Saturday, August 6, 2022

Alameda County conservatorship drains estates of elderly it cares for, Grand Jury finds

Family members claim abuse of loved ones by care facilities and courts under conservatorship

Mildred Rodriguez in her niece’s, Cathy Rodriguez, vehicle on September 2, 2018.(Courtesy of Cathy Rodriguez)

Sacramento, Calif. — By Robert J Hansen

An Alameda County Civil Grand Jury investigation into conservatorship proceedings in Alameda county found that conservatorship is in likely need of reform, according to the Grand Jury’s 2021-2022 report.

Although the investigation found no evidence of criminal acts by court staff, it did find that involuntary conservatorships are often very expensive for conservatees, especially those who are removed from their homes and placed in care facilities.

These individuals, depending on the degree of impairment, may be placed in a conservatorship, a legal proceeding in which the court appoints a person or agency to take care of the individual’s needs and make decisions on their behalf.

Under the current system, conservatees’ estates can be quickly drained, despite court oversight, the report said.

These legal services are provided by the Alameda Public Defender and Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS) and are the primary safeguard against a person being placed in a conservatorship that is unjustified or unnecessarily restrictive.

Legal Assistance for Seniors (LAS) clients are primarily elderly adults in general conservatorships, whereas 80 percent of the Public Defender’s clients are developmentally disabled adults in limited conservatorships.

In 2019, the Alameda County District Attorney investigated allegations that, among other things, probate court staff committed financial abuse and failed to protect conservatees’ assets.

Conservatees like Mildred Rodriguez.

Mildred Rodriguez on March 18, 2019.(Courtesy of Cathy Rodriguez)

In 2017, Mildred Rodriguez was living in a mobile home that she and her niece, Cathy Rodriguez owned.

Then when a roommate died, Rose Rivera, Cathy’s third cousin, took Mildred against her will to live with her, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who for years worked for the Alameda County Probation Department, was told by another cousin that Rose Rivera took Mildred and tore the floors and bathroom out of the mobile home, making it inhabitable.

Video recordings show the mobile home was unlivable.

Rivera took over Power of Attorney over Mildred and tried to defraud her of all her property and assets according to Cathy Rodriguez.

“Rose destroyed the mobile home and the majority of my aunt's belongings were gone, a few things were left,” Rodriguez said.

Cathy and Rose battled through the courts for guardianship of Mildred and numerous attempted restraining orders, Court documents reveal.

Rivera attempted so many unsuccessful restraining orders that she was ruled a vexatious litigant by the Alameda Court, according to court records.

While Mildred was living with Rivera, a medical evaluation was done and it was determined that Mildred was not getting the care she needed and her environment was not good for her, according to documents provided by Rodriguez.

“I tried to get my aunt out of Rose's home through the cops but to no avail,” Rodriguez said. So, I filed the petition in probate Court in Berkeley California.

Rivera objected to Rodriguez’s petition for guardianship of Mildred from the encouragement of attorney Roger Spencer, according to Rodriguez.

Spencer, the court-appointed attorney for Mildred, stated that a neutral party is needed to act as conservator due to the family feud between Rodriguez and another family member, Rose Rivera.

He also objected to Rodriguez having guardianship of Mildred.

"Each time I have met with the conservatee, [Mildred] she has expressed distrust for Cathy Rodriguez. She is unwilling to have Cathy in control of her or her money or property in any way," Spencer said in July 2018.

Mildred Rodriguez recognizes she requires Conservatorship and wishes the Court to appoint the Alameda County Public Guardian as her Conservator of Person and estate Spencer told the court.

“She does not trust, and will never trust Cathy Rodriguez,” Spencer said.

However, the handwritten documents by Mildred contradict Spencer’s statements.
One of several handwritten letters to the Alameda Court by Mildred Rodriguez asking to live with Cathy Rodriguez.(Courtesy of Cathy Rodriguez)

A November 2018 letter by Mildred tells the judge that she is not happy where she is and would rather live with Rodriguez.

“I hope there is something you can do and let me live with my niece Cathy Rodriguez,” Mildred wrote in March 2019.

The court placed Mildred in conservatorship under Alameda County Public Guardian in May 2018. While under conservatorship, she lived at a couple of different facilities according to the court documents.

First, she was at St. Regis Retirement Center before being moved to Jones Convalescent Hospital in August 2018, according to court documents.

Cathy would come to visit her aunt and once took her to the mobile home, unaware she was restricted from doing so.

The Public Guardian then filed a complaint claiming that Cathy’s behavior was disruptive to hospital staff and residents and was eventually prohibited from having any contact with her aunt.

“I was not informed that I was not allowed to take my auntie out,” Rodriguez said.

Jessica Chia, Deputy County Counsel for the Public Guardian’s office, requested that the court restrict Rodriguez from contacting or visiting her aunt.

Chia also claimed that Rodriguez’s complaints against the Public Guardian’s office were inaccurate.

“You raised several complaints against the Alameda County Public Guardian's office and the Office of the County Counsel based on untruthful and inaccurate allegations, and you continue to reiterate these allegations at public meetings, in broadly distributed email communications, and in court proceedings,” Chia said in a letter to Rodriguez.

Video recordings and written documents from Mildred reveal how she felt mistreated, neglected, and abused while under the protective guardianship of Alameda County.

“The system is abusing my auntie and keeping her in prison with no contact from the outside world,” Rodriguez said.

In a March 2018 letter, Mildred wrote that she doesn’t want to go with Rose anywhere.

“They (the nursing home) never tell me that she (Rose) is going to pick me up. Rose shows up and says you are going with me. I don’t like that,” Mildred wrote. “Rose yells at me and says I have to go with her. I cry sometimes because I don’t want to go. Judge, please help me.”

In March 2019, Rodriguez tried to petition the Alameda County Public Guardian for conservatorship of her aunt but was again denied.

“I want out of here. I want out of this place. I don’t like staying here and being with these people,” Mildred said in a video recording.

Mildred Rodriguez telling her niece, Cathy Rodriguez, that she doesn’t want to live at the Jones Convalescent Hospital on December 22, 2018.(Courtesy of Cathy Rodriguez)

Mildred died under the care of Alameda County and Bay View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in November 2020.

“I knew that she would never be free because she was only going to be free once she left in a body bag,” Rodriguez said.

Rivera could not be reached for comment.

The Alameda County Public Guardian’s Office also could not be reached for comment.

The final account showed Mildred’s estate was valued at just over $14,000 yet owed the county over $83,000 according to final accounting records. Leaving a total balance owed at more than $73,000.

Hundreds of new petitions for conservatorships are filed in Alameda County each year according to the Grand Jury report.

The investigators from the Grand Jury’s report offered the following recommendation to reduce or eliminate such costs for conservatees.

“In situations where family members petitioned the court to be appointed conservator and the Court finds conservatorship is not appropriate and eventually dismisses such petitions, the proposed conservatee should not be held accountable to pay for the costs of the legal process initiated by another person,” investigators recommended.

The lack of a contract between Alameda County and its conservatorship defense providers that outlines the expected scope of representation means that not all proposed conservatees receive the same level of service and raises the risk of litigation against the county.

Involuntary conservatorship proceedings can quickly drain proposed conservatees’ estates, which would not occur under a recorder’s fee-or grant-funded model.

Rodriguez frequently attended Alameda County Board meetings in person and spoke during public comment regarding her concerns with her aunt's case.

After trying to fight for her aunt, Cathy Rodriguez claims she is now the target of retaliation from attorneys and the Alameda County Public Guardian’s Office.

There will be follow-up articles in the coming weeks on what Cathy Rodriguez has experienced after her aunt died.

This report relied on the 2021-2022 Alameda County Grand Jury Report. It also relied on hundreds of pages of court documents, numerous video recordings and several letters provided by Cathy Rodriguez.

Full Article & Source:

Cognitive decline can be avoided with simple everyday exercises, new study suggests

By Phillip Nieto

While scientists have always recommended physical activity to keep the brain healthy, research now shows regular stretching and motion exercises can help older people with mild memory troubles. 

Researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine recruited 300 adults with mild cognitive decline to do aerobic and stretching-and-balance exercises. The groups were split up based on those two exercises, twice a week with a personal trainer, and trained two additional times a week on their own over a 12-month period. 

The study shows that even simple exercises can slow cognitive decline for senior citizens in the early stages of dementia.  (iStock)

The study was presented on Tuesday at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, California. All the participants had some form of mild cognitive impairment, one of the first stages of dementia, and lived sedentary lifestyles. 

Overall, both groups completed 31,000 exercise sessions, claimed the study's author, Laura Baker. At the end of the experiment, none of the group members had experienced cognitive decline, while a control group with similar participants with mild cognitive impairment who did not work out did decline.

Baker told the Associated Press the results from the stud indicate "this is doable for everybody," especially for seniors who have a limited physical exercise routine. Moreover, she recommends that exercise "needs to be part of the prevention strategies" for elderly citizens already at risk. 

Maria Carrillo, the chief scientist at the Alzheimer's Association, told the AP that research in the past has indicated daily physical activity has helped reduce inflammation in the brain and increase the amount of blood flowing to it. 

Baker also noted that having a social group or a network of support was crucial for the elder participants.

Participants were routinely given support while being active at their YMCA facilities, and regular video call sessions were set up after Covid-19 shut down the gyms, according to the Associated Press. 

Full Article & Source:

Crime Alert: Sheriff's Office says Mobile man beat 81-year-old stepfather

by Karris Harmon

MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) — The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office received a domestic violence complaint between a father and son last week. Deputies say the 56-year-old stepson, Kim Griffin, physically assaulted his 81-year-old stepfather, Willie McCall. The sheriff’s office says to call it what it is: elder abuse. After the assault, the victim, Willie McCall had to go to the hospital for injuries to the back, mouth, face, and neck.

"This guy's a coward. Basically, beat his 81-year-old dad," said Captain Paul Burch.

56-year-old Kim Aundrea Griffin is in the Mobile Metro County Jail, charged with domestic violence strangulation, elderly abuse, and robbery of his 81-year-old stepfather Willie McCall. Griffin was trying to get McCall to sign over his power of attorney-giving griffin access to his finances, vehicle, and estate. When McCall refused to sign...

"The stepson who's 56 years old threw him against the cabinet, knocked him to the floor, and when he was on the floor began to choke and strangle him then beat him in the face," said Burch.

The stepson didn't stop there. Before taking the keys of the victim’s car:

"The stepson made the victim take off his bloody clothes and change into other clothes in case anyone was to come over, took the bloody clothes with him," said Burch.

Unfortunately, what happened to Willie McCall is not uncommon in Alabama. Commissioner of the AL Department of Senior Services, Jean Brown, says it happens more than you think.

"11,000 cases reported. For every one of those reported cases, it's estimated that there are 23 cases that are ongoing and occurring that are never reported," said Brown. "11,000 would be just the tip of the iceberg."

Brown tells me it's common for an elder to be abused by someone close to them like a family member. It's hard to say how long willie McCall was enduring this abuse.

"What makes that so sad, is that quite often it’s very hard for a parent to report their son or daughter. They love their son or daughter and in addition to that if the son or daughter does not take care of them, they may not have anyone else," said Brown.

Burch says the incident occurred over a financial dispute and that McCall is okay. Commissioner Brown says financial abuse can be one that goes unrecognized because the victim may not be aware that someone taking advantage of them.

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Friday, August 5, 2022

‘Ferris Bueller’s Edie McClurg’s Conservator Says She’s a Possible Victim of Elder Abuse

“Ferris Bueller” star Edie McClurg, 77, suffers from dementia and now her legal team is fighting to get a man who has been living with her out of her home.

In documents filed on Tuesday as a request for a temporary restraining order, McClurg’s lawyers said a man named Michael Ramos claims to be McClurg’s “long time friend” and was able to “ingratiate himself into (her) life while she was battling dementia.”

McClurg’s team wrote that Ramos is unemployed and “was able to finagle his way into (McClurg’s) home even though he has never paid any rent or expenses.”

The complaint also claims Ramos tried to take McClurg, who is under a conservatorship, out of the state of California “in order to marry her when he knew she lacked capacity.”

A 2019 court order mandated Ramos not go through with the nuptials, but allowed him to keep living with McClurg, according to documents obtained by TODAY.

The complaint says the two have “never been romantically involved,” but that a caretaker for McClurg filed a criminal complaint against Ramos that accused him of assaulting her in McClurg’s home “on more than one occasion.”

Per the complaint, the caretaker also reported she is concerned Ramos “either has been or may be currently assaulting (McClurg) in a similar manner and that given her diagnosis of dementia, she may not even realize that it has been or is occurring.”

The complaint goes on to say that even if Ramos is not abusing McClurg, his presence is “causing severe emotional distress and mental suffering.”

Ramos’ lawyer denied that he was abusive to the caretaker or McClurg.

“These are false allegations brought about by Ms. McClurg’s conservator and her counsel who have made it their mission to overturn orders issued by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowing Ms. McClurg’s long-term companion/fiancé to continue to reside with her at her home,” Estelle & Kennedy, A Professional Law Corporation, told TODAY in a statement. “Despite the seriousness of the allegations, we are not aware of any criminal charges pending against this individual, nor do we expect there to be any.”

Last month, McClurg’s legal team filed a petition to remove Ramos from the property following the allegations of the caretaker. In his response to the petition, Ramos denied that he had been abusive to either woman.

“Angelique Cabral (McClurg’s conservator) wants me to be removed from the residence and uses mere lies and speculation that I have harmed or may harm Edie and that is a lie that I cannot live with and must defend,” Ramos said in his response, in part. “I did not harm Edie McClurg and I would not harm Edie McClurg.”

In 2017, according to court documents, McClurg’s doctors found that she was “no longer able to handle her own affairs given severe cognitive dysfunction, is not capable of living alone without supervision and assistance, and is especially vulnerable to undue influence given her poor judgment and evident dementia (likely due to Alzheimer’s disease).” She was then placed under a conservatorship in February 2019.

McClurg’s legal team declined to speak to TODAY.

Ramos is next slated to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 25 for the restraining order case.

McClurg has a lengthy and varied resume in Hollywood. She appeared in famous films such as “Carrie” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and television classics like “The Hogan Family.” She was also a prolific voice actor, lending her voice to characters in many animated films like “Frozen,” “Cars” and “A Bug’s Life.” 

Full Article & Source:

Fraud victimization tied to elevated BP in older men

By Regina Schaffer
Melissa Lamar

Older men without dementia who self-reported fraud victimization were more likely to experience significant increases in BP over time compared with men who did not report being victims of fraud, researchers reported.

Approximately 5 million older Americans per year experience financial exploitation, fraudulent schemes or scams, and financial losses are difficult for older adults to recover due to limited earning opportunities and shorter time horizons, Melissa Lamar, PhD, professor and clinical neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In addition to economic consequences, data show elder fraud may be associated with increased hospitalizations, admittance to skilled nursing facilities and lower 5-year survival rates.

‘Important public health consequences’

“These findings show that fraud victimization has important public health consequences and underscore the need for efforts to prevent exploitation,” Lamar told Healio. “Our work points toward the need to consider more stringent BP monitoring in older men after incident fraud victimization. We also need to expand this work to include greater racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.”

Lamar and colleagues analyzed data from 1,211 older adults participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing cohort study on aging initiated in 1997 (mean age, 80 years; 75% women). A substudy introduced in 2010 included an annual assessment of fraud victimization. The decision-making assessment included a question asking participants if, in the past year, they were a victim of financial fraud or were told they were a victim of financial fraud. During up to 11 years of annual observation, participants also underwent serial BP measurements to calculate per visit averages of systolic and diastolic BP, mean arterial pressure (MAP) and pulse pressure. Researchers examined cross-sectional associations between baseline fraud victimization and BP, and then used longitudinal data to test the hypothesis that fraud victimization is associated with increases in BP after incident fraud.

Within the cohort, 83 participants reported experiencing fraud victimization.

In adjusted models, researchers found that fraud victimization was associated with increased systolic BP (P = .04), diastolic BP (P = .007), and MAP (P = .01) compared with non-victimization. Fraud victimization was not associated with pulse pressure.

In longitudinal change point analyses, researchers found that fraud victimization was associated with elevations in BP among men but not women.

“For example, compared to pre-fraud BP levels for women, men showed an additional annual pre-fraud decline in systolic BP of 0.6 mm Hg, resulting in a total estimated annual rate of decline of 0.87 mm Hg,” the researchers wrote. “In addition, the annual rate of change in BP increased by an estimated 1.46 mm Hg post-fraud. Similar post-fraud increases were seen for the other BP metrics.”

Role of emotional dysregulation

Older adults who are victims of fraud may develop elevations in BP either directly or indirectly due in part to concomitant emotional dysregulation shown to be associated with fraud victimization, including increased stress, anger and anxiety, the researchers wrote.

“In fact, more than half of financial fraud victims (53%) report experiencing socioemotional problems involving moderate to severe levels of distress,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers noted that the study was conducted in an almost exclusively non-Hispanic white population of fraud victims and non-victims, with most reporting high levels of education, adding that more research is needed on fraud victimization among underrepresented groups while factoring in neighborhood deprivation status and social determinants of health.

Full Article & Source:

Police: Caregiver exploited elderly Little Compton woman

by: Sarah Doiron

LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Police have arrested a Providence woman who’s accused of taking advantage of an elderly Little Compton resident.

Jahlena Ann Giron, 33, has been charged with exploitation of an elder, larceny, forgery/counterfeiting and obtaining property under false pretenses.

The investigation began when a certified in-home caregiver told detectives she believed one of her clients was being defrauded.

The caregiver explained that the client’s other in-home caregiver, later identified as Giron, may have withdrawn money from the elderly woman’s bank accounts, according to police.

Detectives learned Giron had taken the victim to the BayCoast Bank bank in Westport. The two walked into the bank, according to police, and the victim was there as Giron withdrew $300 from the woman’s bank account. Immediately after that transaction, police said Giron withdrew an additional $300 from the victim’s account at the bank’s ATM.

This wasn’t the only time Giron was accused of withdrawing money from the woman’s account. Police said on a separate occasion, Giron cashed a check from the victim for $3,500 at the BayCoast Bank branch in Cranston.

Giron then attempted to cash another check for $4,800 through a Capitol One online service, police said, but that check was flagged as suspicious and not processed.

Detectives confirmed with the victim’s family that Giron was not authorized to withdraw money from her bank accounts. Police said it was later determined that both checks were forged, and a third check had also been taken from the victim but hadn’t been cashed.

Giron turned herself into the Little Compton Police Department last Monday, where she was arraigned and released. Police said she will appear in Newport District Court at a later date.

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Thursday, August 4, 2022

Let Archie Live: 12 yr-old will die if doctors withdraw care

Can you imagine having to fight in court so that doctors don't withdraw treatment from your child? That's the position Archie Battersbee's parents are in as his hospital seeks to end his care.

Archie's mom, Hollie, has repeatedly said that only God should decide when her son passes from this life.

Join a global movement speaking up for Archie - tell the court that no doctor, judge, or politician should decide when a child dies. 

SIGN: Archie's parents have a right to seek treatment abroad

In a story that has gripped hearts around the world, Archie Battersbee was two hours from death this morning when a last-ditch application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was lodged to prevent his hospital from withdrawing treatment.

He has been on life-support since a tragic accident at home in April, but his parents have recorded footage of their son moving his hands and gripping their fingers - contrary to claims he is "brain-stem dead". 

At least two countries have offered to continue Archie's treatment, a move his parents would be happy to pursue, but health chiefs in the UK refuse to allow him to even be transferred to hospice care.

A UN committee has also stepped in to urge the hospital not to withdraw treatment, but the matter now rests with the ECHR. 

WATCH: Archie's mom pleads for her son's care to continue

We must ensure the court knows of the untold suffering this has caused Archie's Mom and Dad, both of whom should have been spared this draining fight to keep their son alive.

Please speak up for Archie today - SIGN and SHARE this important petition to the European Court of Human Rights.

Yours faithfully,

The LifeSiteNews Advocacy Team


Tuscumbia woman charged with stealing nearly $50,000 from elderly man

By Jessica Barnett

A Tuscumbia woman faces one count of financial exploitation of the elderly after allegedly stealing thousands from an elderly man.

A Colbert County grand jury indicted 36-year-old Kristen Lee Polenik on the charge March 9, though records show she wasn't arrested until July 30.

The indictment says Polenik took $47,807 from the man. Polenik was released from jail the day of her arrest on $15,000 bond.

Arraignment has been set for Sept. 8.

Full Article & Source:

Kim's View on Her Guardianship

@meedearned2021 #freekimmarieedwards #guardianshipabuse #freedom #restorationofrights #restorationofrights ♬ original sound - missy tee😌❤️

Kim's View on Her Guardianship

See Also:
Help My Sister Restore Her Human Rights

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Roscommon guardianship case probed by Michigan State Police

By Mardi Link

Caregiver Pauline Richards, Kay McGinnis and McGinnis’ sister, Peggy Olsen, on July 20 in McGinnis’s room at The Brook, an assisted living facility in Roscommon. The women were engaged in an impromptu strategy session in advance of an upcoming hearing where guardianship for McGinnis is expected to be decided by a judge.
Record-Eagle/Mardi Link

ROSCOMMON — In March 2016, when Kay McGinnis, 82, suffered a life-threatening stroke and was hospitalized, her close-knit family quickly rallied.

McGinnis’ sisters, Peggy Olsen, 87, and Loreli Haddad, 83, encouraged her to work hard in speech and physical therapy sessions and gave her moral support.

McGinnis’ son and daughter both lived out of state, and McGinnis’ longtime partner, John Kutz, agreed to be named as a court-appointed guardian and conservator.

Kutz, 69, did a good job of handling McGinnis’ finances, court documents show, visiting her at Munson Hospital in Grayling and keeping a close eye on her progress at Grayling Nursing and Rehab.

“We had no complaints with John,” Haddad said. “He was really good to her.”

It took several months, but Kutz’s attentiveness, and encouragement from family, paid off.

McGinnis moved back into her Stuckey Avenue home near Higgins Lake, with the brick fireplace and the cheery yellow kitchen. Her health improved, she began preparing meals and handling household chores, with Kutz continuing to manage her finances.

By 2018, McGinnis accomplished something Michigan probate court records, reviewed by Record-Eagle reporters in more than a dozen counties, show that many with court-appointed oversight do not achieve: She maintained her autonomy.

“It was good, it was my life,” McGinnis recalled recently, during an emotion-filled interview at the Brook of Roscommon, the assisted living facility where McGinnis is currently staying.

That good life was also temporary.

Because, just as McGinnis was regaining some of the abilities she had lost with the stroke, Kutz was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died in 2019, and McGinnis was not only grief-stricken, her daily life was thrown into disarray.

A series of court-appointed successor guardians and conservators followed Kutz’s death, upending McGinnis’ finances, her living arrangements, the fate of her household possessions and even the location of Kutz’s ashes following his cremation.

“In the last three years, Kay has lost her life insurance policy, she’s lost her disability coverage, they sold her house and we don’t even know how much of the money is left,” Olsen said.

Jessica Starlin-Ronin, of Cadillac, succeeded Kutz, court records show, but was permitted to resign after a family friend and one of McGinnis’ caregivers, Mary “Minnie” Lovely, filed a petition with the court, stating a personal TCF Bank savings account wasn’t listed in McGinnis’ assets.

Starlin-Ronin did not return a call seeking comment.

Lovely, of Grayling, succeeded Starlin-Ronin, court records show, and in February was arraigned in 82nd District Court, on one count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 and less than $20,000 from a vulnerable adult.

Lovely’s arraignment followed a Michigan State Police investigation into accusations that Lovely spent nearly $9,000 of McGinnis’ money on a Tracfone and lottery tickets, and made large withdrawals from McGinnis’ bank account at an ATM located inside an unnamed casino.

Calls to a cell phone number listed for Lovely in court documents was not returned. An 82nd District Court official said Lovely missed a March 2 court hearing, triggering issuance of a failure-to-appear bench warrant.

Lovely also is accused in court records of not making McGinnis’ mortgage payments, which prompted foreclosure proceedings by TCF Bank, for not paying premiums on a life insurance policy which TransAmerica Inc. later canceled, and of not re-securing $900 a month in disability benefits, which temporarily ceased when McGinnis was undergoing Medicaid-covered rehab at a nursing home.

Four months after Kutz died, the probate court sent Lovely a deficiency notice, stating she did not file the required annual accounting of McGinnis’ assets.

Days later, a judge appointed a guardian ad litem to visit McGinnis and check on her welfare.

“Kay said she has had no contact with her current guardian and conservator Mary Lovely, for several months,” David Vogel wrote in a Nov. 19, 2021, GAL report. “Kay has not received any money for food or help from Mary Lovely and does not know if her bills are being paid.”

State police documents state that, during this time, McGinnis was paying for groceries with nickels and dimes from a change jar.

MSP Sgt. Ashley Miller said she could not comment on specific cases, but said officers do seek all financial documents when investigating vulnerable adult embezzlement cases, whether these are provided voluntarily or require a search warrant.

“These cases are disheartening and I do think the community feels for them,” Miller said of victims like McGinnis. “Be vigilant, stay in communication with the elderly, if you feel that something is suspicious, definitely contact the authorities.”

Sheila Englehardt, of St. Helen, has since replaced Lovely as McGinnis’ guardian/conservator, and her court filings show she helped uncover Lovely’s questionable spending.

But McGinnis and her sisters have questions for Englehardt, who they say hasn’t returned their phone calls or provided to them an accounting of McGinnis’ assets.

In March, Englehardt sought and received court permission to sell McGinnis’ Stuckey Avenue home for $194,900, to end foreclosure proceedings and protect the equity McGinnis had in the home. McGinnis’ family estimates this was between $45,000 and $55,000 — after a $113,000 mortgage was paid off and taxes, utility bills, closing costs and other fees were settled.

Calls to Englehardt seeking comment went unanswered.

A recording stated her voice mailbox was full and couldn’t receive messages.

Haddad in June filed a petition to have Englehardt removed and asked the court to either terminate the appointment altogether or name McGinnis as her own guardian and conservator.

“She’s been taken advantage of by monetary issues — stolen & unwisely spent!” Haddad said, in a June 30 handwritten court filing. “Loss of life insurance, furniture, mail & many other issues!”

A hearing on the petition is scheduled Aug. 8 in Roscommon Probate Court.

All three sisters say they plan to attend, although question whether any of them, including McGinnis who is still considered a ward of the court, will be provided with legal representation.

“Doesn’t the state, or the county, or somebody at the court have responsibility for this?” Olsen asked.

The short answer is no.

The longer answer is more complex.

In Michigan, elected probate court judges appoint guardians and conservators to handle medical, housing and financial decisions for people who, a judge has decided, can no longer make these decisions for themselves.

Judges rely on staff with social service organizations, such as Adult Protective Services and Community Mental Health, to make recommendations, both on who needs a guardian or conservator, and on who should be appointed to the job.

Michigan probate courts are only responsible for monitoring whether guardians and conservators file financial and other documents on time and that these documents are sent to “interested parties” such as McGinnis’ sisters.

Family and friends can serve as guardians and conservators, as can professionals, although the pay is often negligible for all but those who serve the wealthy.

For Medicaid clients who live in an AFC home or a nursing home, or for those living at home on Social Security, court-appointed guardians and conservators are supposed to be paid a flat fee between $83 and $95 a month.

Yet in dozens of interviews conducted over the past year, guardians and conservators, and the social workers and case managers who work alongside them, say they often don’t bill, because those they are appointed to serve simply cannot afford to pay.

For example, Lee Storch of Guardian Services of Northwest Michigan in Traverse City — who has no role in the Roscommon case — said her firm provides the same level of service whether clients can pay or not.

“Nine times out of 10, for the clients who can’t pay, we’re their last stop,” Storch said. “If not for us, who would be helping them? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know if there is an answer.”

An overview of 15,000 guardianship cases compiled by the Michigan Guardianship Association prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, shows member guardians charged no fee for their services in 38 percent of cases, charged the monthly flat fee in 59 percent of cases and charged by the hour in just 3 percent of cases.

In 2017, legislative records show leaders with the state Department of Health and Human Services first began experimenting with a plan to cut the flat monthly fee by a few dollars and funnel the aggregate into an account in the state’s 2018/2019 FY budget, to reimburse county governments for up to 50 percent of what they were paying guardians.

The problem with this plan is most counties in Michigan do not fund public guardianship offices and do not pay guardians or conservators out of their county budget.

Subsequent efforts by DHHS to revive this concept, seemingly to entice more counties to open public guardian offices, have either failed or not made it into the approved annual state budget, records show.

Elected officials have studied ways to reform state guardianship laws since at least the mid-1990s, with little success.

Whether legislation proposed after discussion and study by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force will pass into law, and, if passed, whether it will actually do more to protect the rights and assets of people like McGinnis, remains to be seen.

Two of the task force’s many initiatives have so far been accomplished: Banks must now report fraud of vulnerable adults when they become aware of it and there’s a new form for law enforcement to use when reporting that fraud.

The fate of the other initiatives — including certification of guardians and conservators – is tied to proposed legislation discussed earlier this summer during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Storch said increased burdens on professional guardians with no funding attached, could put some companies out of business.

Olsen, a straight-talker and the oldest of McGinnis’ two sisters, said she is not optimistic the system can be repaired.

“It can be someone you trusted, but without someone checking on them, these court appointments are like a license to steal,” Olsen said. “Don’t think this won’t affect you. If you’re old, trying not to become a ward of the court is almost an impossibility in this state.”

For now, McGinnis is safe and well-cared-for at the Brook, her sisters said, where staff have helped move her belongings out of an expensive storage unit and into a secure garage and have made sure her medications are up to date.

The day-to-day financial issues continue, however.

“Kay’s credit is shot so she can’t even get cable,” Haddad said. “Kay likes to watch sports, the Tigers, the Lions, but all she can get now is one cooking show.”

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Florida Supreme Court has recently disciplined 19 attorneys

Leslie H. Smith, spokesperson for the Department of Lawyer Regulation of The Florida Bar informed local Historic City News reporters that the Florida Supreme Court has recently disciplined 18 attorneys, suspending eight, reprimanding six, and revoking the licenses of four.

Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

Summaries of orders issued from May 20, 2022, to July 21, 2022

Timmy W. Cox, Sr., 7401 S.W. 16th St., Plantation, suspended effective immediately following a July 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2014) Cox failed to respond to official Bar inquiries. The Bar filed its Petition for Contempt and Order to Show Cause on April 29. The Florida Supreme Court ordered Cox to show cause by May 18. Cox failed to file a response to the court’s Order to Show Cause. (Case No: SC22-598)

James F. Feuerstein, III, 22724 Stallion Dr., Sorrento, disbarred effective immediately per a July 21 court order as Feuerstein is currently suspended for 91 days (by court order dated April 21). (Admitted to practice: 1987) Feuerstein failed to respond to official Bar inquiries in three separate Bar matters and failed to file a response to the Court’s Order to Show Cause. (Case No: SC22-618)

John Hadsall, 18198 3rd St. E., Redington Shores, disbarred, effective 30 days following a July 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1980) Hadsall was found to have improperly transferred assets from the estate of his mother for personal use. He failed to show by clear, satisfactory, and convincing evidence that he acted in good faith throughout the transactions and failed to show that his mother acted freely, intelligently, and voluntarily in gifting him funds from her accounts. Hadsall subsequently attempted to render himself judgment proof to thwart the estate’s attempt to recoup the funds. (Case No: SC21-1444)

Melanie L. Johnson, 4790 Longbow Dr., Titusville, disbarred effective immediately following a July 14 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Johnson misappropriated client funds. In response to the Bar’s request for records needed to perform a compliance audit of her law office trust account, Johnson reconstructed her records and submitted records to the Bar that contained false and misleading information. (Case No: SC21-1675)

Bradley Nephase Laurent, 8615 Commodity Circle, Suite 6, Orlando, emergency suspended effective 30 days following a July 14 court order but to cease accepting new clients as of July 14. (Admitted to practice: 2005) Laurent misappropriated client funds from his law office trust account, some of which he repaid from the proceeds of a Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan he obtained on behalf of his law firm for COVID-19 relief. (Case No: SC22-851)

James Santos Wilkie, 1333 S. Ocean Blvd., Suite 1323, Pompano Beach, emergency suspended effective immediately following a July 19 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Wilkie misappropriated client settlement funds and made misrepresentations to the Bar during their investigation.  (Case No: SC22-911)

William J. Cantrell, 401 E. Jackson St., Suite 2340, Tampa, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a June 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Cantrell filed two lawsuits against a third party after he became aware that his girlfriend was involved in an affair with that person. One lawsuit was filed on his own behalf and the other was filed on behalf of Cantrell’s girlfriend. By representing himself and his girlfriend in issues with substantially the same facts and issues, Cantrell engaged in a potential conflict of interest. Cantrell engaged in unprofessional behavior towards the third party and his family. (Case No: SC22-693)

Martha Ann Chapman, P.O. Box 536924, Orlando, public reprimand by publication and completion of Trust Accounting Workshop effective immediately following a June 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1994) Chapman failed to provide a client with an accounting upon demand detailing how she had spent the retainer he paid for the legal work performed, and she failed to adequately communicate with the client after the case was settled. Chapman also failed to provide the client with all the settlement funds he was owed in a timely manner and, as a result, the Bar conducted an audit of Chapman’s attorney trust account. The audit revealed Chapman failed to maintain her trust account in substantial minimum compliance with the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. The trust account had a shortage that Chapman corrected. There was no evidence of intentional misappropriation of client funds. (Case No: SC22-340)

Melissa A. Giasi, 400 N. Ashley Dr., Suite 1900, Tampa, public reprimand by publication, attendance at Ethics School, a written apology letter to Judge Muscarella, and payment of Bar costs effective immediately following a May 26 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) During the representation of a client, Giasi made two statements to the court, one in writing and one during a court hearing, that were inaccurate. Upon becoming aware that the statements were erroneous, Giasi took steps to correct any misunderstandings by sending a letter to the judge clarifying the statements, filing an amended motion, and withdrawing from the representation. (Case No: SC21-1637)

Joseph Wimbert Gibson Jr., 19 W. Flagler St., Suite 417, Miami, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a June 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1982) Gibson continued representing a client after being discharged and delayed the reimbursement of the unused portion of the retainer, as the client requested. After some time, Gibson refunded the entire retainer, less one hour of work, although he maintained he was terminated without cause. (Case No: SC21-1716)

Wendy Arlene Hausmann, 20283 State Road 7, Suite 400, Boca Raton, public reprimand by publication and one year of probation effective immediately following a June 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Hausmann engaged in a conflict of interest regarding her representation of a business organization/client. Hausmann loaned funds to the client without requiring interest and failed to ensure that a promissory note was executed nor advised the client to seek independent counsel. Later, the client began an investigation of its former board member for misappropriation. Civil litigation then occurred, and Hausmann represented the former board member in some of those proceedings. In several instances, when the former board member appeared pro se, Hausmann assisted him with the pleadings and failed to ensure that the pleadings noted that they were prepared with the assistance of counsel. The trial court judge ultimately disqualified Hausmann due to the conflict. Hausmann appealed the trial court’s order disqualifying her as counsel and the non-final order was affirmed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. (Case No: SC22-687)

Beresford A. Landers, Jr., 3939 NW 19th St., Lauderdale Lakes, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a June 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) Landers engaged in a conflict of interest and was disqualified as counsel by the trial court for assisting the wife in filing a pro se petition for dissolution of marriage and then later appearing as counsel for the husband in the dissolution of marriage and injunction cases filed. During the final hearing, Landers used the information against the wife that he had gained previously while assisting her. Landers admitted to printing the necessary dissolution of marriage forms for the wife, filling out the forms for her after she failed to write dark enough on the forms, and assisting her in obtaining the notarization of certain documents. Landers also conceded that he drove her to the courthouse to file the documents and then filed the documents for her. Landers was not paid for his assistance to the wife and ultimately refunded his legal fee to the husband. (Case No: SC22-689)

Jonathan Benjamin Lewis, 110 SE 6th St., Suite 1700, Fort Lauderdale, suspended effective 30 days following a June 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2007) Lewis failed to respond in writing to the official Bar inquiry and failed to respond to the Court’s Order to Show Cause dated May 2, 2022. (Case No: SC22-592)

Andrew John Manie, P.O. Box 720236, Orlando, suspended for six months and four years of probation effective 30 days following a June 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2015) In September 2019, Manie responded to an advertisement posted on an escort website and committed a sexual act with a woman in exchange for money. At that time, Manie, who was 30 years old at the time, believed he was meeting with an escort that was over the age of 18. The individual was in fact 17 years and 9 months of age. Pursuant to a grant of immunity, Manie was not criminally prosecuted for the offense. (Case No: SC22-706)

Robert Pereda, 1420 Celebration Blvd., Suite 200, Celebration, emergency suspended effective immediately following a June 17 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2010) Pereda appears to be causing great public harm by misappropriating several clients’ trust funds and using them for his own benefit or the benefit of his firm; Pereda is believed to have abandoned his law practice; has abused the legal process and has failed to respond to the Bar’s subpoena and requests for information. (Case No: SC22-770)

Juan Manuel Saldivar Jr., P.O. Box 17500, Clearwater, suspended for 60 days effective 30 days following a June 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2013) Saldivar, as an attorney for the state of Florida in a criminal proceeding, filed a verified motion to disqualify the trial containing misrepresentations and inappropriately calling into question the integrity of the trial judge. Further, Saldivar engaged in improper discovery practices. (Case No: SC22-691)

Gus Vincent Soto, P.O. Box 13979, Tallahassee, disciplinary revocation without leave to apply for readmission and payment of restitution effective immediately following a June 16 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Soto was previously emergency suspended from the practice of law on April 20 for misappropriating settlement funds from multiple clients for more than $390,000. (Case No: SC22-505)

Tarya Arnshelic Tribble, 6328 US Highway 301 S., Riverview, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a June 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1999) Tribble was engaged in foreclosure litigation concerning commercial property which she used as her law office. During the foreclosure litigation, Tribble and her counsel engaged in conduct that improperly delayed the litigation. Twice during the foreclosure litigation, Tribble filed bankruptcy which stayed the foreclosure proceedings. Both bankruptcies were subsequently dismissed. (Case No: SC21-1606)

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.

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Mae Amburgey saved from flooded Kentucky home thanks to viral photo

By Irie Sentner

This picture ended up being a lifesaver.

An elderly woman stuck inside her Eastern Kentucky home as floods ravaged the area was saved after her granddaughter posted an image to social media of her sitting in a bedroom, surrounded by waist-deep water.

Mae Amburgey, 98, tried to call for help but “nobody was answering,” her granddaughter, Missy Crovetti, told Fox Weather

Mae Amburgey
98-year-old Mae Amburgey was saved from her flooded home after a picture of her in distress went viral. twitter via @ShawnRenoylds

“Out of desperation,” Crovetti turned to Facebook, posting the photo of Amburgey inside her Whitesburg home “with hope in [her] heart.” The image soon went viral. 

A video of Amburgey’s rescue shows a safety team wading through neck-deep water, just feet from her home’s roofline. 

Amburgey is “banged up pretty hard” but doing “remarkably well” in the hospital and is “determined to go home,” Crovetti said. 

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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Alameda County Grand Jury Report Cites Probate Conservatorship Cries Out for Reform

Alameda County needs a radical transformation in the way legal defense services are provided, said Venus Gist, a ‘Shout Out Justice’ advocate. “As things now stand, these services almost always result in a conservatorship being granted. There are no trials. No appeals. Less restrictive alternatives are not seriously explored,” she went on.

Probate Advocate Venus Gist says, “Alameda County needs a radical transformation in the way legal defense services are provided.”

By Tanya Dennis

Last week, the Alameda County Grand Jury released its final report on the Alameda County Probate Court and found numerous deficiencies that have been criticized by probate reform groups for decades.

The Grand Jury found that:

  • Probate Court staff is severely overworked and understaffed;
  • The Public Defender’s office has no monitoring system to ascertain the service it renders to beneficiaries to assure their needs are addressed;
  • Guardians are not provided formal training;
  • There is no formal grievance process;
  • Beneficiaries who are poor do not get the same level of service as those with means
  • Involuntary conservatorship can drain estates quickly because of lack of oversight.

The Grand Jury report has given hope to probate reform advocates, who have been protesting these deficiencies for years with little or no success.

Spectrum Institute has been calling for Probate Court reform for eight years, especially in regard to beneficiaries with disabilities.

“The report of the Grand Jury sends a signal to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors that the status quo of unnecessary and overreaching conservatorships must end,” said Spectrum Institute Director Tom Coleman. “In terms of the responsibility to stop conservatorship abuses, the buck stops with the Board of Supervisors.’

Coleman suggested that the board should look to Nevada for solutions. “It should adopt a new system for providing legal defense services to seniors and people with disabilities who are targeted by these proceedings,” he said.

Recommendations from the Grand Jury are that the Alameda County Defender’s office transfer the responsibility of conservatorship to a separate agency with a contract specifying standards be met in order to receive funding from the County.

The Grand Jury is also advocating for a “Zealous Advocate,” a legal representative who assures that the desires of the conservatee are addressed.

Conserved involuntarily, Katherine Carter had to be ‘kidnapped’ from a long-term care facility by her daughter, Venus Gist, a ‘Shout Out Justice’ advocate.

Carter had been neglected to the degree that the facility had arranged hospice care. Risking arrest and prosecution, Gist “illegally” removed her mother from the facility. Katherine Carter lived an additional four years after being given 3 to 6 months to live.

“As both an advocate and a victim of the probate court, I think it’s exceptional that the Grand Jury of Alameda County has finally filed a report addressing the issues of conservatorship within the Public Guardian’s Office,” Gist said. “Abusive conservatorships are occurring nationwide and seldom are public servants such as judges, attorneys, conservators, fiduciaries, etc. held accountable and convicted of criminal acts committed towards their clients.…. it’s rarely talked about, and families and caregivers are mostly blamed.”

Alameda County needs a radical transformation in the way legal defense services are provided., Gist said. “As things now stand, these services almost always result in a conservatorship being granted. There are no trials. No appeals. Less restrictive alternatives are not seriously explored,” she went on.

She agrees with Coleman that the board should hire an outside firm to audit the public defender and “look seriously at adopting the Nevada model for legal defense services in Alameda County.”

To prevent abuses such as the Carter family encountered, the Grand Jury recommends that a neutral third-party entity be selected to conduct annual reviews of conservatorships to assess attorney compliance and determine compliance with probate rules.

The Grand Jury also recommended that attorneys take ongoing educational training in probate conservatorship and establish annual performance evaluations. They also recommend that a licensed health professional evaluate each client.

Although encouraged by the Grand Jury report, Gist feels it did not go far enough and wishes they had interviewed citizens who have been violated. Gist says, “If they are investigating, conduct it thoroughly, it requires the whole truth.”

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Michigan judge violated conduct code for berating cancer patient over weeds, Judicial Tenure Commission says

By Amber Ainsworth

(Photo: 31st District Court)

- A Hamtramck judge who berated a cancer patient over his overgrown yard violated Michigan’s Code of Judicial Conduct, the Judicial Tenure Commission announced Monday.

The commission investigated Judge Alexis Krot over her treatment of a sick man in his 70s earlier this year. She had self-reported her conduct to the commission. 

Burhan Chowdhury was in court in January after his yard was cited for a code violation.

"Shameful!" Krot said. "If I could give you jail time on this, I would."

Chowdhury appeared to struggle with English during a hearing as his son tried to explain why the yard was messy. When he said that his father was "sick and weak," Krot raised her voice and asked if he had seen the photo of the blight.

Judge admonishes Hamtramck man for not cleaning up his yard

A district judge said the inaction by a Hamtramck man to clean up his yard was 'shameful' after he was cited by the city's code enforcement. He said that he wasn't able to clean it up because he's elderly and has cancer.

"You deprived Mr. Chowdhury of his right to provide his explanation for the overgrown vegetation; whether intended by you or not, your interaction caused him humiliation; and you reacted with excessive anger toward an individual appearing before you for the first time, and doing so for a minor infraction," the commission wrote to Krot in a letter last month.

Krot later apologized.

Neighbors said Chowdhury went back to native country of Bangladesh for about two months in the summer for his son's wedding, and that's when the yard started to get bad.

Chowdhury was ordered to pay a $100 fine.

The commission noted that Krot has an "excellent discipline record," and said that her heavy docket or frustration with homeowners who neglect their properties may have contributed to her reaction.

The letter concluded by telling Krot that if there is future misconduct, the incident may be considered by the commission.

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2 women beat elderly woman, tell her to lie to deputies about who hurt her, Rowan County deputies say

by: Emily Mikkelsen

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A woman has been charged and another is wanted by the sheriff’s department for assaulting a woman and creating a false home invasion narrative.

Rowan County Sheriff’s Department says that they were called to Beagle Club Road by Carrie Elizabeth Dixon, who told deputies that she had come home to find her boyfriend’s 73-year-old mother badly beaten. Dixon told deputies that two men broke into the house and assaulted the woman.

She was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. 

Another woman was on the scene with Dixon as they investigated, initially identified as Katie Marie Poole. As detectives gathered evidence, concerns grew that the story was fake, according to a news release.

An updated release indicates that the second alleged assailant gave officers a false name and has been identified as Shirley Marie Burns.

Medical testing and testimony from the victim confirmed that the story was fake and that Dixon and Burns had attacked the woman. As deputies had investigated, Dixon and Burns had allegedly gone to the hospital to visit the victim and Burns left the hospital and was unable to be located.

Upon questioning, Dixon allegedly admitted to making up a story about two men attacking the victim and that she and Burns had done it. Investigators say that she planned the attack because of “how her boyfriend and his mother made her feel,” citing emotional and physical abuse.

Deputies say that they used a metal pipe and a broken piece of cinderblock to beat the elderly woman, then convinced the victim to lie to police about who attacked her. However, the victim told investigators the truth as soon as she felt she was safe enough to do so.

Dixon was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and felony obstruction of justice. Burns is wanted for the same charges and her last known address is Salisbury. Anyone who knows the location of Shirley Marie Burns is asked to call 911.

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