Saturday, July 2, 2022

Britney Spears's dad says he 'never' authorized surveillance of her bedroom in sworn statement

Screenshot Yahoo Entertainment

by Suzy Byrne

Britney Spears's dad denies bugging her bedroom.

While her conservatorship was ended in November — and her father, Jamie Spears, was ousted as her conservator 10 months ago — there are many loose ends that need to be tied up. They include payments Jamie is seeking for his former role as well as addressing the allegations of conservatorship abuse made by the pop star.

Among numerous documents filed ahead of the next court date, which is July 13 in Los Angeles, is a sworn declaration from Jamie claiming he did not authorize surveillance of the pop star's bedroom.

"I am informed of the allegation by Britney's counsel that a listening device or 'bug' was placed her bedroom as surveillance during the Conservatorship," the signed document obtained by Yahoo Entertainment states. "This allegation is false. I never conducted or authorized any surveillance of Britney's bedroom at any time, including during the Conservatorship. I am not aware of any such surveillance having occurred."

Notably, Jamie did not deny that Britney's phone use was monitored while he was in charge.

Days before Jamie was ousted as conservator last September, the New York Times released a documentary called Controlling Britney Spears. It claimed that Jamie hired the security company Black Box which monitored the star's digital communications and secretly captured audio recordings ― more than 180 hours' worth ― from her bedroom of private conversations she had with her now-husband, Sam Asghari, and her two children, Preston, 16, and Jayden, 15.

(Screenshot: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles)
(Screenshot: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles)

Alex Vlasov, a former employee of Black Box, spoke on the record about the surveillance. He claimed he was once given a USB drive with audio recordings and ordered to delete it. That became another red flag for him after initially thinking the company was working to keep the star safe. He said he came to the realization that the singer wasn't being treated like a "human being" and was living in a "prison." Vlasov, a personal assistant to Black Box founder Edan Yemini — said he "did not want to be complicit in whatever they were involved in." (Yemini denied any misdoing, saying Black Box always acted professionally, ethically and legally.)

Vlasov also claimed that Britney's phone was monitored. He said the iCloud account on her phone was mirrored on an iPad. Vlasov was instructed to encrypt the singer's digital communications captured and send them to Jamie and Robin Greenhill, an employee of Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, which was the business manager for Britney's estate. (Greenhill denied any involvement, saying "no one at" the company "ever suggested monitoring [Britney's] electronic communications" nor were they "aware of any hidden electronic surveillance device placed in [her] bedroom.")

The "Oops!... I Did It Again" songstress was placed in a conservatorship, with Jamie in charge, in 2008 after back-to-back hospitalizations. The legal arrangement, in which the conservatee loses their rights and has their life managed by someone else, is usually reserved for the most incapacitated members of society — for instance, someone with dementia. However, Britney went on to perform at a very high level — earning millions for the conservatorship — and yet it never ended. Jamie — and the many lawyers associated with the conservatorship — made $36 million off of it, her attorney, Mathew Rosengart, has claimed.

One year ago, Britney broke her silence about the legal chokehold on her life, alleging conservatorship abuse. For the first time, she was allowed to hire her own attorney, Rosengart, who swiftly ousted Jamie, and ended the conservatorship. Jamie has maintained that he's only ever acted in Britney's "best interests." Rosengart has claimed Jamie continues to "harass, intimidate and bully" the singer.

Rosengart has since been fighting back against the outstanding financials, under Jamie, and is looking into the abuse allegations. Jamie, who Rosengart claims has dodged being deposed, wants his legal fees paid. Britney's mother also wants legal fees covered.

Britney has said she wants to "sue" her family for keeping her in a conservatorship and profiting off of her for 13 years. She claimed she was forced into treatment facilities and made to take birth control against her will. She is estranged from her family now, with none of them invited to her wedding last month. She's writing a book about the ordeal.

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Broussard attorney disciplined by state Supreme Court

Photo by: Louisiana Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court has disciplined a Broussard attorney.

The discipline handed down to attorney Carol Stookey Hunter was agreed upon by Hunter and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, a release from the Court states.

The investigation began after allegations were made that Hunter notarized a will that was executed by the person outside the presence of the witnesses. 

According to the disciplinary document issued by the Court, Hunter admitted that her conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Court issued a six-month suspension to her, but deferred the entire six months and placed Hunter on a year of unsupervised probation and ordered her to attend the Louisiana State Bar Association's Ethics School.

If she fails to comply with any of the conditions of her probation, or commits any misconduct during that year, the Court can activate the suspension or possibly discipline her further, the document states.

Hunter also is responsible for all costs and expenses of the investigation and process, the Court ordered.

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Mankato woman accused of stealing from stroke victim under her care

A Mankato woman is accused of stealing more than $7,000 from a stroke victim under her care.

Kristina Marie Vaughan, 32, was charged Thursday with felony counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and theft in Blue Earth County Court.

A criminal complaint says Vaughan was the main caregiver for a man who’d had a stroke 12 years earlier.  She moved in with the victim several years ago to help with tasks such as writing checks, grocery shopping, and cooking.

In May of 2022, the victim’s bank contacted his son about suspicious activity on his father’s account.  Court documents say the son and the bank concluded Vaughan had been stealing from the victim for some time.

Investigators say Vaughan initially claimed she only made purchases with the victim’s account when it was directly related to him.  Police say she later admitted to using his account to purchase clothing and pay bills.

Vaughan and a Blue Earth County detective went through bank records that dated back to November 2020.  Vaughan admitted to $7,249.81 worth of purchases, according to the complaint.

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Florida woman works to get life back 2 years after escaping guardianship

Guardian's registration revoked amid multiple violations
By: Adam Walser

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla.  — Under court-ordered guardianship, Jan Garwood lost her home, her car and all her rights.

We reported in 2020, how she used a secret cell phone and social media to escape a locked dementia unit and had her rights restored.

But nearly two years later Garwood, who is now 73, is still struggling to get her life back after escaping from Florida’s broken guardianship system.

In her small apartment, Garwood tries her luck on a toy slot machine.

Jan Garwood4.png
Jan Garwood plays a toy slot machine in her new apartment.

It doesn’t pay cash but ringing bells and flashing lights remind her that she's winning.

Garwood escapes guardianship, despite difficult odds

“God smiles on me all the time,” Garwood said.

She attributes her faith and optimism to her strong Jewish faith.

Garwood overcame nearly insurmountable odds to get her rights restored after spending three years under the control of two professional guardians.

“I was very lucky,” Garwood said, describing getting out of guardianship.

But she says Florida’s court-appointed guardianship system doesn't offer any resources for people after they get their rights restored.

The ABC Action News I-Team first spoke to Garwood in April 2020. She sent a message on Facebook, then called on Facetime from a locked dementia unit using a secret cell phone snuck in by her son Alex.

“It’s hard to put a word on it. Heartbreaking, frustrating, challenging. Trying to get past people. Hiding my phone so I can get out and call people and try to get help,” Garwood said in our first recorded phone call. “There shouldn’t be anybody that should be able to have 100% control over anybody’s life.”

One of Garwood’s biggest concerns at the time was that COVID was spreading through her ALF and she had no way to protect herself from being infected.

“I went on Facebook and I said if anybody out there is reading this, I’m locked up in an assisted living and I can’t get out and I need an attorney,” Garwood said in a recent interview.

Garwood landed in guardianship in 2017 after she was injured in a car crash while grieving the death of her son.

A judge ruled she was not capable of taking care of herself and removed all her rights and her ability to control her resources.

“Are you Janice Garwood?”

Disgraced former professional guardian Rebecca Fierle was appointed to care for her.

Garwood met her for the first time when Fierle rang her doorbell.

“She just looked at me and said are you Janice Garwood? And I said yes. And she said good. Get your keys. You’re coming with me,” Garwood said.

Fierle later resigned from all her cases after state investigators alleged she was responsible for the death of a man under her care.

Fierle was charged with two felonies and is awaiting trial.

Rebecca Fierle.png
Rebecca Fierle leaves court in November 2019 after being charged with two felonies.

Denise Willis was appointed Garwood’s new guardian.

At this court hearing, Willis asked for permission to sell Garwood’s home to an employee of the assisted living facility where Garwood lived.

The house was not listed for sale and never had a formal appraisal.

The house was in a neighborhood of $400,000 to $500,000 homes but was sold to the ALF employee who had a business relationship with Willis for $250,000.

Garwood's former home was sold without an appraisal to an ALF employee who had a business relationship with her guardian for $250,000

Garwood, a former realtor, objected to the sale.

“This is all money and I really resent it. Every penny I have is gone. It’s not right,” Garwood told the judge at the hearing.

He allowed the sale to go through.

Doctor determines Garwood has capacity
A short time later, Garwood made a Facebook plea and guardianship reform advocate Hillary Hogue paid her a visit.

Hogue put her in touch with attorney Vito Roppo.

“I filed a motion to be appointed as her counsel at her request and I put in there that I believe she should be re-examined,” Roppo said.

A different judge ordered a new evaluation by a doctor, who gave her a nearly perfect score stating that “she is fully capable of handling and executing her own personal, medical and financial day-to-day affairs.”

Jan Garwood passed a mental evaluation with flying colors.

Within weeks, Garwood had her rights restored.

She now shares an apartment with her son Alex and his girlfriend.

“I only have my Social Security. She took everything else,” Garwood said.

Records show that Willis deposited $171,000 from the sale of Garwood's home into a special needs trust Garwood can’t directly access.

Her current apartment is furnished with furniture she found by the dumpster or bought from a nearby thrift store.

“This isn’t what I would go out and buy, but there’s nothing wrong with it. I was lucky the day I moved in, they started putting out furniture,” Garwood said.

Jan Garwood2.png
Garwood is warning others about the dangers of court-appointed guardians.

A program from her mother’s funeral, a family menorah and a picture of Garwood’s late father were among the few items Alex was able to save out of Garwood's 2,700-square-foot home.

“The rest of it’s just gone. We don’t know if it’s in a trash can or in storage,” Garwood’s son Alex said. “There’s no communication from Denise Willis trying to make things right. “

County and state investigators identify guardian committed multiple violations

Willis was investigated by the Seminole County Inspector General’s Office last September, which concluded Garwood’s Nissan Rogue was sold significantly undervalue, 13 months of her Social Security income was unaccounted for and the guardian did not get the required court approval before depositing proceeds from Garwood’s home sale into a special needs trust.

Seminole County Inspector General.png
Seminole County Inspector General identified multiple problems in Garwood case.

The Florida Office of Public and Professional Guardians revoked Willis’ registration in April after finding multiple violations in six cases, including incomplete accountings, failing to visit wards and missing personal property.

Willis did not respond to our request for comment.

Garwood said despite all her challenges, she knows God’s still smiling.

“I believe that I have to go through what I have to go through so I can tell somebody else what happened and save them from going through it,” she said.

Jan Garwood.png
Jan Garwood struggles to get her life back together after having her rights restored.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Advocacy group calls for guardianship reform in PA

by Peyton Kennedy

CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — PA ADAPT, an organization advocating for disability rights, is asking for a review of what they call “Pennsylvania’s broken guardianship system.”

When an individual lacks the capacity to make certain decisions, a substitute decision-maker, or “guardian”, can act on their behalf, according to the disability rights of Pennsylvania.

PA ADAPT said they’ve seen too many cases of guardianship being overused and abused. State and local offices, however, said the system is highly monitored to reduce risks of neglect or exploitation. 

“Everybody to the extent possible should have the right to make a decision for themselves,” Pam Auer, a member of PA ADAPT said.

“In a lot of these cases they’re putting people in long-term care facilities or congregate setting institutions where they don’t need that level of care,” Misty Dion, a member of PA ADAPT said.

The group is offering four recommendations, followed by other states:

(1) prohibit guardianships where less restrictive alternatives would meet an adult’s
functional needs;
(2) require specific court findings before certain critical rights (e.g., to marry, vote,
choose visitors) are abridged;
(3) require petitioners to state whether less restrictive alternatives have been tried and
justify any failure to do so;
(4) create mechanisms that adults subject to guardianship and others can use to trigger
modification or termination of an order.

The Centre County Office of Aging said promoting the least restrictive care is a priority already in place.

“Any time that we are providing services we’re looking to support the older adult and eliminate the risk to them and keep them as independent as possible,” Centre County Office of Aging Director Quentin Burchfield said. “We really look at what’s the least restrictive, and that’s required not only by us, by the state, but also by the courts.”

Burchfield said they’re highly regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

In early June, PA ADAPT went to Harrisburg, demanding Governor Wolf take action to end the Department of Aging’s practices and develop an enforceable bill of rights.

In a statement to WTAJ, the Department of Aging said:

“The Department of Aging has a responsibility per the Older Adults Protective Services Act to reduce risks to older adults due to abuse, neglect, abandonment and exploitation. There are times when guardianship is one of the ways to reduce that risk; however the Department does not administer or oversee laws concerning guardianship.  The guardianship system and the application of its respective laws are solely under the authority of the Orphans Court.”

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Largo Taxi Driver Accused Of Exploiting $11,000 From Elderly Woman

A Pinellas County taxi driver is accused of tricking an elderly woman with dementia into giving him more than $11,000 for taxi repairs.

by D'Ann Lawrence White

A Pinellas County taxi driver is accused of tricking an elderly woman with dementia into giving him more than $11,000 for taxi repairs. (Renee Schiavone/Patch)

CLEARWATER, FL — A Pinellas County taxi driver is accused of tricking an elderly woman with dementia into giving him more than $11,000 for repairs on his taxi that he wasn't responsible for paying, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said Elliott James Collins, 64, of Ulmerton Road, Largo, who works as a taxi driver for United Taxi, offered his telephone number to the 77-year-old woman and said she could call him directly when she needs a ride.

Police said Collins then told the woman he needed repairs to his taxi. Deputies said she gave him money totaling $11,000, even though United Taxi told the sheriff's office that it pays for repairs and maintenance of all its taxis.

Collins was charged with exploitation of elderly or disabled adult and scheming to defraud. He was released from jail on a $10,000 bond.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Families say NC immunity law protecting nursing homes is causing deadly consequences

by Cassie Schirm

The state’s immunity act for nursing homes is still in place two years after the pandemic started.

North Carolina legislators passed the measure unanimously during the pandemic to protect nursing homes from being sued for covid deaths. The state adopted the broadly worded provision in May 2020 to protect companies and staff from malpractice and negligence lawsuits arising during the pandemic.

State leaders say it was intended to only protect against covid deaths, but our recent reporting showed it may actually be causing more harm to patients, allowing some homes to shield themselves from neglect cases.

The provision will stay in effect as long as Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s emergency declaration over the health crisis remains in place or it is amended in the state's short session.

Meanwhile, dozen of families say because the law is still in place, people in the facilities are still being harmed. One woman says her father was a victim and the care facility is being protected by the law.

“I'm not going to let this die," said Trish Willard, daughter of Allen Willet who died in a Greensboro nursing home, "They wouldn't treat animals the way they've treated these people in these nursing homes.”

It’s a fight that keeps Willard up at night after she says her father an army veteran died due to neglect.

“When he went in, he was at 204 and he was down to 114 when he died.," said Willard.

Allen developed dementia in his late 70s and went into the care facility in 2019. She says things went downhill quickly.

“It got to the point where there was no water," said Willard. "I mean, I've got pictures and video. The dirt all over my father. His toenails curled in so much where they were claws. I had to beg them to cut his toenails.”

What really was noticeable, she says was his weight loss.

“It got really emotional when I saw him losing weight rapidly," said Willard. "I brought it to their attention when it came to someone coming in and actually feeding him maybe even a feeding tube anything and they said, well, we'll see. We'll get a dietitian working with him. It's not going to help if they're not going to help feed him because he forgot how to feed himself."

And then Covid hit and nursing home doors across the state were shut to all visitors.

“I could not explain what that was like to see him in that condition because they would allow us to come look at him from a distance," said Willard. "But I did not get to see my father in person until they called me and said he was ready to die. When I did he had no kind of water or anything. The moisture his tongue was completely stuck to his lip. Like it was grown together. It was just sickening that they let a human get that way. And it's not about the $9000 a month. It's about I'm really trusting someone to take care of him because I was unable to take care of him at that point because I was a breast cancer patient.”

Allen died 14 months after going in.

"He died from starvation," said Willard.

Since her father's death Willard took her story to an attorney, but because of the immunity law courts are giving full immunity to nursing homes for any deaths within their walls. It is a law, that advocates across the state are trying to fight like Lauren Zingraff, executive director of Friends of Residents.

“I can tell you that Friends of Residents and other partners of ours have been working behind the scenes directly since before the session came back," said Zingraff. "We have had meetings with legislators. I've been on those calls along with lobbyists and other policy advocates specifically to address amending or changing Senate Bill 704. Now whether that goes forward, I don't know.”

Zingraff says the pandemic highlighted a problem that already existed in the nursing home, a lack of staffing as North Carolina is one of 20 states in the US that doesn’t have a minimum staffing requirement for the facilities.

"When you have only a few staff members available for a lot of residents that need 24-hour care, then their daily needs in some way, shape or form are going to be neglected," said Zingraff. "That means they're not getting their meals on time and they're not getting their medicines on time and they're not having their hygiene taken care of in a proper manner.”

A majority of nursing homes in the U.S. are facing staffing shortages, according to a recent survey, which can result in unsafe conditions for the nation's elderly.

The survey, released by the American Health Care Association, found that 98% of nursing home operators are having trouble hiring, 59% said they are losing money, and 73% said staffing issues could force them to close.

Attorneys say staffing levels in long-term-care facilities have been a battleground for years. They say the problem here is North Carolina’s pandemic immunity law blocked plaintiffs from arguing that low staff levels were a root cause of negligence. That removed a common argument plaintiff attorneys typically use in nursing home negligence cases.

North Carolina isn't the only only one where an immunity law was enacted. Thirty-eight states have created emergency orders or laws intended to immunize companies and individuals for care related to the pandemic, according to a tally compiled by National Consumer Voice, a nonprofit watchdog organization focused on nursing homes. The public conversation in most of the states was that hospitals, doctors, and long-term care facilities should not be held legally responsible for coronavirus infections and deaths in a viral pandemic that overwhelmed medical systems and long-term-care centers.

In nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, at least 185,000 people have died of covid-19, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. What’s new in North Carolina is that it’s the first state where immunity claims are being cited in court by facilities to defend themselves against cases that are not related to covid-19 and treatment.

North Carolina’s law says immunity applies to the delivery of care “directly or indirectly” impacted by the pandemic.

Advocates for residents and their families say these laws have gone too far. "They contend the industry sought broadly worded immunity laws, as the families who often serve as the eyes and ears for problems when they visit their loved ones inside residences were no longer permitted inside facilities," said am Brooks, program and policy manager for National Consumer Voice, who has been closely monitoring the spread of immunity laws. "Without those family members drawing attention to issues on a frequent basis an escalation in routine neglect cases was bound to happen."

Until the law is amended or new laws are passed Willard is concerned other families will have to go through the same nightmare she did having to say goodbye to a loved one too soon.

"I was sitting there and I told him I said daddy, I love you and I'm sorry I have fought to the end to try to help you," said Willard. "It's okay, you don't need to suffer anymore. I know what they've done to you in here. And I'm going to speak for you, I'm going be that voice for you that you didn't have. They made me leave after 30 minutes knowing that he was going to die alone. I can't explain how that's haunted me every single day."

Many of the families who have lost loved ones have come together and created a petition to stop the law from continuing.

If you are concerned, advocates say it’s okay to ask questions about your relative’s long-term care facility.

They say to contact the office’s administrator if you have questions about what’s going on behind the scenes.

According to the Department of Human and Health Services here in North Carolina, the agency receives thousands of complaints each year. Then regulation surveyors check for compliance with state and federal laws. If they find a facility is in violation, the facility has ten days to submit a plan of correction. If the issues aren’t corrected during a surprise visit, then DHHS can enforce monetary penalties or terminate their Medicare programs.

If you have concerns or complaints about a particular place, contact the state.

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Former New Orleans judge accused of groping court employee stripped of law license

Former New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Byron C. Williams, who was accused of groping a courthouse employee in 2017 before resigning from the bench in 2020, has had his license to practice law in the state suspended for a year and a day by the Louisiana Supreme Court. ( | The Times-Picayune file)

By Ken Daley

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Former New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Byron C. Williams, who resigned two years ago while still under investigation for accusations he groped a courthouse employee, has had his license to practice law in the state suspended for a year and a day by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

By a split 4-3 decision, the justices of the state’s highest court accepted the penalty enshrined in a joint petition for consent discipline agreed upon by Williams and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Justices William Crain, James Genovese and Jay McCallum opposed the disciplinary settlement.

A courtroom staffer alleged that in July 2017, as she was on a phone call at her desk, Williams twice crept up from behind and touched her chest before scampering out of her office. Female attorneys also accused Williams of inappropriate behavior and comments from the bench during his five-year tenure overseeing Section G of the city’s Criminal District Court.

Williams denied the allegations, but was suspended when the state’s Judiciary Commission began investigating his alleged conduct. Williams collected his annual $152,000 paycheck for another 18 months as the investigation and suspension dragged on, before he finally resigned from the criminal court bench in February 2020.

Louisiana taxpayers also were on the hook for a $52,500 settlement the state agreed to pay Williams’ chief accuser in July 2020, in exchange for her agreement to drop lawsuits she filed against Williams, the Criminal District Court and the state. Williams was not required to admit any wrongdoing nor pony up any of the settlement expenses, according to documents obtained in March 2021 by the Louisiana Illuminator as part of a public records request.

The financial settlement was the most expensive one related to sexual misconduct that the state’s Office of Risk Management paid out in 2020, according to documents the Illuminator received from Louisiana’s Department of Administration.

The report said Williams still receives more than $5,300 per month in state retirement benefits accrued through more than 13 years of public service. Williams’ previously worked in public education, for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and for four years with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office under DA Eddie Jordan and interim DA Keva Landrum.

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Woman arrested in alleged theft of $6K from disabled patient

By Mark Shenefelt

BOUNTIFUL — A 49-year-old woman has been arrested after police alleged she stole $6,000 from a disabled man at a care center where she worked.

Amber E. Miller was booked and released Sunday from the Davis County Jail in Farmington on suspicion of intentional financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, a second-degree felony.

The patient, a quadriplegic, called Bountiful police on June 13 to report that he had asked a therapist in March to cash a check for him and bring him the cash. Despite repeated requests to hand over the money, it had not been delivered, the man said.

Miller told police, according to an arrest affidavit, that she cashed the check and delivered it to his room in an envelope along with mail items. The investigating officer said he left the case open for further follow-up.

The next day, Miller took the cash to the man, apologized, and urged him not to pursue criminal charges, the affidavit said. She was fired by the care center that day after managers learned about the theft, the report said.

The patient told police he wanted to press charges because now that Miller allegedly admitted to stealing and keeping the money, she may be a suspect in an earlier theft.

The charging documents said the earlier reported theft of $8,500 from the man’s safe in his room remains under investigation. Police said Miller denied taking that money. She said many staff members had access to the man’s safe.

No formal charges had been filed against Miller by Monday afternoon. She does not yet have an attorney of record.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Nursing home owner who left 800 in fetid warehouse during hurricane jailed

by Ramon Antonio Vargas 

Homes and businesses damaged after the hurricane tore through Louisiana. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

A Louisiana nursing home owner who sent more than 800 elderly residents to endure Hurricane Ida in a ramshackle warehouse was charged on Wednesday with neglect and other crimes.

Bob Dean, 68, surrendered to the Louisiana attorney general’s office and was jailed on eight counts of cruelty to infirmed people, five counts of healthcare fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice.

A statement from Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry, alleged that Dean had billed the federal Medicaid program for dates his residents were not receiving care, refused to move residents out of the warehouse and “engaged in conduct intended to intimidate or obstruct public health officials and law enforcement”.

Dean flew in from Georgia to turn himself over to authorities on an arrest warrant they obtained for him in recent days. His attorney, John McClindon, told the Associated Press that his client would be released on a $350,000 bond.

McClindon added: “I don’t think Bob Dean did anything that rose to the level of criminal.”

The criminal charges mark only the latest set of complications for Dean, who is facing a mound of unresolved civil litigation over his decision to send residents to the squalid warehouse in Independence, a town about 70 miles (110km) north-west of New Orleans while Ida caused widespread power outages and other devastation in south-east Louisiana in August 2021.

Besides losing his licenses and federal funding to operate his seven nursing homes in Louisiana, his attorneys have said Dean is battling dementia and other memory problems.

Bob Dean in an image provided by the Tangipahoa parish sheriff’s office. Photograph: AP

He is facing an unrelated reckless conduct criminal charge in Georgia after he shot his thumb off and Oregon authorities are investigating him after cattle from his ranch in that state had to be rescued from a snowstorm, the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper reported.

Authorities say some of the residents Dean’s nursing homes sent to the Independence warehouse were found sleeping on mattresses atop a wet floor, sobbing and lying in their own feces.

Some came without their medicines to endure a Category 4 storm packing winds of 150 miles an hour. Conditions at the facility devolved rapidly, with generators used to provide electricity failing, driving indoor temperatures to dangerously high levels. The ceiling leaked, toilets overflowed and there was a dearth of food and water for residents who were packed in so closely it was impossible to follow social distancing guidelines in place because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Five of the 26 deaths that occurred in Louisiana for reasons related to Ida were linked to the fetid warehouse, according to officials, who had since launched an investigation into Dean and his nursing homes.

A total of more than a dozen others who had been at the facility died in the aftermath of Ida’s landfall in the state on 29 August, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The most serious charges filed against Dean are the ones alleging cruelty to people with infirmities. Under Louisiana law, any one of those counts can carry up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.

Dean owns two nursing homes in New Orleans, three in adjacent Jefferson parish and one each in nearby Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. All of those areas directly experienced Ida’s effects.

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Former Portland Attorney Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Client Funds

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Oregon

Monday, June 27, 2022

Former Portland Attorney Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Client Funds

PORTLAND, Ore.—A former Portland attorney pleaded guilty today to multiple felony charges after perpetrating a scheme to defraud her clients and use the proceeds to pay for personal expenses.

Lori E. Deveny, 56, pleaded guilty to mail, bank, and wire fraud; aggravated identity theft; money laundering; and filing a false tax return.

According to court documents, between April 2011 and May 2019, Deveny systematically stole funds she held in trust for her clients. The funds were derived from insurance proceeds due and payable to her clients. Deveny is accused of forging client signatures on settlement documents she sent to various insurance companies, making unauthorized transfers of funds to personal accounts and falsely telling clients that the insurance companies were to blame for delays in settling claims. Many of Deveny’s clients never received the insurance payout they were owed.

Deveny used the proceeds of her scheme to pay for personal credit card and loan payments, numerous big game hunting trips to Africa and the resulting taxidermy costs, other vacations, her husband’s photography business, home remodeling, expensive cigars and other expenses associated with a lavish lifestyle.

On May 7, 2019, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a 24-count indictment charging Deveny with mail, bank, and wire fraud; aggravated identity theft; money laundering; and filing a false tax return.

Deveny will be sentenced on November 23, 2022, before U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman. 

As part of her plea agreement, Deveny has also agreed to pay restitution in full to her victims as determined by the government and ordered by the court.

Mail and wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years. All three offenses carry maximum fines of $250,000 or twice the gross gains or losses resulting from the offense and three years’ supervised release. Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five years’ supervised release. Filing a false tax return is punishable by up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gains or losses resulting from the offense, and one year of supervised released. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by up to two years in prison running consecutive to any other carceral sentence imposed.

U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI and is being prosecuted by Claire M. Fay, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.


Judge: California aid-in-dying law doesn’t discriminate against the disabled

A woman with ALS says California's aid-in-dying law discriminates against those who need help ingesting life-ending medication.

by Maria Dinzeo

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge said he cannot allow an Americans with Disabilities Act carveout to California’s assisted suicide law that would let doctors assist people too weak or disabled to ingest end-of-life medication, finding that such a provision would “fundamentally alter” the law from conferring the ability to take your own life to having a doctor do it for you.

Sandra Morris, a California woman in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), wants the option of ending her life in the future. But the possibility that she’ll be too incapacitated to take her own life means she may need a doctor’s help when the time comes. She says no doctor will help her ingest aid-in-dying medication because they could be criminally prosecuted.

California’s End of Life Option Act, signed into law in 2016, allows a terminally ill adult to request an end-of-life prescription medication from a doctor. But physicians are not allowed to step in and help terminally ill patients too disabled or weak to administer the drugs themselves.

“The legislation was polarizing, eliciting passionate responses both in support and opposition from religious groups, medical practitioners, and activists — including those advocating for disability rights. In the face of this controversy, policymakers took pains to craft a statutory framework that would provide choice and peace to many, while acknowledging the weighty moral issues involved and protecting against abuse and coercion,” U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote of the ardent debate behind the law, which ended up being struck down as unconstitutional in state court in 2018 and reinstated by an appellate court a month later. An amended version of the law was enacted in 2021, and the case was dismissed.

The End of Life Option Act limits who is eligible for such medications and how they can take them. The patient must have an “incurable and irreversible” disease that is expected to result in death within six months, and physicians may only prescribe the medications to those who have the physical and mental capacity to self-administer.

“One of the most difficult questions facing the drafters of the End of Life Option Act was how to provide people with the option of a peaceful death without opening the door to abuse or coercion,” Chhabria wrote. “The Legislature thus included numerous safeguards in the statute to ensure that, at every stage of the process, a person demonstrates their voluntary consent.”

Morris, joined by her doctor Lonny Shavelson and other physicians, sued to challenge the provision barring patients from receiving help with ingesting aid-in-dying drugs when they are physically unable to do so on their own.

“It feels so cruel to me that because of the way the EOLOA is written, that I will have to tell my children that I have to leave them earlier while I still have the use of my hands, and while I can still swallow the medication — rather than having the assistance I need with ingestion so I can stay with them a few extra weeks, or days, or hours,” Morris said in a declaration. “I should not be asked to die early just because I’m severely physically disabled.”

At a hearing on the matter in April, disability rights attorney Cat Cabalo said disallowing this carveout is a violation of the American With Disabilities Act, because it disallows physically disabled persons from participating in a legally sanctioned activity available to their able-bodied peers. 

But Chhabria ruled the case could not proceed on the theory that it violates the ADA because the accommodation they seek would cross the boundary created by the End of Life Option Act, “from the ability to end your own life to the ability to have someone else end it for you.”

Chhabria wrote, “Such an accommodation would ‘compromise[] the essential nature of the act, and would therefore fundamentally alter the program.’”

The judge said the law’s self-administration requirement is the “final safeguard” to ensure the act remains voluntary.

“A person seeking to end their life pursuant to the act can opt out at any point — after requesting or receiving the prescription, after the drugs are in their hand, after the feeding tube has been installed, after saying goodbye,” he wrote. “The accommodation that the plaintiffs seek would significantly undermine these protections by opening a window during which there would be no way of knowing whether the patient had changed their mind.”

After the California Attorney General’s office moved to dismiss the case, patients and physicians asked Chhabria to narrow the requested accommodation to allow doctors to help a patient if they begin to administer the drug but lose the ability to complete the process. But Chhabria found the proposal that a patient communicate their desire to continue by blinking at the physician would again fundamentally change the law’s purpose. “Permitting a physician to assist a patient based solely on that patient’s communication would fundamentally alter the End of Life Option Act by legalizing the killing of others — something the act declines to do,” he wrote.

He also found it inappropriate to consider whether a physician could intervene if a patient begins the process on their own but cannot complete the act; for example, if they start to depress a plunger but lose the strength to finish. Chhabria said this is an entirely new theory of discrimination that would apply to “a tiny sliver” of the proposed class. “It is almost as if the plaintiffs have proposed a new lawsuit in response to the motion to dismiss,” he wrote, adding that it would be very difficult to articulate a class full of patients who find themselves in that situation.

Chhabria gave the plaintiffs another shot at amending their case, but said he was skeptical the effort would be worthwhile.

The state attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the decision. Cabalo, the disability rights attorney, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Shavelson said he could not immediately comment.

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Monday, June 27, 2022

State House's Judiciary Committee dilutes guardianship reform bills

By Mardi Link

LANSING —Members of the state House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on proposed legislation aimed at reforming Michigan’s guardianship system, voting to approve new versions of bills with several potent elements removed.

Committee Chair Graham Filler, a DeWitt Republican and bill sponsor, acknowledged the changes during Tuesday’s hearing.

“We’re definitely doing this with eyes wide open and trying to make a piece of legislation that actually works in the real world,” Filler said.

The substitute legislation does not require guardians to be immediately certified and does not increase the in-person visit requirement from quarterly to monthly, as was the case in the original version of the bills.

“That was just viewed as an unrealistic concept so we’ve modified that,” Filler said, of monthly in-person visits.

Guardians and conservators will be required to secure “some form of certification,” but not until funds to administer the requirement are allocated by the legislature.

Additional visits by guardians can be made virtually, over the telephone or, if that is not convenient, a guardian can speak with a vulnerable person’s healthcare provider.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who in 2019 drew from a wide swath of advocacy and legal groups in making appointments to her Elder Abuse Task Force, also testified about what she described as significant changes to the legislation.

“We, along with most of the task force members, believe these changes strike the proper balance,” Nessel said, adding the package ensures vulnerable people are protected, while burdens on professional guardians and the court are minimized.

Nessel credited AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, probate court judges and probate court registers, law enforcement, county prosecutors, elder law attorneys and members of the disability community for their support of the revised legislation.

Conspicuously absent from this list of supporters is the Michigan Guardianship Association, some members of which served on the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Vice President Georgia Callis, of Guardian Care, Inc. did not respond to a request for comment, though the association previously publicly opposed the package.

MGA is also not listed in a list of supporters Nessel’s office provided to the committee, records show.

Guardians and conservators in Michigan are appointed by probate court judges, to make medical, housing and financial decisions for someone when a judge decides they can no longer make these decisions for themselves.

Elected officials have been trying to fix guardianship for decades, though each attempt has yielded little real change.

In 1996, the State Supreme Court convened a task force on guardianship reform that produced 11 recommendations, including that “minimum ethical standards for professional guardians and professional conservators should be promulgated and enforced.”

In 2005, then-Governor Jennifer Granholm established another task force which also recommended minimum standards for guardians. This task force warned elder abuse cases would likely to rise significantly, owing to Michigan’s aging population.

The recommendations led to no new legislation and in 2012, state auditors found court administrators had only complied with a few of the previous recommendations made in 2003.

Reformers have urged lawmakers to pass a certification requirement since the 1990s, which would mandate education, training, background checks and insurance bonding for guardians and conservators.

Salli Pung, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, who chairs the task force’s subcommittee on certification, supports new versions of the legislation, records show, yet has also been a vocal supporter of requiring Michigan’s guardians to be certified.

“If we’re going to require certification for a dog groomer, we should be requiring it for people who are responsible for every aspect of someone’s life,” Pung previously said.

The bills were approved for a second reading and no date has been set for a floor vote; the Michigan Senate is also considering a proposed legislation package similarly aimed at reforming guardianship and conservatorship.

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Clifton Park attorney suspended for alleged theft from escrow account

by Robert Gavin

ALBANY – A Clifton Park attorney has been indefinitely suspended from practicing law as she faces allegations she stole money from an escrow account in a real estate transaction.

Kimberly Anne Harp, who became a lawyer in 2000, also sent allegedly altered bank statements to an attorney watchdog committee investigating her actions, according to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court’s Third Department, which imposed Harp’s suspension Thursday.

Harp is the second local lawyer to be suspended this month. Robert Morris Cohen, an attorney since 1972, was suspended last week  after failing to respond to allegations that he failed to refund a client’s retainer fee.

The Third Department’s Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC) began investigating Harp in June 2020 after learning that a check drawn on Harp’s business account was dishonored, the decision said.

An audit of the escrow account and business accounts, her subpoenaed bank records and Harp’s sworn testimony led the committee to request that Harp be suspended. 

Harp, 48, an Albany Law School graduate, did not respond to the the committee’s motion after being given two adjournment dates, leading the justices to impose the suspension, the decision said.

The ruling said evidence, including Harp’s testimony, showed she “misappropriated, for her own use, monies deposited in her attorney escrow account which were to be held in trust for the sellers in a real estate transaction.”

The decision said Harp commingled personal funds with money held in trust “in an attempt to make the sellers whole,” the decision said. “While these facts have been established, in part, by (Harp’s) own testimony, we also note that (Harp) concomitantly took measures to conceal her own misconduct by providing AGC with altered bank statements.”

Harp could not be immediately reached for comment.

Presiding Justice Elizabeth Garry and Justices John Egan, Michael Lynch, Sharon Aarons and Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald imposed the suspension.

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Scottsboro woman arrested on drug-related charges, financial exploitation of the elderly

Carrie Anne King was known to have warrants with the Scottsboro Police Department for second-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a debit/credit card.(MGN)

By Charles Montgomery

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WAFF) - Officers with the Scottsboro Police Department conducted a traffic stop on June 23, resulting in the arrest of a woman on multiple charges.

Carrie Anne King was known to have warrants with the Scottsboro Police Department for second-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and fraudulent use of a debit/credit card. Officers also discovered that King was in possession of methamphetamine, marijuana, controlled prescription pills and drug paraphernalia.

King was arrested and charged for the warrants and also charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, second-degree possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and second-degree promoting prison contraband.

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Dick Van Dyke, 96, says he’s ‘just glad to still be here,’ grins for cameras

By Andrew Court

Dick Van Dyke, 96, looked happier than ever as he left lunch with friends in Malibu last Thursday, telling well-wishers that he’s “just glad to still be here.”

The “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” legend was subsequently seen running errands after the lunch date, picking up a bottle of Neutrogena self-tanning spray from a local store.

The spritely star dressed casually for the outing, clad in a light gray sweater and navy pants. He added a pair of sensible slip-on shoes and a stylish leather shoulder bag.

Proving he’s still sharp as a tack, Van Dyke got behind the wheel of his Lexus and drove himself home afterward.

The “Mary Poppins” vet is occasionally seen around Malibu, grabbing lunch and hitting the gym with his wife, Arlene Silver, 50.

Van Dyke cut a casual figure for the outing, clad in a light grey sweater and navy pants.
Van Dyke cut a casual figure for the outing, clad in a light gray sweater and navy pants.
Proving he's still mentally sharp, Van Dyke got behind the wheel of his Lexus and drove himself home after the outing.
Proving he’s still mentally sharp, Van Dyke got behind the wheel of his Lexus and drove himself home after the outing.

The couple celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in February by going viral with a romantic Valentine’s Day video — and are rarely seen without one another.

The age-defying actor is famous for keeping fit and healthy in spite of his advancing age, telling Closer Weekly that he still hits the gym three times a week.

“I’ve always been an exerciser and still am … I get in the pool and exercise. At my age, they say to keep moving. Put me on solid ground and I’ll start tapping,” he declared in 2019.

Van Dyke revealed he does water aerobics, lifts weights and walks on a treadmill. He also credited his fit physique to “good genes.”

Van Dyke was seen telling well-wishers that he's "just glad to still be here."
Van Dyke was seen telling well-wishers that he’s “just glad to still be here.”
Super-fit Van Dyke is often seen out and about in Malibu. He regularly hits the gym with his wife, Arlene Silver.
Super-fit Van Dyke is often seen out and about in Malibu. He regularly hits the gym with his wife, Arlene Silver.

Meanwhile, the smitten star said that much-younger Silver also keeps him on his toes.

“I sometimes forget that we’re doing a great experiment here — 46 years’ difference. And we work at it to some extent,” he explained. “There’s got to be some understanding. Find out what old habits don’t work anymore. It takes some adjusting and fitting in, but that’s part of the fun of it.”

Van Dyke first met Silver at the 2007 Screen Actors Guild Awards. At the time, he was 81 and she was just 35.

Silver spoke with Closer in a separate interview earlier this year, recalling the moment she first laid eyes on her now-husband.

The "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" legend was subsequently seen running errands, picking up a bottle of Neutrogena micro-mist self-tanning spray from a local store.
The “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” legend was seen running errands after his meal with friends, picking up a bottle of Neutrogena self-tanning spray from a local store.
Dick Van Dyke, 96, makes rare public appearance after hitting gym with wife

“He said, ‘Hi, I’m Dick.’ The first thing I asked him was, ‘Weren’t you in “Mary Poppins”?’ We got along immediately as friends, so it didn’t feel like he was so much older than me,” she told the publication.

The devoted wife further cooed: “He is the most perfect human being. I’ve never met anyone so happy, so genuine, so amazing. He’s just like a happy pill.”

The pair were friends for several years before their relationship turned romantic.

The pair said they don't often notice their 46-year age gap. They are pictured together in 2017.
Van Dyke and Silver met in 2007. They were friends for several years before embarking on a relationship. They wed in 2012.

Van Dyke said he was relieved his fans were supportive of the relationship: “I thought there would be an outcry about a gold digger marrying an old man, but no one ever took that attitude.”

In their popular anniversary video, the couple showed off their fun-loving relationship by dancing to a cover of the 1958 Doris Day song “Everybody Loves a Lover” performed by Silver’s band, Arlene & the Vantastix.

Dick-Van-Dyke-arlene-12.jpg (2000×1333)
Silver and Van Dyke on the red carpet at a gala back in April 2016
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