The state bar conceded that Kassas could discharge the more than $200,000 in restitution payments ordered by the California Supreme Court. And Kassas agreed that he could not discharge assessed disciplinary costs.

But the parties disagreed on whether the security fund debt could be discharged. California argued that the debt is a fine, penalty or forfeiture payable to a governmental unit that can’t be discharged. Kassas maintained that the debt can be erased because the state bar is acting as a conduit to reimburse third parties.

Other bankruptcy courts have held that client security fund debt can’t be discharged based on the premise that attorney reimbursement is rehabilitative and not compensatory.

“The court finds the reasoning of these cases to be persuasive,” Robles wrote.

Robles certified a direct appeal of his decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco.

Hat tip to Bloomberg Law, which had coverage of the decision.

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Guardians Must Report Felony, Misdemeanor Charges

By Anne Yeager

The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted rules requiring guardians to report any pending felony and misdemeanor charges to the local probate court that appointed the guardianship.

The rule amendment became effective June 1.

For six years, the Rules of Superintendence have required guardians to undergo a criminal background check or, if the guardian is a licensed Ohio attorney, to provide a certificate of good standing issued by the Supreme Court. This rule remains in effect.

Neither a background check nor a certificate of good standing discloses current investigations or current pending charges.

“The amendments to Sup. R. 66.05 provide more protection for the most vulnerable individuals in our community,” Stark County Probate Judge Dixie Park said.

All guardians are now also required to complete an affidavit stating that the guardian:

  • Has no pending felony or misdemeanor charges or offenses
  • Has not been adjudicated for any misdemeanor or felony, and
  • Acknowledges a duty to notify the local court within 72 hours if the information in the affidavit changes.

“The affidavit requirement eliminates any potential gap in information regarding the guardian’s background, further safeguarding our wards,” Judge Park said.

The amended Ohio Rule of Superintendence, including a sample affidavit can be found on the Supreme Court of Ohio’s website.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Allegedly Paying Illegal Kickbacks to Physicians

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

United States Files Suit Against California Skilled Nursing Chain and its Owner for Allegedly Paying Illegal Kickbacks to Physicians

The United States filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California yesterday under the False Claims Act against Paksn Inc.; Prema Thekkek, one of its owners; and seven skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) owned by Thekkek and/or operated by Paksn. Those seven SNFs are Bay Point Healthcare Center, Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center, Hayward Convalescent Hospital, Hilltop Care & Rehabilitation Center, Martinez Convalescent Hospital, Park Central Care & Rehabilitation Hospital, and Yuba Skilled Nursing Center.

The United States alleges that defendants entered into medical directorship agreements with certain physicians that purported to provide compensation for administrative services, but in reality, were vehicles for the payment of kickbacks to induce the physicians to refer patients to the seven SNFs. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering or paying anything of value to encourage the referral of items or services covered by federal health care programs. 

Specifically, the United States alleges that defendants hired certain physicians who promised in advance to refer a large number of patients to the SNFs, paid physicians in proportion to the number of expected referrals, and terminated physicians who did not refer enough patients. On one occasion, a Paksn employee told Thekkek that two physicians were being hired because “they are promising at least 10 patients for $2000 per month.” On another, Thekkek complained that if Paksn’s employees did not pay medical directors promptly every month, “[t]hese doctors will not give us patients.” On a third occasion, a Paksn employee told Thekkek that because “lately there are no real referrals” from one of the medical directors, “i am planning to say goodbye to him.”

“Illegal financial arrangements with physicians can improperly influence the type and amount of health care that is provided to patients,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to redressing the corrupting influence of kickbacks on the medical decision‑making of providers participating in federal health care programs.”

“The payment of kickbacks to physicians for referrals turns patients into commodities that can be traded,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California. “Profits should not dictate medical decisions, which is why it is illegal to pay for referrals that can cloud physicians’ medical judgment.”

The lawsuit was initially filed in December 2015 by Trilochan Singh, who was previously employed as Paksn’s Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer, under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. Those provisions authorize private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery. The Act permits the United States to intervene and take over the lawsuit, as it has done here in part. Those who violate the Act are subject to treble damages and applicable penalties. The case is captioned United States of America ex rel. Trilochan Singh v. Paksn, Inc. et al., No. 15‑cv-09064 (C.D. Cal.).

The United States’ intervention in this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

This matter is being handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch (Fraud Section) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

The claims asserted against defendants are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

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Disbarred Chesco Attorney Misappropriated $1 Million, Says D.A.

A disbarred Chester County attorney finagled to keep the money when a divorcing couple sold their home, alleges Chesco's D.A.
by Marlene Lang

Disbarred attorney Thomas Schindler moved money around to defraud a divorcing couple of the money from the sale of their home, the Chester County District Attorney's Office alleges. (Chester County District Attorney's Office)

CHESTER COUNTY, PA — A disbarred attorney finagled to keep almost $1 million as a divorcing Easttown Township couple sold their home, in a series of fraudulent transfers of their money into several of his accounts, authorities allege.

The Chester County District Attorney's Office and Easttown Township Police Department announce disbarred attorney Thomas K. Schindler is charged with theft, forgery, criminal use of a communication facility, and related offenses.

The charges stem from a 2018 financial agreement with a couple seeking a divorce, during which Schindler allegedly failed to make required transfers of more than $990,000 in proceeds from the sale of their house.

In August 2018, a couple in the process of divorcing agreed that the proceeds from the sale of their house would be held in an interest-bearing account controlled by Schindler Law Group LLC., the defendant's law practice that represented one of the alleged victims.

When the house was sold in March 2020, $991,405 was transferred to a Key Bank account in the name of Schindler's law practice. Throughout the next seven months — until November 2020 —neither of the two whose house was sold received any money from the defendant, despite repeated requests to get it, the D.A.'s report said. 

Schindler was subsequently disbarred from practicing law by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in July 2020 for an unrelated case. After the disbarment, neither of the clients could reach Schindler regarding the money he owed them.

Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said, "The defendant abused his position of trust and used every delay tactic possible to hide his illegal financial activity from these victims. He will be held accountable for his greed and all the money he stole. No one is above the law."

In October 2020, a Court of Common Pleas judge granted an Emergency Petition that requested all monies from the house proceeds be transferred to a Pitcairn Trust Company account shared by the couple, according to the report.

But in November 2020, after no money had been transferred, the couple went to the Easttown Township Police Department.

That same day, a representative of Pitcairn Trust notified the complainant that $25,000 had been transferred from Schindler's account at Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, according to the criminal complaint.

Over the next three weeks, another $225,000 was transferred to Schindler's account. None of the $250,000 in transfers originated from the Key Bank account where the money was legally required to be held, the complaint said.

During the investigation, law enforcement discovered a series of deposits, withdrawals, and transfers to and from the defendant's accounts at Key Bank, including a $991,628 deposit to the Schindler Law Group LLC's account in March 2020, according to the criminal complaint.

It was later discovered that money was moved between Key Bank accounts held by Schindler Law Group LLC and Waterbury Kitchen and Bath LLC, where Schindler and another partner are co-signers on both accounts, according to the report.

The Schindler Law Group LLC account was closed in June 2020, with the remaining $352,564 transferred to an account under Schindler's name. That account was then closed in July 2020 with money transferred to another Key Bank account, the report said. No money was transferred to the couple's Pitcairn Trust account, according to the criminal complaint.

On March 8, 2021, $170,000 was transferred to the Pitcairn Trust account from a PNC account held by the defendant, according to the report. To date, the defendant has failed to transfer over $570,000 to the couple, the District Attorney's report said.

Schindler was arraigned on June 16 before Magisterial District Judge Thomas Tartaglio. Bail was set at $25,000, and the preliminary hearing is scheduled on June 23.

Easttown Township Police Chief David Obzud said, "This arrest is a great example of a collaborative effort between our police department and the D.A.'s Office. In a very complex case, it took everyone's help to get to this point."

Easttown Township Police and Chester County Detectives are investigating. Deputy District Attorney William Judge is the assigned prosecutor.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to please call Det. Andrew Tritz at 610-341-9780 or Det. Keith Cowdright at 610-344-6866.

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Department of Aging develops strategies to help prevent elderly financial exploitation

by: Alyssa Royster

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) – June 15’th marks World Elder Abuse Day, and to raise awareness, the Department of Aging shined a light on one of the most rapidly growing forms of it, financial exploitation.

According to a study led by the department’s task force, over half of the victims are female, live alone and average 79 years of age.

The study also found that 65% of the perpetrators were family members, with 42% being adult children.

The report led the department to come up with approaches to better detect and prevent further financial exploitation among older Pennsylvanians.

“We want to design an online reporting portal that will provide a simple, easy to understand form to use in reporting suspected cases of financial exploitation,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres.

Director of Senior Protection David Shallcross gave another recommendation.

“Let’s make sure law enforcement has the tools they need…how to interview an older adult, how to understand the complexities of cognitive issues and to work within those boundaries. So what are we going to do, we’re going to have training events.”

The department is also pushing for legislative action, in that updates be made to Pennsylvania’s Older Protective Services Act.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Judge OKs $15M settlement over rape of incapacitated woman

A judge has approved a $15 million settlement against a doctor in a lawsuit by the parents of an incapacitated woman who was sexually assaulted and gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care center


PHOENIX -- A judge has approved a $15 million settlement against a doctor in a lawsuit by the parents of an incapacitated woman who was sexually assaulted and later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care center, marking the last of several deals to resolve legal claims over the rape.

The settlement made on behalf of Dr. Phillip Gear, who cared for the woman for 26 years while she lived at Hacienda Healthcare, was deemed reasonable last week by a judge. But the insurer for Gear, who died late last year, said in court papers it has no obligation to pay the amount, arguing the doctor’s policy didn’t cover claims arising from a sexual act.

It is the biggest publicly known settlement reached over the attack on the woman, who has been in a vegetative state since childhood and gave birth in December 2018. Her parents sued the state of Arizona, Gear and another doctor who cared for their daughter.

The state, which contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, settled last summer for $7.5 million.

Dr. Thanh Nguyen, who cared for the woman in the months before the surprise birth, and a medical group also resolved claims against them last summer for an undisclosed amount. And Hacienda Healthcare agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount before the woman’s parents filed their lawsuit in late 2019.

In declaring the $15 million settlement reasonable, Judge Theodore Campagnolo concluded Gear’s treatment of the woman had fallen below the standard of care by failing to diagnose her pregnancy and regularly examine her.

Kevin Barrett, an attorney who previously represented Gear in a lawsuit filed against the doctor by his insurer, didn’t immediately return a call late Tuesday morning seeking comment. Gear died on Dec. 20.

The pregnancy was discovered when an employee at the long-term care facility was changing the garments of the then-29-year-old victim and noticed she was in the process of delivering a child. Employees told police that they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

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

Police have said DNA from Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who worked at Hacienda, matched a sample taken from the woman’s son.

Sutherland, who was fired after his arrest and later gave up his nursing license, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He wasn’t a target of the lawsuit.

The victim lived at Hacienda for 26 years, until the birth of her son, who is now being cared for by her parents.

The woman has been in a vegetative state since she was a young child. Campagnolo wrote the cause of her condition is unclear. When she was around 2 years old, she suffered a near drowning that deprived her brain of oxygen, though there also was testimony that she had congenital issues, such as seizure disorders, from shortly after her birth, the judge wrote.

Lawyers for the family have said Hacienda missed signs that the woman was carrying a baby, such as her weight gain and swollen belly, and that she delivered the boy without pain medications. Their lawsuit also alleged the state did a poor job of monitoring Hacienda’s operations.

Campagnolo said medical records showed Gear didn’t conduct regular examinations of the woman for at least three years before he was transferred in September 2018.

Even though the woman’s mother had requested that her daughter be cared for by only women, evidence shows Sutherland and other men had cared for her over the years, Campagnolo wrote. The judge said the woman’s mother made the requests after she was told her daughter may have been the victim of a sexual assault in 2002.

Gear’s insurer argued Gear wasn’t the woman’s primary care physician when she gave birth and couldn’t be held responsible for sexual assault.

“The former fact is accurate, and the second fact is arguable," Campagnolo wrote. "However, Dr. Gear’s liability was not limited to one sexual assault and the birth."

Campagnolo wrote Gear had known since 2002 that there were sexual abuse allegations that could have included the patient in question.

“The fact that the internal investigation did not find evidence of sexual assaults would not take Dr. Gear off the hook,” Campagnolo wrote, adding that the doctor knew the woman’s mother had requested only female caregivers.

Megan Rose, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Administration, declined to comment on the state’s settlement.

Hacienda spokesman David Leibowitz, Nguyen’s attorney Andrew Rosenzweig, and Robin Burgess, an attorney representing Gear’s insurer, James River Insurance Company, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Full Article & Source:
See Also: 
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

Caregiver charged with exploiting elderly man, credit card fraud

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– A woman hired as a caretaker is charged with credit card fraud and exploitation of an elderly and disabled person after Nassau County detectives said she used the credit card of the man who she was hired to take care of.

Jennie Lynn Johnson, 31, of Yulee, was taken into custody just before 9:30 a.m. Monday.

According to an arrest report, on June 8, a man, who is elderly and permanently confined to a wheelchair, reported his credit card stolen. The man told investigators that he checked his account and realized the card had four transactions on June 7: $176 was charged to his card at the Walmart on State Road 200, $270 was charged the Target on the same road, $10 was charged at the Panda Express on Revell Drive and $110 was charged at the Ross Dress for Less store on City Station Drive.

The man told investigators that he last saw his credit card before his caretaker, Johnson, left his home on June 7 and that he never gave anyone permission to use his credit card, according to the arrest report.

A deputy went to three of the stores where transactions were made and discovered a woman fitting Johnson’s description who was driving a car that also fit the description of her car was seen on surveillance video at two of the stores around the time those credit card transactions were made, the arrest report states. The deputy took still images of the surveillance videos and showed them to the man, who positively identified Johnson as the woman in the footage, according to the report.

Johnson was questioned Monday morning at the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, but her responses to the questions were redacted from the arrest report. According to the report, she was arrested on charges of elderly exploitation and credit card fraud

The arrest report states Johnson was employed by Angel Watch Personal Care as a caretaker for the man. News4Jax called Angel Watch Personal Care to verify if Johnson is still employed and if a background check was ever conducted on her. A woman in the human resources department would not comment about Johnson, only to say they conduct background checks on all their employees. Angel Watch Personal Care is an Amedisys company, and Amedisys also sent News4Jax the following statement:

“Thank you for reaching out to Amedisys. However, we do not comment on current investigations regarding employees or clients. Amedisys intends to fully and promptly investigate the allegations, take appropriate action and cooperate with law enforcement. As always, Angel Watch, an Amedisys company, continues to be dedicated to the Fernandina Beach community and the clients we serve.”

On Monday, Johnson was being held at the Nassau County jail, awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Charley Pride’s Alleged ‘Secret’ Son Files Lawsuit to Dispute His Will

by Sterling Whitaker

A Texas man has filed a lawsuit to dispute the will of iconic country singer Charley Pride, who died in December of 2020 at the age of 86 after contracting COVID-19. Tyler Pride, a 41-year-old police officer from Tyler, Texas, filed suit in May of 2021 to dispute the late singer's will, alleging that he is Pride's unacknowledged biological child.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Pride left a will that acknowledges three children — Carlton, Dion and Angela. Their mother is Rozene Pride, the singer's widow, to whom he was married for 64 years and who serves as the executor of his will. But the Morning News has uncovered court records dating back to 1992, when Tyler was 13 years old, in which a Texas court cited the results of a DNA test to declare that Charley Pride was, in fact, Tyler's father. The court ordered his legal name to be changed from Tyler Tines to Tyler Pride, and also ordered the singer to pay $92,000 in back child support and begin monthly payments of $4,000 to Tyler's mother, Joyce Ann Tines.

Tyler says that his mother told him Pride was his father as soon as he was old enough to understand, and that he grew up playing Pride's music, "knowing that he was Dad." As he recounts the story, his mother met Pride on an airplane flight when she was working as a flight attendant, and they had an affair that lasted for a decade. Tyler says it was Charley Pride's idea that they have a child together, despite his awareness that having a child from an extramarital and interracial affair could damage his reputation and career.

"He loved her," he states. "They loved each other. It was not a casual affair."

Tyler Pride claims there were regular childhood visits from the singer until Rozene Pride found out about the affair, and his son, and forbade it, but he would still speak to his biological father three or four times a year. He says Pride had intended to treat all four of his children equally, but would often explain to him that it was a difficult situation and he needed to maintain peace at home.

He describes a difficult childhood as a biracial child growing up in rural East Texas. "For some people, I wasn't white enough," he says. "For others, I wasn't Black enough."

Though Tyler Pride admits part of his reason for filing a lawsuit is about trying to "find out what I'm entitled to" financially, he says some of his motivation is far more personal. He claims nobody in Pride's family informed him of his father's illness or death, leaving him to learn about it from a friend. He was discouraged from attending the funeral and was not informed of Pride's burial place, he adds.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the lawsuit says Tyler was "a secret that Charley believed threatened his brand and reputation." The filing says he wants it known that he was also part of Pride's family, "And I loved him. After all, he was my dad, too."

Rozene Pride responded to the Dallas Morning News in a written statement that does not challenge Tyler Pride's paternity, but instead accuses him of acting out of greed. She writes that it's "heartbreaking" for him to "try to tarnish Charley's reputation and break Charley's estate plan in the hope of getting more money for himself," adding that he "only called Charley when he wanted money" and viewed him as his "cash cow."

Tyler Pride also filed suit against his mother in February and obtained a restraining order preventing her from seeing his children. That filing alleges that she had stalked him and his children for a decade and accused her of both emotional and physical abuse. He declined to discuss that situation with the Morning News, and she did not respond to voicemails and texts from the newspaper.

In her legal response to his lawsuit, Rozene Pride says she hopes Tyler will "find peace in his life," but also claims that he sent her a draft of his lawsuit and threatened to file it if she did not meet his demands.

"That shows how little he knew about his father," she writes, "because Charley would never be bullied and neither will I."

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Bradenton man hired to remodel woman’s bathroom ended up moving in. He stole $120K, cops say

Jason DeCicco is charged with exploitation of an elderly person after FDLE agents say he was hired to remodel a Tampa woman’s home but ended up moving in and stealing about $120,000 over five years provided

Read more here:

By Jessica De Leon

Before Jason Daniel DeCicco was hired in March 2015 to remodel a 70-year-old grandmother’s bathroom, she took care of herself and enjoyed quilting, careful not to leave her needles lying around because she enjoyed spending time with her grandson.

But not long after the Bradenton man convinced her to turn the small project into a home renovation, he had moved in and began overcharging her. Soon, the two were drinking and smoking marijuana together and she was keeping guns around her home and distancing herself from her family.

Over the course of the next five years, DeCicco defrauded the Tampa woman out of more than $120,000 and never actually completed the work in her home, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigated the case.

DeCicco, 45, was arrested by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday and booked into the Manatee County jail. Charged with one count of elderly exploitation, DeCicco was released later that day after posting a $15,000 bond. Conditions of his release include that he have no contact with the victim.

“DeCicco established himself in a position of trust, pretending to care for and help the victim, all while he was stealing from her and working to drain her financial resources,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in an issued statement. “Elderly exploitation cases continue to be a priority for FDLE.”

The Tampa woman has dementia and “did whatever she could to keep DeCicco around,” because he reminded her of her husband, according to FDLE agents. She would sometimes call DeCicco her husband’s name.

DeCicco was not licensed contractor but had a specialty license from Hillsborough County for tile and marble trade.

Despite how much money the victim gave DeCicco, her home remained in disrepair. As the money she had quickly began to run out, DeCicco convinced her to refinance the mortgage of her home, which had been nearly paid off.

Attorney Bryan Kutchins was later suspended from the Florida Bar for a year for his involvement in the refinancing, which included overcharging the victim.

The woman’s daughters had felt she was being exploited and that her dementia made her vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Because of that, they sought and got a court-appointed professional guardian. The victim was found to have limited capacity, according to a court order and she was stripped of her rights to enter into a contract or manage property.

The victim’s guardian trespassed DeCicco from the victim’s home, yet he continued to live there.

In June 2017, Tampa police were called to the woman’s home in response to a report of gunshot. Soon after, police began to investigate possible elderly exploitation and construction fraud but later closed their case when the victim wouldn’t cooperate.

As the victim’s guardian and doctors found her cognitive abilities were continuing to deteriorate because of the dementia, she was placed in an assisted living facility in July 2020.

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Scammers clone trusted brands to steal retirement money

The names of firms such as Saga are being used to gain the confidence of the vulnerable and steal their hard-earned cash

After searching online for suitable retirement investments, the persuasive phone calls from ‘Saga’ started. Photograph: Alamy

by Anna Tims 

On her retirement, Janet Howland* searched online for suitable investments for her pension pot. Days after her internet search, she was telephoned by a company calling itself Saga Investments and offering a five-year fixed-rate bond at 3.2%. It was only after she had transferred £70,000 that she discovered it was a scam.

Investment and pension fraud has soared since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports of scams that clone the details of genuine companies regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were up by 29% during the first month of lockdown and, in 2020, victims lost an average of £45,242 each to criminals imitating trusted brands such as Aviva and Allianz, according to Action Fraud. The real figure is thought to be far higher, since surveys suggest that half of those targeted fail to report what has happened.

The financial impact of the pandemic is likely to make more people vulnerable to these scams, which promise attractive returns on diminished savings.

Many of the victims, like Howland, are older people at or approaching retirement age. Since 2015, over-55s have been able to access their pension pot. As a result, this age group has been increasingly targeted by financially savvy criminal gangs who use sophisticated tactics to trap their victims.

Howland was sent a series of professional-looking emails from what appeared to be a Saga email address, bearing the Saga logo and a link to its genuine website.

They stated that the investment schemes in question were being offered in partnership with Goldman Sachs International and were protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Howland was asked for ID to satisfy compliance requirements, then sent a depositor agreement to sign. The warning sign was that she was asked to transfer the funds in seven payments, over seven days, from her Nationwide account to Planix Ltd, but plausible-sounding explanations from the scam firm’s “compliance team” reassured her.

“They were very professional in their approach,” says Howland. “I did check online for the scheme they were offering, and couldn’t find any details. When I questioned this, I was informed that they didn’t advertise this offer as it was purely for the over-60s. Later, when I queried the bank’s warning message that the account name and number didn’t match, I was told banks were slow at getting all the companies on to the new ‘confirmation of payee’ system.”

Weeks after her first investment, Howland was contacted again and offered the chance to pay into a corporate bond. She agreed to invest the remainder of her pension pot, deposited in a savings account with Coventry building society. When she tried to transfer the £46,000, Coventry blocked the payment and asked her to call its fraud team. “They questioned me about the transfer, and looked into it for me. It was then I realised that I had been scammed,” she says. “Thankfully, due to Coventry’s system, I did not proceed.”

Nationwide, which had not questioned Howland about the seven £10,000 payments, refused to refund any of the money, and says that it considers its “control measures” satisfactory. The building society is signed up to the contingent reimbursement model code, a voluntary scheme run by the banking sector to compensate fraud victims who have not been unduly negligent. It told the Observer that Howland had been negligent in ignoring two automated warnings when transferring the money.

“When she made the payments a ‘confirmation of payee’ check was done, which highlighted that she wasn’t paying who she thought she was,” it says. “She was also shown the appropriate investment scam warning, which matched her situation, and had she visited the FCA warning list as advised, she would have seen the warning about Saga being cloned. As no error was made by the society, we are unable to refund her loss.’

The FCA warning relates to a clone of Saga Services Ltd, with different contact details to Saga Investments.

Howland, who now faces a financially restricted retirement, says the scammers had convincingly explained away the confirmation of payee alert, and does not recall seeing the investment warning. She is escalating her claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which has criticised banks and building societies for relying on generic warnings, instead of questioning unusual transactions.

Saga says: “We became aware of this particular scam in late 2020 and took immediate action, working with the FCA, the police and Goldman Sachs to put in place all the measures at our disposal to stop the fraud and protect customers.”

Goldman Sachs says it investigates all claims of fraud and takes appropriate action.

The FCA, which issued 1,100 alerts about scam investment companies last year, warns people to steer clear of any unsolicited marketing calls or messages and to seek independent financial advice. Those tempted by a scheme should check out the company on the FCA register and use the listed contact details, rather than those provided by a cold caller.

Mark Steward, FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight, says: “Clone investment scams can look real and sophisticated. If you’re considering an investment, check our warning list of firms you should avoid. And if you’re still unsure, call our consumer helpline.

“When it comes to clones, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to double-check every detail.”

*Not her real name

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Elderly Maryland woman scammed out of nearly $2M

By Lexi Lonas

An elderly woman was scammed out of almost $2 million by a person she trusted with the finances of her estate.

Helen Nutt hired Jonathan Robbins when she was 88 years old to handle her accounts and estate over a six-year period but ended up losing $1.8 million, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, according to Fox 5

Robbins was taken into custody on Friday after he was found guilty of two counts of misappropriation by a fiduciary, two counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and two counts of theft.

Robbins used the money he stole for a variety of things, including moving to a mansion in Potomac, according to the local outlet. 

Nutt died a couple of years ago, but McCarthy said her story should be used to warn people in the future.

"Try to make sure there’s some kind of a balance, a check and balance in the way your estates are set up. There was no check or balance here," McCarthy said.

Robbins will be sentenced in a few weeks but could face up to 45 years in prison for his crimes. 

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Minnesota Supreme Court suspends Minneapolis attorney convicted of tax evasion indefinitely

Convicted of tax evasion, he has long been on the radar of the state and federal judiciary and the lawyers board.

By Randy Furst

William Bernard Butler
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the indefinite suspension of a Minneapolis attorney who was convicted in 2019 of tax evasion.

The high court said that besides failing to pay his income taxes, William Butler continued to list himself as an attorney on his website after he was suspended, misused his attorney trust account and failed to cooperate with an investigation conducted by the director of the state's Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.

Butler had challenged the findings of a referee, but the Supreme Court said she had not abused her discretion. The court said "the appropriate discipline for Butler's misconduct is an indefinite suspension with no right to petition for reinstatement for four years."

Butler has been in the cross hairs of the Minnesota's state and federal judiciary for the past decade.

He has been sanctioned and held in contempt for filing frivolous lawsuits over housing foreclosures and failing to pay the fees and fines when he was sanctioned. When judges tossed out his cases, he was accused of filing the same cases a second time. He was suspended in 2015 by the lawyers board.

Despite earning hundreds of thousands of dollars when he still had a law license, he failed to pay his income taxes beginning in 2010, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and was charged in 2018 for failure to pay income taxes in 2013 and 2014. 

why he didn't have to pay taxes. He has also written articles characterizing the government's taxing authority as "coercive power." After he was convicted, the District Court stayed imposition of the sentence and placed Butler on probation for three years.

The high court said that he complied with conditions of probation by filing tax returns from 2012 through 2019.

But in other respects, Butler continued to find himself at odds with the lawyers board.

Disciplined by the high court in 2015 and again in 2017 and forbidden from practicing law, the lawyers board sent Butler a letter in 2019 saying that his website stated he was a Minnesota attorney.

Butler responded that his website was "currently down" but if it went back up he would change it to state that he "is a nonpracticing Minnesota attorney" and include a link to his prior discipline.

The lawyers board bars attorneys from using their attorney trust account for personal or business expenses. But the high court said that Butler used his trust account to make monthly car lease payments and to pay car insurance. He also used the account to deposit personal funds, including a $10,000 personal check, and disbursed payments to himself. There were never any third-party funds in the account during the disputed period or any commingling of funds. Butler explained that he used the trust account for personal purposes because his criminal convictions prevented him from opening a new bank account.

The high court said that "while we often suspend an attorney for between one to three years for a conviction such as willful tax evasion, the aggravating factors including Butler's prior similar misconduct and lack of remorse — warrant more severe discipline."

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ABA president urges House to help prevent elder abuse

Image from Shutterstock.
By Amanda Robert

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo is urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass bipartisan legislation to help prevent elder abuse across the country.

In a letter sent Thursday, Refo said the Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021 would establish the Elder Justice Initiative as a permanent part of the Department of Justice. In addition to coordinating criminal enforcement and public engagement efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams, the initiative would expand online resources and translate them into Spanish.

“Elder abuse—encompassing physical and sexual abuse, neglect and financial exploitation—is a problem that respects no boundaries,” Refo told representatives. “It is not defined by socioeconomic, racial or ethnic status, and it occurs with alarming frequency in your state, as well as all others.”

Refo pointed out in the letter that a recent study by the National Council on Aging shows that about one in 10 Americans who are 60 and older have experienced elder abuse.

“We support this legislation without reservation because we believe that enhancing efforts to prevent and redress elder abuse is central to any viable notion of the rule of law and social justice,” Refo said.

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Indiana, and Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, introduced the Elder Abuse Protection Act on April 30. Garcia, a former social worker, said at the time she has seen the impact that elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud has on older Americans.

“The Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021 is a critical step in making sure that our seniors can live with dignity and respect, and that they are not the targets of scams that can seriously jeopardize their livelihoods,” she said in a press release. “This is especially important amid COVID-19, which many experts say has led to a significant increase in the number [of] abuse cases of elderly people.”

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

State Rep. Katie Stuart passes proposals for elder abuse protections

EDWARDSVILLE — State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, passed two proposals out of the House to better protect vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

These proposals are the culmination of her work on the Illinois Elder Abuse Task Force.

“Over the last to two years I have worked with a variety of stakeholders to understand the causes of elder abuse and what needs to be done to protect our seniors from abuse,” Stuart said.

“We all have our vulnerabilities, and we cannot tolerate abuse of anyone, especially our seniors.”

Stuart supported Senate Bill 700 and Senate Bill 701 to provide organizations and the state with support to investigate potential instances of elder abuse.

Senate Bill 700 requires that mandated reporters notify the Illinois Department of Aging if they suspect an elder died of abuse, and adds mandated reporters at financial institutions to reports suspicious activities that indicate financial fraud.

Senate Bill 701 designates abandonment as a form of abuse, creates a risk assessment tool to help identify those at risk of abuse, increases trauma-informed training, extends the statute of limitations for financial fraud and add friends or acquaintances as a person of trust for financial exploitation.

Stuart also passed a resolution to make June 15 Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

“Policy can provide seniors and their allies with the necessary support they need to report and investigate instances of elder abuse,” Stuart said. “By working together and reporting suspected abuse, we can keep people safe and save lives.”

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Following a DUI Arrest, Maine Defense Lawyer Banned From Representing Defendants

For nearly two weeks after her arrest, a Maine lawyer continued to be contracted by a state agency with a record of mismanagement to serve as legal counsel for Maine’s poorest residents.

by Samantha Hogan

Chloe Cushman, special to ProPublica

A lawyer working on behalf of the state of Maine continued to represent low-income defendants after being arrested for impaired driving in May.

In the last decade, Dwyer-Jones has been charged with driving under the influence at least four other times and been convicted twice of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. A judge suspended her law license in 2013. Within days of being reinstated to practice law in 2015, she was given a job defending Maine’s poor.

Dwyer-Jones did not return an email from The Maine Monitor seeking comment. She is being charged with felony Operating Under the Influence and is scheduled to appear in York County Superior Court in Alfred on June 9.

Maine is the only state that does not employ public defenders. People who cannot afford to hire an attorney instead rely on the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, which contracts private defense attorneys like Dwyer-Jones to represent both adults and juveniles in criminal cases and other legal matters. The agency, run by only four people, has repeatedly been scrutinized for inadequate training and oversight of the attorneys it hires.

Eleven years ago the Legislature formed MCILS. Its first executive director, John Pelletier, was in charge for a decade and routinely hired attorneys with criminal convictions or histories of professional misconduct, including Dwyer-Jones, a joint investigation by The Maine Monitor and ProPublica found last October. The executive director has the power to remove or suspend attorneys.

Lawyers are required to notify MCILS within five days of being charged with any crime. Failing to report a criminal charge can result in an attorney no longer being eligible for court appointments, according to the commission’s rules.

Justin Andrus, the interim MCILS executive director, said Dwyer-Jones had not notified the commission of her new criminal charge and was no longer eligible to work on its cases as of May 20. Andrus became director in January and said he is still learning where he needs to be attentive, after being informed by a reporter of Dwyer-Jones’ recent charge.

Andrus has asked judges and the Maine Prosecutors’ Association for help establishing a protocol to notify MCILS when an attorney is charged.

“MCILS considers the need to address instances in which rostered counsel are charged with crimes integral to ensuring that our client base receives the quality of representation to which each client is entitled,” Andrus wrote in a separate statement. “While not every charge is necessarily disqualifying, MCILS will assess each charge it becomes aware of individually, and act appropriately to safeguard the rights of appointed clients.”

State Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, who serves on the Judiciary Committee with oversight of MCILS, said the arrest made it apparent that the agency does not have adequate staff or rules to oversee attorneys.

“When you are doing everything you can every day and things are still slipping by you, there’s a problem in the system,” Keim said. “It’s one the Maine Legislature needs to fix, and they haven’t been doing their job.”

Family members of a man who had Dwyer-Jones assigned to his case in 2017 said she didn’t show up to court and sent bizarre, confusing texts to excuse her absence. Despite their complaints about her conduct to the state’s licensing agency, Dwyer-Jones was allowed to keep practicing law and remained on the list of eligible court-appointed attorneys. Dwyer-Jones’ response to the family’s claim was kept confidential by MCILS, and she refused to answer questions by the news organizations. She was not disciplined or found to be deficient by the agency, MCILS records show.

Until her removal in May, Dwyer-Jones remained eligible to represent adult defendants facing domestic violence, drunk driving or drug offense charges, according to state records. She was also eligible to be assigned child protection cases in multiple York County courts earlier this year.

Even after being convicted of crimes or professional misconduct, attorneys have not routinely been removed from the MCILS roster. Pelletier suspended five attorneys during his decade-long tenure.

In April, Ian L’Heureux began appearing on MCILS’ list of approved attorneys for felonies, drug offenses and misdemeanors in Augusta, Bath, Wiscasset, Portland and Rockland superior courts. He had been banned from representing state defendants for at least a year in December 2019 for failing to report that he was facing criminal charges, records show.

L’Heureux was found guilty by a jury of assault in December 2019 and sentenced to a week in jail, according to court records. He had not informed MCILS that he had a pending assault case from December 2018 when he applied in August 2019, according to a termination letter by Pelletier.

L’Heureux did not return a request for comment. Andrus said he had no comment about L’Heureux’s recent approval to be a court-appointed lawyer.

The Legislature is considering three bills to reform MCILS, including a plan to open the state’s first trial-level public defender’s office and add personnel for training, oversight and auditing of attorneys. If passed, the changes would cost $11.7 million next year and $12.9 million the following year.

Gov. Janet Mills has not included substantial reforms for MCILS in any of her budget proposals this year.

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