Saturday, July 9, 2022

'It's very sad': Investigator breaks down Navarre woman's elderly exploitation case

by Olivia Iverson

OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. -- An Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigator is giving more insight into the arrest of a Navarre woman for allegedly defrauding a 99-year-old woman out of over half-a-million dollars.

The sheriff’s office arrested 45-year-old Sheena Russell Wednesday night. She's charged with theft over $100,000, organized scheme to defraud more than $50,000 and elderly exploitation.

Russell is out of jail on $60,000 bond.

They say the money she took from the elderly woman was used on mortgage payments, a car, several vacations and more.

The investigation began six months ago with a call from the victim’s brother after he noticed some things wrong and missing from his sister's finances.

“In this case, I did not see anything going back to the victim," Michael Kruger, senior investigator with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said. "It was going to the suspect only.”

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office says Russell met the woman while waitressing at a Fort Walton Beach restaurant.

"Russell, who knew the victim and her late husband for a number of years...started doing errands for the victim after her husband passed away," deputies said in a Facebook post.

From March 30, 2020, to September 22, 2021, investigators say Russell stole $582,647 from the woman's trust and bank accounts.

According to deputies, $132,543 went to paying off her mortgage, buying a vehicle and funding trips to Walt Disney World, Pigeon Forge Tennessee, the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, Washington, D.C. and Utah.

Other expenses were used for personal day-to-day purchases, including shopping and restaurants.

“It’s very sad because these elderly people are being taken advantage of," Kruger said.

Channel 3 went to the address listed on Russell's jail records Thursday afternoon to get her side. A man answered the door, asking Channel 3 to leave.

While the sheriff’s office says the woman didn’t give Russell consent to withdraw or transfer her money, Russell allegedly told investigators it was a joint business venture.

Unfortunately, Kruger says the victim in this case isn’t alone.

"Really we saw a big uptick [of elderly exploitation] during COVID," Kruger said. "I think a lot of that had to do with people being stuck at home, unable to talk to other people. And a lot of the elderly people that don’t have any other relationships, these people calling them over the phone become a friend, they become a family member."

Investigators say the elderly woman now lives out-of-state in an assisted living facility. They hope she can continue to help them with the investigation and prosecution of this case.

Full Article & Source:

Attorney Runs Law Practice While Locked Up In Jail, Gets Disbarred For His Efforts

He gave 'new meaning to the term ‘jailhouse lawyer.’'

By Kathryn Rubino 

Attorney Jay Silvernail was disbarred by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In 2019, he was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon for shooting a man in front of an Oklahoma City nightclub. But that wasn’t the reason — or at least not the full reason — he’s getting the boot from the profession. That ignominious distinction occurred because, post-conviction and pre-sentencing, while waiting in jail, Silvernail continued to run his law practice.

The Oklahoma Supreme cheekily referred to Silvernail as giving “new meaning to the term ‘jailhouse lawyer.’”


The court noted Silvernail “was more interested in cash flow than client care,” and “placed his own financial interests above the interests of his clients by trying to keep his practice on life support while he awaited sentencing.”

And it wasn’t like his jailing was a surprise — the charges against him were filed three years prior, in 2016, when the shooting occurred. But, as has been reported, his plan for his practice was to operate “vicariously, as a sort of general manager” while finding other attorneys to cover appearances. As you might imagine, the Oklahoma Supreme Court thinks that’s… less than an ideal way to run a practice:

“And yet, for more than three years, Silvernail apparently took no steps to prepare for that contingency,” the state supreme court said.

Silvernail thought that as long as he could find lawyers to stand in for him at hearings, “he could operate his practice vicariously, as a sort of general manager,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court said. But it was not a good idea.

“The obstacles to effective representation from a jail cell should be obvious,” the state supreme court said. “As an inmate, Silvernail was unable to confer with clients confidentially. He was unable to communicate freely with prosecutors or other opposing counsel about his clients’ cases. He was obviously unable to appear in court on his clients’ behalf. His ability to access legal resources, a computer or even his own clients’ files was hampered, to say the least. Finally, practicing law from a jail cell arguably gives the appearance of impropriety. These conditions would have prompted a reasonable attorney to take a different tack.”

Plus, in opting for disbarment, the court noted his decision to carry a loaded weapon to a verbal dispute “gives us grave concerns about his fitness to practice law,” and Silvernail “resorted to deadly force in circumstances that did not justify such a response.”

And now there’s one less attorney in the profession.

Full Article & Source:

Lenoir Woman Charged With Exploitation

57-year-old Angela Nelson Greer of Fire Station Lane in Lenoir was arrested Wednesday (July 6) by Caldwell County Sheriff’s Officers. She’s charged with felony exploitation of a disabled or elderly person. Greer was released on $3,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled today (July 7).
Full Article & Source:

Friday, July 8, 2022

Katherine Jackson reportedly being blocked from seeing grandchildren by other family members

By Jessica Wedemeyer

The Jackson family drama continues.

TMZ reports that members of the Jackson clan are blocking matriarch Katherine Jackson from seeing her grandchildren — the late Michael Jackson's kids: Prince Michael Jackson, Blanket Jackson and Paris Jackson — as part of an ongoing elder abuse lawsuit against her nephew-in-law, Trent Jackson, that has the family divided.

According to TMZ sources connected to the Jacksons, Michael's kids were not told that their grandmother had returned to Los Angeles from London on March 29 after two months away "out of fear they'll reprogram [her] and derail her legal battle with Trent Jackson."

(TMZ adds that when Katherine arrived at LAX Airport, her daughter Rebbie Jackson "desperately" tried to block their cameras.)

Other sources connected to the family have reportedly told the website that Katherine was secretly taken to the home of one of her children instead of to her own home.

She's back in L.A. to testify against Trent, who has accused Rebbie and Jermaine Jackson of masterminding the elder abuse lawsuit against him in an attempt to gain control of their mother's wealth.

TMZ sources say that Trent's camp thinks Rebbie and Jermaine are worried that Paris and Prince will encourage their grandmother to drop the lawsuit.

Back in 2012 when Katherine was suddenly whisked away to Arizona for two weeks, Paris accused Jermaine and other members of the family of kidnapping her.

"I haven't spoken with her in a week I want her home now," the burgeoning model-actress tweeted at the time.

"I will defend my beloved family member with all I have, even if it means from other family members," she added.

TMZ concludes that its sources believe the fact that Katherine still hasn't seen Paris or her siblings is "a strong sign someone doesn't want a repeat of 2012."

Full Article & Source:

U.S. Attorney’s Office Joins Plaza Tower Tenants to Combat Elder Financial Abuse

TYLER, Texas – The U.S. Attorney’s Office is promoting World Elder Abuse Awareness in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative to help seniors in the Eastern District of Texas avoid falling victim to financial exploitation, announced U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is participating in events through the summer to provide educational programming to seniors such as a presentation provided to tenants of the Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler.  Assistant U. S. Attorney Nathaniel Kummerfeld was joined by U.S. Secret Service agents this morning to discuss prevalent fraud schemes targeting seniors and how to avoid them.  Attendees were also provided with tips for recognizing and avoiding scams and resources for reporting.

“Although we prosecute dozens of scammers each year, there are hundreds, if not thousands more we never know about,” said U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston.  “Scammers are particularly skilled at tricking victims, often causing the victim to be embarrassed when they realize they have been duped and not report the crime.  By educating our seniors we hope to spare them from this heartache.  Preventing this crime is a lot easier than trying to investigate and get back the money!”

In the last few months, similar programs were provided at a local Rotary Club and the Hamptons of Tyler.  Groups or organizations that are interested in securing a speaker for their event should contact Division Chief Mary Ann Cozby at 903-590-1400.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

Full Article & Source:

Oklahoma man sentenced to probation for misusing funds of woman living in Willmar care facility

By Mark Wasson

WILLMAR — An Oklahoma man was sentenced Jan. 10 in Kandiyohi County District Court to three years of probation for stealing thousands of dollars from a woman for whom he makes health care and financial decisions.

Kevin Wayne Jelley, 57, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was charged with felony financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult — breach of fiduciary obligation by failing to provide care. He pleaded guilty Monday and was given a stay of adjudication by District Judge David Mennis.

A stay of adjudication means that the charge will eventually be dismissed if the terms of the stay are met.

As part of his unsupervised probation, Jelley will owe a Willmar care facility $33,130.30 for unpaid services and he cannot act as a fiduciary, guardian or serve in a conservatorship role during the probationary period.

According to the criminal complaint, Jelley holds the legal power of attorney for a woman who is a resident of a care facility in Willmar. An administrator there told a Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services employee who works in adult protection that about $29,000 is owed on the woman's account.

She receives Medical Assistance funds, which are supposed to be used to pay the facility for services.

Jelley has a joint bank account with her where the funds are supposed to be deposited.

Jelley allegedly told the administrator, and later law enforcement, that he and his wife lost their jobs during the pandemic and he used the money meant for the woman's care to pay bills and "live on."

Jelley stopped making payments to the care facility in August 2019.

After being confronted by a facility administrator about the lack of payment and being told that further lack of payment would lead to the woman being discharged from the facility, Jelley did make a one-month payment in February 2021.

A law enforcement review of the bank accounts held by Jelley and the woman showed a recurring monthly credit to a joint checking account of between $1,600 and $1,800, which appears to be the Medical Assistance payments.

From August 2019, when Jelley stopped making payments to the care facility, through March 2021, there are multiple purchase transactions from Target, Walmart and Starbucks, money transfers to an account in Jelley's name and ATM cash withdrawals from the joint checking account. 

Full Article & Source:

Thursday, July 7, 2022

U.S. funeral home owner who sold body parts pleads guilty to fraud

FILE PHOTO: Megan Hess, owner of Donor Services, is pictured during an interview in Montrose

By John Shiffman

(Reuters) - A former Colorado funeral home owner pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal charge of defrauding relatives of the dead by dissecting their family members' corpses and selling the body parts without permission, a practice exposed in a 2018 Reuters investigative report

Megan Hess, who operated a funeral home called Sunset Mesa and a human body parts business called Donor Services from the same building, entered the plea to the charge of fraud at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher in Grand Junction, Colorado. Gallagher scheduled Hess, who had previously pleaded not guilty, to be sentenced in January, with the prosecution calling for 12 to 15 years in prison.

Hess, 45, admitted on Tuesday that through her funeral home, located in the town of Montrose in the western part of the state, she defrauded at least a dozen families seeking cremation services for deceased relatives. Instead of cremating the bodies, court records show, her body broker company harvested heads, spines, arms and legs and then sold them, mostly for surgical training and other educational purposes.

Hess had been scheduled to go on trial in three weeks along with her mother, Shirley Koch, who also previously pleaded not guilty. Koch's change-of-plea hearing is set for July 12.

After Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Chaffin made his sentencing recommendation, the lawyer for Hess, Dan Shaffer, urged a lighter sentence of about two years in prison. Hess has been free on bond since her arrest.

During the hearing, the judge asked Hess to describe in her own words the crimes she committed. Hess initially called the whole affair a "legal travesty." When prodded by the judge, Hess agreed with the prosecution that she defrauded her victims, though she declined to go into detail.

Two family members and one friend of deceased people whose body parts were sold without permission by Hess spoke at the hearing. They told the judge that while they were still emotionally reeling from the episode and wanted to learn more details about what occurred, they welcomed the news that Hess had decided to plead guilty.

To increase sales, Hess targeted poor and vulnerable families as they grappled with a relative's final days, according to government court filings.

"Meeting with hospice on the 4th ... opening the floodgates of donors," Hess wrote to a prospective body-part buyer in 2014. "They have four or five deaths a day. Get ready!!!! ... How about a deal on full embalmed spines ... $950?"

Selling organs such as hearts, kidneys and tendons for transplant is illegal in the United States. But the sale of cadavers and body parts for use in research or education, which is what Hess did, is not regulated by federal law.

Few state laws provide any regulation, and almost anyone, regardless of expertise, can dissect and sell human body parts. After the Reuters 2018 investigation, Colorado's legislature strengthened the state's oversight.

Hess charged families up to $1,000 for cremations that never occurred, prosecutors said, and she also offered others a free cremation in exchange for a body donation. Many families received ashes from bins mixed with the remains of different cadavers, authorities said, and one client received concrete mix instead of a relative's ashes.

FBI agents found that Hess forged dozens of body-donor consent forms. In court documents, a former employee accused Hess of earning $40,000 by extracting and selling the gold teeth of some of the deceased, an allegation first revealed in the 2018 Reuters report.

The Reuters series uncovered the actions of Sunset Mesa and Donor Services. Former workers told Reuters about questionable practices at the facility, including the dismembering of bodies without the knowledge or consent of families.

About a month after the Reuters stories, the FBI raided the site and state regulators shuttered the funeral home and crematory. A federal grand jury indicted Hess and Koch in 2020.

(Reporting by John Shiffman in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

Full Article & Source:

Kingsport attorney permanently disbarred

by: Slater Teague

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Kingsport lawyer who was indicted on felony charges has been banned from practicing law in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Supreme Court permanently disbarred attorney Jason Ray McLellan effective Wednesday. According to the court’s Board of Professional Responsibility, McLellan consented to his disbarment because he could not successfully defend the accusations made against him. 

A Sullivan County grand jury indicted McLellan in December on felony charges of financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable person and theft of property, according to court documents. The indictments accuse him of financially exploiting a 78-year-old woman by “making numerous monetary transactions to himself totaling $341,193.23” from an estate without the effective consent of the estate’s representative.

Both charges are Class A felonies.

Court documents show that McLellan was arraigned and pleaded not guilty in January. The status of the case is unclear.

The Board of Professional Responsibility outlined multiple accusations against McLellan in an announcement Wednesday.“

In the pending disciplinary matters, Mr. McLellan misappropriated estate funds in the representation of a client and attempted to conceal the misappropriation, made misrepresentations to a court, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, failed to abide by a client’s decision regarding the dismissal of a pending lawsuit, failed to reasonably consult with a client about the means by which the client’s objectives were to be accomplished, and failed to obtain the client’s informed consent before taking action. He also failed to keep client information confidential, failed to withdraw after a conflict of interest developed, allowed a third person to direct his professional judgement, failed to comply with his ethical requirements upon discharge from representation, and failed to comply with the requirements of a suspended attorney. Finally he failed to comply with court orders, and failed to respond to disciplinary complaints.” 

--Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court

In addition to being disbarred, McLellan was ordered to reimburse the Tennessee Lawyers Fund for Client Protection for any money paid to claimants “for losses caused by one or more of Mr. McLellan’s ethical violations.”

Full Article & Source:

Man accused of beating disabled sister to death

A 70-year-old Missouri man who was frustrated about having to care about his disabled sister allegedly fatally beat her. Authorities say it happened in an unincorporated outside of St. Louis.

Anthony Sokolich called for help for his unresponsive sister on Sunday according to the St. Louis County Police Department.

Officers found Katherine Sokolich, 63, with serious injuries to her face.  EMS took her to a hospital with a brain bleed.

"The defendant subsequently admitted to striking her multiple times prior to her being unresponsive," police said in a statement.

Police said Anthony Sokolich was arrested and charged with felony assault.

His sister later died at the hospital, and police said they expected his charges to be upgraded.

No attorney was listed for Sokolich in online court records.

Full Article & Source:

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Britney Spears’ Attorney Mathew Rosengart Accuses Her Former Business Manager Lou Taylor Of Lying About Her Role In Conservatorship

By Hasib Afzal

Britney Spears‘ attorney Mathew Rosengart has accused the singer’s former business manager Lou Taylor of lying about not being involved in the star’s former conservatorship arrangement. 

The critical issue is whether or not Lou’s company (Tristar) had a hand in ensuring that Britney’s father Jamie Spears carried out his role as a conservator. This was allegedly on the basis that Jamie borrowed $40,000 dollars from the company, and then the company had gotten a part of Britney’s business. 

And as such, the company is alleged to have apparently made $18 million during the course of the conservatorship.

The legal documents obtained by TMZ confirmed the following: Tri Star Entertainment — which he says snagged more than $18 million from the 13-year run of the conservatorship — has lied to the judge by claiming it had no involvement.”

If these comments are taken to be true, then they are very significant for the following reasons. First of all, it shows Britney’s willingness to go after everybody that had played a part in ensuring that her conservatorship stayed in place. Secondly, it also indicates that there could be further legal action down the line.

Although this may allow Britney to hold everybody accountable, the last thing that the singer needs is to be drawn into another court battle, especially since she has now gotten married and settled down with Sam Asghari

And yet, that is precisely what could happen given that Lou denied doing anything of the sort. Scott Edelman, who happens to be an attorney representing Tristar, had this to say: “This is materially misleading.

“AS all the evidence makes abundantly clear, the conservatorship was set up on the recommendation of legal counsel, not Tri Star, and approved by the Court for more than 12 years.”

Time will tell how this will play out, but given everything we have seen so far,  there is plenty more to this story than meets the eye. So there you have it folks.  
Full Article & Source:

Group files 60-plus misconduct complaints against Allegheny County Judge Mariani

by Paula Reed Ward

Allegheny County Common Pleas

An advocacy group that has spent the last two years observing criminal proceedings in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court and has been highly critical of the overuse of probation in the county, last month filed more than five dozen misconduct complaints against Judge Anthony M. Mariani with the state Judicial Conduct Board.

The list of complaints was attached to a 48-page report issued by the Abolitionist Law Center on Tuesday that addressed the case of Gerald Thomas, who was being held at Allegheny County Jail for a probation violation when he died of natural causes in March.

“The tragic death of Gerald Thomas at Allegheny County Jail was not random—it was the predictable result of overlapping, systematic patterns of state violence that have become commonplace in this county,” wrote staff attorney Dolly Prabhu. “City police, county probation, county courts and the county jail all contributed to the manner of Mr. Thomas’ death.

“At each phase, racism likely played a role in Mr. Thomas’ arrest and continued detention. And, at each phase, common sense reforms could have prevented his needless incarceration and perhaps even his death.”

The report focuses heavily on Mariani, who was the judge presiding over Thomas’ case.

Mariani did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday afternoon.

Among the allegations against him: that he uses racist language with defendants before him — commenting on defendants’ physical size and strength and talking about the need to “lasso” them; that he deprives defendants of due process in their probation violation hearings; and that he insults defendants who try to defend themselves.

“While Judge Mariani is not the only common pleas court judge engaging in harmful practices, he stands out as a judge whose regular disparaging and belittling of defendants, witnesses and attorneys alike has routinely appalled observers in his courtroom,” the report said. “Judge Mariani’s behavior demands a rigorous inquiry into his fitness to serve as a judge. He is routinely rude, discourteous and unprofessional.”

The complaint process with the Judicial Conduct Board is kept confidential unless and until it decides to file formal charges with the state Supreme Court of Judicial Discipline.

David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said that filing the Judicial Conduct Board complaints seems to be appropriate, based on the observations made in the Abolitionist Law Center report.

Being a judge is “a position of great privilege and responsibility,” he said. “You don’t always deal with easy people and easy circumstances.”

Harris said that judges must be able to maintain the kind of demeanor and temperament that reflects the position.

“If he cannot control his temper, or consistently makes observations of people in personal ways that have nothing to do with the case,” Harris said, perhaps Mariani should step down.

“My speculation is (the Judicial Conduct Board) would see it as a pattern and take it seriously,” he said. “I think the pattern is evidenced from just what I saw in the report.”

The report highlights what happened to Thomas, 26, who died at Allegheny County Jail from natural causes on March 6.

Thomas was on probation for a case in Mariani’s courtroom when he was pulled over by Pittsburgh police for rolling through a stop sign. The officer who stopped Thomas searched the car and found a handgun in the glove compartment, and Thomas was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. Even though a magistrate judge set bail at $2,000, Thomas was detained on a probation violation.

Thomas’ defense attorney, Ken Haber, filed a motion to suppress the evidence because the search was illegal, and Mariani agreed.

He threw out the evidence, and the district attorney’s office withdrew the charges on Jan. 27.

However, Mariani would not lift Thomas’ detainer. Thomas was on probation for drug-related convictions, according to court records.

At a probation violation hearing on Feb. 17, the judge said Thomas was driving without a license, and that the officers who stopped him said they saw him put the gun in the glove box before they searched the car.

Mariani gave the prosecution and defense time to brief the issue, but Thomas died from a pulmonary embolism before that could happen.

The report also highlights dozens of other observations made by the Abolitionist Law Center’s Court Watch program since 2020.

Fifteen times, the report said, Mariani “made inappropriate comments about a Black man’s physical appearance.”

In one instance, it continued, Mariani said to a defendant, “‘You look pretty meaty, how many pushups can you do without stopping?’”

In another, he said, “‘When I look at you, I see a well built guy. No one’s going to touch you if you don’t want them to … I wouldn’t fight you if I had a club in my hand. You’re built strong, stocky.’”

It only happened twice with white defendants, the report said.

“Based on my personal observations, the Black defendants Judge Mariani directs these inappropriate comments to are often of average-looking physique,” Prabhu said. “Judge Mariani engages in racist stereotyping with a shameful pedigree dating back centuries in this country every time he describes what he sees when he looks at a Black man: a big, strong, violent danger to society.”

The report also addresses the overuse of probation and what the Abolitionist Law Center sees as the flaw of incarcerating people for technical violations.

“Probation has never been the rehabilitative program it claims to be. Probation sets people up to fail, and traps people into a harmful and destabilizing cycle of reincarceration and supervision,” the report said. “Today, community supervision is the primary driver of mass incarceration, both in jails and prisons.”

The report argues that probation detainers are redundant, since new criminal charges initiate the process of revoking probation anyway.

“Technical violations, which by definition are non-criminal, rarely justify prolonged pretrial detention. Thus, probation detainers serve virtually no justifiable public safety purpose. Instead, the courts’ overuse of this tool keeps the Allegheny County Jail full, and ensures that a large proportion of those on probation will be trapped in destabilizing and traumatic cycles of incarceration and supervision.”

As of Tuesday, there were 1,663 people incarcerated at Allegheny County Jail, according to the county’s jail dashboard.

Of those, 522 were being held on some kind of county, state or external probation detainer. 413 were awaiting trial, and 68 were serving their sentence.

Harris said it is clear that probation — and particularly long periods of probation — are being overused.

“To me, this is one of the real problems for our county and Pennsylvania, generally,” Harris said. “It will cause our incarcerated system to resist further efforts to shrink its size and have fewer people under state control.”

Particularly difficult, Harris and the report noted, are the very strict conditions attached to probation — such as zero tolerance of alcohol or drug use, or requirements to have a job — that can lead to a person’s failure.

“Some people manage to succeed at it, but it makes it very hard,” Harris said.


Harris acknowledged that, like in Thomas’ case, a person on probation who illegally has a firearm would be concerning to any judge.

“If you use probation, you have to play by its rules,” he said. “If probation is part of the legal sentencing apparatus, and one of the conditions is no firearm, you certainly have to consider that as a judge.”

The report suggests a number of potential reforms — prohibiting split sentences which include incarceration and long tails of probation; removing police from traffic enforcement and instead use technology to issue warnings and fines for speeding or other infractions; and prohibiting the use of probation detainers for technical violations such as unpaid fines and fees.

Full Article & Source:

Man from Russellville charged with financial exploitation of an elderly family member

by: Kait Newsum

COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — A Russellville man was arrested on a grand jury indictment for charges of financial exploitation.

35-year-old Justin Mayfield was arrested on June 30 following an indictment from March 2022, charging him with exploiting $47,807 from an elderly family member.

According to court documents, a grand jury returned the indictment last week, resulting in a warrant being issued for Mayfield’s arrest.

Justin Mayfield
(Colbert Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Mayfield was taken into custody and placed on a $15,000 bond.

Online court records show an arraignment has been scheduled for September 8 at the Colbert County Courthouse.

Full Article & Source:

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Wendy Williams Reportedly Never Leaves Home and Has Memory Loss

by Shawn Grant
The Wendy Show is now over and according to sources, the former host, Wendy Williams, has no plans to get back to work.

A source spoke to The Sun stating Williams doesn’t leave her house and “can’t remember anything.” The source also added Wendy “hasn’t taken any meetings to try to get back on the air” and it would be a long road to get her back on air in the future.

“She can’t remember anything, she needs a teleprompter and she needs someone there to remind her of things,” the source said. “She is sitting in her house, she isn’t taking meetings, she isn’t going out, there is no plan.”

The decade-plus run of The Wendy Williams show came to a close this past Friday. Ahead of the show Variety noted Wendy Williams would not be in attendance for the final episode. Instead, a video montage celebrating Williams played in the time slot.

“The final original episode of ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ will air on Friday, June 17th with a video tribute to the iconic host. The series comes to an end after 13 successful years in syndication,” said a spokesperson for the show.

Wendy Williams has not been on her show for the entire 2021-22 season due to health-related issues. Throughout the season multiple guests filled in for Wendy, including Sherri Shepherd, who is hosting the final week and will have her own show this coming Fall.

Previously, Williams expressed she would be returning to her show. Co-Presidents of Debmar-Mercury, the show’s creators, Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus, said they would be willing to work with the host again.

“It doesn’t mean the next day, but we will put it together and figure it out,” Bernstein said. “It’s not like we have a Plan B where we hit a button and it’s back in a week, but we do have the desire to be in business with her, if she can come back and be healthy, and so does Fox.”

Full Article & Source:

Op-Ed: PA must tighten laws to prevent elder abuse

Kathy Bennett
By Kathy Bennett

No older adult should ever be subjected to injury, violence, neglect, abuse, exploitation or abandonment at the hands of another, says Robert Torres, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Aging.

He is right.

Since 1987, the Older Adults Protective Services Act has served as Pennsylvania’s system for protecting the health, safety and welfare of older adults who are at imminent risk.

Everyone agrees we should do more to protect those who are most vulnerable, but after a decade of calls to update and strengthen the Older Adults Protective Services Act, the PA General Assembly has not acted.

We need legislation now to address shortages in our direct care workforce and inadequacies in the facilities that serve older adults. We also need to address the rise of financial exploitation as a form of elder abuse.

Specifically, we need to amend the law to identify individuals who should not be allowed to work as caregivers to older adults. The current rules were deemed unconstitutional in 2015 by the Commonwealth Court. 

Because caregivers provide services to older adults in vulnerable situations, such as dressing and bathing, and have access to important and valuable personal information, we need to strengthen background checks for all employees who work with older adults in a longterm care setting.

We also need to expand the list of mandatory reporters of abuse as well as the facilities whose employees are required to report abuse. The list needs to include people who work in care facilities that did not exist in 1987 when the law was first enacted — such as home health, hospice and assisted living.

Elder abuse is growing. Reports of suspected elder abuse increased 63% over the previous five years. There has also been a marked increase in financial exploitation as a form of elder abuse.

Amending the Older Adults Protective Services Act would help to increase awareness of how financial exploitation is committed. It would also encourage financial institutions to voluntarily report suspected financial exploitation. Importantly, it would also grant financial providers and area agencies on aging the ability to share information and records related to exploitation.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 3 million adults over the age of 60. This figure is projected to increase to 4 million in eight years and represent nearly 30% of our state’s population.

Older Pennsylvanians deserve the protection of a law that addresses issues affecting them today. We need action to be taken by the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee on Rep. Timothy Hennessey’s House Bill 1681 and similar legislation needs to be championed in the Pennsylvania Senate so that these updates can finally be accomplished.

For all the older adults in the commonwealth, let’s get this done.

Kathy Bennett is the director of the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging, an organizational partner of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. A licensed social worker with a certification in gerontology, Bennett has worked as a manager in various senior settings including hospital geriatric assessment teams, home health care, supervisor of in-home services, and director of an adult daycare program.

Full Article & Source:

Las Vegas man pleads guilty to elder abuse in group home scheme

Calvin Leslie (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

By Katelyn Newberg 

A 58-year-old man pleaded guilty to elder abuse on Tuesday for operating an unlicensed group home where about eight tenants lived without heating.

Calvin Leslie agreed to a sentence of 10 to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to abuse of an older or vulnerable person, neglect of an older or vulnerable person, exploitation of an older or vulnerable person, and obtaining and using another’s personal identifying information. A judge will have to approve of the sentencing agreement during a hearing scheduled for October.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Colleen Baharav said that “justice was served” through the plea deal.

“I think it’s a fair deal for everybody,” she said.

Travis Shetler, Leslie’s defense attorney, did not respond to request for comment on Wednesday.

Leslie was arrested in December 2019 in connection with the unlicensed group home on Santa Rita Drive, near Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Louis Avenue, court records show. About a month prior, Leslie was arrested in connection with another group home, at 3105 Parkdale Ave., which authorities alleged was run by Leslie and a married couple, Mary Glenn and Devon Floyd.

The home on Parkdale Avenue lacked air conditioning, had overcrowded rooms and contained a restroom without a working toilet. Mentally or physically ill tenants were left to care for themselves, according to an arrest report.

Officers found a man sleeping in his feces, another tenant had his diaper changed once a day, and multiple residents had gone without food and medication, prosecutors said during a court hearing last year.

As part of Tuesday’s plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Leslie in the Parkdale home case.

Glenn and Floyd both pleaded guilty and were sentenced in August for abuse and neglect of older and vulnerable people. Glenn was sentenced to four to 10 years in prison, and Floyd was sentenced to two to five years but was eligible for parole because of time served.

Prosecutors have said that after Leslie was released on bail in connection with that case, he continued to operate the group home on Santa Rita Drive, renting rooms to tenants and putting bills in their names without their knowledge.

Power at the home was shut off in early December 2019, when overnight temperatures dropped to 43 degrees, which is considered unsafe according to city code. The residents of the home “appeared to suffer from mental and physical disabilities,” according to an arrest report.

One victim said Leslie took rent money from vulnerable tenants and then evicted them without cause, a process he described as “flipping them,” the report said.

Leslie was initially charged with 10 counts including exploitation, abuse, neglect and obtaining and using another’s personal identity information. In February 2020, a grand jury indicted him on 14 additional counts, court records show.

He was accused of putting bills in the name of a man with dementia and taking nearly $3,000 of Social Security benefits from a 60-year-old woman, according to the indictment.
Leslie has been arrested on similar charges in Georgia, Ohio and Michigan, prosecutors have said.
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Monday, July 4, 2022

Britney Spears’ Attorney Says Tri Star Co-Created Conservatorship, Made $18 Million From it

by Natalie Oganesyan

Britney Spears’ attorney said in a new court filing that her 13-year-long conservatorship was co-created by Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, which profited by $18 million from the pop star’s estate.

The management company — which now boasts clients from the Kardashians to rapper Travis Scott — has long denied involvement in the conservatorship, which was terminated by a judge last November.

The new filing, made by Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart, says Tri Star and its founder and CEO Louise Taylor were hired upon the conservatorship’s commencement. At the time, the company was unknown and its owner was friends with Spears’ father Jamie, who was indebted to Taylor for at least $40,000, which the suit states was “a substantial amount of money in 2008, especially for a man with a history of financial mismanagement including a bankruptcy, mortgage defaults, state and federal tax liens, and failed business ventures.”

Shortly afterward, Spears’ father believed his daughter to be “incapacitated” and in need of medical attention; despite this, the singer was sent on a world tour, which the docs allege Jamie and Tri Star profited off of handsomely, with $6 million and $18 million, respectively.

The legal documents cite a September 2021 New York Times story, which details an “intense surveillance apparatus” perpetrated by Tri Star and Spears’ former business manager Robin Greenhill, as well as internal emails and media interviews that contradict claims of Tri Star’s lack of involvement in maintaining and instating the conservatorship. The company was “built…on the back of Britney Spears,” it alleges.

“Tri Star, Lou Taylor, and Robin Greenhill have all denied that Tri Star was involved in the creation of the Conservatorship, no doubt aware that such involvement — shortly after it extended the generous loan to Mr. Spears — would call into question not just the exorbitant fees paid to Tri Star over the years but also the motives for placing Ms. Spears into a 13-year conservatorship in the first place,” the filing reads.

Rosengart’s filing is in response to Tri Star’s motion to quash subpoenas for records, calling the action “baseless” and “legally frivolous.” The opposition also calls for the company to produce all relevant correspondence within 7 days of the next hearing.

Spears’ attorney also details findings from the investigative firm Kroll, which showcase Taylor “in very active discussions” concerning the conservatorship with Jamie and conservatorship lawyer Geraldine Wyle. The emails include mentions of Tri Star’s involvement, with Taylor adding that she looks “forward to working with [Wyle].” Other alleged correspondence shows Wyle and Taylor discussing judge selection and running “into a problem” where the only judge who will be able to hear the case “will not give Jamie the power to administer psychotropic drugs” to Spears. Later on, Taylor expressed a desire to help run the conservatorship, allegedly saying “I am the right person for this.”

In another section, the filing alleges financial mismanagement of Spears’ funds in favor of Tri Star, including her father’s overpayments to Tri Star for commission and disbursing funds to cover Taylor’s legal fees, despite his own counsel advising the expenditure as “inappropriate.” As a result, Rosengart suggests, it becomes clear why Tri Star decided to “stonewall” and fail to provide depositions since late 2021.

“This is materially misleading,” Scott Edelman, an attorney for Tri Star along with Charles Harder, said in a statement to TheWrap. “As all the evidence makes abundantly clear, the conservatorship was set up on the recommendation of legal counsel, not Tri Star, and approved by the Court for more than 12 years. In fact, Tri Star was not even the business manager for the conservatorship when it was established. Cherry-picked excerpts from emails cannot change the facts, which is why this nonsense will all end once and for all when records are unsealed.”

TheWrap has also reached out for comment to Alex Weingarten, Jamie’s attorney.

In Spears’ revelatory June 2021 testimony, which reignited passion for the #FreeBritney movement, the musician stated that her managers “should be in jail.” More recently, in February, Spears threatened to sue the company in a since-deleted Instagram post; she singled out Taylor and Greenhill, saying that they “killed” her: “I will sue the s— out of Tri Star!!!! Psss they got away with all of it and I’m here to warn them every day of my precious life!!!!” she wrote.

Despite being free from her conservatorship, Spears’ legal battle with Tri Star and her father continues. The next hearing for these matters is set to take place July 13 at the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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Administrator Walks on Stilts During Mardi Gras Parade To Make Residents Happy


Source: Administrator Walks on Stilts During Mardi Gras Parade To Make Residents Happy

Sunday, July 3, 2022

WCON’s Billy Burrell signs off on his final broadcast

By Margie Williamson

Billy Burrell signed off his final show of Sunshine Melodies on WCON on Friday, July 1, 2022. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

After seventy years on the radio, Billy Burrell decided it was time to move on. His reason? “The Lord started this thing,” Burrell explained on the air to his co-worker Joel Williams, “and the Lord told me when to quit.” When asked about the longevity of his radio career, Burrell said, “I didn’t have any idea of how long this would last. It was a day to day thing.”

Burrell is a life-time early riser, getting up at 3:30 each morning. At 92, he still gets only 6 hours each night, but he also takes a long, two-hour nap after lunch each day. His radio schedule has fit easily into his natural sleep patterns.

Billy Burrell, long-time host of Sunshine Melodies on WCON, 
addresses his listeners on his last day. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

That day-to-day gig included two radio stations in Toccoa and then Cornelia’s WCON. At one point, Burrell moved to Mississippi and would mail his broadcasts in to WCON on cassette tapes.

Technology challenged

Burrell has seen tremendous change in radio during his career. “I began on a 250 watt station. Today we’re at 100,000 watts here. That’s a major change,” Burrell said.

Billy Burrell signed off his final show Sunshine Melodies on 
WCON. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Burrell broadcasted from a studio with seven computer monitors, but he used only his microphone and the sound board. Burrell shared, ” One of the reasons I’m bowing out is all this technology we have today. I don’t know how to use it!” After Burrell’s show, he packed up two toolboxes with the CDs he had used on the air that morning. He recognized the significance of the moment. “Do you know they won’t even have a CD player in any of the studios here. I carry my CDs with me and that’s all I use. 

Burrell’s broadcast, entitled Sunshine Melodies, was a combination of gospel songs and Billy’s unscripted life testimony in every word he spoke. He was unashamedly and unapologetically a preacher and a Christian believer on air. He was also someone his listening fans felt they knew personally. Burrell has lost track of the number of funerals he’s led for radio listeners, sometimes as many as two a day.

Burrell will continue to do funerals. He stresses, “I’ve told my listeners, I’m just retiring from the radio, not from preaching. As long as God opens the doors for me, I will continue to preach, do funerals, do interims for churches . . . whatever God has for me.” 

Burrell’s successor

Mike Franklin (left) will fill Billy Burrell’s shoes beginning 
Monday, July 4th. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Mike Franklin, the senior pastor of The Torch in Cornelia, will step into Burrell’s place on Monday, July 4th. Franklin is also an early riser and looks forward to continuing Burrell’s legacy of “in your face” Christian programming.

John Foster, seen sitting in on Billy Burrell’s last show, has been instrumental 
in providing Christian broadcasting through WCON. (Margie Williamson/Now Habersham)

Franklin credits John, Clayton, and David Foster, WCON’s owners, as the force behind the strong, Christian focus. “John Foster is the one who hired Billy Burrell seventy years ago and he’s the one who hired me,” Franklin explained. “When John Clayton hired me, he told me I can do or say anything on the air as long as God spoke it.”

Franklin’s version of the show will be slightly different than Burrell’s, but the focus will stay the same. “We’ll offer music that is more in tune with today’s churches, more contemporary, and I’ll have segments on God’s Word for the day,” Franklin states. Regardless of those changes, the show will continue to be unashamedly and unapologetically Christian.  

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Police greeted by parrot after kicking in door of house to save woman 'calling for help'

By Adam Dutton SWNS & Gemma JonesSEO Writer 

A pesky parrot was behind call to 999 which saw cops kick down the door of a Birmingham home (Image: © West Midlands Police / SWNS)

Police were left red-faced after smashing down a front door responding to reports of a elderly woman in distress - only to find a parrot calling for help.

A team of officers rushed to the address in Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. They booted their way in at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 15. But confused cops found the property empty with no sign of anybody requiring help and only a parrot sitting in a cage in the corner of the living room. 

The homeowner's son then returned home shortly after and revealed it was not his mum calling out but her chatty feathered friend squawking: "Help!" West Midlands Force Response shared details of the hilarious mishap on Twitter along with a picture of an officer posed with the cheeky green bird. 

They wrote: “C Team Sutton respond to a report of an elderly female shouting for help inside her address. Entry forced and searched however no sign of the female. Son arrives and informs PC Jukes the parrot in the living room talks and was the one shouting Help!”

This morning, on Thursday June 16, the team added: "Sutton are ready for another day of answering emergency calls! Hopefully we don’t have any more calls relating to naughty parrots! #PollySending PoliceCrackers #ParrotGate."

One web user Piers Doughty-Brown commented “Charge him with wasting police time and put him before the Beak?” Kaz said: “Brilliant but it just proves that you are always there to respond to someone in need even though it was a parrot this time.”

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Scammers get prison after bilking elderly Estes Park woman out of nearly $1 million

Author: Darren Whitehead

DENVER — Two Jamaican nationals who tricked an elderly Estes Park woman in a lottery scam will spend years in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Colorado said Rajay Dobson and Leonard Luton conspired to convince the victim into thinking she had won a $2.8 million lottery and a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. The men got the woman to pay thousands in "fees" in order to get her winnings.

Prosecutors said Dobson called the victim hundreds of times, eventually convincing her to follow his instructions. Dobson got the woman to mail packages of cash and cashier's checks, along with six iPhones, to the addresses of Luton's friends.

On two occasions, Luton traveled to the victim's home in Estes Park to pick up packages of cash. The first trip happened in October 2018. On that trip, one of Luton's co-conspirators showed up at the victim's home at 1:30 a.m., identified himself as an FBI agent, showing her a fake badge, and directed the woman to give him a package that contained $65,000 in cash, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Luton was arrested at the victim's home when he traveled there in January 2019. When he was arrested, Luton was possessing one of the iPhones the victim had purchased, prosecutors said. 

In all, the victim was scammed out of more than $970,000.

Luton was convicted in February 2020. He was sentenced to nine years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $881,000 in restitution to the victim.

“These fraudsters took advantage of one of our community’s most vulnerable victims,” U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan said. “We want to make it clear: individuals who prey on the elderly will be held accountable.” 

"Scammers often prey on elderly individuals, who might be embarrassed and reluctant to come forward. In this case, by the time legitimate law enforcement was notified, the victim was defrauded of almost one million dollars," Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said. "The FBI is committed to combating these scammers, even those located outside of the United States."

After Luton's sentencing, U.S. officials located, arrested and extradited Dobson from Jamaica. 

Dobson pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He was sentenced on Wednesday to more than five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He, too, was ordered to pay the victim more than $881,000 in restitution.
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