Saturday, April 22, 2023

Deputies arrest caregivers, accused of elder abuse at Florida facility

By Esther Bower

A memory care facility in Florida said it was "shocked and horrified" after two of its caregivers were arrested on charges of elder abuse after they allegedly tormented a patient with dementia and recorded it.

Brevard County sheriff's deputies arrested two women last week and allege they live-streamed their encounter with an elderly patient on SnapChat.

"Abusing someone, an elderly person, or abusing anyone is disgusting enough, but to make matters even worse, they live-streamed the abuse," said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey during a news conference about the case.

Brevard County deputies said the evidence is a Snapchat recording of two caregivers allegedly tormenting a senior with memory and behavioral concerns. 

Jada Harris, 18, was charged with video voyeurism, abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult, and interception or disclosure of wired communications. A second woman, Shy'Tiona Bishop, 20, was charged with video voyeurism and abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult.

In a statement shared with FOX 35, Market Street Memory Care said both employees have been terminated and that it was "shocked and horrified to learn of this incident of elder abuse at the hands of two individuals who were trusted to care for a vulnerable resident."

The facility said it was working with the victim's family.

Tips to keep in mind when selecting a care facility

Experts said the allegations in this case highlight that elder abuse is more common than people think. Those experts also advice on what families should keep in mind when touring facilities. 

"Unfortunately, over the past few years – really since COVID – it seems like over the past three years, the incidents we are seeing and hearing about have escalated," said Cheryl Ann Cronin, who serves as the lead case manager for the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation, an organization committed to advocating and empowering families when a loved one has dementia.

The World Health Organization said it is tracking an 80% increase in elder abuse incidents.

"We do see these abuse cases from time to time," said Geoff Moore, a nursing home trial lawyer for Maher Law Firm. 

He said the first step when looking for care is to visit Florida Health Finder, an online portal where people can find current complaints and investigations at medical facilities across the state.

"What this does is it lets you see, is this a facility that has very few complaints or does it have a lot of complaints," Moore added.

When touring a facility, do not be sold right away by how things look.

"When you tour the facility, some of these can look like the Taj Mahal," he said. Instead, take note of how other patients look and ask detailed questions of the head nurse and lead administrator about the facility.

"Trust your gut when you’re doing that," Moore said. "If you get a good feel for them, the research checks out, that’s important. Do that at least, I’d say three times."

In the alleged case above, the day after the video was recorded, another staff members at the facility noticed changes in the victim's behavior – that she was pacing, yelling, and screaming.

"Changes in behavior – sadness, crying, lack of appetite, personality changes, even statements," are changes to look out for, said Cronin, who heads Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation.

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, you can call the 24/7 abuse hotline at: 1-800-96-ABUSE or file a report online.

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Deputies arrest caregivers, accused of elder abuse at Florida facility

South Carolina Woman Pleads Guilty to Fraud Conspiracy Targeting Retirees and Military Pension Holders

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Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

South Carolina Woman Pleads Guilty to Fraud Conspiracy Targeting Retirees and Military Pension Holders

A South Carolina woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy for her role in a nationwide structured cash flow scheme that exploited military veterans in desperate financial straits and targeted elderly investors seeking a safe retirement investment.

Candy Kern, 55, of Anderson, South Carolina, was the managing partner of a small South Carolina-based law firm. From approximately 2012 through 2021, she used her law firm to facilitate a fraudulent scheme involving illegal assignment of veterans’ benefits.

The scheme worked as follows: Numerous individuals and small corporate entities, referred to as Structured Cash Flow (SCF) entities, offered veterans – many of whom were in acute financial distress – an up-front lump sum payment in exchange for the assignment of the veterans’ monthly pension and/or disability payments for a period of time. Working through a network of investment advisors and insurance agents, the SCF entities would then solicit retirees to invest in these contracts – providing the up-front lump sums under the false pretense that the flow of repayments by veterans over time would translate into a return for the retiree-investors.

For more than eight years, Kern, through her law firm, served as the banker, legal counsel, and debt collector for the SCF operation. Among other services, Kern’s law firm (1) managed, controlled, and maintained the bank accounts through which payments to and from investors and veterans flowed; and (2) filed suits against veterans who defaulted. Throughout the duration of the scheme, and unbeknownst to the veterans or the retirees, the pension assignment contracts were in fact void, as it is illegal to assign a pension under federal law – a fact Kern knew but never disclosed during the execution of any contract.

Over time, the scheme collapsed, as many veterans (who tended to be in dire financial straits) either were unable to repay their “obligations” under the contract or opted not to do so upon learning that federal law prohibited pension assignments. Over the course of this scheme, approximately $14 million in illegally assigned veterans’ benefits flowed through the accounts controlled by Kern’s law firm. Notwithstanding the invalidity of the contracts, Kern pursued enforcement actions against veterans who defaulted, securing numerous default judgments against veterans in absentia. As a result, Kern’s law firm received approximately $1,446,336, while retiree-investors – who were misled and fraudulently induced to purchase the SCF product without being informed of all material information about the contracts – lost approximately $31,352,897.26.

“This elaborate scheme preyed upon and exploited some of our most vulnerable populations, and when it collapsed, it left thousands of veterans in financial ruin and scores of retiree-investors without adequate resources to retire,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department is committed to protecting servicemembers, veterans, and older adults from fraud. And we are dedicated to ensuring that those involved in this scheme are held accountable.”

“The District of South Carolina has been at the forefront of prosecuting fraud related to veterans’ pensions and associated investment scams,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs for the District of South Carolina. “It is reprehensible that a former member of the South Carolina state bar would participate in such a scheme and use her standing as a lawyer to give victims a false confidence. My office will continue its efforts to protect our veterans and to bring perpetrators to justice.”

“This guilty plea is a true testament to the FBI’s steadfast mission to uphold justice and protect the most vulnerable members of our society from financial exploitation and fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Steve Jensen of the FBI Columbia Field Office. “The FBI recognizes the sacrifice and dedication of our veterans and values the contributions of our seniors to our communities. The guilty plea represents our commitment to holding accountable those who seek to take advantage of our nation’s heroes and seniors.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Watkins for the District of South Carolina and Trial Attorneys Ehren Reynolds and Yolanda McCray Jones of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case.

The matter was investigated by the FBI. The Veterans Benefits Administration’s Benefits Protection and Remediation Division and the Defense Finance Accounting Service also assisted. Resources from the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative and the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force aided in the investigation and prosecution.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at For more information on the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, or to file a complaint, visit   

South Carolina Woman Pleads Guilty to Fraud Conspiracy Targeting Retirees and Military Pension Holders

Man, 109, who still drives his car every day has simple tips for long life

by A. Pawlowski 

At 109 years old, Vincent Dransfield still zips around town in his car every day, buying lunch, running errands and shopping for groceries.

He lives independently in his own house in Little Falls, New Jersey, where he has resided since 1945.

The centenarian requires no help navigating between the home’s main floor, his bedroom upstairs and the basement where he does his laundry, his family says.

Vincent Dransfield, 109, says he still drives his Hyundai every day. (Courtesy Erica Lista)

Dransfield was funny and flirtatious when a reporter called and asked how he feels at 109.

“How do I feel? Let’s go out to a dance somewhere. How about that? That’s how I feel,” Dransfield tells

“I’ve been very, very, very lucky in my lifetime. I feel perfect.”

“He doesn’t get back aches. He doesn’t get the daily aches and pains that I, at 48, get. He doesn’t get headaches, anything like that. It’s crazy,” says Erica Lista, Dransfield’s granddaughter.

“I’m an occupational therapist, so I know a lot about activities of daily living, and he requires help with none of it.”

People who live 100 years or longer aren’t rare anymore, but it’s uncommon for men to live that long. Among centenarians, 85% are women and 15% are men, according to the New England Centenarian Study based at Boston University. The reasons are unclear.

Born on March 28, 1914, Dransfield not only enjoys incredible longevity, but healthy longevity, with a fit mind and body. He says he has never had major diseases, like cancer or heart disease. Dransfield has just always been healthy, Lista adds.

He has one child, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His wife of 54 years died in 1992.

Many of his family members recently gathered at his home to celebrate his 109th birthday with pizza and carrot cake, his favorite.

Dransfield turned 109 in March. (Courtesy Erica Lista)

Here is what to know about the centenarian and his advice for living a long life:

Spend time doing what you love

Dransfield spent more than 80 years serving as a member of the local volunteer fire department and was the chief for a period of time.

When asked what brought him happiness and kept him going in life, he quickly answers: “The fire department. … I met so many friends.”

Lista says her grandfather continued to be a regular at the fire house as he got older and was part of the “3 to 5 club.”

“After my grandmother passed away, that’s really what kept him going. Every day, he would go to the fire house from 3 to 5, and all the old guys would sit there and hang out. That was like his family,” she notes.

As for Dransfield’s professional life, he worked for 60 years — most of that as an auto parts manager — before retiring in his late 70s: “I still wanted to work, but my wife said, it’s time for you to quit,” he recalls.

Milk does a body good

Dransfield left school after 8th grade and went to work for a dairy farm at 15 to help support his family. He delivered milk for five years and drank as much of it as he wanted, which he attributes to giving him a healthy boost — especially during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“I was drinking milk and eating well because I worked on a farm. And I often go back and think they gave me a good start in life and for my bones in my body,” Dransfield says.

Milk still plays a role in his life: The centenarian credits drinking Ovaltine — a milk flavoring and nutrition supplement — every day after breakfast for his longevity. He’s been so outspoken about it that when he when he turned 100, everyone drank Ovaltine at his birthday party, Lista says.

Stay active

Dransfield didn’t lift weights or exercise in a gym, but he kept moving throughout his life.

“I was 21 years old when I joined the fire department and that’s the exercise I got every day — answered the fire alarms in Little Falls,” he says.

“I was active and ran out when the alarm went off for 40 years. Then for the next 40 years, (I continued) when I felt like it.”

Structured exercise amuses him. “He laughs at people who jog. He’s like, ‘Where are they running to?’” his granddaughter says.

Enjoy what you eat

The centenarian likes Italian food, hamburgers, salad, milk chocolate and other sweets. He drinks a cup of coffee every day and occasionally drinks beer, but doesn’t enjoy other forms of alcohol.

“What’s crazy is he was not careful about his diet,” Lista says.

“He has eaten whatever he wants. He has never watched his weight. He’s never had to lose weight. He’s always been fit.”

At 109, Dransfield still cooks for himself, though that usually means heating up soup on the stove or microwaving prepared meals, Lista notes. He likes to buy meals from a restaurant down the road from his house.

Dransfield has lived in the same house since 1945. (Courtesy Erica Lista)

It’s never too late to fix a bad habit

Dransfield started smoking when he was 50 after a fellow firefighter offered him a cigarette and he liked it. But about 20 years later, he quit.

“He told me one day that he was going to just stop smoking,” Lista recalls. “He threw the cigarettes out and that was it. He just never smoked again.”

Stay positive

Dransfield considers himself an optimist. He also has a great sense of humor and likes knowing everybody’s name in town, his granddaughter says.

Dransfield relaxes at home. He lives independently and does everything around the house on his own. (Courtesy Erica Lista)

“He always had such a positive upbeat attitude, even when my grandmother passed away. He lived for her, but he was determined to keep on living,” Lista notes.

“I keep positive. I never think any other way when something’s wrong,” Dransfield says.

“I’m doing fine and I hope the good Lord keeps me that way.”

This article was originally published on

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Man, 109, who still drives his car every day has simple tips for long life

Friday, April 21, 2023

Local Spotlight: The dangers of guardianship programs

By Chris Remington

The new series from Unguarded from WLRN explores the sales of homes of 'incapacitated' people in South Florida to private companies. [Illustration by Camilla Kerwin]

There are an estimated 1.5 million active adult guardianship cases across the country. It’s a massive industry, with guardians controlling an estimated $50 billion in assets.Advocates for guardianship reform say a lack of oversight leads to many reported instances of fraud and abuse.

Two new investigations from Bloomberg Law and WLRN News found guardianships can harm some of the most vulnerable members of society with little legal recourse. In South Florida, the GuardianshipProgram of Dade County sold at least a dozen homes of “incapacitated” people under their care to one Miami real estate company, Express Homes.

Those houses were often resold for hundreds of thousands dollars more than the purchase value. Carlos Morales is the owner of Express homes and his wife is Miami City attorney Victoria Méndez. The couple has claimed any allegations of impropriety are baseless. Miami-Dade County has asked the Guardianship program to temporarily halt the sale of any new homes while they investigate their real estate practices. 

The Bloomberg Law investigation underscores how essential rights of those in guardianship can be taken away, the vast amounts of money companies can gain from their clients, and the challenges of terminating a guardianship once it’s begun. 

Sara Abbott in Indiana was under guardianship for more than six years. A court appointed attorney took over as her guardian from her mother in 2021 and controlled all of the funds she received from social security. After years of fighting, she was able to terminate her guardianship last month. 

Last month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing focused on improving guardianships in response to the investigations.

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Local Spotlight: The dangers of guardianship programs

Listen to the Victims: Senate Holds Hearing on Guardianship

By Marian Kornicki 

On March 30, 2023, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing, “Guardianship and its Alternatives: Protection and Empowerment.” Importantly, this hearing featured one victim witness, Dr. Tina Paone, who spoke about her family’s traumatic, unresolved guardianship nightmare.

Her testimony resonated for the many victims that listened to her, as we know too well that guardianship cases are never resolved when there is an estate with money. As she said, “On paper, the current system appears well-intentioned. That’s not how it plays out. On behalf of my family, and so many others, I beg you to please implement meaningful reform.”

At this same hearing, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) proposed a bill titled the Guardianship Bill of Rights Act, which would create a national council charged with promoting less restrictive arrangements for people living under, or being considered for, court-ordered guardianship—thereby leading to fewer guardianships.

As I described in Guardianship Destroyed My Family,” published last year on Mad in America, I have seen in my own life the damage and exploitation that can be wreaked by court-appointed guardians. In an effort to advocate and enact change, I belong to Victims and Families Harmed by Guardianship, a national human rights coalition that functions as a consortium of state coalitions on the quest for reform. 

This is critical work. Most victims cannot report the exploitation they are experiencing because they are silenced by gag orders, chemical restraint, or threats of retaliation. So, it is up to us—those of us who can speak out—to use our voices for those who cannot. Hopefully, we will be heard.

Some background: Britney Spears is not alone

For many people, the considerable harms of guardianship only came to the fore with the story of Britney Spears, whose long battle for agency and independence ended on November 12, 2021—when a judge freed her from a conservatorship that had controlled her life for 13 years. Five months earlier, following Spears’ emotional testimony, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Casey stated that they wanted more federal oversight of the country’s guardianship system. They wrote a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), asking both agencies to provide information about data they collect on the prevalence of guardianship in the U.S; on any efforts the agencies have made to protect people under guardianship; and on the ways Congress can improve federal collection of guardianship data.

In that letter, they described how “Ms. Spears’ case has shined a light on longstanding concerns from advocates who have underscored the potential for financial and civil rights abuses of individuals placed under guardianship or conservatorship.” I spoke to a staff lawyer in Senator Warren’s office, now gone, who told me they never received a response to their letter. 

Britney Spears is hardly alone: An advocate in California suggested that based on the current population, there may be as many as 4 million people in guardianship. And as Spears told the court, “this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.” She described in excruciating detail how the legal guardians dictated where she lives, works, and receives therapy. They stopped her from seeing friends, forced her to take medication against her will, and prevented her from having her IUD removed so she could try to get pregnant. 

She went on to say, “I deserve to have the same rights as anybody does by having a child, a family, any of those things.” 

With the above as a backdrop, I and other advocates contacted Senator Casey’s office, and we asked for a virtual meeting with the Senator. He was not available, but we met with Josh Dubensky of his staff (who has since left the Senator’s office). The victims were from all over the country and we met every month, having approximately six sessions total. He designated an email address for us to send in our guardianship stories to share with him, Senator Casey, and the Senate Committee on Aging.

During these sessions, we asked to have a hearing convened so that victims and their families could describe our experiences, including all the harms we endured, in a public forum. We told him it is not legislation that we need; we need investigations and prosecutions. When Mr. Dubensky left the office, he referred us to another member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and part of Senator Casey’s team.

In March, 2021, U.S. Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Matt Gaetz (R-FLA) sent a letter to U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), then Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, asking that a hearing be convened in the House Judiciary Committee. Victims from all over the country sent letters to Congressman Nadler and the entire Judiciary committee. We never heard from him.

In July of 2021, Representative Charlie Crist (D-FLA) introduced the FREE ACT to “protect Americans whose rights have been stripped away”—which is completely meaningless and useless. Why? Because he didn’t simultaneously call for investigations for the already existing victims. At the time he made the announcement, he was asked if investigations were a possibility, and he said no. Obviously, he is not serious. The matter of guardianship fraud needs to be referred to the DOJ.

We contacted Crist, too—and got no response. Can’t such politicians imagine this could be happening to them? Apparently not. 

Then, on December 1, 2021, Crist and Eric Swalwell (D-Ca) invited Britney Spears to speak to Congress by sending a letter to her via her attorney. Victims learned about the letter in February of 2022, when Spears posted it on her social media account.

That same month, we began communicating with Michael Gamel-McCormick, Director of Disability Rights in the office of Senator Casey, who is chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. I sent him my MIA personal essay. He emailed to let me know that their office cannot work on individual cases, but said “it illustrates the thousands of problems with guardianships and conservatorships” and added: “We are working at the federal level to ensure due process and oversight.”

Later in February, representing our victims’ coalition, I emailed McCormick to say that it was important to convene a hearing or hearings on this crisis—and it is important, too, to raise awareness and promote understanding of what happens under guardianship and what those of us who’ve lived through it have experienced. If we aren’t heard, things can be denied and ignored. There needs to be firsthand evidence from victim families. He responded with the following: “Senator Casey agrees with you about firsthand voices at hearings. We can’t commit to a time for those hearings now, but they are part of the planning process.” Victims again began sending in their guardianship stories to him. 

Listening to victims

So, after years of pushing and persevering and begging reporters to write stories on guardianship, and urging politicians to represent us, and meet with us, and hold hearings, we finally had our hearing on March 30. 

To be clear: We don’t think the Guardianship Bill of Rights Act is the answer. When Senator Casey introduced it, he, too, didn’t call for investigations and prosecutions. None of this is surprising, given the political machines that influence Congress—and the judges who hand out lucrative guardianships to some of the very lawyers who helped them get elected. If not for lawyer-lobbyists and money in politics, there would not be the problem of guardianships.

Families are absolutely blindsided by the abuse that results. People are being pushed into guardianship and their assets taken. This is not a tricky issue. The Department of Justice must act.

In 2018, The New York Times published a story about Phyllis Funke, a 77-year old journalist, with whom I spoke in the hopes she could attend a meeting I was trying to arrange with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). After scheduling a meeting in Washington, D.C., it was abruptly canceled. Ms. Funke was completely overcome by what had happened to her after she was placed into a guardianship with a former New York policeman. As she described to The Times, all of her assets were withheld from her. “I’ve been bullied, blackmailed and stripped of the things I need to live, including my money.” 

In 2022, Orit Mizrachi of California told me her mother was placed into an unwarranted conservatorship after a lawyer said she should file for it herself—to protect her mother. Mizrachi was not appointed. Instead, a professional guardian and a lawyer were appointed. They began billing her and placing liens on the family home. They spent $75,000 of her mother’s money trying to transfer her parents’ savings accounts from Israel, and did not allow her mother to travel there to visit her siblings.

Another California victim, Patty Lacy, a registered nurse, shared with me that her late father, a US veteran, was placed into a conservatorship with a guardian who was a complete stranger and neglected her father’s health needs. As a result, Lacy not only lost her inheritance, but was denied the opportunity to care for him. “I listened to the hearing, and I do not believe in another bill that judges will violate,” she told me. “The senators said nothing of how they will reimburse the victims and families for the confiscation of their assets and lack of healthcare. What about removing the judges and having them disbarred?”

Next, consider the story of Poppy Hegren, director of nursing services at Southern Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City, NV, and the only child of Lester Moore, a U.S. veteran who died in 2021. Hegren emailed me the following after we spoke:

“Like you, I believe that there needs to be investigations into the Guardianship racket that has stolen the inheritances of the rightful heirs. I was tricked into seeking a conservatorship for my father in CA, although there was a Family Trust that clearly stated my parents’ wishes and had me as the only child being the Successor Trustee. I will never forget in the Probate Courtroom in Ventura County CA, the numerous attorneys at the hearing, acting like vultures in their fancy suits and Italian leather shoes. After the hearing, I watched them in the parking lot drive off in their Mercedes Benzes and Land Rovers. It was never about protecting my father with dementia. It was about grabbing his assets that he and my mother, both Depression survivors of the South and Veterans, had saved through frugal living.

“The Judge ignored the Family Trust and placed Lester Moore under a for-profit conservatorship that proceeded to liquidate his assets and property. His 500-plus acres and the numerous homes he had since 1956 in Arkansas were also liquidated by this CA conservator. (This was) property that was meant to stay in our family. Any Southerner understands the meaning of land.

“The Judge also continues to hold on to $250,000 of the Trust assets over 2 years after my father’s death, ‘just in case there is further litigation.’ These are assets that are meant for the rightful heirs, not the legal elite.”

What’s next?

Lester Moore’s family is hardly alone: An audit by the guardianship fraud program in Palm Beach County estimates that over $273 billion in assets are controlled by guardians in the United States.

This has to stop. Change needs to happen. Victims have written to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on The Constitution. As one victim family wrote, wishing to be anonymous: “We must end the victimization of American families by the probate system’s conservatorship/guardianship legal complex.”

Right under our noses, Americans are being railroaded into unneeded guardianships and conservatorships, controlled by appointees who, with the help of the courts, proceed to bill the assets of the victims and their families with no oversight. 

Yes, the guardianship system can be reformed by making sure no one is sent there—but no one will be sent there if you abolish it. Everyone knows that there is a pattern and practice of abuse in the probate courts across the country, and the way that ends is with investigation and prosecution of those who are violating the laws and rights of vulnerable people who come to court for protection.

We were all horrified as the details of Ms. Spears’ case were revealed. She had been held against her will for 13 years and silenced with threats and drugs. Her earnings were billed away by attorneys. This is happening to untold numbers of Americans under the color of law and under the guise of “protection.” Families are being ruined and their estates robbed by “officers of the court.” 

Ms. Spears has finally escaped. We have to ensure that the rest of us escape as well.

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Listen to the Victims: Senate Holds Hearing on Guardianship

Woman Claims Alleged Squatter Threatened to Flush Her Mother's Ashes

Alayne Skylar says she hired Tatiana Abello to help care for her mother, who lived in a New York City apartment building. Skylar also allowed Abello's sister and mother to move in to help out. Two years after Skylar's mom died, she says the three caregivers refused to leave the apartment. Court documents show the women claim to have "succession rights" to the apartment because they were "in a loving family type of relationship" with the elderly woman.

Woman Claims Alleged Squatter Threatened to Flush Her Mother's Ashes

Thursday, April 20, 2023

WLRN investigation featured in national conversation about guardianship reform


WLRN Investigation: Unguarded

When elderly people or those with disabilities or mental illnesses are placed under guardianship, their rights are removed. A legal guardian is appointed to make life decisions for them, including decisions about their personal finances. Without greater transparency and scrutiny on these legal arrangements, vulnerable people can become victims of fraud and abuse.

U.S. senators, attorneys, advocates and people who have been placed under guardianships, as well as their families, are calling for more transparency and scrutiny nationwide. They also recommend the embrace of less restrictive options than guardianships such as supportive decision making, in which people who are considered “incapacitated” or incapable of making decisions independently can do so with the guidance of people they trust.

Unguarded,” a project from the WLRN News investigations team, along with a recent series from Bloomberg Law, in part prompted the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging to hold a March 30 hearing on guardianship programs, with an eye toward reforms.

Journalists from both news organizations shared their insights Tuesday morning during an hour-long episode of the national radio show 1A, produced by WAMU in Washington, D.C., as well as NPR.

WLRN’s Danny Rivero, who co-reported the project with reporter Joshua Ceballos, appeared on the program. Rivero advised people who might be considering placing a family member under guardianship to think ahead about how the arrangement might affect any real estate holdings the person might have.

If an elderly father comes under guardianship, for example, “all the decision making is removed from father, but also daughter, son, uncle, wife, everyone,” Rivero said on the show. “It's really incumbent on everyone, especially if you're proactively looking to put someone in guardianship, to get your affairs in order before you do so.”

During the show, listeners heard an excerpt from part two of WLRN’s investigation, in which Emma Ladson describes her astonishment when she learned that the Guardianship Program of Dade County sold her then-incapacitated mother’s Liberty City home for $31,000 in 2015.

The sale was to Gallego Homes, one of two real estate companies WLRN has identified as frequent buyers from the Guardianship Program. The other company was Express Homes. Both companies have family ties to City of Miami’s top attorney Victoria Méndez.

When the Guardianship Program took control of the Ladson home, Emma, who was living there with her mother, was evicted.

“Because she did not have her name on that deed, the court could just quickly move to get her out of there, even though the family had owned that home outright for years,” Rivero said. “That was the family home. … Four generations had been through that home. And then, from one day to the next, she was put out on the street. She ended up in a homeless shelter.”

One of the obstacles to reforming guardianship programs nationwide is a lack of transparency about how they operate. According to Bloomberg Law’s reporting, there are an estimated 1.5 million active adult guardianships in the U.S.

In Florida, guardianships have not been tracked statewide — until now. A new law passed last year requires a statewide registry and is slated to be available early next year.

On 1A, Rivero said the lack of a registry has alarmed the advocacy group AARP for years.

“Part of the complaint that they've had for a long time is they just don't know. They don't know how many cases are open in Florida,” Rivero said. “You'd have to go into the guts of local government, to go to each clerk's office. And then each one has its own system. It's just incredibly cluttered and hard to track.

“So, I mean, there is hope that the database will be step one toward enabling people to put more scrutiny on this,” Rivero said.

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WLRN investigation featured in national conversation about guardianship reform

Caretaker accused of stealing more than $24,000 from elderly West Virginia woman


West Virginia State Police say Janie Riddle stole over $24,000 from an elderly woman she was hired to take care of. (West Virginia Department of Corrections Photo)

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WCHS) — A woman from Hernshaw, who worked as a caretaker, is accused of stealing over $24,000 from her elderly client.

Troopers said they got a call on April 14 from a woman who said she wanted to report her mother-in-law's caretaker, Janie Riddle, for using her bank card. Troopers said the woman told them Riddle had allegedly made $24,763.18 worth of purchases with her mother-in-law's card since Dec. 19, 2022.

According to a criminal complaint, the woman told troopers Riddle was hired to take care of her mother-in-law and take her to and from doctor's appointments.

Troopers said they met with the elderly victim who told them Riddle was the only person who had access to her bank card and could have made the 130 fraudulent purchases. The victim said she didn't authorize the purchases and that Riddle had her bank card during the time of the transactions. 

The victim said she was in the hospital for most of the transactions.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim also told troopers that Riddle once admitted to using the card without authorization and apologized.

Riddle is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person or incapacitated adult, fraudulent use of credit cards and grand and petit larceny.

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Caretaker accused of stealing more than $24,000 from elderly West Virginia woman

Police: Bridgeport man charged with using elderly Newtown woman's money to pay for car repairs

by Kendra Baker

Newtown police arrested a 64-year-old Bridgeport man on larceny and identity theft charges.
Contributed photo

NEWTOWN — A Bridgeport man is facing identity theft and larceny charges after police say he used a local elderly woman’s money to pay for repairs on his vehicle four years ago.

John W. Bratton, 64, was arrested and charged with first-degree identity theft and third-degree larceny on April 13 after a six-month investigation into a complaint about possible financial exploitation of an elderly Newtown woman.

An elderly caseworker filed the complaint with the Newtown police in September, saying that Bratton — who allegedly claimed to be assisting in the woman’s care — may have misappropriated her money, police said. 

Bratton — who allegedly told the caseworker he “wrote checks” from the woman’s checking account and “paid bills while she was in the hospital” — was not on any of the victim’s financial accounts, according to the warrant for his arrest.

Newtown police said they obtained copies of the victim’s financial statements from 2018 to 2022 and found a nearly $7,000 credit card charge and $833 check paid to a New York auto body shop for repairs to a 2013 Chrysler 300c in March 2019.

The charge and check receipts were signed with the victim’s name but the vehicle owner listed on the final invoice was Bratton, according to the arrest warrant.

The general manager of the auto body shop confirmed Bratton was the customer in the shop’s database, police said.

Upon comparing statements and signature samples provided by the victim to the signature on her driver’s license, police said they found the signatures were not similar to those on the receipts for the auto body purchase.

The victim provided a signed written statement to police saying she did not sign or approve the purchase, nor did she give Bratton “permission to sign her name for monies used at (the) shop,” according to the warrant for Bratton’s arrest. 

Police said she also said that Bratton sometimes “took advantage of (her) finances.”

A warrant was obtained for Bratton’s arrest last month after he declined to speak to Newtown police about the incident, police said.

Bratton was held on $25,000 bond before his April 13 arraignment at state Superior Court in Danbury, after which he was released on a promise to appear back in court May 11, according to court records.

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Police: Bridgeport man charged with using elderly Newtown woman's money to pay for car repairs

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Embattled former professional guardian Traci Hudson found ’unresponsive’ at hotel

Police called after Hudson missed court

By: Adam Walser

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — The I-Team has learned troubling new developments in the case of a former professional guardian who is scheduled to stand trial on multiple felony charges early next month.

The Pinellas County State’s Attorney’s Office asked the judge to issue an arrest warrant for former professional guardian Traci Hudson after she failed to show up for a court hearing last week. That hearing involved two new felony charges. But her attorney said there was a good reason she wasn’t in court.

For more than three years, Traci Hudson has been required to attend court hearings after being charged with exploitation, theft, and perjury involving elderly victims under her care.

Her cases were reviewed by the Pinellas County Inspector General’s Office, which produced a scathing 77-page report outlining allegations Hudson abused and exploited court-appointed wards under her care.

But last Tuesday, she failed to show up for court to face two new charges filed by prosecutors last week of exploitation of an elderly adult.

“Defense counsel and I had an agreement that he was going to bring his client in on April 11th, that same day, to turn herself in on those two new charges,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Renee Bauer.

On the floor, unresponsive

A Pinellas Park Police report said that on April 11th at 2:46 pm, Hudson’s daughter grew concerned about the missed court appearance and asked for a welfare check at a Marriott Hotel, which was Hudson’s last known location. Hudson was found “on the floor unresponsive.”

Pinellas Park Marriott Hotel
Exterior shot of the Marriott hotel in Pinellas Park, Florida.

Her daughter told police her mother was facing 15 years in prison for exploitation charges.

According to the report, “there was a substantial likelihood that Hudson attempted to commit suicide” and that Hudson met Baker Act criteria and was hospitalized.

The Baker Act, also called “The Florida Mental Health Act,” is a way to provide individuals with emergency services and temporary detention for up to 72 hours for mental health examination if someone is believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

“She’s done nothing wrong other than have an emergency medical situation, which happens every day,” said attorney Richard McKyton, who represents Hudson in her criminal cases.

McKyton provided records to the judge showing that Hudson is still hospitalized.

The prosecutor asked the judge to have Hudson arrested after she is released from the hospital.

“What we have here and what happened in that hotel room on April 11th, the state’s position is, it shows her desire to avoid prosecution,” Bauer said.

GPS monitoring upon discharge from the hospital

Traci Hudson in court in 2021
Traci Hudson appears in court in 2021.

The judge modified the condition of Hudson’s bond when she’s released from the hospital.

“She’ll be outfitted with a GPS and she’s to remain at home, come to court and go to her lawyer’s office, and that’s it. No more hotel rooms for Ms. Hudson,” said Judge Susan St. James.

With the new counts, Hudson faces 20 felony charges which could result in a sentence of up to 135 years if she is convicted on all counts. Hudson has another court hearing scheduled for April 24th.

The judge said she has to attend the hearing unless she’s still in the hospital.

Full Article & Source:
Embattled former professional guardian Traci Hudson found ’unresponsive’ at hotel

See Also:
Former professional guardian abandoned wards' mail, committed crimes: Inspector General report

Former guardian allegedly stole guns, forged appraisal

Former guardian charged with pillaging elderly man's estate refuses to sign final accounting

Price of Protection: Woman loses Seffner home after father's guardian sues her for libel

Guardianship ends in isolation from family, alleged neglect and death from COVID-19

77-page guardianship investigation exposes lack of oversight in Florida's system

New charges, new investigation involving embattled former professional guardians

Hotel owner placed in guardianship by St. Pete Beach realtor dies from COVID-19

Realtor seeks court-ordered guardianship to take away rights of elderly beach hotel owner

AARP Florida makes guardianship reform a top priority

Broken window results in more than $45K fine under former professional guardian's care



Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Family wants answers from Mesa nursing home in deadly attack

A woman was killed by her roommate and her family wants the Mesa nursing home where it happened to be held accountable. 

Family wants answers from Mesa nursing home in deadly attack

TN caregiver accused of stealing $100K from elderly client by driving to bank

A caregiver in Tennessee has been arrested and charged with multiple offenses after allegedly exploiting her elderly client. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Kathey Nance, 67, stole over $116,000 from the victim over a year in Montgomery County. Between March 2021 and February 2022, Nance would accompany the client to the bank and help her withdraw large sums of money before taking the cash for herself. She then allegedly sent the money to another account through a Bitcoin ATM. Despite being told to stop by the victim’s daughter, Nance continued taking the elderly woman to the bank for withdrawals.

In addition to theft, Nance is also accused of creating an account in the victim’s name and using personal information of the victim’s daughter without permission. A grand jury indicted Nance on April 4 on one count of caregiver neglect of an elderly adult and one count of identity theft – obtain, possess, buy or use a personal ID of another person. On Tuesday, Nance was arrested and booked into the Montgomery County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

This incident is not an isolated case of elder abuse by caregivers. In Florida, two health care workers were recently arrested and charged with video voyeurism, abuse, and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult after they allegedly verbally abused and taunted a woman with dementia during a live-stream. Fortunately, the victim in that incident was safe.

Elder abuse is a growing concern in the United States. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.

Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. Caregivers may take advantage of their clients’ vulnerability and trust to steal money or other assets. They may also coerce or manipulate their clients into giving them money or changing their wills. In some cases, caregivers may use technology to steal money or personal information, as in the case of Kathey Nance.

To prevent elder abuse, it is important to recognize the signs and report any suspected abuse. Signs of elder abuse may include unexplained injuries, sudden changes in behavior or mood, withdrawal from activities or social interactions, and unexplained financial transactions. If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, it is important to report it to the appropriate authorities.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse, there are steps that can be taken to prevent elder abuse from occurring in the first place. One of the most important steps is to choose a caregiver carefully. It is important to conduct background checks and verify references before hiring a caregiver. It is also important to establish clear expectations and boundaries with the caregiver and to monitor their behavior closely.

Another important step is to stay connected with elderly loved ones and to be aware of any changes in their behavior or circumstances. Regular visits or phone calls can help to identify potential problems early on.

Finally, it is important to educate yourself and others about elder abuse. By raising awareness and promoting prevention, we can help to protect our elderly loved ones from harm.

Full Article & Source:
TN caregiver accused of stealing $100K from elderly client by driving to bank

DMVA alerts veterans about scammers looking to poach military pensions

By Bill O’Boyle

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania veterans and their advocates should be aware of scammers looking to poach their military pensions, warns the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).

“Pension Poaching” is financial exploitation often targeting veterans who are age 65 or older, or veterans who are disabled and may be receiving monthly pension payments from the DMVA and/or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Older veterans may be the prime target for scammers, but all veterans and their advocates should be vigilant when seeking assistance with benefits earned through military service,” said Joel Mutschler, director, DMVA Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration and Outreach. “The best way to avoid being scammed is for veterans to use an accredited veteran service officer when applying for benefits. These trusted counselors do not charge for their services, and always look after the best interest of veterans.”

Veteran pension poaching occurs when scammers, unscrupulous players or dishonest financial planners charge veterans or their advocates for assistance in applying for or submitting applications for military pensions. The scheme often involves financial maneuvers such as advising claimants to hide their assets in trusts or annuity products sometimes resulting in lost investments and lucrative fees paid to the advisor.

Mutschler said veterans and advocates should be especially vigilant now about PACT Act-related scams. The new PACT Act law expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.

Here is how veterans and advocates can protect against PACT Act scams:

• Do not provide personal, medical, financial or VA benefit information online or over the phone. Federal agencies will not contact you unless you make a request.

• Do not click on online ads or engage with social media that seems suspicious.

• Look for “https://” at the start of website addresses; that means they’re more likely to be legitimate. Enable multi-factor authentication on all accounts, if possible.

• Never share your VA login information or deposit VA benefits directly into a third-party bank account unless the person is court appointed or a VA fiduciary.

• Work with veterans service providers you already know.

• Report any suspected fraud to

Mutschler said he wants to make clear that veterans or their advocates should never pay for the following:

• U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and/or PA DMVA forms

• Pension application fees

• Restructuring assets in order to “qualify”

• The promise of eligibility for a pension

• Lump sum payment on a pension

There are approximately 200 veteran service officers in Pennsylvania who work within organizations such as the DMVA, county veterans affairs offices and several veterans service organizations.

Contact information for County Directors of Veterans Affairs as well as contact information for Veteran Service Officers can be found on DMVA’s website.

Experienced or suspect a pension scam? Call (717) 783-1944, email, or submit a complaint online at You can also report any VA-related scam to the VA benefits hotline at 800-827-1000.

Full Article & Source:
DMVA alerts veterans about scammers looking to poach military pensions

Monday, April 17, 2023

AG Nessel on Elder Abuse Task Force Recommendations, Guardianship Reforms in State Senate

LANSING – This week, legislation was formally introduced to reform the states guardianship laws, many of the included policies being remedies prescribed by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force, after introduction by several state Senators.

“I am encouraged to see, and obviously supportive of, legislation to bring about the specific policy recommendations of the Elder Abuse Task Force,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “Many of these proposed changes to the state's guardianship laws come directly from the incredible work of the Task Force, and we’ll be working with the legislature to enact those recommendations we see in these bills, as well as working to ensure the rest of the package reflects and respects the recommendations put forth by the experts.”

The specific recommendations of the Elder Abuse Task Force, proposed in Senate Bills 258 and 254, include:

  • Requiring a judge to justify on the record why a family member who is willing to serve as legal guardian is not suitable;
  • Eliminating a judge’s ability to preclude a challenge to the appointment of a guardianship/conservatorship for up to six months;
  • Creating a requirement for guardians and conservators to be certified and require monthly check-ins of their protected persons;
  • More thoroughly outlining guardian ad litem responsibilities;
  • Establishing a clear asset/income threshold for appointment of a conservator;
  • Improving the basic standards for medical testimony; and
  • Requiring guardians to identify and list protected person’s specific sentimental items and provide a list to an interested person upon request.

Michigan's Elder Abuse Task Force launched in 2019 and consists of more than 55 different organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sections - all working together to combat elder abuse. The more than 100 individuals on the Task Force are divided into seven committees working diligently to accomplish nine initiatives. Achievements include the adoption of a Vulnerable Adult Incident Report form for investigations by law enforcement across the state, including the implementation of related trainings. In addition to the vulnerable adult incident report and associated trainings, the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act was passed that ensures mandated reporting for financial institutions on suspected fraud or exploitation and was part of the Task Force’s First Set of Initiatives.

More than 73,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse. They experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Michigan residents seeking elder abuse resources are encouraged to call 800-24-ABUSE (22873), or 855-444-3911 to report suspected elder abuse.

Full Article & Source:
AG Nessel on Elder Abuse Task Force Recommendations, Guardianship Reforms in State Senate

Commentary: New York state must invest more in guardianship program

By investing in a guardianship system, New York can ensure that older residents in need of protective arrangements have access to the appropriate services.

Credit: Getty Images. SolStock/Getty Images

New York strives to be a progressive beacon that cares about every resident. Yet when it comes to one of our fastest-growing populations, New York has a lot to prove.

Our state is home to 3.2 million older adults — a figure expected to nearly double by 2030. Over the past decade, the poverty rate among older New Yorkers increased, with Black, Hispanic, Asian, and immigrant residents most likely to experience poverty in their older years.

Today, nearly a third of older New Yorkers are aging alone. Gov. Kathy Hochul has pointed to investments in aging services and long-term care as the pathway to greater equity in aging. But when it comes to caring for older adults who are poor and alone, we have yet to deliver on our promises.

Conservative estimates suggest that more than half of older New Yorkers will require some form of long-term care. One way to facilitate long-term care is Article 81 Guardianship — a legal tool that assigns a surrogate decision-maker for those who can no longer manage their affairs and are at risk of harm. When applied properly, guardianship can improve health, safety and quality-of-life outcomes.

Unfortunately, guardianship services are not equally accessible to all. Our law states that those in need of a guardian shall be appointed one yet offers no funding or infrastructure to adequately deliver on that promise. In this broken system, thousands are left without the services they need and wind up in nursing homes, hospitals are overcrowded, and community guardianship programs are stretched to capacity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By investing in a guardianship system, we can ensure that older New Yorkers in need of protective arrangements have access to the appropriate services. We can address glaring inequities in our current system and prevent unnecessary guardianships by connecting community members with a range of resources. We can also save taxpayers millions of dollars long-term by keeping people out of hospitals and nursing homes.

We were thrilled to see a preliminary $5 million investment in the Senate one-house budget, and we will continue to work toward further investment, which would advance equity in aging, reverse an over-reliance on our guardianship system, and restore our commitment to older adults.

We are all aging, and we all deserve a system of care that aligns with our New York values. It’s time to act. It’s time to fund good guardianship. 

State Sen. Kevin Thomas of Nassau County represents the 6th Senate District. Kimberly George is president & CEO of Project Guardianship. Becky Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging in New York, also contributed.

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Commentary: New York state must invest more in guardianship program

'Very disturbing': Teens in jail after strangling, poisoning, punching grandmother, police say


Two Oklahoma teens are in police custody after being accused of strangling, punching and trying to poison an elderly woman.

Oklahoma City police officers said the incident involves a 75-year-old grandmother, her granddaughter and her granddaughter's boyfriend. The grandmother was driving the boyfriend home with her granddaughter also in the car.

"Very disturbing and upsetting," said Antonio Mojica, the male suspect's brother.

Police said when the grandmother made it to the 17-year-old's place, the boy became a suspect.

The grandmother had stated to me that my brother had physically grabbed a rope," Mojica said. "[He] not once, but twice tried to put it over her neck and strangle her. They both were unsuccessful."

According to investigators, the woman was able to lift her hands up, blocking the rope from strangling her. But then her 18-year-old granddaughter Madison Barnett punched her in the face.

"She did have a mark on her left side of her neck," Mojica said.

The woman called 911, and the couple ran off to a drainage ditch nearby, where police found them.

The report says the 17-year-old told officers he wanted to slit their throats, strangle them and cut their heads off, among other threats.

The couple faces an aggravated assault and battery charge. Records show Barnett is also facing a charge of poisoning food, drink, medication or water.

Mojica said he believes this all started because his brother was upset with Barnett's grandmother, for controlling how much time the couple spent together.

He has stated to me that the grandmother had not let him personally stay more nights with [Barnett]," Mojica said. "Basically, they weren't getting their way."

Mojica said he has been told about other times the couple planned to kill the grandmother.

They were trying to figure out how to kill her, dispose the body. Also, he had took the rope and practiced multiple times on [Barnett] how to choke her," he said.

Police said this crime appears to have been premeditated. According to Sgt. Dillon Quirk, incidents involving couples and family members aren't uncommon.

"It's unfortunate that it was a family matter," Quirk said. "Nevertheless, we investigate it all the same."

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'Very disturbing': Teens in jail after strangling, poisoning, punching grandmother, police say