Saturday, May 6, 2023

Former St. Augustine mayor, elder law attorney suspended for misconduct, conflicts of interest

Joseph Boles, Jr. appointed himself beneficiary or trustee of multiple families' wills and trusts without written consent.

Author: Atyia Collins

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court suspended prominent St. Augustine attorney and former city mayor Joe Boles after he admitted to misconduct and conflict of interest following an investigation by the Florida Bar.  

The 90-day suspension comes after a judge determined Boles showed "a pattern of misconduct" in violating Bar rules governing conflicts of interest. The Bar filed its complaint against Boles last November after receiving two complaints from Boles' clients and discovering a third concerning case while investigating.

Boles, who specializes in estate planning and elder law, serves as the president and chairman of the St. Johns County Council on Aging. He served as St. Augustine mayor from 2006 to 2014, and as a City Commissioner for two years before that.  

According to court records in the case, Boles designated himself as a surrogate designated beneficiary or backup successor trustee without getting written consent from his clients. 

The original complaint names three victims.

In the first victim's case, the complaint says Boles was hired in 2020 to create a trust for a woman with aggressive cancer. The woman's designated successor trustee said Boles appointed himself as backup successor trustee against both women's wishes. Boles denied this and told Bar investigators he did so with the client's permission. But Bar investigators determined he failed to obtain written consent to do so, as required.

In a second case, a woman said she met with Boles in 2015 for his offer of free will preparation and then again in 2021 to modify her will and request a trust. She alleges that after reviewing the documents, she discovered that Boles was named as trustee of the trust, and Boles' law partner (and stepson) was named backup successor. 

The complaint says "[Boles] unilaterally appointed himself as the personal representative in her will, appointed, himself as her healthcare surrogate, and appointed himself as [the client's] preneed guardian in the event of her future incapacity."

The client ultimately hired a different attorney to assist her with revoking the trust and drafting new estate planning document. 

Boles said he had the client's permission, but acknowledged he "failed to obtain the written informed consent ... to appoint himself," as required by law. 

During its investigation into the two complaints, the Bar also discovered a third case in which Boles named himself as a surrogate designated beneficiary in the will.

The complaint says Boles; "drafted and filed affidavits for the beneficiaries designated in the will ... in which they gave up all of their rights and responsibilities in the estate and designated respondent as the surrogate beneficiary." 

Boles told investigators he was asked to do so by his clients, but investigators found he failed to advise them to seek independent legal counsel before signing the waivers. Ultimately, Boles handled this case on a pro bono basis and distributed the proceeds of the sale of the home to the beneficiaries.

In recommending discipline in the case, the designated "referee," 4th Circuit Judge Meredith Charbula said she took into account several mitigating factors, including Boles' "absence of a prior disciplinary record; timely good faith effort to make restitution or to rectify the consequences of the misconduct; full and free disclosure to the bar or cooperative attitude toward the proceedings; character or reputation; and remorse."

The judge also found no evidence that Boles wrongfully appropriated any money or assets to his own use.

As part of the suspension, Boles is prohibited from accepting new business until he is reinstated. He will also pay disciplinary costs of $2,565. He will be automatically reinstated after the suspension is completed.

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Former St. Augustine mayor, elder law attorney suspended for misconduct, conflicts of interest

Former Knox County Deputy Pleads Guilty to Stealing from Alzheimer's Victim He Was Designated to Protect

News Release

(MOUNT VERNON, Ohio) — A former Knox County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty today on six felony charges related to theft from an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced today.

“Today’s guilty plea holds the criminals accountable for their financial abuse,” Yost said. “The theft charge alone in this case carries a potential sentence of up to 11 years in prison and a $50,000 fine – a punishment that should serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking about ripping off a senior citizen.”

Daniel Bobo of Gambier pleaded guilty to theft, a first-degree felony; three counts of telecommunications fraud, third- and fourth-degree felonies; and two counts of misuse of credit cards, a second-degree felony.

Bobo is a former deputy sergeant with the Knox County Sheriff’s office. He resigned on Sept. 3, 2021, following an indictment in the case.

Bobo’s wife, Elisabeth Bobo, pleaded guilty on April 18 to one count of misuse of credit cards, a fourth-degree felony, and one count of telecommunication fraud, a fifth-degree felony.

Both Daniel and Elisabeth Bobo will be sentenced on June 22 and are expected to pay restitution upon sentencing.

The Bobos befriended Kay and Richard Hoppe and helped the elderly couple move into a Mount Vernon nursing home. After Richard Hoppe died in 2018, the Bobos used a power of attorney granted by the Hoppes to Danial Bobo to access credit cards in the Hoppe’s name and bank accounts that contained the Hoppe’s assets. The Bobos used more than $500,000 for their own personal expenses. Suffering from dementia attributed to Alzheimer’s disease, Kay Hoppe passed away in 2020 at the age of 78 and Danial Bobo was named the executor of the estate.

The attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigated the case, and the Special Prosecutions Section of Yost’s office is prosecuting the case.

May is Older Americans Month, designed to recognize the achievements of our older Ohioans. It is also a reminder to be vigilant in protecting elders against fraud and abuse.

The Elder Justice Unit – a collaborative effort of the attorney general’s Crime Victim Services, Consumer Protection, Health Care Fraud and Social Prosecutions sections and BCI – works to educate Ohioans about the warning signs and risks of financial exploitation. Elderly people, especially, are vulnerable to such crime.

Former Knox County Deputy Pleads Guilty to Stealing from Alzheimer's Victim He Was Designated to Protect

Ramona Woman Sentenced for Grand Theft

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Contact: Tony Mangan, Communications Director, 605-773-6878


Ramona Woman Sentenced for Grand Theft

PIERRE, S.D.  – South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has announced that Melba Jean Bickett of Ramona, S.D. has been sentenced to two years in the South Dakota Women’s Prison after pleading guilty to one count of Grand Theft. Both years were suspended on the condition that Bickett serve 60 days in the Lake County Jail and perform 40 hours of Community Service.

Between Jan.1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2013, while working as a teller for First American State Bank, Bickett took $153,000 from her father’s bank account and moved the money into her bank account or her son’s bank account. All the transactions were done without her father’s permission.

Bickett was sentenced Monday in Kingsbury County Court. She also was ordered to pay back the entire $153,000 to her father’s estate.

The case was investigated by the Lake County Sheriff’s office, the Kingsbury County Sheriff’s office, and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. The case was prosecuted by the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office and its Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Unit.

Ramona Woman Sentenced for Grand Theft

Friday, May 5, 2023

‘The system is designed for people to give up’

by Melissa Evans

Danielle Curtiss of Long Beach sought a mental health conservatorship for her son, who has schizophrenia, for two years. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Danielle Curtiss, exhausted and angry, was consumed with a question: why should it be so hard for a mother to help her son?

At 18, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During the next two years, he was either hospitalized or placed on involuntary psychiatric holds some 20 times. He repeatedly threatened to kill himself. “I don’t want to live anymore,” he would say.

Over the years, Curtiss says she filed at least a dozen missing person reports after he ran away from home or bolted from treatment programs, often taking shelter in homeless encampments. After leaving one program in Downey, he walked 50 miles to Glendora, where he was hospitalized for a week due to renal failure from extreme dehydration.

Curtiss says her son has been arrested multiple times for non-violent offenses, with the exception of two. Once as a juvenile and then as an adult, he was taken into custody for battery against her. She told police he had, among other acts of violence, slapped and choked her.

Dating back to middle school, he’d been prescribed an array of psychopharmaceuticals but mostly stuck to weed, which he started smoking at 12, eventually moving on to meth and ketamine as he got older.

For these reasons and dozens of others, Curtiss, who is a nurse, says she became convinced that the only way her son could be saved was if he was placed under an involuntary mental health conservatorship, giving her access to his records and control of his care. She believed he surely met the requirements because he was gravely disabled, a potential danger to himself and others.

But if her son’s troubles weren’t painful enough to face, she would now be forced to confront a mental health system that left no statutory pathway for a despondent mother or other loved one to obtain the kind of highly restrictive court-ordered conservatorship she was seeking.

Currently, under state law, only a physician in a hospital can initiate that process, which requires strong communication between public and private medical providers and a willingness by hospitals, insurers and doctors to take action—all of which are in short supply.

As homelessness rises among severely mentally ill individuals, she found herself at ground zero in a growing debate in California over whether restrictions for such measures should be loosened to confront the new realities on the street or kept strict to guard against potential violations of an individual’s rights.

“The system is designed for people to give up,” says Curtiss, adding that the only way to make it work for her and other similarly situated families is through the kind of sheer will she would need to summon in her two-year effort.

“I knew my son needed a conservatorship early on,” she says, “but I was continuously told that he was not ‘sick’ enough or that he hadn’t been in the hospital enough. What a travesty it is to know that your son is so very ill and so very lost and be told he’s not sick enough.”

A boy of 9 or 10 is hugged by his mom who is smiling into the camera.
Danielle Curtiss and her son watch a Los Angeles Lakers game together when he was about 9 or 10. Photo courtesy of Danielle Curtiss.

A clash of rights and realities

Despite wide acknowledgement of the conservatorship system’s shortcomings in addressing rising mental illness among the unhoused, recent legislative efforts to reform the 56-year-old law that governs mental health conservatorships have failed.

Strong pushback over the years has come from those who fear the state could regress to the era before 1967, when tens of thousands of people were locked away in state psychiatric hospitals—heavily medicated, subjected to experiments and stripped of their rights and freedom.

“Conservatorship is the most extreme form of deprivation of civil liberties, aside from the death penalty,” Susan Mizner, director of disability rights for the American Civil Liberties Union, said recently.

Reform advocates, meanwhile, say that as homelessness has reached crisis levels and the public regularly encounters severely mentally ill people on the street, the question they ask is: Why is no one doing anything?

“It’s the question we’re all asking,” says Jessica Cruz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which supports reforming conservatorship requirements to make them less restrictive.

The kind of conservatorship Curtiss was seeking was created under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, or LPS, which was passed in 1967. It is reserved specifically for people with diagnosed mental health disorders, usually schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The law authorizes only hospitals and in-patient physicians to petition a county to obtain one—a statutory precaution against individuals being unnecessarily committed to locked-down mental health facilities. But records show that such measures are rarely sought.

Although 1,200 unhoused people in Long Beach said they suffered from severe mental illness during the 2023 homeless count, Long Beach hospitals sought only 20 LPS conservatorships in fiscal year 2021-2022, according to Los Angeles County data.

Long Beach Memorial sought one, while St. Mary Medical Center didn’t seek any. College Hospital, which has a contract with LA County to provide mental health services, sought 10, and the VA Hospital in Long Beach sought nine.

In that same 12-month span, a total of 388 LPS conservatorships were sought by general acute care hospitals overall in Los Angeles County, and the majority came from public hospitals run by the county, none of which are in Long Beach. Jails, courts, state hospitals and other specialized psychiatric facilities recommended 354 conservatorships to the county.

Of the total of 742 that were referred for LPS conservatorships, 700 were pursued by the county, records show. Of those, more than half, or 450 people, were placed into conservatorships, with the courts naming the county as the conservator for 284 people, and assigning private conservators, such as family members, for the rest.

These court-ordered arrangements can be denied for a number of reasons, which include physicians not showing up to court to testify, or the person being able to prove to a judge they are not gravely disabled.

Connie Drexler, the county’s deputy public guardian, cited one case in which an unhoused man successfully argued that he was able to care for himself because he had a tent on Skid Row and that he could get food from a nonprofit.

“It may not be your or my first choice, but he had a plan for food, shelter and clothing, and the judge said that was acceptable,” she says.

At wit’s end

The turning point—the boiling point—for Curtiss in getting an LPS conservatorship for her son came in 2019.

By then, she had compiled a 10-page chronicle of his deteriorating mental health in all its manifestations, from his 5150 psychiatric holds to his brushes with the law to his turbulent relationship with his mother. She had to piece together some of his medical odyssey after he turned 18 because she could not directly access his records. (At Curtiss’ request, the Post agreed to withhold her son’s name to protect his privacy.)

Her “declaration in support of conservatorship” was intended to demonstrate that action was needed immediately, given his long history of life-threatening—and worsening—mental health crises.

“I have received NUMEROUS telephone calls from concerned police officers, security and members of the public whom he reaches out for help,” she wrote, detailing incidents in which he had been beaten bloody on the street, become lost after aimlessly riding trains and buses and plagued by paranoid fantasies of being tracked by “The Cartel,” among others.

She recounted one frightening incident while he was still in middle school.

One morning, he rode his bike to his former campus—where he’d experienced bullying—instead of his current one. There, he was arrested when staff discovered a Bowie-style knife in his backpack. His mother says he was placed in a juvenile diversion program.

Curtiss wrote that she agreed to a recommendation that her middle-schooler be given medication for a diagnosis of ADHD. His grades improved a bit, she said, but that didn’t last. Soon, he was getting busted at school and by police for having marijuana pipes and other paraphernalia.

His troubles mounted even as he played football at Poly High, then at Wilson, with dreams of someday suiting up for Notre Dame. Curtiss enrolled him in multiple diversion and treatment programs, and doctors prescribed an array of medications, including Seroquel, Trazodone, Prozac, Haldol and Abilify.

A social media post featuring a mom and her son on a football field together.
Danielle Curtiss (left) and her son in 2017 when he was about 18. The two of them played on a semi professional football team called the Wolfpack. “Football was something that helped him stay out of trouble,” she says. Photo courtesy of Danielle Curtiss.

As his illicit drug use escalated in his late teens, he began “to be motivated by some unknown internal stimulus to suddenly need to leave,” his mother wrote. “It is now so bad that he can not stay in any one place for greater than a few hours before this sensation drives him to leave.”

At 18, he was taken to Orange County’s St. Jude Hospital by Fullerton police after threatening suicide in a call to his mother, with whom he was no longer living. When Curtiss arrived at St. Jude, her son was rocking back and forth, holding his head in his hands, shouting “turn the cameras off.”

He was placed on a short-term involuntary hold—one of many over the years—before being transferred to College Hospital in Long Beach and then to a Kaiser outpatient psychiatric program. It was there that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and acute psychosis. He continued to spiral out of control.

In 2019, with her son now 20, Curtiss was at wit’s end. She took her 10-page litany of trauma to the Los Angeles County Probate Court and applied for a conservatorship that did not need to be initiated by a doctor in a medical facility, like an LPS conservatorship.

Probate conservatorships can be requested by family members or concerned caregivers. They’re typically sought for older adults with debilitating conditions such as dementia and, thus, are usually permanent.

LPS conservatorships are reviewed annually with the goal of giving a person back their autonomy.

The probate court appointed an attorney to represent the interests of Curtiss’ son in the proceeding, a breakthrough for his mom, who had filed her document in the court record.

With the history supplied by Curtiss, the attorney assigned to the case prevailed upon a psychiatrist at Del Amo behavioral health hospital in Torrance, where Curtiss’ son was then being treated, to sign a “capacity declaration” stating that the patient was unable to provide informed consent for his medical care because of his impaired mental functions.

“Patient in the past will have periods of stability,” the treating psychiatrist wrote, “but frequently decompensates due various factors leading to behaviors that complicate his existing condition of schizophrenia.”

Ultimately, Curtiss’ probate court request was rejected when the court ruled that the son’s schizophrenia diagnosis would specifically require an LPS conservatorship initiated by a doctor.

But with the psychiatrist’s declaration in hand, Curtiss was able to persuade the Torrance hospital to begin the LPS process, which was completed just months later and named her as the conservator of her son’s affairs. She placed him in a locked facility in Long Beach.

“The conservatorship is the ONLY way I’ve been able to help him, the only way I have been able to participate in his care, advocate for him, develop a care plan for him,” Curtiss wrote in a recent email to the Post, adding: “I had to keep pressing everyone to do something. I couldn’t let up.”

A system bursting at the seams

As Curtiss’ experience illustrates, the hurdles to obtain LPS conservatorships remain high. Beyond questions of rights and freedoms, advocates contend that hospitals and physicians are disincentivized to participate for other reasons, including money.

The state’s insurance provider, Medi-Cal, pays hospitals the highest rate for providing acute care, when a patient is facing an emergency. Reimbursement rates are nearly cut in half if a patient is stabilized but waiting for a bed somewhere else or waiting for the conservatorship process to be finalized.

In Curtiss’ case, this took several months. Throughout that period, her son was kept in the emergency room at Del Amo hospital without access to activities or personal items. Curtiss says she shuttled back and forth between her nursing shifts to bring him fresh clothes and other necessities.

“He was miserable,” she says. “He was begging me to take him home.”

Hospitals readily acknowledge there simply aren’t enough alternative places, like subacute facilities, for patients like Curtiss’ son to go, says Sheree Lowe, vice president of the California Hospital Association, a trade and advocacy group.

According to a 2022 RAND study, Los Angeles County has just 5.2 subacute psychiatric beds per 100,000 residents, the lowest rate in the state. To meet the existing need, that number should be 24.6, according to the study.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in March proposed a 2024 bond measure to raise an estimated $1 billion annually for thousands of new mental health beds, from subacute to residential.

“It’s unacceptable what we’re dealing with, at scale, in the state of California,” the governor said at a media event.

Waiting for the courts to act, combined with this shortage of subacute options, means patients awaiting possible conservatorships are often discharged back to the street once they’re stabilized.

What’s more, such crucial decisions might be made without the benefit of knowing a patient’s full medical history because of inadequate communication between hospitals where an individual may have been earlier treated. They might not know, for example, such basic information as whether this is a patient’s first or 10th psychiatric hold or any  previous attempts at outpatient treatment.

It’s advantageous when a patient is treated at the same facility multiple times so physicians have at least some history, says Lowe of the hospital association, noting patient privacy laws are very strict about sharing medical data.

“There’s really no way around that,” she says.

Pushing for change

Curtiss and many others have lobbied hard for changes to the law that governs LPS conservatorships, including recent efforts to loosen the standard of who qualifies.

A state bill introduced in March would expand the criteria to include any condition that causes an individual to be “at risk for serious harm” due to a mental illness or a substance use disorder—a new category of illness that could be taken into account for LPS conservatorships.

Although a similar measure failed in 2022, state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, who has authored several bills over the past five years to change mental health law, says the increasingly visible toll of mental health and homelessness could open a window for this one to succeed.

“Decades have passed and we’re still operating on laws that were a good idea at one point in our history, but are now obsolete and a barrier to protect vulnerable people,” she says.

A building in the distance, surrounded by a wire fence and grass.
Metropolitan in Norwalk is one of just five remaining psychiatric hospitals in California. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act came in the wake of a public outcry over the conditions of state psychiatric hospitals, where tens of thousands of patients were held indefinitely and subjected to horrific treatment, such as electric shock therapy and lobotomies.

The legislation, signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, effectively shut down all but five state mental hospitals. But funding for a new community-based approach did not materialize.

Today, the state’s five state mental hospitals, including Metropolitan in Norwalk, have a total of 6,078 beds, compared to more than 50,000 beds in the 1950s. Of those, only 617 are occupied by LPS conservatees. The remaining 90% are occupied by those with mental illness who are accused of committing crimes or have been convicted of them.

A February staff report for the county’s Board of Supervisors said the wait time for transferring an LPS conservatee to a state hospital last year was 394 days. The wait time for a specialized or subacute care facility, meanwhile, was 141 days.

Despite the intent of the LPS Act, one of the original authors, Sen. Nicholas C. Petris, said in a 1989 interview that mistakes were made: “In this overemphasis to get away from this tyrannical and oppressive system … of incarcerating people so easily, we went overboard the other way.”

The act made it extremely difficult to hold someone against their will longer than 72 hours. As a result, short-term holds in California have risen from about 75,000 annually in 1980 to about 125,000 in 2018. At the same time, conservatorships have plummeted from about 12,000 in 1980 to 6,000 statewide.

Officials are hopeful that the governor’s new CARE Court model will fill the gap between 72-hour psychiatric holds and conservatorships. These courts would function more like a social service agency than a legal venue. Some are scheduled to start in December, including in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Families, nurses, social workers, police and other concerned parties would be able to directly petition the CARE courts to enroll someone in the program, in which regular appearances would be required and services, including housing, would be provided. Participation would be voluntary, unlike the more restrictive LPS conservatorships.

If individuals refuse or fail to complete CARE Court requirements, they could then be referred for an LPS conservatorship.

Curtiss, who has supported the CARE Court concept, says she’s hopeful it will provide another option for families desperate to help loved ones. But she’s skeptical about LA County’s ability to provide the promised services that will be crucial to its success. Just getting the key players in her son’s conservatorship case to communicate with her has been a challenge, she says.

A young girl holds a pink sign that says "Save my brother" as two other women stand near.
Danielle Curtiss (right) with daughter Ava (left) and Rep. Grace Napolitano. Curtiss has lobbied politicians across the state to make it easier for families to access mental health care. Photo courtesy of Danielle Curtiss.

In fact, at her son’s most recent conservatorship hearing in February, Curtiss celebrated a big win for a woman who for years has camped out in administrative offices and pestered politicians on behalf of her son: Her lawyer persuaded a judge to order LA County and Kaiser to work with her to devise a discharge plan—including housing and care—once her son’s conservatorship ends.

“I know the end is coming,” she says. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Asked what would be a best-case scenario for her son, she struggles for an answer. She would love for him to be somewhere structured, where he can feel supported but also develop some autonomy.

“My hope,” she says, “is that someday he can advocate for himself.”

She says she also hopes for a sea-change in a system that should not require those with severe mental illnesses to endure so much trauma before they can get help.

This story was edited by special projects editor Joel Sappell. 

Photography by Thomas R. Cordova, with submitted art from Danielle Curtiss. 

Video by Cheantay Jensen. 

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‘The system is designed for people to give up’

‘An Important Step’: State Senate Advances Legislation to Reform Conservatorship Laws

by Elizabeth Ireland 

Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman announced behavioral health legislation in March with several mayors of the state’s largest cities. Photo via @emily_hoeven Twitter

Mayor Todd Gloria testified before the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday on behalf of California Big City Mayors in support of Senate Bill 43 to reform outdated conservatorship laws.

Authored by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, the legislation would update California’s conservatorship laws to help those suffering from severe mental illness get the help and care they need.

SB 43 would expand the definition of “gravely disabled” in conservatorship law, allowing consideration of a person’s inability to attend to their necessary personal or medical care. It would also update conservatorship laws to include substance-use disorder as a factor in addition to mental illness.

Gloria, chair of the bipartisan coalition of mayors of California’s 13 most populous cities, served as the lead witness in support of the behavioral health reform.

“Today, we took an important step toward reforming California’s inadequate conservatorship laws to ensure people suffering from severe mental illness and addiction issues can get the care they need,” Gloria said. 

“All Californians have seen the need for this reform in their communities — whether among our unhoused population or families struggling to get care for a severely ill loved one,” he said. “By passing Sen. Susan Eggman’s Senate Bill 43, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee has advanced a truly significant behavioral health policy reform and given these folks hope.”

“California’s mayors are on the frontlines of the state’s homelessness and mental health crises, and we need tools like conservatorship to help our most vulnerable residents. We are excited to continue to work on this bill on behalf of the families and people who desperately need and deserve mental health care,” Gloria added.

Full Article & Source:
‘An Important Step’: State Senate Advances Legislation to Reform Conservatorship Laws

State investigating video of sleeping nurse at Auburn nursing home

Auburn Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

By David Wilcox

The New York State Department of Health is investigating a video that appears to show a nurse asleep while standing and working at Auburn Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Sunday.

Jeffrey Hammond, the department's deputy director of communications, confirmed the investigation to The Citizen on Wednesday.

"The (department) has made it a top priority to hold nursing homes accountable for the quality of care they provide," he said.

Hammond declined further comment due to the investigation being open. But he encouraged nursing home residents and their families to share complaints or concerns with the department's Centralized Complaint Intake Unit at or 1-888-201-4563. Complaints are kept confidential, and the outcomes of reviews are shared with complainants. 

According to state Department of Health records, the nursing home was the subject of 62 complaints between Feb. 1, 2019, and Jan. 31 of this year. It had 75 complaints and 10.9 citations per 100 occupied beds, compared to the state averages of 49.9 and 2.6, respectively. The nursing home was fined $17,000 last July for allowing two staff unvaccinated against COVID-19 to work there.

The 92-bed nursing home at 85 Thornton Ave. is also continuing its own investigation into the video, Administrator Judson MacCaull told The Citizen on Wednesday. He declined comment on the current employment status of the nurse depicted in it. He also said the certified nursing assistant who recorded and posted the video on Facebook, Alexxis McNeil, is still employed by the nursing home.

"Once the investigation is complete and we have an opportunity to carefully consider the findings, we will make personnel decisions in accordance with the law and consistent with our commitment to the health and safety of our residents and staff," MacCaull said. "We appreciate your understanding of the need for a fair and complete review and to avoid premature speculation or rushes to judgment."

McNeil, however, told The Citizen she was informed by the nursing home's human resources department that sharing the video publicly violated HIPAA, the federal law restricting the release of medical information. Upon being told she would be fired as a result, McNeil instead quit, she said. To the best of her knowledge, she is no longer an employee of the nursing home.

McNeil's video, which she posted Tuesday morning, has been viewed more than 450,000 times and shared more than 5,700.

Full Article & Source:
State investigating video of sleeping nurse at Auburn nursing home

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Probate Court Reform Bill Passes On Bipartisan Vote In Arizona House

On Tuesday, the Arizona House of Representatives took a major step in protecting Arizona citizens from abuse and the potential for corruption within the current probate system by passing SB1038, establishing a citizen-led Probate Advisory Panel that reports their findings directly to the legislature.

Supporters say the need for such a panel was made clear in testimony from Arizona victims of probate abuse during committee hearings and is supported by the reports out of the United States General Accountability Office and the Department of Justice, documenting years of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, physical abandonment, and financial exploitation from probate actions.

In explaining his “yes” vote, Rep. Alex Kolodin, an attorney, described that his original reluctance to support the bill was overcome by the testimony of witnesses and the paring of SB1038 with SB1291, which he described as “a very good probate reform bill.”

SB1291 is awaiting final House approval before heading back to the Senate due to amendments in the House.

The bill was the work of Sherry Lund, a nationwide advocate for probate reform, and Senator John Kavanagh-R. On the passage of SB1038 in the Arizona House, Mrs. Lund said, “At a time of such division within our country it is inspiring to see the bipartisan support of this bill which really speaks to the belief in protecting the rights of the people against the status quo. It is not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue, this is a Constitutional rights issue. It was encouraging to see that recognized by the huge majority of members, regardless of party.”

The Probate Advisory Panel, if signed into law, would meet at least quarterly and report its findings directly to the legislature for consideration of further reforms to the probate system in Arizona.

Full Article & Source:
Probate Court Reform Bill Passes On Bipartisan Vote In Arizona House

State of Alaska not accepting new public guardianship cases

By Joey Klecka

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - New public guardian cases are not being accepted for the time being by the state due to a severe staff shortage.

In a letter to Chief Justice Peter Maassen and the Alaska Supreme Court, Office of Public Advocacy Director James Stinson highlighted the severity of the situation caused by a lack of certified public guardians in the state, including an unexpected health issue for one certified guardian that has created an “untenable staffing situation.”

“As we have been alerting the courts for the last several years, the Public Guardian caseloads have become overwhelming,” Stinson wrote.

Stinson said that the usual ward caseload of about 40 has recently been stretched to upwards of 100 wards per public guardian, over twice as many as expected and far beyond the case load limit for other states.

Stinson also noted that the office has tried to stay within guidelines set forth by the National Guardianship Association’s Standards of Practice and Ethics, which lay out the reasonable abilities of taking care of children and other Alaskans that need help, including limiting workloads “that allows the guardian to accurately and adequately support and protect the person.” It requires that guardians visit their ward at least once a month and provides for regular contact with all service providers.

The staffing shortage has created what Stinson has called an “untenable” system.

“We have had grave concerns we are not meeting the NGA standards,” Stinson wrote. “With the caseloads now even higher, we absolutely cannot meet the NGA Standards.”

Stinson went on to explain that one of the chief reasons that led to the current crisis is the amount of resignations and retirements of previous public guardians without a suitable influx of replacements signing on. Stinson said the process to adequately train public guardians can take upwards of two years.

Full Article & Source:
State of Alaska not accepting new public guardianship cases

Madera man accused of stealing $12K from 90-year-old woman

By Jeff Corcino

Robert Ray Zendek, 31, of Madera has been arrested for allegedly stealing $12,013 from a 90-year-old relative.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, on April 14, the victim, a Bigler Township resident, came to the Clearfield state police barracks and reported more than $10,000 was taken from her account.

State police obtained her bank records and found that Zendek made several unauthorized purchases totaling $12,013 using CashApp.

Police interviewed Zendek and he admitted to making the unauthorized withdrawals and said they occurred over seven months or so.

Zendek is charged with financial exploitation of an older adult or care dependent person, theft by unlawful taking, access device issued to another who did not authorize use another reason access device is unauthorized by issuer —all four are felonies of the third degree.

Zendek is incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $50,000 monetary bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Michael Morris.

Full Article & Source:
Madera man accused of stealing $12K from 90-year-old woman

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Pass Senate bills to end probate system actions that cause abuse, abandonment, exploitation

Being tied to something as well-known as “Disney” provides for interesting conversations. Mention “probate court” and eyes glaze over. My stepson, Brad Disney Lund, the grandson of Walt Disney, and our family have been in protracted probate cases for more than 13 years. Brad won his Arizona case, our family vindicated of any wrongdoing, but the people we met and what we learned about the probate system in the United States revealed a nightmare worse than any evil portrayed in fantasy. (Deposit Photos)

Being connected to something as well-known as “Disney” provides for interesting conversations. Mention “probate court” and eyes glaze over. The connection to one has made me all too familiar with the other. My stepson, Brad Disney Lund, the grandson of Walt Disney, and our family have been in protracted probate cases for over 13 years. Brad won his Arizona case, our family vindicated of any wrongdoing, but the people we met and what we learned about the probate system in our country revealed a nightmare worse than any evil portrayed in fantasy. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals called the probate court in our case “The Most Unhappy Place on Earth.”

These real-life experiences invoke questions of how this is even legal in America. When compared, the pattern of practice across the country becomes obvious. The Department of Justice has years of documented physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, physical abandonment, and financial exploitation from probate actions. More accounts are found with a simple internet search.

People being denied due process, stripped of every dime they saved, robbed of pensions, restricted of precious time with loved ones, drugged and left to develop bedsores, pushed into declining health ultimately to die penniless and often alone, motivated me to seek change. Which is why two probate reform bills, SB1291 and SB1038, are in our Legislature this session. Both bills have garnered immense bipartisan support, are vitally important and must become law.

Arizona law allows for a simple medical evaluation, it could be by a registered nurse or physician assistant, to place someone under a court order. There is no requirement for an evaluation from your long-time personal physician, or someone specifically trained in detecting mental and physical incapacity to perform this evaluation that will remove you of every right you ever had. A stranger is able to determine if a person stands to lose their civil rights and be reclassified as a “ward” in a court action where limited evidence is required.

Enter the dystopian reality of families legally prevented from seeing loved ones, sedation to keep the ward “calm,” liquidation of assets and personal belongings, a likely change of residence to fit the needs of the guardian who now bills the ward for every aspect of care, for example $25 to open and $25 to read each piece of mail – even junk mail. The ward loses the right to vote, to drive, to see whomever they choose, to live where they choose, the ability to choose their own doctor and make healthcare decisions. Essentially, all individual decision-making is forfeited and given to the guardian, a stranger, appointed by the courts in most cases.

When a guardian is appointed, it usually means that a conservator over their estate is also appointed. Probate does not require great wealth or being elderly. Owning your home, having a 401K or IRA, other assets, Social Security or pension will do. It can start with getting sick or having an injury with an unexpected hospitalization, a bank account problem, or a family squabble over who takes care of someone, or who gets the house and remaining retirement savings after mom and dad are gone.

These events trigger the idea that there is a need for an intervention in the care or financial management of the individual, which ushers in the court-appointed attorneys, fiduciaries and guardians. With relatively minimal effort, an individual’s civil rights are removed, their life no longer under their control. Then there is the money that is filtered through probate cases. So much money.

The money running through the probate system makes it ripe for corruption. The United States is estimated to have 1.3 million active probate cases, including over $50 billion under management, with a staggering $16.9 billion drained from retirement accounts, family trusts, and lifetime savings of Baby Boomers alone. In many cases it is the court-appointed players receiving these funds, nicknamed “probate pirates” due to their ease at liquidating assets while staying in the gray zone of legality. One recent article said the current probate system “… irreparably damages entire generations of innocent families.”

Not surprisingly, the abusers in the system are trying hard to push back on SB1291 and SB1038 by lobbying to water down these bills. They should not be allowed to deny the Constitutional protections against what is happening in the probate courts to protect their status quo. Every citizen should be concerned that our rights are so easily eliminated and all that we hold dear and planned for, wiped away. It is incumbent on the Arizona Legislature to pass and Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign into law, SB1291 and SB1038.

Sherry Lund of Paradise Valley is the founder of Protecting Liberty 5-14, a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the rights guaranteed in the 5th and 14th Amendments and has spent over a decade advocating nationwide for victims of probate abuse.

Full Article & Source:
Pass Senate bills to end probate system actions that cause abuse, abandonment, exploitation

Montgomery attorney to pay $345,000 to his victim of financial exploitation

by: Mubashir Zaidi

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WRBL) — A Montgomery attorney, sentenced on the charge of financial exploitation, agreed to pay $345,000 to his victim, an elderly military veteran.

According to Alabama’s Attorney General’s Office, John Warren Godwin, 39, pleaded guilty and was sentenced by the Montgomery County Circuit Court to a ten-year suspended sentence with five years’ probation.

Earlier on May 1, agents with the Attorney General’s Office arrested Godwin, 

The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Godwin’s conduct in June 2022 after receiving information from a local bank that identified suspicious transactions from the victim’s accounts.

That investigation revealed that Godwin was court-appointed in 2018 to represent D.N., an elderly veteran in need of emergency protective services who had no family to care for him.

Godwin admitted that he breached his fiduciary duty to D.N. by failing to pay property taxes on his home, which led to the property being sold to a third party at a tax sale.

Godwin further breached his duty by recklessly failing to redeem that property within the statutory period of three years. Because of his failure to reclaim the property, D.N.’s home was permanently lost.

As a condition of Godwin’s plea, he agreed to pay $345,000 in restitution to the victim (the value of the home lost in the tax sale), to permanently surrender his license with the Alabama State Bar, to disclaim any and all bequests, interests, inheritances, and duties from any and all last wills and testaments of the victim, and to pay all other court costs and fees.

In exchange for Godwin’s immediate cooperation, the State agreed to not bring any additional charges related to Godwin’s service as a guardian and conservator.

Full Article & Source:
Montgomery attorney to pay $345,000 to his victim of financial exploitation

Hidden camera reveals abuse by care home staff of dementia patient Ann King

When Ann King, 88, faced worsening dementia, her children considered a dozen care homes and carefully picked Reigate Grange, part of the Signature Senior Lifestyle chain, with annual fees close to £100,000. 

Within months, however, they began to worry their mother was being neglected as she began asking them if they were going to throw her out of bed, or the window. The family installed a covert camera on King's bedside table that revealed harrowing abuse. 

 They have shared some of the footage with the Guardian in the hope of exposing such practices; something they say their mother, a former nurse, would have wanted. Signature apologised to the family and insisted the ''reprehensible' behaviour was 'committed by rogue individuals'.

Hidden camera reveals abuse by care home staff of dementia patient Ann King

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

People under guardianship in NC would have more rights and information, under proposed revamp of statutes

Laws on guardianship in North Carolina have remained unchanged for decades, and advocates say they don’t reflect changes in the field that call for more information and expanded rights for people whose lives are put under the control of another person, agency or business. 

by Thomas Goldsmith and Rose Hoban

Charlotte resident Tylor Freeman said now that he's out from under guardianship, he's looking forward to living where he wants. His guardian for eight years came from a company that gets paid for each guardian they manage. After that, his guardianship was transferred to The Arc of North Carolina, and his guardians there informed him of his rights and helped him transition away from being under a guardianship regimen. "They made sure that I was informed of my rights. You know, I never knew I could have a trial by jury. Or I never knew that I could ask for an appeal. Because we would go to court, and nobody would tell me these things," he said. Credit: Rose Hoban

By Thomas Goldsmith

When Tylor Freeman was 18, he remembers, a Buncombe County court ruled that he needed a legal guardian to help him make life decisions, because that’s what a psychologist recommended after a 10-minute interview. 

Freeman, 28, of Asheville, who has cerebral palsy, told his story during an April 25 event in downtown Raleigh for professionals and advocates involved with proposed reforms of  guardianship law that are moving through the General Assembly. 

He recounted being 18 and just transitioning from living with his mother. 

“They did not think that I was making good decisions,” Freeman said about the process to place him under the care of a guardian. “Then I come and I’m like, ‘What do you mean? What am I supposed to do?’”

A bill containing proposed reforms to several aspects of adult guardianship passed the state Senate unanimously on April 20 and headed to a House committee April 25. Its passage would mark the first substantive changes in decades in this area of law, with language aimed at improving rights of the person under guardianship, making sure they are fully informed about the process, and improving oversight by the offices of county clerks.

Under legal guardianship in North Carolina, a person can have near-total control of their life — over daily living and/or financial matters — turned over to another person, agency or business by order of a county clerk of court. It happens when the court finds that a person, called a respondent, or a “ward” in outdated terminology, does not have the capacity to make and communicate decisions about his or her welfare or money.

The reforms actually are “… the essence of what the disability rights movement is all about, which is choice and self-determination,” said Linda Kendall Fields, a longtime developer of these reforms and incoming director of UNC Cares, or the Center for Aging Research and Educational Services, at the UNC Chapel Hill. 

“It affects where you live, who you’re with, what you do, how your money is spent. It’s really core to personhood.”

‘It doesn’t get revisited’

In the fiscal year 2021-22, 5,786 people were under guardianship in North Carolina, according to a March presentation to legislators. Laws governing the practice would get a revamp partly as a result of a campaign that’s been pursued since 2015 by Rethinking Guardianship, a statewide effort funded by the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities and carried out by UNC Cares at the School of Social Work at UNC Chapel Hill.

“There are some provisions that would allow people to make choices about what they want to happen,” said Heather Burkhardt, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging, which supports the bill. “So it’s not taking away all of their rights around these guardianships and making sure that people have opportunities to come out of guardianship. 

“Often what happens is that a lot of people will have a guardian, and it’s forever and it doesn’t get revisited — ever.” 

That’s nearly what happened for Freeman, who had his rights restored on Jan. 24 after spending a decade in the system. The ARC of North Carolina, the agency that took over his guardianship from a private provider, followed a practice that the proposed law would mandate. Its provisions would make sure that the respondent, or person under guardianship, is aware of a number of rights, some of which may only have appeared in rulings in earlier cases, Fields said.

“I never knew I could have a trial by jury,” Freeman said. “I never knew that I could ask for an appeal, or that we would go to court. And nobody would tell me these things.” 

A mandate for full information

Restoration of rights for people who can handle their own affairs can have significant benefits. A court put Sean Brady, 36, under guardianship when he was diagnosed with symptoms of autism at age 27. As a result, he had to ask his stepmother as guardian for permission for activities such as traveling out of town for business. 

With the help of Rethinking Guardianship, Brady had his full rights as an adult restored. Using a document certifying his status in situations like applying for college, he earned a two-year degree in horticultural and applied plant science. 

“I think I’m the first person in my whole family to ever have a college degree,” Brady said in a phone interview from his new home in West Virginia. “I’m looking at possibly going back to West Virginia University, to take it from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s in business or something like that.”

Anyone can file a petition to have another person declared incapable of making and communicating decisions about their care and finances. With proposed new requirements in the bill, the petitioner has to provide several items of specific information.

“In the past, if the clerk found the respondent to be in need of guardianship, they had no recourse but to assign a guardian,” Fields said. “The petitioner must show that attempts have been made to support this person’s decisions through a less restrictive means first.”

Carol Kelly, who is active in guardianship causes in Orange County and nationally, spoke at the Raleigh event about the importance of this portion of the proposed reforms. Kelly got involved because of the experience of her mother, in California, who she said was the victim of financial exploitation in an unnecessary guardianship.

“The purpose of this legislation is to require that every avenue is looked at,” Kelly said. “Do you have your power of attorney in place? And could that person work with you? Or is there some other way of support so that you maintain your dignity, your personhood? To have that taken away could just be devastating.”

Avenues to passage

Advocates for changes in guardianship got a boost that can’t be quantified from the story of pop star Britney Spears’ harrowing fight to escape the guardianship of her father, Burkhardt said. Spears’ example showed up in legislative discussion. 

The road to legislation that could survive passage in a contentious North Carolina legislature also was smoothed by  the support and participation of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court, participants said. 

Fields said three main parts make up the bill next to be considered by the House:

  • A mandate to consider alternatives that carry the least restrictions for the lives of people facing potential guardianship. 
  • A need to make sure all parties are fully informed about relevant rights.
  • The ability of courts to monitor guardianships and call for hearings if needed. 

The Rethinking Guardianship organization plans to push for more reforms in future legislative sessions, Fields said. One will be revisions in what is considered archaic statute language, such as “incompetent” instead of “incapacitated” to describe a person who may benefit from guardianship. 

Statutes also use such outdated terms as “inebriety” and “senility.” 

The terms occur not just in specific laws governing guardianship, but also in other statutes that are referred to, so any such process would get complicated, Fields said. The legislature has undertaken such language reform in the past, as in a 2018 effort to revise words such as “lunatic” and “mentally retarded,” but not all of the terms have been eliminated.

New processes already spreading

Meanwhile, years of discussion about changes to guardianship have created waves that are being felt in county clerks’ offices across North Carolina, said Mark Kleinschmidt, clerk of Superior Court in Orange County.

“I hope that you understand that the conversations and the hearings are going on, and clerks’ offices around the state have changed already because of the work you’re doing,” Kleinschmidt said to officials and supporters of the legislation at the April 25 event. “One of my colleagues from a neighboring county, very close to mine, in the last six weeks, has dismissed two adjudication petitions. 

“And she called me both times and said, ‘Hey, Mark, I dismissed a petition today.’

“And I said, ‘Oh, wow, how did you get there?’

“She said, ‘Well, there were plenty of supports for this individual. And this person was not incompetent, and I dismissed the petition.’”

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People under guardianship in NC would have more rights and information, under proposed revamp of statutes

16 Investigates: Elder abuse in Michiana nursing homes, assisted living facilities

By Monica Murphy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is a big problem in the United States.

It is defined as an intentional act or a failure to act that causes harm.

This then begs the question: Are abuse and neglect happening in nursing homes and licensed assisted living facilities across Michiana?

And if so, what is being done to combat the issue?

Karla Fales is the President and CEO of REAL Services in South Bend. The organization helps to meet the needs of older adults in St. Joseph County. Fales said she believes staffing has an impact on resident outcomes.

“And I would say the staffing is one of the predominant things that drives the abuse and neglect because of the fact that they do not have enough. They may not have adequate training and just the heavy load that they are carrying,” Fales said.

Lynn Clough, the director of the State’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, agrees.

“They are considering putting a minimum staffing standard in place for nursing homes,” Clough said.

Under Federal Nursing Home Regulations, residents have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

According to the Family and Social Services Administration’s adult protective services division:

  • Abuse includes touching another person in a rude manner.
  • Neglect is defined as failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
  • Exploitation includes unauthorized uses of personal services or property.

“Neglect may or may not be intentional,” Clough added. She also said a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) who is poorly trained may not know how to provide proper care.

Clough then gave some examples of neglect, including:

  • Incorrect body positioning.
  • Lack of toileting or changing of disposable briefs, which causes incontinence and can result in residents sitting in urine or feces.
  • A lack of assistance with eating and drinking, which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
  • Ignoring call lights or cries for help.

“I dealt with the bad nursing homes. I am sure there’s plenty of good nursing homes out there,” Mark Shroyer said.

Shroyer said his dad, Glenn Shroyer, moved into a local nursing home in 2022 and claimed Glenn experienced several issues during his stay.

“Went into his room, he had feces, and he had urine on him... My dad would ask to go to the bathroom. They wouldn’t come. I had, many times, said, ‘Hey, my dad needs to go to the restroom.’ ‘We will be there in a little while’... Patients just wandering. I mean you saw it every day,” Shroyer recalled.

Fales said abuse and neglect cases are not always so cut and dry. She said the examples Shroyer mentioned could be considered neglect, if it is continual and if residents are exposed to unsafe conditions.

Shroyer said he never filed a formal complaint with any government agency because he did not think about it at the time but notified staff members.

A month went by, and after having surgery in Chicago, Glenn was transferred to another nearby nursing home.

“Somebody will be there. They’ll help him. They’ll do his rehab. And it didn’t turn out that way at all. There was nobody there for him, so that hurts,” Shroyer said.

Shroyer said his dad experienced similar issues as before.

For example, he said Glenn’s “clothes and teeth were missing.” He was “left in his feces.” And “his catheter bag would leak, and he would be lying in urine.”

Shroyer said he notified staff members.

“If you’re taking on the responsibility of having one of our elderly come into your place of business, and you are promising to take care of them, then you should be able to take care of them. If you don’t have the staff to do it, then we need to find another way,” he told 16 News Now.

Shroyer said this time, he did file a formal complaint with the department’s Long-Term Care Division.

16 News Now asked for a copy of the complaint, but Shroyer says he completed it online.

When Shroyer received a copy of the health department’s findings, he said it mentioned nothing about his dad.

While the health department declined an on-camera or Zoom interview, and declined to comment on specific cases, they said they received a total of 3,822 complaints in 2022, which included 941 allegations of abuse or neglect.

Complaints are confidential under state and federal law. After investigating, a survey report is written, and then, if needed, facilities are required to submit a plan of correction.

The department says it then follows up to make sure the correction has been implemented. It also does annual inspections and writes report cards based on survey findings.

Facility report card scores were not updated for a period of time due to changes in the survey process during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but have since resumed.

While the health department is looking to see if regulations are being upheld, the Ombudsman program takes a different approach.

“State ombudsmen have a different perspective and we work for the residents. Our job is to help resolve resident issues or complaints...And I think a good way to put this is that surveyors want to know if the call-light system is working. Family and ombudsmen want to know if somebody is going to be there to answer the call light when the resident pushes it,” Clough said.

The program helps “advocate for residents of long-term care facilities, which includes nursing facilities and licensed assisted living facilities.”

“You know, people who live in a nursing home are entitled to the same level of dignity that we are living in our own homes. And so, they help ensure that they can advocate for them on that,” Fales said.

REAL Services hires ombudsmen.

“And so, they are employed by REAL Services. We have two of them, but they actually report in terms of their authority and their discretion directly to the state ombudsman, which every state has one,” says Fales.

Shroyer said he never knew about the program until our interview.

Glenn eventually passed away on October 22, 2022.

Though difficult, Glenn’s memory carries on. Shroyer said Glenn was a family man, a pet lover, and a guy with an amazing spirit.

“Even at his sickest time, someone would walk in, and he would try to make a joke to make them smile...It makes me sad because he didn’t have to suffer like that. He really didn’t,” Shroyer recalled.

“We’re hoping to bring forward through the legislature, and through others, to say there needs to be standards within the industry. That better equips the nursing home facilities to do what they are supposed to be doing,” Fales said.

Tune in Friday at 6 p.m. as 16 News Now continues investigating potential abuse and neglect happening in nursing homes and licensed assisted living facilities across Michiana.

Full Article & Source:
16 Investigates: Elder abuse in Michiana nursing homes, assisted living facilities

West Plains Couple Accused of financially exploiting elderly man

By Nate Hudson 

West Plains, MO. – A West Plains couple has been charged with multiple felonies dealing with the financial exploitation of an elderly man in 2021. 

Edwin Ruther and Lisa Jones are charged with Stealing $25,000 or more and Financial Exploitation of an Elderly/Disabled Person. The charges stem from an investigation performed by the Howell County Sheriff’s Office beginning in 2021. 

A man contacted the Sheriff’s Office stating that Jones and Ruther had potentially taken a large sum of money out of the bank account that he had shared with his late father between June 24 and July 22, 2021. The elderly man had sold land and a house to the couple prior to his death in September 2021. 

The probable cause statement references a $4,500 check that had been written to Jones on June 24, 2021, for the sale of a trailer to the elderly man. It goes on to state that Jones lacked paperwork to back up the sale and that the trailer remained titled in her name. Additionally, a $28,000 telephone transfer was made on July 22, 2021, from the man’s bank account to Jones’. The PC states that Jones initially told authorities it was for a truck to buy but changed it for the care of the elderly man’s horse. 

According to an interview with authorities, Ruther stated he did not know of any further financial agreements between the elderly man outside of the sale of the land and house and denied receiving any payments from him in the form of checks or bank transfers.

The statement says that Jones was arrested on an active warrant through Ozark County during the investigation. An online search of court documents performed by News Team 7 failed to turn up any court cases for Jones through Ozark County. This could be due to a case being sealed or other action.

During this time, the elderly man had rapidly declining health stemming from a diagnosis of high-grade cancer. 

A grand jury indicted the couple earlier this year. Jones has an arraignment scheduled before Judge Steven Privette in Howell County on May 5th. Ruther has been granted a change of judge and the case awaits assignment.

Full Article & Source:
West Plains Couple Accused of financially exploiting elderly man