Saturday, September 4, 2021

Proposed bill ‘great first step’ toward addressing long-term care workforce challenges

by Kimberly Bonvissuto

A bill to reauthorize funding for programs that prevent elder abuse also would provide $400 million annually for states to enhance education and training for direct care workers in long-term care settings.

Senior living association leaders are calling the Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2021 a “great first step” to helping providers recruit and retain workers.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said the bill incorporates proposals from the association’s Care For Our Seniors Act and provides a “desperately needed focus on workforce investment.”

“This piece of legislation is a great first step to help ensure every facility has the ability to recruit and retain the necessary staff to ensure our residents receive the level of care they need and deserve,” Parkinson added. “Caregivers are the backbone of nursing homes and assisted living communities, and we need to make sure they are being adequately supported so they can provide the highest quality of care to our elderly population.”

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the bill is a “much-needed move toward achieving our vision of making America a better place to grow old.”

“The Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act includes critical support that older Americans and their caregivers need to avoid and prevent financial exploitation, physical and psychological abuse, and other unacceptable forms of elder abuse,” Sloan said. 

The $4 billion bill, which would provide funding for new and existing programs through fiscal year 2025, was introduced Saturday by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), co-chair of the House Elder Justice Caucus.

The measure would reauthorize the Elder Justice Act and commit specific funding to programs that address the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. It also would create three new programs to address needs underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the legislation proposes a $1.6 billion investment over four years in the long-term care and post-acute care workforce. The program reimagines an existing —  but never funded —  long-term care workforce program, providing dollars to states to recruit, train and retain workers providing aid, nursing and social work services.

The funds would need to be used to provide wage subsidies, student loan repayment or tuition assistance, child care or transportation. The funds also could be used to establish a reserve fund for emergency financial assistance, provide paid leave, assist with lowering barriers to employment and providing in-kind resource donations. 

The legislation also would direct $250 million to address social isolation. Under the proposed bill, the Department of Health and Human Services would establish a grant and training program for community-based organizations to serve as technical assistance hubs and referral centers to address social isolation among older adults and people with disabilities. 

The bill also would create a new program to invest $500 million in medical-legal partnerships. The multidisciplinary teams combine clinical staff with social workers and lawyers to address the social and legal needs of older adults. But Sloan said it’s “disappointing” that aging services providers were not included in that partnership mix. 

“These partnerships are an integral part of the elder abuse shelter movement founded by LeadingAge member River Spring Health, and we will work to encourage legislators to expand this new program as we support this legislation moving forward,” Sloan said. 

The proposed bill also would provide $1.4 billion for adult protective services to investigate reports of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, and $172.5 million for long-term care ombudsman program grants and training.

Full Article & Source:

Stuart-sponsored bill to combat elder abuse becomes law

Rep Katie Stuart
To protect vulnerable older adults from abuse, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, sponsored a measure to increase reporting and investigation on elder abuse as the culmination of her work on the Illinois Elder Abuse Task Force. The governor signed Stuart’s measure into law on July 26.

“Over the last two years, I have worked with a variety of stakeholders to understand the cause of elder abuse and what we can do to better protect seniors in our communities,” said Stuart. “I want to thank everyone who worked on the task force and everyone who was involved in crafting this landmark legislation.”

Stuart sponsored Senate Bill 701, which makes several changes to the Adult Protective Services Act. The measure designates abandonment as a form of abuse, extends the statutes of limitations for financial fraud, creates a risk assessment tool to identify individuals at risk for abuse, adds friend or acquaintances as a person of trust for financial exploitation and increases trauma-informed training for caregivers. 

“The work on the Elder Abuse Taskforce, along with improvements realized through this legislation, will improve identification and reporting to prevent cases of underreporting and help keep our seniors safe,” continued Stuart. “I look forward to continued work to fight elder abuse and neglect within our community.”

Full Article & Source:

Bay State man pleads guilty to role in $50K scam targeting Keene senior

By Caleb Symons

A Massachusetts man who New Hampshire authorities say was involved in "grandparent" scams targeting two Granite State seniors last year, including one in Keene, has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies for his role in those schemes.

Starlyn J. Lara Pimental of Roxbury, Mass., pleaded guilty Friday in Cheshire County Superior Court to theft by deception and attempted theft by deception, the N.H. Attorney General's office announced in a news release.

Grandparent scams are common and can involve callers claiming they have been robbed, arrested, in an accident, hospitalized or are stuck in a foreign country, according to the AARP. Often, the “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.

The day before his arrest, one of Pimental's co-conspirators falsely told the Keene man that his grandchild had been in an accident that killed someone and that he needed to pay that sum in compensation, the release states. Court documents in a related case show the co-conspirator also told the man earlier that his grandchild had been arrested after the accident and needed $18,000 for bail.

Prosecutors say another of Pimental's alleged co-conspirators, Elvis Guzman of Paterson, N.J., traveled to Keene last November to meet the man in a parking lot and receive the $18,000 transfer — two days before Pimental arranged to pick up the $32,000.

In a news release last year announcing Pimental's arrest, Keene police said that when the local man went to a bank to withdraw cash for a second time, a teller recognized the scam and convinced him to contact police. Officers arranged a sting operation and arrested Pimental when he showed up to get the money, police said.

Pimental also obtained $18,000 from an elderly Nashua resident in a similar grandparent scam last year, according to the news release Friday from the Attorney General's office.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, prosecutors will request that Pimental is sentenced to 7½-15 years in state prison, with an additional 4½ years suspended on the condition that he pay $18,000 to the Nashua man, the release states. He also faces up to two to five years in prison for his conviction in the Keene case, it states. Pimental is scheduled to be sentenced next February.

Guzman was also indicted in Rockingham County on four other counts alleging he conspired to obtain cash from 11 elderly victims across the state last year. The indictments claim that he and his partners stole more than $100,000 from New Hampshire residents in four days. He was arrested last November in Londonderry, according to the Attorney General's office. Guzman's case is still pending.

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.

Full Article & Source:

Friday, September 3, 2021

Former Phoenix nurse pleads guilty in sex assault of incapacitated woman at Hacienda HealthCare

by Perry Vandell 

A former Arizona nurse has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an incapacitated woman about three years ago at Hacienda HealthCare, a long-term care facility in Phoenix where she later gave birth.

Nathan Sutherland also entered a guilty plea Thursday to a charge of abuse of a vulnerable adult stemming from his treatment of the woman.

Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, announced Thursday that the sentencing range for the sexual assault charge is between 5.25 to 10 years in prison. The abuse of a vulnerable adult charge brings a lifetime of probation.

Liewer told The Arizona Republic that MCAO couldn't yet comment on the guilty plea as the case remains open until Sutherland is sentenced. 

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 4.

The pregnancy was discovered in December 2018 when an employee at the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix was changing the garments of the then-29-year-old 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.

Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse, was fired by Hacienda after his arrest and has since given up his nursing license.

A judge has approved a $15 million settlement against a doctor who cared for the woman for 26 years while she lived at Hacienda HealthCare. The doctor’s insurer has argued it has no obligation to pay that amount.

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

Hacienda HealthCare CEO Perry Petrilli issued a written statement on Thursday expressing relief for the guilty plea.

"After more than 2-1/2 years, all of us at Hacienda HealthCare are relieved that Nathan Sutherland has finally pleaded guilty to his awful offenses. We have cooperated in every way possible with law enforcement and investigators — and now we hope the judge will sentence Sutherland appropriately given the severity of his crimes. As ever, our hearts are with the victim and her family. May these final steps in the legal process help them find peace."

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

Former Bradford DA officially disbarred; local attorney's license temporarily suspended: Dept. of Justice

by Carrie Pauling

Harrisburg, Pa. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued two orders on August 17, announcing the disbarrment of one prominent area attorney and the suspension of another.

Bradford County attorney Chad Michael Salsman (#87547) has been disbarred on consent from the Bar of this Commonwealth, retroactive to March 25, 2021.

After an extensive investigation by the Attorney General's office, Chad Salsman, former Bradford County District Attorney, pled guilty to one felony count of promoting prostitution and two misdemeanor charges of obstruction and intimidation of a witness the morning of May 7, 2021. Salsman resigned his post as District Attorney the same day.

On July 9, Judge Joseph Augello handed down an 18 month to five-year sentence in State Prison for felony charges of promoting prostitution, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation.

Lycoming County attorney Matthew J. Zeigler (#83367) has been placed on temporary suspension from the Bar of this Commonwealth until further action by the Court, effective September 16, 2021.

Matthew Zeigler, 48, and his wife Christine, 50, of Williamsport, were taken into custody the morning of December 4, 2020 at the conclusion of a 7-month investigation by the Office of Attorney General.

The investigation into the allegations of abuse began after Matthew Zeigler was arrested for firing a gun twice out the window of their home during an argument with his wife. Five of their children were home at the time, including his 18-year-old daughter who was outside at the time of the gun shots. After Zeigler’s arrest, his children were interviewed, and disclosed emotional and physical abuse by both parents.

Zeigler has been in and out of court related to charges of abuse, conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and driving under the influence. He is currently in Lycoming County prison.

Full Article & Source:

Former Mercyhealth vice president charged in kickback scheme

by Neil Johnson

The U.S. Attorney in Madison on Wednesday charged a former Mercyhealth official and the operator of a former marketing firm in a kickback scheme that officials said defrauded the Janesville-based health system of more than $3 million.

The Western District U.S. Attorney’s office, in a six-page charging document, lays out details of how former Mercyhealth vice president Barbara Bortner, 57, Milton, and marketing firm operator Ryan Weckerly, 46, Sycamore, Illinois, are suspected of creating business bank accounts to sock away checks and cash they’d siphoned off in a five-year-long scheme involving inflated billings by Weckerly.

Bortner, a 30-year employee of Mercyhealth, was charged in federal court Wednesday with wire fraud and tax evasion. Weckerly was charged with aiding and abetting in the preparation of a false income tax return.

Bortner and Weckerly both waived their rights to indictment by a grand jury and agreed to plead guilty, according to the release.

“The wire fraud and tax charges stem from Bortner and Weckerly’s involvement in a kickback scheme while she was the vice president of marketing at Mercyhealth,” the U.S. Attorney said in the release.

Janesville-based Mercyhealth is a multi-billion dollar nonprofit hospital and health care group that operates more than a half-dozen hospitals and more than 60 clinics across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, including Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville.

Weckerly was owner of Morningstar Media Group, a marketing agency based in Sycamore, and his company did business as health and wellness publication InVironments Magazine, the charging documents said.

“Beginning in February of 2015, Bortner and Weckerly devised a plan whereby he would submit inflated invoices to Bortner for his marketing work for Mercyhealth,” the release states.

“Bortner and Weckerly agreed that he would provide monetary kickbacks to Bortner for the funds he received from the inflated invoices,” the release continues. “In return, Bortner agreed she would continue to use Morningstar Media Group as the primary marketing agency for Mercyhealth. The kickback scheme continued until June of 2020 and involved over $3 million.”

Bortner failed to report her income from the kickbacks on her federal tax return in 2018, according to the release.

Weckerly was charged with aiding and abetting because he gave Bortner a false Form 1099 for 2019 that underreported her compensation from Weckerly by excluding the amount of money received in the kickback scheme, according to the charging documents.

Weckerly wrote 103 checks that totaled more than $2 million to Bortner and also gave her cash. Bortner deposited much of the money in an account she created at the Bank of Milton, one of the charging documents states.

The Bank of Milton account was in the name of “WeInspire LLC,” the document states.

According to the charging document, Bortner created WeInspire to make it “appear that she was performing legitimate work for InVironments Magazine.”

“In reality, Bortner’s creation of WeInspire was an attempt to disguise the source of the kickback payments from Weckerly,” the charging document continued.

Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea previously told The Gazette that Bortner had clearance from Mercyhealth to authorized up to about $10,000 of marketing invoices at one time. Bea indicated that might have allowed the scheme to roll out incrementally over a five-year span.

He said earlier that Mercyhealth believes Bortner was the only Mercy employee involved.

The charges against Bortner and Weckerly were the result of an Internal Revenue Service investigation.

Bea indicated he learned of the fraud in early August and fired Bortner at that time. Mercyhealth also dissolved a partnership with a “vendor” believed to be involved in the scheme.

Bea told The Gazette that Mercyhealth officials were disappointed and shaken by the fraud, both because of Bortner’s longevity with the health care group, but also because she’d been a “big presence” at Mercy and a trusted member in its administrative inner circle.

Mercyhealth’s most recently available tax records show Bortner was being paid a $350,000 annual salary as the head of Mercy’s marketing division.

Bea said Bortner started out at Mercyhealth as an associate in the marketing department and moved up through the ranks.

According to the timeline laid out by the U.S. Attorney, the fraud Bortner and Weckerly are accused of continued to roll out through the summer of 2020.

That means the scheme would have overlapped a period in 2020 when Mercy laid off dozens of staff and chopped executive pay.

At that time, the health care group indicated it was weathering significant revenue losses from delinquent Medicaid repayments in Illinois. Mercyhealth had to scuttle patient surgeries for weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Bortner has not responded to multiple requests for comment by The Gazette.

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Multiple Defendants in 'Grandparent Scam' Network Indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy

Written by Imperial Valley News

San Diego, California - A federal grand jury in San Diego has returned an indictment against eight defendants for their alleged roles in a federal racketeering conspiracy. The indictment alleges the defendants were members and associates of a criminal enterprise that defrauded elderly Americans by making them falsely believe that a grandchild (or other close relative) was in trouble and needed their help. The elderly victims each paid thousands to tens of thousands of dollars to the criminal organization in this scheme.

The grand jury returned an indictment charging the defendants with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Six defendants have been arrested – Timothy Ingram aka Bleezy, 29, of North Hollywood, California; Anajah Gifford, 23, of North Hollywood, California; Joaquin Lopez, 45, of Hollywood, Florida; Jack Owuor, 24, of Paramount, California; Tracy Glinton, 34, of Orlando, Florida; and Lyda Harris, 73, of Laveen, Arizona. Two additional defendants – Tracy Adrine Knowles, 29, and Adonis Alexis Butler Wong, 29, who each resided in Florida during the alleged offense – have also been charged.

“These defendants were part of a large network of individuals that systematically targeted elderly Americans by preying on their concern for loved ones," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun Rao for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting individuals who take part in such schemes that target vulnerable people. We are grateful to our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California and the FBI in advancing the Department’s efforts against organized elder fraud, and to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.”

“This scheme has left many elderly victims financially and emotionally devastated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “It is unconscionable to target the elderly and exploit their love for their grandchildren. Elder fraud is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. We are committed to combating all types of elder abuse in our community.”

“Elder Fraud is a massive and growing problem, as our county’s population gets older, with losses into the billions of dollars nationwide,” said Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “The San Diego Elder Justice Task Force was set up to combine resources, experience, and capabilities to have a sophisticated and coordinated law enforcement response to fight this battle.”

According to the indictment, the defendants were members and associates of a network of individuals who, through extortion and fraud, induced elderly Americans across the United States to pay thousands to tens of thousands of dollars each to purportedly help their grandchild or other close family relatives. According to statements made by prosecutors in court, the defendants swindled more than $2 million from 70-plus elderly victims across the nation, with at least 10 in San Diego County. The perpetrators contacted elderly Americans by telephone and impersonated a grandchild, other close relative, or friend of the victim. They falsely convinced the victims that their relatives were in legal trouble and needed money to pay for bail, medical expenses for car accident victims, or to prevent additional charges from being filed. The defendants and their co-conspirators received money from victims via various means, including in-person pickup, mail, and wire transfer, and laundered the proceeds, including through cryptocurrency.

The case was investigated by the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, which is a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the District Attorney’s Office and all San Diego County law enforcement agencies. The Elder Justice Task Force was officially launched in February 2020 and is believed to be the first comprehensive local law enforcement effort for this purpose anywhere in the country.

A number of law enforcement agencies and offices across the country have investigated components of the scheme, including the FBI’s field offices in Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, and San Francisco; the Dallas Police Department; and police departments across several states, including the Jacksonville Police Department in Alabama; the Anaheim Police Department, Burbank Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Downey Police Department, El Cajon Police Department, Garden Grove Police Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Oceanside Police Department, Pasadena Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, Santa Monica Police Department, and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in California; the Dalton Police Department and Spalding County Police Department in Georgia; the Lee County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina; the Akron Police Department, Cleveland Division of Police, and Sagamore Hills Police Department in Ohio; the Carmel Police Department in Indiana; the St. Joseph Sheriff and Troy Police Department in Michigan; the Fergus Falls Police Department in Minnesota; the New York State Police and Suffolk County Police Department in New York; and the Colleyville Police Department, City of Fair Oaks Ranch Police Department, Grand Prairie Police Department, and Richardson Police Department in Texas. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the District of Arizona, Central District of California, Middle District of Florida, Western District of North Carolina, and Northern District of Ohio provided assistance in the investigation.

Trial Attorneys Lauren M. Elfner and Wei Xiang with the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Oleksandra Johnson of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.

Full Article & Source:

Elder Justice Alliance launches in Shelby County

by Muriel Bailey

Stakeholders meet to launch Elder Justice Alliance in Shelby County (ABC 3340)

SHELBY COUNTY, (Ala) — An elder justice alliance just launched in Shelby County. It’s designed to better detect and prevent elder abuse.

This alliance includes DHR, law enforcement, social services and advocacy groups

"With COVID we've seen a large increase in number of potential elder mistreatment cases," Robyn James with Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging said.

Last year, Shelby county DHR received hundreds of reports to adult protective services.

"What we see in Shelby county is approximately 266 reports per year that come in, of those reports we see about 150 of those are still living in the home," Adult Protective Services Supervisor Star Pope said.

Pope investigates many of those cases.

"The reports are typically abuse neglect and financial exploitation," Pope said, "what's so sad is that the majority are family members that are perpetrating on these individuals."

The goal of the Elder Justice Alliance is to employ a network of agencies as one strong force for the elderly.

Organizations work to prevent, detect and respond to elder mistreatment and abuse.

"It's important to share resources, to share information, there's always strength in numbers," James said.

James says the group plans to meet monthly, share cases and provide training.

"The impact is really a lot greater to help protect our older residents so that they can age gracely with dignity in our communities," she said.

The group would like to purchase a building in Montevallo to house everything under one roof and to also act as a shelter for elderly victims.

Learn more here or call 205-490-8448.

Full Article & Source:

Theft and neglect: Marysville adult home owner pleads guilty

Savitri Devi won’t spend time in jail, but the case of Abode Senior Care isn’t closed.  

by Jake Goldstein-Street

MARYSVILLE — The owner of a shuttered adult family home in Marysville has been sentenced to 90 days of electronic home monitoring after stealing from residents and neglecting them.

Savitri Devi, of Covington, was charged with six counts of reckless endangerment and four counts of theft. While a trial was set for late August, she pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree theft and one count of reckless endangerment in July. She was sentenced in August.

For the theft offense, a felony, she will spend 90 days on electronic home monitoring. Devi is allowed to leave her house for 30 minutes but must stay within one mile of the residence. For reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor, she got a nearly one-year suspended sentence. Devi will not spend time in jail for the crime as long as she doesn’t break any more laws in the next year.

Abode Senior Care in early 2018 had six residents, some of whom needed constant help from caregivers. Instead, the home neglected them, according to investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Division. Residents were found covered in their own urine and suffered skin breakdowns. In one case, a resident sat in their own feces for an extended period of time, investigators wrote.

Not only was there not enough staff to care for the residents, the workers that were employed were reportedly sometimes unlicensed or hadn’t gone through appropriate background checks. Devi was “very remorseful” that she left residents in the care of an unlicensed worker, a social worker wrote in court documents.

Devi, 55, also stole or withheld over $30,000 from residents and their families between February and June 2018, according to the charges. Investigators alleged she withheld deposits and didn’t pro-rate rent after residents died or the facility closed. In one case, Devi asked a family to pay more to care for their relative, but no extra help was provided. They paid an extra $11,000.

Devi was ordered to pay almost $20,000 in restitution to three relatives of residents.

Two residents’ deaths were potentially preventable under the Devi-owned home’s care, investigators argued. In February 2018, a sore was found on one man’s back. Over the next 10 days, a nurse twice found him in a wet and soiled bed, according to court documents. He was also found lying on his ulcer in an immovable position. He was taken in May to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with sepsis. A few days later, the 71-year-old man died.

Another resident moved into the Marysville home in December 2017. The resident was taken to an emergency room in January 2018 for constipation. She was given medication and an enema kit in case the issues persisted. But even when the woman went nearly two weeks without a bowel movement, Abode had no documented history of getting her treatment, the May 2020 charges claimed.

By the end of March, the woman was put into hospice care. It wasn’t until then that a nurse discovered the resident had suffered skin breakdowns, according to court documents. And a hospice bath aid reported being appalled to find the woman in a pool of her own urine, on two separate days.

The resident died on April 11, 2018, four months after moving in.

That case is the subject of an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit brought by the woman’s family against Devi’s business partner. The lawsuit called the woman’s stay at Abode a “hellish nightmare.”

“Devi failed to provide an appropriate standard of care to residents at Abode,” investigators argued in court documents. “She failed to properly administer medications and did not take appropriate steps to monitor residents for skin breakdown.”

A caregiver called Devi a “very, very bad lady.” This worker gave examples of Devi’s physical and verbal abuse. When one resident fell out of bed, for example, she reportedly berated him, withheld breakfast and left him lying in soiled bedding.

The state shut down Abode in May 2018 after a Washington Department of Social and Health Services investigation.

This story has been revised to accurately identify the name of the adult family home in Marysville. It is Abode Senior Care.

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Man’s prison conviction for embezzling $300,000 from elderly woman affirmed by higher court

By Marie Weidmayer

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – A conviction was upheld this month for a man who embezzled $300,000 from an elderly woman.

Gary Edward “Duke” Haynes, 60, was convicted in December 2018 by a jury in Muskegon County Circuit Court on eight counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult, four counts of failing to file his income taxes and running a criminal enterprise.

Haynes appealed the conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The appellate judges affirmed Haynes’ conviction in an Aug. 12 opinion.

In February 2019, Haynes was sentenced to between 7 1/2 and 20 years in prison on convictions for embezzlement of $100,000 or more and a criminal enterprise charge. He was sentenced to 30 months to five years on the remaining charges, which will run concurrent to the longer sentence.

The 97-year-old victim of the crime said she was isolated, lost confidence and feared retaliation from Haynes. Before her husband died in 2001, they invested in an annuity.

The case was brought by the office of Michigan’s Attorney General. Haynes met the victim in 2006, when she was 85, at a financial planning seminar he ledk and served as her agent for 10 years. He took more than $300,000 over four years, documents show.

Hanyes argued in his appeal that there was juror misconduct, that his attorney was not effective, that he wasn’t sentenced correctly and that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the victim was a vulnerable adult and that he intended to defraud his taxes.

The appeals court did not find his arguments convincing, per the opinion.

“The evidence in this case was clear and I commend the Court of Appeals for upholding Mr. Haynes’ conviction,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Prosecuting elder abuse and exploitation remains one of my top initiatives. My office remains committed to securing justice against those who take advantage of vulnerable adults.”

Haynes is incarcerated at the Ionia Correctional Facility and his earliest release date is Aug. 5, 2026, per the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Full Article & Source:

Governor McKee Signs Legislation to Support Rhode Island Seniors

News Provided By
August 30, 2021, 20:26 GMT

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, joined by Senator Cynthia A. Coyne, and Representatives Joseph J. Solomon and Jason Knight today ceremonially signed into law two pieces of legislation to support Rhode Island's aging population.

The first piece of legislation (2021-S 0264A, 2021-H 5642A) requires financial institutions to report suspected financial exploitation of seniors to the Office of Healthy Aging.

"I am proud to serve Rhode Island's aging community in any way possible," said Governor McKee. "Ensuring that our most dear neighbors are not taken advantage of financially is a no-brainer and I thank the bill sponsors and advocates who make Rhode Island better for everyone, including folks like my mom, every day. I'd also like to commend my colleagues in the House and Senate for developing such an innovative volunteer program; congratulations!"

"Financial exploitation is a serious and growing problem for the elderly," said Sen. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence). "Many elderly people rely on caregivers to handle their financial matters, and unfortunately, some people abuse that trust. Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions can be very helpful in preventing that abuse, because they are often able to identify suspicious activity in accounts. We should make sure we are taking full advantage of their tools, and making them our partner in protecting senior citizens from this type of abuse."

"Abuse and exploitation of the elderly is a growing concern and one of the most egregious crimes committed in this state," said Rep. Solomon (D-Dist. 22, Warwick). "A recent study estimates that one in five older Americans are victims of financial exploitation, losing $3 billion annually. As our population ages, crimes of this nature will become more prevalent, and we need to do everything we can to protect our older citizens."

The second piece of legislation (2021-S 0103, 2021-H 6238) authorizes cities and towns to establish programs to offer tax credits to property owners age 60 or older in exchange for volunteer hours, allowing seniors to earn up to $1,500 off their property taxes.

"Many older property owners, particularly retirees, struggle under the burden of their property taxes. Allowing them to reduce their tax liability by volunteering for their city or town lets them use some of resources they have — time and skills — to lighten the load," said Sen. Coyne. "This is an idea that would benefit seniors and municipalities alike. Seniors are very dependable volunteers who have a lifetime of skills and experience to offer. In these days of tight municipal budgets, it could bring in some very valuable volunteers for cash-strapped towns."

"Besides the obvious financial benefits for both seniors and the towns, this is an idea that can also strengthen our communities, creating new opportunities for town residents to meet and interact with their neighbors, and helping older residents maintain connections and form new ones in their neighborhood," said Rep. Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren).

"This is good legislation that not only protects our senior population against exploitation but also enables our seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income, to give back to the community and benefiting from some tax savings," East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva said.

The bill signing took place at the East Providence Senior Center.

Full Article & Source:

Changes to Missouri’s Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline Hours of Operation

News Provided By
August 30, 2021, 23:24 GMT

Media Contact: Lisa Cox, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, MO —To better serve those needing to report concerns of abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly and disabled Missourians, the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline will be revising its hours of operations to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. effective Sept. 1, 2021.

In November of 2019, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) implemented an online reporting method allowing concerned citizens and mandated reporters to submit reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in an efficient, secure and confidential way. This online reporting method is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and provides an option for concerned citizens to submit reports during and outside of normal business hours. Since implementing this reporting method, approximately one-third of all reports are now submitted this way. While the online reporting portal has helped to ease call volume demands, additional efforts are still needed to ensure that no call goes unanswered.

“The new operational hours for the hotline will allow for increased staffing during times of highest call volume,” said Robert Knodell, Acting Director of DHSS. “This will help reduce wait times and make it easier to reach a call center agent during normal business hours.”

9-1-1 should be accessed for emergencies as the Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline is not intended for emergency response. Additional information including the online reporting portal can be found here.

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Former Lake County Deputy Public Guardian Arrested for Stealing From Client Using Information She Obtained on Her Job

This is a press release from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The information has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:

On April 2nd, 2021, a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy was contacted by personnel from Lake County Social Services regarding the theft of debit cards from one of their offices.  The debit cards were ones that had been issued as part of the Economic Impact Payments to individuals who were under conservatorship with Social Services.  Each debit card had a value of $600.  A total of twenty one stimulus debit cards were reported missing.

During the investigation it was determined Susan Marlowe, 44, of Lakeport, a former employee of Social Services, had access to the debit cards.   Marlowe had been the Deputy Public Guardian/ Deputy Public Administrator for Lake County Adult Protective Services.   Her employment with Lake County ended on March 10th, 2021.

During the investigation into the stolen debit cards, personnel from Lake County Social Services found suspicious activity in the bank account of a Lake County resident who was under conservatorship.  Susan Marlowe was the Deputy Public Guardian/ Deputy Public Administrator who managed the conservatee.

The case was assigned to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Major Crime Unit.  Detectives contacted the Lake County Department of Social Services who assisted with the investigation.  Multiple search warrants were authored to obtain business records and bank records which were related to the investigation.  A detailed examination of bank records located four large withdrawals from the conservatee’s bank account.  Additional records were obtained through a search warrants which showed the four withdrawals were used to make payments to a personal loan belonging to Marlowe.  The payments totaled approximately $5,800.

On June 10th, 2021, a search warrant was served at Marlowe’s residence in Finley.  Marlowe was contacted and interviewed.  During the interview Marlowe admitted to using between six and ten of the debit cards for her personal use.  She also admitted to using the conservatee’s bank account to make payments on her loan.

The investigation continued and additional business and bank records were sought.  Upon the receipt of the additional records, it was determined that Marlowe was responsible for three additional withdrawals from the conservatee’s bank account in December of 2019; totaling approximately $6,600.  The withdrawals were the result of three fake invoices that Marlowe created for home repairs to the conservatees residence which did not occur.

The case was forwarded to the Lake County District Attorney’s Office for review.  The case was filed with the Lake County Superior Court and an arrest warrant for Marlowe was issued with a bail of $50,000.00.  Detectives attempted to arrest Marlowe on the warrant, but determined she was out of state.  On August 24th, Marlowe surrendered herself at the Lake County Superior Court and the arrest warrant was recalled.  Marlowe was released on her own recognizance and is scheduled to appear at the Lake County Superior Courthouse on October 8th, 2021.

It is suspected that Marlowe is responsible for the theft of all of the debit cards.  Anyone with information related to this case is asked to contact Detective Todd Dunia at 707-262-4232 or

Full Article & Source:

Actress Nichelle Nichols in Conservatorship Battle Surrounding Dementia

By Jonny Lupsha
Dementia concept, head silhouette puzzle becoming undone
The CDC defines dementia as an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions, thus interfering with doing everyday activities. Photo By Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Nichelle Nichols, best known for her role as communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura on Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek series, finds herself at the center of a conservatorship battle, much like that of singer Britney Spears. Like Spears, Nichols is a famous entertainer at risk of exploitation by her legal conservators.

In Nichols’s case, a tug-of-war over the actress’s care has erupted between her only child, her former manager, and a concerned friend, each of whom claims that at least one other party will exert undue influence over and exploit her. Unlike Spears, Nichols, 88, suffers dementia.

In his video series The Aging Brain, Dr. Thad Polk, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, explained the difference between dementia and normal mental lapses.

When to Worry and When Not to Worry

Forgetfulness is a normal part of human existence. The elderly tend to forget things more than younger people do, often leading to unnecessary concerns about dementia. Of course, dementia should be taken seriously, but not every instance of forgetfulness should raise a red flag.

“Most older people experience memory problems from time to time,” Dr. Polk said. “Perhaps they forget where they put their glasses or their keys, or they forget where they parked the car; maybe they neglect to make one of their monthly payments or have trouble remembering a specific word or an acquaintance’s name. Many people experience problems like these as they age and they aren’t normally a cause for concern.”

At the same time, genuine cases of dementia shouldn’t be ignored. So when is it time to worry? According to Dr. Polk, when memory lapses become severe enough that they disrupt daily life, they might be a sign of early dementia.

“Temporarily forgetting the word for toothbrush probably doesn’t indicate a problem, but forgetting what a toothbrush is for might,” he said. “Warning signs include symptoms like asking for the same information over and over, finding it really hard to complete mental tasks that used to be easy, or forgetting what season it is.

“Other early symptoms could include getting lost in a very familiar environment, having trouble carrying on a simple conversation, or failing to take care of basic personal hygiene.”

Types of Dementia

There are many different kinds of dementia. Some are reversible, depending on what causes them. Depression, vitamin B12 deficiency, and Lyme disease all cause dementia-like symptoms and can be cured. Benzodiazepines like xanax, ativan, and valium can also cause memory loss, as can opioid painkillers like vicodin and percocet.

However, dementia can also be caused by brain disease. The most common and well-known is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are others.

“For example, over 50% of patients with Parkinson’s disease eventually develop symptoms of dementia, although it typically takes about 10 years after the onset of Parkinson’s for such symptoms to appear,” Dr. Polk said. “Progressive loss of neurons in the frontal and temporal cortex can also produce a dementia called Pick’s disease or frontotemporal dementia.

“This disorder is characterized by significant personality changes, by apathy, and by problems understanding and producing language.”

Vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, is common in older people. An infarct, Dr. Polk said, is a localized area of tissue that dies from oxygen deprivation. People have a stroke when they have an infarct in the brain.

Full Article & Source:

Man takes plea deal for elder abuse, sentenced to probation, house arrest

Jonah Delgado, 20, was caught on home surveillance video abusing the 88-year-old disabled man he was hired to care for, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. 

Prosecutors say the video shows Delgado punch the elderly man in the stomach three times. The video also shows the victim being slapped and shoved down on a bed. Delgado also verbally abused the man he was hired to keep healthy and happy, according to investigators. Delgado pleaded guilty to three third-degree felonies, two counts of elder abuse, and battery of a victim over the age of 65. Delgado also apologized. 

Delgado was sentenced to two years of house arrest and four years probation. He is not allowed to be a caretaker, must attend anger management classes, perform 200 hours community service, and write a letter of apology.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Guardianship or Exploitation? How Conservators Abuse the Elderly

by Rachel Jones

Mary Jane Mann and her daughter, Carol Kelly, with friends in Switzerland
Credit: Courtesy of Carol Kelly

Overheard in conversation, Mary Jane Mann’s story might be mistaken for that of an elderly victim of guardian abuse in the recent Netflix film, “I Care a Lot.” But for her, the story was all too real.

Mann was a vibrant, 85-year-old woman living independently in Sacramento, California, when a family disagreement — beginning when one of her daughters allegedly attempted to have Mann change her trust — resulted in someone making an anonymous call to Adult Protective Services. Not long after, a court placed Mann under conservatorship; she wasn’t even present at the hearing. Mann had been a lifelong volunteer and world traveler, and had served as executive director of the Orange County, California YWCA. She’d actively saved for retirement. Multiple doctors reported she was competent. Yet like a concerning number of elders under guardianship or conservatorship around the country, Mann found herself suffering at the hands of the very system designed to protect her.

Suddenly, the conservator had her name on Mann’s bank account and trust, and was spending her money and receiving her mail. Mann’s driver’s license was taken away — though she eventually got it back. “I wake up crying at night,” Mann said of her situation in a 2011 CBS interview. “I just can’t believe this is happening.”

While there is little reliable data, a report that same year from the National Center for State Courts estimated some 1.5 million American adults to be under guardianship nationwide. Many times, guardians and conservators serve an important purpose: They make tough decisions and handle complex affairs for adults who are unable to do so for themselves, and who may otherwise become targets of fraud or be taken advantage of by family members.

But as a number of shocking reports from around the country — and the recent coverage of Britney Spears — has demonstrated, the system is easily abused. And when it is, victims struggle to obtain justice. While Mann — with the help of her daughter, Carol Kelly — was eventually able to prove her competence and get out from under conservatorship, her success was far from common. Mann died in 2012, and Kelly feels certain the situation took years off her mother’s life by escalating her blood pressure and causing panic attacks. Even after it was over, Kelly said, her mother was anxious it could happen again.

“They’re bullies, they’re predators,” Kelly said. “They’re still doing it and getting away with it. That’s what’s criminal.”

Who Are Guardians and Conservators?

In each U.S. state, adult guardians operate under different laws — and different terminology. In some, a guardian or conservator might be appointed for the person — making decisions such as where the ward will live, what medical procedures they need, and who can have contact with them. A separate guardian or conservator might be appointed for the person’s estate, handling financial matters such as paying bills, selling assets and balancing accounts. Sometimes, a guardian or conservator is appointed to just one of these roles, or the same guardian or conservator might be appointed to both. A guardian or conservator can be a family member, a private professional — paid from the individual’s estate — or a public guardian, who is funded by the state or local government when a ward does not have assets.

Pamela Teaster, a professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech and director of the Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology, said that while there’s little to no official data on adult guardianships, the majority of guardians around the country are likely family members. Still, there is no guarantee that family guardians will act appropriately. There have been numerous accounts of family members stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from elders, pressuring them to sign over assets or engaging in other forms of abuse or neglect. Often, a court-appointed guardian or conservator is seen as a way to protect elders from unscrupulous family members, and to ensure that someone is acting in their best interests.

Yet this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, professional conservators or guardians may even seek to create rifts among family members — especially those who are already in disagreement — in order to gain control over a ward and their assets. Once they’ve done so, they’re free to bill the ward’s estate for their time and legal fees, and to continue doing so until those elders’ homes have been sold, their accounts have been emptied and they’ve been confined to a nursing home — possibly with very limited access to family.

In Mann’s case, a California conservator — the subject of a chilling, year-long ABC10 investigation, which delved into Kelly’s story as well as that of others — filed a petition for temporary conservatorship of Mann, claiming that she “appears to be suffering from cognitive impairment and moderate to severe short term memory loss.” The petition also alleged that Kelly had been attempting to isolate her mother and gain control of her assets — charges Kelly said were flat-out lies. Kelly said that she had wanted to work things out with her sister, but that the conservator and attorney had actively prevented that from happening. “It is not in their interests to have families get along,” Kelly said. “They tear families apart.”

Pamela Teaster is one of the few
academics studying professional
guardianships and
Teaster said that ideally, paid guardians should be certified or licensed by some professional body, and should be appointed only when there’s no other choice. “Families get fractured, because either the guardian is justified in separating the family — because they just agitate and upset the person — or they really are preventing them from seeing how the older person is,” Teaster said. Of unscrupulous guardians, she said “there’s probably one in every state,” and that “there’s a pocket of corruption everywhere.” Yet more often, Teaster said, the issue is that private guardians and conservators have so many wards that they simply can’t provide them with the care and attention they require.

Teaster — who has herself acted as a guardian twice for wards who were not relatives, mostly to learn from the experience — said that it’s not an easy job. She said that the ideal relationship of guardian to ward would be 1:1, and that the highest she recommends for professional guardians is 1:20, the rate mandated in Virginia. Many states have higher caps — such as Florida, where it’s 1:40 — while others don’t have caps at all, leaving guardians and conservators with as many as 100 wards apiece. These wards all too often end up warehoused in nursing homes, neglected and forgotten. “The problem is that if you put a cap on it, you don’t have enough slots for people,” Teaster said. “But I still, 20 years later, would not lift that cap because when you do these problems begin to happen.”

Ideally, Teaster said, a reliable family member should be enlisted to care for an incompetent loved one. “When we do the right things, we preserve the remaining rights people have,” she said. “I have to believe it’s most of the time. But when [guardian abuse] does happen — a percentage of that — it’s terrible. And you might not even know about it because the person under guardianship has lost the rights they have.”

How Guardians and Conservators Abuse Elderly Wards

What makes guardianships and conservatorships so ripe for abuse is the extensive power that is typically granted. A professional guardian of a person and their estate is able to directly bill their estate (sometimes, for outrageously large amounts or unnecessary services), sell their home and assets, and decide where they’ll live and who’s allowed to see them. And all of this is executed with very little oversight.  (Click to continue reading)

Full Article & Source:

Portsmouth Woman Sentenced for Fraud Schemes Targeting Veterans

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

Friday, August 27, 2021

Portsmouth Woman Sentenced for Fraud Schemes Targeting Veterans

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Portsmouth woman was sentenced today to 9.5 years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud veterans.

“What is most egregious about the defendant’s conduct is that she used her own status as a former veteran to defraud and take advantage of other veterans,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. “The sentence imposed in this case reflects the serious nature of these fraud schemes and the potential consequences that those who victimize veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, could face in the Eastern District of Virginia.”

According to court documents, Rita Copeland, 59, operated an entity known as “Veteran Services of the Commonwealth.” From 2016 through 2020, Copeland purported to provide caregiving, contracting, and rental assistance services to various veterans. Copeland caused a number of victims to apply for Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Such grant payments are to be used for certain designated improvements to the residences of veterans. Copeland failed to perform all of the promised work and used a portion of these payments to her own benefit, contrary to the designated purposes of the funds.

Copeland also diverted the income and retirement fund payments of another veteran to a bank account that she had opened. In addition, Copeland fraudulently obtained and diverted loan funds and used the credit and debit cards of this elderly victim. Finally, Copeland engaged in a rental fraud scheme, purporting to link veterans and others with landlords, but then diverted rental and security deposit payments to her own benefit. In total, from at least 2017-2020, Copeland’s fraud schemes impacted at least 29 victims, resulting in a combined loss of approximately $430,000.

Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Michael J. Missal, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels prosecuted the case.

Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. Together with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:20-cr-63.