Saturday, December 24, 2022

Ray Stevens: Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me

YouTube: Mary and Joseph and the Baby and Me

Dad Bought an Ice Cream Truck So His Two Kids with Down Syndrome Can Run Their Own Business

Thinking of a way to give back to the community and support people with Down syndrome, Joel Wegener of Ohio decided to buy an ice cream truck to create a career path for his special needs children.

What’s the best way to get people and a community together? Food, yes, but ice cream? Even better! Joel, 61, and his wife Freida have 10 children, two of whom were born with Down syndrome, Mary Kate and Josh.

People with Down syndrome are born with an extra chromosome, which leads to a wide range of physical and developmental problems. Down syndrome is a lifelong condition and cannot be cured.

Why an ice cream truck?

He explained, “The reason the ice cream truck is so perfect is that it has allowed them both to develop their interactive and social skills in a comfortable environment.”

Full article and source:
Dad bought an ice cream truck so his two kids with Down syndrome can run their own business

Wife Who Has Dementia Remembers Husband on Their 72nd Anniversary Photo Shoot

It was an eventful day for Grace Manor Care Center, a senior living facility in Burlington, Colorado. Leonard and Shirley Matties were about to celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary, but this time, it will be the most memorable one yet.

When Ardis Behrendsen, a Certified Nurses Aide, discovered the 91-year-old couple’s anniversary was nearing, she planned and organized an entire celebration for the lovebirds’ special day. Shirley and Leonard have been together for seven decades, and Behrendsen wanted to go the extra mile. Reaching your 72nd year as a married couple is not something you can celebrate every day.

The Matties family was already planning for an anniversary party, but Behrendsen thought a photo shoot would be a perfect memento for the couple’s everlasting love. She got a beautiful pink gown for Shirley, and it didn’t take long before the whole senior living facility took notice of the 91-year-old’s gorgeous dress and charming smile.

When everything was all set, a staff member of the senior living facility wheeled Shirley out into the hallway and onto where Leonard was staying. When Leonard saw her wife roll towards his direction, his face became filled with color—he was absolutely delighted to see the love of her life in a flowy pink gown.

Despite more than 13,000 views of the Behrendsen’s Facebook post, not everyone knows that the 91-year-old woman in the pink gown has dementia. In the video posted by Ardis, Shirley seemed to recognize Leonard’s face. She even reached his man’s hand as the couple held hands.

People with dementia, especially the elderly, find it more difficult to store and remember new memories or information they got within a short period. But this was not the case with Shirley—she was able to recognize her husband, react accordingly, and be in the ‘present’.

Full Article and Source:
Wife Who Has Dementia Remembers Husband on their 72nd Anniversary Photo Shoot

On the Road with Steve Hartman: Christmas Grannies Make Triumphant Return After Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy

Last year, an SUV tore through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring dozens. Some of the victims were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies. The group made a triumphant return to this year's parade, sending a message to others still recovering from the tragedy. Steve Hartman shares more in "On the Road."
YouTube: Dancing Grannies Make Triumphant Return After Waukesha Christmas Parade Tragedy

Young@Heart Chorus: Merry Christmas Baby

YouTube:  Young@Heart Chorus: Merry Christmas Baby

Friday, December 23, 2022

Levittown Woman Indicted for Allegedly Stealing Over $150,000 from Ward Through Guardianship

By Chris Boyle

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly announced that a Levittown woman was indicted on charges of grand larceny for allegedly stealing more than $150,000 from a developmentally challenged man for whom she acted as legal guardian between July 2016 and June 2019.
Luigia a/k/a/ Gina D’Amore, 57, was arraigned before Judge Fran Ricigliano on one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a C felony); one count of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree (an E felony); and two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (an E felony.) The defendant pleaded not guilty and was released on her own recognizance. She is due back in court February 15, 2023. If convicted, D’Amore faces up to five to 15 years in prison. 
“This defendant befriended her alleged victim when they worked together for the Town of Hempstead, ultimately becoming his legal guardian after his retirement and taking control of the man’s finances,” said DA Donnelly. “For the next several years, this defendant allegedly siphoned more than $150,000 from her elderly victim’s accounts and failed to pay his bills, leaving him to live in a mouse-infested home. The residence fell into disrepair and was nearly lost due to non-payment of taxes. This charged conduct is reprehensible, and my office will ensure justice for the victim in this case.”
DA Donnelly said that, according to the charges and NCDA’s investigation, between July 2016 and June 2019, while serving as a court appointed guardian for the victim, a developmentally challenged Town of Hempstead Parks Department retiree, D’Amore allegedly stole more than $150,000 from the victim’s bank accounts without providing proof to the court that the funds were used for the victim’s benefit as required as part of the guardianship.
The defendant allegedly skimmed checks she received on behalf of the victim, depositing portions of the checks into the victim’s account, and taking out the rest in cash. The defendant also allegedly made additional cash withdrawals from the victim’s banking accounts and wrote checks out to “cash” for tens of thousands of dollars that were negotiated through D’Amore’s personal account. 
D’Amore failed to provide receipts for the cash withdrawals and checks when she submitted her accounting to the court as the victim’s guardian. 
In addition, D’Amore allegedly failed to pay the victim’s utilities or for repairs to the home, leaving the property to fall into disrepair.
The defendant also allegedly failed to pay property taxes on the home between 2018 and 2019, leading to a tax lien being placed on the victim’s home and the property nearly being auctioned in February 2020 for non-payment. 
Before the defendant was removed, she resigned as the victim’s Guardian in April 2019. 
D’Amore surrendered to Nassau County District Attorney Detective Investigators on December 16, 2022.
NCDA thanks the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Bureau of Adult Services for referring this matter for prosecution.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Investigative Counsel April Montgomery of the Financial Crimes Bureau. The defendant was represented by Tim Aldridge, Esq. at arraignment.  The defendant is represented by Russ Kofman, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

Full Article & Source:
Levittown Woman Indicted for Allegedly Stealing Over $150,000 from Ward Through Guardianship

“An ongoing fight”: Elder abuse in South Dakota remains widespread despite years of effort

by Michael Patton

RAPID CITY, S.D. – From financial scams to neglectful nursing homes, seniors in South Dakota are at risk of falling victim to elder abuse. Despite years of efforts to combat the problem, the situation remains bleak.

In 2015 the South Dakota Elder Abuse Task Force issued a series of recommendations to combat elder fraud and abuse, such as making financial exploitation of seniors a felony and clarifying mandatory reporting requirements. Many of these recommendations were implemented, but the problem remains.

According to the Department of Health website, complaints at nursing homes have increased 117% from 2021, with 39 complaints filed compared to the previous year’s 18.

Beyond just nursing homes, a study by Wallethub ranked South Dakota 5th worst in the nation for the prevalence of elder abuse, factoring in the number of abuse and neglect complaints as well as the rate and severity of elder fraud.

Taking advantage

The 2015 Task Force report found that over 5 million seniors fall victim to financial exploitation each year nationally, with only 1 in 25 of those instances being reported.

South Dakotans are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse. The WalletHub study estimated that 12.11% of elders in South Dakota have been the victims of fraud, the 17th highest rate in the nation. The average amount lost per fraud was $12,785.

“By nature, South Dakotans are hardy, trusting folks. Unfortunately, that trust can be taken advantage of, and there are many tools that are used by scammers and fraudsters to take advantage of that trust, particularly among seniors,” said AARP South Dakota Associate State Director for Advocacy Erik Nelson. “We’re a midwestern state with a high percentage of seniors, trusting seniors, which we appreciate, but unfortunately it means the bad guys target our population for fraud and scams.”

And whether it’s calls pretending to be from law enforcement demanding money for made-up fines, emails claiming that the recipient won a sweepstake they never entered, or fake fundraisers exploiting the generosity of victims’ donations, scammers have no shortage of ingenuity.

Beyond just scams, there are a number of ways people try to take advantage of senior citizens.

“Elder abuse can take on a few different forms whether it’s physical abuse, emotional abuse, or financial abuse,” Nelson said. “It’s not just one thing.”

And in many cases, it isn’t anonymous scammers taking harming the elderly. It’s their own caretakers.

A strained system

Many nursing homes are unable to recruit and retain the staff they need to care for those under their supervision. According to Cole Uechre, Executive Director of Disability Rights South Dakota, this lack of manpower can cause harm to nursing home residents.

“I can say the system is strained to the breaking point,” Uechre said. “I’m sure you know staffing is a major problem in our facilities. Any time that you have people that provide support to individuals and they’re spread thin, and they’re overworked, they’ll get to a point where they’re careless, agitated or worn out, then things like abuse can occur,”

The problems were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented family and friends from being able to visit their loved ones living in nursing homes out of concern for the residents’ safety.

“Any time you have a situation where there’s not great communication or visitation and things like that, that creates an environment where abuse can occur,” Uechre said.

This abuse can be intentional and malicious, such as nursing home workers stealing medications or hitting patients, but it can just as often be a case of well-workers lacking the resources to provide proper care.

“It could be a lack of resources available to provide adequate meals or medications at the right time. It could be that there aren’t enough staff to provide supervision for people that maybe have a tendency to get up and fall, and so without the resources, staffing, they may resort to inappropriate restraint to keep them in place and avoid physical injury.” Uechre said. “Well now you’ve just put them into a restraint situation because of a lack of available staff resources, and that type of thing would be an abusive situation.”

Combatting abuse

Elder abuse is a multifaceted issue, and solving it requires solutions that come at the problem from many different angles. One of these angles is reducing the strain on nursing homes by making it so people don’t need to enter them in the first place.

“Community supports weren’t always being provided. Nursing homes were being overutilized. Since then, there have been measures that have been put into place that have been, I think, effective in many ways, but that process should continue to work toward providing people the opportunity to live in the community as long as possible,” Uechre said.

One of these measures is the HOPE waiver system, which provides low-cost access to a variety of assisted-living services to help seniors who aren’t capable of living completely independently access assisted-living resources at a reduced cost. Programs like these help keep seniors in the community when they may otherwise be forced to move into a nursing home.

At the same time, a combination of education and prosecution is making progress in fighting financial fraud.

“All those mass targeted scams are targeted usually towards seniors, and we work to alert our members in cooperation with state officials and state agencies to know what frauds are out there,” AARP South Dakota’s Nelson said, “We also hold seminars to let them know what to look for, and it’s an ongoing process of education.”

Meanwhile, the South Dakota Attorney General’s office has been instrumental in working to crack down on the financial exploitation of seniors from the legal side, according to Nelson. Increased prosecution efforts and stricter penalties were one of the most significant measures to come from the 2015 workgroup proposal.

“Unfortunately it’s not a matter of time.” said AARP South Dakota Associate State Director for Advocacy Erik Nelson “When it comes to frauds and scams, it feels like the bad guys are always one step ahead when it comes to finding new ways to try and force scams upon our senior population. It’s an ongoing fight.”

What to do

If you or someone you know is being abused, there are many resources available in South Dakota to help.

  • In the case of any criminal abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect, contact your local law enforcement office, or call 911
  • In the case of abuse of care at a long-term-care facility (such as a nursing home) contact the State Ombudsman Office at 866-854-5465.
  • In the case of Medicaid fraud, file a complaint with the South Dakota Attorney General.
  • In the case of financial fraud, call the national elder fraud hotline at 833–372–8311
  • In the case that you suspect someone you know is being abused, report it to South Dakota Adult Protective Services.

Full Article & Source:
“An ongoing fight”: Elder abuse in South Dakota remains widespread despite years of effort

The Positive Effect of Therapy Dolls for Dementia

A helpful, non-drug way to calm and soothe agitated seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia is to give them a soft, lifelike baby doll to cuddle.

These therapy dolls can even be effective in calming someone with severe agitation or other significant behavioral challenges.

Why therapy dolls for dementia work

Therapy dolls can help seniors feel useful and needed and give them something positive to focus on.

Similar to the effect of soft toys like stuffed animals, hugging something soft helps someone with dementia feel comforted and soothed.

Another reason therapy dolls are helpful is that they can bring back happy memories of early parenthood for both women and men.

Many older adults enjoy rocking and cuddling their doll. Some even adopt the baby as their own and make caring for it part of their daily routine.

Having a child to care for can also ease feelings of isolation and sadness.

After all, when interacting with real babies, many people find their spirits lifted and their nerves calmed.

How to introduce doll therapy

The best approach is to casually introduce the doll to your older adult and let them decide if they like it or not.

If they have no interest in the doll or get upset, don’t make an issue out of it.

Even if someone isn’t interested in the moment, they may change their minds in the future so you could try again in a few weeks or months.

A few tips:

Don’t act like the doll is a doll, refer to it as a baby and treat it like a real child.
Get a lifelike doll, but one that doesn’t cry – that might be upsetting.
Don’t force it, allow your senior to get to know the doll slowly.

Some caregivers find dolls controversial

A doll can be a safe and inexpensive “treatment” for someone with dementia.

We’ve heard from many family caregivers that say their older adults are calmer and happier now that they have their own baby doll. They’re relieved to have found a non-drug solution that eases their senior’s dementia symptoms.

However, some people are concerned that giving their older adult a doll would be demeaning or patronizing. But when someone has dementia, helping them feel safe and happy in their current reality is the top priority.

So if trying unconventional ideas like baby dolls, fidget blankets, and other simple activities and toys might help them feel better and enjoy life more, why not give them a try?.

If they do get upset or offended by the doll, you’ll know to cross that off the list of potential calming activities. Or, you could put it away and try again as their dementia progresses.

Full Article and Source:
ThePositive Effect of Therapy Dolls for Dementia

Thursday, December 22, 2022

An elderly woman in prison is losing her memory. Why won’t California release her?

Despite Janet Carter’s age and rapidly deteriorating health, commissioners denied her parole. Composite: Courtesy of Janet Carter

The parole board’s refusal to free Janet Carter, 69, is part of what advocates warn is a growing humanitarian crisis across the US

by Sam Levin in Los Angeles

Prison guards stood by as Janet Carter, 69, sat in her wheelchair and tried to explain the gaps in her memory. It was May 2022 and her third time appearing before the California parole board, which would decide whether to free her after 25 years.

“I can’t remember a whole lot of stuff,” she said when a commissioner asked why she couldn’t articulate what she’d learned in prison programs. Her lawyer later pointed to a doctor’s report that documented some causes: Parkinson’s disease, early dementia, a neurocognitive disorder, chemotherapy and a head injury.

Despite Carter’s age, her rapidly deteriorating health and her repeated apologies for her memory loss, the commissioners denied her parole and admonished her for her inability to answer questions: “You’re manipulative … [You’re] lacking in sincerity … You do continue to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society.”

Carter has been serving a life sentence since 1998. Advocates say that the refusal to release elderly incarcerated people is part of a growing humanitarian crisis in California and across the US, where an ageing population of people who have been locked up for decades have few or no opportunities to be freed.

“To come home would be a dream come true,” Carter said in a recent phone call. “I’m really looking forward to being with my family. And I want to try to pay back the community. I want to help other people. I want the people out there to know that the people in here really need their support.”

Thousands of elderly people imprisoned

Carter has been serving a life
sentence since 1998. Even though
her health is deteriorating, the
parole board refuses to release
her. Photograph: Courtesy of
Debra Dass
Even with widespread evidence that releasing elderly people poses no threat, an average of 600 elderly parole cases were denied each year in California from 2019 to 2021, state records reveal. The financial costs are enormous, with the state spending billions annually to house older people in prison. And the human toll is severe as families remain indefinitely separated, while elderly people become increasingly likely to die inside.

“I just want to be able to take care of her,” said Debra Dass, Carter’s sister. “I can never figure out why, with all her health problems, they think she’s a danger to society. She’s in a wheelchair and can barely take care of herself. She deserves to have a few good years.”

The number of older Americans in prison has surged in recent decades, in part due to harsh sentencing laws. More than 203,000 people are now serving life sentences in the US, and 61,000 of them (30%) are 55 and older. Some experts estimate that by 2030, there could be 200,000 elderly dementia patients imprisoned in the US.

Roughly 11,700 people in California prisons are 60 years and older. They remain incarcerated despite widespread evidence that people “age out of crime” and that when lifers do get released, they rarely reoffend (some data suggests fewer than 1% commit a new crime against a person). More than one-third of people in California prisons are serving life sentences, one of the highest rates in the US.

I can never figure out why, with all her health problems, they think she’s a danger to society.

“It’s inhumane to keep people longer than is necessary from a public safety point of view, and particularly as people become elderly and have more health issues, there’s a cruelty argument,” said Katherine Beckett, a University of Washington professor.

‘Parkinson’s has taken a lot’

When people sentenced to life become eligible for parole in California, they attend a hearing where commissioners weigh whether they present a threat. The parole board is charged with assessing candidates’ “current dangerousness”, and is not supposed to reject people based on their offense. But in Carter’s first hearing in 2018, the commissioners denied her freedom, saying her crime was “atrocious” and “deplorable”.

Carter, who grew up in Minnesota and Orange county, California, met her husband, Lynn Carter, at a bowling alley. She had various jobs until 1996 when at age 43, she was assaulted while working at a storage facility – struck in the head, knocked unconscious and hospitalized. She began to suffer memory loss from the trauma, her records show.

A year later, she and her husband took in Kenneth Boone, a distant relative. In July 1997, Boone and another man killed Lynn Carter; prosecutors alleged that Janet Carter helped plan the attack.

Carter testified that she had no part in the killing; her lawyers said she was drugged by Boone and unconscious when it happened, and that when she awoke, he threatened to kill her and her parents if she reported what happened. Boone admitted in his testimony that he’d been trying to rob Lynn and that Janet played no role. She has confessed to helping cover up the death under threat.

Carter grew up in Minnesota
and California and met her
husband, Lynn Carter, at a bowling
Photograph: Courtesy of
Debra Dass
She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 26 years to life, her first criminal offense.

In prison, she has immersed herself in Bible study; learned sign language to aid deaf residents; helped start a cancer support group; crocheted blankets; and earned her GED. Meanwhile, her health and cognitive skills have declined and she survived cancer in 2009, medical records show. She has since been classified as “totally disabled”, and the prison’s own psychologist said she was a “low risk” for violence since she had no rule violation reports her entire term.

After Carter told the parole board in 2020 that “Parkinson’s has taken a lot of my memory, and on a daily basis it takes more”, a commissioner said, “Your lack of memory appears to be selective.”

In her board hearing this year, she paused dozens of times while speaking, sometimes for more than 30 seconds. But the prosecutor discounted her impairments: “I do not believe that the elderly issues regarding her physical abilities would deter her from committing a crime.”

As Carter read her closing statement, expressing remorse and apologizing to her late husband’s family, commissioners interrupted saying they were having trouble hearing her. She never finished her remarks.

I know in my mind what I want to say, but I can’t express it, it won’t come out

Carter told the Guardian that it felt as if the board ignored her lawyer’s explanation of her disabilities: “It’s very hard to concentrate. I know in my mind what I want to say, but I can’t express it, it won’t come out. My mind just freezes and I can’t go forward.”

After Carter’s lawyer challenged the latest denial, the board’s chief counsel reviewed it and found “errors” in the process that had a “substantial likelihood” of affecting the outcome, according to a spokesperson, who declined to elaborate on the findings. The board vacated the decision and scheduled a new hearing.

Inside the parole denials

Keith Wattley, executive director of UnCommon Law, who has handled parole cases for more than 20 years, said Carter’s experience was common, noting how the board can cite people’s needs for mental health care as justification to keep them imprisoned: “After we fail to adequately treat people while they’re in prison, in a final insult to their humanity and dignity, we deny them parole based on the fact that they need treatment, falsely claiming that this makes them still dangerous all this time later.”

Records obtained by UnCommon Law show a 94-year-old man with dementia was denied because he “lacks insight”, and a man who attempted suicide was denied because he was “recently unstable”.

Data analyzed by UnCommon Law show that from 2019 to 2021 in California, roughly 17% of all people scheduled for parole hearings were granted parole. Those with low-level mental health challenges were approved for release in only 11.4% of cases, roughly half the rate of those the system considers neurotypical. And for those with more serious mental health issues, only 4.7% were granted parole. Only about 11% of full-time wheelchair users were approved each year.

In an interview, Carter said: “This is supposed to be where we get rehabilitation … but for a lot of us in wheelchairs and the elderly, it’s really hard.” Photograph: Courtesy of Debra Dass

And although the board is required to give “special consideration” to someone’s elderly status, they are granted parole at roughly the same rate as the broader population. Out of 1,983 scheduled hearings for elderly people last year, only 360 people were granted parole.

“We cannot tolerate a society that incarcerates people for so long that they can’t survive on the outside, and then that becomes the reason to keep them incarcerated,” said Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst with the Sentencing Project.

Carter said in an interview: “This is supposed to be where we get rehabilitation and help, so we can go out into the community. But for a lot of us in wheelchairs and the elderly, it’s really hard.”

Dana Simas, a prison spokesperson, said in an email that California had “taken a leading role” in releasing people with life sentences and that 1,424 were granted parole last year, compared with 769 people newly sentenced to life. In 2020 and 2021, the board had its highest ever rate of parole grants for first-time hearings, she said. She also said the low approval rates were partly due to some hearings getting postponed.

If somebody has served 15 years in prison, and they are not rehabilitated ... there’s something wrong with the system

The parole board maintains “public safety as our ultimate primary responsibility”, Simas said, adding that people’s disabilities were only part of the consideration. “While advanced age is generally a factor that mitigates a person’s overall risk, the board must take into consideration all relevant information.”

​Tremayne Carroll, a 50-year-old incarcerated at Carter’s prison, who also uses a wheelchair, said the parole process can discount people’s illnesses: “If you do have dementia or other disabilities or issues related to ageing, they start from a position of, ‘You’re being manipulative.’”

She added, “If somebody has served 15 years in prison, and they are not rehabilitated, there’s nothing wrong with that person, there’s something wrong with the system.”

Another chance at freedom

Dass, Carter’s sister, said she worries daily that her sister won’t make it out of prison alive. In recent years, both of their parents and one of their sisters have died. Carter never got to say goodbye.

“Her drive to come home is strong,” said Lilli Paratore, her attorney with UnCommon Law. But she’s been in and out of the hospital and struggling to cope.

Carter has a fourth hearing scheduled this Thursday, but contracted Covid two weeks prior, and at one point was so ill, Dass could barely understand what she was saying on the phone.

Dass said she remains proud of her sister’s ability to take care of the women around her in the prison, and when she’s been denied parole, Carter tries to remain positive and lean into her faith.

She says that God has a plan for her: maybe there’s one more person inside who needs her help.

Full Article & Source:
An elderly woman in prison is losing her memory. Why won’t California release her?

Kind Nurse Designs Adult Bibs That Look Like Shirts, Restoring Dignity

Paige Meyer, a young nurse from Australia, designed dignity bibs for her patients to help them feel more comfortable. During her career, one of her tasks involved feeding patients who could no longer do so alone.

Paige put adult bibs on them to keep their clothes clean but never liked traditional bibs much. Since they’re associated with babies, she felt they might humiliate her elderly patients. They never disliked the bibs, but Paige’s intuition told her they deserved better.

Plus, she had firsthand experience with the degrading nature of adult bibs when her grandma’s dementia worsened. Her caretakers supplied her with a bib during mealtimes, which wasn’t easy for family members to witness. After all, no one wants to watch their loved ones suffer.

So, based on her experiences with adults in her care, Paige wanted to create dignity bibs instead. They resemble everyday button-up clothing so patients won’t feel embarrassed at a meal. This aesthetically pleasing clothing provides protection functions like regular vinyl bibs, making meals more enjoyable for patients.

Full Article and Source:
Kind Nurse Designs Adult Bibs That Look Like Shirts, Restoring Dignity

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

$500 Million Allegedly Stolen From Incapacitated, Vulnerable HV, NY Clients

A former Hudson Valley lawyer is accused of stealing nearly $500 million from incapacitated clients.

On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Acting New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli announced the indictment and arrest of a former attorney from Dutchess County, New York.

Dutchess County, New York Lawery Indicted 

Ngampol Thongsa

John Ferdinand Murphy, III, 68, of Hopewell Junction, New York was charged with allegedly embezzling more than $450,000 from multiple incapacitated and vulnerable clients.

Murphy was charged with three counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud, all felonies.

“Taking advantage of our vulnerable communities is disgraceful and absolutely unacceptable,” James said. “(Murphy) shamelessly embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from individuals that the law trusted him to protect."

Hopewell Junction, New York Man Accused Of Draining Accounts

After being appointed as a guardian and trustee for his clients, Murphy allegedly drained their trust accounts by issuing checks to himself, his company Samron Resources, and his own family members, officials say.

According to court filings and statements:

 Murphy abused his position as an attorney over the course of nearly seven years by taking advantage of vulnerable and disabled people, including those for whom he was appointed to act as guardian or trustee. In his role as a court-appointed guardian and trustee for incapacitated individuals and their special needs trusts, Murphy allegedly issued more than $350,000 in checks for his own use.

 Additionally, while acting as trustee for a family friend who is an 89-year-old retiree, Murphy stole more than $80,000 and failed to pay the victim’s tax and utility bills.
 Murphy’s failure to pay the victim’s expenses caused her utilities to be shut off on multiple occasions, and even resulted in a foreclosure proceeding on her home. In an attempt to conceal the foreclosure, Murphy sought a seller for the home and collected a $10,000 down payment, which he then deposited into his own account. The home was never conveyed to the seller and Murphy did not return the down payment. However, with the assistance of the New York City Justice Center, the victim has been able to remain in her home.

The alleged crimes occurred between June 26, 2015, to December 29, 2021.

“This individual selfishly used his position to take advantage of elderly, vulnerable, and unsuspecting New Yorkers and their families who put their trust in him to take care of their finances and loved ones," Nigrelli stated. "The New York State Police and our law enforcement partners will continue to put those like Mr. Murphy behind bars to protect innocent victims from being taken advantage of.”

Murphy was suspended from practicing law in August 2021 and disbarred in December 2021.

Full Article & Source:
$500 Million Allegedly Stolen From Incapacitated, Vulnerable HV, NY Clients

Attorney General Moody’s Office Charges Man for Bilking Seniors with Streaming Service Investment Scheme

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is charging a man with felony fraud and elderly exploitation counts for deceiving more than 300 victims, many of whom are seniors, into investing in a phony streaming-service company. According to a joint Florida Office of Financial Regulation and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, Anthony Hernandez operated a criminal-fraud scheme defrauding victims by advertising investment opportunities in a streaming-service company, Oi2Go, on television and social media. Over the course of 13 months, Hernandez bilked more than $1.6 million from victims.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This defendant placed misleading advertisements on television and social media, tricking victims, including many seniors, into believing that their investment would bring back big returns. Instead, the defendant used their money to pay personal expenses. Working with state and federal partners, we have shut down this devious investment scheme and will hold the defendant accountable in court.”

According to the investigation, Hernandez repeatedly misled a total of 327 victims throughout the U.S. to invest with Oi2Go. Twenty-two of the victims are located in Florida. Through television and social media ads, Hernandez promoted Oi2Go as a company with experience in the field of streaming movies and music, and that the company would repeat the achievements of Netflix, Facebook and Amazon in the stock market. Yet, the investigation uncovered that neither Oi2Go nor Hernandez are licensed or registered as brokers or investment advisors.

When prospective investors called the number listed on the advertisements, Oi2Go representatives collected bank account information and authorization to process payments. Provided testimonies expressed that Oi2Go representatives repeatedly called and emailed to push victims into buying more shares.

The investigation revealed that company representatives used verbal strategies to make victims believe Oi2Go was a leader in content and service, with a network of 1,700 online radios and more than 1,000 affiliated radio stations. After further investigation, authorities did not find any evidence of such a network.

Hernandez stole more than $1.6 million from victims nationwide, including more than $140,000 from Floridians. The investigation found that Hernandez spent the money received from victims on an excessive amount of varied personal expenses, salary payments, cash withdrawals, retail and jewelry purchases, restaurants and credit card payments.

Hernandez is charged with one count of organized fraud of $50,000 or more, a first-degree felony; one count of exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult of $50,000 or more, a first-degree felony; exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult of less than $10,000, a third-degree felony; one count of sale of securities by unregistered dealer, a third-degree felony; and one count of cash or deposit with intent to defraud, a third-degree felony.

In addition to these criminal charges, Hernandez will face a civil complaint by the SEC.

Attorney General Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.

Attorney General Moody’s Office Charges Man for Bilking Seniors with Streaming Service Investment Scheme

States with the Best and Worst Elder-Abuse Protections

Do you know where your state ranks regarding its elder-abuse protections? This new report breaks it down.

by Amy Rock

It is estimated that more than 10% of Americans over the age of 60 have experienced elder abuse — a number that is likely higher since recent studies found one in five cases of potential elder abuse aren’t reported to law enforcement.

According to WalletHub, a personal-finance website, the elderly population is especially vulnerable during times of high inflation. Released Wednesday, its report on 2022’s States with the Best Elder-Abuse Protections compares 50 states and the District of Columbia across 16 key metrics, including elder-abuse, gross-neglect and exploitation complaints, financial elderly-abuse laws, and quality of nursing homes. 

“The most common types of elder mistreatment in long-term care homes include neglect of healthcare, harmful resident-to-resident incidents, emotional/psychological abuse, staff retaliation against residents, financial exploitation, theft of residents’ opioid pain medications, and inappropriate and harmful use of antipsychotic drugs,” Eilon Caspi, gerontologist and dementia behavior specialist, told WalletHub. “The inappropriate and harmful use of physical restraints has been less common in recent years but it still represents a significant concern. In general, staff physical abuse and sexual abuse of residents are less common but their consequences on residents can be deeply traumatic and devastating.”

The report found the 10 states with the best elder-abuse protections are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. On the contrary, the 10 states with the worst elder-abuse protections are Oklahoma, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, California, Tennessee, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, and Utah. Hover over each state in the chart below to see where your state ranks.

Source: WalletHub

Additional notable findings from the study include:

  • The District of Columbia has the highest total long-term care Ombudsman program funding (per resident aged 65 and older) at $9.66 — 13.8 times higher than Florida, which has the lowest at $0.70.
  • Alaska has the most certified volunteer Ombudsmen (per 100,000 residents aged 65 and older) at 78. Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota, and West Virginia are among the states that have none.
  • Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri, and Wisconsin have the most frequent assisted-living facility inspections at twice per year, which is ten times more frequent than in Nebraska, the state with the lowest frequency at once every five years.
  • Alaska has the highest nursing-home quality (share of certified nursing-home beds rated 4 or 5 stars) at 85.5%, which is four times higher than Louisiana, the state with the lowest at 21.4%.

Click through the article’s slideshow to see a further breakdown of the key metric.

What Can Be Done to Protect the Elderly Population?

To better protect the elderly, Peter Giglione, adjunct professor at Duquesne University, told WalletHub that much of the responsibility rests with policymakers. 

“Federal and state governments need to strengthen regulations to provide better minimum staffing ratios and to increase penalties for repeat offender nursing homes, such as mandatory admissions ban, high fines (right now, the maximum fines are a joke), and a loss of Medicare funding,” he said.

There are also ways families can protect their elderly family members from being abused financially, says Manish Shah, professor and chair of the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Wisconsin. Her recommendations include:

  1. Establish a trustworthy financial power of attorney, even with potential oversight of that person
  2. Establish a contact for financial institutions so the companies can contact someone else if suspicious activity is occuring

The latter, adds Shah, “is particularly important for those with cognitive impairment. Some experts suggest that the likelihood of older adults experiencing abuse – ranging from family violence and neglect to financial scams – has increased in the past year.”

“Ultimately,” she continued, “I think that it is really important to be involved in the lives of loved ones and have a strong relationship with them. That will ensure that any problems are identified early.”

Full Article & Source:
States with the Best and Worst Elder-Abuse Protections

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Judge appoints lawyer for Spears in incapacity case

By Alex Wood

Wesley Spears, 2020. (Journal Inquirer file photo)

A judge found last month that Glastonbury lawyer Wesley S. Spears, who had been representing himself in a case over whether he is “incapacitated and unable to practice law,” was “without adequate representation” in the case, and the judge appointed another lawyer to represent him at taxpayers’ expense.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Susan Quinn Cobb has also appointed a psychologist, Andrew W. Meisler, at taxpayers’ expense to evaluate whether Spears is incapacitated from practicing law “by reason of mental infirmity.”

Meisler is to be paid $300 per hour, the judge ordered.

Her order appointing the lawyer, David Channing, didn’t state a payment rate but said his fees should be “reasonable.”

The judge’s appointments of Channing and Meisler are the latest developments in the unusual case filed in September by the office of Connecticut’s chief disciplinary counsel for lawyers.

The judge ordered Meisler to have his written evaluation to her by Jan. 31.

Spears has been litigating the case actively, filing a number of motions to dismiss it, which the judge has denied.

Spears couldn’t be reached for comment on the judge’s appointment of the lawyer and psychologist.

When the judge first broached her intention to hire another lawyer to represent Spears, 68, she asked the two sides for recommendations on whom she should appoint.

Spears filed a one-sentence response saying he would leave it “to the Court’s discretion to select counsel for the defendant.” The chief disciplinary counsel’s office submitted no recommendation, according to the judge.

The disciplinary counsel’s office hasn’t given specific reasons for its belief that Spears may be incapacitated from practicing law.

The “presentment,” or complaint, the office filed in September says only that Spears may be incapacitated “by reason of physical and/or mental illness.”

Glastonbury police arrested Spears in October in a July incident in which police believe a gun was fired in his apartment in the 2 Glastonbury Place complex off House Street and Hebron Avenue.

That case, in which Spears is charged with illegal discharge of a firearm and evidence tampering, is pending in Manchester Superior Court.

Online state judicial records show that most records of the case are sealed from public view, probably indicating that Spears has applied for or been granted admission to a pretrial diversion program that can lead to dismissal of the charges.

Online state judicial records show that Spears represents defendants in 129 pending criminal and motor vehicle cases.

He represents a number of defendants in more than one case.

He represents parties in 13 civil and family cases, including a woman who is the defendant in a custody application filed in September in New Britain Superior Court, the online records show.

Full Article & Source:
Judge appoints lawyer for Spears in incapacity case

Ellsworth attorney disbarred after allegedly taking $189,000 from a client’s estate

Friends of a Milbridge man who died in 2018 had sought help since then to get eight $10,000 gifts distributed.

by Samantha Hogan

Christopher J. Whalley, was disbarred Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Photo by Fred J. Field.

Suspended Ellsworth attorney Christopher J. Whalley was disbarred Monday following a state disciplinary investigation for allegedly transferring more than half of a client’s estate to his law office’s bank accounts. 

Whalley had been ordered to immediately stop practicing law last February amid a state investigation into his alleged “misuse, or outright embezzlement” of client money, according to court documents. He appeared virtually at a hearing with his lawyer Walter McKee and signed an agreement Monday morning acknowledging the misconduct, or that the state could have proven the allegations had a scheduled two-day hearing taken place, McKee said. 

At the center of the controversy was the estate of Wilbur Knudsen, a Milbridge man who died in October 2018. Whalley is accused of moving nearly $190,000 from the deceased man’s $378,000 estate to bank accounts in Whalley’s control.

Knudsen intended for eight gifts of $10,000 each to be distributed to family members, friends and a local animal shelter, according to his will. The remainder of his estate was to be sold and divided between two grandchildren, which included setting up a trust to help one grandchild pay for college.

“He said he felt they were the ones that could truly use it financially,” Wendy Jipson, a family friend and neighbor of Knudsen, told The Maine Monitor.

Jipson said she was pleased with the disbarment.

“I’m pleased because there’s not a chance he could do this to another,” she said.

Jipson helped care for Knudsen near the end of his life — taking him grocery shopping and to the bank. She said she was at his bedside when Knudsen signed his final will, which Whalley prepared, making himself the “personal representative” of the estate with the power to distribute Knudsen’s assets after his death. 

Much of the money appears to have been paid to Whalley instead, according to court documents filed by the Board of Overseers of the Bar, an independent judicial agency that investigates and prosecutes attorney misconduct in Maine. Checks totaling $99,022 were eventually written to the beneficiaries of the will and creditors of the estate, according to court documents.  

The board of overseers filed seven counts against Whalley accusing him of violating the rules of professional conduct, including allegedly making false statements, taking an unreasonable fee, failing to keep a client’s property separate from his own, making advance payments to himself, and failing to diligently perform legal services or to comply with the Maine Probate Code. Whalley denied the alleged misconduct through his lawyer, McKee, in June.

“This is certainly a black mark. We would recognize that but at the same time it’s not the only thing that is the measure of a person. (Whalley) did a lot of good in Hancock County and many counties over his 31 years. Certainly this event was unfortunate,” McKee told the court Monday.

Christopher J. Whalley, bottom center, acknowledged his disbarment to Superior Court Justice Ann Murray, top center during a disciplinary hearing Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Also present were, clockwise from upper left, William Devoe, Walter McKee (Whalley’s lawyer), Assistant Bar Counsel Suzanne Thompson and Bar Counsel Julia Sheridan. Photo by Fred J. Field.

McKee said the agreement was not an admission of criminal conduct. A spokeswoman with the Office of the Maine Attorney General confirmed the agency is investigating Whalley. 

Whalley and his lawyer declined the Monitor’s request for an interview. 

‘I’m still working on taking care of him’

Knudsen, a retired millwright, split his time between Milbridge and Port Charlotte, Fla. He was short with a big mustache, a “quirky little sense of humor,” said Karen Schevenieus, who cut his hair and whose father was one of Knudsen’s friends.

Wilbur Knudsen
Shortly after Knudsen’s death at age 79 in October 2018, Jipson gave the deed, checkbook and bank statements to Whalley at his request. She also agreed to look after Knudsen’s house each week to save the estate the cost of Whalley driving the 31 miles from Ellsworth to Milbridge to check on the home.

The home’s heating oil ran out in November 2018 and it took Whalley until January 2019 to approve Jipson’s requests that more oil be delivered, she said in a complaint to the board of overseers and an interview with the Monitor. When the boiler wouldn’t start, it took several more weeks for Whalley to approve a repairman to come, she said. By then the walls inside the home had cracked from the extreme cold. In May, seven months after Knudsen’s death, Emera Maine disconnected the electricity because bills had not been paid.

“This isn’t how (Knudsen) operated. When he got a bill, he paid it that day,” Jipson said in an interview.

Whalley met Jipson at the house in January 2019 and appraised the value of the contents at $2,000, according to probate records. He sold it all to Jipson except for a few items in the garage.

Jipson said she was told it would take three months to execute the will and distribute the money to the people in the will — including her own father, Everett West. But three months quickly turned into five months. Jipson told the Monitor her phone calls went unreturned and she didn’t see Whalley again until making an unannounced visit to his office in Ellsworth on March 29, 2019.

“That’s when I asked him, ‘Why now, Whalley? Why are we waiting now? And he knew, of course,” Jipson said in the interview. “My interest the whole time was not just because my dad is in the will. My interest is because these other people want their money. (Knudsen) left it to them — that was his last wishes — and I told him when I became his power of attorney, I would take care of him. And I’m still working on taking care of him.”

Jipson said Whalley promised during their meeting that he would write the checks the following week. 

Whalley instead paid himself $69,000 between June 2019 and August 2019 from Knudsen’s estate, according to the accusations filed by the board of overseers in court. Knudsen’s case file from that time period contained two letters that Whalley wrote to creditors and one letter from the county probate registers, which Whalley didn’t respond to at the time, according to court records.

In total, Whalley allegedly paid $189,375 to his law office and trust accounts with Knudsen’s money, according to a board analysis of banking records. The timing of the payments “is not consistent with any regular ‘billing cycle’ ” and the frequency of the checks written to Whalley’s law office is “not consistent with legitimate payments” for services rendered or expenses incurred, according to information filed by the board of overseers in support of further sanctioning Whalley.

Whalley wrote dozens of checks in round amounts — ranging from $500 to $8,000 at a time — to his law office, which was inconsistent with payments for services and expenses he billed to the estate, according to the board of overseers complaint. Whalley wrote additional checks ranging from $2,000 to $30,000 from Knudsen’s estate to his own trust account. 

Meanwhile, Whalley neglected Knudsen’s other assets that were to be divided between two grandchildren. His largest assets — the house — sat vacant for nearly two years. A close friend reported Whalley to the board of overseers in June 2019. 

Then, Jipson reported Whalley to the board of overseers as well on July 3, 2019, according to a copy of the complaint provided to the Monitor that noted the deteriorating condition of her late friend’s house.

“This home sits directly on the ocean and is worth over $200,000. It’s an absolute shame to watch it be neglected, and to know that Wilbur would be heartbroken at the shape it’s in. It was his pride and joy and it gave him such joy and pleasure to sit on the deck and watch the lobster boats in the bay. Mr. Knudsen’s last wishes are not being carried through. He trusted Mr. Whalley to handle his affairs and Mr. Whalley is not fulfilling his duties and obligations to Wilbur. Something needs to change,” Jipson wrote to the board. 

Court records show the board of overseers opened an investigation in 2019 but agreed to delay taking action. Through 2020 and into 2021, Whalley asked for extensions to finish his work on the estate. Then he stopped responding and in April 2021, the board of overseers reopened the investigation, records show.

Three prior suspensions

This is not the first time Whalley has been investigated by the board of overseers.

Whalley was suspended for three months in 2003 but was allowed to continue practicing law as long as he agreed to be monitored by an attorney for a year. A judge ruled that Whalley had engaged in the “improper handling of client trust funds” during a case where he simultaneously represented multiple people and businesses from whom a woman had stolen tens of thousands of dollars, according to board records. 

Whalley was later reprimanded — the lowest tier of public discipline — in 2005 for having a conflict of interests and again in 2008 for his lack of attention to a time-sensitive divorce case, according to board records. The records also reveal Whalley was also given warnings in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2015.

In 2007, Whalley was suspended again — this time for 30 days — for neglecting a client’s case and for not diligently pursuing another matter. He was again allowed to continue practicing law as long as he agreed to be monitored for another year. 

Whalley was suspended for a third time in April 2021, after he was found to have forged a client’s signature on a document submitted to the court years earlier, Superior Court Justice Ann Murray ruled. The suspension was supposed to last a year, though again he was allowed to continue working as long as he participated in a psychological evaluation and treatment.

Penobscot County Superior Court Justice Ann Murray accepted an agreement to disbar Christopher J. Whalley during a disciplinary hearing Monday. Photo by Fred J. Field.

By the time Whalley was suspended in 2021, the board of overseers had already received complaints from Jipson and another person about Whalley’s handling of Knudsen’s estate.

While still on probation, the board of overseers requested in February that the court immediately suspend Whalley from practicing law. The state didn’t notify Whalley or his attorney prior to sending the request.

“… The board has determined that exigent circumstances exist in this case due to attorney Whalley’s extensive prior disciplinary history, and his continued access to substantial amounts of client funds that are susceptible to misappropriation or embezzlement in the event he receives prior notice of this request for his suspension,” the board wrote.

The court granted the emergency request. During his fourth suspension in nine years, Whalley would finally be ordered to stop practicing law while the state investigated. 

Elder financial exploitation

Older adults in Maine collectively lose at least $4 million annually as a result of financial exploitation, according to an analysis of Adult Protective Services and Legal Services for the Elderly cases. 

The majority of abuse and financial exploitation is done by family members, who may take money from bank accounts, get deeds transferred to themselves or evict older family members from their homes, said Jaye Martin, executive director of Legal Services for the Elderly, which provides free legal services to Maine residents age 60 and older when their basic needs are at stake. 

Exploitation by a financial advisor or trusted professional is far less common, she said.

“All of this is really hard for people to picture and imagine. I think all of us want to think of it like, ‘Oh, those doggone romance scams’ or grandparent scams or all the anonymous scamming, which is very predatory and very awful, but it isn’t doing near the harm that the familial exploitation is doing,” Martin said.

For this reason, Martin recommends that seniors consult an attorney when writing wills, healthcare directives or documents giving a person power of attorney. Lawyers are beholden to professional rules of conduct and ethical standards, which if broken have consequences, she said.

Martin declined to comment on any specific case. In general, Martin said it can still be considered financial exploitation if the person is dead, because the final wishes for the assets aren’t being honored.

Martin co-chaired the Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership that was formed by Gov. Janet Mills, which brought together private and public groups to evaluate Maine’s response and prevention of elder abuse. The group released a report in December 2021, which was to be a “roadmap” for how the state could improve. 

Among the “top priority” recommendations were that Maine assign a dedicated elder fraud prosecutor within each district attorney’s office to make it more likely that cases were pursued. They also recommended that there be more forensic auditing resources to support law enforcement in investigating financial exploitation cases. 

In response to the board of overseers case against Whalley, the court assigned a lawyer to take control of client files and computers at Whalley’s law office. The lawyer reported to the court earlier this year that he had spoken with the attorney general’s office and Maine State Police, court records show. Jipson also told the Monitor that she had been contacted by a state trooper about Whalley.

“The case is under investigation by the Office of the Attorney General,” Danna Hayes, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an email to the Monitor.

Probate court unable to intervene

What happened to Knudsen’s estate was sad, unusual and the result of a “perfect storm” of problems, said Carlene Holmes, who has worked as register of probate in Washington County for 24 years and plans to retire on Jan. 1. 

The register office for the Washington County Probate Court has three employees, including Holmes. At three different occasions, there were job vacancies and new people who needed to be trained while Knudsen’s case was open. The COVID-19 pandemic also shut down the office and forced them onto new laptops and new technology. 

“We couldn’t have been any busier,” Holmes said.

Holmes sent letters to Whalley asking him to complete necessary tasks, like notifying Knudsen’s heirs of the case. Whalley had a string of excuses, she said.

Knudsen’s friend, Dale Schevenieus, wrote letters, submitted editorials and called Holmes about his concerns with how Knudsen’s estate was being handled. He witnessed Knudsen sign the will, but wasn’t named as a beneficiary so he had no authority to intervene in the probate case, Holmes said. The court’s hands were tied.

“He wanted the judge to ‘do something, do something,’ and there’s nothing we can do until somebody files something. And it has to be an interested party,” Holmes said. 

One of the beneficiaries requested a final settlement and distribution of the estate nearly a year after Knudsen’s death, probate court records show. It doesn’t appear she took all the necessary steps to intervene in the will. 

As the third anniversary of Knudsen’s death approached, probate judge Lyman Holmes ordered Whalley to provide the register with addresses of Knudsen’s surviving relatives and file an inventory of the estate. 

By the time Whalley wrote checks to the beneficiaries of the will, Jipson’s father and Margaret Deoca — a friend of Knudsen’s wife, Sue — had died and didn’t receive the $10,000 that was promised. Schevenieus died from a COVID-19 infection in December 2021, two months before the court suspended Whalley, according to his daughter, Karen.

She said her father, Dale Schevenieus, fought until the very end to have his close friend’s final wishes followed.

“He didn’t like anyone being bad to anyone else. He stood his ground,” Karen Schevenieus said.

Full Article & Source:
Ellsworth attorney disbarred after allegedly taking $189,000 from a client’s estate