Saturday, March 4, 2023

79-year-old vet says homeless woman ran him out of his Houston-area house, drained his bank accounts

 Joe Whitten wasn't planning to buy cars, drain his bank accounts and move out of his Tomball home. But after helping a woman in need, that's exactly what happened.

Author: Grace White, Cory McCord (KHOU)

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A 79-year-old disabled veteran said he was scammed out of thousands of dollars by people he was trying to help.

Now, his home is trashed and his credit is ruined. It's so bad, he had to move.

His neighbors are fed up with what's going on and they, too, have called the police to find out what's going on inside the Tomball home that Roma "Joe" Whitten used to call home.

"I wish a thousand times I never helped them, but I did," Whitten said.

He said it all started with a homeless woman he decided to help.

"But you can't help a thief and a liar," he said.

He said after she moved into his house, his car was stolen and she disappeared. Eventually, she showed back up at Whitten's home. This time, she was with a man and asked for help, again. A few months later, another woman arrived at the house.

"I said, 'I'll feed you and give you a place to stay.' But I didn't intend it to be forever," Whitten said.

He said his bank account has been drained and the people refuse to leave. Whitten said he has given up on the home and wants to sell it.

Whitten said one of the women even claimed to be married to him.

"She said, 'Well I lived here eight months, so we're married.' I said, 'You're crazy, you lived in that room and I lived in my room back there," he said.

While KHOU 11 News reporter Grace White was doing this story on Wednesday, neighbors showed her photos of the police being called to the home earlier in the week.

"Lots of activity of people we don't recognize in and out of the house at all hours of the day and night," neighbor Jenna Cordell said.

Constable Mark Herman said one of the women living at the house had been arrested on an unrelated theft charge.

When White went to the house and knocked on the door, someone was seen peering through the window, but no one answered the door.

Two law enforcement agencies -- the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office -- said they're investigating. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is also looking into Whitten's situation.

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79-year-old vet says homeless woman ran him out of his Houston-area house, drained his bank accounts

La. woman accused of using aunt’s debit card for 136 DoorDash orders held on preset $18 million bond

Maili Morris is accused of making 136 purchases on DoorDash, totaling around $12,000, using her 73-year-old aunt's debit card.(TPSO)

By Mykal Vincent

HAMMOND, La. (WVUE) - A Hammond woman accused of using her aunt’s debit card to make over 100 purchases from several vendors using the DoorDash app is being held on a preset $18 million bond, according to the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Jimmy Travis says Maili Morris, 31, was booked into jail on Feb. 16 on 816 counts of criminal financial charges.

Travis also said that while $18 million is a lofty number, it is not the official bond set by a judge. Prior to a bond hearing, crimes have preset bond figures and the preset bond for each one of Morris’ counts is $25,000. The $18 million number is a cumulative total amount based on the preset figure set for the over 800 counts she faces.

Morris is set to appear in front of a judge on Friday morning to officially set her bond, which can be adjusted for whatever the judge feels is appropriate for the crimes she is accused of, Travis said.

Morris is accused of ordering around $12,000 worth of food and merchandise from restaurants and stores in the Hammond area from Nov. 2022 - Jan. 2023.

Investigators say Morris made 136 purchases using her 73-year-old aunt’s debit card, which she had linked to her personal DoorDash account.

The orders were made from various vendors including Big Lots, Petsmart, Walgreens, CVS, Dollar General, and several fast food restaurants.

Morris’ bond was set at $18,360,000, Chief Travis says.

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La. woman accused of using aunt’s debit card for 136 DoorDash orders held on preset $18 million bond

Suspects pose as law enforcement to rob elderly woman | FOX 13 Seattle

An investigation is closing in on four men accused of posing as federal officers to rob an elderly woman at gunpoint.

Suspects pose as law enforcement to rob elderly woman | FOX 13 Seattle

Friday, March 3, 2023

California lawmaker wants to reform conservatorships for those with severe mental illness

By Lindsey Holden

About 75 percent of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 24, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But the average delay between onset and intervention is 8 to 10 years, meaning people could go years before getting help. By Jim Donaldson

A California lawmaker will again try to reform the state’s conservatorship system to make it easier for people caring for those with severe mental illness to compel treatment. Sen. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, announced legislation Wednesday to amend the definition of “gravely disabled,” the term used to describe eligibility for a court-appointed conservator to assume decision-making powers for individuals because they can’t provide their own food, clothing or shelter. She unveiled the bill alongside the National Alliance on Mental Illness California and mental health care advocates, other legislators and mayors of San Francisco, San Diego, Anaheim and San Jose. Eggman’s bill would add criteria specifying the person is unable to ensure their own safety due to an untreated mental illness or substance abuse. The measure, Senate Bill 43, would also ask courts to take into account whether the person understands their illness and is able to make sound decisions based on the state of their mental health.

In addition, the bill would allow medical experts who have not directly treated a person being considered for a conservatorship to testify at court hearings without having their statements considered hearsay. Another bill in Eggman’s package would create a real-time online dashboard showing information about inpatient psychiatric beds, residential mental health facilities, crisis stabilization units and licensed substance abuse treatment facilities. “We’re still operating on laws that were a good idea at one point in our in our history and have now become obsolete and a barrier to care, versus a protection for people,” Eggman said during the news conference. Reforming California mental health care The state’s existing mental health care system dates back to the late 1960s, when California largely shut down its hospitals and left behavioral treatment to counties and cities.

The Lanterman Petris Short Act established a framework for involuntary mental health care ranging from short-term hospital stays to long-term conservatorships. But some families who believe their relatives would benefit from a conservatorship struggle to access that system, even if their loved ones suffer from severe untreated mental illness. That is because the current standards for that level of intervention are threats of harm to the mentally ill person or others or “grave disability.” Under existing criteria, it can be challenging for even very ill unhoused residents to reach eligibility for a conservatorship if they can minimally care for themselves. Eggman has previously attempted to reform the conservatorship system, but faced opposition from civil liberties organizations, such as Disability Rights California. Advocates from these groups say changing the current system would make it easier to push mentally ill Californians into conservatorships and force treatment against their will.

Her 2022 measure, Senate Bill 1416, died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee after failing to get a hearing. Disability rights advocates also lobbied against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court program, which he signed in September. That program establishes a system of mental health courts and requires counties to provide behavioral health care for residents with severe untreated bipolar disorder or schizophrenia who are experiencing psychosis. Disability Rights California in January filed a lawsuit against Newsom alleging CARE Court is unconstitutional and strips mentally ill people of their rights.

Eggman on Wednesday emphasized the CARE Court program is one part of an effort to reform mental health treatment in California. CARE Court would attempt to compel treatment on a voluntary basis, but lack of compliance with court-assigned plans could be a factor in determining conservatorship eligibility. Eggman said her new bill expanded the gravely disabled criteria based on feedback from mental health professionals. She said the newly-elected Assembly may be helpful to pushing it through the Legislature. “Last year, we got all the way to the very end with two no votes, I think, in the entire 120-body Legislature, and we weren’t able to get a hearing in the committee,” Eggman said. “This year, we feel very optimistic that we’ll be able to get all the way to the end. And we’ve had good talks with the administration about signing the bill when it reaches (the governor’s) desk.”

Full Article & Source:
California lawmaker wants to reform conservatorships for those with severe mental illness

Senate Approves Oroho Bill that Would Protect Individuals with Disabilities

by Jonathan Azzara

Parents of children with developmental disabilities may soon be able to file a complaint for guardianship six months before a child reaches the age of 18 thanks to bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho and approved today by the New Jersey Senate.

Parents of children with disabilities may soon be able to file a complaint for guardianship six months before a child reaches the age of 18 thanks to bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Steven Oroho and approved today by the New Jersey Senate. (Pixabay)

“I am proud the Senate advanced this legislation today. A parent should not have to wait until their child with special needs turns 18 to file a complaint for guardianship. If there is a delay with the courts, this can actually lead to a gap in legal protections for vulnerable individuals,” said Oroho (R-24). “My legislation will allow parents to file six months before a child turns 18 which will eliminate any potential protections gap and help maintain a stable support system for the entire family.”

Under current law, a parent may file a complaint for guardianship only after the child reaches age 18. However, if court proceedings are delayed and a guardian is not yet appointed by the time the child turns 18, there is a gap and the developmentally disabled person is left without the legal protections of a parent or appointed guardian, until such time as the guardian is actually appointed.

Oroho’s bill (S-3260), which was inspired by a local family’s experience, allows a complaint for guardianship to be filed six months before the minor turns 18. This allows additional time to account for delays in court proceedings. The guardianship would take effect the day the minor turns 18.

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Senate Approves Oroho Bill that Would Protect Individuals with Disabilities

Man Charged with Elder Abuse, Victims in Critical Condition

Brent Preston Hunter, 56, of Fort Payne was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree domestic violence, two counts of elderly abuse and ‘certain persons forbidden to possess firearms’ on Sunday.

Man Charged with Elder Abuse, Victims in Critical Condition

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Man protesting fiancee’s guardianship jailed for 90 days by Macomb County probate judge

Harrison says Scarborough violated court order again

Ted Scarborough is about to be escorted by two Macomb County Sheriff’s deputies from a Macomb Probate courtroom to go to jail for violating Judge Sandra Harrison’s order, as attorneys Terry Gilsenan and Elizabeth Ferguson watch. JAMESON COOK — THE MACOMB DAILY

By Jameson Cook

A former Clinton Township man was jailed by a Macomb County Probate judge for 90 days Tuesday for violating a court order by contacting his fiancee’ in a nursing home under a guardianship and previously submitting a fake letter that was portrayed as written by her.

Ted Scarborough was escorted out of a courtroom to go to the county jail following an at times tumultuous hearing that included allegations he had abused and taken advantage of his fiancee, Judith Tefft, 58. He denied accusations he contacted her and accused the guardian, Terrence Gillsenan, of isolating her from him and her friends. She has been diagnosed with alcohol-induced early-stage dementia.

Scarborough, 58, yelled, “Don’t f——manhandle me,” to two sheriff’s deputies as they escorted him from the Mount Clemens courtroom.

Judge Sandra Harrison jailed Scarborough for civil contempt of court – having contact or having third parties contact Tefft in a nursing home during the past few months. He also submitted a handwritten letter to the judge that was surreptitiously delivered to the unidentified nursing home that the judge determined was written by someone else and Judith appeared to have signed in the nursing home, Harrison said.

“You have continued to contact Judith and answer her phone calls, which you admitted right into the record,” Harrison said while appearing remotely by video. “You had somebody draft up that letter that you sent to me, at this court, pretending to be Judith Tefft asking for you to be appointed her guardian. You committed a fraud on this court.”

Scarborough did not address the letter but responded that Tefft “is calling me. I am not making contact with her. There is a difference there. She is calling me begging me to get her out of there and to help her, and that’s what I have been doing because her family is not doing nothing (sic) to help her.

“This guy (Gilsenan, the guardian) sets me up for failure with this no contact (order). I am concerned about her and her well-being. He is not taking care of her.”

Scarborough said he hasn’t tried to visit Tefft, but his supporters went to the nursing home on Feb. 12 looking for Tefft on behalf of Scarborough, and Scarborough said he accepted a Dec. 22 telephone call from her.

Judith Tefft, right, and Judge Sandra Harrison appear from separate locations by video Tuesday in Macomb County Probate Court in Mount Clemens.MACOMB DAILY PHOTO

Harrison last November jailed Scarborough for 21 days (18 served) for contempt of court: seven days each also for contacting Tefft, lying about the letter and directing an obscenity at the judge in court.

Scarborough, who had been living with Tefft for about 11 years, sought to take over the guardianship, but Harrison ruled he does not have standing.

Harrison pointed out her office has been getting telephone calls from a woman who identifies herself as Scarborough’s girlfriend. Scarborough, who was evicted from Tefft’s former Clinton Township home, says he has been residing in Dryden in Lapeer County.

“I think it’s very interesting you’re still calling her your fiancee,” Harrison said.

Attorney Pam Kroll takes notes in court Tuesday.
(JAMESON COOK–The Macomb Daily)
“I am,” he replied. “I still have my ring on my finger and it will stay on here forever. I’ve done everything to try to get her to stop drinking. This man (Gilsenan) says I make her drunk so I can live off her money. That’s all a lie. I got bank statements and everything to prove that I’ve put money in that bank all these years we’ve been together.”

Tefft’s lawyer, Pam Kroll, and Eryn Sherman, an investigator with Adult Protective Services, which petitioned for the guardianship, said in court Tefft has told them Scarborough hit her and she fears him. A friend of Tefft’s told The Macomb Daily that she told her “a couple of times” that Scarborough hit her, and, according to Gilsenan, Tefft’s former neighbor says she fled from her home to the neighbors home because Scaborough struck her.

Attorney Donald Slavin, who was Tefft’s emergency guardian ad litem, said Tefft accused Scarborough of assaulting her and feared him during an April 2022 interview at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township, where she was brought after having a seizure.

Scarborough pleaded guilty to domestic violence in August 2014 on allegations he beat her in June 2014 and was sentenced to time-served, 56 days in the county jail, according to 41B District Court records. A charge of assault by strangulation was dismissed.

Scarborough also was charged with felony stalking on allegations he stalked another woman in 2012 but was found not guilty by a jury following a trial in Macomb Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.

A Personal Protection Order was filed against Scarborough in 2011 in Macomb Circuit Court by a woman whose name is redacted from the report. She accused Scarborough, who was her ex-boyfriend, of showing up at her at work “more than a dozen times” and other locations, calling her at work “more times than I can count,” and telling her and her boyfriend one time, “Your (sic) both done.”

Scarborough on Tuesday denied he ever “punched” or “slapped” Tefft. Regarding his domestic violence admission, he said, “I just manhandled her a little bit.”

Tefft, who was questioned by Kroll on Tuesday, for the most part retracted her accusations against Scarborough and said she did not recall meeting with Kroll four days earlier at the nursing home.

“Are you afraid of Mr. Scarborough?” Kroll asked.

“Sometimes,” Tefft replied.

Tefft emphasized her alcohol use, saying she suffers from seizures from “drinking.”

“Mr. Scarborough has been trying to get me to quit,” Tefft said. “That’s why I get into arguments with him.”

Asked if Scarborough hit her, Tefft said, “Not that I recall. He’s trying to get me to quit drinking. I come from an alcoholic family. And half the time I don’t remember.”

Tefft indicated in two interviews that she “did love” Scarborough but “she was afraid of him because he hit her,” Kroll said.

But on Tuesday, Tefft offered this: “I only say that stuff because he takes away my liquor.”

Attorney Terry Gilsenan, the guardian for Judith Tefft, questions Eryn Sherman, second from left, a service specialist from Adult Protective Services on Tuesday in Macomb County Probate Court in Mount Clemens.JAMESON COOK — THE MACOMB DAILY

Harrison discounted Tefft’s testimony, attributing it to the intimidating presence of Scarborough, whom she could see by video.

“It’s very evident to me that Miss Tefft doesn’t want to say these things in the presence of Mr. Scarborough because she’s afraid of retaliation,” the judge said. “This is classic abuse right here.”

Sharee Smith, a nursing home social worker who accompanied Tefft at the hearing, said she agreed with the judge that Scarborough’s presence was impacting her.

Smith told the judge staff members who take care of Tefft “came to me with things with some concerns about things she said … about the arguments and abuse (by Scarborough) that she experienced in the past due to not signing over money or giving him access to her financial accounts at the bank.”

Gilsenan accuses Scarborough of taking advantage of Tefft and residing in her home. He said Scarborough operated a suspected marijuana-grow facility in a large shed in the backyard.

Tefft’s house off Groesbeck Highway north of Metropolitan Parkway was recently sold for $199,000, of which most of the money will be used to pay for her nursing-home care, Gilsenan said.

Chris Abood, a Scarborough supporter who attended the hearing and claims the guardianship and conservatorship system in Michigan is corrupt, called the allegations against Scarborough “hearsay.”

“They follow a playbook, and the judge goes along with it,” Abood said, adding the system is designed for the guardians and conservators to make money and influence judges.

Gilsenan, who operates a guardianship practice, said, “I’ll hold up my record to anybody.” He said he receives no pay for one-third of his cases and $83 per month for another third of his them.

Tammy Gallagher, a friend of Tefft, said Scarborough “is just trying to help her” and it might be good for Tefft “to have a chance to be a citizen again. Maybe it will be good for her” to return home, she said.

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Man protesting fiancee’s guardianship jailed for 90 days by Macomb County probate judge

Man Accused of Trying to Sell Bedridden Elderly Woman's House: Miami-Dade Police

Tom Roy Jenkins, 43, of Oakland Park, was arrested Monday and faces multiple charges, including fraud, grand theft and elderly exploitation, according to an arrest report.

By Alyssa Hyman 

In an undercover takedown, Miami-Dade Police arrested and charged a man who they say tried to sell a bedridden elderly woman's house using fake IDs, fake documents and stolen information.

Tom Roy Jenkins, 43, of Oakland Park, was arrested Monday and faces multiple charges, including fraud, grand theft and elderly exploitation, according to an arrest report. He's being held in jail on a $45,000 bond.

"This individual attempted to practically steal a home from an 86-year-old bedridden female that's in a nursing home," said Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.

Detectives said Jenkins used a fake Florida driver’s license and drew up fake documents to pose as the elderly woman's son to sell her Miami home.

Tom Roy Jenkins

Police said he went to a North Miami title company with a forged purchase sale agreement to sell the woman's house for $500,000.

"He provided a fictitious Florida driver's license, so he had all the documentation that he needed in order to show that this was going to be a legitimate purchase of this home," Zabaleta said.

Police said Jenkins and another woman also presented fake IDs to a notary public.

"Everyone was asking for documentation, everyone was doing the right thing throughout the entire process," Zabaleta said. "There was nothing negligent, but everything that was being provided was all fictitious, but sometime in the process the title company noticed that there was something wrong."

The red flags led the title company to contact the Miami-Dade Police Department's real estate fraud squad to set up an undercover takedown Monday after police said Jenkins tried to pick up a $462,000 check for the house.

The owner of the title company, Marina Title, said in a statement Tuesday that other people were involved in the fraud ring and that "my only hope is that they are brought to justice soon."

"We all have to be more vigilant than ever due to the rampant amount of deed and wire fraud that has infiltrated the South Florida market," Jennie G. Farshchian wrote in a statement in part. "The level of fraud we are seeing now is more sophisticated and organized than before, which requires us as real estate attorneys and title agent to constantly be investing in new methods and technologies in an effort to combat the fraud. The current scheme involves a property that the fraudsters had physical access to, where the buyer had even visited the property and met with the tenant."     

Real estate title lawyer Valerie Hassan said it’s easy for criminals to track down a lot of information through public records online and said it’s important to hire an attorney in the real estate business. She also said it's important for homeowners to check up on their property records.

"In my opinion, it’s very important that you keep up to date with checking your property by checking to make sure the records are the way they should be," she said.

Police said they want the community to take a good look at the suspect in case he has other victims. While the title company and officers were able to stop this transaction from going through, sometimes that’s not the case and it becomes a big nightmare for the homeowner to get their property back.

Full Article & Source:
Man Accused of Trying to Sell Bedridden Elderly Woman's House: Miami-Dade Police

Alabama insurance agent charged with fraud, financial exploitation of elderly in $600K case

By Howard Koplowitz 

An Alabama insurance agent was taken into custody Monday and charged with fraud and other offenses that resulted in $600,000 in losses for his elderly victims, the state Insurance Department announced Tuesday.

Bret Chappell, a 43-year-old licensed insurance agent who previously worked for ALFA, was booked into the Blount County jail without bond Monday after he was charged with two counts of first-degree insurance fraud, two counts of first-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and two counts of first-degree theft of property by deception -- all felonies, the department said.

The crimes led to $600,000 in losses for Chappell’s victims, the agency said.

The Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Criminal Fraud Bureau, the Blount County District Attorney’s Office and Blount County Sheriff’s Department helped the Insurance Department with the investigation into Chappell.

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Alabama insurance agent charged with fraud, financial exploitation of elderly in $600K case

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Who will be guardians for legions of ‘unbefriended’ elders? A new initiative tries to address an urgent and growing problem in Mass.

By Kay Lazar

Mary Kate Egan is a care manager at Public Guardian Services. She regularly meets with a social worker at Watertown Rehabilitation and Nursing Center before she checks in on one of her clients. Suzanne Kreiter\Globe staffSuzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The man was adamant. He did not, he insisted, have any family. But while cleaning out his apartment, Mary Kate Egan stumbled on paperwork that clearly showed he had been married and had children.

Egan, a case manager at Public Guardian Services, was starting to manage health care decisions for the man, who had been living alone but was no longer capable of handling his own affairs and was moving into a nursing home. After Egan found the paperwork and asked the man about his family, he had a change of heart; he confessed to Egan that he now wanted to reconnect with them and that he was alienated from them because of his earlier gambling problems.

“I finally reached a son who said he didn’t want any contact and hadn’t seen him since he was 13,” Egan said. “Obviously [the man] was operating as if they didn’t exist. But when he changed his mind and wanted contact with his family, they didn’t want it.”

The man’s case is one of 20 Egan juggles, part of an ambitious initiative aimed at addressing an urgent and growing problem in Massachusetts: legions of people who are unable to make medical decisions for themselves but have no family members or friends willing or able to step in. Some of these individuals contribute to hospital crowding, because they have no one to sign off on a prompt discharge to a nursing home or rehabilitation center.

Lawyers and advocates estimate there are at least 3,000 such “unbefriended” people — most are older adults, though some are younger with brain injuries, intellectual disabilities, or mental health problems in need of a guardian. Massachusetts has had no central agency to handle these cases, nor a registry to track them.

Enter Public Guardian Services. The nonprofit pilot program, launched in 2020 in collaboration with the state’s Probate and Family Court, is providing guardians to about 100 people and managing their care in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties. The goal is to improve care for unbefriended people, while saving money for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, which often ends up paying to keep people in need of guardians in expensive places, such as hospitals, because there’s no one to sign off on their discharge and assume responsibility for their care.

We are trying to show that we can improve the quality of life for people who have nobody,” said Wynn Gerhard, board chair of the nonprofit and a former senior attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services.

Another goal: providing a three-county model of what could be done cohesively on a statewide level, Gerhard said.

She said the organization has had some success stories, resettling people stuck in hospitals or living on the streets in community-based programs, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, and even a few in their own apartments.

“Some people, who are able, we terminate guardianship to help them get back their life,” she said.

The state is also pursuing a project it hopes will provide a better handle on the burgeoning problem.

In October 2021, the Probate and Family Court was awarded a nearly $1 million federal grant to create a statewide Office of Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship Oversight.

Evelyn Patsos, the court’s deputy legal counsel and project director, said a top priority is to create a system that will reliably monitor what they believe are thousands of current guardianship cases that have been appointed by, or requested from, the courts.

“We have anywhere from 23,000 to 35,000 guardianship cases in Massachusetts, just on adults,” Patsos said. “That ranges because we are trying to see if any have passed away.”

With some instances of alleged financial and other forms of abuse in elder guardianships grabbing headlines, the state’s initiative aims to keep a close eye on cases.

One major goal of the new office includes creating a formal oversight system to regularly monitor guardians and ensure they are operating responsibly as well as establishing a state ombudsman program for families or other state agencies that have problems or may want to refer a case to protective services if they feel a guardian is not acting in the best interests of a client.

“We are bringing more staff to assist in this because it’s a huge endeavor,” Patsos said.

Fueling the problem is that often people fail to complete a health care proxy form, a simple document that designates a representative to make health care decisions for a person if he or she is incapacitated. Many other states have laws that allow someone else, such as a spouse, friend, or other family member, to make medical decisions when a proxy is missing — a law that, Patsos said, could ease the flood of guardianship petitions if it were enacted in Massachusetts.

A December survey by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association of administrators at three dozen hospitals revealed more than 150 people languishing in their beds, some for as long as 195 days, waiting for a guardianship or related conservatorship (to handle a person’s finances) to be finalized or expanded.

Brandon Saunders, whose law firm handles most of the new guardianship petitions in Eastern Massachusetts — they filed about 850 just last year and most involved hospital patients — said they struggle to find guardians because even those appointed by a court generally do not get paid.

“Reliance on volunteers to handle the bulk of the need for independent guardians in this Commonwealth is neither sustainable nor fair,” he said.

Pending legislation in Massachusetts aims to address that concern. The proposal (SD.698/HD.1727) would allow “reasonable” state-funded compensation for medical care-related duties of guardianship by professionals and extended family members. (Extended family is defined as those who are not a spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling of the person needing a guardian.)

Saunders said his office has heavily relied on the new Public Guardian Services nonprofit as well as on one particular volunteer who has handled roughly 160 cases for them since 2016.

That volunteer is Brian McLaughlin, a Boston health care attorney who specializes in guardianships. He said he does pro bono requests from Saunders’ firm because his college education inspired him to “do good and do well.”

“When you are a guardian or conservator, it’s like being dropped out of a space ship and you have to quickly assess somebody’s life,” McLaughlin said. “You don’t know the person from a hole in a wall and you have to quickly relate to them and figure out what their needs are.”

McLaughlin said the on-call nature of guardianship works well with his lifestyle: He is not married and has no children.

“There are times I need to be on the phone at two in the morning because hospitals need an answer now,” he said. “They can’t wait on a do-not-resuscitate order, or someone had a slip and fall, or they need a consent signed for a new medication.”

McLaughlin is witnessing a rising number of requests for guardianship cases for younger people who have become incapacitated through addiction to alcohol and drugs.

He said the pending legislation that would allow state compensation could be helpful. He worries there is a shrinking pool of people willing to take on the time-consuming nature of the work amid a rising tide of guardianship requests.

“If I had fewer cases,” McLaughlin said, “I could visit my clients more and give them the TLC they deserve.”

Full Article & Source:
Who will be guardians for legions of ‘unbefriended’ elders? A new initiative tries to address an urgent and growing problem in Mass.

‘No-win’ scenario in Hollywood Hills manslaughter case leads to nursing home administrator’s acquittal

by James M. Berklan

A Florida judge on Friday dismissed all nine manslaughter counts against a nursing home administrator accused of providing insufficient care after the facility’s air conditioning was disabled after Hurricane Irma.

Circuit Judge John J. Murphy III dismissed the charges against administrator Jorge Carballo three weeks into the trial and just days before the case could have gone to the jury. In granting defense attorneys’ request for a dismissal, the judge ruled that no jury could conceivably find the state had made its case.

Murphy said there was “undisputed evidence” that Carballo and the staff at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills staff had tried to deliver care to their patients, thus overcoming charges of reckless endangerment.

The case made national headlines and caused rifts in the long-term care community over the merit of the criminal charges. 

In the end, it was a “no-win” scenario that, ironically, led to Carballo’s exoneration, said defense co-counsel James Cobb Jr.

“It revolved around the question that can’t be answered: To evacuate or not to evacuate?” said Cobb in a 1-on-1 interview with McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Saturday. “Basically, it got down to the prosecution’s expert, a former administrator. I set him up. He acknowledged there are no good choices, only bad choices. He also acknowledged, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t (evacuate). 

“So in the context of where you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, and there are no good choices, how can a defendant be recklessly negligent? As a matter of law, that’s what the judge bought into.”

Attorney James A. Cobb Jr.
Cobb said the prosecution also put on an expert witness who said that she would have started evacuating the second the air conditioning failed. In his eight-page ruling Friday, Murphy noted the uncertainty among prosecution experts made it difficult, if not impossible, to prove recklessness, Cobb added. 

Carballo, who had in-laws residing at the facility, and his staff brought in fans and ice to try to offset the soaring temperatures in the building. They also followed procedures to call the power company and local officials, as well as then-Gov. Rick Scott (R), who had earlier encouraged direct contact in the case of such an emergency. 

But no repair crew was sent out until Hollywood Hills patients started to die. Ultimately, the repair — to a blown fuse on a power pole — took just 30 minutes, according to local news reports. 

“We never abandoned them,” Carballo said of the 150-bed facility’s residents in a local news interview Friday.

Another rebuke coming?

The nursing home leader had not demonstrated conscious indifference nor acted with a reckless disregard for human life, both necessary to achieve conviction, defense co-counsel David Frankel said. Buttressing the defense’s case was a state report that said Hollywood Hills staff had bought extra food, water and fuel for a back-up generator prior to when the storm hit on Sept. 10, 2017.

Murphy is expected to address an appeal by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office to reconsider his ruling at a 9 a.m. hearing Monday morning. Cobb predicted the judge would not reverse himself less than three days after issuing the “stunning rebuke” and that prosecutors would be further “embarrassed.”

In opening arguments, the state portrayed Carballo as a captain who had “abandoned” his ship. Cobb countered by calling the charges a clear case of “scapegoating,” an approach that had worked before in another nursing home disaster case that received worldwide attention.

Cobb was a lead defense attorney in that case against Sal and Mabel Mangano. They were the owners of the St. Rita nursing home near New Orleans, where 35 patients drowned after Hurricane Katrina led to the unprecedented breach of a nearby levee in 2005. The couple were targeted with 118 criminal charges and worldwide media scorn.

“I thought from Day 1, because I had been through this before with the same themes, that the themes that the people in the nursing home did the best they could under difficult  circumstances, then that could be acceptable in this case, just as in Managano,” Cobb told McKnight’s

“The theme is Florida Power & Light failed miserably to get power put back on. The theme that the emergency management structure in Florida was a flipping disaster. The theme that Gov. Rick Scott promised help — and we called him three times and he never called us back. Each of these themes was placing the blame where it truly belonged.

“It was the same thing that we did in St. Rita’s. The jury in the St. Rita’s case said, ‘Why are the Manganos the only people here [on trial]?’ Again, we successfully deflected the blame to the people it really belongs to, and the government [prosecutors] didn’t want to think about that at all.”

Settlement offers spurned

Cobb told McKnight’s that the defense team offered to settle with prosecutors on multiple occasions.

“I can’t tell you how many chances I gave them to get out of it,” Cobb said. “They wouldn’t take it. They made the political decision that it would be better for them to go try it and lose it, and blame it on a Broward jury, rather than dismiss it and look like a pussycat. That’s a political calculation.”

Cobb said his unrequited plan was to have the state’s attorney dismiss the charges and in return, the defense team would praise the wisdom of the prosecutors.

“The option was you go ahead and dismiss the charges,” he explained. “We will go to a press conference, we will praise the district attorney for their wisdom, etc. and not say anything bad about you. 

Carballo faced up to 15 years in prison on each of the nine counts if convicted. 

At the order of the fire department responding to the deaths at the Hollywood Hills center Sept. 13, remaining patients were evacuated across the street to a hospital that had not lost its air conditioning. Paramedics told officials that body temperatures were as high as 108 degrees in the afflicted facility, which never reopened.

It was unclear what the implications of Friday’s acquittal might be on any current or future civil litigation involving the 12 deaths at Hollywood Hills.

Full Article & Source:
‘No-win’ scenario in Hollywood Hills manslaughter case leads to nursing home administrator’s acquittal

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Florida assisted living home must pay $12.5M after woman’s death

It may be the largest jury verdict awarded in a case involving a Florida assisted living facility.

Nicole Santos, 43, who holds a bear stuffed with a recording of her mother’s heartbeat, poses for a portrait in the room where her mother died in 2021 in her Wimauma home on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

By Hannah Critchfield 

The smell hit Nicole Santos before she’d finished stepping into the hospital room.

Nurses surrounded her mother, she said, stripping bandages from her backside.

They revealed a cavernous bedsore. Through the mouth of the wound, Santos said, she could see bone.

Santos said her mother, Maritza Jackson, 59, had only been living at A Place to Grow, a Brandon assisted living facility, for two months. Though she had Alzheimer’s, she’d been physically healthy. Now, her mother was declining rapidly. An emergency room doctor told her there was nothing they could do, she said.

Last month, A Place to Grow was ordered to pay $12.5 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Santos early last year. The complaint, filed in Hillsborough County, alleged that the facility was understaffed and negligent in caring for her mother, causing a preventable injury that led to her death.

It may be the largest judgment awarded by a jury in a case involving a Florida assisted living facility, according to online legal research records.

“It sends a message to the assisted living facility industry in Florida,” said Michael Brevda, an attorney at Senior Justice Law Firm and one of Santos’ lawyers in the wrongful death suit. “Juries will get just as mad at an assisted living facility as they will a nursing home corporation.”

Enrique Toledo, the manager of the company that ran A Place to Grow, could not be reached for comment. He did not retain counsel during the lawsuit, and an attorney representing him in a separate criminal case did not respond to requests for comment. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed a photo of Jackson’s bedsore, which was also admitted as evidence during the wrongful death trial.

Assisted living facilities tend to provide less complex medical care than nursing homes. They’re part of the state’s goal to promote services for older people in the “least restrictive and most homelike environment,” according to laws governing these facilities.

For many, these facilities are considered an attractive option for loved ones who have cognitive problems and require more supervision than family members can provide at home. Memory care services have also become assisted living facilities’ greatest liability, experts say.

“The training that staff need is very different than for someone with just physical issues,” said Carrie Blakeway Amero, director at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “People with dementia might just wait until someone comes to tell them that it’s breakfast time, or in the morning, they may not get up until someone comes to help them orient themselves. Staff need to be aware of how to cue people.”

Santos’ mother was a fiery woman who would hop on her feet at the first notes of a Marc Anthony song.

“She could not dance salsa,” Santos remembered with a laugh. “She had one move. But she loved it. And she was funny — don’t get a little bit of chardonnay in her, forget about it.”

A few years back, Jackson began to seem confused during the evenings. She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, moving into her daughter’s Wimauma home.

“I fought it, but her doctors kept insisting, ‘You’re going to have to put her in a facility for her safety,’” Santos said. “And we did, because at one point, we had to actually put a lock on the inside of the house because she kept trying to get out.”

An acquaintance recommended A Place to Grow, a small assisted living facility a few miles from Santos’ work. Jackson began living there in May 2021.

Santos visited her mother daily, she said. To her relief, Jackson seemed happy.

That July, Santos said she got a call from a doctor, saying that her mother had pneumonia and a severe pressure ulcer and needed to go to the emergency room immediately.

Jackson died a few days later of sepsis due to those conditions, according to her death certificate. A “failure to thrive” due to Alzheimer’s disease was listed as an additional cause.

In July of last year, one of the defendants and managers of the limited liability company that owned A Place to Grow, Toledo, 53, was charged with the first-degree murder of his wife, who at the time was also named in Santos’ lawsuit.

Toledo did not attend the trial in the wrongful death case or respond to several court mailings ahead of the proceedings, county records show.

The judge presiding over the case eventually issued a default judgment against A Place to Grow LLC and Toledo, meaning all allegations in Santos’ lawsuit should be “deemed true,” according to court filings. The jury merely had to decide how much money to award the Santos family.

Because of Toledo’s absence, it isn’t clear how much money the family will be able to recover, Brevda said.

“I’m not in it for the money,” Santos said. “I just wanted to get justice for my mom. To me, justice has been served — I just didn’t want this to happen to someone else.”

A Place to Grow closed in September, according to Agency for Health Care Administration records.

Full Article & Source:
Florida assisted living home must pay $12.5M after woman’s death

Task Force to improve Ohio nursing home quality of life and care established

To improve quality of life and care in Ohio’s nursing homes, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Nursing Home Quality and Accountability Task Force was recently established.

The organization is comprised of experts in aging, long-term care, and other disciplines, along with long-term care consumers and advocates, who were appointed by Gov. DeWine to study issues surrounding quality of life and care in Ohio’s over 960 nursing homes.

The task force is chaired by Ursel J. McElroy, Director of the Ohio Department of Aging. Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff serves as vice-chair for the organization.

Due to their expedited timeline, the task force will travel to communities across the state between now and May to hear directly from nursing home residents and their loved ones about their experiences, then issue a report on their findings. In addition to community listening sessions, the task force will also hold regular meetings to discuss input and draft recommendations on how to improve quality of care and life in Ohio’s nursing homes.

“I promised that this task force would move quickly because we can’t afford to wait,” Gov. DeWine said. “While many of our state’s nursing homes are very good, others are not meeting the standards we expect for those caring for our older loved ones. All too often – we hear of preventable tragedies occurring: medication errors, failure to provide, poor infection prevention and control, and sometimes even elder abuse.”

The task force’s inaugural meeting will be held on Thursday, March 2, 2023 in Columbus at the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Shipley Atrium.

The first community listening session will be held on Friday, March 3, 2023 at Columbus State Community College’s Event Center at Mitchell Hall.

A full schedule of event times, dates, and locations will be shared once available online at Ohioans who are unable to attend the in-person events, but would still like to provide input will be able to share their insights online. More information will be available on the Ohio Department of Aging’s website.

Full Article & Source:
Task Force to improve Ohio nursing home quality of life and care established

2023.02.17 Elder Abuse

I rose to discuss Bill C-295, which takes steps to protect seniors from abuse and neglect in institutional settings. Elder abuse is a serious problem haunting many individuals in their later years. This bill is a positive move but more needs to be done the protect vulnerable Canadians from fraud, and emotional and physical abuse.

2023.02.17 Elder Abuse

Monday, February 27, 2023

Police: West Des Moines woman neglected to pay mother's nursing home bill

by Chad Thompson 

A West Des Moines woman failed to pay her mother's nursing home bill but was able to withdraw thousands of dollars at a casino with her mother's ATM card, according to police.

Police have charged 64-year-old Pamela Sue Young with dependent adult abuse.

According to court documents, Young was the power of attorney for her mother between July 2022 and December 2022. During that time, Young had access to her mother's checking account and made over $7,000 in withdraws from ATMs and at Prairie Meadows Casino.

Police say Young was not authorized to use the money for her own personal funds or personal gain. Investigators report that she neglected to pay her mother's nursing home bill repeatedly over the course of nine months.

Young was booked into the Polk County Jail.

Full Article & Source:
Police: West Des Moines woman neglected to pay mother's nursing home bill

Judge dismisses incapacity claim against Glastonbury lawyer

by Alex Wood

Feb. 25—A judge has found a Glastonbury lawyer "not currently incapacitated from continuing to practice law," but the lawyer still faces possible disciplinary action for what a state watchdog alleges are false statements he made about judges during the case over his capacity to practice law.


LAWYER: Wesley S. Spears of Glastonbury

RULING: He has the capacity to practice law.

PENDING: Accusation that Spears violated ethical rules with allegations he made about judges during the case over his capacity

Lawyer Wesley S. Spears gave the Journal Inquirer a copy of a Feb. 10 order by Hartford Superior Court Judge Susan Quinn Cobb dismissing a petition by Connecticut's disciplinary counsel for lawyers that sought to have Spears placed on inactive status due to incapacity.

Online court records confirm that Cobb issued a partial judgment in the case Feb. 10, but the text of her order is unavailable online.

The copy of the order provided by Spears bases the decision to dismiss the petition for inactive status on a court-ordered evaluation of Spears by psychologist Andrew W. Meisler.

The judge said in a separate order that she had provided a copy of Meisler's evaluation to the disciplinary counsel's office and Spears. But she added that she had sealed it from public view because Spears' "right to medical and mental health treatment and ability to pursue a livelihood outweigh the public interest in open proceedings."

The judge said in the Feb. 10 order that an "evidentiary hearing" would be scheduled on a motion by the disciplinary counsel's office for an order requiring Spears to show why he shouldn't be disciplined for the statements he made about judges during the case.

Online court records show that a hearing is scheduled for April 12 and 13.

In a court document, Brian B. Staines, Connecticut's chief disciplinary counsel for lawyers, has recited several allegations made by Spears during the case over his capacity to practice law. Staines charged that Spears' allegations "contain false statements of fact and attempt to improperly influence these proceedings."

Staines cited several of Connecticut's ethical rules for lawyers that he said Spears had violated, including a rule prohibiting a lawyer from making a statement he knows to be false or with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.

Among the allegations by Spears that the disciplinary counsel challenges are that he "personally observed" two judges "in an intimate moment."

Other claims by Spears that Staines challenges are that one of those judges initiated the inactive status proceeding in an attempt to block discovery of the other judge's erroneous rulings in a criminal case and that the second judge made erroneous rulings in a second criminal case as well. Also at issue is Spears' claim that a third judge, who signed a search warrant for Spears' home, knew Spears had filed a complaint against a fellow judge.

The search warrant involved a gunshot Glastonbury police believe was fired in Spears' apartment in the 10 Glastonbury Place complex off House Street in July.

Police arrested Spears in October on charges of illegal discharge of a firearm and evidence tampering. He was then released on bond.

Most records of the criminal case are now unavailable to the public. But the limited online records still available show that the case is awaiting disposition on Feb. 16, 2024. That probably indicates that Spears has been granted admission to a pretrial diversion program, such as accelerated rehabilitation, which can lead to dismissal of the criminal charges if he successfully completes a period of pretrial probation.

Full Article & Source:
Judge dismisses incapacity claim against Glastonbury lawyer

Man charged with elder abuse again

A 30-year-old Dothan man is in jail with no bond after police say he abused an elderly family member once again.

Man charged with elder abuse again

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Nursing home employees arrested in large-scale fraud scheme involving the elderly: Sheriff

by Skyler Shepard

The sheriff's office said there were multiple texts between (from left to right) Angella Jackson, Lashantia Brown and two other people — 20-year-old Janorris Johnson and 33-year-old Kanisha Altidor. All four of them were benefitting from the fraudulent charges. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CBS12) — Four nursing home employees were arrested after detectives said a large-scale fraud scheme that involved 14 elderly victims and at three different Assisted Living Facility (ALF) locations.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said the investigation began on June 30, 2022, after receiving a report of fraudulent use of a credit card from a victim living in an ALF. 

As the investigation continued, detectives said they were able to identify two suspects, 43-year-old Angella Jackson and her daughter, 28-year-old Lashantia Brown. The two were employees at three different ALFs over a period of several months.  

As the investigation continued, detectives said they were able to identify two suspects, 43-year-old Angella Jackson (left) and her daughter, 28-year-old Lashantia Brown (right). The two were employees at three different ALFs over a period of several months. (Pinellas County Sheriff;s Office)

Detectives said the mother-daughter duo would take photos of the victims’ debit cards and credit cards and then share the information through text with each other. Photos of a driver’s license belonging to two elderly victims were in Brown’s phone.

Another discovery revealed two others involved in the scheme.

The sheriff's office said there were multiple texts between Brown, Jackson and two other people — 33-year-old Kanisha Altidor and 20-year-old Janorris Johnson. All four of them were benefitting from the fraudulent charges. 

The sheriff's office said there were multiple texts between Jackson, Brown and two other people — 33-year-old Kanisha Altidor (right) and 20-year-old Janorris Johnson (left). All four of them were benefitting from the fraudulent charges. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)

Detectives said the group made multiple fraudulent purchases at Adventure Island, T-Mobile, an online shoe retailer and created a Spectrum (Charter Communications) account for a residence with the stolen information. The total loss was approximately $14,000 after Jackson stole stole $4,000 in cash from an elderly victim.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, were taken into custody and transported to the Pinellas County Jail. Charges include fraudulent use of a credit card, exploitation of the elderly, scheme to defraud, grand theft and more.

Full Article & Source:
Nursing home employees arrested in large-scale fraud scheme involving the elderly: Sheriff

Researchers Take a Major Step in Alzheimer’s Treatment Through Blood Vessels

By Ergil Ermeno

Initial findings of Alzheimer’s have led to a discovery that it only affects the brain cells. The disease results from a plaque formed by an Amyloid-beta protein, which damages brain cells. However, recent studies have shown that blood vessels are also affected, but reasons are yet to be discovered. It was revealed that blood vessels in the brain undergo changes that may be utilized as a path for new drugs to treat the disease.

The study is led by a team of researchers from the University of Manchester. Their findings are published in an online journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the team’s investigation, a smaller version of the protein called Amyloid-β 1-40 clogs the small arteries, which causes irregular blood flow. Due to plaque formation, the brain cannot receive sufficient nutrients to function well. The small arteries that allow blood flow are called pial arteries. These arteries are found on the brain’s surface, which controls blood and oxygen supply. Insufficient blood and oxygen in the brain lead to memory loss. 

“To date, over 500 drugs have been trialed as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. All of them have targeted the nerves in the brain, and none of them have been successful. By showing exactly how Alzheimer’s disease affects the small blood vessels, we have opened the door to new avenues of research to find an effective treatment,” Dr. Adam Greenstein shared. He is the study’s lead researcher and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester. 

Older mice were the subject of their study. After conducting observations, the team found out that mice with Alzheimer’s with too much Aβ1-40 have narrower pial arteries than healthy mice. The narrowing of arteries is caused by Aβ 1-40 switching off a protein called BK in cells lining blood vessels. A BK normally functions when it signals the arteries to widen. The data was gathered by an experiment including BK and Aβ 1-40. Researchers exposed healthy pial arteries for one hour in Aβ 1-40 and then measured signals brought by BK protein. Afterward, it was confirmed that Aβ 1-40 weakened the signals that led to narrowed blood vessels.

“This research is an important step forward in our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. More than half a million people in the UK are living with the condition, and that number is set to rise as our population gets older. These findings could lead to a desperately needed treatment for this devastating condition,” says Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation. The team is now finding out which part of Aβ 1-40 damages BK protein. These discoveries will be the foundation of newly developed drugs that could help prevent people from acquiring Alzheimer’s.   

Full Article & Source:
Researchers Take a Major Step in Alzheimer’s Treatment Through Blood Vessels