Saturday, September 24, 2022

‘Truly a Miracle’: Dancer Overcomes Brain Injury, Shares Story of Hope

by Kerry Clawson
(Akron Beacon Journal) – With every step, turn and bravura lift that professional ballet dancer Brian Murphy executed at a rehearsal with a dance partner in Akron earlier this month, he was thankful to be alive.

After suffering a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a bike accident in late June in Toledo and having lifesaving neurosurgery, he’s thrilled to be back dancing full-strength.

This weekend, he’ll be making his first public performance since his accident, as a guest dancer for Cleveland’s Dancing Wheels at the Big Umbrella Festival for neurodiverse audiences at the Lincoln Center in New York. Murphy has danced with Dancing Wheels, which integrates dancers of all abilities, for a year. CONTINUE

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Antipsychotics given to nearly 1 in 4 nursing home residents without diagnosis

The use of antipsychotic medications in long-term care homes spiked during COVID-19 lockdowns, newly obtained figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show, which says the drugs are being inappropriately prescribed to close to one in four residents.

Caregiver arrested for elderly abuse at Gainesville senior facility

By Alexus Goings 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Gainesville police arrested 24-year-old Daja Rutledge for elder abuse at Charter Senior Living on Southwest 62nd Boulevard on Monday.

Police say the victims were a 80-year-woman and a 82-year-old woman under the care of Rutledge.

One witness told police they saw Rutledge covering the nose and mouth of the 80-year-old resident with her hand after they heard the victim screaming.
 Rutledge told the witness that the elderly woman was yelling too loud.

Another witness said they walked in on Rutledge pinning the non verbal 82-year-old woman’s against a wall. According to the witness, Rutledge was upset the victim didn’t want to go to bed.

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, who is a resident in the area says she knew a resident of charter senior living and is disturbed by the allegations of abuse.

I had a neighbor who was in this place and I thought it was a good place,” said Simmons. “And I was very happy that he was there close to where his wife could just walk over and have meals with him. So, I’m terribly upset to hear this.

Rutledge denied physically harming the victims. 

The Charter Senior Living facility supervisor says the investigation is still pending and has no comment on the matter.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

Embattled nursing home owner Bob Dean could soon lose control over his affairs

Ruling may not affect Dean's criminal case, though a conservator could replace him in civil lawsuits


by John Simerman

Former Louisiana nursing home magnate Bob Dean could be stripped of control over his affairs in a pending Georgia court proceeding, according to attorneys involved in a slew of lawsuits over Dean’s botched evacuation of 843 patients last year for Hurricane Ida.

The move could cast Dean to the sidelines as lawyers weigh a proposed class-action settlement over the evacuation of seven south Louisiana nursing homes to a warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish, where conditions quickly soured and his patients languished for days.

It wouldn’t affect Dean’s need to answer to criminal charges he faces in both Louisiana and Oregon, said one Georgia legal expert.

Attorney H. Minor Pipes III, who is defending Dean over the lawsuits related to the evacuation, told plaintiffs’ attorneys that Dean was being “interdicted,” one of those attorneys told a judge in court on Tuesday.

Pipes declined to comment afterward, saying he wasn’t Dean’s lawyer in that process and hadn’t seen a court order. A probate court clerk in Fulton County, Georgia, said information about the case would remain sealed until a final decision. Dean’s attorney in Georgia, where he faces criminal charges over an incident in which he shot off his own thumb, and also a felony obstruction count, declined to comment. 

Dean, 68, has managed to avoid sitting for depositions over the ill-fated evacuation, which forced patients to sit in squalor while Dean ignored staff pleas for help and browbeat state health inspectors who were trying to intervene, records show.

His attorneys have fought to keep it that way, presenting evidence that Dean suffers from dementia.

In Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office booked Dean in June on eight counts of cruelty to the infirm, five counts of Medicaid fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Dean’s seven nursing homes all remain shuttered, having been seized by lenders. After state health officials pulled his licenses to run them shortly after the evacuation, Dean quickly got behind on a mountain of debt, court records show.

In Georgia, judges may name a guardian or conservator if they find an adult “lacks sufficient capacity to make or communicate significant responsible decisions concerning the management of his or her property.”

Mary Radford, a law professor emerita at Georgia State University who authored a textbook on guardianships and conservatorships in Georgia, said the law means “the adult loses his right to bring or defend any action” in court, except for the conservatorship.

“He’s also going to lose the right to make contracts, which means he couldn’t settle” lawsuits, Radford said.

A conservator would take Dean’s place in the civil lawsuits, but criminal courts judges make their own calls on whether defendants are competent to stand trial, Radford said.

“The mere fact that he has become a ward does not mean these actions can’t proceed against him,” Radford said. “There will be judicial proceedings. He may not be participating in the same way.”

Radford noted that probate judges can also limit a conservator’s power, leaving the ward with some agency.

Monica Hof Wallace, a Loyola University law professor, said a Georgia ruling to place Dean under a conservatorship wouldn’t restrain civil court judges in Louisiana from making their own decisions over his ability to sit for depositions.

“The trial judge gets to decide,” she said.

Suzette Bagneris, an attorney for several plaintiffs suing Dean over the evacuation, raised the specter of lengthy delays from an interdiction as she lobbied Tuesday for swift approval of a proposed settlement to cover all of the evacuated residents or their family members.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys jousted Tuesday over the proposed settlement, which is pegged at $13 million to $15 million. That money, to be paid out by Dean’s insurance companies, might average around $13,000 per patient after attorneys fees under the proposed deal.

More than a dozen residents died in the aftermath of the evacuations, though coroners have classified only five as "storm-related.” Bagneris claimed Tuesday that at least 100 and possibly up to 200 of Dean’s former residents have since passed away.

Attorney Rob Couhig, who is leading the push to settle, argued that time is wasting for those who suffered at the warehouse. Couhig said few other Dean assets have turned up to add to the amount.

“We went and found all the insurance that’s there,” Couhig said. “Many of these people will continue to die. Many of these people will continue to become more infirm.”

Morris Bart, whose firm represents scores of Dean’s former patients or their families, has objected to the proposed settlement, however, along with a few other attorneys who claim they were blindsided by it.

They argue that Couhig and others are trying to ramrod through a deal that may not be in the best interests of the plaintiffs and lets Dean off the financial hook.

Bart claimed Tuesday that he’s found nearly $8 million in equity on Dean‘s other properties that the settlement ignores. He pleaded with District Judge Michael Mentz for more time to flesh it out.

“How do I go tell 180 clients (that) Bob Dean, despite the misery and death he’s caused, is going to walk away from this and not pay one dollar, and continue to live in his mansion?” Bart said. “It’s so patently unfair.”

Mentz delayed a hearing to debate the proposed settlement until Nov. 2.

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Anne Heche's Estate Battle Boils Over With New Accusations

By Cory Parker
Hollywood's still reeling over the tragic death of Anne Heche, and although the actor found a final resting place among her Hollywood peers, it looks as if the legal battle over her estate has only just begun. Heche left behind two sons from two different relationships: Homer Laffoon, 20, whom she shared with Coley Laffoon, and Atlas Tupper, 13, whom she shared with James Tupper. Multiple outlets have reported that the actor didn't have a will at the time of her death, setting the stage for a courtroom quarrel between Homer, who's seeking control of his mother's estate, and James, who alleges that Heche wanted him in charge.

Earlier this month, we exclusively reported on the legal hurdles Homer could face in his bid to take control of his mother's estate. Now, as the battle over boils over, a legal expert is discussing Homer's chance of success in commentary obtained by Nicki Swift.

Anne Heche's eldest son, Homer Laffoon, filed a petition in late August asking to be named legal executor of his mother's estate. However, according to new legal documents obtained by TMZ, James Tupper believes he's the rightful executor of Heche's estate. Not only that, but the "Men in Trees" actor also says Homer "is not suitable" for the role, noting that the 20-year-old is unemployed and was estranged from his mother at the time of her death.

The court has appointed Homer as a special administrator of the estate, but according to legal commentary obtained by Nicki Swift, that could change within a matter of weeks. "The court will hold a hearing to determine if Homer should remain special administrator," said Ryan Sellers, founding partner at Dallas, Texas-based Hales & Sellers PLLC, adding that Homer cannot "do any harm" as he is without the authority to take possession of property belonging to the estate in his role.

"I would still expect the estate to end up with a neutral third party as its principal administrator, unless Homer will agree to James Tupper's appointment in the interest of saving expenses," he added. According to the legal expert, Homer has a slim chance of being appointed to administer the assets of the estate, and if reports that he locked his 13-year-old brother out of an apartment owned by the estate are true, it could be virtually impossible.
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Turlock police arrest TID manager, wife on financial elder abuse charges

By Ken Carlson

Turlock police have arrested a collections manager at Turlock Irrigation District and his wife on financial elder abuse charges. 
Kevin Edwards, 55, and Andrea Bodine-Edwards, 53, were arrested Thursday and booked in Stanislaus County jail. 
Edwards faces charges of burglary, financial elder abuse and embezzlement. Bail was set at $85,000. Bodine-Edwards could be charged with financial elder abuse and embezzlement. Her bail was set at $35,000.
In a news release, Turlock police said detectives began an investigation in March after the elderly victim reported he was being defrauded. 
“The investigation revealed an intricate scheme to obtain control of the victim’s finances in an apparent effort to defraud the victim out of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the news release said.
Police said Edwards, a credit and collections manager for the irrigation district, met the alleged victim in May 2021 after the elderly man sought assistance with his TID account. 
According to investigators, Edwards befriended the man and proceeded to gain control of his life. 
Detectives obtained multiple search warrants during the course of the investigation, which produced an extensive paper trail of evidence, the news release said.
Edwards was arrested Thursday during a traffic stop near his home. His wife was arrested in front of their home without incident. 
Bodine-Edwards is not a TID employee and has never worked for the utility, a district spokeswoman said. 
“We continue to focus our efforts on these types of crimes to identify and prosecute those who victimize our elderly residents,” Turlock Detective Jason Tosta said.

The detective said anyone with information about the case, or who might have also been victimized by Edwards or Bodine-Edwards may contact police. 
TID spokeswoman Constance Anderson said Edwards was immediately placed on administrative leave, and his access to TID’s system was revoked, when the district was made aware of the criminal investigation. The district has cooperated with the police investigation, Anderson said. 
TID hired a third party investigator for its own internal and personnel investigation. Anderson said the district will decide what additional action to take when the investigation is completed. 
“It is an ongoing investigation by Turlock police,” Anderson said. “We don’t have any further comment.” 
Police suspect there may be other people who were defrauded by the married couple. Anyone with information may call Detective Tosta at 209-664-7324 or call the police department’s tip line at 209-668-5550, ext. 6780. Another option is sending an email to 
Callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at 209-521-4636.
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Thursday, September 22, 2022

In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians

Photographer: Photoillustration by Jaci Lubliner Kessler. Photos: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection (2), Courtesy The Frederick and Addie Drummond House

Orphaned as a boy, Myron Bangs Jr. was under the guardianship of Drummond brothers for more than a decade. In episode four, hear about the alarms he raised to the US government and the paper trail he left behind.

Listen to In Trust on iHeartApple PodcastSpotify

In Trust, an investigative podcast from Bloomberg News and iHeartMedia, is a story about family, oil and a system that moved wealth over decades — dollar by dollar, acre by acre — and shapes this land to this day. This is the fourth episode and we encourage you to listen to the story from the beginning. Find previous episodes here. A transcript of this episode is available.

The Hominy Trading Company wasn’t the only way the Drummond brothers profited off Osage wealth. The US government had deemed Osages and other Native Americans incompetent, which meant they needed “guardians” to be put in charge of their financial affairs. 

Listen to the podcast here.

This system was billed as a way to protect Native American wealth from being swindled or squandered. But many times, guardians were in on the very schemes they were supposed to prevent. In the 1920s, the US government brought at least 20 lawsuits on behalf of Osage wards, alleging misdeeds by their guardians; these cases were settled without trial. Guardianship files in the local courthouse are kept under seal.

But one Osage man left behind a vivid look into the practice, thanks to the years he spent raising alarms about how his land and money were being managed. His name was Myron Bangs Jr. His guardians were Drummonds. 

Central figures

Photos: Courtesy OK Historical and Western Archives, Alamy, Courtesy FBI, Getty Images (2), Courtesy A.A. Jack Drummond Collection/University of Central Oklahoma Archives and Special Collections, Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society (2), Courtesy The Frederick and Addie Drummond House

Bangs was educated. He could fly an airplane and write searing letters to US officials. But in the eyes of the law he was incompetent, simply for being Osage. For more than 15 years starting in 1918, his finances were controlled by his guardians — first, Cecil Drummond, and later, Fred Gentner Drummond. 

Bangs didn’t trust his guardians. At one point, he even wrote the commissioner of Indian Affairs. “We are writing to you personally because we cannot get action elsewhere,” he said in a 1934 letter.

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
Bangs’s 1934 letter to the commissioner of Indian Affairs.
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

Years under guardianship

Later that year, he took matters into his own hands. He hired a lawyer named Paul Comstock and enlisted a team of accountants to audit his affairs. They came back with a five-page report, full of inconsistencies they encountered when combing through his finances. In 1935, Fred Gentner resigned. 

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
A letter written by Bangs asking the superintendent of the US government's Osage Agency to allow him to hire a lawyer to bring suit against his guardians.
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
A note from the collection of Bangs’s lawyer, Paul Comstock.
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
A letter certifying Bangs’s honorable discharge from the Army.
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

But the matter didn’t drop. Six years later, the US brought a case against Fred Gentner Drummond and his two brothers, accusing them of defrauding Bangs while they were supposed to be protecting his financial interests.

Present-day Osage County, Oklahoma

Sources: Parcel data on and geospatial files made available by the Osage County's Assessor's Office; Oklahoma Secretary of State, Osage County Courthouse

What a federal judge found, though, was something else entirely. The judge said the Drummond brothers were actually working to help Bangs  after he was orphaned at a young age, using the guardianship to shield his family’s land from the man who married his mother just months before she died. 

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
A 1960 telegram from Bangs, relaying news of his wedding and dealings with a later guardian, with the signoff: “I’m just a poor Osage.”
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

relates to In Trust: How One Osage Man Took On His Guardians
Myron Bangs Jr. in Santa Monica in an undated photograph. 
Photograph: Courtesy The Oklahoma Historical Society/The Paul Comstock Collection

In episode four, a relative recalls Bangs and his fight against an unfair system. And Gentner Drummond, the Republican candidate for Oklahoma attorney general, discusses his support for tribal sovereignty and his family’s long history in Osage County, where he says they were respected members of the community and helped their Osage neighbors in the ways that were available at the time. 

— With assistance by Allison Herrera


91-year-old man outsmarts would-be car thieves | Morning in America

Sep 15, 2022 Would-be carjackers picked the wrong victim when they went after a 91-year-old man. When a suspect walked up to an Ohio and demanded his key fob, what they didn't know was that 91-year-old had another one in his pocket. That allowed him to push the alarm and scare as many as three potential carjackers off. 


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Mistrial declared in case of woman charged with client's abuse, neglect

Rebecca Fierle, a guardian to 75-year-old Steven Stryker, is accused of placing a "do not resuscitate" order on him. He died in May 2019. 

Author: Andrew Krietz, Hannah Dineen

TAMPA, Fla. — A Hillsborough County judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a former Florida guardian accused of causing the death of an elderly man in May 2019.

The judge issued the ruling when a jury deadlocked since deliberating in the case charging Rebecca Fierle with aggravated abuse and neglect of an elderly person, 75-year-old Steven Stryker. 

Jurors on Friday told the judge that they needed more time to deliberate the case. It resumed Monday with the judge telling them to take as much time as needed to reach a verdict before the mistrial was called.

Fierle was appointed to be Stryker's guardian in September 2018. A guardian is appointed to someone when they aren’t able to make medical and financial decisions for themselves. 

In 2019, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated claims he did not want a "do not resuscitate" order and he had stated, many times, that he wanted to live. Fierle ordered his doctors not to perform any life-prolonging procedures, the FDLE said.

She reportedly ordered doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa to cap Stryker's feeding tube.

Stryker died on May 13, 2019.

Fierle was arrested in February 2020. She allegedly placed "do not resuscitate" orders on other clients without their permission.

"All I can say is that this is extremely emotional for me. I’ve waited a long time to see her held accountable for how she treated my father," said the daughter of Stryker, Kim Stryker, to WKMG-TV at the time of Fierle's arrest. 

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I-Team: Mistrial declared for woman who had the largest guardianship practice in Florida

by Danielle DaRos

A judge declared a mistrial on Monday in the trial Rebecca Fierle, the woman considered to be Florida's most notorious guardian.

Fierle faced felony abuse charge related to the death of 75-year-old Steven Stryker, a ward in her care.

As the CBS12 News I-Team reported last year, Fierle had the largest guardianship practice in the state, overseeing the medical care and finances of more than 400 people spanning 19 counties.

A judge put her in charge of Stryker, and against his wishes, Fierle signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" order for him, and decided to cap his feeding tube.

Days later, he choked while in the hospital. Because of the DNR, hospital staff could not save him.

An investigation revealed Fierle had put DNRs on a number of her wards, and an audit found she collected millions of dollars in fees that were not authorized by courts.

Fierle was on trial for the abuse and neglect charge. The judge declared a mistrial for the case after a hung jury.

Her defense team told a jury she was doing her best to handle complicated cases, while prosecutors showed she only spoke to Stryker a few times before making life and death decisions for him.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Woman, deemed incapacitated, prevails in Roscommon guardianship case

by Mardi Link

Sep. 18—ROSCOMMON — A woman whose family sought to have her status as a ward-of-the-court terminated, after a previous court-appointed guardian was investigated by the Michigan State Police, has prevailed in court.

"She's free as a breeze," Loreli Haddad said of her sister, Kay McGinnis, 82. "Maybe this will give other people trying to do the same thing some hope."

McGinnis has ongoing speech difficulties as the result of a stroke, and deferred comment to her sisters, Haddad, 83, of Roscommon, and Peggy Olsen, 87, of Grayling.

Olsen is currently hospitalized, Haddad said, adding that stress from the ongoing legal case likely exacerbated her older sister's flu-like symptoms.

"I've got to credit the judge though," Haddad said. "He did the right thing."

Probate Court Judge Mark D. Jernigan in August ordered a medical evaluation of McGinnis, in response to a petition filed by Haddad, who'd asked the court to either terminate McGinnis' guardianship or appoint McGinnis as her own guardian.

Haddad filed the petition, she said, after she and her sisters were angered by an accused theft by a previous guardian and believed McGinnis could make her own life decisions.

If all court appointments for McGinnis were terminated, no further contact with the probate court would be required. If McGinnis was allowed to be her own guardian, annual reports on housing, medical services, income and expenses would still be required, but McGinnis would submit these reports herself.

Roscommon County Probate Court Register Debra Willitt confirmed Monday the guardianship would be terminated, likely as soon as Friday, with one caveat — McGinnis' attorney first needed to provide documentation showing an appropriate person had been named her power of attorney.

Haddad said Kay McGinnis planned to name her son, Casey McGinnis, of South Carolina, her POA and relocate to that state to live with him.

The process of moving into, and out of, guardianship has been a lengthy one for McGinnis and her family, fraught with losses both personal and financial.

McGinnis has had four court-appointed guardians since suffering a stroke in 2016, court records show.

She and her family say the initial appointment of McGinnis' longtime partner, John Kutz, as guardian was perhaps warranted, as McGinnis was temporarily unable to care for herself or manage her affairs.

Kutz had McGinnis' best interests at heart, her sisters say, but the situation went awry after he died of liver cancer in 2019.

Jessica Starlin-Ronin, of Cadillac, succeeded Kutz, court records show, but was permitted to voluntarily 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.

Lovely did not accuse Starlin-Ronin of wrongdoing, and asked the court to appoint her as McGinnis' guardian. Lovely first became acquainted with McGinnis when she worked as a caregiver for Olsen, McGinnis' older sister.

A judge agreed to the change, court records show, and Lovely, then of Grayling, succeeded Starlin-Ronin.

That appointment soon became mired in problems.

In February, Lovely was arraigned in 82nd District Court, on one felony 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 were not returned. An 82nd District Court official said Lovely missed a March 2 court hearing, triggering issuance of a failure-to-appear bench warrant.

She remains at large, a staff person with the Roscommon Prosecutor's office confirmed Monday.

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.

McGinnis' family say they continue to have questions about why the financial discrepancies weren't uncovered by the court.

State law shows that's not the probate court's role.

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.

It was McGinnis' current guardian, Sheila Englehardt, of St. Helen, who uncovered the unexplained spending.

"I'm looking through this bank statement and I'm seeing Michigan Lottery dot com, Michigan Lottery dot com, Michigan Lottery dot com," Englehardt said. "It was so blatant. It even had Mary Lovely's user name under it."

Englehardt said when she was appointed, McGinnis was paying for groceries with change from a change jar, her cable was shut off, her heat and electric were about to be shut off and her house was in foreclosure.

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 complained Englehardt paid more for things like storage units and monthly rent than they thought appropriate, and didn't return their phone calls, while Englehardt said she did the best she could for McGinnis.

There was a fire at the first place Englehardt moved McGinnis to — the Brook in Houghton Lake — so McGinnis had to move somewhere else immediately, Englehardt said.

Englehardt said she believes the turmoil McGinnis experienced over the past several years might have been avoided if hospital workers, who in 2016 advised Kutz to seek guardianship, had suggested instead he secure a POA, which is revokable.

If Kutz had secured a POA, it could have been revoked once McGinnis was well enough to make her own decisions, Englehardt said.

"No matter what, I'm happy for her," Englehardt said of the outcome of Monday's hearing. "She has experienced so much. And I was never sure she required a guardian in the first place, but I'm not the one who makes that determination. I just accept the appointments."

Full Article & Source:

Cleveland Heights Man Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay $177k in Restitution for Credit Card Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

Friday, September 16, 2022

Cleveland Heights Man Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay $177k in Restitution for Credit Card Fraud Scheme

CLEVELAND - Carlos Dashawn Brown, 28, of Bowling Green and Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was sentenced on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, to 38 months in prison and ordered to pay $177,716.07 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. after Brown pleaded guilty to the unauthorized use of an access device, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

“This defendant preyed upon disadvantaged individuals and depleted the savings of an elderly victim, all in an effort to make a quick buck for himself,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler.  “Law enforcement in this region will not stand for the targeting of vulnerable populations in our community.”

“Committing credit card fraud, bank fraud and identity theft against vulnerable populations is nothing short of a heartless crime,” said FBI Cleveland Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen.  “Mr. Brown’s actions are appalling. This sentence underscores the commitment of the FBI to find and investigate predatory behavior by nefarious individuals.  The FBI is committed to protecting every American from fraudsters, whether one person or a network of criminals, through our work with federal, state and local partners.“

“This case is an example of the well-coordinated efforts of law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to protect vulnerable and older Americans from financial exploitation,” said Inspector In Charge Lesley Allison for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.   “The Inspection Service appreciates the steadfast dedication from our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in bringing those who perpetrate these scams to justice.”

“This sentence demonstrates our commitment to hold accountable those who intentionally misuse the Social Security numbers of others for their own personal gain,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.  “Mr. Brown’s criminal actions brought financial harm upon vulnerable individuals.  I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their investigative efforts and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.” 

According to court documents, from April 2014 to January 2019, Brown perpetrated a credit card fraud scheme using the personal identifying information of multiple victims.  These victims were vulnerable due to their age and/or mental condition. 

As part of his scheme, Brown, without authorization, used the personal identifying information of these victims to open credit card accounts and make purchases, including travel, expensive goods and a vehicle.  Brown also stole more than $60,000 from one elder victim’s pension account and fraudulently caused multiple banks and creditors to issue Brown over $117,000 in refund checks to which he was not entitled.

In total, Brown caused an approximate loss of  $177,716.07 to all victims in the scheme.

This case was investigated by the Cleveland FBI, United States Postal Service Inspection Service (USPIS), Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (SSA OIG) and the Cleveland Heights Police Department.   This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Seabury Gould.



Caretaker ‘preyed’ on home care residents left begging for food, Georgia officials say

By Tanasia Kenney

An Atlanta woman gets a 20-year sentence after she’s accused of neglecting disabled and older adults living in her unlicensed personal care home in Georgia, state authorities said. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Residents of a home care facility were promised “housing, meals and other services,” but were instead left without cash and begging for food, according to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. 

Now, an Atlanta woman is headed to prison. 

Michelle Oliver was given a 20-year sentence, with the first seven years to be served in prison, after she was convicted Sept. 8 on charges related to the neglect of older, disabled adults living in an unlicensed personal care home she owned, state authorities said.

A Dougherty County jury found her guilty on multiple charges including willful deprivation of an elder person and 51 counts of financial exploitation of a disabled adult, according to a news release.

 Investigators said Oliver, who owned the Miracle One Care Center, also pocketed more than $32,000 from residents between December 2016 and September 2017, all while still depriving them of basic needs. An investigation found residents were often left alone in filthy homes with no furniture, air conditioning or access to clean clothes.

“Michelle Oliver preyed upon some of our state’s most vulnerable and in-need citizens,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement. “She systematically neglected those she had promised to help, all while taking their money but leaving them with nothing in return.” 

In December 2016, Oliver moved several residents from the Atlanta area into “a series of duplexes” nearly 200 miles away in Albany, according to authorities. The Georgia Department of Human Services, along with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other state agencies, launched an investigation after a complaint from a concerned citizen about the Albany facility. 

In addition to the dirty conditions, investigators said residents were deprived of food despite Oliver hiring a “cook” who prepared meals in the morning “but left before the lunch hour.”

“Due to the residents’ disabilities, they did not have access to their own money and were left to beg neighbors and nearby stores for food on a near daily basis,” state authorities said. 

A financial payee who took residents’ monthly payments pleaded guilty to charges in the case last year, according to the attorney general’s office. 

The residents were eventually moved out of the duplexes, many of which the Albany Code Enforcement deemed “unfit for human occupation,” authorities said.

Albany is about 90 miles southeast of Columbus.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Testimony wraps in trial of former professional guardian accused of elderly abuse

By: Adam Walser

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — On Thursday, the trial continued in the case of former professional guardian Rebecca Fierle, who was accused of contributing to the death of a man under her care.

Testimony wrapped up and both sides rested after the jury heard from more than a dozen total witnesses. Fierle did not take the stand in her own defense.

She is charged with felony, aggravated abuse of an elderly person, and neglect of an elderly person. Fierle was appointed by a judge to be Steven Stryker‘s guardian in 2018 after Stryker was baker acted and ended up in an Orlando hospital.

Investigators said Fierle allegedly ordered his feeding tube to be capped and requested a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order against his wishes while he was a patient at Saint Joseph’s hospital in May 2019. The record showed that he choked to death five days later.

Several experts testified for the defense on Thursday about Stryker's medical, psychological and behavioral problems that led to the guardianship and made it difficult for Fierle to find a place for him to live. 

Stryker was a convicted sex offender who pleaded guilty to charges that he exposed himself in 2000 while intoxicated. That meant nursing homes wouldn’t take him and assisted living facilities couldn't care for him.

Several experts also testified about Stryker's poor health prognosis at the time of his death.

"He was a sick man and it was just a question of time for this guy to have expired naturally," said Dr. Philip Atigre who treated Stryker.

After being asked whether having or not having a feeding tube would have a good outcome for Stryker, Dr. Arigre said, "next to none."

The jury will return Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear their instructions and opening statements, then begin their deliberations.

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PA Supreme Court Advisory Council releases latest progress report and data on elder abuse and guardianship

HARRISBURG — Focused on addressing critical issues confronting Pennsylvania’s elders, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts today released its latest progress report and data on the status of guardianships statewide.

“The progress recounted in this report represents our ongoing effort to address the challenges facing our commonwealth’s elders,” Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd said. “As Pennsylvania’s population ages, the court system faces an unprecedented challenge to monitor guardianships and protect our vulnerable adults from financial exploitation and abuse.

“The collective work of this council and our agency partners will become even more critical in changing and saving the lives and protecting the dignity of our elders.”

Since the Task Force report was released in 2014, from among the recommendations offered, the Council identified the need for a Guardianship Tracking System (GTS), which allows courts to better monitor active guardianships through a statewide uniform process.

“This report is a testament to the Pennsylvania Courts and their agency partners’ commitment and dedication to Pennsylvania’s older adults,” Montgomery County Common Pleas and Orphans’ Court Judge Lois Murphy said. “The collective accomplishments and initiatives continue to serve as a blueprint for courts and others to follow.”

“As a result of the Council’s work, including through the extraordinary challenges faced during the global pandemic, statewide guardianship data and other critical information is now available to guardians, interested organizations and the public,” continued Murphy. “This will change and save lives.”

Rolled out in 2018, the GTS permits courts to scrutinize red flags prompted on guardianship cases and respond to potential problems immediately, allowing better oversight and protection for persons under guardianship.

The statewide data contained in GTS allows the Advisory Council to track guardians’ compliance with filing mandated reports and take a data-driven approach to guardianship reform.

“The ability to generate accurate and comprehensive statistics from the data collected by GTS is critically important, as nationally there is a dearth of information available on guardianship cases,” said Advisory Council Chair, the Honorable Paula Francisco Ott. “With the data and additional information available, we are better equipped to address the needs and challenges facing Pennsylvania’s aging population and to improve and protect access to justice for elders.”

As of Dec. 31, 2021, there were more than 18,000 active guardianship cases in GTS, with 382 professional guardians and more than 19,000 non-professional (family/lay) guardians. The total amount of guardianship assets under court supervision was more than $1.7 billion.

In addition to the new GTS data available, the Council has focused on efforts to educate judges, court staff, attorneys, guardians and the public about elder abuse and financial exploitation, including: Training programs, educational sessions and materials for judges including the Pennsylvania Guardianship Bench Book and Pennsylvania Elder Abuse Bench Book; Use of advanced communication technology as a means for homebound elders and long-term care residents to access essential support and court services, including participating in hearings; Virtual town hall sessions focused on the prevention of and response to elder abuse and financial exploitation and on recognizing alternatives to guardianship; and Training programs and resources for family and lay guardians about their powers, duties and responsibilities.

As the eighth oldest state in population age 65 and older, more than twenty-five percent of Pennsylvania’s residents are over the age of 60, with more than eight percent of these older adults living below the poverty line. By 2034, there will be 77 million people age 65 and older compared to 76.5 million under the age of 18.

For more information on the work of the Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, visit

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Woman accused of elder abuse, arrested 1 year after mother’s death

By Jocelyn Grzeszczak

SUMMERVILLE — Police officers arrested a woman on accusations she abused her mother, causing the elderly woman’s death one year ago. 

Darlene Whitlock was charged Sept. 10 with abuse of a vulnerable person resulting in death. Authorities contend the 68-year-old woman, who was designated as her mother’s caretaker, allowed for a filthy living environment and stopped moving, bathing or feeding the elderly adult.

Officers opened an investigation into Whitlock over a year ago, on Sept. 2, 2021, after the S.C. Department of Social Services alerted them to a potential abuse case. Whitlock’s mother, Viola Fairchild, had arrived days prior to an emergency room. She was unresponsive, “extremely malnourished” and covered “head to toe in feces,” according to an incident report.

Darlene Whitlock. Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office/Provided

Whitlock told doctors she hadn’t been able to move her mother, resulting in Fairchild’s condition, the report states. 

A Dorchester County social services worker visited the house on Candover Court off Alwyn Boulevard where Whitlock and Fairchild lived. She took photos of the home, which was in “complete disarray,” according to the report.

A Summerville detective viewed the pictures, noting piles of clutter and trash littered throughout the rooms. Fairchild’s mattress had a large indent on its right side, indicating someone had been in the spot for a long period of time. Bugs crawled on the floor, walls and near a window of the “filthy” bedroom.

Summerville detectives met with Whitlock at the residence on Sept. 8, 2021. The woman was packing up her car for a trip to Texas, where her mother’s funeral would be held, she told the officer. Fairchild, 91, had by then been moved to hospice care. 

Whitlock told the detective she’d “done her best” to care for her mother and had lived with her for two years in South Carolina after moving her out of Texas, the report states. The detective handed Whitlock a business card and asked to schedule a formal interview, but Whitlock never called.

Fairchild died two days later. While her cause of death isn’t specified, doctors diagnosed Fairchild with a host of illnesses, including sepsis, ulcers, malnutrition, hypothermia, kidney failure and pneumonia.

The investigation stalled for several months while detectives gathered Fairchild’s medical and social services records, according to the report. A Summerville municipal court judge on Dec. 16, 2021, signed a warrant for Whitlock’s arrest.

Detectives again tried to make contact with Whitlock, but her voicemail box was full. She was arrested Sept. 10 after being located in Texas, Lt. Chris Hirsch said.

Whitlock was booked into the Dorchester County jail, where she remains held on a $20,000 surety bond.

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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Georgia grandmother talks about finding bag of cash in her KFC drive-thru order

BUTTS COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia grandmother is revealing why she decided to give back a bag of cash she found in her fast food order.

JoAnn Oliver went to pick up a drive-through sandwich at the KFC on 3rd Street in Jackson on Wednesday. When she got back to work and sat down to enjoy her lunch, she found $543.10 in cash underneath her sandwich.

“That’s my light bill and some,” Oliver told Channel 2′s Tom Jones during Channel 2 Action News at 4:00 on Friday.

Instead of keeping the cash, Oliver called police.

“I started counting it and when I got to $500, I stopped and just put it back in the envelope, closed the envelope put the sandwich back the way I got it and just slid it to the side until the officer got here,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s family could have really used the money. She revealed her husband suffered strokes and is battling cancer. Oliver said they are facing medical bills around $2 million.

“For a second. We thought about going shopping” said Oliver. “I said I should have kept a 20. because I’m sitting on E.”

Police learned a worker accidentally placed the restaurant’s daily deposit into the bag.

“If you don’t do the right thing it’s gonna come back on you,” Oliver said. “I mean It wasn’t mine. I didn’t need to keep it. I’ll get mine in the future.”

KFC refunded the money Oliver paid for her lunch and gave her a free meal.

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Fraudsters bilk elderly woman for $157K, another for $16K

An elderly Frost Lane resident went to police headquarters Sept. 1 to say she received her bank statement in the mail and saw several unauthorized transactions on her account totaling nearly $157,000. She filed a claim with her bank but it was unclear from her police report if her account was refunded. She told police she only has one checkbook and it is always in her possession. The bank said the unauthorized transactions occurred online. She said she only pays by check and never uses online payment services. She said she would pursue charges if the thief could be found. 
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