Saturday, May 21, 2022

Senate Special Committee on Aging Issues Testimony From Pa. Disability Advocate Kingsmore

WASHINGTON, May 19 -- The Senate Special Committee on Aging issued the following testimony by Pennsylvania disability advocate Brandon Kingsmore involving a virtual hearing on March 23, 2022, entitled "An Economy That Cares: The Importance of Home-Based Services":

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My name is Brandon Kingsmore, and Lynn and I live in Allentown, PA.

I've relied on some form of home care my whole life, a reality so many people never experience, so it is very important to me that I share my story openly and honestly. Especially because at some point, as we all get older, every one of us will need this type of care. I want people to understand that quality, affordable, accessible home care is so much more than just a social service or numbers on a spreadsheet -- it is a lifeline for the 61 million people with disabilities and 54 million people aged 65 and older who call this country home.1 I hope that what I share with you today will make clear why we, the people, need you, our country's leaders and decision-makers, to support and pass President Biden's life-changing investment in care.

To be clear: we need this funding. It's the only way to raise wages for workers and lower costs for families. We are facing a large-scale crisis and COVID has made clear that when you just fix around the edges, lives are lost. It is why Congress must pass the Better Care Better Jobs Act -- now.

Before I tell you my story, I want to speak on behalf of everyone whose lives depend on quality, affordable home care, and whose lives depend on the decisions made on Capitol Hill. For too long, our elected leaders have allowed our healthcare system to fail us. COVID-19 certainly made clear that access to care is a matter of life or death, and too many working families have suffered the devastating consequences of our country's under-funded, under-resourced, under-prioritized home- and community-based services.

Please make the right decision. Please do what's right. Please come together and pass this investment in better care, better jobs and a better future for all.

I was born with cerebral palsy and I use a wheelchair to get around, which means I sometimes need a little help doing things throughout the day. Growing up, my mother did everything for me. I grew up in North Carolina, and I didn't qualify for Medicaid until I was 18 because of how limited home- and community-based services are there. My mother's insurance wouldn't cover home care, and we couldn't afford to pay out of pocket, so she had to be my full-time caregiver on top of her other full-time job.

I felt so guilty. I felt like a burden. I still do, sometimes.

When I finally qualified for Medicaid, finding a reliable, consistent, well-trained home care worker proved almost impossible. There was a period of time when my mother couldn't be there to provide the care I needed, so I spent my days sitting, playing video games, watching movies, just waiting for her to get home to help me go to the bathroom, prepare a meal, or go out. I felt trapped in my home, and I prayed for the better, more active and fulfilling life I knew I could live if I was able to afford quality, consistent, reliable home care.

This is a situation so many care consumers face, but so often goes unseen. There aren't enough home care workers to meet the demand, so care consumers become isolated or forced to leave their homes and live in a facility. We become removed from society against our will. We want to participate in our economy and communities, but the choice is made for us when lawmakers refuse to acknowledge and take action to change a system designed to hold us back.

Today, nearly 350,000 Pennsylvanians need help with daily activities, such as bathing and dressing./2

But data show there are fewer than 198,000 home care workers to fill these roles./3

Something doesn't add up. With the demand for care skyrocketing, especially as the long-term impacts of COVID come to light, the commonwealth will need to fill more than 292,000 home care jobs by 2028./4

Investing in HCBS will ensure the needs of every care consumer are met by attracting and sustaining our home care workforce. Policies like the Better Care Better Jobs Act will put the country on the right path to building a sustainable and durable home- and community-based care system and build an economy that works for all working people.

With the way things are now, people like me wake up each morning, not knowing if a home care worker will be there that day. If our home care worker is sick or needs to take time off, which is likely unpaid because most don't have paid sick time or paid leave, there's no guarantee that another caregiver will be available to cover their shift. If someone is available, they're often not prepared or trained in advance to provide the specialized care each individual consumer needs. Oftentimes, they're working one or two other jobs because the pay for care jobs is so poor, so they only have an hour or two to provide care for someone who needs help 24/7.

It is humiliating and dehumanizing to be 32 years old and have someone put you in a diaper, because they don't have the training or the time to help you go to the bathroom.

But this isn't the fault of the home care workers. The people who do this work love helping others and care about people in need. They want to do this work, and so often put their needs aside to meet the needs of others. But the system elected leaders have built isn't designed to set them up for success.

March is Women's History Month, a time to celebrate, honor and reflect on the women who keep our communities running and our economy strong. The home care workforce is a workforce of 90 percent women, and more than 60 percent people of color. But our country has a track record of choosing not to invest in these jobs, therefore choosing not to invest in the Black, brown, immigrant and indigenous women who do this essential work, despite the system working so hard against them. Why is that? Is this work not important? Are these women not important? Instead of tweeting about it, why not turn collective appreciation for women into meaningful action that lifts women and women of color out of poverty and finally gives them the respect, protection and pay they deserve?

Shamefully low pay and a lack of benefits force home care workers to leave the industry in search of work they need to pay their bills, support their families and build a life on. Training isn't prioritized for home care workers, despite their role as essential healthcare workers. Instead, employers put home care workers in situations that put their health and safety -- and their consumers' health and safety -- at risk. Affordable healthcare isn't offered to many home care workers, so if they get hurt or sick, going to the doctor isn't an option without facing financial ruin. And as I said, without paid sick days, taking time off means they don't get paid.

People who want to do this work can't afford to, the people who already do this work are treated as expendable, and the people who depend on this work are left without options.

If Lynn gets hurt or sick and is unable to provide care, I'd have no one. There wouldn't be another home care worker to fill in for her. It's incredibly isolating. Without a home care worker, I don't have a life. I can't go anywhere or do anything. I have a life. I have a voice. I have feelings. I have goals and ambitions.

Being in a wheelchair is hard enough. Not all buildings or transportation options are accessible -- not even my apartment. My apartment was built long before power chairs existed. The hallway is too narrow, the doorways are too tight, and the counter tops are too high. I can't access the bathroom with my wheelchair to get in the shower, so my caregiver has to physically lift my 120-pound frame onto a countertop and carry me several feet to the bathtub to get cleaned up. I can't brush my teeth at the bathroom sink, so I use a cup at the dining room table.

And the looks I get on the street, the way I'm spoken to like I'm a toddler, and when people act as though they're scared of me is the reality I face every time I leave the house. Why is it that I have to fight for everything I need? Why should people like me, older Americans, and our families have to bankrupt themselves because they can't afford care that helps them with the simple basics of life like bathing and toileting?

When Lynn became my full-time caregiver 11 years ago, everything changed. Suddenly, the life I always dreamed of was in reach. Without Lynn, I would be in a nursing home at the age of 32, or home alone for hours a day, with no hope or freedom. Having a disability shouldn't mean your life is over. Home care workers give us a substantial life, and allow us to stay in our communities.

But for all the work home care workers do caring for others, they can barely care for themselves. Data show the median wage for home care workers nationally is $12.98 an hour, and Lynn now makes $13.50 an hour as a home care worker in Pennsylvania, after her union won eight percent raises for home care workers in our county./5

Home care is an emotionally and physically demanding job. But with the rising cost of living, inflation, and other economic stressors, wages this low make it impossible for home care workers to meet their basic needs, take care of themselves and their families, and live comfortably.

Home care is one of the fastest growing industries and jobs in the country due to exploding demand that will only get worse as times go on and more people get older. But because of the poor quality of these jobs, we cannot recruit enough workers, and turnover in the field is through the roof. Again I ask: why is this the reality we accept? For me and so many others, care work is a matter of life and death. If there are no care workers, then there is no care.

Our saving grace has been Lynn's union, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania. Uniting home care workers across the Commonwealth, Lynn's union has spent decades fighting for the dignity and respect that caregivers and consumers deserve. As part of her union, Lynn fights alongside other workers and their consumers for what every home care worker deserves: a living wage, access to training, affordable health insurance, and collective bargaining rights.

Around the country, at the bargaining table, in the streets, in the halls of state houses and Congress, caregivers and their unions are leading by example and demanding structural changes to the long term care system. When workers come together, the state listens in the way it would never listen to just one worker alone. But for all the victories, there is a long list of injustices to keep fighting.

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, yet the unaffordable cost of home care, the lack of comprehensive paid leave, and a severe shortage of home care workers forces many working families to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck. This is an impossible choice, and many people end up leaving their jobs to care for family and friends who can't afford or access home- and community-based services -- without pay.

In Pennsylvania, there are 1.59 million family caregivers providing 1.33 billion hours of care to loved ones 18 and older./6

Investing in better care and better jobs would make it possible for family members who left their careers to assume caregiving responsibilities to return to the workforce, knowing a skilled, dedicated, consistent home care worker is caring for their loved ones.

Our country's leaders need to take a good look in the mirror and reevaluate the way seniors and people with disabilities are treated. We need to reevaluate how home care workers are treated. We need to reevaluate how the women, women of color, and immigrants who do the majority of this work are treated.

I was born in 1989 -- before people with disabilities had any rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and that was a start, but we still live in an ableist, ageist, racist, sexist world where people in need are excluded and forgotten.

A better future means life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Isn't that what this country is all about? I dream of a future where all people, of all races, of all genders, of all ages, of all backgrounds can wake up each morning knowing they're healthy, safe and able to provide the best lives for themselves and their families.

That's why Lynn and I are here today. We can't make a better future if we don't address these deeply rooted issues now.

I'm nobody special -- I'm just a guy from Pennsylvania looking for a fair shot at a good life. But I feel a responsibility to speak up for the millions of people who are just like me. Chairman Casey has given Lynn and I the chance to spread our message further than we thought possible. Last year, we even had the honor of meeting President Biden. It is an honor and a privilege being able to speak to members of this committee and other lawmakers face to face about what it's like to be me, what it's like to be Lynn, and what it's like to know our lives hang in the balance as you debate dollars and cents. This isn't just dollars and cents. The choices you make dictate the way I can live my life, the way all of us can live with dignity when the day comes that we or a loved one needs this care.

But I can't help but think to myself... I've told my story so many times. How many more times will I have to say this before lawmakers take meaningful action? Honestly, when I share my story with people who are fortunate enough to have the financial resources to access and afford care, I wonder whether or not they're really taking in my words. Unless you live this life -- having a disability or providing care -- you can't possibly understand how hard it is and just how much we rely on home- and community-based services.

This is a human rights issue. It is unacceptable that in 21st century America, the freedom to live is 100% based on money and the priorities of other people -- particularly of some elected officials on Capitol Hill. With the way things are now, Medicaid only sees us as numbers. But we're not. We're humans that deserve to live life. We're people with feelings and emotions.

Walk a day in my shoes. Walk a day in Lynn's shoes. Walk a day in the shoes of someone who suddenly fell ill or got in an accident that leaves them totally reliant on someone else to help them live. It could happen to anyone, at any time, no matter who they are. But our current long term care system cannot guarantee home care for all who need it. Our current long term care system does not have the funding and resources necessary for recruiting, training and sustaining a home care workforce. The system is crumbling -- especially after COVID-19. And that's why we need action now.

The needs of people with disabilities, seniors, working families, and children cannot be ignored any longer. If this legislation dies, caregivers will suffer because they cannot afford food, shelter, or healthcare, and clients will perish because no one will be there to keep them alive.

Senators, please invest in care workers like Lynn by granting HCBS the funding it needs to make home care jobs good union jobs with pay and benefits that reflect the true value and impact of their essential work.

Senators, please invest in care consumers like me by investing in HCBS, providing funding so we can get the care we deserve from the compassionate, well-trained, dedicated home care workers we depend on to live.

We are the closest we have ever been to finally beginning to address the long term care crisis in this country. We -- people with disabilities, older Americans, our families, and the workers who support us -- matter. Don't leave us behind again. Congress must act now.

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2 Paul, Rafal, & Houtenville. 2020. Annual Disability Statistics Compendium: 2020 (Table 1.8). University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability. 3 PHI. "Workforce Data Center." Last modified September 2, 2021.

4 Home care job openings include new jobs created and jobs that need to be filled due to workers leaving the field or the labor force. PHI, 2020.

5 All wage data comes from PHI. "Workforce Data Center." Last modified Sept. 2, 2021.

6 Reinhard et al. 2019. Valuing the Invaluable: 2019 Update. AARP.

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Delay in trial of disbarred Cobb County attorney accused of killing mother

Richard Merritt (Georgia Department of Correction)

- The trial of a disgraced former Cobb County attorney who is accused of killing his own mother has been delayed yet again.

Richard Merritt was charged of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony.

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson has ordered the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to do more testing on hair samples found at the scene.

The 48-year-old's trial was already delayed once due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2017, the FOX 5 I-Team investigated how more than a dozen victims said Merritt stole their settlement checks after handling their personal injury lawsuits.

In January 2019, a Cobb County judge sentenced Merritt to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $454,706 from 17 different clients. Merritt was given two weeks to get his affairs in order.

The day he was supposed to turn himself in, his 77-year-old mother cooked him his last family meal. Then with plates still on the table, and pots on the stove, police said Merritt brutally murdered her and then went on the run. 

The FOX 5 I-Team was there soon after Merritt was caught by U.S. Marshals in Tennessee. He was returned to DeKalb County and later transferred to a state correctional facility.

Merritt is serving 15 years for violating his probation on top of his 15-year sentence for theft and exploiting the elderly.

Jury selection was scheduled to being at 9 a.m. Monday. No word on a new date yet. The trial is expected to last a week.

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Pahrump: Domestic Incident Ends With Arrest Of Terrie Janz-Moore


A domestic violence call in Pahrump ends with the arrest of one woman. Brad Francis tells us what happened.


Friday, May 20, 2022

Wendy Williams Scores Victory In Wells Fargo Battle, Court Appoints Guardian Over Her Fortune

Source: mega

By:Ryan Naumann

Wendy Williams scored a huge victory in her battle against Wells Fargo over access to her fortune.

Sources close to the 57-year-old entertainer revealed to The Sun that the court has appointed a financial guardian over her bank accounts. 

As Radar previously reported, Williams sued the bank claiming they froze her accounts after her former financial advisor Lori Schiller had raised concerns of potential “financial exploitation.”

In court, Williams claimed she fired Schiller due to “malfeasance in relation to [Williams’] accounts and” her improper conduct in relation to their professional relationship.

Williams demanded the bank allow her to use her money but they refused. Wells Fargo asked the court to appoint a guardian before and money was released.

“To summarize without divulging too much on the public record, Wells Fargo has strong reason to believe that [Williams] is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation. [Williams] is an established client of Wells Fargo and notably, 15 years with the particular financial advisor, a 23-year veteran of the financial services industry with an unblemished record.”

The bank said, “Wells Fargo is relying not only on reports of the financial advisor, who has recently witnessed telltale signs of exploitation, including [Williams’] own apprehensions but also upon other independent third parties who know [Williams] well and share these concerns.”

The case was sealed earlier this year.

Now, sources have told The Sun that “the guardianship process is complete, which means the court appointed a financial guardian.” The decision

The next step will be Williams and the guardian working with the court on a plan to access the funds.

The outlet reports Wells Fargo has been removed from the case. The bank will have to follow the instructions given by the new guardian. 

An insider close to Williams said the guardian who was appointed has experience with managing finances. The entertainer has yet to be given access but that could change in the next two months.

Sources also made clear that the guardianship Willams has is not a conservatorship like Britney Spears was placed under.

Aside from the legal drama, Williams has been causing a stir with public comments about her replacement Sherri Shepherd and her plans to return to her talk show — which execs have claimed is impossible due to Shepherd already having a contract. 

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Madison county man sentenced for financial exploitation of family member

(Source: MGN)(MGN)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A 50-year-old Jackson man was sentenced in Madison County District Court on Tuesday for financially exploiting his father.

Judge Mark Johnson sentenced Doug Janssen to 90 days in jail and two years’ probation. He also ordered Janssen to pay more than $20,000 in restitution.

Janssen had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of Unauthorized Use of a Financial Transaction Device, a Class IV felony. Janssen faced a maximum of two years in prison. Janssen’s jail time could be waived if he successfully completes the terms of his probation.

Janssen had served as the conservator of his father’s property while his father had been a resident of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home in Norfolk. Between September 2015 and December 2018, Janssen converted $20,252.94 of his father’s money and credit for his own use. Janssen has repaid the money, which will go toward his father’s last expenses.

The matter was investigated by the Medicaid Fraud and Patient Abuse Unit of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Mark Collins.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘Poverty-level wages’: California workers fight to reform nursing homes

Union pushing for proposal to create board to oversee industry in wake of pandemic that has decimated staffing
An SEIU 2015 rally announcing Put Care First initiative in Sacramento, California, on 28 March. Photograph: Photo by Robert Durell/SEIU Local 2015

by Michael Sainato
Jesus Figueroa Cacho, a certified nursing assistant of the Sacramento, California area, has worked in the nursing home industry for about 25 years.

She consistently works 16 hour long shifts, 60 to 80 hours per week, often working through breaks and not getting paid overtime because she works night shifts and overtime accrual resets at 1am every day, in the middle of her shifts. Figueroa Cacho said her facility is severely understaffed, often with just two nurses to care for about 50 patients.

“I come home exhausted, I have to drive 40 miles to come to work. This is by choice because I love my residents, I love my work, but I have two hours just to get home, and have very little time to sleep before I have to get right back to work,” said Figueroa Cacho.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, her employer had staffing help from the national guard and staffing agencies, but that contributed to many workers quitting as they were paid much more than permanent staff, who receive just above minimum wage.

“We would like to address poverty level wages. If I don’t work 16-hour shifts, I can’t pay my rent,” said Figueroa Cacho. “I have a son in college. My son was denied last semester because I didn’t have enough funds to pay for his school. This is devastating. We need to be paid for our work.”

Now the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, which represents 400,000 nursing home and home care workers in California, the largest long-term care union in the US, is advocating for a proposal to create a statewide Quality Standards Board to oversee the state’s nursing home industry in the wake of the pandemic that has decimated staffing in the industry.

The board would include 16 seats, with 10 seats from state agencies, two workers, two seats representing advocates and families, and two representing employers. The board will have authority to set minimum standards for wages, benefits and working conditions for the nursing home industry in California.

It follows similar pushes to establish industry oversight boards with worker representation in the fast-food industry in California and the nail salon industry in New York.

According to April Verrett, president of SEIU Local 2015, the board, which was proposed by the union with the California state senator Henry Stern and assembly member Miguel Santiago, is being advocated for inclusion in the next California state budget, which is currently undergoing hearings in the state legislature before the next fiscal year begins on 1 July.

“Our members are wanting to make sure that we address a longstanding crisis in our state’s nursing homes as it relates to making sure the quality of care is what residents in the facilities deserve, that families can count on, and that we once and for all get to the root cause of why people leave this industry,” said Verrett.

Verrett added: “They want to make sure that as we approach how we fix this crisis, workers have a seat at the table so they’re able to be a part of creating real solutions so we have a long-term care system that provides the highest-quality care for residents, but also ensures that the workforce receives the dignity, respect and the compensation they deserve.”

A poll conducted by the union of workers in the nursing home industry found half of nursing home workers are likely to leave their job within the next year, citing severe staffing shortages and low pay.

In 2020, there was a turnover rate of over 50% in California’s nursing home industry. The skilled nursing industry in the US has lost 241,000 jobs since the pandemic began, 15.2% of the industry’s total workforce,

During the pandemic, nursing homes were among the hardest hit by infections and deaths for residents and workers, accounting for 31% of all Covid deaths in the US as of 30 June 2021.

SEIU Local 2015 holds vigil for nursing home workers who died after contracting Covid, in Sacramento, on 28 March. Photograph: Robert Durell

According to SEIU Local 2015, more than 82,000 nursing home workers in California contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic, and 247 workers died.

“The Quality Standards Board is one of the best things for a long time coming because it gives ordinary workers an opportunity to sit on such a board who has real life experience in what happens in these fields,” said Robert Oriona, a nursing home worker in the Los Angeles, California, area.

Oriona noted his nephew makes more than he does working in fast food, and his employer has offered measly wage increase proposals of 1.5% that will be canceled out when the minimum wage in Los Angeles increases in July 2022 to about $16 an hour. He also frequently experiences verbal and physical abuse from residents who don’t have enough staff to properly care for them, faulty equipment and poor benefits.

“We’re asking for help. Patient minimums, better wages, better benefits, and we need everyone out there to know what goes on in these facilities,” added Oriona.

Charisma Elok, a rehab assistant for seven years at a nursing home in the Los Angeles area, cited that staff at her facility had dwindled during the pandemic, amid Covid outbreaks, low pay and short staffing

She had to fight to be paid after contracting Covid on the job early on in the pandemic, has worked with inadequate personal protective equipment, and her facility often can’t handle the number or type of patients they admit due to understaffing and not having the properly trained staff to care for patients with high needs, such as residents suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“These nursing homes, they look at patients as dollar signs on their head, because why are you accepting a patient that you cannot provide adequate quality of care for?” said Elok.

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Former Bank Branch Manager Sentenced To Prison For Tech Support Fraud Scheme That Exploited The Elderly

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Former Bank Branch Manager Sentenced To Prison For Tech Support Fraud Scheme That Exploited The Elderly


Technical Support Scheme Deceived Victims Across the United States and Canada, Many of Whom are Elderly, into Paying for Phony Computer Repair Services

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that defendant ARIFUL HAQUE was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for participating in a technical support fraud scheme.  This conspiracy exploited victims, including elderly victims, by remotely accessing their computers and convincing victims to pay for computer support services that they did not need, and which were never actually provided.  As part of this scheme, HAQUE registered a purported technical support company, which defrauded more than 100 victims located across the United States and Canada.  HAQUE previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty, who imposed today’s sentence.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “Ariful Haque participated in a conspiracy that caused pop-up windows to appear on victims’ computers—pop-up windows that claimed, falsely, that a virus had infected the victim’s computer.  Through this and other misrepresentations, this fraud scheme deceived scores of victims across the country into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to the perpetrators for computer support services they did not need.  Thanks to our partners at Homeland Security Investigations, this scheme has been dismantled and another participant has been sentenced to prison.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Information, court filings, and statements made in court:

From approximately November 2017 through June 2019, HAQUE was a member of a criminal fraud ring (the “Fraud Ring”) based in the United States and India that committed a technical support fraud scheme that exploited score of victims located across the United States and Canada, including in the Southern District of New York.  The Fraud Ring’s primary objective was to trick victims into believing that their computers were infected with malware, in order to deceive them into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for phony computer repair services. 

The scheme generally worked as follows.  First, the Fraud Ring caused pop-up windows to appear on victims’ computers.  The pop-up windows claimed, falsely, that a virus had infected the victim’s computer.  The pop-up window directed the victim to call a particular telephone number to obtain technical support.  In at least some instances, the pop-up window threatened victims that, if they restarted or shut down their computer, it could “cause serious damage to the system,” including “complete data loss.”  In an attempt to give the false appearance of legitimacy, in some instances the pop-up window included, without authorization, the corporate logo of a well-known, legitimate technology company.  In fact, no virus had infected victims’ computers, and the technical support phone numbers were not associated with the legitimate technology company.  Rather, these representations were false and were designed to trick victims into paying the Fraud Ring to “fix” a problem that did not exist.  And while the purported “virus” was a hoax, the pop-up window itself did cause various victims’ computers to completely “freeze,” thereby preventing these victims from accessing the data and files in their computer—which caused some victims to call the phone number listed on the pop-up window.  In exchange for victims’ payment of several hundred or thousand dollars (depending on the precise “service” victims purchased), the purported technician remotely accessed the victim’s computer and ran an anti-virus tool, which is free and available on the Internet.  The Fraud Ring also re-victimized various victims, after they had made payments to purportedly “fix” their tech problems.

The Fraud Ring operated through at least 15 fraudulent entities.  In November 2017, HAQUE registered one of these fraudulent entities in New York State.  HAQUE’s entity defrauded more than approximately 100 victims as part of this scheme.  As part of his involvement in the fraud, HAQUE opened U.S. bank accounts to receive funds from victims, deposited victim checks, received a victim complaint, and repeatedly provided a co-conspirator in India (“CC-1”) with authentication codes so that CC-1 could wire funds out of these bank accounts.  HAQUE, a former bank branch manager in New York City, also tried to use his banking experience to further the scheme, including by advising CC-1 that it was “[n]ot a good idea to deposit” certain checks, some of which would risk the involvement of “the Feds.”  Moreover, on occasion, HAQUE also assisted another co-conspirator (“CC-2”), who had registered a different fraudulent entity that was part of the Fraud Ring, as well.  In total, as he admitted in his plea agreement, HAQUE is responsible for losses exceeding $600,000.

*                *                *

In addition to his prison term, HAQUE, 36, of Queens, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, forfeiture of $38,886.32, and restitution of $470,672.16.

HAQUE’s co-defendant, Romana Leyva, was previously sentenced to 100 months in prison, three years of supervised release, forfeiture of $4,679,586.93, and restitution of $2,707,882.91.

Mr. Williams praised the New York Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”)’s El Dorado Task Force, Cyber Intrusion/Cyber Fraud Group for its outstanding work on the investigation.  Mr. Williams also thanked the New York City Police Department for its assistance on this case. 

This matter is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Neff and Jilan J. Kamal are in charge of the prosecution.


Dead woman found in filthy home hadn’t had prescriptions filled in years, AL cops say

By Tanasia Kenney
The husband and daughter of an Alabama woman found dead in her living room in March have been charged with elder abuse, according to the Valley Police Department. Getty Images

A 72-year-old woman’s prescriptions went unfilled for years and she was living in “deplorable” conditions before her body was found earlier this year, according to Alabama authorities. 
Now her husband and daughter are behind bars on elder abuse charges. 
Walter Alfred Hawkins, 74, and Christy Lee Hawkins, 45, were arrested Wednesday, May 18, and charged in the death of 72-year-old Janice Ramsey Hawkins, according to the Valley Police Department. Their arrests come months after Janice Hawkins was found dead in the living room of the family’s home in Valley, a town of around 10,000 on the Georgia-Alabama line.

Officers were called to the home on 24th Avenue on March 16 and found the woman’s body inside, police wrote in a news release. The home’s condition and the condition of Hawkins’ body prompted an investigation, police said. 
“Investigations found that Hawkins had not been seen by a doctor since 2019 and that none of her prescriptions, she had nine different medications, had been refilled since 2018,” authorities wrote in the release.

Her remains were taken for an autopsy, which showed Hawkins died as a result of “Failure to Thrive associated with complications of diabetes,” police said. The Failure to Thrive ruling stemmed from the findings that Hawkins was badly malnourished, dehydrated and underweight with a body mass index of just 14. 
A BMI between 18.5–24.9 is considered “normal,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
Authorities also mentioned Hawkins’ “sunken eyes and prominent ribs,” adding that she was living in poor conditions with “dirty clothing, foul odor and roach infestation.” 
Walter Alfred Hawkins was booked on a count of elder abuse, neglect and manslaughter, according to the release. Christy Lee Hawkins is charged with elder abuse and neglect. 
Valley is about 80 miles northeast of Montgomery.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Rutland man charged with financially exploiting five vulnerable adults

Vermont Business Magazine The Attorney General’s Office announced that Mark Lacomb, 39, of Rutland, Vermont, was arraigned on May 16, 2022, on six felony charges of Financial Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult and one felony charge of Uttering a Forged or Counterfeit Instrument. The charges brought against Lacomb are the result of an investigation conducted by the office’s Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit.

The State of Vermont has charged Lacomb with exploiting over $13,000 from five individuals over the course of approximately a year. Lacomb was employed as a case manager supporting vulnerable adults at a residential program under Choices for Care, a Medicaid-funded program that pays for care and support for older Vermonters and people with physical disabilities. Mr. Lacomb also worked as a Licensed Nursing Assistant in a nursing home. 

Lacomb pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Vermont Superior Court, Rutland Criminal Division. The Court, Judge David Fenster presiding, released Lacomb on conditions, which include a prohibition on providing care or working with any vulnerable adults.

Financial Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult carries a maximum penalty of not more than ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.00. Uttering a Forged or Counterfeit Instrument carries a maximum penalty of up to ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.

The Attorney General’s Office emphasizes that individuals charged with a crime are legally presumed innocent until their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Medicaid Fraud and Residential Abuse Unit receives 75 percent of its funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $1,057,724 for Federal fiscal year FY 2022. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $352,575 for FY 2022, is funded by the State of Vermont.

5.17.2022. MONTPELIER – Attorney General’s Office

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Disbarred lawyer accused of making antisemitic claims fails to produce all documents required by judge

By Taylor Hartz

A Connecticut divorce lawyer has turned over some, but not all, of the client information needed to comply with the court-ordered closure of her practice after she was disbarred for making alleged antisemitic claims about a conspiracy to control the state court system.

Nickola Cunha, who was disbarred in January for the maximum allowable period of five years for persistently making antisemitic claims about a judicial conspiracy, was found in contempt of court in April and last week failed to show up for a court hearing in Middletown before the judge who disbarred her.

Cunha was ordered to comply with instructions concerning the closing of her law practice — which is being handled by an appointed trustee — and explain why she withdrew $30,000 from a client account for her own alleged use after the Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who disbarred her, told her not to do so.

Last week, Moukawsher issued a capias for Cunha, meaning she had until a certain date and time to comply with court orders before she could be brought into court by marshals to explain herself. The timeframe for the capias was extended multiple times last week and early this week and, as of Tuesday morning, had been extended until 3 p.m. Tuesday.

At 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Cunha allegedly walked into the North Haven law office of Corrine Boni-Vendola, who is the trustee of Cunha’s firm, according to court records.

Boni-Vendola wrote in a report filed Monday that she was not in the office when Cunha showed up, so the disbarred divorce lawyer met with Attorney Nicole R. Crocco and turned over three client files, according to court records.

She told Crocco that most of her other clients’ files were in the possession of her clients, but the trustee reported to the court that she was not able to contact the clients because she did not have phone numbers, email addresses or addresses for them, according to court records.

Crocco filed a list of more than 30 clients that Cunha said she’d given notice and files to, had plans to hand over files to or who had other secured new lawyers who now have their case files. Crocco also reported that Cunha did not provide information for at least eight of her former clients.

The attorney also wrote that they were still missing information about upcoming court dates for Cunha’s clients, information on retainers paid or about balances owed for at least some clients; that the trustee’s office had not yet received a list of clients’ funds, interest trust accounts or accounts maintained by Cunha, including bank account information and original checks; and that they’d gotten called from at least two of Cunha’s former clients who were asking about the return of retainers they paid in the amounts of $2,500 and $3,000, according to court records.

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Carson City woman jailed for allegedly stabbing elderly victim with weed puller, hitting her with stick

A woman was arrested Tuesday for multiple alleged felony offenses including two counts battery with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, interfering with a victim reporting a crime and possession of stolen property, according to a Carson City Sheriff's Office booking report.

Sherry Lee Walters, 57, of Carson City, was taken into custody at 8:27 a.m. following an investigation into an April 30 incident at a California Street apartment in which she is accused of stabbing the elderly victim with a weed puller multiple times, hitting her with a stick multiple times on her head, arm and back, and holding her in a bathroom against her will. The victim was taken to the hospital for her injuries.

Walters was also booked for suspicion of two gross misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and possession of a dangerous drug without a prescription.

According to the booking report, deputies responded April 30 to a California Street apartment to investigate the assault. Walters had left the scene, and deputies unable to locate at the time of the alleged crimes. Officers later learned May 3 that Walters was staying in a motel. Deputies were unable to locate her. On May 8 deputies learned that one of the tenants in the apartment complex had received a message from Walters. Deputies attempted to locate her but were unsuccessful.

On Tuesday, deputies responded to the California Street apartment complex after dispatch received information Walters was back in the apartment. Deputies arrived and found Walters knocking at a window of a random apartment. She was yelling and knocking aggressively, the report states.

Deputies placed Walter under arrested for suspicion of battery with a deadly weapon, two counts false imprisonment and elder abuse. Walters was in possession of two bags one with a name that wasn't hers written on it. Deputies opened a box in the bags and found two Alprazolam pills. The investigation later determined the bags had been stolen, the report states.

She was taken to jail and read her Miranda warning and agreed to speak. She asked if it was in reference to the attempted murder, assault of the victim. Walters avoided the deputies questions and would speak about different topics, the report states. Bail: $33,000.

In other arrests:
— A 38-year-old Carson City woman was arrested Tuesday for a misdemeanor warrant issued May 10 out of Lyon County. Bail: $1,500.

All information for the crime log (unless otherwise noted) comes from the arrest reports supplied by the Carson City Sheriff's Office, and is considered by law to be public information. All subjects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The policy of Carson Now is to name anyone who is arrested for a felony offense.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Judge demands harsh sentence for ex-attorney accused of embezzling millions from Utah clients

Former Salt Lake City attorney Calvin Curtis faced about six years in prison as part of a plea agreement. The judge insisted on more prison time.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Traffic passes the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 13, 2020. At a hearing on Tuesday, a federal judge tossed out a sentencing proposal for former Salt Lake City estate attorney Calvin Curtis, demanding that the lawyer accused of defrauding his clients of millions receive a harsher prison sentence.

By Kolbie Peterson

A federal judge in Utah tossed out a sentencing proposal Tuesday for former Salt Lake City estate attorney Calvin Curtis, demanding that the man accused of defrauding his clients out of millions receive a harsher prison sentence.

The proposal of about six years in prison had been agreed upon by federal prosecutors and Curtis’ defense attorney ahead of the hearing. U.S. District Judge David Barlow was expected to take it into consideration before imposing a sentence.

Instead, rejecting the proposal altogether, Barlow said that as Curtis allegedly stole $12.7 million from 26 of his clients — all elderly, disabled or incapacitated — over about 13 years, the suspected fraud was “cold-blooded, premeditated and repeated.”

Curtis “perverted” the law, Barlow continued, and “enriched himself on the backs of those who needed his help.”

‘Lavish lifestyle’

Prosecutors have argued Curtis used that money to fund a “lavish lifestyle,” which included frequent travel, expensive gifts, tickets to basketball and football games, and pricey renovations and mortgage payments on his former mansion home and office on South Temple.

Assistant U.S. attorney Ruth Hackford-Peer said in Tuesday’s hearing that the proposed sentence of 73 months in prison was not a perfect resolution, “but it’s a good one.”

Several of Curtis’ victims attended the hearing, filling the courtroom along with family members and caregivers. One mother pushed in a stroller her disabled 9-year-old daughter, who wore a yellow bow in her hair and braces on both wrists.

They were expecting Barlow to issue a sentence, and many made statements during the hearing. One woman walked up to the podium while holding onto a loved one’s arm to steady herself. A man in a wheelchair gave 62-year-old Curtis a long look as he passed the table where Curtis sat with his attorney.

As the victims shared their stories of how devastating it has been to lose money that they would have used for various needs such as food, clothing, medicine and health care, a common refrain was for Barlow to impose the maximum sentence.

“I don’t think Calvin is human,” one woman said quietly. “I feel that he’s the devil.”

In a statement Tuesday, Curtis said, “A lot of people have talked about me, and most of what they have said is true. I’m very sorry for that.”

‘Heinous’ crimes

When it came time for Barlow to announce a decision, he said the proposed prison sentence — plus a restitution judgment of $12.7 million and supervised release for three years as part of Curtis’ plea agreement — was not harsh enough.

Since Curtis’ crimes were “so heinous,” Barlow said, he should receive a prison sentence at the higher end of the range that is customary in such a case, which is 10 years.

The judge added that he is “not convinced” that Curtis — who is charged with wire fraud and money laundering — takes responsibility for his actions or feels remorse.

Barlow asked the attorneys for both sides to negotiate again and come up with a new sentencing proposal. A new hearing date was not immediately set.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Laura Milliken Gray, an attorney for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease from whom Curtis has admitted to embezzling more than $9 million, called Barlow’s decision a “surprise.”

Her client’s daughter-in-law, Sherry McConkey, said she is “excited” at the prospect of Curtis getting more time in prison than expected. But she added that it’s “hard” the case will go on longer, “because I just want it to be over and done with.”

Greg Skordas, Curtis’ attorney, said, “We were not surprised. We’re disappointed.”

“We came a long way and hoped to be able to seal the deal today,” he continued. “It’s not the end. We’re not finished.”

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Michigan man ordered to trial for financial abuse of "vulnerable" elderly woman

(WWJ) A Michigan man has been bound over for trial on charges that he stole thousands of dollars and a truck from an elderly woman.

Craig Macauley, 39, of Plainwell, in Allegan County, was charged last month with seven counts of embezzlement from a vulnerable adult, $1,000 to $20,000, according to the Michigan Attorney General's Office.

Authorities say Macauley took over $45,000 from an elderly woman who depended on others to assist with tasks, like driving her to appointments.

It's alleged that he transferred the title of the victim's truck to himself, maxed out her credit cards and overdrew her bank account.

Wednesday afternoon, Macauley waived his preliminary, sending the case to Kalamazoo County Circuit Court for trial.

“We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute crimes committed against seniors and other vulnerable adults in our state,” AG Dana Nessel said, in a statement.

Officials did not say how Macauley and his alleged victim knew each other.

Further court dates in the case are pending.

In 2019, the Michigan AG's office launched an Elder Abuse Task Force which consists of more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors — all working together to combat elder abuse in the state. Get more information at this link.

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1 arrested after allegedly assaulting, burning elderly women in Hereford

by: Dailyn Wells, Judd Baker

HEREFORD, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — A man has been arrested for allegedly assaulting and burning an elderly woman in Hereford.

Hereford Police said officers were called around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, on the 100 block of Nueces on an assault.

Officers found a 79-year-old woman with burns and assault injuries to the head and body.

HPD said she was flown to Lubbock due to what is believed to be serious to life-threatening injuries.

The suspect, Cortney Brannon, 44, was arrested and booked into the Deaf Smith County Jail. He is charged with Injury to the Elderly Causing Bodily Injury.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

A guardianship gone wrong

SUTTONS BAY – The story begins at Martha Rothaug’s upright Yamaha.

It was June 2016. Martha, a former concert pianist, was becoming increasingly forgetful, struggling to play songs she once knew by heart. A doctor told Martha’s daughter, Jen Rodgers, the misplayed keys could be an early sign of dementia.

For Martha — “Marty” to family and friends — at stake was not only her health and where she would live in the final years of her life, but control of her $1.8 million estate.

The family’s accumulated wealth was far above average, yet their problem will sound familiar to many — an aging parent who wants to live independently; adult children who disagree about their parent’s care.

Particularly alarming in this case, however, is that Marty, 78, had planned for such an eventuality, consulting with an attorney on a 40-page estate plan she signed more than a decade before a doctor flagged the memory issues.

Jen was the person Marty trusted to handle her end-of-life care and decision-making. In 2007 and again in 2014, Marty put those wishes in writing.

“I nominate Jennifer A. Rodgers to serve as Guardian over my person and Conservator over my estate if a protective order over my person or estate is commenced after the execution of this power of attorney,” a document Marty signed and notarized Sept. 26, 2014 states.

But in March 2017, a state worker cited unsubstantiated complaints about Jen in a court petition. A Leelanau County Probate Court judge responded by appointing Jill Case, a woman neither Jen nor Marty had ever met, to be Marty’s guardian and conservator.

This decision by Judge Larry Nelson gave Case control over where Marty lived, how her money was spent and who could visit her. It also sparked a legal battle that would fester for years, occupy two northern Michigan probate courts, temporarily separate a mother from her daughter and rack up thousands in attorneys fees.

Jen, who previously shared part of this story with the Northern Express, said she tries not to dwell on the past, but that’s not easy.

“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t have worked together as a family,” she said.

A family divided

Marty has a son, Simeon Rodgers, Jen’s older brother who lives in Ohio.

Court documents show in the mid-2000s, Marty and Simeon became estranged after the family’s once successful metal fabrication company fell on hard times.

A resulting bankruptcy forced the sale of Marty’s Lake Leelanau home and in 2007, she sued Simeon in the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, Ohio, for breach of contract. Simeon counter-sued for defamation and infliction of emotional distress, court records show, and several months later, Marty wrote her son out of her will.

Simeon says Jen manipulated their mother into changing her will, that his lawsuit was a standard response and not intended to be punitive.

“My sister engineered all that,” Simeon said, of being removed from his mother’s will. “When you are sued, do you know the law well enough to know you always file a countersuit? You always do.”

Jen disputes Simeon’s characterization of her. In 2015, records show Simeon and Marty did begin to try to repair their relationship.

By then Marty had moved to Suttons Bay and soon after loaned Jen money so she could purchase her own home nearby.

Jen worked as a traveling surgical technician and she recalled that for the next several years, the two women’s lives adhered to a predictable schedule.

Jen would go to Florida in the winter for work, Martha would visit for a few weeks and then Jen would return to Michigan every spring. During the rest of the year, mother and daughter saw each other several times a week, going out to dinner, sharing home decorating ideas and visiting each other’s homes to watch HGTV.

This changed abruptly in March 2017.

While Jen was in Florida, Simeon’s adult son, Spencer Rodgers, paid Martha a visit.

The APS complaint

“No one lives with Martha. No one has been assigned to care for her. She has rotting food in her fridge. Jennifer has had no regular physical contact for 4 years with Martha.”

These words anchor a March 3, 2017 investigation report by Adult Protective Services, filed after staff at the state agency received a complaint from Spencer.

After that, things happened fast.

An APS worker, Michelle Hagerman, interviewed Simeon about what Spencer said he found in Marty’s refrigerator. In her investigative report, Hagerman made broad conclusions about Marty and Jen’s relationship, many of which court officials found later to be false or unsubstantiated.

The report stated Marty wasn’t taking her medications, and suggested Jen was not only neglecting Marty but was preying on her financially — observations which Simeon continues to contend were true.

The APS report stated Jen borrowed money from Marty and wasn’t paying it back, and that Jen “might” have taken out a $150,000 loan against Marty’s house in Marty’s name.

It’s unclear how Jen could have done this while also not having any regular physical contact with her mother in four years — a non sequitur in the report Hagerman didn’t explain.

Instead, Hagerman filed an emergency petition in Leelanau County’s probate court, seeking to have a judge appoint a temporary guardian for Marty.

Emergency guardianship petitions are designed to protect vulnerable adults who are in immediate danger. When a probate court register receives such a petition, he or she often schedules a hearing within a few days. Emergency petitions filed “ex parte,” as it was in Marty’s case, means an opposing party — in this case, Jen — doesn’t have to be notified.

“At this point, I’m a perpetrator,” Jen said, of how she believed the court and the state viewed her. “I was panicking. I should have caught a plane. But I didn’t know the magnitude of what was getting ready to happen.”

If Jen had booked a flight home, she said she could have shown Nelson a folder of documents proving the APS complaint was false.

There were notes from Marty’s doctor stating Jen should do what she could to help her mother maintain her independence. Paperwork from a service Jen arranged to assess Marty’s driving ability, as well as cost estimates from a home health care agency — tasks Jen completed before leaving for Florida.

Finally, Jen could have explained how the $60,000 real estate loan was so she could live near her mother.

Hagerman spoke with Simeon and Spencer, but didn’t interview Jen. Consequently, none of the above information was in Hagerman’s investigation report.

Four days after the emergency petition was filed, Nelson signed it. And appointed Case — who Hagerman suggested — as Marty’s temporary guardian.

Losing Control

In family disputes, it’s not unusual for a judge to see an unrelated third party as an objective solution.

It is unusual, however, for a judge to override signed durable power of attorney and patient advocate documents, which the law says must be followed unless a judge decides there are extenuating circumstances.

“If I have trust documents or a durable power of attorney before me, it’s very, very rare that I will override them,” said Melanie Stanton, who served as Grand Traverse County’s probate court judge from 2013 to 2021.

Judges do have the power to override these documents when they suspect abuse or neglect. A transcript of the emergency hearing shows Nelson appeared to be under the impression that Jen was angling for her mother’s money.

That suspicion was amplified by Hagerman, who testified — without evidence, the transcript shows — that Marty’s dementia may have affected earlier decision-making.

Judges often defer to recommendations from APS investigators. They also rely heavily on a type of court-appointed attorney called a “guardian ad litem,” assigned to meet with a vulnerable person like Marty and report their findings to the court.

The guardian ad litem in Marty’s case was Traverse City attorney Mattias Johnson. The court asked Johnson to review documents, meet with Marty and offer an opinion on whether the order granting temporary guardianship should be made permanent.

Johnson in his April 4, 2017 report described Marty as charming and well-dressed, and her home as beautiful and tidy. He acknowledged Simeon’s removal from Marty’s will and the legal documents naming Jen as her mother’s choice of decision-maker and beneficiary.

Johnson spoke with Marty’s financial manager, John Schubert who confirmed Marty’s substantial investments and stated Jen was helpful to Marty in financial matters and nothing she did struck him as untoward.

Johnson then recommended continuation of the outside guardian.

“While it is of yet unclear whether there has been any actual impropriety, GAL believes that the appearance of impropriety lends itself to continuing with a third party management of Martha’s finances and health decisions,” Johnson wrote in his report to the court.

Nelson, who declined comment for this story, entered an order May 17, 2017, making Case’s role as Marty’s guardian and conservator a permanent appointment.

Background Checks

Case appeared to have the right credentials to make decisions about the health, housing and financial needs of an elderly person showing signs of vulnerability.

She worked for Grand Traverse County’s Commission on Aging and her county personnel records show she passed FBI, Michigan State Police and state Department of Health and Human Services criminal background checks.

Probate courts differ from one county to the next on whether to conduct background checks on people they appoint. Emmet County, for example, asks the sheriff’s office to do it, Oakland County requires a background check and a credit check to be on its approved guardianship list and Grand Traverse County doesn’t conduct any background checks at all.

Judges and staff don’t have the time or the resources, Stanton said, and even if they did, they can’t access LEIN, the nationwide law enforcement intelligence network’s database that contains records of criminal offenses.

There’s no record of a criminal background check on Case by the Leelanau Probate Court, though if there had been a check, it’s not likely it would have noted civil infractions — records show Case’s paycheck years before was garnished by a debt collector.

Case had also been cited at her Commission on Aging job by COA Director Georgia Durga for unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, bullying and violating the county’s violence in the workplace policy.

“It is my expectation you will cease using bullying tactics as detailed above,” Durga wrote to Case in a 2010 corrective action form. “From this day forward I do not expect to receive any additional complaints from other employees/departments regarding your behavior. When you meet with me, I want you to bring solutions on how to coach employees to make them successful, not ways to remove them from their positions.”

Five years later, in 2015, Durga suspended Case for behavior which she said made another employee feel threatened; the five-day suspension was later vacated by a county administrator who labeled it a she-said, she-said accusation.

Following her appointment as Marty’s guardian and conservator, court records show Case communicated frequently with Simeon’s family, and positioned herself as a gatekeeper between Jen and Marty.

Records show Case told Spencer to unplug Marty’s home phone, then allowed Jen 15-minute phone calls with her mother and short, twice-weekly supervised visits. Jen could come to Marty’s home as long as she didn’t go anywhere but the kitchen, living room or dining room.

When Jen took her mother outside in July and to a nearby orchard, Case reported it to the judge.

“(H)er visits were to be supervised and that an aide needed to be with her mom at all times,” Case wrote, in a July 13, 2017 report to Judge Nelson. “She was not to take her mom outside without an aide.”

Case soon paid thousands for Marty’s care, hiring two women — Monica Bradford and Kathy Bower — to stay with Marty around the clock, either in her home or theirs. Canceled checks show, in April and May of 2017, Case paid Bradford and another woman, Anne Cole, $22,780 from Martha’s estate.

Case also moved Marty’s investment portfolio away from Schubert, Marty’s longtime financial adviser, to someone new, locking Jen out of monitoring transactions on her mother’s accounts.

This concerned Schubert enough, a guardian ad litem report shows, for a colleague of Schubert to file a suspicious activity report. Schubert did not return calls seeking comment, regarding the result of that SAR.

“Ms. Case was withdrawing large (in the mid-five-digit range) sums of money, something Marty had never done,” a GAL report filed with the court states. “When the advisor and his business partner questioned the Conservator about this, she moved the account to another investment firm.”

Near the end of summer in 2017, Case moved Marty out of her home and into an assisted living facility, the Highlands, in Northport. Court documents show Case didn’t tell Jen about the move. When Jen learned of it, these same records show Case refused to tell Jen where her mother was.

The move infuriated Jen, but according to court records, it also upset Marty.

“Martha asked why I was doing this to her,” Case wrote, in her report to Judge Nelson. “I reminded her that she has a disease and that the doctor said she needed 24/7 care. I told her that it was my job to make these decisions to look out for what is her best interest in where she lives.”

Case appeared to view a Mother’s Day gift to Marty from Jen — fleece-lined Crocs the color of Pepto Bismol that Jen mailed to her mother — as something nefarious.

Shortly after Mother’s Day in May 2017, Case filled out the paperwork for a personal protective order against Jen, stating in the application that recent mail and other communication from Jen was upsetting Marty.

PPOs are court documents mandating separation between alleged victims and their suspected abusers. They are signed by a judge and violators can be arrested.

“It cemented her control,” Jen said. “If I didn’t contest it, I would have never seen my mother again.”

Fighting Back

Jen said she tried to fight back against the court actions involving her mother, from the emergency guardianship petition by APS, to Johnson’s guardian ad litem report, to the PPO, but was unable to stop what she later referred to as a runaway guardianship train.

Jen said she remembers feeling angry and powerless until she hired her own lawyer, Andrew Shotwell of Smith & Johnson Attorneys P.C., a Traverse City firm. Records show Martha’s sister-in-law Lynne Hackenberger also had concerns about Marty’s guardianship and hired Traverse City attorney, Adam Lett, to contest Case’s appointment.

In December 2017, Case moved Marty from the Highlands in Northport to French Manor, an assisted living facility in Grand Traverse County. By changing the county Marty lived in, Case also changed probate court jurisdictions. Stanton, not Nelson, presided over Grand Traverse County’s probate court.

Stanton responded to petitions by Shotwell and Lett by revoking the PPO and assigning a new guardian ad litem, Traverse City attorney Janet Mistele, whose lengthy reports to the judge read like a spy novel.

“Despite Marty’s extensive estate planning, when APS received a referral from Simeon’s son alleging financial exploitation and physical neglect of Marty, rather than doing a proper fact-based investigation and attempting to confirm or dispel information from and about Marty’s daughter, APS accepted as true hearsay and other unverified information provided by members of Marty’s previously estranged family,” Mistele said.

Simeon maintains the accusations investigated by APS were legitimate and only a change of venue kept Jen from being investigated by law enforcement, a characterization Mistele in her report found no evidence of and Jen vehemently denies.

“It should be noted,” Mistele said, “that as to the allegation of financial exploitation, two separate prosecutors (Leelanau and Grand Traverse) have apparently reviewed the case and declined criminal charges based upon prior informal business dealings between mother and daughter.”

Mistele in her report also said she was “very disturbed” by photos posted on social media of Case, Hagerman, Bradford and Bower socializing and recommended Case be removed or allowed to resign as Marty’s guardian and conservator.

Lett flagged concerns about improper communications between Case, Matthias Johnson and Judge Nelson. Johnson on June 8, 2017 sent a private note to Nelson, copying Hagerman and Case, about Jen’s efforts to terminate the PPO. Communications outside of court with the judge that don’t include all parties are banned under the Judicial Code of Conduct.

Lett also lambasted Case’s relocation of Marty.

“Hiding the ward from family and friends is not among the powers of a Guardian,” Lett wrote in a court filing. “This woman believes she does not answer to anybody. That cannot be true.”

Case’s reputation with the court began to fall apart. She missed multiple filing deadlines and no-showed court hearings, not only in Marty’s case, but for seven other guardianships to which she’d been appointed.

Case was not criminally charged, though Judge Stanton took an unusual step and issued bench warrants for Case’s arrest. No arrest was made and Case’s accountings were later submitted and accepted by the court.

APS filed petitions to remove Case from all eight guardianship cases, which Stanton signed. Discipline came for Case at her COA job, when a subsequent COA director, Cindy Kienlen, ordered her suspension, as well as an apology to Judge Stanton.

Case refused, then filed retirement paperwork.

Case declined repeated requests for comment, stating she felt previous media accounts of Marty’s guardianship did not portray her fairly.

A note in her COA personnel file, from an interview Kienlen conducted with Case, provides some insight into Case’s actions.

“You stated that after taking over the first guardianship you quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of work required in the Guardianship and Conservatorship process,” Kienlen wrote, in a Sept. 18, 2018 letter to Case. “You denied receiving the mailings of bench warrants and subpoenas for your appearance at court. This is highly suspect that all mail and communication were not received by you, especially since Amanda (Probate Court Register Amanda Flowers) reported that none of the letters mailed to you were returned to the court.”

On Dec. 6, 2018, records show Jen filed a complaint with Michigan’s Attorney Grievance Commission against Johnson for his ex parte communications with the judge.

The Grievance Commission investigated, records show, though did not take further action. Johnson did not return a request for comment, though records show he responded to the complaint with an explanation and an apology.

Nearly everyone involved in the case sent ex parte communications to Judge Nelson, Johnson said, and this was his first-ever guardian ad litem assignment.

“I understand the seriousness of this offense and the repercussions that it could have had and that was not my intention,” Johnson’s Feb. 14, 2019 response states. “I would like to apologize to Ms. Rodgers for this error, to the Court for in any way placing them in a difficult situation, and to the commission for this action.”

Michelle Hagerman, the APS worker who triggered Marty’s guardianship and recommended Case, was “reassigned” to another state department more “suitable” for her, a court filing states.

Stanton appointed a different professional guardian to take over Marty’s case. Jen said this new guardian was expensive — she charged $70 an hour – but it was worth it.

Case, according to court documents, was providing her services at no cost.

Unanswered questions

Marty Rothaug died Oct. 14, 2020 and Jen says she believes stress from the guardianship proceedings hastened her death.

“It killed my mother,” Jen said, adding she agreed to share her story publicly, in hopes it might educate other families about guardianship and conservatorship and prevent them from experiencing similar grief.

Unanswered questions still keep her up at night, she said, even today more than five years later.

How did a key to Marty’s safety deposit box end up in the parking lot of Huntington Bank, where it was found by a staff member? Jen said her mother’s most valuable pieces of jewelry were later accounted for, though she’d like to know what happened to her father’s watches.

How could caregivers hired by Case burn through $125,000 of Marty’s life savings in only eight months? Who is supposed to vet those expenses?

And finally, how is it that Case, with her garnishments and COA disciplinary record, was appointed at all?

“They felt Jill Case was a better person to take care of her than her own daughter,” Rodgers said. “That’s the courts.”

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