Saturday, April 30, 2022

Guardianship bill amended to create task force

A bill that would have provided basic protections for people under a court-appointed guardianship will now, if approved, create a task force to study the issue in-depth.

Perry County attorney disbarred after corruption of minors, other charges

by: Avery Van Etten

Judge Michael Schechterly

PERRY COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — After pleading guilty to charges including inappropriate contact with minors last November, Perry County judge and attorney Michael Schechterly was disbarred on April 26 by order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Schechterly was previously suspended from the Bar of Pennsylvania. He was sentenced in February to at least 60 days and no more than 23 months in prison in connection to charges including corruption of minors, intimidation of witnesses/victim, and obstructing administration or law of other governmental functions.

A Pennsylvania State Police investigation found that Schechterly sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy in 2012, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The attorney general also said that Schechterly used his authority as a judge to intimidate a woman who was a witness and an alleged victim in an investigation of sexual misconduct by a state constable and prevented her from coming forward with her allegations.

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Older people fret less about aging in place: AP-NORC Poll


WASHINGTON (AP) — The older you are, the less you fret about aging in your own home or community.

That’s a key insight from a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which found that U.S. adults ages 65 or older feel much better prepared to “age in place” than those 50-64, who are mostly still in the final stretches of their working years.

The poll also documented greater insecurity around aging in place for older Black and Latino Americans, the likely result of a deep-rooted wealth gap that markedly favors white people.

Aging in one’s own home, or with family or a close friend, is a widely held aspiration, with 88% of adults 50 and older saying it’s their goal in an earlier AP-NORC poll

Ages 50-64
Ages 65+

But doubts creep in for those ages 50-64. Among that group, the majority who rate themselves as extremely or very prepared shrinks to about 6 in 10, according to the poll.

This relatively younger group is especially likely to say their financial situation is the main reason they don’t feel very prepared to age in place. And they’re also more likely to feel anxious about being able to stay in their communities, get care from medical providers and receive backup from family members or close friends, the poll found.

Part of it may be due to fear of the unknown among people who’ve relied on a paycheck all their lives.

“When you’ve never done it before, and you are only going to do it once, you’re sort of flying by the seat of your pants,” said Leigh Gerstenberger, in his late 60s and retired from a career in financial services. “I spent a lot of time talking to people ahead of me in the journey,” says the Pittsburgh-area resident.

Also, people approaching their 60s may question if Social Security and Medicare will truly be there for them. Stacy Wiggins, an addiction medicine nurse who lives near Detroit, figures she’ll probably work at least another 10 years into her late 60s — and maybe part-time after that. Older friends are already collecting Social Security.

“In my group, you wonder if it’s going to be available,” Wiggins said of government programs that support older people. “Maybe it’s not. You will find people who are less apt to have a traditional pension. Those are things that leave you with a lot of trepidation toward the future.”

Some people now in their 50s and early 60s may still be dealing with the overhang of the 2007-09 recession, when unemployment peaked at 10% and foreclosures soared, said Sarah Szanton, dean of the Johns Hopkins University nursing school. For an aging society, the U.S. does relatively little to prepare older adults to navigate the transition to retirement, she observed.

“As Americans, we’ve always idolized youth and we’re notoriously underprepared for thinking about aging,” Szanton said. “It often comes as a surprise to people.” Her involvement with aging-in-place issues started early in her career, when she made house calls to older people.

In the poll, people 50 and older reported that their communities do an uneven job of meeting basic needs. While access to health care, healthy food and high-speed internet were generally rated highly, only 36% said their community does a good job providing affordable housing. Just 44% were satisfied with access to transportation and to services that support older people in their homes.

Kym Harrelson-Pattishall is hoping that as more people retire to her coastal North Carolina community, health care facilities and other services will follow. As it stands now, a major medical issue can involve a car trip of up to an hour to the hospital.

A real estate agent in her early 50s, Pattishall shares the goal of aging at home, but her confidence level is not very high. “I think it would just eat away what savings I have,” she said.

It’s all about adjusting, says another small-town resident, about 20 years older than Pattishall. Shirley Hayden lives in Texas, near the Louisiana border and on the track of hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico. She says she has no investments and only modest savings, but she rates herself as very prepared to continue aging in place.

“You have to learn to live within your means,” Hayden said. “I don’t charge things I can’t afford to pay for.

“My biggest thing I have to work around as far as expenses is insurance,” she added. “I don’t really need any new clothes. In Texas, you live in jeans and T-shirts and they don’t go out of style. Yeah, your shoes wear out, but how often do you buy a pair of shoes?”

Not so easy to work around is the well-documented racial wealth gap that constrains older Black people in particular. A Federal Reserve report notes that on average Black and Latino households own 15% to 20% as much net wealth as white households.

In the poll, 67% of Black Americans and 59% of Latino Americans ages 50 and older said they felt extremely or very prepared to stay in their homes as long as possible, compared with the 73% share of white Americans saying they feel confident.

Wiggins, the Detroit area nurse, is Black and says it’s a pattern she’s familiar with. “Part of it is generational wealth,” she said. “I have friends who are white, whose dad died and left them settled. I have friends who are Black whose parents died, and they left enough to bury them, but nothing substantial.”


AP Director of Public Opinion Research Emily Swanson and Polling Reporter Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.


The AP-NORC poll of 1,762 adults age 50 and older was conducted between February 24 - March 1 with funding from The SCAN Foundation. It used a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Foresight 50+ Panel of adults age 50 or older, which is designed to represent the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

Pennsylvania disability advocates file legal suit to challenge guardianship laws

Wormleysburg, Pa. -- On April 18, disability advocates and Independent Living Centers filed an Amicus Brief with the state Supreme Court regarding long-term care services for people with disabilities.

The brief cites SCOTUS's landmark ruling in Olmstead and objects to an alleged overuse of guardianship under state law for disabled and older individuals, including a failure to apply alternatives to guardianship.

The brief focuses on the case of David Italiano, an Alleged Incapacitated Person with a Disability. Currently, Mr. Italiano is institutionalized against his expressed wishes by the Huntingdon County Area Agency on Aging and has been stripped of his rights to self-determination.

According to the seven disability rights organizations that jointly filed the brief, court proceedings found that Mr. Italiano is capable of transitioning to an independent living situation and the Agency on Aging is stubbornly refusing to entertain the idea of a less restrictive living arrangement.

Though the case is specifically focused on the situation of Mr. Italiano, civil rights and disability advocates say that the issue affects every Pennsylvanian that may be at risk of having their rights restricted or removed due to age or disability.

“For all practical purposes, the state simply ‘disappeared’ David through an overly zealous and potentially abusive guardianship program that has deprived him of his fundamental rights as well as his own home,” said Misty Dion of Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living of North Central PA (RTFCIL).

“Our organization is broadly recognized by both federal and state agencies as qualified and experienced to advocate for disabled and older people seeking services to preserve and promote their dignity and rights. Warehousing David in an institution and depriving him of his right to connect with loved ones and friends, while prohibiting us from continuing to provide him the essential services he requests, is a gross violation of his legal and human rights.”

RTFCIL previously worked with Mr. Italiano and a guardian. Italiano was a homeowner, but was moved to the Agency on Aging where he complained about abuses at the nursing facility. He attempted to leave the facility and return to living independently during a COVID outbreak. RTFCIL helped him file complaints with the State Ombudsman, which they said have gone unanswered.

The Huntingdon County Orphans Court approved of Italiano's plan to transition to independent living arrangements in January of 2021, but the judge transferred his guardianship to the Agency on Aging which has restricted his access to advocacy, transitional, and communication services, including confiscating personal cell phones from him.

The Ombudsman eventually responded to the allegations of abuse by sending a cease and desist letter to RTFCIL.

While the Road to Freedom Center and other advocates battle with the legal system, Mr. Italiano remains in a facility against his will and is at risk of the Agency on Aging choosing to sell his home to pay for his continued institutionalization.

To remedy situations like Mr. Italiano's, the Road to Freedom Center presented a list of recommendations from last year's Fourth National Guardianship Summit - Maximizing Autonomy and Assuring Accountability. The recommendations are included in the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (Uniform Act), which:

  • Prohibits guardianships where less restrictive alternatives would meet an adult's functional needs
  • Require specific court findings before certain critical rights (examples: to marry, vote, choose visitors) are abridged
  • Require petitioners to state whether less restrictive alternatives have been tried and justify any failure to do so
  • Create mechanisms that adults subject to guardianship and others can use to trigger modification or termination of an order

Some states have adopted the Uniform Act or similar rules, but Pennsylvania is not one of them.

“Even the American Bar Association determines guardianship as a 'drastic intervention,' and that less restrictive options are much preferred,” said Mike Grier, Executive Director of PCIL. “That drastic intervention by aging organizations and courts here in Pennsylvania has stripped David Italiano and countless others of their dignity, their privacy, their right to choose where they live and with whom they associate. The current situation is simply untenable and must be changed.”

The seven organizations that filed the brief hope that it will help the state begin the process of reforming its guardianship and long-term care systems.

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Charges dismissed for Dougherty Probate Court Judge charged with threatening employee

Dougherty County Probate Judge Leisa Blount / Photo: Dougherty County Sheriff's Office

Criminal warrants have been dismissed for a Dougherty County judge charged in March 2021 with threatening a county employee.

According to Probate Judge Leisa Blount's attorney, Maurice Luther King, Jr., Blount was facing one count of terroristic threats and one count of violation of oath by an officer after allegedly threatening a custodian at the courthouse.

In June 2021, the case was moved from Dougherty County to the Lowndes County Judicial Circuit.

On April 25, 2022, District Attorney Bradfield M. Shealy signed a warrant dismissal that states, "upon investigation, the criminal warrants in the above-styled case are hereby dismissed. As such, given the facts and circumstances of this case, it is in the best interest of justice to cease further prosecution in this matter."

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San Diego man accused of bilking $1M from elderly woman in scheme

by: Dillon Davis

SAN DIEGO – An 84-year-old San Diego man was charged with more than two dozen felonies in connection to an alleged fraud scheme that bilked more than $1 million from an elderly Southern California woman, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office said.

Worthey Tobe Smith, Jr. was arraigned Monday in Ventura County Superior Court on 26 charges, including conspiracy, receiving stolen property and money laundering, District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said in a release. Smith denies the charges.

According to Nasarenko, Smith and an unidentified co-conspirator in 2020 lured the woman into believing she’d won a “large grant.” They allegedly told the woman she needed to contribute money before receiving the payout, ultimately obtaining 24 checks from her for a total amount of nearly $1.2 million.

Smith is accused of negotiating 22 of them and then converting $1 million of that total into cashier’s checks and sending them to another involved individual in Michigan. He’s also alleged to have taken a debit card linked to the victim that he used to take some $15,000 from her via unauthorized ATM withdrawals.

In a statement, Nasarenko said his office is grateful to police “for their investigative efforts in this alleged elder fraud case.”

“Our prosecutors will continue to work with law enforcement and victims to charge appropriate felonies that target our vulnerable residents,” Nasarenko said.

Smith is due back in court Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. for a bail review hearing. He is slated to attend an early disposition conference on the case April 27.

He remains in custody at Ventura County Jail.

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Conservator gets 90 days in jail, 10 years’ probation after fleecing incapacitated individuals

by Pam Zubeck

Barb Dowski, right, and her sister-in-law, Becky Moore, outside the courtroom.
Bryan Oller

For years, Andria Beauvais stole
money from people whose assets were entrusted to her, some through court orders, with the idea she would act according to their best interests.

Her thefts went undetected until a daughter of one of her victims became suspicious and delved into her mom’s holdings only to discover Beauvais had siphoned off more than $100,000 from her estate.

Barb Dowski did a lot of leg work running down bank records to document those thefts from her mom’s accounts and presented her research to authorities in 2018.

Turned out, Dowski’s mother, Barbara Moore, was far from the only victim.

Beauvais was charged in 2019 with 16 felonies connected to her activities as a conservator, sometimes under the auspices of the 4th Judicial District Court, which appoints conservators to act on behalf of incapacitated persons.

On April 8, Beauvais, 51, was sentenced, after about a half-dozen victims or their guardians expressed outrage at Beauvais’ predatory exploitation of her powerless victims. All pleaded that Beauvais be sent to prison for six years, the maximum allowed under a plea bargain in which she pleaded guilty to one count of theft in exchange for the District Attorney’s Office’s dismissal of the remaining charges.

Robert Boucher told the story of his son, since killed by a drunk driver a few years ago, who had received a sizable amount of money after he was severely burned in a fire as a 5-year-old. As an adult, he struck out on his own, with Beauvais as his conservator. Despite Boucher’s efforts to monitor his son’s estate, Beauvais “was able to steal large sums of money” — about $18,000 — demonstrating her utter disregard for the well-being of her clients, he said.

“Because of her callous greed,” he told District Judge William Moller, “she somehow felt she was entitled to their money for her own personal gain.”

Others gave equally poignant pleas that she be punished with prison time.

Barbara Moore as a young woman
Courtesy Barb Dowski
But Moller, while saying the case was “weighing heavily” on him, sentenced her to just 90 days in jail after which she will serve 10 years supervised economic probation, meaning her bank accounts will be subject to constant monitoring.

As for restitution, an order is due within 91 days of sentencing, after the prosecution submits a proposed restitution order.

But punishing Beauvais doesn’t address the underlying problem in Colorado, says Patrick Mazza, who’s licensed as a fiduciary in California and advocates for similar requirements in Colorado. He says the Beauvais case underscores the need to require fiduciaries and estate conservators to be licensed.

“The problem in Colorado is that fiduciaries don’t have to be licensed,” he says. “Basically, anybody can get into the field.”

As previously reported by the Indy, the probate system allows just about anyone to become a conservator, court oversight is lax, records and proceedings aren’t open to the public, and law enforcement is skittish about second-guessing conservators’ actions, which often appear to be sanctioned by the courts.

In short, the probate courts offer fertile ground for unqualified people and unscrupulous lawyers to raid accounts of those who can’t speak for themselves. They game the system both legally, through exorbitant but rarely scrutinized fees, and illegally, through outright theft, embezzlement and fraud.

Bringing a bad actor to justice is rare. At the time she was charged, Beauvais was one of only three conservators criminally charged in the state from 2013 to 2019.

The facts in Beauvais’ case, as investigated by Colorado Springs Police Department detective Robert Campbell, a veteran officer, are spelled out in a 13-page affidavit in which he says the thefts included her transferring $402,439 of clients’ money into her accounts from May 2013 to January 2018.

Of that, her thefts from Moore came to $118,677 via 27 checks written on Moore’s account from June 2013 to December 2017.

She also stole money from nine others, ranging in age from 31 to 97, under conservatorships in which she had a hand. She wrote checks to herself but claimed in annual conservator reports filed with the court that the payments went to nursing homes, a community college, medical providers, an auto repair shop, other caregivers and gift cards. In one case, she deposited a check from a protected person’s account into her own Navy Federal Credit Union account labeled “Sheehan’s Pixie Dust Dynasty Trust.”

On April 8, Dowski spoke in court about why Beauvais should do time in prison.

“The evidence in this case shows that had I not uncovered the crime, Andria Beauvais would have continued to steal even more from my mother and would have put my mother in a Medicaid facility, with no remorse for doing so, as she did with other elders and protected persons under her care,” she said.

As if stealing wasn’t enough, when Dowski began investigating, Beauvais used $5,000 of Dowski’s mom’s money “to have her attorney threaten me with legal action,” Dowski said.

Barbara Moore later in life
Courtesy Barb Dowski
Dowski also asserted the only reason Beauvais has made thousands of dollars in restitution payments since being caught was to avoid prison. While outright thefts accounted for $118,677 of Moore’s money, Dowski said Beauvais’ actions in allowing Social Security payments, Medicare and Veterans Administration benefits to lapse bring the total to $450,000. (The VA also is reportedly investigating Beauvais’ actions pertaining to VA clients.)

Her mom was a Vietnam War widow — her dad Thomas was killed in action — who raised three kids and was left with no life insurance or savings to rely on. She returned to teaching at age 43 and taught for another 28 years.

Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Moore came under the conservatorship of Beauvais. She died at age 94 on April 14, six days after Beauvais was sentenced.

Dowski told the Indy later that she considers the case “a complete and total travesty of justice.” She says the judge and the DA’s Office, which bargained the charges down to one count and dismissed the rest, including several charges of theft from at-risk people, “have set a dangerous precedent in El Paso County.

“The first thought that entered my mind as we left the courtroom is that there is no real protection for those persons classified as at-risk in El Paso County,” she says.

Dowski and others pleaded that Moller impose the full six-year prison term.

One woman alleged Beauvais was guilty of “continued thefts” with clients’ royalties flowing into Beauvais’ bank accounts even after her status as conservator was terminated. Another, noting she stole from disabled persons, said, “She needs to be incarcerated.” And another noted that while those whose estates she pilfered were powerless to know of it or do anything, Beauvais bought herself a nice home. Records show she purchased a house in Gleneagle for $355,000 in August 2014, paying $71,000 down, after starting her criminal activity as documented by investigators.

Speaking on Beauvais’ behalf, her boss, Kelly Brewer, described her as a “hard worker,” and the “linchpin” of the process-server/litigation support business.

“Everything goes through her,” Brewer said. “I trust her implicitly with our business.”

Attorney Jeremy Lowe testified on her behalf, saying he’d gotten to know her over the last three years and found her to be “incredibly remorseful.”

Beauvais told the judge her husband was addicted to drugs and drained her bank accounts whenever he could; she also had to fund medical bills for her grown son who was injured in an assault and didn’t have health insurance.

“If I could go back and undo what has been done, I would,” she said. “I can’t explain why I did it.... I’m embarrassed beyond words.”

But prosecutor Andrew Herlihy argued that she be incarcerated for the full six years.

“The effects of these crimes were far-reaching,” Herlihy said. “On its face, it seems like a first-time felon, but what we have in reality [is criminal activity] since 2013, and this could be a continuing theft as recently as last year.” He said the Castle Rock Police Department is currently investigating a case against Beauvais.

“It’s way more than a mistake,” he added. “It was a concerted effort to drain as much money as she could from at-risk persons’ accounts.” He pegged the amount owed at up to $600,000 or more.

Beauvais’ defense attorney Shimon Kohn disputed that amount, saying it’s actually “a fraction” of that and declined further comment.

Despite pleas by victims, Judge William Moller, appointed to a judgeship in mid-January, ordered Beauvais to serve 90 days in jail, after which she’ll be subject to 10 years of economic probation, meaning her probation officer could monitor every financial transaction she makes.

“There’s no amount of punishment that will make the victims whole,” Moller said, adding, “I think I have to provide a pathway in some way for the victims to be made partially whole.”

When victims groaned at Beauvais not being sent to prison, Moller said, “While I see some of you disagree, that’s the best I can do.”

Mazza, the licensed fiduciary, spoke at the hearing in favor of prison time, noting he represents a former client of Beauvais, who saw a large part of his estate “eliminated” by her thefts.

After the hearing, he told the Indy this case’s message to the community should be for more oversight. While the courts do an “excellent job” of monitoring court appointed cases, he says most trusts are not court-monitored.

He also dispelled the notion that professional conservators comprise most of the bad actors in the arena of conservatorships when, in truth, a large percentage of questionable activities involve family conservators, not professionals, and many frauds are committed by family members against their own loved ones’ estates.

“Conservators who do the right thing can save an estate a tremendous amount of money,” he says, while acknowledging some do take advantage of at-risk persons.

“This field needs to be taken a look at, no doubt about it,” he says. “It’s in licensing you get oversight. Then you have a monitoring entity that requires qualifications for a field that really needs a high level of qualifications, and some people don’t have it, and that’s what I believe causes the problem.”

Mazza notes the requirements in California are rigorous, including educational requirements, training, demonstrated skill sets and testing.

“There are no barriers to entry [in Colorado],” he adds. “Fiduciaries can control millions of dollars of assets. In the state of Colorado, you have to be licensed to cut hair or give a massage, but don’t have to be licensed to handle millions of dollars of assets.”

For Rick Black, who founded the Center for Estate Administration Reform, Cornelius, North Carolina, after he and his wife worked for years to wrest control of his father-in-law’s estate from a conservator’s clutches, the Beauvais case should sound alarm bells.

Andria Beauvais, extreme left, enters the courtroom for her sentencing hearing.

“Every Coloradan, and every American should take heed of the story of the Barbara and Thomas Moore family and the fraudulent adult guardianship of Barbara,” he says via email.

“Beauvais is a predator fully embraced by system insiders,” he said. “She preys on the vulnerable and their loved ones with ease, creating the ever important conflict to maximize litigation fees. The adult guardianship system in Colorado is severely flawed. It has lost its ability to protect anyone. It is a profit center for the Bar that ensures every attorney who uses it and disguises its true intent will be protected and rewarded by the estates of their victims.”

As for any push for licensing, there hasn’t been any in Colorado. House Bill 22-1271 proposed by Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Douglas County) would require conservators to report to families certain events, such as a ward’s change of address, admission to a medical facility or death. It also would require a care plan be drafted and reviewed annually. But the bill doesn’t address licensing.

 Meantime, Beauvais’ legal problems aren’t over. A civil lawsuit was filed March 17 on behalf of a trust, accusing Beauvais of theft, breach of fiduciary duty and conversion of assets. Beauvais, who’s representing herself, in her answer denied the claims, saying she followed directions of an attorney.

When Beauvais is released from jail this summer — slated for June 22, three weeks early due to “good time served” and “an additional 15 days miscellaneous credit per statute,” the Sheriff’s Office reports — there’s nothing preventing her from resuming work as a conservator.

Her online LinkedIn profile lists her occupation as “professional fiduciary.”

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Woman who fought for 'Adam's Law' now granted conservatorship of 18-year-old grandson

By Jason Oliveira
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was a courtroom victory for the grandmother of the young man who inspired "Adam's Law" over a decade ago.

A Fresno judge granted her conservatorship of the 18-year-old.
The brain injury he suffered as a baby led to the law that makes sentences longer for child abusers.

Marie Alvarez-Garcia sat in a Fresno courtroom anxiously listening for the words she's waited to hear for nearly a year. That's how long it's been since she filed legal forms and other paperwork to become her grandson Adam's conservator.

Adam's life was forever changed the day after his first birthday in 2004 when Ramon Curiel violently shook him.

Adam's grandmother has dedicated her life to the now 18-year-old who can't walk, talk or eat on his own.
This conservatorship grants her the legal right to make decisions for Adam.

"It feels like victory, like I won the lottery because we've been waiting for this for so long. It has affected the medical care for Adam, his school and everything that affects his life because he's considered an adult," said Alvarez-Garcia.

Alvarez-Garcia says she ran into challenges along the way -- which included finding a lawyer.

But together with help from legal analyst Tony Capozzi, Action News found an attorney to take on the case Pro bono

"Grateful for the attorney Stan Teixeira and the court for granting it, and Channel 30 because it was you guys who made everything happen. No words can express my gratitude," Alvarez-Garcia said.

Adam's grandmother says he has his good days and bad days while dealing with daily seizures but its his thirst for life that motivates her.

"He teaches me so much, no matter what and in spite of the heartaches and hardships, life keeps going and you smile, there's life," she said.

Doctors told the family Adam wouldn't make it to his sixth birthday but here he is at 18.

Although his health is rapidly deteriorating, Alvarez-Garcia is determined to provide Adam with the best life possible.

She says this conservatorship is a critical step toward ensuring he gets the right care.

"Without the judge's orders, there's not advocating for people like Adam that can't speak for themselves, can't take care of themselves, can't advocate for themselves and that's the important part."

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Ogden couple accused of exploiting elderly blind woman; man denies charges

By Mark Shenefelt

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner file photo

The 2nd District Court is seen on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in downtown Ogden.

OGDEN — Two people are facing felony charges in the alleged exploitation of an elderly blind woman to obtain funds for a land deal, a late-model pickup truck and a cabin home in Summit County.

Charles Timothy Critchlow and his wife, Erin Chambers Critchlow, both 62, are charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult and two counts of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, second-degree felonies; and third-degree felony obstruction of justice.

They were charged on Aug. 13, 2021, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 10. They are free pending trial after posting $35,000 bail apiece. In an interview last week, Charles Critchlow vehemently denied the charges, saying his family had a 40-year relationship with the woman. He also accused Ogden police and Weber County prosecutors of dishonesty and incompetence.

According to Ogden Police Department and Weber County Attorney’s Office charging documents, a financial institution reported on July 22 that Critchlow allegedly attempted to withdraw $800,000 from the 93-year-old Ogden woman’s account. The woman was not able to answer the financial adviser’s questions about the attempted transaction, the documents said.

Critchlow also allegedly used the same account to obtain $47,000 toward a Ford F-150 pickup truck purchase, the probable cause statement said.

Critchlow, an inactive attorney, is not related to the woman. His father, who died in 2020, had been the woman’s attorney.

Police said they began an investigation and attempted to contact the woman, who had been living with the Critchlows for about four years. Police were told the woman was out of town with Charles Critchlow. The detective told Erin Critchlow that police needed to check the woman’s welfare and a face-to-face meeting was needed.

An attorney saying he represented the elderly woman and the Critchlows contacted police in early August and said he would not allow her to speak to police without the attorney being present, according to the charges.

Later that day, a detective found the woman at her longtime home elsewhere in Ogden. The detective said in the charging affidavit that Charles Critchlow “blocked” her from the home and screamed to the elderly woman that police were there to have her involuntarily committed.

Police obtained a search warrant and interviewed the woman in her home. They said they found a carbon copy of a $300,000 check that was used for the purchase of a parcel of land behind the Critchlows’ home.

Asked about the check, the woman said she did not know what the check was for and did not approve the transaction, according to police. Asked why she bought the Critchlows’ property, she said the Critchlows needed money and she wanted to help them. “The transaction did not benefit (the woman) in any way,” the police affidavit said.

The detective said she next asked the woman about a $70,000 deposit into Erin Critchlow’s account. The woman “stated it was possibly for the down payment on the cabin.” She said she did not know about the deposit and she had not approved it.

Asked about the $800,000 attempted withdrawal, the woman told police she was going to buy a cabin with the Critchlows. The affidavit said the woman was not able to provide any information about the cabin, including the address or listing price.

Police next got a search warrant for the Critchlows’ home. The affidavit said officers found a copy of the woman’s trust, which listed the Critchlows as the beneficiaries of her estate. They also said they found a sales document for the cabin listing only the Critchlows as buyers and listing a $70,000 earnest money sum.

Police said they contacted Utah Adult Protective Services to pursue a safety plan for the woman.

“There’s no defrauding,” Charles Critchlow said in a phone interview. She said he and his wife had known the woman for several years and that she had been a friend and client of his father for decades.

Critchlow said the woman asked to move in with them, the couple having helped her in various ways. She lived in a “dirty, filthy house,” he said. In a lengthy affidavit Critchlow provided, he said his wife first became acquainted with the woman a decade ago and regularly took her to her hair appointments. Erin Critchlow also took Critchlow’s father and mother to their appointments in the community, the affidavit said.

Regarding the alleged instances of fraud, Critchlow said the woman readily agreed to the transactions and even initiated the property purchase. “She knew exactly what she was doing,” he said.

He said the woman overheard Erin Critchlow talking about her need to sell a “pasture” behind their home. “I like land,” the woman said, according to Critchlow, and offered to buy the property.

In a motion filed in court to preserve the Critchlows’ assets for potential restitution payments, prosecutors said the sales deed transferred the property to the woman and Erin Critchlow as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, meaning the land would go to Erin Critchlow upon the woman’s death.

Ogden police arrested the Critchlows on Aug. 17 in Summit County. They had the woman in the back seat of the Ford pickup and told police they had been in Wyoming for a week.

Police subpoenaed records from the woman’s investment firm that charging documents said showed $47,000 was withdrawn to buy a pickup truck for the Critchlows. The company documents said the Critchlows were to repay the sum within a month, but there was no record of repayment.

Charles Critchlow said he had been having trouble with his old truck and the woman offered to buy a new one, because the Critchlows conveyed her around town in it so often.

The preservation of assets motion listed $505,000 in sums that prosecutors said should be returned to the woman, including $35,000 for water damage to the Critchlows’ home. Charles Critchlow said in his affidavit that the woman caused the water damage by accidentally plugging the toilet in her room.

Charles Critchlow said he and his wife discussed with the woman the idea of buying a cabin in Oakley as an investment, where the three would stay in one of the two homes while renting out the other as an Airbnb. He said the woman liked the idea of living in a cabin near the outdoors.

He said they consulted the woman’s attorneys and accountants on all of the transactions. He added that “everybody who knows her and loved her is aligned with us.”

Critchlow attacked the validity of the investigation, criticizing the police detective who worked on it and saying that “the story is the incompetence of the Weber County Attorney’s Office.”

He said a prosecutor on the case, Sean Brian, is his step-brother’s son. “They don’t even recognize they have a conflict,” Critchlow said. “Sean Brian’s grandmother, my stepmother,” is the elderly woman’s “best friend.”

Asked about the alleged conflict of interest, Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred said, “I think the relation is too removed to present a conflict.” He also said three other deputy county attorneys have worked on the case.

Allred also defended the case against the Critchlows. “This isn’t something we take lightly,” he said. At least four experienced prosecutors reviewed the evidence, he said. “I am confident we have sufficient evidence to prove the charges,” Allred said. “We screen cases very conservatively in this office.”

Allred said he could not discuss the specifics of the case beyond the contents of the charging documents. “We have an obligation to protect vulnerable adults in our community, and this appears to be a fairly egregious case of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.”

On Nov. 3, 2021, an attorney representing the elderly woman filed a civil suit against the Critchlows in 2nd District Court. The suit alleges that the property the woman bought was not suitable for building a separate home and its only practical value was as a portion of the Critchlows’ backyard.

The suit seeks a court-ordered constructive trust so the Critchlows will not be “unjustly enriched.”

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State com­mission rules Westch­ester County judge be removed from office

By Kate Lisa

A village justice in Westchester County should be removed from office after he engaged in professional misconduct and lacked candor about a combined two-year suspension to practice law, according to a determination from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct released Monday.

Attorneys and justices on the commission voted Elmsford Village Court Justice Carlos Gonzalez, a Democrat, should be removed from his post in wake of the misconduct that occurred in connection with six incidents with clients.

"It would be contrary to the public interest and common sense to bar someone from appearing in court as a lawyer, but not from taking the bench and deciding legal issues," Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in a statement Monday.

The U.S. District Court of Western Connecticut suspended Gonzalez from practicing law after finding he engaged in professional misconduct while working as an attorney and failing to notify Connecticut's Appellate Division of his discipline in a timely manner, violating a state statute. 

In 2017, the Connecticut's U.S. District Court in Western Connecticut found Gonzalez failed to notify the Court of the Connecticut about his violation and subsequent discipline.

His total two-year suspension from practicing law in New York started May 14, 2021. The Appellate Division suspended Gonzalez for his professional misconduct for an additional 18 months to expire in July 2023.

Gonzalez took office April 5, 2021.

"Judge Gonzalez compounded his misconduct as an attorney and further undermined his integrity as a judge by being less than candid with the Appellate Division about his disciplinary history," Tembeckjian said.

The justice submitted a late, undated written opposition to the commission in January when acknowledging the facts surrounding his past suspensions.

Gonzalez also lacked candor when responding to the Ninth Judicial District's Grievance Committee about the misconduct, according to the determination. 

The commission ruled Gonzalez should be removed from the bench for his pattern of professional misconduct paired with an insincere attitude about the disciplinary actions detract from the integrity of judicial office.

"[His] professional misconduct and his lack of candor demonstrated that he is unfit for judicial office," according to the commission's determination.

Commissioners based the decision on disciplinary precedent to reprimand judges for their misconduct as an attorney and judges' obligation to behave in a manner that promotes high standards of public integrity and impartiality. 

Gonzalez ​argued he should not be removed from his post or disciplined for misconduct that took place before he became a judge. The commission rejected the argument saying his remaining on the bench "would significantly undermine public confidence in the dignity and integrity of the judiciary."

"Given the seriousness of respondent's professional misconduct as evidenced by his two suspensions from the practice of law, as well as the court's finding that he lacked candor in his dealings with the Grievance Committee, we believe that [Gonzalez] should be removed from the bench to protect the integrity of the courts," according to the determination. "... Under these circumstances, removal is required."

The commission's April 13 decision comes several weeks after hearing virtual oral arguments about Gonzalez's misconduct and suspension to practice law.

Gonzalez represented himself in the proceedings before the commission. Robert H. Tembeckjian, Mark Levine and Melissa DiPalo represented the commission.

Gonzalez's term expires March 16, 2025. He was first admitted to practice law in 2005. 

Town and village justices serve part-time and are permitted to practice law privately.

 Full Article & Source:

Credit union partners with Wayne State to fight financial exploitation

DETROIT — Michigan Legacy Credit Union has launched a pilot program with Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology to help protect its members from financial exploitation.

New members of the credit union, age 50 and up, are offered the Financial Vulnerability Survey (FVS), a short questionnaire to determine their risk of financial exploitation. The survey was developed by Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, director of the Institute of Gerontology.


“Older adult financial exploitation is at epidemic heights,” said Carma Peters, president and CEO of Michigan Legacy Credit Union. “Sadly, these crimes are often swept under the rug because victims are too ashamed to report them. We never want to see a credit union member manipulated and victimized. This pilot program provides resources to truly empower our staff and members.”

In September 2021, Michigan enacted the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, requiring financial institutions to offer training and procedures to recognize financial exploitation and protect vulnerable clients from becoming victims. Michigan Legacy Credit Union staff have already used Wayne State trainings and tools to combat several cases of older financial exploitation.

For nearly two decades, Lichtenberg has done extensive research to develop and validate a variety of financial decision-making and vulnerability tools. The Financial Vulnerability Survey (FVS), a self-administered tool for older adults, is the most recent. The 17-question survey identifies older adults at increased risk of financial fraud and exploitation and suggests resources to help protect them.

Dozens of people have taken the FVS so far. Their scores are included in a database to help monitor accounts for abnormal financial activity. All credit union staff received training on the new survey and how to identify and discuss cognitive risk factors before exploitation occurs.


"The FVS is easy to understand and to complete,” Lichtenberg said. “It resonates with older people who are concerned about their financial decision-making. Finances are often a taboo topic for discussion, yet people are hungry for information about their own financial vulnerability level."

Persons at risk or who have already been financially victimized are referred to the Institute of Gerontology’s SAFE program for help.  SAFE (Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment) offers counseling at no cost to help repair the damage of financial scams. Among other things, SAFE helps to recover funds, file police reports, and freeze credit reports as well as deepen client’s financial literacy.

In addition to the FVS and SAFE services, other tools to assess financial decision-making, plus resources for professionals, caregivers and older adults, can be found at Lichtenberg’s website, “We can now point members to for valuable training and resources,” Peters said. “Studies shows older adults who read the information are more likely to identify signs of financial exploitation before it happens.”

Peters and Lichtenberg will discuss the pilot project and financial exploitation protections with other credit unions at Audit Link’s “Conversations on Compliance,” May 25 in Grand Rapids, and on June 10 at the Michigan Credit Union’s Annual Convention and Expo at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Michigan Legacy Credit Union also created a campaign during April’s Financial Literacy Month to encourage existing members and owners to take the FVS and have their scores uploaded to the credit union’s database.

“Ideally, this pilot program will be used throughout the state of Michigan, and nationally, to help combat this epidemic and provide another tool to protect older adults from financial fraud,” Peters said.

Aonymous data from the project will be analyzed by Lichtenberg and his team to expand research insights into vulnerability and improving safeguards for older adults.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Deb Miller: Protect yourself against the 'family thief'

Facing the painful and unexpected reality that he had already been bilked of at least $30,000, Jerry had thought financial exploitation involved only scammers from some faraway place.

But those closest to us actually have far easier access to the information needed for financial exploitation because we know and trust them. Anyone with income or assets of any age can be a victim, according to Federal Trade Communication statistics.

Especially those who live on fixed incomes, like Social Security or SSI benefits, need to look out for their future well-being by planning for financial protection. 
Looking back, the fast pace of change had made it more difficult and frustrating for Jerry to handle his finances the way he used to. He neglected checking his bank statements and other account records. His wife had died less than a year before, and he was still sad and lonely.

Jerry’s lack of interest in financial paperwork had allowed his granddaughter Ana to clean out most of his bank account without his knowing it. He had always trusted her.

Without his permission, Ana had set up new credit card accounts in his name and run up high charges. She had a lot of computer savvy and took advantage of him and the merchants. She had no intention of paying for the credit card charges.

As many others have learned, the “family thief” can create online accounts that the victim is blocked from opening or reviewing because they don’t have the passwords.

Jerry didn’t want to face the reality that his granddaughter used illegal drugs and was always asking him for money. Ana justified her taking his funds along the lines of “you have it, I need it now, I’m taking it.”
Those with drug problems or even long-held family grudges can view their fraudulent actions as fair and appropriate.

Even when warned, family members often fall victim to the ploy for funds more than once.

When Jerry’s missing funds were discovered, the option of getting help from law enforcement was a serious step. He wanted to get his money back but was reluctant to pursue criminal prosecution for fraud and theft against Ana. She was already in trouble for stealing from the company where she worked.
Looking for light at the end of the tunnel, Jerry contacted West Virginia Senior Legal Aid and faced facts. The option of going to court for a financial exploitation protective order from civil court could provide protection that wouldn’t involve criminal proceedings. The protective order would keep Ana from contacting him or coming to his house and taking things, but it wouldn’t involve her going to jail.

Jerry realized he was a victim of identity theft and that the effects would likely go far beyond the present. The ramifications and headaches could show up for years. Higher insurance premiums and interest rates on loans and credit card accounts, as well as a bad credit score and record, were on the horizon unless he took care of cleaning up the problem. A family member offered to show him how to do that.

Sad to say, ignorance of protective measures and confusion about what’s happening actually increase the risk of financial exploitation.

West Virginians age 60 and over can get help to avoid financial exploitation or with other legal issues by calling West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800-229-5068. The staff attorney can provide assistance at no charge.
Full Article & Source:

Suspended Evansville lawyer disbarred for trust mismanagement, forgery, falsifying doc

Evansville attorney Jared M. Thomas has been disbarred by the Indiana Supreme Court for criminally mismanaging his trust account, forging a judge’s signature and falsifying at least one document.

Thomas was already under an order of interim suspension when the Supreme Court issued the per curiam decision, In the Matter of Jared M. Thomas, 21S-DI-16, on Thursday.

The justices found Thomas violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 1.15(a), failing to safeguard the property of clients and hold client property separately from lawyer property; 8.4(b), committing criminal acts; 8.4(c), engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and 8.4(d), engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

According to the order, Thomas engaged in a check kiting scheme in which he wrote several checks from his trust account to his operating account and vice versa. His trust account became overdrawn and a $6,000 check that was owed to a client in a marital dissolution case was instead used to reduce the loss written off by the bank when it closed the account.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission is investigating Thomas for several additional matters. As part of one of the investigations, Thomas admitted he fraudulently created a document purporting to order a sentence modification to a client and forged the presiding judge’s signature.

The order cited a prior discipline, Matter of Thomas, 111 N.E.3d 1013 (Ind. 2018), as an aggravating factor. The justices also found Thomas engaged in a pattern of misconduct that was illegal in nature.

“We have imposed severe sanctions in prior cases involving crimes of dishonesty, misappropriation of client funds, creation of fraudulent documents, or forging of signatures,” the order stated, citing Matter of Fraley, 138 N.E.3d 262 (Ind. 2020), Matter of Schuyler, 97 N.E.3d 618 (Ind. 2018), and Matter of Brown, 766 N.E.2d 363 (Ind. 2002). “Here, Respondent admits having done all of these things. These acts demonstrate Respondent’s unfitness to practice law, now or ever.”

According to his firm’s website, Thomas is a 2011 graduate of Valparaiso Law School and runs a solo practice in Evansville.

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World's Oldest Person, Kane Tanaka of Japan, Dies at 119 — Here's a Look Back at Her Incredible Life

Kane Tanaka died on April 19, according to Guinness World Records
By Jason Duaine Hahn

Credit: Kyodo via AP

The woman recognized as the world's oldest living person has died at the age of 119, according to Guinness World Records.

Kane Tanaka of Japan died on Tuesday, the record-keeping organization said on its website Monday. Tanaka had experienced recent health setbacks that caused her to be "hospitalized and discharged repeatedly," her family explained in a translated tweet a week before her death.

Earlier this year, Tanaka had celebrated her birthday with a message to her followers on Twitter.

"[Great achievement] Reached 119 years old," the translated tweet reads. "I was able to safely reach the age of 119!"

"I was able to come this far with the support of many people," her message continued. "I hope you will continue to have fun, cheerful and energetic."

According to Guinness, Tanaka was born prematurely on Jan. 2, 1903, which is notably the same year the Wright brothers flew the world's first successful motor airplane.

In January 1922, she married her husband, Hideo Tanaka, whom she hadn't met before their wedding day, the organization said. They went on to have four biological children and adopted a fifth.

While Hideo served in the Second Sino-Japanese War, Tanaka helped run their family business, which involved making sticky rice, Udon noodles and desserts. Her first son, Nobuo, later fought in World War II and was held captive by the Soviet Union until 1947.

In a tweet on Monday, Guinness confirmed Tanaka was the second oldest person on record.

"She became the oldest living person in January 2019 at the age of 116 years and 28 days," they tweeted. "She is also the second oldest person ever recorded, behind only Jeanne Calment who lived to the age of 122." 

The world's new oldest living person is now Sister André, a French nun who is 118 years and 73 days old, Guinness announced. Sister André also holds the distinction of being the oldest survivor of COVID-19.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

Guardian Advocates work to prevent abuse, neglect of seniors, others

by Ken de la Bastide

ANDERSON — For the past four years, a group of local volunteers has provided services to protect seniors and the at-risk population.

Local attorney John Longnaker formed Guardian Advocates in 2018 after being asked by three senior citizens to become their legal guardians.

“It got to the point where we couldn’t care for more seniors,” he said. “That’s when we decided to start the organization.”

The state started a pilot program a decade ago, and now there are 20 organizations providing services in 50 Indiana counties, he said.

“We’re there to prevent exploitation, abuse and neglect of senior citizens or adults that are at risk,” Longnaker said.

The guardianships are established by a local judge, and quarterly reports are required at the county and state level about the number of clients being provided with services.

This Thursday, April 21, Guardian Advocates is hosting an open house from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Anderson Public Library to encourage people to volunteer.

The library’s at 111 E. 12th St.

“We’re providing services for folks that don’t have anyone to look out for their interests,” Longnaker said. “In some cases, there is no family members or family residing in Indiana that can help with medical care and fiscal matters.”

He explained volunteers are matched with a client and are expected to visit at least once monthly.

“The program is modeled after the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program, where one volunteer is matched to one person in need of services.”

Guardian Advocates recently expanded from Madison County to provide services in Delaware and Grant counties.

“We get referrals from Adult Protective Services or from hospitals that are discharging patients,” he said.

The first step is a local advisory group has to approve the application through the courts for a legal guardian to be appointed.

Longnaker said the advisory group considers medical, financial and legal issues before accepting a client into the program.

Each volunteer is required to fill out a monthly visit report that includes any change in medications or emergency calls.

Barb Marshall, client care coordinator, said there is a need for volunteers, donations and referrals of people in need.

Marshall said COVID-19 had an effect on the number of people who were volunteering, but that the numbers have been increasing recently.

There are 18 current volunteers, and 26 clients are expected by the end of May.

Longnaker said the Guardian Advocates has received a $56,000 grant from the state and has matching funds of $26,000.

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Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Elder Abuse/Neglect/Exploitation

More than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse. They experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The symptoms and treatment of elder abuse are complex and demand a concerted effort to tackle this often unrecognized and unreported social problem. That’s why we brought together dozens of different organizations to work collaboratively to tackle the challenge.

Elder Abuse Resources: 800-24-ABUSE (22873)