Saturday, December 23, 2023

Elderly woman exploited by caretaker in South Florida

By Michael Hudak


MIAMI (WSVN) - A woman who was hired to take care of an elderly woman is facing several felony charges after, officials said, she financially exploited the woman for over $100,000.

Officials with the State Attorney’s Office announced the charges during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon.

Eighty-one-year-old Myriam Fernandez, officials said, fell prey to exploitation by her caretaker, 61-year-old Gladys Smith, who now faces three first-degree felonies, including the exploitation of the elderly and grand theft of over $100,000.

“To scammers, these homes are like buried treasure, and like the pirates of the past, they work to unearth and steal that fortune,” said state attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

Fernandez, who lives with an eye disease, found herself alone after losing her Florida driver’s license following a 2021 car accident. Smith, a former Broward County resident, befriended Fernandez, eventually becoming her caretaker. Due to Fernandez’s impaired vision, she was unable to read documents Smith had her sign, including a power of attorney.

Smith used her power over Fernandez to go on a spree, including posing as Fernandez’s daughter at medical appointments, obtaining dementia medication, and even manipulating property documents.

The exploitation was discovered during a wellness check in May 22, 2023 by Fernandez’s childhood friend, Sylvia Napoli, after an anonymous tip to the Department of Children and Families.

During the check, Fernandez was found in distressing conditions, prompting Napoli to alert authorities.

“In a darken room with the strong odor of urine and feces emanating from her person,” Fernandez-Rundle said.

Napoli went to school with Fernandez in Cuba and were childhood best friends.

“Your being here sends another really strong message,” Fernandez-Rundle said. “Very brave. And feisty, I might add.”

Smith had moved to Tallahassee but was arrested seven months ago. She is expected to be transferred back to Miami-Dade County.

For now, Fernandez-Rundle said they are working to get restitution back in Fernandez’s name but it is not guaranteed she’ll gain it back. 

Full Article & Source:
Elderly woman exploited by caretaker in South Florida

Woman pleads guilty to stealing $500k from her sick, 93-year-old uncle, forcing him into nursing home

According to prosecutors, Hadee Toledo took advantage of her 93-year-old uncle when he was very sick with COVID-19.

By Christian Col√≥n and NBC6 • Published December 19, 2023 • Updated on December 19, 2023 at 5:46 pm

A South Florida woman pled guilty Tuesday to stealing over half a million dollars from her sick uncle and forcing him to live in an assisted living facility.

After escaping to Spain, Hadee Toledo was extradited to Miami-Dade County on Monday and went before a judge for the first time Tuesday. She was arrested on a warrant from May charging her with the exploitation of an elderly person.

According to prosecutors, Toledo took advantage of her 93-year-old uncle when he was very sick with COVID-19. Authorities said the victim was hospitalized in August 2020 and remained quarantined in a nursing and rehab center after his release from the hospital.

Her son, Italo Nelli, pleaded guilty last year for helping her and was sentenced to five years probation.

Toledo allegedly forged the victim’s signature on a power of attorney document, which was allegedly witnessed by Nelli and others and was legally notarized.

Toledo then used that power of attorney to forge transfer of property deeds, allowing her to sell the victim’s home, liquidate his bank accounts, and leave Florida, prosecutors said. Hialeah Police said the house was sold in a rush for less than it was worth.

Police said Toledo even changed her name to match the victim's last name to perpetrate the scheme.

After challenges with the Spanish legal system and plea negotiations, Toledo and prosecutors agreed she would plead guilty to only one count of forgery.

"Message there is: you can run but you can't hide," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in response to the plea.

Toledo was sentenced to six months probation and must pay her uncle's real heir $250,000. She must also waive any possible inheritance. If she violates probation, she faces up to five years in state prison.

Toledo's uncle died in September.


Full Article & Source:
Woman pleads guilty to stealing $500k from her sick, 93-year-old uncle, forcing him into nursing home

Portage man charged for telemarketing fraud that targeted the elderly

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Portage man has been charged with 7 counts of mail fraud and 11 counts of money laundering. He is 62-year-old Irfan Gill.

According to the Department of Justice, Gill worked with a call center in Pakistan as part of a telemarketing scheme from as early as June 2018 through at least March 2022. The scheme targeted elderly victims throughout the United States.

Gill claimed to operate several businesses, which were: Cable Upgrade, D Network, D Tech, Direct Network, Dish, Dish Upgrade, and Sky Satellite. Telephone solicitors at a call center in Pakistan would cold-call victims with offers of equipment upgrades, software upgrades, and subscription discounts for their cable television, satellite television, and internet services.

Although the businesses did not actually provide any of those services, victims were instructed to send payments to Gill’s post office boxes in Portage. He then deposited the payments in his bank accounts. Gill tracked the payments and used transfer services like Remitly and Western Union to pay a portion of the proceeds to the telephone solicitors in Pakistan.

It is believed that 1,400 people throughout the country were victimized in the scheme.

Gill faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of telemarketing fraud. He also faces 20 years in prison for money laundering.

“As we have alleged, defendant Irfan Gill ran an international network to exploit America’s seniors,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten. “These scams are not going away and so we need to remain vigilant. Be cautious when you receive an unsolicited contact or offer. Resist the pressure to act quickly. Never send personally identifiable information or anything of value to unverified people or businesses. Combatting elder fraud and abuse is a top priority for my office and we will continue to hold perpetrators accountable, whether at home or abroad.”

“Postal Inspectors are dedicated to safeguarding the well-being and security of the American public, with a particular focus on protecting the elderly and vulnerable individuals from fraudulent schemes,” said Inspector in Charge Rodney M. Hopkins of the Detroit Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Today’s indictment serves as a stark reminder of the exploitation tactics employed by criminals who prey on the elderly and other susceptible individuals through deceptive telemarketing schemes, with the sole intention of extracting as much money as possible and, in some cases, causing irreversible financial damage to their victims. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service remains resolute in its mission to vigorously investigate and apprehend those responsible for perpetrating these telemarketing scams, thereby putting an end to their illicit activities.”

A list of tips on how to protect yourself from telemarketing scams can be found below:

  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, e-mails, and mailings.
  • Never Give or send any sensitive information (including your date or birth, account numbers, or passwords), credit or debit card numbers, or money to unverified people or businesses.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a false sense of urgency to lure people to immediate action.
  • If you recognize a scam attempt, immediately end all communication with the perpetrator.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are working to identify other individuals who may have been victimized by sending payments to the post office boxes listed below for any of the listed businesses:

Post Office Boxes:

  • P.O. Box 122, Portage, Michigan 49024
  • P.O. Box 404, Portage, Michigan 49024
  • P.O. Box 421, Portage, Michigan 49024
  • P.O. Box 482, Portage, Michigan 49024
  • P.O. Box 1164, Portage, Michigan 49024
  • P.O. Box 1562, Portage, Michigan 49024

Businesses:

  • Cable Upgrade
  • D Network
  • D Tech
  • Direct Network
  • Dish
  • Dish Upgrade
  • Sky Satellite

If you believe you are a victim in this case, you can contact victim coordinator Kathy Schuette at (616) 808-2034 or visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

Full Article & Source:
Portage man charged for telemarketing fraud that targeted the elderly

Friday, December 22, 2023

Dozens of elderly people across US died after leaving care facilities unchecked

by Richard Luscombe

Many care homes are understaffed, ignored alarms, skipped bed checks or otherwise neglected safety procedures


Dozens of elderly people have died across the US in the last five years after walking away unchecked from assisted-living or supposedly secure dementia or memory care facilities, a national study has found, highlighting a lack of effective oversight in a burgeoning industry.

Most of about 100 deaths since 2018, reported Monday by the Washington Post, were weather-related, involving exposure to extreme heat or cold. Some of the “elopements” – the industry name for those who leave unnoticed or unsupervised – were not found until days or even weeks later.

In the majority of the more than 2,000 cases the newspaper found of residents wandering away or simply being left outside, failures by caregivers or administrators were cited, with many care homes understaffed, ignoring alarms, skipping bed checks or otherwise neglecting crucial safety procedures.

The Post also found a disparate range in the handling and reporting of such episodes at assisted-living facilities. Unlike nursing homes, where there is federal regulation and oversight, individual states are responsible for investigations of assisted-living facilities and enforcement of regulations and few have adopted strong staffing or adequate training requirements, it said.

Only 29 states have “complete and up-to-date” inspection records, published to websites that are often hard to find or difficult to use. Many others require relatives to file public records requests to find out information – or to contact a state ombudsman.

The Post said that, as a result, its investigation was limited to only about 40% of the country, and that the figures nationally, had they been calculable, would have been even more alarming.

Examples cited include a 77-year-old woman with dementia who walked out of her assisted-living facility in Des Moines, Iowa, one evening in January 2022 when the temperature outside was -11F (-23C). Staff, who ignored a door alarm and repeated alerts on their mobile phones and iPads, found her eight hours later, collapsed outside with ice on her body. She died in hospital of exposure.

A 77-year-old man in North Carolina died from multiple organ failure after being found covered in fire ants and wasp stings almost 24 hours after leaving a North Carolina facility; and the body of a 79-year-old man was found face down in shallow water in the woods in South Carolina two weeks after his second disappearance from his care home.

Families of those who had died were frequently lied to. Records for an 86-year-old woman who was left unattended in a sweltering Colorado courtyard for six hours in June 2021 claim she “passed outside watching the sun set, an activity that she loved”.

Numerous families who spoke to the Post said they were let down after assuming their loved ones would be safe and well cared for in often pricey facilities promising security and well-trained staff.

“The thing I grieve the most is I tried everything I could for her to be safe. That’s why she was there,” the granddaughter of the Iowa victim said.

According to the Post’s investigation, the popularity of assisted-living facilities for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory diseases has grown exponentially in recent years to the point where it is now a $34bn industry, catering to about 1 million residents, compared with 1.2 million in nursing homes.

Full Article & Source:
Dozens of elderly people across US died after leaving care facilities unchecked

Ozark County woman facing charges for financially exploiting two elderly women she was caring for


An Ozark County woman has been arrested for financially exploiting two elderly women she was caring for. Fifty-seven-year-old Patricia Santos Duvalier of Dora is facing two charges in the case and is also facing charges for physically abusing another client in her care this year that is mentally handicapped.

According to court documents in the most recent case, an investigator with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Office of Special Investigations received a report from the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department regarding a death investigation of a woman from Tecumseh. Duvalier was a caregiver for the woman.

The woman had given Duvalier her debit card to withdraw her $1,000 per month salary, but when the woman went into a nursing home prior to her death, Duvalier continued to withdraw the money.

A second victim who is bedridden in the home and cared for by Duvalier, was found by deputies in a bed that was soaked with urine and feces and had roaches crawling on the bed.

The victim was taken to Ozarks Health in West Plains and treated for numerous bedsores the affidavit says were caused by Duvalier’s neglect.

The second victim told investigators she paid Duvalier between $860 and $900 per month to take care of her and another $1,000 to take care of the other woman who was handicapped. She also says Duvalier would not agree to take care of the two women unless she added her name to the deed of their house and land. The woman said she agreed to this because she feared she would have not have anyone to take care of them.

When investigators asked the second victim how many hours Duvalier worked each day, she said Duvalier would work from 9-2, leaving her in her bed and the other woman locked in her bedroom until she arrived again the next day.

Duvalier is facing two felony counts of financial exploitation of elderly or disabled and one misdemeanor count of elder abuse. She is being held without bond in the Ozark County Jail.

Duvalier was arrested earlier this fall after a mentally handicapped female in her care was injured.

According to the probable cause affidavit in that case, the victim, who also lives in Tecumseh, was brought to the emergency room at Ozarks Health and told by Duvalier, her paid caregiver, that she had suffered a fall.

Hospital staff noted the 37-year-old had lost nearly 50 pounds in a short amount of time, had numerous bruises indicating abuse, tissue was missing from her upper lip indicating a blow to the face and she had a broken nose.

Hospital staff told investigators the victim was very scared and kept repeating “help me.”

In that case, Duvalier is facing felony counts of assault in the first degree and abuse of a mentally disabled person.

Full Article & Source:
Ozark County woman facing charges for financially exploiting two elderly women she was caring for

Caregiver accused of stealing, using elderly Ocala man’s credit card

A 46-year-old Ocala woman was arrested after an elderly man accused her of stealing one of his credit cards and using it to make over $1,000 in fraudulent purchases.

On November 25, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to a residence on SW 56th Avenue Road in Ocala in reference to financial fraud. Upon arrival, the deputy made contact with the male victim who advised that his bank had notified him that one of his credit cards had been fraudulently used the previous day, according to the arrest report.

The victim stated that he had not used the credit card in question in months, and he recently noticed that the card was missing from his wallet. He told the deputy that a housemaid, later identified as Jennifer Louise Middleton, had started working at his home shortly before the credit card went missing, according to the report.


The victim’s daughter told law enforcement that a total of six fraudulent charges had been placed on the victim’s credit card.

On December 7, the deputy learned that Middleton was employed by Ashford Home Care, and she had been referred to the victim by a local medical facility. The deputy noted that this put the victim and Middleton in a “relationship of trust.”

Less than a week later, on December 12, the deputy visited several stores where the victim’s credit card had been used to make the fraudulent purchases. According to the report, the following transactions were conducted on November 24 using the victim’s credit card:

  • $90.19 at a Ross Dress for Less store in Lady Lake.
  • $176.36 at a Skechers Outlet in Lady Lake.
  • $188.77 at a Bealls Outlet in Lady Lake.
  • $38.39 at a Sonoco gas station in Marion County.
  • $195.65 at Victoria’s Secret. This transaction was made online.
  • $355.78 at Dillard’s. This transaction was made online.

The deputy noted in the report that Middleton was observed on video surveillance footage completing the fraudulent transaction at Ross Dress for Less at around 4:20 p.m. on November 24. Additionally, video surveillance footage from Bealls showed Middleton using the victim’s credit card to make the fraudulent purchase at around 4:50 p.m. on the same day.

The total amount taken from the victim was $1,045.14, according to the report.

On December 15, the deputy made contact with Middleton. After being read her Miranda rights, Middleton admitted to removing the credit card from the victim’s wallet without his permission. She further admitted to conducting all of the fraudulent transactions, and she added that she had thrown the stolen credit card into the trash.

Middleton was arrested, transported to Marion County Jail, and she was released the following day after posting an $8,000 bond. She is being charged with exploitation of the elderly (less than $10,000), fraudulent use of a credit card (more than two times or over $100), and three counts of misusing personal identification without consent (victim over 60 years of age).

A court date has been scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, according to jail records.

Full Article & Source:
Caregiver accused of stealing, using elderly Ocala man’s credit card

Thursday, December 21, 2023

John Amos Hopes to Reconcile With Daughter Despite Accusing Her of 'Elderly Abuse'


The 'Good Times' actor would love to repair his fractured relationship with estranged daughter Shannon Amos despite alleging she had taken advantage of him.

AceShowbiz - John Amos has said "the love is still there" with his daughter despite accusing her of "elderly abuse" over the summer. In June, the 83-year-old actor alleged Shannon Amos had "taken advantage" of him after she claimed on Instagram he had been a "victim of elder abuse and financial exploitation" before she filed a complaint with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and created a GoFundMe campaign asking for "legal, medical, future housing, and care expenses," which he ordered her to end as he insisted she was more of a problem to his wellbeing than her brother, his son, K.C. Amos.

The "Good Times" actor, however, is hopeful they can repair their rift eventually and he is keen for them all to have a "harmonious relationship at some point." "It is his sibling, that is my daughter, my first child. I love her. K.C. loves his sister," John told People magazine in a joint interview with filmmaker K.C. 

"We just have, I guess, what might be best described in the tabloids is an acrimonious relationship, but everything heals in time, and the love is still there. All families go through trials and tribulations of some sort..."

"Right now, it is somewhat acrimonious, but never mind what you might read or hear about in the paper or on this medium or that medium platform. Suffice it to say we are still family, and we love each other, and that's the bottom line."

At the time, concerns were raised over John's health after Sharon claimed she had received a "distressing call" from her father and he was a "victim of elder abuse and financial exploitation."

But the veteran actor denied the claims and insisted he was "doing well." He said in a statement given to People, "To all of my fans, I want you to know that I am doing well. I am not in ICU, nor was I ever fighting for my life. First, I want the GoFundMe campaign about me to stop immediately, and the funds subsequently returned to those who made donations."

He later alleged in a video uploaded to Instagram by K.C. that Shannon was the one who had "taken advantage" of him. He said, "She would be the primary suspect - if you would. I don't know if that's the right term to use or not. But she's the one that I would attribute my elderly abuse to. It's definitely a case of elderly abuse."

In response, a representative for Shannon said she was "disheartened at the continuation of false and defamatory statements being made against her."

Full Article & Source:
John Amos Hopes to Reconcile With Daughter Despite Accusing Her of 'Elderly Abuse'

See Also:
John Amos Speaks Out After Accusing Daughter of Elder Abuse: 'I Love Her'

John Amos hopeful family rift can be repaired following elder abuse row

John Amos' Son K.C. Arrested for Allegedly Threatening to Kill Sister Shannon After Elder Abuse Claims

John Amos’ daughter speaks out against her brother amid elder abuse investigation

John Amos' Son Removed as Medical Power of Attorney

CBI investigating allegations of possible elder abuse against actor John Amos

John Amos, 83, 'is doing well' following elder abuse allegations

John Amos Accuses Daughter of 'Elder Abuse' After Denying Her GoFundMe Health Claims: 'She Would be the Primary Suspect'

New Hampshire AG warns of ‘Phantom Hacker’ scam targeting older adults

by Daniel Duric


CONCORD — New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella issued a warning Thursday about a scam known as the “Phantom Hacker,” which has been mainly targeting older adults in the state.

According to Formella, the scam involves fraudsters who contact victims pretending to be computer technicians, claiming that the individuals’ computers or other electronic devices are infected with a virus or have been compromised.

The scammers then warn that the victims’ financial accounts are at risk.

An accomplice, posing as an official from a financial or government institution, convinces the victim to transfer money from the supposedly at-risk accounts to “protect the funds.” Often, the victims are instructed to move their funds into accounts that the scammers falsely guarantee are secure but are actually under their control.

In other cases, victims are tricked into purchasing valuable items like gold, which a scammer’s courier then collects from their homes under the guise of “safekeeping.”

The Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Unit of the attorney general’s office has received multiple reports over the past month of older adults falling prey to these schemes.

Scammers convinced the victims to buy gold to safeguard their assets, leading to significant financial losses when the gold was picked up by the fraudsters’ couriers.

Formella emphasized that neither financial institutions nor legitimate law enforcement would ever ask individuals to purchase valuable items for safekeeping, send unsolicited messages about compromised devices, or pressure them into paying money or providing personal information without proper verification.

The attorney general advised residents to be cautious and provided a series of steps to avoid falling victim to such scams, including not clicking on suspicious links, hanging up on unsolicited calls about compromised devices, and verifying the legitimacy of any entity claiming to offer protection.

He also urged those who have encountered such scams or have been victimized to contact the local police and report the incidents to the Office of the Attorney General through their Consumer Protection Hotline or email, as well as to the New Hampshire Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services.

Full Article & Source:
New Hampshire AG warns of ‘Phantom Hacker’ scam targeting older adults

Caretaker accused of stealing real estate from elderly woman

A woman from Tallahassee faces charges for stealing real estate from her 81-year-old boss.

Source:
Caretaker accused of stealing real estate from elderly woman

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

‘American Pickers’ Frank Fritz Conservatorship In Danger

By Shawn Lealos


When American Pickers star Frank Fritz suffered his stroke in 2022 he needed a temporary guardian and conservator. However, over a year later, he is in danger of losing both for the second time for the same reason.

Here is why Frank’s conservator and guardian are in danger and what this means for the reality TV star.

Frank Fritz in danger of losing conservatorship

In August 2022, friends of American Pickers star Frank Fritz filed an emergency appointment after the reality TV star suffered a stroke. Frank, 60, was unable to care for himself, and his friend Chris Davis became his legal guardian. Furthermore, Midwest One Bank became the conservator for his assets. However, both are in danger of losing those titles.


Court papers were filed that accused them of failing to file their annual report that was due on November 12, 2023. If they don’t work this out, Frank could lose both his guardian and conservator. The biggest problem here is that this is the second time this has happened. On June 2, 2023, the same Notice of Delinquency for Conservatorships was also filed when the inventory report was not filed on December 12, 2022 (via The U.S. Sun).

While they filed that report later in June, they have now missed a second deadline that is required under the court’s order. If this newest missed deadline is not corrected, the judge could make both parties subject to removal. Even if the forms are filed, disciplinary action could still be taken.

Frank Fritz needs these protections in place

After the American Pickers star suffered his stroke, he needed help put in place to manage his affairs. When Frank Fritz, 60, had his stroke, the papers were filed claiming that he was unable to care for his safety and well-being. It also said his decision-making was impaired. The papers said, “Decisions must be made for Mr. Fritz’s care and placement while he continues to recover and receive treatment for his injuries.”


However, for the plan to remain in place, there are guidelines put into effect that protect Frank. The deadlines missed were for updates and forms on several aspects of Frank’s recovery, life, and assets. This is to keep anyone from taking advantage of the American Pickers star. While this might seem difficult to manage for an individual like Chris Davis, the conservator is a bank that should have things in place to never miss these important deadlines.

A lawyer filed a “will prior to death” for Frank in October as well, and the judge accepted that will. Frank is worth $6 million.

What are your thoughts on Frank Fritz’s guardian and conservator continuing to miss important court-mandated deadlines? Does this make you worry more about the American Pickers star?

Full Article & Source:
‘American Pickers’ Frank Fritz Conservatorship In Danger

See Also:
RIGHT PATH American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator files new financial plan as he recovers from debilitating stroke

American Pickers' Frank Fritz Still Under A Conservatorship, But There's Been An Update

PICKING PRIVACY American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator begs judge to seal his financial records and location amid his recovery

CONSERVATOR CHAOS American Pickers star Frank Fritz’s conservator at risk of removal by judge after star suffers debilitating stroke

PAY UP American Pickers alum Frank Fritz’s conservatorship lawyer demands to be paid $2K for his services in tragic case

Frank Fritz, of 'American Pickers,' under guardianship after stroke

FRANK'S FATE American Pickers alum Frank Fritz’s judge makes major ruling in conservatorship case after star suffers from stroke

Bank Accountant Stole $180K From Woman Who Saw Her ‘Like A Girl’

A bank teller in Houston, Texas, has been accused of stealing $180,000 from an elderly customer.

The 86-year-old victim apparently trusted the 29-year-old bank teller “like a daughter” before the alleged robbery, ABC 7 reported Friday.

Now, officers are trying to find the young woman accused in the alleged crime, which took place this year over a period of five months.

Image show the suspect, identified as Cecilia Hope Brown, is facing a second-degree felony charge of grand larceny by an elderly person:


Charging documents state that Brown developed a relationship with the elderly customer, who came into the Frost Bank regularly.

An investigation was opened when the victim questioned why her Frost Bank IRA account that was supposed to have $180,000 in it was down to $1.50, the ABC 7 report continued:

A bank supervisor told authorities she watched surveillance video of the suspect taking money out of the vault. Apparently Brown claimed she took the money to the victim in her car several times, but there was no video evidence of that happening.

According to a charging document, “Brown took wads of money out of the vault, hid them under papers, walked them out to a teller’s counter, and stored the money underneath. She is then seen leaving the bank with boxes from the counter,” the ABC 7 article said, noting that the bank had placed the young woman on administrative leave.

The victim’s money was later refunded.

According to the Texas Attorney General’s website, employees, caregivers and relatives who steal from senior citizens can commit financial exploitation.

The website states, “Employees who deal directly with seniors in banks are in a unique position to detect and prevent financial abuse of this type.”

The American Bankers Association lists several ways seniors can protect themselves from financial abuse.

In June, Breitbart News reported that caregivers and loved ones across America rob seniors of $20.3 billion annually, while strangers take another $8 billion a year.

Full Article & Source:
Bank Accountant Stole $180K From Woman Who Saw Her ‘Like A Girl’

Mother, daughter arrested after allegedly abusing, stealing money from patients

Source:
Mother, daughter arrested after allegedly abusing, stealing money from patients

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Nursing home under investigation after resident allegedly sexually assaulted by a staffer

"Our top priority is the care and well-being of our residents," Care Initiatives, which owns Correctionville Specialty Care, said in a statement.

WOODBURY COUNTY, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services and Woodbury County Sheriff's Office are investigating a former care center resident's allegations of sexual assault by a staffer. The facility under investigation is Correctionville Specialty Care in Woodbury County, the owner of the facility is the company Care Initiatives

In a state investigative report, the resident reported that during her time of residency in the nursing home, a male nurse aid forced her to perform sexual acts on him. On Oct. 14, 2023, law enforcement interviewed the resident. During the interview, the resident detailed her alleged timeline of events, though she said she did not know the specific date the incident allegedly took place.

The resident said on the night of the incident, it was raining and she went outside of the facility to have a cigarette.  Due to her medical conditions, the resident was in a wheelchair and needed assistance outside. The resident claims she sent a male staffer $10 on Cash App for cigarettes. She said he assisted in the cell phone payment transaction and then asked if she'd like to smoke her cigarette with him in his car. The resident said she agreed to go and the Certified Med Aid (CNA) wheeled her to his car. Once in the car, the resident said the CNA pulled out a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey and started to drink and listen to loud music. Then, the resident states the CNA forced her to perform a sexual act on him while allegedly videotaping the assault.

Following her report of this incident to staffers, the nursing home's administrator was made aware of the payments made between the staffer and resident for cigarettes.  According to the state documents, the administrator said after a couple of the members on staff told her about the transactions. She then called the staffer allegedly involved into her office. During the conversation, the staffer showed her an online receipt for the financial transaction, and she suspended him from the building. The staffer denied any sexual advances took place in exchange for cigarettes. 

Within the state documents, the staffer claimed that the company begged him to work other shifts prior to them confronting him with the sexual assault claims. The employee's time sheets show he continued to work at their nursing homes on three other occasions. 

On Oct. 5, another staffer reported that days after the alleged incident, the care facility's administrator had a loud verbal exchange with the resident giving her only 30 minutes to pack her room and leave for a local shelter. A car was arranged to take the resident there but did not have enough room to fit all of the resident's belongings. A housekeeper staffer stated she packed some of the resident's items into her vehicle. The driver reportedly took the resident to a local women's shelter which later denied the resident. The driver then called the administrator who told him to take her to a local homeless shelter, but that shelter did not accept all of the residents belonging and they were not given the appropriate information to take on a resident with these needs. 

The resident was picked up from the homeless shelter by a friend. 

Both the Woodbury County Sheriff's Office and the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services say this is an open investigation. 

The November report states the Correctionville Specialty Care Nursing home "is not in compliance" with federal guidelines for long-term care facilities.

Local 5 also reached out to Care Initiative's cooperate office about the allegations. They provided the following statement:

"We have investigated allegations of inappropriate behavior between a team member and a prior resident. We take these matters very seriously. We have and continue to cooperate with the Department of Inspections, Appeals & Licensing and area law enforcement in their investigations. Additionally, we launched an extensive internal investigation into this matter and have taken immediate action to ensure the safety of our residents. Involved parties are no longer employed by Care Initiatives. Our top priority is the care and well-being of our residents, and we do not tolerate any behavior that compromises their trust and confidence." 


Full Article & Source:
Nursing home under investigation after resident allegedly sexually assaulted by a staffer

Largest nursing home in St. Louis closes suddenly, forcing out 170 residents


By JIM SALTER and HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The largest skilled nursing facility in St. Louis has closed suddenly, forcing about 170 residents to be bused to other care centers. Many left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

The abrupt shutdown of Northview Village Nursing Home on Friday came after workers learned they might not be paid and walked out, confusing residents and their relatives. Many family members gathered through the day Saturday outside the facility on the city’s north side. Some didn’t immediately know where their loved ones were taken.

Alvin Cooper of East St. Louis, Illinois, was preparing Monday to fill out a missing person’s report on his 35-year-old son. Alvin Cooper Jr. has lived at Northview Village for several months while recovering from a gunshot wound to the head and a drug addiction.

“They don’t know where he is,” Alvin Cooper said. “I’ve burnt two tanks of gas going back and forth to that nursing home trying to find out what’s going on. I don’t know if he’s somewhere safe or what’s going to happen to him.”

The difficulties started Friday when, according to the union representing workers, more than 130 people went unpaid, and it became unclear if their checks would be forthcoming.

Marvetta Harrison, 59, a certified medical technician, said workers received emails from the company this weekend promising they’ll be paid, but it was unclear when.

“This is real wrong,” Harrison said. “I have worked in that building for 37 years. Not only did they mistreat us, they mistreated the residents we take care of.”

Northview Village has been fined 12 times for federal violations since March 2021, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Fines totaled over $140,000 and ranged from $2,200 to more than $45,000. The federal agency gives Northview a one-star rating out of a possible five, but doesn’t spell out reasons for the fines.

In addition, the state health department website lists nearly two dozen Northview investigations since 2016. The most recent complaint, from February, said a resident was able to get out of the building through an unsecured door. A 2021 complaint alleged the facility failed to investigate allegations that residents left the nursing home and brought drugs into it.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the agency was notified around 4:15 p.m. Friday that the nursing home was closing. The operator implemented an evacuation plan and emergency medical service workers helped relocate residents to other nursing homes, Cox said in a statement Monday.

“The final resident left the facility before 6 a.m. Saturday,” Cox said. “Our team continued working through the weekend following up with the receiving facilities to check in on the residents who had been transferred.”

Shamell King, an assistant manager at another St. Louis-area nursing home, Superior Manor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that some Northview Village residents arrived without paperwork documenting their medical histories or medication needs.

Phone calls to Northview Village went unanswered Monday. Calls also were unanswered at suburban St. Louis-based Healthcare Accounting Services, the company that owns the nursing home and five others.

On Friday, employees began to question why their bi-weekly paychecks were late. They found out the payments weren’t coming at all, said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis agency that serves as an ombudsman for long-term care residents and their families.

The shutdown began as employees voiced their concerns, said Lenny Jones, state director for the Service Employees International Union Healthcare union, which represents about 100 of the roughly 130 displaced workers.

“They ran out of money to make payroll, caused this massive disruption, and just quickly moved forward with their goal, which was to shutter this facility,” Jones said. “You would have to have been planning to move 175 residents in the dead of night.”

Shuttle buses took residents to at least 15 different facilities across the St. Louis area, Moore said. Many patients departed with nothing but what they were wearing.

“Closing it down this way is the absolute worst-case scenario for a lot of us,” Moore said. “It all happened so fast.”

Northview Village was the largest skilled nursing facility in St. Louis, licensed for up to 320 beds. Many residents are on Medicaid and can’t get into other long-term care facilities, Moore said. In addition to elderly people, the center houses many with behavioral problems, she said.

“It’s a troubled facility, but it’s also been a safety net to keep people from falling through the cracks,” Moore said.

Cherie Ford, a certified nursing assistant at Northview Village, said she figured something was wrong on Friday when her direct-deposit paycheck wasn’t in her account. Still, she and her colleagues worked a full day.

“We had no warning, the residents knew nothing either,” she said in a Facebook Messenger interview.

Around 3 p.m. Friday, the staff learned they wouldn’t be paid at all, she said.

“This was the only job I had and am facing eviction and no Christmas for my family,” Ford said. “We were all looking forward to this check. This was our Christmas check to do our shopping, paying rent and other things.”

Full Article & Source:
Largest nursing home in St. Louis closes suddenly, forcing out 170 residents

Caretaker charged in connection with deaths of 2 people in Maine, police say

Source:
Caretaker charged in connection with deaths of 2 people in Maine, police say

Monday, December 18, 2023

Probate courts ripe for reform

By Samantha Hogan

Lawmakers and advocates are looking for ways to strengthen oversight within Maine’s probate courts. 


State officials have expressed interest in strengthening the probate courts’ oversight of vulnerable Mainers and preventing elder abuse, after an investigation by The Maine Monitor this year revealed gaps in how these courts monitor guardians, conservators and estates.

Some lawmakers and advocates for aging Mainers and people with disabilities reacted with alarm this year when a Maine Monitor investigation uncovered systemic problems with the state’s 16 independent, county-run probate courts.

The issues plaguing Maine’s probate courts have been studied for more than five decades.

“The time for study is over and a lasting systemic solution is overdue,” said Jaye Martin, executive director of a Maine legal aid nonprofit, Legal Services for the Elderly. “This is a complex arena but it is vital to the well-being of many, and we need to get it right.”

Martin said lawmakers should adopt the nearly unanimous recommendations of a state study group — the Commission to Create a Plan to Incorporate the Probate Courts into the Judicial Branch — that in 2021 proposed making the probate courts a part of the state judicial branch, selecting probate judges with the same standards as the rest of the state’s judges, and providing money for lawyers, guardian ad litem (to represent those not capable of representing themselves in lawsuits) and visitors throughout the court process.

The probate courts are unique and have the state’s only elected and part-time judges. They are also separate from the judicial branch.

The Monitor’s reporting this year showed that “the challenges facing those who require the services of our probate system are only getting worse,” Martin said.

Gov. Janet Mills is open to ideas that would strengthen protections for people served by the probate courts, according to her spokesman, Ben Goodman. But Mills did not commit to specific reforms.

Her most recent budget included $4 million to reduce abuse, neglect and exploitation of older Mainers and people with disabilities by adding employees to Adult Protective Services, and supporting free legal aid services through Legal Services for the Elderly, among other investments. 

“The governor welcomes collaboration with partners and the legislature to examine ways – including through the budget — that we can continue to strengthen both public and private efforts to prevent and effectively respond to elder abuse,” Goodman wrote.

Searching for solutions

The Monitor’s investigation found:

• Maine’s probate courts do not employ investigators to check on vulnerable adults under guardianship.

• Probate courts only recently began keeping track of guardianships. Several do not know how many people are under guardianship in their county, or if these adults are alive or dead.

• Eight adults under public guardianship and in the state’s care died in unexplained ways in the past three years. One woman’s death was deemed a homicide by state medical examiners, but the attorney general’s office declined to prosecute her case.

• The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has failed to follow a state law for 26 years that requires it to report all deaths of people under public guardianship to lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee.

• No probate court or state entity tracks the probate courts’ use of a less restrictive alternative to guardianship, known as “supported decision-making,” and it is an option that probate judges infrequently use.

• Many probate courts do not audit the financial records submitted once a year by conservators, leaving these adults vulnerable to financial exploitation or theft.

• A constitutional amendment was passed by Maine voters 56 years ago that said probate courts should be overhauled and assigned full-time judges, but lawmakers did not take action to make that happen.

No state lawmaker has announced an intent in 2024 to push for the enactment of the mandate from voters to make probate judges full-time.

Deirdre Smith, a University of Maine professor of law, said overhauling the probate courts to create a statewide probate system, rather than 16 independent county courts, would be the most significant judicial reform the state could do.

And because voters passed the constitutional amendment, change is required, not optional, she said. 

“The people of Maine spoke in 1967 and I don’t think the legislature can just disregard that. I think that is a total dereliction of their duty,” Smith said. “The voters of Maine gave an order, a mandate, to the legislature, which is to come up with a different probate court system that has full-time judges.”

Smith said the best and most efficient way to do that was outlined by the 2021 study commission, which included input from probate judges, registers, advocates and lawmakers.

“There’s room for the legislature to tighten things up and make more sense out of the flaws that they may perceive with the probate system,” Sagadahoc County Probate Judge David Paris told the Monitor. 

Paris said he is opposed to making the probate courts part of the Maine judicial system, but that changes to state law would set consistent standards across the 16 probate courts.


Legislators could require the probate courts to complete criminal background checks of prospective guardians and conservators, Paris said. They could also change state law so that conservators are required to file an accounting of assets twice a year, rather than annually, so the probate judges and office staff can keep better track of how the money of a person under conservatorship is being spent, he said.

The probate courts also could consider expanding the role of court-appointed “visitors” to check on people under guardianship more frequently, he said. 

Paris said he did not think Maine needed to hire auditors like the Minnesota Judicial Branch, which more than a decade ago launched a conservator auditing team to do in-depth financial reviews.

“We do take out our calculators. We do look through the expenses, and if something raises a question we’ll pursue it,” Paris said.

Thomas Marshall, 72, a Rockland resident who reached out after reading the Monitor’s series, said volunteers may be another way for Maine to put extra eyes on conservators and guardians. 

Prior to moving to Maine, Marshall lived in New Jersey and volunteered around six hours a week reviewing financial statements and narratives submitted to the court by guardians mostly for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. He looked for changes in expenses or fees being charged by lawyers or family members serving as guardians, and concerning cases were sent to a court-employed investigator.

“It provided consistency of oversight for everyone. Whether it was court-appointed attorneys, family attorneys or family itself, the oversight of what was happening to these people and their assets … was consistent across the board,” Marshall said.

Calls to modernize guardianship

State lawmakers and people with disabilities have said they would like to see improvements in how probate courts will monitor guardians.  

Cindy Thielen, 31, was diagnosed with autism and under the guardianship of her mother for 11 years before successfully petitioning the probate court to terminate the arrangement, the Monitor reported.

Based on her experience, Thielen said probate judges need to follow the law and consider supported decision-making before guardianship.

“Supported decision-making” is a nationally recognized tool used by those with disabilities to help them assess the consequences of big and small decisions. Maine laws that went into effect in late 2019 require probate judges to consider this alternative before appointing a guardian.

“I’ve known a couple people who are under guardianship where it was the best thing to do at the time based on their disabilities, but I would love to see them have the chance to thrive under supported decision-making someday,” Thielen said.

Thielen said state lawmakers need to modernize how the probate courts keep track of people under guardianship and what is going on in their lives, she said. 

Thielen was not appointed an attorney to advocate for her when her mom filed a petition for guardianship in the Hancock County Probate Court in 2011, when Thielen was 19. Thielen was appointed a lawyer for the first time after asking the probate court in 2015 to terminate the guardianship.

“Hiring more people and giving people representation right from the get-go would be a great start,” Thielen said.

Adults subject to a guardianship petition are advised by the court that they have the right to hire a lawyer to defend them in probate court, but also are told that the cost of a lawyer may come out of their own pockets. Probate judges can waive those fees, the Monitor reported

All 10 probate courts that responded to a Monitor survey earlier this year said judges will assign an attorney if the person opposes a guardianship. 

A state bill proposed in 2019 would have required lawyers for all adult guardianship cases. Probate judges were among the stakeholders to object, in part because of the added cost to county budgets. The bill did not pass.

Thielen said Maine lawmakers should also create a way for people to report if something has gone wrong to a person under guardianship. She pointed to the audit and fraud detection programs used by the courts in Florida and Minnesota that were featured in a recent Monitor article

Lacking prosecutorial manpower

In one example after another, the Monitor found that the life savings of Mainers were spent down by conservators, taken by family members, or sometimes redirected in wills to once-trusted lawyers for their personal gain in the probate courts.

Financial exploitation of older Mainers is the third-most common allegation investigated by Adult Protective Services, a recent state study showed. But Maine has limited prosecutorial resources to pursue these kinds of theft cases.

The state attorney general’s office employs one prosecutor and one investigator for elder fraud. None of the eight district attorney offices employ a prosecutor whose work is exclusively devoted to elder fraud cases, according to Kathryn Slattery, the district attorney for York County, in a statement on behalf of the Maine Prosecutors’ Association.

“Although we would like to do so, we simply do not have the personnel or resources necessary to meet our current obligations,” Slattery wrote.

Dedicated elder fraud prosecutors in each district attorney’s office was a top priority recommendation in a December 2021 report about elder issues, which was supposed to be Maine’s “road map” to preventing exploitation and abuse of the state’s aging population.

This year the prosecutors’ association asked the legislature to fund 10 additional prosecutor positions across the state to keep up with current workloads in the recovery courts, specialty dockets and diversion programs. The request is sitting on the state’s appropriations table.


R. Christopher Almy, the district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, said even if an additional prosecutor was added to his office, the prosecutor would not be dedicated to elder crimes. Instead, prosecutors need to be jacks of all trades to work through the 5,000 to 6,000 cases the office manages each year with 10 or 11 people. 

“There’s no way we would be able to do that. We’re inundated with cases. We don’t have enough people to take that sole responsibility. That would be impossible. There aren’t that many cases anyway,” Almy said. 

Police departments report only a few cases to his office each year where an older Mainer has been defrauded, Almy said. Often the charge would be theft, which makes it difficult for the district attorney offices to say how many elder fraud cases they pursue each year, he said. 

Plus, prosecutors can only go to court when they have enough evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, Almy said. 

“The problem with it is we have to have witnesses. And if we don’t have witnesses that are able to testify, you’ve got your foot in the bucket,” Almy said. 

The Maine attorney general’s office asked to add a forensic auditor position in the last state budget, but lawmakers did not approve funding, wrote agency spokeswoman Danna Hayes.

Since 2020, the attorney general’s office has filed charges in six cases involving elder fraud. The cases run the gamut from home contractors who scammed elderly clients for work that was never completed, all the way up to manslaughter.

Full Article & Source:
Probate courts ripe for reform

Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther returns $114,000 to general fund

Judge James T. Walther during the Graduation Ceremony for Keith Jackson from the Veterans Treatment Court Program on Nov. 7.
Credit: JEFF BARNES / CHRONICLE

by The Chronicle-Telegram  

Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther announced Monday that his office has returned of $114,271.42 to Lorain County's general fund, ahead of upcoming county budget hearings.

In a news release, Walther said giving the money back underscores "his commitment to fiscal responsibility and transparent governance."

The decision resulted from what Walther called "the unforeseen challenge of being unable to hire a magistrate for the current fiscal year."

Walther asked the Board of Commissioners for the money in January to create a new magistrate position to handle guardianship programs, oversee the guardianship docket, a new guardianship mediation program, the visiting Guardian Angel program and the Volunteer Guardianship Program.

Guardianship is "a court-ordered relationship" in which an appointed guardian acts on behalf of or in the interest of someone who is not able to care for themselves or their property due to age or health. It is one of the more-than 600 responsibilities of the Probate Court and takes up a large amount of Walther's time on the bench, he said earlier this year.

Walther said he plans to fix the staffing situation in 2024.

"While we faced challenges in hiring a magistrate this year, I am committed to ensuring that the necessary positions are filled for the effective functioning of the Lorain County Probate Court," he said in the news release. "Therefore, I plan to allocate funds to hire a magistrate for the fiscal year 2024."

Walther also praised the clerks in his office for their "collaborative efforts, hard work, and dedication," their "diligence" and "their vital role in the efficient operation of the Probate Court."

Full Article & Source:
Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther returns $114,000 to general fund

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Alaska’s Public Guardians are overloaded with cases, but a new court order mandates they must take on more

By Rachel Cassandra


Kurt Falke sat in his room in a residential hotel in Anchorage, reflecting on the second guardian the state assigned him. He said he appreciates the work his guardian did behind the scenes

“I was recovering from my brain damage and I was pretty much a kid,” Falke said. “He was working with other people without me being aware of it, my counselors and all this.”

Falke’s had guardians on and off since the mid 1990s. That’s because he was homeless and struggling with substance abuse and later suffered a serious head injury. He tears up when he talks about how one of his guardians, Ezra Stone, helped him change his life for the better. 

“Ezra, Ezra stone- He became my friend and I started to learn how to trust somebody because I started trusting myself,” Falke said. 

Guardians are assigned to people by the courts when they aren’t able to make important decisions for themselves. That may be because of an injury, a mental disability or illness, or because of dementia. Guardians can then help with or make decisions about medical care, housing, finances, or even real estate on behalf of their clients. 

But patients throughout Alaska have been denied new guardians over the past seven months. Since April, OPA stopped taking all new assignments of guardians and conservators because of a severe staffing shortage. Guardians now have 80 to 100 cases on their plate instead of the recommended 20-40. 

Falke said the guardian he works with now is great at his job and cares. 

“David Harper- Now, he’s a good kid. He tries real hard,” Falke said. 

But he said Harper has way too many cases on his plate to be able to help everyone. 

“It was about 20 then it went up to 50 then 100 and now David’s like ‘oof.’ He’s swamped,” Falke said. 

James Stinson, director at OPA, co-signed a letter to the courts in April saying OPA’s staffing crisis is partially because a number of public guardians retired or resigned. Stinson said this guardianship crisis is about more than just OPA. 

“It’s not just that case loads are continuing to grow,” Stinson said. “It’s also that all of the things that a public guardian depends on to provide services for their wards are becoming more and more constrained and much more scarce. And the hiring pool has changed considerably.” 

Stinson said they’ve done some hiring, but it typically takes two years for guardians to be fully trained on their job. That’s because they need a vast variety of expertise to be able to help people with decisions ranging from real estate to healthcare. 

Right now, guardians at OPA have two to three times what Stinson said is a typical maximum caseload. And because of the state supreme court’s order, OPA has to continue putting more cases on Guardian’s plates no matter how many they have. Stinson said that means guardians won’t be able to do their jobs well. 

“Public guardians are just people and they’re people that want to do a good job, and the staffing situation we’re in is a candle burning on both ends,” Stinson said. “You can’t afford to overload your most experienced guardians to the point that they just give up and quit because they just can’t do anything because that’s disastrous. And you can’t place a bunch of cases on somebody who’s new and inexperienced, who doesn’t know how to do it either.”

He said he’s worried Guardians will get burnt out and quit, which will make the problem worse. 

Corinne O’Niell, senior director of care management for Providence Alaska Medical Center, said most people have friends or family that can make decisions for them. But not everyone has that and that’s when they need an appointed guardian. 

“They’re some of the most vulnerable people in Alaska because they just don’t have anybody that can step in and fill that role of a guardian,” O’Niell said. 

O’Niell said that if someone can’t get a guardian after medical care, they might have to stay in the hospital for longer than needed. 

“We can’t safely discharge them to the community, because we have nobody to sign their paperwork to go into a long term care facility, or an assisted living facility, or sign for their durable medical equipment, because they can’t understand those decisions and we don’t have a guardian appointed,” O’Niell said. 

And she said that impacts healthcare for all Alaskans. 

“Even when we tie up one bed or two beds, or five beds for long periods of time, those are beds that are then not available right to the general public to get the right care that they need at the right time,” said O’Niell.

She also said Alaskans should consider creating an advanced care directive just in case of injury or illness. She said it can help prevent the need for a guardian to make decisions for you. 

Full Article & Source:
Alaska’s Public Guardians are overloaded with cases, but a new court order mandates they must take on more