Saturday, September 11, 2021



I-Team: How a Florida guardian stole $400k from his wards

by Danielle DaRos

Because Larry Leonhardt keeps meticulous records of his father's accounts and court paperwork, he was able to flag missing money and launch an investigation into his father's guardian. (WPEC)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Lynrod Douglas is sitting in the Palm Beach County Jail waiting to be sentenced on 15 charges relating to guardianship fraud.

Prosecutors say he concealed and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the people he was being paid to protect, and used their money to pay off his mortgage, pad his business account, and even buy a Mercedes Benz.

Larry Leonhardt tells the I-Team he will be at Lynrod Douglas' court hearing and will ask a judge for the maximum sentence.

"I'd like to see him off the streets forever, myself," Leonhardt said. "It would send a good message to the guardians. That if you play, you're going to pay a little bit here."

Larry Leonhardt is fighting for justice on behalf of his late father, Richard, a WWII veteran who retired in Stuart. When Richard's health declined, his children couldn't agree on who should manage his estate, so a judge appointed a professional guardian: Lynrod Douglas.

Larry and Richard Leonhardt, shortly before Richard's death. A court appointed guardian was managing Richard's estate, and secretly stealing his money (Leonhardt).

Larry said he initially trusted Douglas to manage his father's affairs. Afterall, the court-appointed Douglas, and was supposed to be overseeing the guardianship.

But two years later, when Richard passed away, Larry realized a large sum of his father's money was missing.

Because Larry kept meticulous records about his father's bank accounts and assets, he discovered more than $265,000 in CDs his father had at the bank were unaccounted for. As a guardian, Lynrod Douglas was the only person with access to those funds.

"I said what about the CDs?," Larry asked Douglas. "[Douglas] said, 'I could never find the CDs.' I contacted the bank and the bank told me they were cashed in September of that year. He was the only one who could legally cash them."

Larry filed a complaint, which started an investigation into Lynrod Douglas.

Anthony Palmieri, Chief Guardianship Investigator with the Palm Beach Clerk of Courts, led the investigation which found Douglas was stealing from Richard Leonhart, and four other wards.

"I think the system as designed is working in a lot of cases, but when the system goes off the rail, one case is too many cases," Palmieri told the I-Team.

According to court records, Douglas misappropriated about $420,000 from five wards.

Richard Leonhardt was a WWII veteran who retired in Stuart. His son Larry says he worked hard his whole left, and deserved better than what his guardian, Lynrod Douglas did to him (Leonhardt).

From Richard Leonhardt, Douglas took $152,992 to pay off a mortgage, used $75,867 to buy another property, and $4,000 to pay off a credit card.

From a ward named Helen Percia, Douglas took $121,894 to pay off a mortgage and deposit into his business account.

From wards Richard and Betty Weber, court documents state Douglas misappropriated nearly $10,000.

From a ward named Kevin Benner, Douglas stole $55,197 for his business account and to buy a Mercedes Benz.

And from another ward, named Grace Mackie, he misappropriated $525.

"I'd like to hear them in Tallahassee change a few things," Larry Leonhardt told the I-Team. "[Guardianships need] more oversight. You can't just have carte blanche without someone keeping an eye on it."

Judges are supposed to be providing oversight of guardians and their spending from their ward's accounts. Guardians submit annual financial reports to the court for review.

But the I-Team discovered Lynrod Douglas exploited a loophole in the system over and over again, that allowed him to conceal funds from the court.

He did it by inaccurately reporting his Inventory Lists.

When a guardian takes over a ward's estate, he or she is required to take an inventory of their ward's money, assets, and valuables.

The guardian has the authority to take the inventory by themselves, without anyone double-checking their reporting.

Ken Burke, Clerk of Court in Pinellas County and Chair of the statewide Guardianship Improvement Task Force, says this is a problem.

"The guardian does the inventory by themselves," he said. "There is no check, no person with them.

He said too often, guardians can under-report assets and leave bank accounts off of the inventory list, then steal them.

"Unfortunately the temptation is too strong when there is no check or balance," Burke said. "You would never allow that anyplace else."

Court documents show Lynrod Douglas routinely left assets off of his inventory lists for his wards.

In the Leonhardt case, he never reported the $265,000 in CDs to the court, so the judge was never able to provide oversight of that spending. The judge didn't know that money existed.

Larry Leonhardt was never allowed to see the inventory list, so he had no way of knowing the guardian stole it until it was too late.

Investigators say they found incomplete inventory lists in several of Douglas' cases. For some wards, he left entire bank accounts off of inventory lists and used those funds for himself.

The Guardianship Task Force is currently reviewing the entire guardianship system in Florida, and plans to make recommendations to the legislature. Changes to the inventory process may be among those recommendations.

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Court says former Cumberland County judge should be disciplined for misconduct

by: Kendra Nichols

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline has issued its opinion in the Judicial Conduct Board’s case against former Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Placey.

The court said Placey violated Article 5,17(b) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Article V, 17(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution and is subject to discipline.

In its opinion, the Court of Judicial Discipline said “It is clear from the stipulated facts the Judge Placey was not controlling his temper in court. The rude, loud outbursts toward counsel and witnesses are obvious violations of the demeanor required of a trial judge.”

The Judicial Conduct board entered several audio tapes of Judge Placey yelling in the courtroom as evidence.

“When a judge misuses his power he not only affects the litigants that are directly before him, he also gives the judicial system a black eye and threatens to undermind the public confidence in the courts,” Michael Dimino said.

Dimino is a professor of law at Widener University. He says although Placey resigned from the bench on June 1, it was important the Court of Judicial Discipline still issue an opinion on his case.

“There is an important value in having this proceeding declare that the judge has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct both to vindicate the interests of the people who were in his courtroom and to vindicate the interest of the overall judicial system,” Dimino said.

According to the Judicial Conduct Board, Placey could face a range of sanctions including a reprimand, a fine, or a ban from any future service.

As for Placey’s pension, several months ago the conduct board withdrew some counts against Placey which could have potentially forfeited his pension.

Placey has blamed his outbursts in court on concussions he suffered playing college football.

Placey’s attorney will have a chance to respond to the court’s opinion and a sanction hearing will be scheduled.

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GBI investigates elder exploitation in South Georgia

54-year-old Jean Allison Pignocco was arrested in Olive Branch Mississippi and booked into the Colquitt county jail, after being accused of exploiting two elderly adults.(WCTV)

By Jaclyn Harold

COLQUITT COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) - Jean Allison Pignocco, 54, was arrested in Olive Branch, Mississippi and booked into the Colquitt County Jail after allegedly exploiting two elderly adults.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Pignocco is related to both victims, who are each 85-years-old. She’s said to have unwillingly taken them from their homes in South Georgia to Mississippi.

Investigator Jamy Steinberg says money was being transferred from their accounts to others they didn’t control.

An investigation in August led the GBI and the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office to Pignocco. She’s being charged with two counts of exploitation and intimidation of a disabled adult, two counts of felony theft and one count of kidnapping.

Advocacy group Georgia Pines shared this kind of thing tends to happen when vulnerable people lose their trusted support system. Clinical Director, Dr. Richard Hughes said the pandemic may be making things worse as many seniors are more isolated because of the virus.

“I can think of several cases both professionally and personally where elderly people have been separated from their support groups because of becoming positive for COVID and people being concerned about that, and when there’s that void obviously anybody can step in,” said Dr. Hughes.

Both victims have been brought back to Georgia, and Dr. Hughes said you don’t have to prove that abuse is happening to report it. Instead, if you suspect something you’re advised to contact advocacy groups like Georgia Pines and allow the system to investigate the issue.

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Friday, September 10, 2021

Caretaker of Brandon woman under guardianship loses job

The caregiver was removed after allowing the ward to call a friend overseas.
Christine Lagisquet, 92, at her home in Brandon, Florida, on Aug. 9. [ Hannah Critchfield ]

By Hannah Critchfield

A caretaker of a 92-year-old woman who is attempting to fight her guardianship said she was fired last week after allowing the older woman to speak with a friend who lives overseas.

Georgina James, 53, said she was terminated from her position caring for Brandon resident Christine Lagisquet on Sept. 3.

Lagisquet, who was featured in a recent Tampa Bay Times story, is under emergency temporary guardianship. Her son alleges she has dementia. She has been fighting to keep the legal arrangement, which places all aspects of her civil rights in the hands of a professional guardian, from becoming permanent.

Due to a court order, friends must now get permission from her guardian, with consent from her attorney, before seeing or speaking with Lagisquet. Her guardian placed caretakers at her home to provide round-the-clock supervision.

James said Mind & Mobility Home Care told her she was being removed from the position at the request of Lagisquet’s guardian, Susan Whitney, because she had allowed Lagisquet to speak with her friend Dominque Lucbernet, who lives in Paris.

“But her attorney told me she was allowed to call her friend in France,” James said. “I’m good at my job. They have no reason to fire me.”

She was also simultaneously removed from her position caring for another one of Whitney’s wards, she said. When called, a representative of the care agency said they would respond to emailed questions. That has not happened yet. Jonathan Hackworth, Lagisquet’s attorney, declined to comment.

Gerald Hemness, the guardian’s attorney, confirmed that James was fired.

“When a care provider does not clear her actions with Ms. Whitney, it is entirely possible that she will be terminated,” Hemness said.

Guardianships should be understood through the lens of a parent-child relationship, he said.

“If you want to give a child a peanut butter sandwich, all you have to do is call the parent and see if it’s okay,” Hemness said. “It’s simple. But when they don’t ask, I’ll tell you why: They don’t like the answer the parent is going to provide.”

James said she was taken aback by the removal, and by Lagisquet’s situation.

“I’ve been a caretaker for over 12 years — I’ve worked with families that are fighting about money, I’ve worked with a judge, I’ve worked in facilities and I’ve never seen anything like this,” James said. “They’ve just dirtied everybody around her — her friend of 30-something years, her neighbors. Now they’ve made me look dirty.

“It’s heartbreaking because she’s lovely, and she’s being isolated,” she added.

Georgina James, 53, was removed from her job caring for Christine Lagisquet on Sept. 3. [ Courtesy of Georgina James ]

James, a patient care technician, said she doesn’t believe Lagisquet needs the level of supervision she is currently receiving.

“She needs somebody to take her to the grocery store, and probably to help her with her bills and help her manage her money, but she doesn’t need 24-hour guardianship,” James said, estimating that round-the-clock caretakers are costing Lagisquet around $768 daily. “If this continues, this lady will have no money, and she’s going to be thrown in a nursing home.”

Caring for Whitney’s wards took up the bulk of her 36-hour work week, James said. The agency offered to assign her new jobs, she said, but she no longer feels comfortable working with the company after being removed at a guardian’s request.

Working in a health care field rife with staff shortages, she said she has other options.

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Hospital low on oxygen, fears being forced to 'choose who lives or dies'


Hospital low on oxygen, fears being forced to 'choose who lives or dies'. (KIMA)

YAKIMA, Wash. (KIMA) — Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital says it is afraid of soon hitting a point where it would have to choose who lives or who dies.

The Yakima, Wash. hospital is already having to ration its resources, such as oxygen.

Memorial is monitoring its oxygen consumption and said things could take a turn where it is saved for those the staff knows it can save.

Dr. Marty Brueggemann with Memorial says a number of factors could lead the hospital to this point, including staffing shortage getting worse, an increase of COVID-19 patients or more patients who need ventilators.

He added the hospital is getting closer to what’s called "crisis standards of care," which means if you go to the hospital, you might not be chosen to get the care you need.

They may decide that we don’t have the resources to care for you and your chance of survival is low, so we’re not gonna ask if you want to resuscitate or not, we’re just not gonna be able to do it," Brueggemann said.

Additionally, if Memorial reaches this standard of care, they will not have anywhere else to send patients or have any oxygen left.

Hospital low on oxygen, fears being forced to 'choose who lives or dies'. (KIMA)

Dr. Brueggemann said this means, “somebody somewhere is gonna get taken off oxygen and given pain medicine to kind of give them a peaceful death.”

As of now, on average, Memorial sees 30 to 40 patients in the waiting room throughout most of the day, with 10 percent of those leaving without ever being seen by a nurse or a doctor.

Brueggemann said:

That’s a dangerous situation because those patients may have medical problems that require emergency attention that we can’t get to because of the volumes.

Memorial is currently watching its oxygen consumption very closely, adding that one patient’s oxygen requirement rose to a level that pushed the entire unit over its limit recently.

Out of the 64 Memorial employees that are out due to COVID-related reasons, 11 of those are registered nurses while 10 of them are nursing assistants.

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Kansas man gets 30-year term for murder of emaciated mother

Raymond McMannes, 54, was sentenced to 374 months on Wednesday

A suburban Kansas City man has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison in the death of his 75-year-old mother, who was emaciated and riddled with infected bed sores when she died at home in 2019.

Raymond McManness, 54, was sentenced Wednesday to 374 months, the Kansas City Star reported. McManness, of Olathe, pleaded no contest in July to second-degree murder and physical mistreatment of his mother. Police said McManness didn’t seek medical care for Sharon McManness before she died.

The medical examiner’s office found she died in January 2019 from an infection due to open bed sores and that she was severely malnourished, weighing just 58 pounds.

This Jan 24, 2019 booking photo released by Johnson County Sheriff's Office shows Raymond McManness.
This Jan 24, 2019 booking photo released by Johnson County Sheriff's Office shows Raymond McManness.
This Jan 24, 2019 booking photo released by Johnson County Sheriff's Office shows Raymond McManness. (Johnson County Sheriff's Office via AP File)

Police said when they found her, she was "very emaciated and had large open bedsores," including one sore that was "open to the bone."

Police found no medications, no clean clothing, no working telephones and minimal food when they searched the home. Dog feces and urine was found throughout the house. And soiled clothes, that appeared to have been cut off the victim, were found in a trash can, court records said.

McManness told police at the time that he checked on his mother twice a day, but that he had moved out six months earlier because his mother kept him awake at night. Authorities say he admitted he stopped taking his mother, who had dementia, to the doctor when her physical and mental health declined.

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Man in hospital many months due to Covid served papers, hospital wants to appoint guardian

by Robyn Oguinye 

Mark Miranda has been at Christus Santa Rosa seven months due to Covid complications. He was served papers to appear in court to be appointed a guardian to make decisions on his behalf. (KABB/WOAI)
SAN ANTONIO (KABB/WOAI) - A Texas family looking at $4 million in hospital bills is now facing another challenge.

Mark Miranda has been in the hospital for seven months due to Covid complications.

The husband and father of two is still on a ventilator and making slow progress.

A visit from the Comal County Sheriff's Department last week is making their medical misfortune a nightmare.

Mark was served papers ordering him to appear in court.

A request from Christus Santa Rosa asks Mark be stripped of his rights to make decisions on behalf of his health and forfeit them to a group called Angel Guardians.

The family claims it's an effort to remove him from the hospital.

"I don’t think it’s fair and I can make my own decisions," says Mark.

According to personal injury attorneys we spoke with, that guardian would be allowed to make all of the medical decisions for Mark and even decide whether family members, like his spouse, would have access to him.

"If he’s able to demonstrate that he is of sound mind, capable of making decisions, has a sense of awareness, then it would be completely inappropriate for a guardianship to be appointed," says attorney Erica Maloney.

Maloney says guardianships are appointed when someone is incapacitated, that's how paperwork from the hospital refers to Mark.

But mark's wife Kim says he's far from incapacitated.

"Now he’s moving his arms, you can see that he’s moving his own arms, he’s moving his legs, he can do a lot of things if given the chance," says Kim. "To our knowledge he has not been evaluated."

We asked Maloney if there is an evaluation process when determining if someone will be appointed a guardian.

"There is, in the court there’s a process and there’s the ability for witnesses to testify, so they would have to have proof that he was actually incapacitated," says Maloney.

We asked Christus for more insight into the Miranda's situation, we received this statement:

Each of our patients capture our hearts in different ways, and although we cannot speak directly about specifics because of federal patient privacy laws, we can share that we strive to treat everyone we serve with compassion and dignity. We advocate for and honor them and their families.

Mark and Kim also say the hospital began physical therapy for Mark in May, but the therapy stopped just shy of August.

They say they feel that therapy is what he needs to continue to heal.

Mark is set to appear before a judge this Thursday, September 9.

Watch for updates here to see what is decided.

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Hard-hit Georgia nursing home industry seeks $347 million in COVID-19 relief

By James Salzer

With more than 3,500 COVID-19 deaths, a big drop-off in occupancy and rising costs, nursing home officials say their industry has been financially hammered by the pandemic, and they’re looking for federally funded relief.

The Georgia Health Care Association is requesting nearly $347 million from the state’s $4.8 billion portion of the COVID-19 relief fund Congress approved in March.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday that the state has delayed announcing which businesses, governments and nonprofits will be awarded grants from the fund until early next year to give them more time to apply.

Nursing homes and other care facilities have received hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal help since COVID-19 hit the state in March 2020, but officials say they need more.

“Long-term care providers across the state have responded to this crisis heroically, all while facing significant operational challenges and financial losses,” said Tony Marshall, president and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association.

“The current financial conditions are simply not sustainable for our state’s long-term care communities, and a number of providers are facing difficult operational decisions that include limiting admissions and even closure at a time when Georgia’s senior population is set to grow exponentially,” Marshall said.

The COVID-19 recovery bill President Joe Biden signed in March was designed to help states — and the economies of those states — hard hit by the coronavirus.

Gov. Brian Kemp has set up committees to review applications to spend the state’s share of the money in three areas: expanding high-speed internet services to areas that lack them; improving water and sewer infrastructure; and providing relief to people and businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The money could be used to make direct payments to Georgians, provide aid to small businesses, give extra pay to “essential workers,” fund job training and placement services, or assist hard-hit areas of the economy such as the hospitality and travel industries.

For instance, Kemp, who gets to make the final decision on how the money is spent, announced Thursday that he was giving the state’s tourism division $5.8 million to promote the industry.

Georgia has received half of the $4.8 billion it is expected to get. It is scheduled to receive the second half next year.

The first round of applications would allocate about $875 million of the $2.4 billion the state has received so far, according to the Office of Planning and Budget.

The $347 million request from the nursing home industry would eat up a sizable chunk of the fund.

When asked whether one industry will wind up getting that much, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, a member of the committees, said: ”I have no idea. But I think they are building a pretty good case.”

The nursing home industry said the COVID-19 grants would help financially stabilize their business and could end when occupancy rates match or surpass pre-pandemic levels for two consecutive months.

It said occupancy in homes dropped from an average of 84.5% in December 2019 to just below 70% in February. While the occupancy rate improved to 72.2% in July, more than one-quarter of the homes are less than two-thirds full. Some, much less. There were about 28,500 people residing in nursing homes in Georgia in July, down from just under 34,000 in December 2019.

England said, “A lot of folks are saying, ‘We are going to keep granny at home.’ ”

Marshall said the drop in occupancy in homes has resulted “in a devastating loss of revenue.”

“Revenue losses of $31 million or more per month, as seen during the second half of 2020, continue to this day,” Marshall said.

Deborah Meade, CEO of Health Management in Warner Robins, the third generation of her family to operate a small nursing home company, said her average occupancy at her facilities is 59% as the delta variant outbreak hits Middle Georgia hard this summer.

“We are taking admissions, and five days after they are admitted, they are testing positive,” she said. “And they were fully vaccinated.

“The additional strain on the staff to see this all over again after seeing this during 2020 is unimaginable,” she said, noting that she has lost workers because of it.

Meade, who is also chairwoman of the American Health Care Association, said her father died of COVID-19. She had hoped her daughter would follow her in running the company, but “I am for the first time afraid that she is not going to have that opportunity — it is that dire.”

Industry officials said they have seen greatly increased costs for things such as COVID-19 prevention and mitigation, and for staffing. Often workers are only available through staffing agencies.

Some of those higher costs were picked up by taxpayers.

The state sent in National Guard troops to help the homes, and $113 million in CARES Act COVID-19 funding approved at the beginning of the pandemic paid for staffing and pandemic response.

The industry is heavily reliant on payments from Medicaid and Medicare, the taxpayer-funded health care programs for the poor, disabled and elderly. For some facilities, that reliance has only increased since the pandemic began.

But the fact that so much of its revenue is tied to state and federal funding means the industry is also by necessity politically active, which puts it in a strong position to lobby for more COVID-19 relief.

The Health Care Association and nursing home giant PruittHealth have well-connected lobbyists at the Capitol.

The association has contributed more than $400,000 to state leaders, lawmakers and partisan state political action committees in the past five years. The Pruitt family and its companies have donated at least $950,000 in that time, including about $107,000 to Kemp’s campaigns and $250,000 to Republican caucus funds and the state GOP.

But beyond the money and lobbying, the General Assembly is run by lawmakers from rural Georgia, which is a key voter base for Kemp and the Republican majority. Rural lawmakers say while the nursing home giants may be able to hang on through the pandemic, small local facilities in their areas may not make it without further aid.

“With these small, independent homes ... the cash flow has disappeared,” England said. “It’s really putting them in a quandary.”

Full Article & Source:
Hard-hit Georgia nursing home industry seeks $347 million in COVID-19 relief

Mass. Nursing Assistant Charged With Sexually Assaulting 2 Elderly Women

As a certified nursing assistant, Charles Wachira changed, bathed and fed residents of nursing homes, as well as helping them use the bathroom, according to the officials

By Asher Klein

A nursing assistant was in court Tuesday to face charges he sexually assaulted two elderly woman at Massachusetts nursing homes where he was working overnight shifts.

A grand jury in Worcester County had indicted Charles Wachira, a 40-year-old from Lowell, on charges including indecent assault and battery on an elder, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and Middlesex County District Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

Wachira is accused of sexually assaulting a resident of Knollwood Nursing Center in Worcester in February 2020 while washing her, even though she was able to wash herself. A year later, he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at Bear Hill Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Wakefield after saying he had to "measure" her.

Wachira pleaded not guilty at the court hearing Tuesday, prosecutors said.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Britney Spears' father files petition to end conservatorship after 13 years at helm of pop star's estate

Jamie Spears' filing says his daughter "is entitled to have this Court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required."

Britney Spears with her father, Jamie Spears, at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas in November 2001.Denise Truscello / WireImage file

By Doha Madani and Diana Dasrath

Britney Spears' father filed a petition to end his daughter's conservatorship Tuesday, a major victory for the singer after her father had held the reins of her estate for more than 13 years.

James "Jamie" Spears' petition to Los Angeles County Superior Court, seen by NBC News, says his daughter "is entitled to have this Court now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required." The filing went on to say Britney Spears' circumstances have changed "to such an extent that grounds for establishment of a conservatorship may no longer exist."

His petition also argued that probate code doesn't require Britney Spears to undergo a new psychological evaluation to terminate the guardianship, which she told the court she refuses to do.

"The conservatorship has helped Ms. Spears get through a major life crisis, rehabilitate and advance her career, and put her finances and her affairs in order. But recently, things have changed," the filing said. "Ms. Spears is now outspoken in her frustration with the level of control imposed by a conservatorship, and has pleaded with this Court to 'let her have her life back.'"

Britney Spears, 39, has tried to remove her father from her case twice in the last two years, saying last year that she refuses to perform while he retains control over her in any capacity. She told Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny during her testimony June 23 that her father had ruined her life and "loved" to hear her in pain while he exerted his power over her.

She alleged that her conservatorship was "abusive" and that she was told she wouldn't be able to see her children if she didn't comply with the demands of her father or management.

Her newly appointed attorney, Mathew Rosengart, filed a petition to remove Jamie Spears last month and asked the court to replace him with a professional accountant. Rosengart argued that Jamie Spears wasn't acting in his daughter's best interests and indicated that he may have misused her finances.

The petition to end the conservatorship was a mammoth legal victory and "vindication," Rosengart said in a statement Tuesday.

"It appears that Mr. Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath, but as we assess his filing — which was inappropriately sent to the media before it was served on counsel — our investigation will continue," Rosengart said.

Penny was expected to rule on the petition at a hearing Sept. 29.

Jamie Spears' petition is a big win for the #FreeBritney fans who have spent years protesting the conservatorship. Many of those in the #FreeBritney community are fans of Britney Spears who expressed fears that her father was exploiting her for his own benefit.

Jamie Spears has repeatedly denied all allegations of abuse, both in legal filings and in public comments.

In a response to the petition to remove him, Jamie Spears indicated that he would be "willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters." But he still contested his removal, arguing that there was no urgent need for his removal, and he urged the court not to make a decision based on "false allegations."

He specifically addressed allegations made by his ex-wife Lynne Spears, who also provided a declaration that said she didn't believe he was acting in their daughter's best interests. She said Jamie Spears' "absolutely microscopic control" through threats and coercion had reduced his relationship with their daughter to nothing more than "fear and hatred."

Lynne Spears said she became involved in the case during a "time of crisis" that began in 2018 and continued into the next year. She said that in that period, Britney Spears was being treated by a "sports enhancement" doctor, hired by Jamie Spears, who was "prescribing what I and many others thought to be entirely inappropriate medicine to my daughter, who did not want to take the medicine."

Jamie Spears rebutted the allegation, saying Lynne Spears "has not accepted the full extent" of the level of care and treatment their daughter needed for her mental health. The filing argued that the doctor was a Harvard-trained psychiatrist whom Britney Spears approved of after an interview.

He also denied having coerced his daughter to "do anything," including undergo forced inpatient facility treatment.

"If the public knew all the facts of Ms. Spears' personal life, not only her highs but also her lows, all of the addiction and mental health issues that she has struggled with, and all of the challenges of the Conservatorship, they would praise Mr. Spears for the job he has done, not vilify him," the filing said.

"But the public does not know all the facts, and they have no right to know, so there will be no public redemption for Mr. Spears," it said.

Rosengart demanded that Jamie Spears immediately resign last month, accusing him in court documents of attempting to extort money from his daughter's estate before stepping down.

"Mr. Spears and his counsel are now on notice: the status quo is no longer tolerable, and Britney Spears will not be extorted," Rosengart wrote. "Mr. Spears's blatant attempt to barter suspension and removal in exchange for approximately $2 million in payments, on top of the millions already reaped from Ms. Spears's estate by Mr. Spears and his associates, is a non-starter."

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Detectives: Debary Man Threatened To Cut Victim’s Head Off; Charged With Abuse Of Elderly, Disabled Adult And False Imprisonment

By Joe Mcdermott

Ryan Ganim, 49, is described as a family friend who cares for a disabled couple at their home and has power of attorney. He was charged with abuse of an elderly/disabled adult without great harm and false imprisonment, both felonies.

VOLUSIA COUNTY, FL – Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 49-year-old live-in caretaker and charged him with abusing a disabled adult in DeBary after the victim stated he was battered, verbally threatened and prevented from leaving his home.

According to authorities, Ryan Ganim, 49, is described as a family friend who cares for a disabled couple at their home and has power of attorney. The husband is 73, legally blind and has diminished hearing. He and his wife, who is 79, have lived with Ganim for seven years so he can care for the couple at their home on Columbine Trail.

The male victim told deputies he and Ganim argued early Saturday because the victim’s incontinent dog had soiled in the house. The argument escalated when Ganim struck the victim on the side of his head with his fist, struck the couch with an unknown object that made a loud noise, and threatened to cut the victim’s head off.
Ganim then struck the victim’s right forearm with what felt like a baseball bat. The victim stood up to leave but Ganim then took a rope that hung from the ceiling, commonly used for physical therapy, and wrapped it around the victim’s neck briefly before letting go. The victim finally escaped Ganim’s grasp and was trying to leave the house, but when he did, he discovered that Ganim had screwed the front door shut to prevent the victim from leaving. 

So the disabled man managed to crawl out the back of the house and through a gate, a path unfamiliar to him. He walked to a neighbor’s home and asked them to call law enforcement. Deputies observed the victim’s right forearm was red and had dried blood on it, but he did not require medical attention.

Deputies spoke with Ganim, who denied striking the victim in any way and said the victim’s wife “is like a mother to” him. Ganim stated he screwed the front door shut to prevent the victim from “wandering.” During a search of Gamin, a deputy found a pair of metal pliers that had a small amount of blood on them and may have been used to strike the victim’s forearm.   

Ganim was charged with abuse of an elderly/disabled adult without great harm and false imprisonment, both felonies. He was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail and has since been released on pretrial supervision.

Florida law requires the reporting of known or suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect of vulnerable adults (elderly or disabled). The Florida Abuse Hotline receives reports 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-962-2873 or 1-800-96-ABUSE. Report online at If you suspect or know of a vulnerable adult in immediate danger, call 911.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Families scramble to find elderly nursing home patients taken to warehouse ahead of Ida

Paramedics evacuate people at a mass shelter on Thursday in Independence, La. More than 800 residents from seven nursing homes were brought to this facility in anticipation of Hurricane Ida, but the conditions were so bad they had to be moved, officials said. (Chris Granger/Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate/AP)

By Ashley Cusick and Hannah Knowles

NEW ORLEANS — In the days after Hurricane Ida blew into Louisiana, flooding streets, destroying homes and downing power lines, Melissa Barbier struggled to get any word about her 64-year-old mother.

She heard nothing from Maison DeVille Nursing Home in Harvey, La., where her mom lived. Through the news, she learned that residents of the nursing home had been evacuated to a warehouse, where conditions were so appalling that people had to be rushed elsewhere — and some had died. She called phone number after phone number, only to be redirected.

Finally, Barbier said, on Sunday someone working at a shelter in Alexandria, La., called to say that she had seen her mother, Madeleine Bergeron. But Barbier said it was not clear when she might get to speak with Bergeron, who has dementia and needs help using the restroom.

“We’re in South Louisiana,” said Barbier, 36, who lives in Lafayette, about an hour away. “An emergency care plan should be in place. … I can’t wrap my head around how nobody has contacted me. Who gave the authority to the nursing home to evacuate?”

“I feel like they herded my mom and these poor people like cattle,” she said.

Families are scrambling for basic information on vulnerable loved ones as Louisiana authorities investigate the evacuation of more than 800 residents at seven nursing homes to the warehouse in the town of Independence. Local officials there soon raised alarms about putrid smells, packed-in mattresses and EMTs allegedly being sent away after residents called for help. The state health department ordered the homes to close Saturday, saying seven residents who were sent to the warehouse had died, with five of the fatalities deemed “storm-related.”

Hurricane Ida’s death toll surpassed 60 on Sept. 5 while more than 60 percent of New Orleans remained without power a week after the storm made landfall. (Reuters)

The deaths underscored Ida’s threat to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents — the frail and elderly — 16 years after Hurricane Katrina drowned nearly three dozen patients in a single nursing home. The storm’s death toll rose Sunday as state leaders announced a 13th fatality: a 74-year-old man who they said died of heat exhaustion and lack of oxygen amid punishing temperatures and huge power outages that make it hard to stay cool.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Sunday afternoon that nearly 600,000 customers around the state still lack power a week after Ida’s landfall, with some parishes virtually devoid of electricity and reliant on generators. He said authorities are still trying to assess the hurricane’s damage as National Guard members from as far as away as Alaska join a massive relief effort.

Evacuations can be necessary but perilous with a “frail and fragile population,” Edwards said at a news conference, and “the question is whether we are doing them the way that we should and whether we’re learning. … I don’t have all the answers for that right now.”

Authorities have vowed further action against the nursing homes that evacuated to Independence, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) said he is investigating the deaths — trying to determine who moved the patients to an “apparently unsafe” place and who rebuffed authorities’ first attempts to intervene. The state health department said its inspectors tried to visit the warehouse on Tuesday after hearing about “deteriorating conditions” but were kicked out and subjected to “intimidation” from the nursing homes’ owner.

The health department reviews nursing homes’ emergency plans, and The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported that the agency approved a plan for an “alternate care facility” where people from seven nursing homes could evacuate. The health department did not comment on its oversight Sunday, but leaders have decried the conditions at the warehouse.

“What happened in Independence is reprehensible, and I know there are many families hurting as a result,” said Louisiana Health Secretary Courtney N. Phillips, while Louisiana State Health Officer Joseph Kanter called residents’ treatment an “affront to human dignity.”

The owner of the nursing homes, Bob Dean, could not be reached for comment Sunday but suggested to a local news station that deaths among his residents were expected.

“Normally with 850 people, you’ll have a couple a day, so we did really good with taking care of people,” Dean told WAFB-TV.

Dean’s nursing homes have drawn scrutiny before. Most of the seven ordered to close received the lowest possible ratings after inspections, according to

In 1998, an 86-year-old resident of one of Dean’s nursing homes died among a group who reportedly spent hours on a bus without air conditioning while waiting to be unloaded at a Baton Rouge shelter, the Associated Press said. And in 2005, the Times-Picayune raised alarms about patient care at Dean’s facilities. One resident, the newspaper reported, was hospitalized after being attacked by ants.

Louisiana state Rep. Nicholas Muscarello Jr. (R), who represents the parish that includes Independence, said he went to the warehouse Tuesday with the town’s mayor and others after hearing that “a lot of emergency calls” were coming from the facility. They arrived to find trash heaped outside — with no dumpsters in sight — and inside, elderly evacuees crowded onto mattresses only a few feet apart.

Muscarello said he was alarmed their group could walk right in. “I’ve seen enough,” he recalled quickly telling his colleagues before escalating the issue to others in the legislature.

“Clearly [Dean] chose not to put any … resources into making this shelter a viable shelter,” the lawmaker said. If investigations prove wrongdoing, Muscarello said, “he should lose every license, and he needs to be out of the nursing business.”

Residents of Dean’s nursing homes across four parishes were evacuated to the warehouse on Aug. 27 in anticipation of Hurricane Ida, authorities said. By Sept. 1, the state health department was working to move them again. Officials started with “the most vulnerable” and “had rescued the vast majority” by the end of that day, the department said, adding that all nursing home residents were evacuated by Sept. 2.

Authorities have released few details about the deaths among residents of Dean’s homes. A spokeswoman for the state health department, Mindy Faciane, said Sunday that five of the victims ranged in age from 52 to 84 but did not share names, causes of death or other details.

As of Saturday, the department said it had connected with more than 200 of the residents’ families and urged people to call 211 for help finding their relatives.

But loved ones and authorities alike said they were wondering how residents ended up in such conditions.

Connie Mahler, 47, said she spent the past few days trying to locate her grandmother, 88-year-old Bonnie Correnti, who was evacuated from Maison Orleans Healthcare Center to the Independence warehouse. Without access to reliable cellphone service or local media reports, she enlisted the help of a police officer friend before finally hearing from relatives that Correnti had been transferred to the Bayou Vista Community Care Center in Bunkie, La., more than two hours north of her old facility in New Orleans.

She said she has mixed feelings about the decision to shut down that nursing home and others owned by Dean.

“If they shut him down, he needed to be. That’s cruelty,” she said. “But … now what? Now I’m worried about what’s going to happen to her. Like, where is she going to go?”

Renetta DeRosia, 55, was finally able to set eyes on her 84-year-old mother, Loretta Duet, on Saturday. “She said they’re being very well taken care of, but she’s ready to come closer to home,” DeRosia said.

She said she saw the conditions outside the Independence warehouse herself after last week’s relocations — noting trash and wheelchairs left behind.

Evacuees are now spread across the state. About a fourth of the more than 800 residents were brought to the Bossier Civic Center, more than four hours from Independence, where a team of doctors evaluated them for covid-19 and other medical concerns, said Peter Seidenberg, chair of family medicine at the LSU Health Shreveport School of Medicine.

Seidenberg said the evacuees showed up with a range of ailments typical of those in nursing home care: mobility issues, dementia, diabetes, heart and lung disease. They were also hungry and tired, he said.

“They were in a warehouse for about two days without air conditioning. Many had not eaten or received their medicines in about a day,” Seidenberg said. “They were very thankful to have some food and to have some medical attention and to have a place to sleep and get some rest.”

An on-site pharmacist ran between the facility and a nearby CVS, filling prescriptions for evacuees whose medicines were lost during the transfer.

Remarkably, Seidenberg said, most were in stable condition, with only six needing transfer to a hospital. But two of the evacuees tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting medical personnel to split the shelter into thirds: one isolated section for those two patients, another for everyone who made the long journey on their bus, and a third for the remaining evacuees.

“The evacuation likely saved their lives,” Seidenberg said.

Knowles reported from Washington.

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Ohio judge disciplined for communicating with defendant over Facebook

by: Patty Coller

OTTAWA COUNTY (WKBN) – An Ohio judge was sanctioned by the Ohio Supreme Court for having conversations with a defendant through Facebook.

Ottawa County Judge Bruce Winters was issued a six-month suspension, but that was stayed pending several conditions.

The court found that Judge Winters violated several codes of conduct when he began communicating with Keith Blumensaadt outside of the courtroom.  
According to court documents, Winters was Blumensaadt’s probation officer in the early 1980s before he was a judge. The two had minimal contact until 30 years later when Winters signed a protection order against Blumensaadt, issued by Blumensaadt’s brother and nephew. 

Blumensaadt was subsequently arrested on 12 felony counts and appeared before Winters where the judge disclosed his prior relationship with the defendant, but the prosecutor and defense counsel said they didn’t have an issue with it.

Blumensaadt accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to two felonies and one misdemeanor. Winters sentenced him to time served and a 180-day jail term.

About 30 days after Blumensaadt was released from jail, he and Winters became Facebook friends and communicated regularly using the Facebook Messenger app.

Several audio conversations included discussions about personal and professional matters, including multiple cases over which Winters presided, according to court documents.

On August 21, 2019, an Ottawa County grand jury indicted a person on drug charges. Blumensaadt messaged Winters and told him that the defendant had sold his daughter heroin and asked him to not impose a “bond he can make.”

At the defendant’s arraignment, Winters apparently did not honor the request and released the defendant on a recognizance bond, which involves no money.

Winters presided over the case and the defendant was sentenced to 24 months in prison. However, Winters did not disclose his prior conversations with Blumensaadt, according to court documents.

The panel found that Winters’ actions violated the code of conduct, including his conversations with Blumensaadt and the information he shared with him about other court cases.

In addition, the two communicated about Blumensaadt’s divorce and custody case, which was pending in Winters’ court. Winters granted custody of the couple’s child to Blumensaadt in September 2019.

Blumensaadt also messaged Winters about his mother’s pending funeral and the protection order that was filed against him and a personal injury claim.

The board said they considered numerous cases with sanctions ranging from a public reprimand to permanent disbarment but subsequently decided to suspend Winters from the practice of law for six months, with the suspension stayed on the condition that he complete a minimum of three hours of continuing judicial education focusing on communications outside of the courtroom and appropriate use of social media, refrain from further misconduct and pay court costs. The decision was unanimous.

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Lincoln man defrauded of more than $25,000, police say

by Andrew Wegley

According to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) here is a list of 10 important reminders consumers should do to protect their information.

Scammers purporting to be from the Boston Police Department  using a phone number tied to the police force  defrauded a 72-year-old Lincoln man of more than $25,000 on Tuesday, according to police.

Lincoln Police Officer Erin Spilker said the scammers told the man that his identity, along with his wife's, had been stolen and used to help fraudulently fund terrorist organizations.

The callers told the man he needed to send gift cards to clear the matter up, Spilker said. When the man questioned the scammers, he fielded a call from a number appearing to belong to Lincoln Police. Callers posing as LPD officers told the man the scam was legitimate, Spilker said.

After sending $11,360 in gift cards, the scammers told the man an arrest was made in the identity theft case, but that he needed to pay $16,000 in court fees, Spilker said.

The man went to Cornhusker Bank and wired $16,095 to an account in Turkey, according to police. Suspicious bank employees then tried to stop the transfer, Spilker said, but it's unclear if that effort was successful.

Spilker said there was a language barrier that may have added to the 72-year-old's vulnerability to the scam. An investigation is ongoing.

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Monday, September 6, 2021

Nursing home owner under investigation after 800 elderly residents are found packed inside a leaky warehouse during Ida — 4 tragically died

by Phil Shiver

Image Source: YouTube screenshot

State and local authorities in Louisiana are investigating after four nursing home residents have died and more than 800 others were found languishing inside of a mass shelter while riding out Hurricane Ida.

What are the details?

WWL-TV reported Thursday that residents from seven different area nursing homes had been transported to a large warehouse in Independence recently in preparation for the severe storm. The warehouse, however, was not suitable enough to provide care for the patients.

One nursing home worker who spoke with the outlet on the condition of anonymity said that inside the shelter, residents were forced to lie down on mattresses on the floor and were not given privacy from each other.

He said that while there was enough food and water for all the residents, there simply weren't enough staff to provide care. The worker admitted he wasn't "surprised" that four people died.

"The conditions weren't good enough," he said. "I knew they weren't going to be safe for the residents and for the workers. We did the best we could with what we had."

At one point, water started pouring into the warehouse and the facility started flooding. Residents had to be moved from that area to another part of the warehouse, making the packed conditions even tighter.

"It was intense," the worker said. "We didn't have privacy to take care of them. We were changing everybody right by everybody and with the COVID there just wasn't enough space. It was awful."

What else?

After being tipped off about the poor living conditions at the shelter, Louisiana Department of Health investigators reportedly attempted to investigate but initially were turned away by staff at the door.

The department, along with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), has since taken control of the situation and moved all 843 of the residents to other nursing homes or special needs shelters, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Thursday.

The governor vowed an investigation into the owner of the seven nursing homes from which residents were evacuated. That individual is also the owner of the warehouse where they were moved.

"At a minimum, when the situation degrades to the point that happened fairly quickly starting on Monday, then the owner, the homes, have an obligation to either move those residents themselves to a better facility or to ask for help," Edwards said. "He did neither."

"In fact, what he did was try to prevent the Department of Health from coming in and ascertaining the condition of those residents earlier in the week," he continued.

Anything else?

Relatives of the residents told media outlets this week that they were blindsided after learning about the warehouse conditions. 
WWL reported that they "never got a call or any kind of message from the nursing homes, but instead had to find out on the news."
"If we'd known, I would've come and got her for sure," said one woman whose mother was in the warehouse.
"They could've made any kind of phone call," added another relative during an interview with CBS News.

WWL reported that three of the deceased residents were as a 59-year-old woman from Jefferson parish, a 52-year-old man from New Orleans and a 77-year-old man from Terrebonne Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

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Awards presented for excellence in journalism

The 2021 Fourth Estate Award winners. Photo by Ben Mikesell/The American Legion

By Steven B. Brooks

A Florida television station, a military news website and an Illinois newspaper were recognized for excellence in journalism on Sept. 2 during The American Legion National Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

The three media outlets were presented with The American Legion Fourth Estate Award, which is presented annually to one recipient each in the broadcast, Internet/new media and print categories.

Television station WFTS in Tampa, Fla., was presented with the award in the broadcast category. The station was honored for its series “The Price of Protection….Problems with Court-Ordered Guardianship,” in which its ABC Action News I-Team examined problems with many of Florida’s court-ordered guardians who victimize vulnerable seniors while profiting from their care. The reporting is believed to have influenced the firing of an agency head by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and reforms passed by the state’s legislature.

In the Internet/new media category, the award went to Reporter Gina Harkins wrote about a short-lived proposal to close Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. scooped all other outlets and was the first to report the proposal, which outraged several members of the South Carolina congressional delegation and led to the Parris Island Protection Act.

The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill., was honored with the award in the print category. The newspaper was recognized for its series of articles about veterans who died with no relatives who were willing to arrange funerals. The articles quickly went viral, prompting hundreds of people from the Chicago area to show support and attend memorial services for the veterans. The deceased veterans were given the military honors that they deserved.

“The American Legion Fourth Estate Award is difficult to earn,” American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford said. “It is a testament to the demanding nature of the competition – and the quality of entries.  Not only do the reports have to be informative and entertaining, they also have to provide a tangible benefit to society.” 

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