Saturday, January 8, 2022

A Catch-22 Trips Up Some in Legal Guardianship Who Try to Regain Independence

By Carter Barrett
Nicholas Clouse of Huntington, Indiana, testifies during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on conservatorships on Sept. 28, 2021.

Ten years ago, Nicholas Clouse was riding shotgun in his friend’s Camaro when the car jerked and he felt himself flying through the air. Clouse’s head slammed against the passenger-side window.

The traumatic brain injury he sustained in the wreck led to severe memory loss, headaches and insomnia. Clouse, who was 18 then, didn’t recognize his friends and family.

Shortly after the crash, Clouse’s mother and stepfather petitioned to be his legal guardians, which meant they’d make all his financial and health decisions. They said the situation would be temporary. A judge in Indiana made it official.

Years after recovering, Clouse wanted to make his own choices again — to put gas in his car, buy his daughter diapers and take his wife out for dinner without needing permission. But he ran into opposition. His parents didn’t want to give up their power, Clouse said, and he had to find a way to fight for his rights.

“They had 100% control over my life, and I just didn’t have any say in what I did or anything,” Clouse said in an interview.

If a judge determines an adult cannot make responsible choices, the person can be placed under a court-appointed guardianship. In some states, the arrangement is known as a conservatorship.

This system came under scrutiny nationwide recently as pop star Britney Spears sought to and eventually ended her conservatorship. In September, Clouse testified at a U.S. Senate committee hearing focused on guardianship reform.

Over time, Clouse’s traumatic brain injury improved. He started working as a welder, met his future wife — and got his parents’ permission to marry her. Clouse wanted out of the guardianship, he said, but he faced a catch-22. To regain his independence, he needed to get advice from a lawyer. But to hire a lawyer would require his parents’ approval since they controlled his finances.

The lawyer representing Clouse’s mother and stepfather did not return Side Effects Public Media’s request for comment.

Clouse eventually found pro bono legal representation through the advocacy group Indiana Disability Rights. In January 2021, Clouse and his lawyer filed a petition to end the guardianship. According to court documents, his parents responded by insisting on a psychological evaluation of Clouse’s decision-making ability. The evaluation determined guardianship was unnecessary and dampening his ability to make independent decisions.  

Eight months later, in August, Clouse’s parents agreed to end the guardianship.

An Overlooked System

In recent years, court decisions have shifted state policies toward less restrictive options that give adults with physical or intellectual impairments more independence and provide them with support for making decisions. Advocates for people with disabilities say this change is long overdue, and some argue the system needs a complete overhaul.

“People with significant disabilities have long been discriminated against because people think that they [lack] the ability to make decisions,” said Derek Nord, director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.

Although the disability rights movement has made “huge strides” on many issues, Nord said, additional reforms and better oversight are needed to protect people from exploitation.

Guardianship cases often involve people with disabilities, older adults, people recovering from an injury or medical condition, or people with severe mental illnesses.

An official count does not exist, but the National Center for State Courts estimates that about 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are in legal guardianships. In Indiana, where Clouse lives, 11,139 adults are in permanent guardianships, according to state officials.

In Indiana, establishing a guardianship starts with filing a petition. The petitioner can submit evidence, like a doctor’s report, and appear before a judge, who then decides whether the person in question should be considered incapacitated.

Judges can establish limitations for the guardianship — although they rarely do, said attorney Justin Schrock of Indiana Disability Rights.

“We’re talking about decisions about where to live, whether to get married, where to work, what medical care to receive, what to do with their money,” Schrock said. “They really do lose all of their most fundamental basic rights.”

Advocates of reform say that some guardianships are necessary but that the legal arrangement is overused. They argue that people with disabilities can usually make choices for themselves — sometimes with guidance — and should maintain that right.

“Before I entered this field, I assumed that [entering a] guardianship was a fairly innocuous step,” Schrock said. “I also assumed that there were a lot of protections in place to prevent unnecessary guardianships from being established, which is absolutely not the case.”

Legal guardianships should not be the default for people who need help making decisions, said Kristin Hamre, a social work professor at Indiana University-Bloomington. People learn and grow by taking risks, Hamre said, and restrictive legal arrangements like guardianships rob them of that opportunity.

“The right to risk is so important,” Hamre said. “Risk is where life happens, right? You begin walking, you might fall; you begin driving, you might crash.”

No Easy Way Out

Because of the way some state laws are written, guardianship cases often lack due process, said Robert Dinerstein, head of the disability rights law clinic at American University in Washington, D.C.

Many states ensure that people at risk of entering a guardianship have legal representation. But Indiana does not. The law allows petitioners — often a parent or family member — the option to present to the court a consent form signed by the person under consideration for a guardianship that effectively waives the individual’s right to contest the process or even be present at the hearing where the person’s future will be decided.

Indiana’s law also does not require petitioners to submit medical evidence to the court, although some courts have local rules requiring it.

“I’ve seen over and over again, these guardians’ attorneys will have the individual sign this consent form, file it along with a petition, oftentimes with no medical evidence,” Schrock said. “And some of these courts are just looking at that and saying, ‘OK,’ and then granting guardianship without ever having even laid eyes on this individual.”

Since guardianship cases take place in county-level courts, there’s tremendous variety in how these cases are handled. Larger counties with probate-specific courts can dedicate more time and resources to the hearings than smaller county courts, which have a much wider breadth of cases, limiting a judge’s expertise in any one area.

A task force formed to examine the use of legal guardianships in Indiana reported that no medical evidence of incapacity was presented in 1 in 5 guardianship cases in the state. The 2012 report also says that in cases in which evidence was presented, the medical reports were often incomplete or illegible.

Guardianship differs from most other legal proceedings in that the burden of proof tends to fall on the person with a disability, who must convince the judge that the arrangement is unnecessary, Dinerstein said.

Dinerstein argues that people at risk of entering guardianships should have the same right to a lawyer as defendants in criminal cases. “I think the level of loss of liberty makes a really strong case that there ought to be” a right to legal counsel in guardianship cases, he said.

It matters because once a person is in a guardianship, getting out is extremely difficult. Dinerstein pointed to the case of Ryan King, a Washington, D.C., man whose dilemma recently received press attention. All parties agreed the guardianship should end, but finalizing it still took years.

“It’s like ‘Hotel California,’” Dinerstein said. “Once a guardian is appointed, even if circumstances change where you no longer think you need it, it’s really hard to get courts to restore your capacity.”

Clouse is now 28 and lives in Huntington, Indiana.

Shortly after his guardianship ended in August, he took his wife and daughter out for dinner, a small luxury in this new phase of his life.

“I didn’t have to worry about my card getting declined … and bought my daughter a big piece of chocolate cake,” Clouse said. “That made me feel good, that I could just kind of splurge a little bit.”

In 2018, Jamie Beck transitioned from a legal guardianship to a supported decision-making arrangement as part of a pilot program exploring less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. “I get to do more things like a typical normal person would,” Beck said, such as making her own decisions about seeking medical care and traveling.(AJ Mast)

Less Restrictive Alternatives

In 2019, Indiana joined a handful of other states — including Delaware, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin — in passing laws to require judges to consider less restrictive alternatives to guardianships.

Supported decision-making is one of these alternatives. Adults in these arrangements consult a support team — which can include friends, relatives, social workers, case managers or paid support members — about big decisions. But unlike in a guardianship, the individual can make the final decision.

“Many of us … run important decisions by other people in our lives who are important to us — family, friends,” Dinerstein said. “[Then] you get to decide whether to listen to the advice.”

The year before the new law passed, Jamie Beck became the first person in Indiana to transition from a legal guardianship to a supported decision-making arrangement. It happened as part of a pilot program exploring less restrictive guardianship alternatives.

Beck has a mild intellectual and developmental disability and was placed in a guardianship at age 19 after her parents died. She spent a year in a nursing home, where, she said, she was bored and spent her time learning American Sign Language. Beck remained in the guardianship for eight years, even after demonstrating she could live independently and support herself financially.

“She was just doing tremendously … and everyone felt she didn’t need a guardianship any longer,” said Judge Greg Horn, who terminated Beck’s guardianship. “It wasn’t like we were going to send her on her way and let her struggle with life’s challenges.”

To ensure she’d be supported after the guardianship, the court worked with Beck to come up with a group of advisers she trusted to help her make decisions.

Beck said the supported decision-making agreement lets her have more say in her life. She’s now 31 and lives in an apartment in Muncie, Indiana. She works as a housekeeper at a hospital and spends her free time playing Pok√©mon Go.

“I get to do more things like a typical normal person would,” Beck said. She can seek medical care and travel out of town without needing anyone to sign off on those decisions.

At least 11 states and Washington, D.C., have passed supported decision-making laws.

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Ocala woman arrested after withdrawing $450,000 from victim’s checking account

By Staff Report

A 75-year-old Ocala woman was arrested after depositing $450,000 from a male victim’s checking account into her own personal account.

On Monday, December 20, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy was contacted by a relative of the victim in reference to exploitation of an elderly man.

The relative told the deputy that the victim was recovering from a brain injury at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital. Due to the injury, the victim’s mental capacity was altered and the relative had durable power of attorney over the victim.

The relative stated that the victim’s live-in girlfriend, Linda Eleanor Kelly, had called and stated that she no longer wished to be in a relationship with the victim and did not want to care for him anymore.

Ocala woman arrested after taking 450000 from victim8217s checking account
Linda Eleanor Kelly

During that conversation, Kelly told the relative that she wrote herself a check from the victim’s account in the amount of $450,000 and deposited those funds into her personal account. She stated that she transferred half of those funds into a “safe secure location” because she felt she was entitled to half of the victim’s money.

On Wednesday, December 22 at around 8:30 a.m., the deputy visited the victim at the hospital. The victim told the deputy that he recalled giving Kelly a signed blank check for her to remove money for groceries and household bills while he was in the hospital.

The victim stated that he can only write six checks a month which is why he gave Kelly one check to take enough money to cover those costs. He told the deputy that he did not give her permission to “drain” his bank account.

A copy of the check was provided to the deputy. The check was written on Saturday, November 13 in the amount of $450,000, and it was signed by the victim.

On Wednesday, December 29, the deputy interviewed Kelly over the phone. She mentioned that she had been in a relationship with the victim for 18 years.

Kelly stated that she was given the blank check and the victim gave her permission to take all of the money from the account if she needed it.

She deposited the money into her personal account and claimed that she told the victim that half of the funds were still his.

According to the MCSO report, Kelly stated that she was “paranoid” that the government would take all of the money out of his account for medical expenses which is why she moved the funds into her account.

Kelly told the deputy that the victim “deserved to give her that money” because he had been “building up a bank account with a huge amount of money in it” while they were living together. She claimed to have paid all the bills while looking after him and stated that the victim owed her the money after she took care of everything for so many years.

Kelly was arrested on Monday at around 1:30 p.m. and was transported to Marion County Jail. She was released on $10,000 bond and is facing a felony charge for exploitation of the elderly.

A court date has not been scheduled yet, according to jail records.

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Caretaker charged with exploiting elderly woman

By Odessa American

A 54-year-old home care provider was arrested after police say she used her patient’s debit card to retrieve cash from an ATM.

Elva Garcia Valenzuela, 54, was charged with exploitation of the elderly, a third-degree felony.

An Odessa Police Department probable cause affidavit detailed the complainant, identified as 71-year-old Rosemary Orta, reported her homecare provider, Valenzuela, who was employed by Caprock Home Health Services, used her debit card to retrieve cash from an ATM located in Odessa without her authorization or consent on May 27.

Orta told police that she previously gave her card to Valenzuela to purchase groceries and a belt for her scooter. The fraudulent transactions happened between May 27 and May 29 at the Chase Bank ATM located at 1607 N. County Road West.

Valenzuela was read the Miranda Warning and she waived her rights and admitted to getting money from the said ATM on May 27, May 28 and May 29, which wasn’t used for Orta’s needs.

Valenzuela was booked into the Ector County Law Enforcement Center on Jan. 4, jail records show. She had one bond totaling $9,000 and posted bail on Jan. 4.

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Idaho couple accused of contributing to the death of champion Utah speedskater

By: Adam Herbets

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — A married couple from Idaho is facing charges, accused of exploiting and contributing to the death of a decorated speed skater in Cottonwood Heights.

Boris Leikin was 68 years old. Police say he died in July from a form of mad cow disease.

People who knew Leikin say he took his health very seriously and was in great physical shape, until he met Marina Billings online and started dating her.

Marina Billings is a corrections officer in Pocatello, Idaho.

Police say Billings left Idaho and moved in with Leikin at his home in Cottonwood Heights. That's when people said they started to notice Leikin's health quickly declining.

At least at first, Leikin did not know Billings was married, according to police.

Investigators now believe Marina Billings and her husband, Robert Billings, were trying to take advantage of Leikin - by getting him to sign a will that would name her as the beneficiary as his health was deteriorating.

Police are still trying to figure out if the couple intentionally got Leikin sick.

Jeff Hall, the chief deputy at the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, explained why the couple is being charged with financial exploitation and aggravated abuse, rather than murder.

"In a murder charge, we would accuse someone of directly causing the death of someone else and doing that unlawfully," Hall said. "In this instance, the allegation is that these people created circumstances that compromised a vulnerable adult's health, not necessarily that they directly caused a death."

Hall advised it's especially important for friends and loved ones of vulnerable individuals in cases like this to keep an eye out for anything peculiar.

"Any time there is anyone that is new to the family, new to the person, where there's not been a long-shared history... that should raise a lot of question marks, a lot of red flags as to what's going on," he said.

Leikin was one of the oldest athletes to compete in the US Olympic Trials. He was a Masters World Champion and even set a Masters world record in 2006.

Friends say Leikin was also an incredible man off the ice, with a big heart.

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Teton attorney disbarment decision pending

By Ellen Gerst

A decision on disbarment for a Teton County prosecutor who violated seven rules of professional conduct is still pending in the Wyoming Supreme Court, more than seven months later.

A Wyoming State Bar tribunal recommended former Teton County deputy prosecutor Becket Hinckley be disbarred in May, after a week-long hearing on his conduct during a 2015 trial that sentenced Josh Black to life in prison on assault charges. The state Supreme Court makes the final call on disbarment.

A three-person Board of Professional Responsibility panel found in the hearing that Hinckley had knowingly lied in court, failed to secure certain records in the case, disobeyed direct orders from a judge, made inappropriate comments during the trial and failed to follow up on warrants and preservation letters with law enforcement.

Bar counsel Mark Gifford said at the conclusion of the hearing that the state’s highest court typically rules on disbarment decisions (though they are relatively rare) within three months of a recommendation. The process may be drawn out longer if Hinckley appeals the decision, but that can’t happen until the Supreme Court rules.

Gifford said that only once in roughly the last 10 years has the court disagreed with a recommendation for disbarment.

Chief Justice Kate Fox said she can’t comment on the decision since it’s still under the court’s advisement.

“As with every other case before us, the Supreme Court takes the time necessary to review the record, research the law, and issue a well-reasoned opinion,” Fox said in an email to the Casper Star-Tribune last week.

The May hearing, held in Casper, was the first in the state to be open to the public following a September 2019 rule change that made the practice standard.

Black was convicted of assault after his then-girlfriend was badly injured while living with him in Jackson, sustaining a fractured cheek bone and nasal passage, a cut that needed stitches near her eye, and bruising and bleeding in her brain. Blood found on Black’s shirt matched hers, but blood in the victim’s car and skin under her fingernails did not match his. He has maintained his innocence since the beginning.

During the bar tribunal, Hinckley admitted he had been “sloppy and negligent” when he failed to produce evidence repeatedly ordered by a judge in Black’s case. Court records show that records from Facebook and Verizon, which Black said would have proved he wasn’t with the victim at the time of the attack, were not obtained despite Hinckley telling the judge at least eight times that he was trying to track them down.

A Teton County jury found Black guilty of the assault, and two prior violent felony convictions from California meant he was sentenced to life as a “habitual criminal.”

Black’s conviction was reversed by the Wyoming Supreme Court in 2017. The court wrote in its decision that there was “no question” of prosecutorial misconduct in his trial.

Black’s case was sent back for a new trial in Teton County, where Hinckley again represented the state. He was taken off the case eight months later, after again failing to produce the evidence. Black took a deal, pleading no contest to the charges to drop the habitual criminal designation. He was sentenced to six and a half to 10 years in prison, and had already served four. After finishing his sentence and fighting for good time on his reversed life sentence, he was released to the Casper Reentry Center in January 2020 for a two-month stint before getting out.

Hinckley, who comes from a long line of Wyoming lawyers and judges, resigned as a prosecutor in Jackson in 2019. Jeffrey Donnell, a retired judge who sat on the three-person tribunal to determine his misconduct, said in delivering their decision that he had known Hinckley since he was 6 years old.

“I’m proud of my career, but I’m not proud of this,” Hinckley said at the time of the tribunal’s decision. “I failed the people of Wyoming, the people of Teton County, I failed myself, and most importantly failed [the victim] and her family.”

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Elko District Court settles into three departments

by Toni Milano

Elko's Fourth Judicial District Court, from left, Judge Kriston Hill, Chief Judge Al Kacin and Judge Mason Simons, recently discussed the reorganization of the court with the addition of Department 3 in 2021.

LKO – One year after the Fourth Judicial Court added a third department, the three judges are settling into new roles.

Since the election of former Elko County Public Defender Kriston Hill to Department 1, former Elko Justice of the Peace Mason Simons to Department 3, and reelection of Department 2 Judge Al Kacin last year, all three have solidified their commitment to serving the community.

“Since taking office, both of the other district court judges have been extremely helpful and supportive,” Simons said. “The judges work closely together, convening for monthly judicial meetings, making changes to our local court rules, addressing outstanding issues, and working to improve the operations of the court.”

Kacin, who was selected as the first Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District Court on Dec. 21, explained the addition of a third district judge has been “helpful to the Fourth Judicial Court and essential for the public we serve.”

The Departments sorted out their caseloads throughout the year and distributed various judicial duties among all three judges.

Hill was assigned a “large” guardianship and probate caseload, including felony DUI diversion court, with cases previously assigned to Department 1 transferred to Simon’s Department 3.

Kacin retained the Adult Drug Court, civil cases, and domestic relations proceedings initiated before 2021.

In May, Simons became the juvenile judge who facilitates child welfare and juvenile delinquency cases.

The redistribution of cases was due to Hill’s previous work as Elko County Public Defender. It prompted “her ethical obligation to disqualify herself from presiding over any criminal cases” assigned to her office, Kacin said.

He said about 15% of his court calendar included jury trials, and another 24% was dedicated to preparing those cases. Additionally, “the lion’s share” of his time was spent catching up on a backlog of jury and bench trials caused by delays from the pandemic.

Kacin credited Simons and Department 3 for contributing to a more manageable calendar and caseload.

“The bottom line is that my caseload would have been unmanageable had Department 3 not been created and occupied by a district judge this year,” Kacin said. “It has permitted Elko County’s general jurisdiction court to hold trials quicker and dispose of cases somewhat faster during a pandemic year that saw total case filings rise.”

In 2020, the Fourth Judicial District had 1,985 filings for criminal, civil, family, juvenile and reopened cases with a 97% disposition rate, according to the Annual Report of the Nevada Judiciary. In 2021, the report stated the district had a combined total of 1,996 cases at a 98% disposition rate.

“I anticipate that our disposition rate will increase as we further cull the backlog of jury trials, which are generally the most time-consuming proceedings the general jurisdiction court conduct,” Kacin said, “and we make other efforts to manage the caseload more efficiently.”

In 2022, Department 2 will be taking residence inside the former Washington Federal bank building across the street from the Elko County Courthouse. Kacin said he was “very eager” to move in because his court needed the space for jury selection and trials.

“It’s a large space and should be renovated by the end of the first quarter of 2022,” Kacin said, noting he has had to hold jury selection at the Elko Convention Center due to the “cramped courtroom that Department 2 occupies now.”

“A judge should be near his or her chambers to work on trial-related and other matters as they come up during jury trials,” Kacin explained. “Our judges will be able to dispose of such matters more efficiently if they can hold jury trials in a courtroom attached to judicial chambers.”

Next year, Department 1 will move into Kacin’s offices and courtroom after he moves into the former bank building, which Hill welcomes after a year of moving her courtroom to various locations throughout the Elko County Courthouse, settling in a remodeled conference room.

“Almost a year into the job, and Department 1 still does not have actual court space,’ Hill said. “The other judges have been generous with their courtroom and very accommodating, but they have their own busy calendars.”

Elko County Commissioners have discussed the possibility of constructing a new judicial complex to house Justice and District courts, but Kacin said the former bank was a much-needed “stop-gap facility.” He thanked the Commissioners for providing it to the court and offered its use to other judges who may need to conduct jury selection for their trials.

The building will not include customary court-related fixtures such as a large bench, counsel tables and barriers. That will make it easier to repurpose once a judicial building is constructed, Kacin said.

First-year on the job

Hill and Simons were elected to the bench in 2020 for Departments 1 and 3, respectively, and each called their first year “a learning experience.”

“My first year on the bench has been extremely challenging but incredibly rewarding,” Hill said. “It’s such an honor to serve the people of Elko County.

Simons, who previously served as Elko Justice of the Peace, agreed. “My first year on the District Court bench has been a true honor and a tremendous learning experience. I was fortunate to recruit a talented team, and their support and professionalism have been invaluable during this transition.”

Their first year included organizing a backlog of cases due to the pandemic among the three judges. Because Hill recused herself from many criminal cases, and Simons presided over some as Justice of the Peace, those were transferred to Kacin’s court.

For Hill, she worked to fulfill one of her campaign promises. “With great confidence, I can say that Department 1 is much more efficient than it has been in many years.”

She said “probate orders are signed the same day as the hearing instead of weeks, and uncontested divorces are signed within the same week instead of months.”

“The court has held hearings on countless motions that have been pending for years,” Hill continued. “That includes a habeas pending for nine years, and also a custody motion pending for three years.”

Hill pointed to the success of Department 1 even as courtroom proceedings were placed in various locations.

“Despite the constant struggle to find court space, Department 1 is diligently handling cases,” she said.

As Juvenile Judge, Simons supervises Family Court, Juvenile Probation and Juvenile Detention Center.

“My prior experience serving as Court Master for the Fourth Judicial District Court has proven invaluable,” Simons said. “We have a talented leadership team at the Juvenile Center that has made my job easier.

Moving to the District Court, Simons said the cases he handles now “involve weighty matters of law that affect the lives of our community.”

“These include complicated civil disputes, difficult family matters and serious criminal issues that could result in a lengthy prison sentence,” Simons explained. “These cases often involve novel issues of law and sometimes require extensive research.”

The coming year could also see some fallout from legislative changes to probation violations that passed in 2018. Hill described how the law “has significantly tied the hands of judges and probation officers.”

Assembly Bill 236 took effect on July 1, 2020, as part of an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system. It requires the courts to set aside, dismiss or defer judgments of conviction and place defendants who have a mental illness or substance abuse issues and are on probation.

“Prior to the change, any violation of the terms of probation could result in probation being terminated and the person sent to prison,” Hill explained. “Now, probation can only be revoked after a ‘non-technical’ violation or after a series of technical violations when graduated sanctions have been imposed.”

Technical violations include committing a new felony or gross misdemeanor. Non-technical violations include failing a drug test, failing to complete Adult Drug Court or other substance recovery program, or being charged with a new misdemeanor.

The Adult Drug Court has also seen reduced application rates due to the decriminalization of marijuana and the lessening of penalties for certain crimes, Kacin added.

“In my experience, people with high risk and high needs do not have as much incentive to apply to a program as rigorous as Adult Drug Court when they are not facing as much time behind bars should probation be revoked,” he explained.

After a year sitting on the District Court bench, Simons said he recognizes the significance of each case that he presides over.

“The seriousness of the work we are called on to perform is not lost on the Court,” he said. “I’m grateful for the trust and confidence the Elko County voters placed in me by selecting me to serve in this important role. I take that trust very seriously.”

Hill agreed, noting that she has encountered “some very complex legal issues this last year, and I welcome the challenge.”

“The things I’ve learned this year are too numerous to list, and learning new things is my favorite part of this job,” Hill said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve my community, and we will continue to make great strides in resolving cases and continue to manage new cases appropriately.”

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

23-year-old woman graduates college alongside her 88-year-old grandfather

By Katie Kindelan

A 23-year-old Texas woman and her 88-year-old grandfather are both starting 2022 as new college graduates.

Melanie Salazar, of San Antonio, graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11 with a bachelor of arts in communications. 

She did so at the same time as her grandfather, Rene Neira, who received a degree of recognition in economics.

"When we were on stage, I felt like I was overcome with emotion," Salazar told "Good Morning America." "Everything was silent. I didn't hear any clapping or applause but I was told that the whole stadium erupted."

PHOTO: Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.
University of Texas at San Antonio
Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.

Salazar and Neira started their higher education journey together at a San Antonio community college, Palo Alto College, in 2016.

Salazar had just graduated from high school and Neira, then 82, decided to take classes to fulfill his lifelong dream of earning his bachelor's degree, according to Salazar.

"Since the 1950s, he has been working toward his bachelor's degree and it has been one of his life goal and dreams," she said. "But in the '50s he fell in love and got married and started a family, so he wasn't able to continue school right away."

PHOTO: Rene Neira, 82, and his granddaughter Melanie Salazar, 18, are classmates at Palo Alto College in Texas.
Courtesy of Melanie Salazar
Rene Neira, 82, and his granddaughter Melanie Salazar, 18, are classmates at Palo Alto College in Texas.

Salazar said her grandfather, who turned 88 on Dec. 17, would take a college class here and there when he could over the next few decades, in between balancing his roles as a husband, a father of five and a community activist, as well as his job at a local bank.

In 2017, they both enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where they never had a class together but would carpool to school and study together, according to Salazar.

"We would get lunch together and be in the library together and just work silently side-by-side," she said, noting she often helped Neira navigate doing schoolwork online. "There were also many times where I drove him to school during the seasons when he didn't have his car."

"I was also the president of a club at school for a while and there were times when he would come to my club meetings," Salazar added. "That was really special because I could always show him off and shout out that my grandpa was there."

PHOTO: Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.
University of Texas at San Antonio
Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.

Just before the coronavirus pandemic, Neira suffered a minor stroke and had to take a medical leave of absence from school. When the pandemic forced classes to be held online, Neira continued his leave of absence because of his health and the difficulty of navigating classes online, according to Salazar.

As graduation day approached in December, Salazar said she and her family asked university officials to grant Neira a degree of recognition, which they did. Over the past year, Neira's health has continued to decline and he now has difficulty speaking, according to Salazar.

"It was the week of graduation that we were told that he would be able to graduate," she said. "We were really pushing for it because we were hoping, since his health is declining, that he could have that memory before he passes."

In addition to his job at a local bank, Neira, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, was active in the San Antonio community, particularly in the Chicano movement and in building up the economy of the city's South Side, according to Salazar.

"I definitely have been inspired by my grandfather," she said. "Through hearing loss, not having a car, taking public transportation, advocating for himself on campus, I really admired his ganas, which is like strength or perseverance, to keep going no matter what."

Salazar, who plans to work for a nonprofit, said she credits her grandfather's lifelong love of learning with keeping him feeling young and engaged in the world for so many years.

When Salazar told Neira that they were graduating together, she said he worried that he would take the spotlight away from her in her graduation moment.

PHOTO: Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.
University of Texas at San Antonio
Melanie Salazar, 23, and her grandfather, Rene Neira, 87, graduated together from the University of Texas at San Antonio on Dec. 11, 2021.

"I told him, 'This is our moment. I want to share it with you,'" she recalled. "I'm so proud of my grandpa and I'm so thankful I was able to have this moment, this memory, with him."

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Son of victim of elder abuse applauds new Ohio law

by: Brandon Jaces

(WKBN) – Governor Mike DeWine signed a law Wednesday that allows cameras to be installed in nursing homes.

Senate Bill 58 known as Esther’s Law is named after Steve Piskor’s mother who was a victim of elder abuse.

“My mother was abused. It’s been over 10 years now, and we got the letters, I got the legislation that was used in 2019,” Piskor said. 

Then the pandemic happened and the legislation failed, but it was reintroduced earlier this year and has since passed.

“It’s amazing after so long of trying. I mean, I pushed so many people to the max. I probably got so many people mad at me, but in the end, I think a lot of people realized how much this was needed,” Piskor said.  

The cameras aren’t a requirement, and if a resident has a roommate, the roommate has to agree to it being installed.

“Maybe just pointing the camera at the person that wants it and maybe setting the sound off or whatever agreement they want to come to,” Piskor said.

This law is geared to the most vulnerable, but during a pandemic, it might make it easier for families to see their loved ones.

“Residents in nursing homes with dementia or Alzheimer’s, residents who can’t tell us what’s happening, and that was the same with my mother, she couldn’t tell me what was happening,” Piskor said.

Following the signing of the bill, AARP released a statement congratulating Piskor. The agency said, “On behalf of our more than 1.5 million members statewide, we thank Governor DeWine for his signature to enact Esther’s law. This law provides additional peace of mind, a gift for family caregivers and long-term care residents this season.”

Continuing Healthcare of Lisbon released the following statement:

“We understand that cameras may offer families some measure of comfort, however, they aren’t the answer to ensuring quality care in nursing homes. We have extensive policies and procedures in place to protect our residents and pride ourselves on the quality of care we provide. We have always encouraged residents and families to bring any concerns to us so they can be addressed immediately. Having a camera in a room will change very little for us.”

Continuing Healthcare of Lisbon

“So I just asked people to use it, you know, and we have to get the word out to let people know that this law is there,” Piskor said.

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Man hailed as a hero for running after a thief who stole an elderly woman’s purse at a grocery store

An Ohio man is being recognized by his community for chasing down a thief who snatched an 87-year-old woman’s purse while she shopped at a grocery store.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office presented Deshawn Pressley, 27, with a Citizen’s Award for running after the perpetrator and ensuring that the purse was returned to its owner.

Pat Goins was shopping at Kroger in Lemon Township on December 5 when a man stole her purse strapped to her shopping cart.

Surveillance footage showing Deshawn Pressley chasing down the thief in a Kroger parking lot

Pressley, who was shopping with his one-year-old daughter in a different aisle, heard Goins’ cries for help and immediately jumped into action.

“I heard her screaming and yelling … it was the yell that I need help,” Pressley recalled. “And I just turned around and did what I needed to do as a citizen.”

Before the ordeal, Pressley shared a friendly conversation with Goins. They briefly parted ways before Pressley heard the woman’s frantic call, “My purse!”

At least 15 other shoppers went after the snatcher, but Pressley outran them all. The man chased him from the store to the parking lot and wrestled him to the floor, making a citizen’s arrest before he could reach a running car.

Pressley prevented the thief from getting away, and the Butler County Sheriff Deputies and Trenton police were able to capture the suspect who stole the woman’s purse. He was charged with robbery and theft with a $55,000 cash bond.

“He was running and looking back, running and looking back, and I was like ‘yeah, I’m on you’re a–,” said Pressley.

Once the thief was caught, fellow shoppers ordered him to apologize to Goins.

“They told him he better apologize to me. He said he was sorry, he said he was sorry,” she said.

Deshawn Pressley and Pat Goins hugging each other
The thief hadn’t tried to attack her and was only interested in the $60 inside her purse.

Pressley walked away from the scene with some minor scratches on his arms, but he said it was worth it.

The award ceremony won’t be the last time the pair would get together as they’ve already planned a dinner date. Goins is excited to meet Pressley’s daughter and become part of her life as well.

“I’m glad that I helped her because she is a wonderful, lovely lady and I just love helping people, especially older women,” Pressley said. “They need love, they need security just like every other woman, no matter the age.”

Pressley isn’t new to doing good deeds for elderly people. When he was young, he would shovel snow for older women for free. He told them he didn’t want the money; he just did it because he cared.

Deshawn Pressley and Pat Goins with Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones

Pressley said he ran after the suspect because of how his grandmother had raised him. His mom died when he was young, so his grandmother took care of him. Pressley said she was the one who taught him good values.

“She did very good by me,” the Good Samaritan said.

Butler County Sheriff Deputy James Davenport, the officer who responded to the purse snatching call, said Pressley was incredibly brave, since he didn’t know if the thief had a weapon on him.

“He’s a hero there, especially this time, the time we’re living in here,” Davenport said. “He’s a hero there to get involved like he did.”

Deshawn Pressley and Pat Goins with a man and woman in the Butler County Sheriff's Office

“I’m glad that he received this honor because he’s my hero,” Goins said about Pressley’s Citizen’s Award.

Davenport was also in attendance during the ceremony for Pressley. His grandmother died shortly after Thanksgiving, and when he walked in, he gave Goins a hug.

After interviewing the grandma, he drove her home to ensure she was safe and carried in her groceries.

“This kind of hit home. I was glad that we were able to get him off the streets,” he said. “So it was my duty to actually make sure she got home safely.”

You can learn more about Pressley’s heroic deed in the video below.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Peninsula Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Elderly, Tax Evasion

by Nancy Sheppard

HAMPTON — Clarence M. Rice, Jr., of Hampton, pled guilty to charges related to defrauding the elderly and tax evasion.

Rice, 54, pled to charges stemming from incidents that took place between 2013 and 2019. According to the Office of United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica D. Aber, Rice falsely represented to his victims that he was going to receive a sizeable inheritance as long as he paid off his debts. He then tricked his victims to give him large sums of money under the guise of obtaining the inheritance.

Aber’s office noted that Rice stole more than $350,000 from a 75-year-old retired bricklayer and more than $140,000 from an elderly blind man. The identities of the victims were not further clarified. Rice received $632,017.44 total in fraudulent proceeds from his scheme. 

Despite earning this sum as an income, Rice has not filed taxes since 2011. Aber’s office notes that between 2015 and 2019, he defrauded the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by “living a cash lifestyle” which included negotiating checks from his victims for U.S. currency instead of depositing said checks into a bank account. Additionally, Rice hid his assets using prepaid cards and lied to law enforcement regarding his income and assets. As a result, he owes approximately $52,064.18 in personal income tax.

Rice pled guilty to the charges of wire fraud and evasion of income tax assessment. Rice’s plea included an agreement that his victims were of limited financial means and suffered substantial hardship as a result of his scheme.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on May 25, 2022. Rice faces a maximum 20 years in prison for wire fraud as well as a maximum of five years for tax evasion. However, Aber’s office notes that sentences for federal crimes are usually less than the maximum penalties.

Aber’s office notes that combatting elder abuse and financial fraud that targets seniors are key priorities of the U.S. Department of Justice. Elder abuse impacts 10 percent of Americans each year. These crimes include physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse.

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Minnesota man who allegedly tried to mug elderly woman at Walgreens turned in to cops by his own mom

The 81-year-old's injuries caused her to miss Christmas with her family


Minnesota investigators looking for a man captured on surveillance video allegedly knocking an elderly woman down while trying to snatch her purse as she walked into a Walgreens were tipped off as to the identity of the man by his own mother.

Isaiah Jamal Foster, 18, of Richfield, was already in the Ramsey County Jail in connection with a Tuesday carjacking of a woman and her young child, the St Paul Police Department said. His mother called the police and turned her son in to authorities, a police spokesperson told Fox News. 

An 81-year-old woman was injured when a suspect thief tried ripping her purse from her as she was entering a Minnesota Walgreens in broad daylight.
An 81-year-old woman was injured when a suspect thief tried ripping her purse from her as she was entering a Minnesota Walgreens in broad daylight.  (St.Paul Police Department )

Now he faces first-degree aggravated attempted robbery and third-degree assault resulting in substantial bodily harm for the Dec. 23 robbery outside the convenience store. placeholder

Security video from inside the Walgreens shows patrons entering. As an 81-year-old woman walks inside, a man is seen behind her ripping a purse out of her hands. As she tries to hold on, she's violently dragged to the ground.

"She fell to the ground, hit her head and suffered a brain bleed, among other injuries," the police department said in a Facebook post. "But she’s tough and didn’t give up her purse or the money inside and should be out of the hospital soon."

A suspected thief seen on security video was linked to a Walgreens robbery where a woman was injured.
A suspected thief seen on security video was linked to a Walgreens robbery where a woman was injured.  (St.Paul Police Department )

The woman experienced complications because of the attack, police said, causing her to miss Christmas with her family. 

The alleged mugging is similar to another incident in which an 85-year-old woman was robbed at an Aldi grocery store a day earlier. She spent a week in the hospital after being injured when a man grabbed her purse in the parking lot as she was loading groceries into a vehicle, reported. 

Security footage captured an image of a man suspected of robbing an 85-year-old woman on Dec.22 in a grocery store parking lot.
Security footage captured an image of a man suspected of robbing an 85-year-old woman on Dec.22 in a grocery store parking lot.  (St.Paul Police Department )

The woman told the police that she ran after the suspect but he pushed her to the ground and her head struck the pavement.  

She suffered a heart attack, two black eyes and lost $4,000 she'd withdrawn from the bank to buy Christmas presents. Authorities do not believe the two incidents were carried out by the same suspects.

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Can Baker Act Patients Refuse Treatment?

The Baker Act empowers police officers, physicians, and family members to commit someone to a 72-hour involuntary mental health examination. Both children and adults can be (Baker Acted), and the experience is horrifying for everyone involved.

Something article is meant to provide an overview of what to expect if this occurs to a person, but keep in mind that Baker Act proceedings run quickly, and baker act lawyers know this. Keep in mind, speak to an attorney as soon as possible to examine your legal options.

A Justifiable Cause

If a doctor or an officer believes that an individual has a mental illness that requires an involuntary mental health evaluation, the individual may be Baker Acted.

  1. The individual has denied voluntary evaluation or cannot determine if the test is necessary.
  2. If treatment is not offered, the individual may suffer from neglect.
  3. If the sickness is not treated, it may result in physical or emotional harm to them or others.

Can A Person Refuse Treatment?

If anyone you know has been Baker Acted (placed in a psychiatric facility for an involuntary mental health examination), one of the most frequently asked questions is whether the patient has the right to refuse psychiatric medication. This is a common question by parents who are unsure about giving their young children psychiatric medicines. The solution to this issue is more complicated than it appears on the surface.

The Constitution protects an individual’s right to refuse medication and other forms of medical care, including parents’ right to refuse to medicate their children. The right is derived from the concept of “substantive due process” and constitutional protections for adults’ privacy. The right of a parent or legal guardian to refuse medication for their children is founded on the most fundamental safeguards offered to parents about care and child-raising decisions for their children. The exception is if the sick person poses a danger to himself or others.

Incapacitated Individuals

When an adult is judged incapable of making health care decisions and a guardian advocate is appointed, the guardian advocate makes prescription decisions on the patient’s behalf. A family member, legal guardian, or friend may ask the court to vacate these decisions.

The Irony Of Medications

There are reasons to be cautious in prescribing psychotropic medications based on the patient’s unique circumstances, diagnosis, and needs. There are more aspects to consider, which many people are unaware of. Antidepressant efficacy has been substantially questioned during the last decade. While these medications may be beneficial for a small number of persons, typically those with really severe and intractable symptoms, they are ineffective for the great majority.

Antipsychotic medications or mood stabilizers, as they are usually referred to, are also a risk. These are the most often prescribed drugs for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder people. The issue is that younger children, particularly those under the age of 14, cannot receive an accurate diagnosis for either of these disorders. Many factors can trigger bipolar behavior, and medicating a child might impair their brain and physical development.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Former Tulsa deputy facing charges, accused of financially exploiting elderly relative

by Megan Butler

Phillip Blake Annis is booked into the Tulsa County Jail on Dec. 29, 2021, for financially exploiting an elderly relative. (Courtesy: Tulsa County Jail)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — A former Tulsa County deputy has been charged for allegedly financially exploiting an elderly relative.

Court documents show that OKDHS Adult Protective Services had received a report on Nov. 10, 2021, about caretaker abuse by Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Deputy Phillip Blake Annis.

Phillip Annis allegedly had "power of attorney" over Charles Annis as of June 15, 2018.

Detectives said Phillip Annis signed contracts for Charles Annis to be housed at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions in Broken Arrow, starting May 18, 2019. 

Billing records show Phillip Annis began paying less than the full amount due to the nursing home in May 2020.

On Aug. 24, 2021, Charles Annis' eviction notice showed a bill of $40,409.20.

According to court documents, Blake had access to Charles Annis' bank accounts as power of attorney and used them for personal use. OKDHS learned Blake pocketed $98,023.99 from Charles Annis' accounts.

Detectives say Charles Annis was determined to be suffering from depression and Alzheimer's disease, in addition to multiple medical diagnoses.

TCSO confirms Phillip Annis was hired on June 1, 2019. He was placed on unpaid leave amid the investigation on Oct. 27, 2021, and officially fired on Dec. 29, 2021.

Deputies then arrested Phillip Annis on Dec. 29, 2021. He has since bonded out of the Tulsa County Jail.

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Fifth Circuit affirms dismissal of suit against Harris County probate judge

By Staff reports

HOUSTON -  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Judge Michael Newman, justice of the Probate Court of Harris County. 

The lawsuit was brought by Sheila Owens Collins, who accused Judge Newman of intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, and 14th Amendment violations. 

Court records show that in October 2017 Harris County Probate Court Number 1 presided over a guardianship proceeding relating to the adult Hattie Lester Balfour Owens. Following an investigation and medical examinations, the court determined that Owens was incapacitated. A nonparty judge presided over the proceedings, and appointed a temporary guardian, guardian ad litem, and an attorney ad litem to represent Owens in her opposition to the guardianship. 

On Jan. 1, 2019, Owens passed away at 90. The guardianship case was reassigned to Judge Newman in Probate Court Number 2 on Feb. 6, 2019, court records state. Judge Newman ruled on applications to award attorney’s fees before the guardianship closed in June 2019. Between February 2019 and October 2020, Judge Newman presided over the probate estate of the late Owens.

Court records show that on Feb. 5, 2021, Collins amended her complaint against Judge Newman to assert violations of: the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; Cannons 1 and 2 of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct; and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Collins alleges the attorneys appointed in the probate case conspired with her family members and Judge Newman to hasten Owens’ death and deplete her assets, court records state. Collins further accuses Judge Newman of colluding with the attorneys and her family members by failing to supervise them and ordering the estate to pay fees that she personally believes are excessive.  

Court records show the trial court granted Judge Newman’s motion to dismiss. Collins appealed the decision. 

In his appellate brief, Judge Newman states that not one of Collins’ complaints state a valid legal claim sufficient to overcome his immunity. 

On Dec. 2, the Fifth Circuit found Collins “fails to present any non-frivolous arguments on appeal,” affirming the judgment of the trial court. 

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Guardianship system in N.M. remains in crisis

Despite what the New Mexico judiciary and the Developmental Disabilities Council’s Office of Guardianship have reported to the Legislative Health and Human Services Interim Committee, the guardianship system in New Mexico continues to be in crisis.

Abusive guardianships continue to occur, sponsored by predatory attorneys and sanctioned by District Court judges. The guardianship law, 45-5-101 through 45-5-617, was established in 2012 to protect and preserve the well-being and assets of the incapacitated person. However, this is not what we believe is happening.

Unethical professionals continue to abuse the system. The individuals who control the outcome of the guardianship case are the petitioning attorney and the District Court judge. The judge grants the power to the appointed guardian and conservator who control every aspect of the “protected person’s” life, including where the individual lives, what medication is prescribed and is to be taken, what doctors the person may visit, who can visit and speak to the individual, and, of course — their money and assets.

Additionally, some New Mexico courts have disregarded the legitimate written directives, wills and trusts that have been prepared. For true guardianship reform to occur, judges must appoint guardians and conservators who understand, respect and advocate for the wishes and best interests of the “protected person.”

This is exactly why family members and guardianship advocate groups must be recognized as the experts when it comes to hearing and understanding our loved ones. Family members must also have an “equal voice” at the decision-making table. We are the eyes and ears on the ground. We have the day-to-day experiences with our loved ones. We know the individual, his/her likes, dislikes, triggers, medical history, hopes and dreams.

A corporate guardian and conservator are complete strangers who are involved for profit. Our state leaders must address these injustices to ensure our most vulnerable population’s human rights, civil rights and protection of their financial assets are respected and protected. The media must continue to report on these concerns — the public has a right to know.

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Monday, January 3, 2022

Man trying to recoup $150K after Las Vegas lawyer charged with theft

Scott Michael Cantor

By Glenn Puit

James Wilson says he trusted his Las Vegas attorney, Scott Michael Cantor, to properly handle the details of his late mother’s estate in probate court.

Wilson, 51, is a retired North Las Vegas corrections sergeant who now lives in Washington. His mother, Charley Janet Wilson, died in Las Vegas in 2010, and her home in Centennial Hills was sold a year later. The proceeds were placed in a trust account at Cantor’s law firm as the family’s complex probate case dragged on for a decade.

“I thought the money was as safe as Fort Knox in a trust account,” Wilson said. “Just by the name alone, it’s called trust.”

But when the probate case finally resolved in 2020, Wilson reached out to his attorney to get his portion of his inheritance valued at roughly $150,000. What followed from Cantor, Wilson said, was excuse after excuse.

“There were numerous times when I did call him and told him, ‘Hurry up and get this done,’” Wilson said. But the money never came.

Las Vegas police and Clark County prosecutors now say the reason Wilson never got paid is because Cantor, 69, stole the money. The attorney was arrested in October and is facing trial on a felony count of attempted theft.

Cantor’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment for this story, but records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show that Cantor was previously disciplined by the Nevada Supreme Court for violating rules of professional conduct in legal cases dating back decades. Those same records also show he was disbarred by the state of California in March, and that the State Bar of Nevada is now seeking to revoke Cantor’s law license as well.

“The way I see it, Scott stole my mother’s house … That was money I could have sent my kids to college with,” Wilson said. “That’s what my mom wanted to see.”

At least four prior complaints

Cantor was admitted to practice law in both Nevada and California in 1978. In 1990, he received a private reprimand from the Nevada bar because Cantor “temporarily misplaced two casino chips entrusted to him by a client in 1983,” according to bar records.

In 2014, the Nevada bar initiated disciplinary proceedings against Cantor stemming from complaints in three other cases.

The first stemmed from a 2005 case in which Cantor failed to obey a court order requiring prompt disbursement of settlement monies on behalf of a client who had received a pre-settlement advance loan in a civil case.

In the second case, a woman said she hired Cantor as a divorce attorney and paid him more than $1,000, but she ultimately had to perform her own legal filings after she said Cantor didn’t do what he said he was going to do. The Nevada bar said Cantor failed to file the woman’s parenting certificates and waited a year to file a joint petition. He also failed to inform his client of significant legal developments, the Nevada bar said.

In another complaint, Cantor was hired to handle a probate case of a woman who died in 2008. The Nevada bar said he acted as an administrator for the estate without approval from the probate court and ended up receiving illegal fees in the case. He also failed to perform legal services by filing accounting documents.

Discipline in Nevada, California

The filings with the Nevada Supreme Court indicate Cantor entered into a conditional plea with the state bar over the three complaints, acknowledging that he violated rules of professional conduct.

As a result of the plea, in September 2015, the Nevada Supreme Court approved a stayed six-month suspension of Cantor’s law license and a year’s probation with the Nevada bar. He was also appointed a mentor by the bar to help him get back on track.

However, a short time later, the mentor — a Las Vegas attorney — reported back to the bar “that he had concerns with Cantor’s handling of trust funds,” according to bar filings, and that “Cantor admitted to a shortfall” of $37,000 in a trust account.

As a result, in November 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court signed off on a Nevada bar recommendation extending Cantor’s stayed law license suspension to three years. An audit of his trust fund account was ordered along with a repayment of any deficiencies.

Cantor was also required to use an accounting and case management system, and provide quarterly reports on his progress.

The Nevada discipline then triggered the California state bar to initiate its own disciplinary proceedings against Cantor. Cantor was disbarred in California in March for repeatedly failing to meet requirements imposed on him.

The Nevada bar, in its November petition, said Cantor also never informed them that he had been disbarred in California, even though he was required to do so, and that the loss of his license in California was only discovered as the Nevada bar investigated “another matter” regarding Cantor. The filings don’t provide details on what the Nevada bar is investigating.

Waiting for a check

Wilson said in 2020 that he became increasingly frustrated with Cantor’s chronic excuses as to why he had not transferred Wilson’s mother’s inheritance to him. A series of exchanges in fall 2020 left him convinced that something was seriously wrong.

“I told Scott, ‘I want to see the money in my account,’” Wilson said. “He said, ‘I’ll have the money in your account. I’ll go over and do a wire transfer at Nevada State Bank.’”

Later that day, Wilson said Cantor told him he couldn’t make the wire transfer because the bank had closed at 2 p.m.

“I was like, ‘A bank closes at 2 p.m.?’” Wilson said.

In the following days, Cantor told him the money was, in fact, sent to him via wire transfer.

“He sent me a picture of this letter,” Wilson said. “It says wire transfer. It had the amount on there, but it didn’t hit my bank. Then I started looking at this letter and the type print was off. The lines were crooked.”

Wilson said he sent the picture of the letter to several friends who are retired cops, and they all told him “that looks hinky,” Wilson recalled.

Wilson then filed a complaint with Las Vegas police last January. Detectives wrote in an arrest report for Cantor that they learned the attorney also told Wilson he needed to audit his trust account.

“After Mr. Cantor’s audit, he told (Wilson) that there was only $200 in his trust account,” police said. “Mr. Cantor told (Wilson) that he would make good on the funds, but never paid.”

Wilson said Cantor offered him mining contracts as reimbursement, but he still never got any money. Wilson is hoping he will one day be reimbursed for the loss through court proceedings or possibly by the Nevada bar.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Wilson said.

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