Saturday, February 19, 2022

Proposal aims to help people navigate complex guardianship systems

By Margaret Stevens

State money could help Minnesotans with cognitive, psychiatric or intellectual disabilities who are facing guardianship or conservatorship make sometimes difficult decisions and find a balance between safety and self-determination. 

“Guardianship is complex system that isn’t right for every person, but often it is the default,” said Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL-Shoreview). “That is why I’m happy to carry this bill and support the work of Volunteers of America in helping people navigate the system and utilize supported decision-making where appropriate.”

HF2840 would provide $600,000 in each year of the current biennium to the Volunteers for America Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making.

It was laid over Tuesday by the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF2990, sponsored by Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

Among the people served by the center is a woman with dementia, who stayed in her home longer with help getting her furnace fixed. She later received support going into assisted care.

Changes to the guardianship in a 2020 law enhanced the bill of rights for people facing guardianship, added requirements for guardians to notify families of decisions, defined supported decision-making and added requirements for options short of guardianship, said Anita Raymond, program director for the Centers in Supported Decision Making.

“In Minnesota, the spectrum of decision-making options is wide, but also potentially confusing and stressful,” Raymond said.

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Disbarred attorney who stole millions from LA and OC clients sentenced to 12 years

Philip Layfield was found guilty of 22 counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, tax evasion, failure to collect and pay over payroll taxes and failure to file a tax return.

By City News Service

A disbarred personal injury lawyer who operated in Irvine, Los Angeles and El Segundo was sentenced to 12 years behind bars on Thursday, Feb. 17, for stealing the majority of a multimillion-dollar settlement that should have been paid to a car accident victim, as well as cheating on his taxes.

Philip Layfield was found guilty of 22 counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, tax evasion, failure to collect and pay over payroll taxes and failure to file a tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Following the August 2021 jury verdicts in Los Angeles federal court, the 48-year-old Layfield was remanded into federal custody.

After he had misappropriated millions of dollars from clients’ settlements, Layfield relocated to Costa Rica. Just before getting on a flight headed there, Layfield borrowed $700,000 from a business lender by providing misleading information and failing to disclose material information.

He then used substantial portions of the loan proceeds for personal expenses, including buying and shipping horses to Costa Rica, evidence showed.

In 2016, Layfield entered into an agreement to represent an individual who was struck by an automobile in Orange County and suffered significant injuries. After negotiating a $3.9 million settlement related to the accident, Layfield misappropriated most of the money owed to the victim — about $2 million — for personal and business uses, including to pay clients whose settlement proceeds Layfield had earlier misappropriated.

The car accident victim received only $25,000 of the settlement proceeds. Layfield also failed to file a federal income tax return for the tax year 2016, despite receiving more than $3 million, including embezzled client settlement money. He also caused his law firm to not pay about $120,976 in payroll taxes to the United States government for the second quarter of 2017.

The State Bar of California disbarred Layfield in October 2018. He also was a certified public accountant, but his CPA license expired in July 2019.

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Dick Van Dyke, 96, proves to be as sprightly as ever as he sings and dances with his wife Arlene Silver, 50, in a Valentine's music video

By Cassie Carpenter

The legendary Dick Van Dyke proved he can still act, sing, and dance in a new music video starring and directed by his wife Arlene Silver.

At 96, the national treasure is 46 years older than the former make-up artist, but Dick proved he could keep up with his wife in the video, which was filmed for Valentine's Day. 

The pair - who will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on February 29 - performed a cheery cover of Everybody Loves a Lover, a Richard Adler and Robert Allen song made popular by Doris Day in 1958.

He's still got it! The legendary Dick Van Dyke proved he could still act, sing, and dance in a new music video starring and directed by his second wife - Arlene Silver (R) - in honor of Valentine's Day

Dick sang a verse from his chair before getting up to show his moves at Fallen Fruit's colorful SUPERSHOW art installation in Los Angeles.

Everybody Loves a Lover also featured Tony Guerrero on jazz trumpet. (Click to continue reading)

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Calls for improved nursing home oversight: 'It wouldn't happen with a child'

by Ginny Ryan

Rochester, N.Y. — Janet Deisenroth lived three years after her 90th birthday party. The months that followed would be the most heart-wrenching for her family.

“She was totally in disarray,” recalls Deisenroth’s daughter, Jeannie Wells. “Her hair, they had no hairdressers. We found out they had not been giving showers. They didn’t have a safe way to do that.”

Wells' mom, Janet, was sent to a local nursing home for rehabilitation after breaking her hip in March 2020. Two days after she arrived, COVID-19 locked it down.

Her family couldn’t see her in person for seven months and Janet would never go home.

“For us, it was more painful than for her. To see her in dirty clothes without socks - they were constantly losing everything we brought,” said Jeannie.

When COVID-19 rules were relaxed and Jean said they finally got into her mom’s room, she says was shocked by what she saw and took photos: a dirty bathroom in disrepair, broken outlets, stained furniture and what appeared to be an infection on her mom’s foot.

Jeannie began a long and frustrating search for help. She says she contacted the nursing home's social workers and filed several complaints with the New York State Health Department but, she says, all to no avail. Jeannie says she found it almost impossible to report a situation.

Her complaints to the NYSDOH are among thousands. In 2021, more than 13,000 nursing home complaints were filed. More than 11,000 complaints pertained to local facilities.

But some senior advocates some of it could be avoided with more funding to the New York’s ombudsman program. According to AARP, less than half of all nursing homes in New York have an ombudsman dedicated to spotting and solving care issues.

“It’s a critical piece of long-term care,” said David McNally, NY director of government affairs and advocacy for AARP.

“Sometimes the problem or condition is not just about one patient, so they are there to be the eyes and ears of what they see and hear in the facility,” said McNally.

Senior care advocates across the state are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to put $20 million into the federally mandated ombudsman program in the upcoming state budget. McNally says the money would be enough to place one ombudsman in each nursing home once a week.

Jeannie took her case and her concerns directly to Hochul and the state health commissioner. She asked that nursing homes post visible signs with the NYSDOH hotline number to report complaints. The governor responded, saying her team would look into Wells’ concerns.

The loss of Jeannie’s mother is compounded by what she believes was neglectful care and her frustrating fight to get someone to help. Jeannie said she contacted 37 different people in her search for accountability in her mother’s care.

“I truly don’t understand why this doesn’t tear at people’s well-being. It wouldn’t happen with a child. You have to look at these people as being vulnerable and defenseless," said Jeannie.

There is no indication yet that the governor will include the $20 million requested by senior care advocates in the upcoming state budget.

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Alabama’s guardianship laws could undergo first major revisions since the 1980s

(Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels, YHN)

AARP is making it clear they are in support of the passage of the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship and Other Protective Arrangements Act (UGCOPAA) in Alabama.

Candi Williams, AARP Alabama state director states, “Unfortunately, Alabama’s current guardianship laws are outdated, relying on a one size fits all, cookie-cutter approach that often robs seniors and people with disabilities of their rights, independence, and dignity.”

There have been many stories and experiences brought to light about seniors being taken advantage of, restricted unfairly and even abused under the care of their current guardianship. It is becoming far too common and updates must be made to protect aging loved ones.

Williams also writes, “Recent news headlines about guardianship arrangements gone wrong have brought more public attention to this mostly hidden topic.”

The UGCOPAA would address the needed reforms, including:

  • Prohibiting a court from issuing a full guardianship order when a less restrictive alternative is available and appropriate for the individual, such as a supported decision-making arrangement or technological assistance;
  • Requiring that each person under guardianship have an individualized plan that considers the person’s preferences and values;
  • Clarifying the legal duties of the guardian, including that the guardian must make the best decision for the individual under their care that they reasonably believe the person would make on their own unless doing so would cause harm;
  • Clarifying that the guardian must promote self-determination to the extent possible and encourage the individual’s participation in decisions;
  • Combatting abuse and exploitation by, among other things, forbidding a guardian to restrict communication or visits from family and friends unless the court orders otherwise.

While guardianship is still important in certain cases, the passage of the UGCOPAA would allow families, caregivers and seniors their rights to live independently at home – where they want to be.

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South Florida pastor accused of exploiting elderly man for his money

By Raphael Pires

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida pastor known for his generosity is being accused of an unholy act.

Prosecutors said he cheated an elderly man out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This is an elderly exploitation and fraud case,” said a prosecutor during Eric Readon’s court appearance.

A Miami Gardens pastor and businessman was arrested and charged with multiple felonies.

“The primary victim was an elderly senior,” said the prosecutor in court.

Eric Readon appeared before a judge Tuesday. Facing charges of exploiting the elderly, scheme to defraud, theft from the elderly and more.

“It was the man’s entire life saving and his entire home,” said the prosecutor in court.

“My heart goes out to this family,” said Readon.

You may recognize Readon. He’s been known to help victims of tragedies and their families throughout the years.

“We will do whatever we have to do to bring justice to the situation,” said Readon.

This was him back in 2017 and several other times, raising money and donations in times of need, but behind the scenes, he was allegedly taking money from unsuspecting victims.

“And in this case, clearly he was taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of his victims,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

According to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney, 75-year-old Edward Fuller, an army veteran, was building his retirement home on this property in Northwest Miami-Dade.

It was supposed to be his dream home, but he said after meeting Pastor Readon, it turned into a house of nightmares.

“He just needed a little helping hand, and instead he got everything stolen from him,” said Rundle.

In 2015, Fuller ran out of cash to complete his home, and that’s when 7News was told Readon stepped in to offer help, eventually tricking the victim into signing over the property for a better chance of getting a loan but claiming he would transfer it back once things were done, but that allegedly never happened.

“He talks him in to signing what he thinks is just is just some ownership. It was the whole thing thanks to that quitclaim deed,” said Rundle.

“There’s a second set of victims, a newlywed couple that he was sham renting the same property to,” said the prosecutor in court.

That couple allegedly out about $3,100. The elderly victim out about $267,000.

A judge ordered Readon to stay away from all of them.

“No contact with these alleged victims, either directly, indirectly, in person, in writing, by telephone or through third parties,” said Judge Mindy S. Glazer.

Readon’s bond was set at $42,500, but first he has to prove to the judge where that money comes from.

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

What's happening with Wendy Williams? From talk show no-show to 'incapacitated person'

by Suzy Byrne

What's going on with Wendy Williams?

That's the million dollar question as TV's long-running gossip queen — whose hot takes on celebrity drama entertained audiences (aka her "co-hosts") and irked celebrities — has been on extended sick leave from her eponymous show. Her purple throne, from which she reigned for 12 seasons, collecting dust as a rotation of celebrities stepped in, and now Sherri Shepherd reportedly sticking around as "permanent guest host."

For viewers of the Wendy Williams Show, the iconic Black host who asks "How you doin'?" and doesn't hold back on her hot takes has seemingly been in crisis for several years now. On the show, one of biggest hits in daytime TV history, Williams has had emergency health issues, exhibited slurred speech and appeared disoriented. She's taken (multiple) extended breaks from the program, citing Graves' disease, only to reveal she was living in a sober home after an addiction relapse. That was followed by a headline-making divorce after her husband of 22 years, and a now-former executive producer on the show, had a child with another woman. 

But even all that pales in comparison to today as 57-year-old Williams — M.I.A. from the spotlight she revels in, save for a few trips out in bathrobes — publicly denies she's struggling with her mental health after her wealth manager at Wells Fargo froze her finances, claiming she is "incapacitated," "of unsound mind" and in need of a guardianship.

Here's how we got here, which we'll update with new developments:

February: It's announced Williams will not return to her show this season. Popular fill-in Shepherd is working out a deal to be the permanent guest host.

Williams's legal battle with Wells Fargo is revealed. The star, who earns approximately $15 million a year, says the bank is denying her access to her accounts. Docs show that her former financial advisor, Lori Schiller, is the one who who froze her access, claiming Williams is "of unsound mind" and needs a guardianship. 

Wells Fargo’s attorney David H. Pikus says several million dollars of Williams's are frozen because the bank "has strong reason to believe that [Williams] is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation." Williams is described as an "incapacitated person" in a legal letter. It's not specified who is allegedly exploiting Williams.

Williams files an affidavit in New York Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order against Wells Fargo, calling Schiller a "disgruntled" former employee. She says the situation "is causing imminent and irreparable financial harm to myself, my family and my business." Court documents state she "denies that she is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation."

Williams's attorney issues a statement saying Williams "wants the world to know that she strenuously denies all allegations about her mental health and well-being. During this hiatus from the show, Wendy has employed holistic health professionals to help her reach optimal health during her treatment of Graves’ disease and thyroid concerns."

The Shade Room posted photos of Williams on Super Bowl Sunday, which she reportedly watched with with her family (though no one else was in the photos).

On Feb. 15, Williams's attorney LaShawn Thomas tells The Sun, in a report confirmed by Yahoo Entertainment, that her client is "looking really good."

"Wendy is getting [her] hair done, she has a personal trainer that she's working with and she's doing well," Thomas says. "It's been good for her to have a change of scenery in Florida, and it's good for her son to be by her side. That always lights up any parent's life."

While Thomas represents Williams in her Wells Fargo case, she also represents the talk show host's ex-husband, Kevin Hunter, in other matters. However, she explains that she didn't represent either of them in their divorce, so there's no conflict of interest.

Thomas says she first represented Williams two years before the divorce, and that Hunter had not been involved in the arrangement.

"I am extremely honored to say that Wendy and Kevin both have enough confidence in my abilities that each party has separately elected to continue to utilize my services," Thomas says.

December: Williams is photographed leaving a Miami wellness center in a robe. She says she's doing "better every day."

Her brother says the family had no concerns about Williams's "mental state. It’s all physical."

Williams is spotted, fully dressed, in NYC. She also is seen spending time with son Kevin Hunter Jr.

November: Williams says she's "making progress" in health battle "but it's just one of those things that's taking longer than we expected. I'm a woman of a certain age, and I know enough to listen to my doctors and will return to my purple chair as soon as we all agree I'm ready."

Shepherd is a clear fave as guest host, drawing the highest ratings of the season.

October: Williams postpones her postponed premiere date, from Oct. 4 to Oct. 18, again citing "ongoing medical issues." Her rep says COVID is no longer an issue, but she's "still not ready to return to work." 

Ahead of the twice postponed premiere, it's announced that guest hosts, including Leah Remini, would start the season as Williams needed more time to recover. "Wendy continues to be under medical supervision and meets with her medical team on a daily basis," a rep says. "She is making progress but is experiencing serious complications as a direct result of Graves' disease and her thyroid condition."

The show premieres.

September: After summer hiatus, Williams is set to promote Season 13 of her hit show, but abruptly cancels, citing "ongoing health issues" that needed "further evaluations." It's promised the radio-turned-TV-host would be ready for her premiere on Sept. 20. 

Days ahead of the premiere, it's announced it's postponed to Oct. 4 because Williams has "breakthrough" COVID. That is curious, as Williams said on air that she wouldn't be getting vaccinated. A source close to Yahoo confirms she was in fact vaccinated.

Her brother Tommy denies a report that she was admitted to a New York hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He also suggests she wasn't vaccinated. "We're praying," he said, adding, "She's fighting." 

Williams is photographed twice by paparazzi out in a robe and hospital socks, once in a wheelchair and the other while also vaping.

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Ohio Supreme Court changes rules for guardianships

By: Nick Evans

Photo: Courtesy of the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued changes to the state’s rules for guardianship set to take effect July 1. The tweaks are meant to avoid fraud and abuse by imposing new reporting and training requirements.

The guardianship system, overseen by Ohio’s county probate courts, provides care for people who can’t care for themselves. But it’s a delicate arrangement. Empowering a third party to make major decisions on behalf of someone else can be necessary, but it almost inevitably raises concerns about potential exploitation.

Through its rules of superintendence, the state supreme court lays out the ground rules for administering guardianships. Those rules already require guardians receive regular training, avoid conflicts of interest, and meet with wards in person. Guardians also have to update the court on how their ward is doing through an annual plan, account for how they’re spending the ward’s money, and inform the court about any changes in residence.

Despite that level of oversight, abuse or neglect can still happen, and the court’s changes portray a frank assessment of that reality.

To address the possibility of exploitation by a ward’s family, friends or caregivers, guardians will now receive training on how to spot and report abuse as part of their education requirements. The amendments also add the long-term care ombudsman and law enforcement to list of authorities to which guardians should refer allegations of potential abuse.

To avoid abuse by guardians themselves, the court’s changes attempt to maintain contact between the ward and their family or friends. Among the changes, probate courts will have to include denial of visitation as part of the complaint process against a guardian.

Other changes in that vein include directing a court investigator outside the guardian-ward relationship to speak with the ward about their visitation history and preferences, and then report their findings to the court. The new rules also direct guardians to actively work with their wards on the list of people who can visit or write to them. Guardians would have to inform the court about any changes to that list.

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Parkland Man Gets 7 Years in Prison For Bilking Elderly Investors

Isaac Grossman
By Kevin Deutsch

A Parkland man who conned elderly investors out of millions of dollars was sentenced Thursday to 87 months in federal prison, according to the Department of Justice.

Isaac Grossman, 47, of Heron Bay, directed an elder fraud scheme in which he sold stock in his South Florida-based technology company to senior citizens across the U.S., then misappropriated their money for his own personal use, federal prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal sentenced Grossman in Fort Lauderdale federal court after Grossman had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges. Grossman had faced up to 50 years in prison for his crimes.

He was also ordered to pay nearly $3 million in restitution, court records show.

Grossman will be credited with about seven months served and must surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons no later than April 8, according to the records.

From September 2014 through April 2018, Grossman raised around $2.4 million in investor funds for his company, Dragon-Click Corp., by soliciting investments from elderly retirees across the country, prosecutors said.

Grossman’s pitch to investors: Dragon-Click was developing a revolutionary internet application, and they had a chance to get in on the ground floor. He told them the new shopping app would allow users to post a photo of any item they might want to purchase, immediately recognize all retailers who sell the item, and provide price comparisons and links to buy.

Grossman admitted he falsely told investors they would double, triple, or quadruple their money. According to DOJ, he even claimed Dragon-Click was on the verge of being sold to a large technology company like Google, Apple, or Amazon for over $1 billion.

Before raising funds for Dragon-Click, he concealed from investors that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority had permanently barred him from acting as a broker or associating with brokerage firms.

He also hid the fact he had been permanently banned from commodities trading by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

With investors’ money in hand, Grossman spent $1.3 million of his fraudulent gains on gambling, diamond jewelry, luxury cars, home mortgage payments, tuition payments for his children’s private school education, and other personal expenditures, including a McLaren MP4-12C, a Chevrolet Corvette and a 4.81-carat diamond ring, prosecutors said.

In addition to his criminal case, the government also filed a parallel civil enforcement action against Grossman.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Wendy Williams denies she's of "unsound mind" as Wells Fargo freezes her account over mental health

By Joy Saha

Wendy Williams (Leon Bennett/WireImage/Getty Images)

A few days after it was announced that Wendy Williams will not be returning to her talk show for the remainder of season 13, she's is once again making headlines.

Williams is facing off with her bank, Wells Fargo, after they've frozen her accounts for at least two weeks over the state of her mental health, reports Variety.

"On behalf of Wendy Hunter, professionally known as Wendy Williams, as counsel to her and her affairs, Wendy wants the world to know that she strenuously denies all allegations about her mental health and well-being," Williams' attorney, LaShawn Thomas, said in a statement Monday. "During this hiatus from the show, Wendy has employed holistic health professionals to help her reach optimal health during her treatment of Graves' disease and thyroid concerns."

Williams' former financial advisor, Lori Schiller, had initially deemed the talk show host was "of unsound mind"; Schiller had been fired due to alleged "malfeasance" regardign the accounts. Nevertheless, in a recent letter addressed to the New York Supreme Court, Wells Fargo described Williams as an "incapacitated person" and requested that she be placed under temporary guardianship. The bank also allegedly refused to honor Williams' Power of Attorney.

"We are concerned about [Wendy Williams'] situation," the letter disclosed, per Page Six. "It is our hope that the Guardianship Part will imminently appoint a temporary guardian or evaluator to review the situation and ensure that [Williams'] affairs are being properly handled."

On Tuesday, a Wells Fargo spokesperson told Variety that the bank's priority is "the financial well-being of Ms. Williams and the preservation of her privacy. . . . As we have expressed to the Court, Wells Fargo is open to working with Ms. Williams' counsel to release funds directly to her creditors for bills historically and regularly paid from her accounts."

Williams, who was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Grave's disease in 2018, continues to recover from various medical conditions and concerns. At this time, it's unclear when she'll be able to return to "The Wendy Williams Show." Last week, it was announced that former "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd will take over as a permanent guest host in September.

"Wendy wants you to know she is fine; she is of sound mind and disappointed about falsely circulated statements from an industry she has devoted her life to," Thomas' statement continued. "She thanks everyone who has been patiently awaiting her return and believes that, thanks in large part to the love and support of her son, her family, her new team of doctors and a change of scenery, she is on the mend. Wendy says to all her fans, 'How you doing?' So, please send her positive messages, energy, and affirmations to her social media that she can read daily."

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Disgraced former attorney sentenced to nearly six years in prison for litigation advance fraud scheme

 Department of Justice 

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Northern District of Georgia

Tuesday, February 15, 2022





Disgraced former attorney sentenced to nearly six years in prison for litigation advance fraud scheme

ATLANTA - Chalmer “Chuck” Detling, II, a disbarred attorney, has been sentenced to prison after being convicted by a jury of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Without their knowledge or authorization, Detling used his clients’ identities—sometimes repeatedly—to obtain dozens of fraudulent litigation advances, totaling over $400,000.

“Detling betrayed the trust of his clients, business associates, friends, and family, all to steal money,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “This tough but fair sentence should remind those considering similar behavior about the consequences of those decisions, especially licensed professionals who are considering exploiting their clients in a time of need.”

“Detling violated the trust of the clients that hired him and used his position as an attorney not to pursue justice, but to pursue a fraud scheme for personal gain,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Because of his self-interest and greed he has not only thrown away his career, but will spend time in prison for his crimes.”  

According to U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: Detling was the owner and operator of the Detling Law Group (which later changed its name to Detling Cole LLC), a personal injury law firm based in Marietta, Georgia. While running his law firm, Detling obtained fraudulent “litigation advances” in the names of his clients, without their knowledge or consent, from financing companies. These litigation advances—essentially high interest non-recourse loans—are intended for personal injury plaintiffs to cover non-litigation related expenses (e.g., living and medical expenses) while their cases are pending. In exchange for a litigation advance, the plaintiff agrees to repay the money received plus interest when his or her case settles or ends favorably at a trial. Because these are high interest advances, plaintiffs typically seek them out only as a matter of last resort.

From October 2014 to April 2016, Detling applied for and received dozens of fraudulent litigation advances, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Detling submitted applications that were purportedly signed and executed by his respective clients, but Detling knew when he submitted the agreement paperwork that the clients had not actually executed the agreements.  He did so even after several clients expressly told him they did not need or want such financing. Detling was able to conceal from his clients that he had obtained the fraudulent advances by having the funds wired or deposited into his law firm’s Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (“IOLTA”) accounts.

Detling was able to secure these fraudulent litigation advances without his clients’ knowledge in part because the financing companies did not require the clients to be present when applying for the litigation advances or receiving the disbursements. He further concealed the fraud from the financing companies by exploiting the trust they placed in him as an attorney, by stringing them along with lies about the status of his clients’ cases and the possibility of future repayment. Detling also executed the scheme in part by submitting forged documents to the financing companies, including a doctored offer letter from an insurance company in which he claimed they offered $250,000 when in fact they offered $2,000 to settle a case.

While Detling was defrauding the financing entities, he was already subject of multiple investigations by the State Bar of Georgia (“Georgia Bar”) involving professional misconduct, including into his alleged mismanagement of client funds and settling of cases without client authority. Detling’s scheme ultimately unraveled when the Georgia Bar received an anonymous note in early May 2016 notifying it about a subset of the fraudulent litigation advances. Shortly after receiving this information, the Georgia Bar alerted the financing companies, Detling’s clients, and the FBI of the apparent fraud. Nonetheless, when subsequently deposed by the Georgia Bar, Detling repeatedly lied under oath about his knowledge and involvement with the fraudulently obtained litigation advances.

As a result of the Georgia Bar’s investigations, on September 1, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court issued an emergency suspension of Detling’s law license. On October 30, 2016, the Court accepted Detling’s petition to voluntarily surrender his law license, characterizing it as “tantamount to disbarment.” Detling is no longer licensed to practice law in Georgia or elsewhere.

Chalmer “Chuck” Detling, II, 45, of Marietta, Georgia, was sentenced on February 10, 2022, by U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May to five years and ten months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $254,837.89. He was originally charged by a federal grand jury in August 2018 with multiple counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Following an eight-day trial, a jury convicted Detling of four counts of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft on November 1, 2021.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the State Bar of Georgia.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex R. Sistla and Samir Kaushal prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is


Titusville caregiver arrested in death of disabled man, police say

John Edward Dietsch, 56, faces felony abuse charge

John Edward Dietsch, 56, who was arrested Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.
John Edward Dietsch, 56, who was arrested Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. (Brevard County Sheriff's Office)

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – The sole caregiver of a disabled man was arrested Friday when officers conducting a wellbeing check at their residence found the man dead, according to the Titusville Police Department.

The caregiver, John Edward Dietsch, 56, was still residing in the home on Kennedy Court where police said the victim was found “in a state of advanced decomposition,” according to a news release.

Dietsch was charged with felony abuse of a disabled adult and booked into the Brevard County Jail on no bond, records show.

Additional charges are possible pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation, police said.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and guardianship scandals prompt new elder law recommendations

Image from Shutterstock.

By Amanda Robert

The ABA House of Delegates approved a pair of resolutions Monday that focus on the needs of older Americans.

Resolution 602, sponsored by the Commission on Law and Aging, the Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law and the Senior Lawyers Division, adopts the recommendations of the Fourth National Guardianship Summit and encourages all legislatures and policymakers to incorporate them when improving guardianship laws, policies and practices.

David English, a Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law representative to the House of Delegates, introduced the resolution. He said while many people have become more aware of guardianship issues because of Britney Spears’ recent case, it is not an isolated incident.

“We have been working or dealing with issues concerning guardianship going back many decades,” said English, who is also a past chair of the Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law and the Commission on Law and Aging. “As part of this process, about every 10 years a national conference will be held with numerous attendees from many ABA entities, among other groups, to talk about guardianship and make recommendations on how to improve the system.”

ABA members and staff were among the 125 advocates and experts who gathered virtually at the Fourth National Guardianship Summit in May 2021. The association has also participated in and adopted recommendations from three previous summits in 1988, 2001 and 2011.

The 22 recommendations from the latest summit fall into six areas: rights-based guardianships; supported decision-making; limited guardianship, protective arrangements and diverting pipelines; guardianship monitoring and addressing abuse; fiduciary responsibilities and tensions; and guardianship court improvement programs.

They include the following:

• States and courts must ensure all judicial proceedings that could impact an adult’s rights include meaningful due process.

• State statutes, rules, policies and processes should require courts to consider supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship both before and after it is imposed.

• States should create guardianship diversion programs that facilitate alternatives to guardianship, and as a result, reduce the likelihood that unnecessary guardianships will be granted.

• States and courts should increase the safety and well-being of adults subject to guardianship by establishing a post-appointment, person-centered monitoring system.

• States should provide funding for an agency to implement and oversee licensure or certification of court-appointed guardians as well as to vet, train and discipline these guardians.

• Congress should establish a guardianship court improvement program, modeled on the child welfare court improvement program created in 1993.

The House of Delegates adopted a separate resolution in August 2020 that called on Congress to create and fund a guardianship court improvement program to support states’ efforts to strengthen their adult guardianship systems.

Jo Ann Engelhardt, who also serves as a Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law representative to the House of Delegates, added that the Racial & Ethnic Diversity Caucus supports the resolution.

“This is important because so often the burdens of an ineffective guardianship system may fall more harshly on our diverse communities,” said Engelhardt, who is a member of the caucus.

As of mid-September, a dozen states has enacted 24 amendments in their laws that relate to these recommendations, according to the report that accompanies Resolution 602. Congress is also considering reforms, including through the Guardianship Accountability Act.

Information about nursing home owners and chains should be more accessible, House says

The House of Delegates approved another resolution Monday that aims to improve transparency and accountability in the ownership and management of nursing homes.

Resolution 601, sponsored by the Commission on Law and Aging, the Health Law Section and the Senior Lawyers Division, urges Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create a national system that audits nursing home ownership reports to ensure the disclosure of all owners, including parent, management and property companies. It also asks them to increase their focus on nursing home chains by enabling the CMS website that compares nursing homes to include information on facilities owned by the same companies.

Louraine Arkfeld, a Senior Lawyers Division representative to the House of Delegates, spoke in favor of the resolution. She contended that “making the decision to place your loved one, a vulnerable loved one, into a nursing home is a difficult decision in even the best of circumstances.”

Arkfeld, who is also a past chair of the Commission on Law and Aging and the Senior Lawyers Division, continued: “So wouldn’t you want to know who owns the nursing home? Who really manages the nursing home? Who really controls the decisions, the care decisions, that are going to be made?”

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, which is cited in the report that accompanies the resolution, 69% of nursing homes were owned by for-profit companies in 2016. In the same year, 24% operated as nonprofit facilities, while 7% were government-owned.

The study additionally shows that more than half of nursing homes were owned or leased by corporate chains with two or more facilities.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has demonstrated to us, often quite painfully, how tenuous the care and safety of our loved ones can be in nursing homes,” Arkfeld added. “These increasingly complex structures with their disassembly of nursing home ownership and operations has been shown to have a negative effect on a broad array of quality measures.”

In November 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and two other legislators sent letters to the Carlyle Group, Formation Capital, Fillmore Capital Partners and Warburg Pincus, which have holdings in the nursing home industry. They also told the four private equity firms they had concerns about their interests in large for-profit chains and requested more information about their investments.

Resolution 601 additionally urges state and territorial legislatures and regulatory agencies to make proposed changes in the ownership and management of nursing homes more transparent by implementing public comment periods or other processes prior to transactions.

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Tahlequah lawyer disbarred

By D.E. Smoot

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the disbarment of a Tahlequah lawyer and former prosecutor whose misconduct included client neglect and misuse of client funds. 

Haskell Doak Willis, a former assistant district attorney in Cherokee County who transitioned to private practice, was suspended from practicing law in 2021. He was ordered to contact the Oklahoma Bar Association and resign as part of a plea agreement he struck with federal prosecutors in February 2020, when he was convicted for a federal firearms violation.

An order for disbarment that has yet to be released for publication by the Oklahoma Supreme Court shows Willis failed to follow through with the resignation. Willis, according to the court order, also failed to cooperate with the OBA and the Professional Responsibility Tribunal during the disciplinary proceedings, and "never filed a pleading responsive to the allegations" against him. 

Willis was indicted Nov. 7, 2019, by a federal grand jury, which was shown evidence of a past felony conviction and the evidence collected while law enforcers executed a search warrant. That evidence included an unspecified amount of methamphetamine and 24 firearms — an assortment of handguns, rifles and shotguns — that “had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce.” 

Eight of the nine justices who preside over the state's highest civil court — Justice James Edmondson did not participate — acknowledged "a criminal conviction itself does not establish unfitness to practice law." But conduct that reflects "adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects" may "reflect on fitness to practice law."

The court cited three grievances filed by former clients who said Willis agreed to provide legal services, accepted money from them, but failed to follow through. The court also cited instances when Willis misappropriated or commingled client funds with his.

"Respondent's actions inflicted significant embarrassment upon the legal profession," Justice Noma Gurich states in the order. "Respondent's cumulative misconduct clearly warrants disbarment." 

Willis was ordered to serve 12 months and a day in federal penitentiary and a period of probation following his release. Records show he was released from prison early on April 9, 2021. 

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Guardianship Rules Changes Address Disputed Visitations and Abuse

By Csaba Sukosd

Upcoming rule amendments will focus on a number
of matters about the well-being of people under a
court’s legal care.
The Supreme Court of Ohio has revised the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio regarding probate matters related to the rights and safety of people under court guardianship.

Amendments to Rules 66—66.09 improve procedures for disputed visitation of wards – people under a court’s legal care who are not able to look after their own affairs. The amendments also are aimed at raising awareness of potential abuse, fraud, and exploitation. The changes go into effect on July 1.

Revisions include:

  • Addressing situations where a prospective ward is prevented from receiving a required mental health examination;
  • Clarifying the guardian’s role in determining people the ward can contact, and to facilitate visitation if it’s in the ward’s best interest;
  • Requiring the training of prospective guardians on abuse, neglect, and exploitation issues;
  • Mandating that guardians report abuse, neglect, or exploitation to law enforcement or the long-term care ombudsman when appropriate. An ombudsman is an advocate for people receiving home care, assisted living, and nursing-home care.

The changes were recommended by the Supreme Court’s Commission on the Rules of Superintendence. The initial proposals, which received public comment last year, were suggested by the Ohio Judicial Conference and the Ohio Association of Probate Judges.

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Monday, February 14, 2022

Officials look to expand conservatorship law to get homeless into care

The growing homeless population is getting out of hand for providers and city leaders. Now some want to create a new way to help those who can't help themselves. KPBS reporter Tania Thorne says it would mean changing conservatorship laws.
By Tania Thorne

When you hear “conservatorship,” you likely think of Britney Spears and the Free Britney movement.

Last November, a judge put an end to her 14-year probate conservatorship, which meant her father was assigned to care for her and manage her assets.

But there’s another type of conservatorship that some lawmakers see as a tool to combat the homelessness crisis.

The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, or LPS Act, allows a judge to appoint a conservator over a person with a mental health disorder.

“We're not talking about an extremely wealthy, very famous celebrity, ” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “We're talking about the sickest and most vulnerable people that live on the streets of San Diego and on the streets of cities across the nation.“

Gloria wants to expand the LPS Act to force more mentally ill homeless people to go into treatment.

Currently, the law says people who courts rule as “gravely disabled” can be placed under conservatorships and put in a healthcare facility, even if it’s against their will. Gloria wants to expand that definition.

“A portion of these folks end up in the criminal justice system, which I hear very clearly from the public, they are not comfortable with," he said. "There has to be some choice other than leaving them on the streets or incarcerating them in prison. We have to have a better option."

But some providers say that even changing the law and putting more homeless people under conservatorships doesn't change that there are not enough places for them to go.

“How does anything change the day after that law is signed if we don't have more treatment beds, more housing, more funding for services?” said Michelle Cabrera with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California.

Cabrera said people stand a better chance at long-term recovery when they enter into services voluntarily.

“The vast majority of people, including people with serious mental illness and or substance use disorder needs, voluntarily and willingly accept both services as well as housing when it is offered to them," she said. "Our problem in California is that we have a major deficit of housing that meets the needs of very low-income Californians."

Services are scarce right now, said Greg Anglea, the CEO of Interfaith Community Services, which provides supportive services in San Diego.

“Far too often we have to ask somebody where did you sleep last night and is it safe to sleep there again because help is not available today,” he said.

He said addressing conservatorship reform before expanding resources is a backward way of thinking.

“Until we have access to these resources, taking away people's rights who want to access those resources, but who can't, is going too far and it is not something we would advocate for,” he said.

Keri Souza has been homeless since 2016 and knows she has a mental illness.

“I let them know that I have a mental illness and that I need help with my medication and that I need to have an eval, but I don't think a lot of people know to say that,” she said.

She questions what will happen if someone rejects a conservatorship.

“What if you don't want to do what they're asking you to do?“ she said. “Is that going to affect me negatively? Am I now not going to get the services that I need? That would be pretty pertinent.”

Every Wednesday, Souza goes to a Humanity Showers event for a shower, food and clothes.

Jordan Verdin, who runs the program, is worried that conservatorships could violate people’s trust.

“Coming out here and speaking to people, you’ll see a lot of the underlying issues are really deep-rooted in trauma and displacement," he said. "These policies will actually perpetuate the trauma deeper by displacing them and removing them from their communities.”

But Gloria said the problem can’t continue as it has and something has to be done.

“San Diegans see this every single day, people who are clearly not capable of caring for themselves being left on the streets where they're vulnerable, sick, in some cases dying,“ he said. “It's absolutely unacceptable, we have to do something different and that's why we need to change our state's conservatorship laws.”

He will spend the next year working to change the law.

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Panel recommends DA Manlove be disbarred

Screenshot from a YouTube video uploaded to her campaign website, July 21, 2021.

By Hannah Black

CHEYENNE – A hearing panel convened by the Wyoming State Bar will recommend disbarment of Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The decision was read early Friday afternoon by hearing panel Chairman Christopher Hawks about two hours after he and the panel broke to deliberate.

Hawks, an attorney based in Jackson, was one of three panel members chosen from the Bar’s full Board of Professional Responsibility, the hearing body for attorney discipline in Wyoming.

“This panel finds the injury caused by (Manlove’s) conduct is serious,” Hawks said.

Following a seven-day hearing, the panel on Thursday found Manlove in violation of multiple rules of professional conduct that govern attorneys in the state. The violations included exaggerating the impact of budget restraints, failing to take prompt action to fill vacancies in her office, directing staff not to report overtime and filing improper motions to dismiss after judges warned her to stop.

Failure to file documents in a timely fashion in the Andrew Weaver case, which led to his release, and a “misleading” news release following the incident contributed to the panel’s findings. Within a few days of him leaving jail, Weaver had shot and killed two people, injuring two others.

Also noted was a repeated failure to access crime lab data in the case of an alleged child sex abuse victim, which was referred to the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office in January, and a failure to provide evidence in a 2019 case, resulting in the dismissal of a case against a man charged with multiple violent felonies.

The state Supreme Court will have the final say in any discipline.

Formal charges filed by the Office of Bar Counsel last year with the State Bar allege that Manlove mishandled the prosecution of cases in Laramie County and inappropriately dismissed certain cases, and that she created a hostile work environment for employees of the district attorney’s office.

“Until the Wyoming Supreme Court acts, Leigh Anne Manlove will continue to serve as the Laramie County district attorney, and she’s committed to serving the citizens of Laramie County as long as she remains in office,” said Stephen Melchior, Manlove’s attorney, following the announcement of the disbarment recommendation. “We live in a nation, fortunately, that is governed by the rule of law. She respects and honors that very foundational important principle and trusts the process.”

Manlove’s term will be up in January 2023, unless she is re-elected in November.

Special Bar Counsel Weston W. Reeves, who represented the Bar in the hearing, declined to comment.

Process could take months

If the Supreme Court decides to disbar or suspend Manlove from practicing law while she still holds the office of district attorney, “she would not be able to appear in court, argue cases, do anything that a lawyer does,” Bar Counsel Mark Gifford said in a Friday interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

The panel will now be responsible for writing a report and recommendation with its specific findings. This will likely be filed with the state Supreme Court within a couple of weeks, Gifford explained.

Manlove will have 30 days to respond with an objection. Reeves will then have 30 days from that filing to enter his response. The court may grant extensions to either party.

A decision by the state Supreme Court may take several months. The court could decide to set the case for oral arguments, Gifford said, which likely wouldn’t happen until fall.

The court took close to nine months to decide on a punishment for Becket Hinckley, a former Teton County prosecutor who was suspended from practicing law in Wyoming for three years. A State Bar hearing panel had recommended Hinckley be disbarred after it found he violated seven rules of professional conduct in a 2015 aggravated assault trial, according to reporting by the Casper Star-Tribune.

The Manlove hearing was just the second of its kind, following a rule change in September 2019 that required documents and information related to Bar disciplinary proceedings be available to the public. Hinckley’s May 2021 disciplinary hearing was the first conducted in public.

Gifford declined to comment on the outcome of the hearing or the hearing itself.

‘My remorse and my regret’

Manlove made a statement to the panel Friday before it broke to deliberate sanction recommendations. She thanked the panel for giving her the opportunity “to express my contrition and my remorse and my regret.”

When she was sworn into the Bar, she said, she took an oath that included the promise to “demean myself uprightly.”

“I think I’ve fallen short of that,” Manlove said.

She said she was “profoundly sorry” for words she used that were hurtful to others, and said she plans to apologize in person to the appropriate people.

Manlove said she appreciated that the panel “deliberated thoughtfully,” and expressed that she does not take her job or the cases she handles lightly.

Friday morning, Reeves and Melchior each had an hour to argue aggravated and mitigating factors before the panel broke to deliberate.

Before he announced the panel’s disbarment recommendation, Hawks listed the aggravating factors it found in the case, or things that increased the severity of the violations. These included Manlove having a “dishonest motive,” a pattern of misconduct, refusing to acknowledge the wrongfulness of her actions, having substantial experience in the practice of law, and the vulnerability of the victim, which Hawks said are the people of Laramie County.

Mitigating factors found by the panel included personal or emotional problems, the COVID-19 pandemic and the state budget crisis.

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By John Donegan

The colorful antics of dysfunctional Hollywood celebrities are always a great source of voyeuristic entertainment and occasionally shadenfreude, but they can possibly lead to real problems for the rest of us. The Britney Spears melodrama may be one such case, as our craven, vote-hungry politicians react and pander.

For the few of you who weren't aware of this very publicized drama, Britney Spears is a famous pop star who melted down in 2008, lost custody of her kids, and was involuntarily placed in a mental hospital for a period. A conservatorship—a legal proceeding in which someone is court-appointed to handle the affairs of an incompetent—was established and her father appointed to be her conservator. She continued to perform while under conservatorship and made a lot of money.

Britney chaffed at being under conservatorship and proclaimed her mental competence. She occasionally ranted in court and in social media, sometimes posting nude photos apparently intended to prove her sanity. Her fans formed the #FreeBritney movement to advocate for the termination of the conservatorship, and after much drama, it was terminated in late 2021. Only time will tell if she is now capable of managing her own affairs. Los Angeles is full of charming opportunists awaiting the vulnerable, and Hollywood offers lots of opportunities to self-destruct and go broke.

I have more than just a casual interest, having practiced conservatorships and elder law for more than 40 years, including in Los Angeles, where I knew a couple of the key actors in Britney's proceeding during the 1990s. I was recently alarmed to read that some fans of pop star Britney Spears are advocating for the "reform" of California's conservatorship laws, and apparently have the ear of a politician. At the urging of the #FreeBritney group, and some disability rights advocates, California Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego) has announced his intention to introduce legislation reforming the current law, to correct what they see are defects in the current process.

Very few conservatorships offer this much drama or controversy. The typical one is for an elderly person with dementia, or who has otherwise become mentally incapacitated, and needs someone to make medical decisions and handle their business affairs. Sometimes, they are being exploited by opportunists such as a drug-addicted family member or "friend" and may have lost their homes or savings. A conservatorship is necessary to stop the victimization and to handle their affairs.

Relatively rarely a proposed conservatee objects to conservatorship. This is problematic because the mental disabilities that created the need for the conservatorship may also render them delusional or incapable of understanding their deficiencies, and they may be insistent upon doing dangerous or irrational acts. Or sometimes, they may instead actually be competent and just the subject of another's attempt to inappropriately control their affairs. Sometimes, they may vacillate from moment to moment on whether they're opposed. Especially in family affairs, it can be difficult to sort out needs and motives, especially when the fame, wealth, looks, or charisma of the conservatee distort the process.

The current conservatorship process is already complicated and hideously expensive, with thousands of dollars in court fees alone, and much more in attorney's fees. The conservatee must be periodically interviewed and evaluated by a court investigator, and detailed periodic accountings must be filed and examined by the court, fees approved, and hearings held. Almost every substantial act of the conservator, such as selling assets or moving the conservatee, must be approved by the court.

Many people who need a conservatorship are unable to afford one because the cost would quickly exhaust their assets. The last time the Legislature "reformed" the process, it became even more expensive and inaccessible. Conservatorships are necessary, but what good is a protective process that few can afford? I hope we are spared the destructive effects of politicians who have no understanding of the process and are blindly implementing the demands of a pop star's fans.

The public reaction to Britney's drama has been sharply divided, with one side arguing "it's her money and her life, and she should be allowed to do whatever she wants," while the other argues that society should protect the vulnerable from themselves. One side saw her emotional tirades as confirmation that she should be freed, while the other saw them as proof she was crazy. Conservatorships comes down to a general philosophical question of personal autonomy and whether or not society ought to intervene in really bad decisions. My guess is that we're split roughly 50/50.

Ironically, I come down in the "protect" side, despite my usual libertarian leanings (with apologies to frequent libertarian commenter Gail Lightfoot, who finds me insufficiently doctrinaire). I have just seen so much exploitation that, despite my usual deference to Darwinian process and opposition to liberal paternalistic government, I think the truly vulnerable should be protected. Still, it is hard to not empathize with those who object to a "Big Brother" government injecting itself into one's choices, especially since the issue of mental competence is so subjective.

Your thoughts? Δ

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