Saturday, December 2, 2023

MDPD investigate alleged elderly exploitation at assisted living facility in SW Miami-Dade

By Olivia DiVenti

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police executed a warrant at an assisted living facility in Southwest Miami-Dade that is at the center of a possible elderly exploitation investigation.

7News cameras captured Miami-Dade Police Medical Crimes units arriving at the assisted living facility on Southwest 122nd Avenue, Wednesday afternoon.

They claim that the home has been operating as an unlicensed assisted living facility.

“So you’re looking at 30 individuals that are living inside a home, where of course, it’s not certified by the state, it doesn’t have a license to be an adult living facility, it’s not meeting the proper protocols and procedures and guidelines that are brought forth in the State of Florida, and of course, Miami-Dade County ordinances,” said MDPD Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “It’s something that is unsafe and, of course, can be inhumane.”

The Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Health are also investigating the facility.

Police told 7News that the facility has been in business for quite a long time, adding that the patients inside are living in substandard conditions.

“Multiple rooms subdivided within the home. It’s got bunk beds on there, some locker rooms,” said Zabaleta.

The employees at the home are being accused of taking care of patients without a medical license.

“These individuals that are in here, that are employees, are not medically trained, they don’t ave the proper certifications necessary,” said Zabaleta.

Kimberly Baker lives and volunteers at the home. She said she was shocked when police showed up.

Neighbors told 7News those living inside would go around the neighborhood asking for different things.

But Baker said those claims are not accurate.

“They may beg for cigarettes, they’re always begging for cigarettes, ’cause they smoke them all up,” she said.

When asked whether patients at the facility have asked area residents for food, Baker replied, “No, no, not that I’m aware of.”

Fire rescue crews have responded to the facility many times this year for physical and mental illness.

Cameras showed crews as they placed several patients on stretchers into ambulances on Wednesday afternoon. Other patients were seen standing outside.

Detectives, meanwhile, were seen removing bags of evidence from the home.

Family members of those who live at the facility showed up.

“I hope the families and the police and the FBI can get together and help them, because this is a sad situation.” said a neighbor who asked not to be identified or show her face on camera. “Where are they going to live? They’ve been living in this place for such a long time.”

Police told 7News that they will be speaking to everyone at the assisted living facility and will ask them how they arrived at the home. From there, police will decide what charges the person running the operation will face.

As to what’s next for those who live there, Baker said she hopes she is allowed to stay.

“I’m hoping, I’m hoping I can stay here. I’ve been here so long,” she said.

Police said anyone not determined to be vulnerable is able to stay the facility until they find better living conditions.

Full Article & Source:
MDPD investigate alleged elderly exploitation at assisted living facility in SW Miami-Dade

Authorities: New Jersey couple scams elderly man who later dies by suicide

By: Samantha Marshak

A New Jersey couple is facing charges in Tennessee after they were accused of tricking an elderly man into believing he was in a relationship with a celebrity and scamming him out of more than $100,000. Police say the man later died by suicide.
The Washington County Sherriff’s Office (WSCO) in Tennessee worked with the Piscataway Township Police Department to arrest Chinagorom Onwumere, 34, and Salma Abdalkareem, 27.
Both suspects are charged with three counts of extortion, three counts of financial exploitation of an elderly/vulnerable person, two counts of theft over $60,000, and two counts of criminal impersonation, according to WSCO.
Sherriff Keith Sexton of WSCO said that they became aware of the scam in late October. The victim sent gift cards and checks totaling $87,500 to the suspects, who reportedly made threats to the victim and his family via email.
The suspects are still being held in Tennessee on $500,000 bail ahead of a detention hearing scheduled for Nov. 30, according to police.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.

Full Article & Source:
Authorities: New Jersey couple scams elderly man who later dies by suicide

Faux nurse who ripped off blind Villager back in jail after hit-and-run crash

A woman who pretended to be a nurse and ripped off a blind 86-year-old Villager is back behind bars after a hit-and-run crash.

Sharon Ward DeMarsh, 44, was booked without bond Tuesday at the Lake County Jail for violating her probation on charges of practicing nursing without a license and exploitation of the elderly.

DeMarsh had been lodged at the Hillsborough County Jail as the result of her arrest in connection with an Oct. 17 hit-and-run crash in Tampa. In that incident, she was driving a white Nissan at about 1:30 a.m. when she put the vehicle in reverse and struck a parked trailer, according to a Florida Department of Corrections probation violation report. DeMarsh was arrested about seven hours later. She had been driving on a suspended license.

Her arrest in Hillsborough County was considered a violation of her probation in Lake County, thus she has been transported back to the jail in Tavares.

DeMarsh lost her driver’s license after a June, 28, 2022 drunk driving arrest. That was also considered a violation of her Lake County probation and last year she was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

DeMarsh was convicted in 2017 in a case in which an elderly Villager’s family member noticed that the 86-year-old woman’s grocery bill had increased by $500 per month after DeMarsh had been assigned as the woman’s non-medical caregiver.

It was also discovered that DeMarsh had been driving the woman’s 2014 red Buick. DeMarsh claimed she had used the car to run the woman’s errands, but an investigation revealed DeMarsh had allowed her 17-year-old son to drive the car, unbeknownst to the owner. It also was revealed that DeMarsh fled to North Carolina in the Buick during Hurricane Matthew, without the elderly woman’s permission.

DeMarsh was later arrested on an additional charge of impersonating a registered nurse, misrepresenting herself to the elderly woman’s doctor.

DeMarsh was ordered to make restitution of $12,702 to her former client.

The most-recent probation violation report noted the DeMarsh is living with her son.

Full Article & Source:
Faux nurse who ripped off blind Villager back in jail after hit-and-run crash

Friday, December 1, 2023

Aretha Franklin’s Sons Awarded Real Estate, Thanks to a Will Found in a Couch

by Tomás Mier

A judge awarded Aretha Franklin’s sons the singer’s real estate after reviewing a handwritten 2014 will that was found between couch cushions, Associated Press reports.

The new decision comes four months after a jury decided that the document was valid despite being hard to read. The will was signed with the letter “A” and a smiley face. The handwritten document overrides a will from 2010 that was found in 2019.

The decision was a major victory for Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, who had been arguing in favor of the document’s validity as it seemed to suggest the Queen of Soul — who did not leave a formal will — wanted him to assume control over her estate.

Kecalf had the support of his brother and Franklin’s second eldest son, Edward. However, Kecalf’s efforts were opposed by Franklin’s third son, Ted White, as well as the guardian for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs.

Kecalf will inherit a $1.1 million property in the suburbs of Detroit, while Ted White II was given another house that was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the wills emerged. Edward was also awarded a separate property thanks to the 2014 will.

“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf, told the AP.

The document discovered in the couch (dated 2014) was one of two found in Franklin’s home in 2019, along with another 11-page document dated 2010. While all of Franklin’s sons agreed the 2010 document was a valid will, a contentious legal battle emerged over whether Franklin had actually signed the 2014 document, thus validating it so it would supersede the one from 2010.

While both documents appeared to indicate that Franklin wanted her four sons to split the income from her music and copyrights, there were some significantly different stipulations between the two. In the 2014 document, Franklin appeared to bequeath the $1.1 million home to Kecalf, while the 2010 will divided Franklin’s assets more evenly amongst her heirs.

Additionally, the 2010 doc included some conditions for Kecalf and Edward should they want to take control of Franklin’s estate: The two “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree,” Franklin wrote at the time — conditions she did not include in the 2014 document.

Franklin owned a total of four homes. She died in 2018 of pancreatic cancer.

Full Article & Source:
Aretha Franklin’s Sons Awarded Real Estate, Thanks to a Will Found in a Couch

Mainers with disabilities, and all Mainers, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote

by Opinion Contributor

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

Molly Thompson is the Voting Access Advocate at Disability Rights Maine.

People placed under guardianship based on being diagnosed with a mental illness can vote in Maine and have been able to do so for the past 22 years. Voters’ rejection of Question 8 earlier this month does not change this fact.

In 2001, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine found that denying someone the right to vote was denying them a fundamental liberty. The court found that the provision within the Maine Constitution that automatically prohibits people under guardianship by reason of mental illness from registering to vote and from voting violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court also said that this provision of the Maine Constitution violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This ballot question would have finally aligned Maine’s source document with this decision and removed discriminatory and unenforceable language. We are disheartened that voters failed to approve it.

Let us be clear: This rejection does not change the voting rights of any person under guardianship. People under guardianship already had the right to vote and continue to have that right. This right is not in jeopardy.

Mainers with disabilities, and all voters, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote.

In an effort to increase voting opportunities for people with disabilities and increase civic engagement, Disability Rights Maine recently formed the Maine Rev Up Coalition. The Rev Up Coalition — which stands for “Register, Educate, Vote, Use Your Power!” — is a project of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Comparable coalitions exist in 19 states and seek to increase turnout among voters with disabilities and election accessibility.

As the partner members of the Maine Rev Up Coalition, our goal is to substantially increase voter turnout among disabled voters. We will do so by addressing accessibility barriers at polling places, recruiting individuals with disabilities to become poll workers in their communities and ensuring voter education materials are accessible. Above all, we seek to center individuals with disabilities in our work. This also means we counter misinformation that may discourage disabled voters from voting.

As the state with the highest voter turnout in the country, we must do our part to ensure our elections are accessible to all community members.

If any individual or organization is interested in joining the Maine Rev Up Coalition, they can contact:

The Maine Rev Up Coalition is composed of representatives from the Consumer Council System of Maine, Disability Rights Maine, EqualityMaine, the League of Women Voters of Maine and Speaking Up For Us. This column is a joint statement of all parties.

Full Article & Source:
Mainers with disabilities, and all Mainers, should feel empowered to exercise their right to vote

Floyd County caretaker arrested for elderly exploitation, sheriff’s office says

By Atlanta News First staff

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The caretaker of an elderly Rome resident was charged with defrauding the man out of thousands of dollars, according to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.

David Allen Jenkins was arrested on Nov. 17 on a felony charge of exploitation of an elderly person, the sheriff’s office said.

According to the arrest warrant, Jenkins is accused of “knowingly and willingly” exploiting the man, for whom “he was supposed to be a caretaker.”

The warrant also states Jenkins is accused of defrauding the man and stealing thousands of dollars from him between July 1 and Oct. 13, 2023, making online purchases and Cash App transactions and taking cash advances.

Several online banking apps were also “created without the knowledge of the victim,” according to the warrant.

Full Article & Source:
Floyd County caretaker arrested for elderly exploitation, sheriff’s office says

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Over $1 Million Stolen from Elderly in Philadelphia Region by Caretaker

by Ryan Dickinson

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Gloria Byars, 62, of Aldan, PA, and Carlton Rembert, 69, of Hampton, VA, were found guilty of defrauding over $1 million from elderly, incapacitated individuals. United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced the verdicts today. Byars pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud, while Rembert was found guilty of conspiracy, bank fraud, and wire fraud following a four-day trial.

From 2012 to 2018, Byars, while serving as a court-appointed guardian, along with co-conspirators, exploited her role to steal life savings from dozens of incapacitated wards. Initially an office manager for a Delaware County guardianship company and later operating her own company, Byars had access to the wards’ assets, including bank accounts and real estate. Byars, Rembert, and another co-conspirator, Alesha Mitchell, used shell companies to funnel and launder the stolen funds. Byars misused the money on personal luxuries, including vacations and vehicles.

In her plea agreement, Byars agreed to forfeit 36 gold Krugerrand coins, part of the assets she stole from her wards. She also misappropriated over $756,000 from a retired federal employee’s Thrift Savings Plan, contributing to the total theft of over $1 million from at least 120 victims.

The maximum sentences for the crimes include 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine for bank fraud, 20 years and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, 20 years and a $500,000 fine for money laundering, and 3 years and a $250,000 fine for filing a false tax return.

U.S. Attorney Romero condemned the exploitation of vulnerable individuals, vowing zero tolerance for such fraud. FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Langham emphasized the FBI’s dedication to protecting elders from fraud and abuse. IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty reiterated their commitment to investigating white-collar crimes.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer praised the collaborative efforts of local and federal authorities in securing the convictions, highlighting the importance of protecting vulnerable residents from guardianship fraud.

Full Article & Source:
Over $1 Million Stolen from Elderly in Philadelphia Region by Caretaker

Portland Man Who Claimed to be a Foreign Exchange Currency Trader Indicted for Wire Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland man, who for more than a decade claimed to be a successful foreign exchange currency trader to solicit millions of dollars in investments, has been indicted in federal court for wire fraud.

William Bennington, 52, a resident of Portland, has been charged with five counts of wire fraud.

According to the indictment, from March 2012 until at least October 2022, Bennington is alleged to have knowingly and intentionally devised and carried out a scheme wherein he purported to be a wealthy foreign exchange currency trader to solicit investments in WBFX LLC, a foreign currency investment company Bennington incorporated in Oregon in 2010. Bennington promised his investors annual returns of up to 80 percent and repayment terms as short as six months. He further falsely claimed to have written a proprietary trading algorithm, which he alleged was the source of his wealth.

Over the course of his scheme, Bennington is alleged to have caused at least five individual victims to pay him more than $2 million. Instead of investing his victims’ money in foreign exchange currency markets as promised, Bennington spent it on various personal expenses.

Bennington appeared in federal court today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. He was arraigned, pleaded not guilty, and released pending a five-day jury trial scheduled to begin on January 9, 2024.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison per count of conviction.

This case was investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Robert S. Trisotto, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated November 27, 2023

Full Article & Source:
Portland Man Who Claimed to be a Foreign Exchange Currency Trader Indicted for Wire Fraud

He thought he was helping a Secret Santa. Instead he was surprised with a much-needed gift.


The team is busy helping a local Secret Santa give $1 million to deserving people in eastern Idaho this holiday season. 

Kent, aka "The Donut Hole Man," makes sure that hundreds of people in our community get a 'Happy Birthday' phone call and if you are lucky, donut holes. He makes sure that the widows in his ward and neighborhood get roses on Valentine's Day. 

Kent volunteers at the Ririe Community Center every week, helping feed the veterans and the elderly. If his neighbors are in need or struggling, he is right there to give a helping hand with a hug and a smile and whatever help they need. If he is not helping others, he is not complete. 

Kent helps in the care of his elderly mother-in-law - all while battling his own health issues. He selflessly does all of this. He enjoys buying local and helping out the community. He truly loves Idaho and anyone he meets. There is no stranger in his life, he won't allow it. A helping hand, advice, a listening ear, a donut hole, or just a hello and a smile - that is Kent. 

Secret Santa asked the East Idaho News to give Kent an early Christmas gift. We set up a unique surprise to share the present! Watch the video in the player above.

He thought he was helping a Secret Santa. Instead he was surprised with a much-needed gift.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Winnipeg musician fights for 'control over his life' after being placed under public trustee guardianship

Under trustee, 'suddenly your identity is gone and you are no longer a person': friend of Paul Cameron Miller

by Kristin Annable, Caroline Barghout 

Paul Cameron Miller, a former music teacher, has been under public guardianship since January and is on the verge of losing his home. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A Winnipeg musician has no access to his bank accounts, can't collect a paycheque and can't access his medical records because he is under the guardianship of Manitoba's public trustee — and he's on a mission to end that. 

Paul Cameron Miller, 65, has been under guardianship since January of this year after he froze his feet and ended up with a diagnosis of dementia while hospitalized.

"I'm angry, and I'm not an individual who angers easily," Miller told CBC. "I am very, very upset at the way my last year has gone."

His home in Winnipeg's Earl Grey neighbourhood will be seized by the bank or sold in a public auction in December. There's nothing he can do about it, because the bank isn't legally allowed to talk to him about the matter.

"They have absolute control over his life," said Kris Olafson, a lifelong friend and advocate for Miller.

"When the [public trustee] takes over, they take over everything," she said.

"Suddenly your identity is gone and you are no longer a person."

A person is placed under guardianship and given a trustee if medical professionals deem them mentally incapable of making financial and personal decisions, and the person has no other friends or family able to help them. 

A provincial special operating agency — the Public Guardian and Trustee — is responsible for providing the service. Currently, it's in charge of the affairs of nearly 4,000 Manitobans and almost $200 million worth of their assets. 

A  trustee will pay a client's bills and collect their wages, such as pensions or disability payments. The trustee is legally responsible for making financial decisions on how and where that money is spent. 

Olafson and Miller say they're speaking out because they want people to know what happens when someone is under public guardianship and how difficult it is to get out.

They also want to get Miller out of his guardianship so he can sell his house to a close friend instead of losing it through foreclosure. 

'A suffocation of your rights'

Miller's saga began last December, when he walked to the drug store to pick up a prescription and inadvertently froze his feet after spending too long outside talking to friends.

His memory of his time in the hospital is foggy. Miller believes the mixture of painkillers he was given and his anti-seizure medication led to a diagnosis of dementia, and then to his affairs being signed over to the trustee. 

Miller has requested his medical records so he can piece everything together, but the guardianship means his records go straight to the public trustee, which has not given him access to them.

"It's a suffocation of your rights," he said.

"I've asked many a time for all of the paperwork … anything referencing me on it and referencing any of my medications and all of that stuff. [I get] absolutely nothing."

Paul Cameron Miller, 65, has been under the care of the Public Guardian and Trustee of Manitoba since January, and is now trying to get out.

Although Miller gave the agency permission to discuss his case with CBC, a request for an interview with anyone at the public trustee to do so was denied. A spokesperson said because Miller is under guardianship, he cannot give consent.

In a prepared statement, the spokesperson said people are only placed under guardianship when there is demonstrated need for decisions to be made for their benefit.

Guardianship is the "last resort," the spokesperson said, and the agency fully supports a client being reassessed if they feel they are competent.

'Wasn't at the point of losing everything'

Once a working musician and guitar teacher, Miller was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before he was hospitalized, he was already facing financial difficulties and owed over $85,000 to banks, according to land titles records. 

"He had some financial problems, there's no doubt about that," said Olafson.

But "he wasn't at the point of losing everything. There were things that he could have done, things that he could have sold or whatever to make ends meet."

Neighbours say during his hospital stay, word got out that Miller's house was empty and it was broken into multiple times. Eventually, it was boarded up. 

A portrait of a woman with long brown hair looking at the camera.
Kris Olafson is a lifelong friend of Miller and is trying to help him get out of his guardianship, so he can take back control of his life and start working again. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

When Miller was finally ready to leave the hospital, he wasn't released to his home. Instead, he was sent to the Salvation Army — a decision that confounds Olafson to this day, especially if the hospital staff thought he had dementia.

"How could this happen?" she said. "They took his ID, they took his phone. He had nothing." 

Olafson said she called multiple hospitals before finding him at the Salvation Army shelter. When she saw how he was living, she took him home to live with her — hoping together, they could sort out the mess.

Two months later, nothing has changed. 

Miller's life remains under full control of the public trustee. Since the trustee has all his identification, he doesn't have access to his social insurance number, which means he can't get a job. He is unable to collect benefits or any other income — every dime goes to the trustee. 

Since coming to live with her, Miller hasn't received any money from the trustee, Olafson said.

"What has the [public trustee] been doing? Where has his money been going? We have no idea," she said, adding phone calls to the trustee have gone unanswered.

According to the province's public trustee client guide, a case worker will open an account in the name of a person who is under guardianship, and use that to collect their income and pay expenses. 

The caseworker prepares a budget for the person and "may provide money" to the client from that account, the guide says.

Facing foreclosure

Miller is locked out of his house. He can't even pick up his winter coat or reading glasses, he said. He has no idea if the public trustee has his collection of guitars or if they were stolen. 

He and Olafson learned earlier this month Miller has defaulted on his mortgage and it is now facing foreclosure. They have no idea what options the trustee has looked at, or whether there are alternatives to foreclosure. Miller's credit union can only discuss the matter with his trustee. 

The public trustee makes "every effort to make the best decisions in the interest of their client," according to the agency's spokesperson, but can only use money available from the client's assets — the trustee can't provide new funds. Sometimes that means there is little the trustee can do to save assets such as someone's house.

Winnipeg musician Paul Cameron Miller is trying to get out from under the Public Guardian and Trustee of Manitoba, after he was deemed incapable of looking after himself.

After CBC made inquiries about Miller's case, he got a call from the public trustee. He and Olafson are set to meet with the trustee on Monday to go over his finances, including looking at options for his house.  

For now, they're still working to get him out of his guardianship.

"It's a slow process and it's probably going to take a couple more months," Olafson said.

"It's just been so frustrating."

She and Miller tried to get help from Legal Aid, but were told no one was able to take on such a complicated case.

Miller's guardianship can only end when a psychiatrist or doctor agrees he is mentally capable of managing his own affairs.

They must fill out a form and send it to the province's director of psychiatric services. If the director agrees, they can cancel the guardianship.

Alternatively, Miller or Olafson can apply to the Court of King's Bench to cancel the guardianship or appoint someone else to replace the public trustee.

"Once he's released, that's fine," Olafson said. "But in the meantime, his house is looking very close to being under foreclosure right now, and he has no way of making money."

Agency understaffed: CBC analysis

A CBC analysis of annual reports found the public trustee has been understaffed for years, despite the growing number of clients it serves.

In 2013, the agency had 75 employees serving 3,200 Manitobans under guardianship, with the agency in charge of over $152 million of their assets. 

A decade later, the number of people under guardianship has increased by 800 — 25 per cent — but staffing levels have only increased by five per cent. 

There are now 79 full-time staff members in charge of over $187 million worth of assets. From 2019 to 2022, the agency had only 73 full-time employees. 

The agency "continues to be impacted by [staff] vacancies," according to its 2022-23 annual report, which has not yet been posted online, but which CBC obtained a copy of.

Its 2021-22 annual report acknowledged the increase in clients, stating year-over-year, client numbers and assets under its management increased "both in volume and complexity."

The report also said caseworkers "cannot possibly meet with or get to know all of these clients well."

A 2020 report from the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties said the non-profit, which provides human rights education, found anecdotal evidence that caseworkers for the public trustee had as many as 300 clients — most of whom they never saw in person.

Manitoba's public trustee is independent, but reports to the minister responsible for consumer protection and government services minister. The ombudsman can investigate public complaints about the trustee. The agency's accounts are also audited each year by the auditor general. 

In a prepared statement, Consumer Protection Minister Lisa Naylor said the public trustee "makes every effort to act in the best interest of their clients."

But Doug Surtees, a professor in the law department at the University of Saskatchewan who specializes in guardianship, said there are many gaps when it comes to upholding the rights of people under guardianship.

A man with brown hair and a suit.
Doug Surtees, a professor in the law department at the University of Saskatchewan, says that major reforms need to be made to ensure that people under guardianship have rights. (David Stobbe/Stobbe Photography )

There is no right to counsel for someone facing guardianship. However, someone who is charged with a crime does have the right to a lawyer, he noted.

"We have a justice system in this country that doesn't allow the state to take away liberties or impose a sentence on somebody accused of crimes unless that person has the right to be represented by counsel," he said.

"But we do it with guardianship all the time."

Across the country, public trustees are "wildly underfunded," Surtees said, adding more staffing and resources are needed.

"If we're asking if decisions are being made in accordance with the adult's wishes, somebody has to have the time and expertise to communicate with the individuals to see if, and how, their wishes are being communicated."

A Winnipeg man, who was placed under the control of the public guardian and trustee of Manitoba, is warning others that this could happen to them. Paul Cameron Miller has been fighting for the past year to get control of his own life.

Full Article & Source:
Winnipeg musician fights for 'control over his life' after being placed under public trustee guardianship

N.B. man, 98, in hospital 7 months waiting for long-term care home

Arthur Perry, 98, has been living in a hospital since a heart attack he suffered in May impacted his mobility.

Currently staying in the Oromocto Public Hospital, he’s anxiously awaiting placement in the Mill Cove Nursing Home, which is located near his former home in Cambridge-Narrows.

His daughter Shelley Poirier said it’s been hard seeing him in low spirits due to his extended hospital stay.

“Most days he’s very disheartened from being there,” she said on Sunday.

“He’s unstimulated, he doesn’t have people to talk to. Emotionally he’s going downhill. He’s very sad a lot of the time,” she said.

Poirier said while she and her sister, Shirley Applebee, are grateful for the care he’s receiving at the hospital, it was negatively affecting his mental well-being, as a hospital doesn’t have activities or opportunities to socialize like a long-term care home would.

Poirier and Applebee uploaded a video to social media explaining his situation in the hopes of raising awareness about the long wait times for long-term care placement.

The video has now reached over 9,000 views, and Applebee said many people have reached out to them with similar stories.

“It’s not just about us. It’s about everyone who is in this system who is trying to navigate a system that they don’t understand,” she said, adding she and her sister had been confused about how the long-term care home placement process worked.

Poirier said a case worker was assigned in June, but she didn’t receive any communication until early August.

“They said that they made a mistake that they weren’t in their area, and that he was being reassigned to another case worker,” Poirier said.

Perry finally received an assessment in mid-August, and went on a waiting list for the Mill Cove Nursing Home.

“He’s ninth on the wait list, so he’ll be well into his 99th year, at the rate things are going, before he sees a nursing home … if he does,” Poirier said.

Global News reached out to the Department of Social Development on Friday, and is awaiting a response.

Applebee said the hardest part of this process was seeing her father’s emotional ups and downs.

“It’s just watching him … and watching the life go out of him,” she said.

During her visit on Saturday, Applebee said he “had a spark” after seeing how the social media video had amassed thousands of views.

Applebee said it was the first time in a long time he seemed to have hope about the situation.

Full Article & Source:
N.B. man, 98, in hospital 7 months waiting for long-term care home

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

From the Osage Native Americans to Britney Spears, the U.S.’ Guardianship System Is Corrupt and Abusive


It is shockingly easy to declare a person incompetent and take their money.

by Diane Dimond 

Ginger Franklin, a fortysomething single woman in Hendersonville, Tennessee, fell down the stairs of her condo and lapsed into a coma. When she awoke she discovered a court had declared her “an incapacitated ward of the court” and assigned a stranger, a professional guardian, to take over her life.

The guardian quickly sold Ginger’s condo and car and placed her in a group home where she was put to work servicing other residents. Even after Ginger had fully recovered, the judge overseeing her case refused to end the guardianship for several more years.

In Staten Island, New York, a medical mishap at the birth of Michael Liguori caused him to develop cerebral palsy. His parents won a $1.9 million malpractice settlement against the hospital and, as the law required, the infant was assigned a guardian to safeguard the money until Michael turned 18.

As a stellar high school student, Michael wanted to go to college but his guardian refused to pay for it on the false grounds that he was profoundly disabled. A judge agreed to keep the guardianship in place allowing his court appointee to continue charging monthly fees until Michael was 24 years old.

Angela Woodhull and her mother, Louise, visited an attorney for advice on what to do to protect the elderly woman’s substantial estate from a conniving relative. Before they knew it, that lawyer surreptitiously filed a Petition for Guardianship of Louise in a Gainesville, Florida court. The judge quickly approved it—without seeing Louise or her daughter.

The appointed guardian took control of Louise’s money and quickly relegated her to a nursing home. Louise died there just three months later with several strong opioids in her system. What happened to Louise’s million-dollar-plus estate remains a mystery. Angela inherited nothing and she insists her mother was murdered.

For those who thought guardianship (called conservatorship in some states) only affected the elderly with memory issues—or the occasional off-the-rails celebrity like Britney Spears who endured nearly 14 years under court control—think again.

Perhaps Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, Killers of the Flower Moon, left the public with the idea that emotionally abusive and financially devastating guardianships were a thing of the past—unforgivably forced on the entire Osage Indian tribe in the 1920s as a way for the greedy white man to take control of the tribe’s massive oil wealth.

Sadly, Scorsese failed to explain why, just five minutes into the film, an Osage woman named Molly Kyle (wondrously portrayed by actress Lily Gladstone) sits before a self-important white man, declares herself to be “incompetent,” utters the phrase “282 allotment” and asks for release of some of her money to pay medical bills. Scorsese could have added a bit of dialogue explaining what prompted the government’s unconscionable guardianship move, but he didn’t.

It was a missed opportunity to highlight how the system, ostensibly created to “protect” the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, has always been a playground for predators. Today it has morphed into a predatory program that routinely allows bad actors to prey on an ever-increasing victim pool. Judges could stop them, but they don’t.

Britney and the Osage may be free now, but there are an estimated 2 million Americans currently living under guardianship or conservatorship.

They are almost always immediately declared incapacitated, stripped of their civil rights, all their assets are seized and put into the name of whoever is appointed guardian. Astonishingly, state courts seize a collective $50 billion of ward’s assets every year.

The newly minted “protected person” no longer has the right to hire their own attorney to fight for them. They cannot vote, sign a contract, marry, decide what doctors they will see, or where they will live. They are not allowed to drive, spend their own money, use a credit card or have a passport. If their family member complains about a court appointee’s actions, they can be banned from visiting the ward—permanently. (Isolation and overmedication of a ward are red flag warnings of a predatory court appointee.)

With billions up for grabs in this secretive, ill-regulated, and largely unsupervised system is it any wonder that the criminally minded would gravitate to work within?

Today, unscrupulous players target all sorts of victims, including: those who have won sizeable workers’ compensation or malpractice settlements; young people who have earned or inherited considerable money; military veterans or disabled Americans receiving generous monthly government checks; citizens of means who suffer from mental health issues or the aftermath of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other temporary health problems.

Once they recover, just like Ginger Franklin did, they often find themselves trapped. It is next to impossible to escape from guardianship.

How Does It Work?

It is remarkably easy for one person to guardianize another, they just have to find a willing lawyer to draw up an official Petition for Guardianship and present it to the court.

The petitioner could be a worried relative, an angry ex-business partner, a neighbor, or a former lover. Petitions have been initiated by financial institutions (as in the case of talk show host Wendy Williams) and hospitals looking to move out a patient whose insurance is about to lapse. Landlords have guardianized rent controlled tenants. Real estate agents have successfully guardianized landowners in a bid to get valuable property. The common denominator in these cases? The potential ward has attractive assets.

There is no shortage of lawyers willing to create these fee generating petitions. My years-long investigation into the system reveals many petitions are frequently full of exaggerations (“He always forgets to take his medicines and pay his bills …”) or downright lies (“Her daughter stole $100,000,000 from her mother’s accounts…”), and overworked or uncaring judges routinely accept the petition’s contents as gospel.

Courts that hear guardianship or conservatorship cases don’t operate under standard rules. They are “equity courts” where there is no guarantee of due process, no trials, and no meaningful opportunity for the targeted person to launch a defense. In fact, judges often never lay eyes on the potential ward before deciding to declare them incapacitated and turn their fate and future over to someone else. Courtroom doors are usually closed to the public, case files are sealed, gag orders are not unusual, and unscrupulous players explain the secrecy as necessary under federal HIPAA medical privacy laws.

Many court ordered guardianships proceed just fine, especially if a trusted family member is appointed as the guardian. And many professional guardians and conservators operate with compassion and integrity.

As a society we obviously need a system to help at-risk citizens who truly have no one to assist them. But we don’t need a system in which judges routinely ignore family members seeking guardian status and instead tap for-profit professionals who can charge the ward up to $600 an hour. And we don’t need a system whereby court appointees can engage in dizzying spasms of spending and then ask the court for permission to ignore a ward’s pre-planned will, irrevocable trusts, or other estate plans so they can refresh the coffers from which they draw.

You think this can’t happen in America? It happens all the time, in states across the country. There is a nationwide cabal of judges, lawyers, guardians, conservators and others who have created a lucrative industry out of the suffering of others.

It makes one wonder why Congress hasn’t passed federal reform laws. Or why the Department of Justice hasn’t stepped in to investigate, much like it has probed civil rights allegations against police departments.

My conclusion? Powerful lobbying groups have convinced the powers that be that the status quo is working well.

It decidedly is not. You or someone you love could be next.

Full Article & Source:
From the Osage Native Americans to Britney Spears, the U.S.’ Guardianship System Is Corrupt and Abusive

Monday, November 27, 2023

GUARDIANSHIP: Professional guardian charged with embezzlement

By Mardi Link

BELLAIRE — A professional guardian, appointed to oversee the needs of at least 40 vulnerable adults in six counties, is facing an embezzlement charge following a Michigan State Police investigation.

Vicky Hamlin-Rogers of Petoskey was charged in 86th District Court with a misdemeanor count of embezzlement of more than $200 and less than $1,000 from a vulnerable adult.

Hamlin-Rogers is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 5, court records show.

The Unguarded series

Unguarded is a Traverse City Record-Eagle special project that, through nine months of reporting from courthouses spread across Michigan, prov…

The family of a 77-year-old Elmira man has for two years been at odds with Hamlin-Rogers concerning expenses and $23,000 they say hasn’t been accounted for following the sale of a portion of their father’s land.

The Dobrzelewski family, some of whom live in Ohio, previously filed paperwork with the Antrim County Probate Court, records show, questioning expenses Hamlin-Rogers incurred when she served as their father’s court-appointed conservator.

“I don’t know anything yet,” Hamlin-Rogers said in a text message Wednesday, when asked about the charge.

She previously denied any wrongdoing.

The Record-Eagle also reached out to Robert Banner, an Emmet County attorney who previously represented Hamlin-Rogers in an unrelated contested guardianship in Charlevoix County, although Banner’s office said he was not representing Hamlin-Rogers in the Antrim County case.

Last year, Antrim County Prosecutor James Rossiter said he was reviewing a state police investigation into accusations of embezzlement, passed to his office in October 2021, to determine whether to press criminal charges in the case.

Staff with Rossiter’s office confirmed Wednesday that an assistant prosecutor, Angela Ferrara, was handling the case. Ferrara did not return calls seeking comment.

The expenses questioned by the Dobrzelewski family include home repairs and shopping trips to Walmart, as previously reported, and which only came to light when Hamlin-Rogers was removed as conservator in favor of one of the elderly man’s adult children.

The Dobrzelewskis have so far declined to comment publicly on the specifics of the case, but said they continue to hope their father’s guardianship ordeal might be instructive for fixing the state’s broken probate court system.

“The current system provides easy opportunity for the exploitation of our most vulnerable population by the very courts and conservators and/or guardians charged with protecting them,” the family previously told the Record-Eagle in an emailed statement.

“Many of the most vulnerable have no capability to challenge the fiduciary decisions and accountings made by conservators and/or guardians,” the family said.

Their father is medically vulnerable, court records show, and the Record-Eagle is not naming him in this story to protect his privacy.

Hamlin-Rogers is a professional guardian based in Emmet County. She has more than 40 wards between Emmet, Otsego, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Grand Traverse and Antrim probate courts.

In Charlevoix, the Record-Eagle previously found Hamlin-Rogers had expensed $20,000 for “home repairs” in another conservatorship, as previously reported — not unlike some of the expenses flagged by the Dobrzelewskis in Antrim County.

Record-Eagle reporters in August 2021, as part of the Unguarded project, began examining records in more than a dozen Michigan’s probate courts, finding a steady stream of issues ranging from family isolation to outright theft.

Previously reported stories in the continuing Unguarded series involved a range of people of means and those on fixed incomes, people who live independently and those who require residential care, those with close family members and those without, but all had one fact in common: A judicial decision meant to protect the individual by the appointment of a guardian or conservator.

Many guardians and conservators serve in those roles without ever running afoul of the law, but the vulnerable adults involved have little control over some of the most important decisions in their lives — such as where they live, who they can see, and how their savings are spent.

Decades of reform attempts by governors, attorneys general and legislators previously failed to alter the Michigan judiciary, which is charged with overseeing these guardianships.

That may be changing, however.

In October, Michigan’s House of Representatives passed a package of legislation to create an Office of State Guardian in what supporters say would be a first step toward reforming a problematic probate court system.

A state guardian, with appropriate staff and funding, could provide a layer of needed oversight, Rep. Betsy Coffia, D-Traverse City, a sponsor of one of the guardianship bills, previously said.

“While many guardians and conservators act in good faith, the truth is 73,000 seniors and vulnerable adults are financially and otherwise abused each year — including some disturbing cases in northern Michigan,” Coffia said.

Adding an Office of State Guardian was also one of the recommendations of the Elder Abuse Task Force, members of which were appointed by state Attorney General Dana Nessel and pulled from more than 50 organizations and state offices.

The bills are expected to be considered by the state Senate when it returns in January.

Full Article & Source:
GUARDIANSHIP: Professional guardian charged with embezzlement

Virginia Man Convicted in Delaware County Guardianship Fraud; Accomplice Pleads Guilty

By Mary Roberts

Hampton, VА. — A federal jury has convicted Hampton, Virginia resident Carlton Rembert, 69, for his involvement in a scheme to embezzle funds from court-appointed guardianships. The elaborate fraud involved funneling money through a network of shell companies. Rembert faces charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, and wire fraud following a four-day trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Gloria Byars, a 62-year-old Aldan woman, chose to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and filing a false income tax return. Alesha Mitchell, 42, of Suffolk, Virginia, had previously pleaded guilty in 2022 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for her role in the $1.2 million scheme.

The trio illicitly obtained over $1.2 million from incapacitated wards through unauthorized checks, manipulating the funds through various shell corporations. Byars, entrusted with managing assets for elderly individuals, abused her role as a guardian, diverting funds for personal use.

The complex financial fraud involved fraudulent checks, shell companies such as Global Guardian Services LLC, ICU Records & Billing, CWR Medical Services, and ACC Medical Billing LLC. Funds were stolen by Rembert and Mitchell, who deposited cashier’s checks into Byars’ accounts.

Byars spent the embezzled funds on personal luxuries, including vacations, clothing, vehicles, gifts, and parties. The investigation revealed that the fraud extended to the Church of the Overcomer, where the Collins, who serve as pastors, faced state charges in connection with the same scheme.

Byars and her co-conspirators collectively stole over $1 million from at least 120 incapacitated individuals. Sentencing for Mitchell is scheduled for December 5, Byars on February 20, and Rembert on February 29. Each faces up to 30 years in prison and substantial fines for their roles in the
conspiracy. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tiwana Wright and Samuel Dalke.

West Michigan man told he owes $84,000 back to Social Security, later told he would lose Social Security entirely


Dave Wilder received a letter from Social Security that stated he was overpaid during the pandemic and must pay $84,000, along with having his payments cut.

West Michigan man told he owes $84,000 back to Social Security, later told he would lose Social Security entirely

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Caregiver Charged in Freezing Death of Elderly Woman

LANSING – Today, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced that Colleen Kelly O’Connor, 58, of East Lansing, was charged in the 65A District Court in Clinton County with Second-Degree Vulnerable Adult Abuse related to the December 2022 death by exposure of an 82-year-old woman. The charge is a 4-year felony.   

At the time she died, the victim was under O’Connor’s care at Vista Springs Imperial Park at Timber Ridge, an assisted living facility in Clinton County where O’Connor was employed.   

“Caregivers have a responsibility under the law to act in the face of grave danger to a vulnerable person in their care,” said Nessel. “I want to thank the Bath Township Police Department for their partnership during the investigation of this tragic case.” 

The People allege that during the very early morning hours of December 23, 2022, O’Connor twice observed the victim attempt to go outside without appropriate attire into a blizzard with single-digit temperatures, subzero windchill, and blowing and drifting snow. A snowplow driver found the victim in the parking lot around 7 a.m., partially buried in snow. It is unknown precisely how long she was outside before she was found. The victim was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital but died due to hypothermia shortly after arrival. 

The charge against O’Connor alleges that, as a caregiver, O’Connor recklessly failed to act to prevent the victim from going outdoors into the storm, resulting in her death. 

O’Connor was arraigned on November 20th before Magistrate Nikki Maneval and granted a $5,000 cash/surety bond. The case is scheduled for a probable cause conference before Judge Michael Clarizio on November 30th at 10:00 a.m. 

The Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Division (HCFD) handled this case for the Department. The HCFD is the federally certified Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for Michigan, and it receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $5,541,992 for the fiscal year 2024. The remaining 25% percent, totaling $1,847,326 is funded by the State of Michigan.


Please note: For all criminal proceedings, a criminal charge is merely an allegation. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Department does not provide booking photos.

Caregiver Charged in Freezing Death of Elderly Woman

Be aware of elder financial abuse this holiday season

Elder financial abuse is a crime that is on the rise, according to Clint Smith, region president for Zions Bank located in Logan.

His team sees more counterfeit bills, fraudulent checks and elderly folks who are being taken advantage of during the holiday season.

Most financial abuse committed against older individuals is perpetrated by someone that is close to the individual, Smith said. Often that’s a caretaker or a family member. But sometimes its perpetrators outside of the United States involved in fraud schemes.

“It can take all forms,” Smith said. “But when we’re speaking about elder abuse, I think it’s most narrowly defined as somebody who’s in a position of trust who takes advantage of an older person. And for the most part, that is people that are close to them.”

Smith said elder financial abuse is something bank employees deal with regularly, and it’s something they are pretty adept at spotting. According to him, one in five Americans over the age of 65 have been a victim of this kind of abuse. In Cache Valley, one in 10 residents are 65 and older.

“It’s affecting a large portion of our populace here in the valley,” Smith said.

This time of year, the issue significantly increases, he said. While Smith doesn’t know the exact reason, he thinks it may be because people are strapped for cash this time of year and are looking to have money to buy presents or for other reasons.

“I just know that in our industry, we’re on high alert November and December in terms of losses, these are our highest months for losses,” he said. “We’re extra vigilant this time of year because there’s so much going around.”

Smith said it is extremely important for an elderly person to have somebody in their life who they can trust. This could be a trusted friend or family member who can help them review their statements on a monthly basis.

“That can go a really long way in helping to spot those trends that are emerging before they get out of control,” he said.

Elderly individuals and those with older people in their lives should be educated on this issue, Smith said. An individual should never trust someone they do not know personally about their financial information. The only person an individual should really trust with financial information is their bank’s employees.

“Bring your questions to your bank,” Smith said. “Ask your banker if something feels off, and always give your bank the truth because the questions that we’re asking are to protect you.”

Those with older folks in their lives should be on the lookout for signs of financial exploitation, he said. The signs they look for in a bank setting can include transactions that are out of the normal and physical indications such as strange interactions between elderly people and family members, physical abuse or intimidation.

“Really being on the lookout for anything that looks out of the normal for a family member or a neighbor can help us to spot that abuse and protect them,” Smith said.

Full Article & Source:
Be aware of elder financial abuse this holiday season