Saturday, February 17, 2024

Judge rejects call for independent investigation of state-endorsed private guardian who neglected dozens of clients

By Iris Samuels

Former clients and advocates attend a fitness review for former guardian Tom McDuffie, at left, and his private guardianship nonprofit, Cache Integrity Services, at the Nesbett Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Bill Roth / ADN)

A judge on Wednesday declined to order a forensic accountant to investigate a private guardian’s mishandling of finances that left the funds of more than 100 Alaskans entangled in a single account.

At a public hearing in Anchorage that drew several of Tom McDuffie’s former private guardianship and conservatorship clients, along with attorneys and other guardians, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth said he would decline several requests to appoint an impartial investigator to oversee an inquiry of alleged wrongdoing by McDuffie. Instead, the judge said he would leave the investigation to be conducted by the public agency that had encouraged McDuffie to become a guardian.

Two court visitors appointed to investigate McDuffie’s actions filed a report late last month that included a call for “a comprehensive forensic accounting review,” after McDuffie used a single account for all of the clients served by his private agency, Cache Integrity Services, making it difficult or impossible for the money to be divided accurately among McDuffie’s former clients.

The court visitors wrote in their report that “it appears to be reasonable for Mr. McDuffie and Cache Integrity Services to bear all the cost” of hiring a forensic accountant.

But the judge said that filings to the court had not adequately explained how the accountant would be identified and paid.

“Someone needs to give me some names and they need to give me qualifications and they need to give me a fee schedule,” Aarseth said during the hearing, which lasted less than an hour.

“I have a lot of big ideas of what should happen, but no concrete plans in terms of how that would happen,” Aarseth said.

Instead, Aarseth said he would leave the investigation of McDuffie’s tangled accounting system to the Office of Public Advocacy, or OPA — a state agency housed in the Department of Administration — to oversee an investigation of McDuffie’s actions. Aarseth said he had little leeway to do otherwise because state law explicitly names the public guardian, which is a section of OPA, as the agency responsible for investigating private guardians.

Aarseth’s decision left many advocates for McDuffie’s former clients incensed. Several said that OPA had played a key role in encouraging McDuffie to become a private guardian, despite early indications that McDuffie was unable to meet their needs, as OPA contended with a years-long staffing shortage.

“Why is the fox guarding the henhouse?” said Susan Pacillo, who said she became a guardian for one of McDuffie’s former clients because he had neglected the individual’s needs.

“They’re the ones that made the mess. Now they’re the ones who are going to clean it up?” asked Pacillo.

McDuffie — who attended the hearing but never spoke — had also asked the court not to appoint OPA to the role, citing their involvement in his early effort to set up his guardianship services.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth held a fitness review for guardian Tom McDuffie and his private guardianship nonprofit, Cache Integrity Services, in a public hearing at the Nesbett Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Former guardian Tom McDuffie looks back at the gallery after the public fitness review hearing for his private guardianship nonprofit, Cache Integrity Services, adjourned on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in the Nesbett Courthouse. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The judge said that even if OPA had made errors, it did not preclude the public agency from unsnarling wrongdoing.

“If an error was made in recommending Cache Integrity as a guardian or conservator, that error does not disqualify the public guardian from serving the role that the Legislature intended,” Aarseth said.

Aarseth said it would be up to the administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy to choose a different public agency or official to conduct an investigation if there were any concerns with OPA leading the charge.

“If the executive branch wants to submit someone new or different, or a different agency to step in, they can make the application to me and I’ll make the determination of whether someone would be more appropriate, but I haven’t had any volunteers yet,” said Aarseth.

OPA is headed by James Stinson, who was appointed to the position in 2019, after Dunleavy was first elected. Stinson donated $1,000 to Dunleavy’s campaign in 2018, and more than $700 in 2021. Stinson’s compensation went up more than 20% between 2022 and 2023, from nearly $163,000 to more than $198,000.

Beth Goldstein, OPA’s deputy director who supported McDuffie’s foray into private guardianship, represented OPA at the hearing Wednesday. She did not appear in person.

Caitlin Shortell, an Anchorage attorney who recently filed two lawsuits against McDuffie on behalf of his former clients, said she had asked the court to order McDuffie to maintain liability insurance, but Aarseth had not responded to that request in court.

Shortell said she was concerned on behalf of her clients that because a forensic accountant had not been appointed, and McDuffie had not been ordered to maintain insurance for his business, that McDuffie’s former clients may not be able to recover their funds, which in some cases amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Shortell had also requested an independent special master be appointed to administer claims related to financial and personal injury damages.

The court visitors’ report cataloged all the ways that McDuffie and Cache Integrity Services had mishandled their obligations, including by mismanaging funds, allowing clients to lose critical benefits such as Medicaid and Social Security payments, charging excessive fees, mismanaging the properties of clients, and failing to provide health care for clients.

The court visitor report had included a call for a criminal investigation, saying “such an investigation is necessary to ensure accountability and to protect the interests of those who have been affected.”

Aarseth said it would be inappropriate for him to recommend a criminal investigation of McDuffie, but added that other individuals — including court employees, attorneys and other guardians familiar with McDuffie’s actions — could turn to law enforcement.

“The court is not making any referral to law enforcement, not because the court can’t see that maybe there is a possibility for that to happen, but I don’t want to step outside of that role of being a judicial office,” Aarseth said during Wednesday’s hearing — the first time the court has held a public hearing since Aarseth was appointed in October to investigate McDuffie.

Court proceedings related to guardianship are routinely held behind closed doors to protect the rights of vulnerable Alaskans in need of a guardian or conservator — adults deemed by the courts to be unable to make decisions on their finances, housing, health care and other important issues, often due to mental disabilities or dementia. Aarseth said he had decided to open Wednesday’s hearing to the public because of “public concern” over McDuffie’s actions.

Aarseth concluded the brief hearing by saying that if members of the public “don’t like the results,” then “they can call the Legislature and ask them to change the law.”

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth held a fitness review for guardian Tom McDuffie and his private guardianship nonprofit, Cache Integrity Services, in a public hearing at the Nesbett Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Bill Roth / ADN)


A daughter and guardian holds her mother's hand, a former client, during the fitness review for former guardian Tom McDuffie and his private guardianship nonprofit, Cache Integrity Services, in the Nesbett Courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a single hearing on public guardians, in which committee members questioned Stinson. But the hearing concluded with no clear further steps, and lawmakers have yet to propose any legislation this year that would address Alaska’s laws pertaining to guardians and conservators.

Aarseth said that the case would proceed with OPA investigating McDuffie’s actions, but the original question at the heart of the case — whether McDuffie is fit to serve as guardian — was moot, because McDuffie had surrendered his license in November.

Still, McDuffie continued to have access to the accounts of Cache Integrity Services and retained the ability to serve as representative payee — a service he began providing before becoming a guardian that involves collecting Social Security checks for recipients unable to do so themselves.

Aarseth said the court case would not pertain to McDuffie’s work as a representative payee, but last week, the judge granted an order that had been requested by OPA to notify McDuffie’s unhoused clients that he would no longer process Social Security payments for them.

A poster states that McDuffie or his employee, Kathleen Blomburg, “will no longer be receiving” Social Security funds and instructs people to call the Social Security Administration office in Seattle “if you have not received any information about your money.”

The judge ordered the information to be submitted “to the known homeless shelters, food pantries and other facilities meeting transient unhoused individuals in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley.” 

Full Article & Source:
Judge rejects call for independent investigation of state-endorsed private guardian who neglected dozens of clients

February 1, 2024 Disciplinary Actions

The Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 13 attorneys, disbarring one, revoking the license of three, suspending six and reprimanding three.

Omar Javier Arcia, 3350 S.W. 148th Ave., Suite 110, Miramar, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a January 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Arcia engaged in a pattern of representing both co-lenders and borrowers in foreclosure matters without disclosing the potential conflict of interest or attempting to obtain a knowing and voluntary waiver of the conflict from those clients. In another matter, Arcia filed an improper lien against a property for refusal to remit a real estate commission resulting in a waste of judicial resources and a delay in the sale of the property. (Case No. SC23-0413)

Odiator Arugu, 1540 Whooping Dr., Groveland, disbarred effective immediately following a January 8 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Arugu continued engaging in the practice of law after the effective date of his 91-day suspension. Arugu failed to close out his practice and protect the interests of his clients before the effective date of his suspension. He also communicated with a client and gave her legal advice while suspended, failed to move to withdraw from two pending cases, and remained counsel of record after the effective date of his suspension in these cases. Arugu failed to advise the client of a hearing, resulting in a dismissal being entered against the client. As a result, Arugu was held in contempt and disbarred. (Case No. SC23-1374)

Frank Carvajal, 1665 E. 4th St., Suite 104, Santa Ana, CA, public reprimand effective 30 days following a January 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1995) Carvajal represented a client in removal proceedings before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). In 2019, the client hired Carvajal to appeal the BIA’s decision. Carvajal filed the appeal pro se, even though he previously filed Form EOIR-26 signifying his appearance as attorney of record and indicating that he would file a brief. Carvajal failed to timely file a brief, and the case was dismissed without a review. (Case No. SC23-1193)

Lisa M. Dawson, 149 S. Ridgewood Ave., Suite 310, Daytona Beach, public reprimand and ordered to attend Ethics School effective immediately following a January 4 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006). Dawson neglected a client’s family law matter and failed to properly withdraw from the representation. Dawson also failed to inform the client that she closed her private law practice. The court dismissed the client’s case, citing a lack of record activity or appearances. (Case No. SC23-0998)

Paul DeCailly, P.O. Box 17793, Clearwater, suspended until such time as DeCailly fully responds in writing to the official Bar inquiry, effective 30 days following a January 25 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) DeCailly failed to respond to official Bar inquiries and the Florida Supreme Court’s Order to Show Cause. On January 25, the court issued an order granting The Florida Bar’s Petition for Contempt and Order Show Cause, suspending DeCailly from the practice of law until he fully responds in writing to the Bar’s inquiry. (Case No. SC23-1653)

Glenn Burdette Grevengoed, 3730 7th Terrace, Vero Beach, public reprimand effective immediately following a January 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2004) The court held Grevengoed in contempt for failing to timely respond to The Florida Bar’s subpoena requesting trust account records. (Case No. SC23-1378)

John Spencer Jenkins, 101 N.E. 3rd Ave, Suite 1500, Ft. Lauderdale, emergency suspension effective immediately following a January 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2012) Jenkins represented the personal representative of an estate. Jenkins has misappropriated over $400,000 in estate funds by removing those funds from the trust account without authorization and using those entrusted funds for purposes not intended by the estate. (Case No. SC2024-0022)

Ryan M. Layton, 101 North J St., Lake Worth, suspended until further order of the Court, effective 30 days following a January 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) The Florida Bar filed a petition for contempt and order to show cause after Layton failed to respond to the Bar’s investigative inquiries. Subsequently, Layton failed to respond to the Florida Supreme Court’s order to show cause, and the court entered an order suspending him until such time as he responds to the Bar’s investigative inquiries and until further order of the court. (Case No. SC2023-1672)

Hubbell Clay Losson, 701 77th Ave. North, #55640, St. Petersburg, held in contempt of court and suspended from the practice of law until he fully responds in writing to the official Bar inquiry and until further order of the court, effective 30 days following a January 24 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Losson failed to respond to an official Bar inquiry in Florida Bar File No. 2023-10,297(13E). The Florida Bar filed a Petition for Contempt and Order to Show Cause on November 20, 2023, and the Florida Supreme Court ordered Losson to show cause by December 6, 2023. Losson failed to file a response to the court’s Order to Show Cause. Losson has been held in contempt of court and is ordered to be suspended until he fully responds in writing to the official Bar inquiry and until further order of the court. (Case No. SC23-1604)

Ronald Stuart Lubetsky, 220 S.W. Natura Ave., Deerfield Beach, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission in five years, effective immediately following a December 14, 2023, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2002) Lubetsky was found guilty on seven counts of knowingly and intentionally dispensing a controlled substance without authorization by law, five counts involving oxycodone and two counts involving oxycodone and morphine. Thereafter, Lubetsky was sentenced to 60 months in prison. On September 7, the Bar filed a Notice of Determination of Judgment of Guilt, and the court issued an order suspending Lubetsky from the practice of law on same date. On October 26, Lubetsky filed a Petition for Disciplinary Revocation with Leave to Apply for Readmission. (Case No. SC2023-1484)

Rafael Antonio Perez, 2525 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Suite 300, Coral Gables, disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission effective 30 days following a December 28, 2023, court order. (Admitted to practice: 1987) A client retained Perez to represent him in a commercial loan transaction. Rather than proceed with the transaction as directed, Perez engaged in delaying the transaction, failed to follow client’s instructions, and failed to return client’s monies from his trust account upon demand. (Case No. SC23-1575)

Jacob Aaron Weil, 2307 N. Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdaledisciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years, effective immediately following a December 21, 2023, court order. (Admitted to practice: 2018) Weil filed a Petition for Disciplinary Revocation with Leave to Apply for Readmission based upon allegations that included abandoning clients and his failure to account for and misuse of client trust funds. (Case No. SC2023-1228)

Emily Christine Williams, 2411 Cold Stream Ln., Green Cove Springs, suspended for 91 days effective February 12, 2024, following a January 11 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Williams engaged in misconduct involving incompetence, inadequate communication with clients, and lack of diligence in family law and guardianship cases. Williams also entered a plea of no contest on a misdemeanor criminal charge. As a result, the court, in an order dated January 11, suspended Williams. (Case No. SC22-1778)

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Division of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 111,000 members of The Florida Bar. Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined. The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline. Disbarred lawyers may not reapply for admission for five years. They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam. Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation. Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

Full Article & Source:
February 1, 2024 Disciplinary Actions

Friday, February 16, 2024

Judge rules in favor of Texans owner Janice McNair, denies older son's request for cognitive exam

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 26: Paul Dobrowski, lawyer for Janice McNair, fights a motion by lawyers for Cary McNair before Judge Jerry Simoneaux on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024 in Houston. Cary McNair applied for guardianship of his mother, Janice McNair, co-owner of the Texans. (Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images) © Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

A Houston judge ruled in favor of Texans owner Janice McNair on Tuesday, denying her oldest son's request for an independent medical exam to determine her mental capacity, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Robert Cary McNair Jr. is seeking guardianship, with his attorneys arguing that a stroke in January 2022 left Janice McNair mentally incapacitated with limited ability to conduct business.

Cal McNair, her other son who is CEO and chair of the Texans, and Janice McNair’s attorneys argued the 87-year-old widow of Bob McNair already has undergone examinations by two doctors.

“On behalf of Mrs. McNair, and everyone who opposed the motion, we are pleased with Judge [Jerry] Simoneaux’s order denying Cary McNair’s motion for an independent medical examination of Mrs. McNair,” Don Jackson, the attorney for Janice McNair, told the newspaper. “We want to thank Judge Simoneaux and his staff for their diligent efforts.”

Janice McNair's attorneys are expected to ask Simoneaux to dismiss the probate case.

Cary McNair's attorneys originally filed the application for guardianship on Nov. 27.

Full Article & Source:
Judge rules in favor of Texans owner Janice McNair, denies older son's request for cognitive exam

See Also:
Houston Texans owner Janice McNair's son testifies she couldn't remember names of grandchildren

Family searching for 86-year-old man who was taken by younger woman after court granted daughter guardianship

"His credit cards are maxed out. They're in arrears in excess of 150 days past due. His annuity is being sought after by her. His 401k is gone."

Author: Mike Jimenez

SAN ANTONIO — For more than a year, the family of an elderly man has been searching for him. Now they're asking for the public's help. 

San Antonio police say 86-year-old Marlon Hahn was taken by a woman he was living with after a court granted his daughter, Norma Rose, emergency guardianship.

"I'm very concerned about my dad," said Rose. 

She said her father met a much younger woman at church about a year ago. Since then, she said, the woman eventually moved in with him and cut off contact with his family.

Rose said she had to hire a private investigator to track her father down.

"Angelique was able to get us the address, the car license plate, vin numbers—everything."

After finding where her father was staying, she was able to file for emergency guardianship, which was granted. But when she went to pick up her father at the apartment he was staying at with the woman, they were no longer living there.

"She took my dad with her again," Rose said. "Now we don't know where he is again."

Rose said her father's accounts have been drained.

"All his credit cards are maxed out. They're in arrears in excess of 150 days past due. His annuity is being sought after by here.  His 401(k) is gone."

The concerns don't end there. According to Rose, her father's annuity is valued at $175,000 and the woman he's believed to be with has filed a lawsuit against the insurance company to try and cash it out.

A name of the woman and photos were provided to KENS 5 by the attorney and family, but SAPD were not able to confirm she is the suspect in Hahn's disappearance.

Rose said before she lost contact with her father, she took him in for testing which showed he was in need of constant care.

"He was diagnosed with onset dementia, so there were three mini cognitive test that were done," she said. "He failed them all."

Rose said her father needs to be with her family and she will not stop looking for him.

"It's like when your missing a child, you don't know if they're eating or are they cold or are they being looked after. Are they being taken care of? What's going on through his mind? His mind is that of a child," said Rose.

SAPD is asking that anyone who knows the whereabouts of Hahn to please contact their missing persons division at 210-207-7660.

Full Article & Source:
Family searching for 86-year-old man who was taken by younger woman after court granted daughter guardianship

Thursday, February 15, 2024

6 Investigates: Dementia wheelchair-bound resident escapes Pelican Pointe nursing home

Photo by: clara benitez-cortez

By: Clara Benitez

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On December 18th, the Corpus Christi Police Department responded to a welfare call regarding an elderly man in a wheelchair stuck on some grass on the 3300 block of Houston Street right after midnight.

Officers took the elderly man to Doctors Regional Hospital for further evaluation, learning the man was a dementia patient at Pelican Pointe Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center.

KRIS 6 Investigates learned the man, had just become a resident at the facility, and staff at the nursing home were not aware of his disappearance until contacted by authorities.

It is unknown, how long he was missing.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services, when an incident like this happens in a nursing home – it needs to be reported immediately.

A former employee of the nursing home, which KRIS6 has decided not to identify due to retaliation, says after the administrator found out about the patient leaving the facility - he wanted to change the scenario and say the man left against medical advice.

Question: “In your 38 years, or just in your time have you ever seen the administrators want to change the story or send a patient to another facility so they wouldn’t be interviewed by the state?”

“No,” the former employee responded.

Pelican Pointe Nursing Home, registered as San Rafael Nursing Home, received three immediate jeopardy citations in 2023. Immediate jeopardy is the highest level of non-compliance a nursing home can receive.

Their most recent incident is considered an elopement, which is another immediate jeopardy.

When nursing homes receive these citations, they are required to fix all the violations. If it is not fixed, the state could take enforcement against the provider including termination of the Medicaid agreement.

“The facility must ensure the noncompliance is corrected before the termination date. Providers have 6 months to come into compliance or risk termination of the provider agreement. Plan of Corrections must be submitted within 10 days of receipt of the 2567 form. In the plan, the facility provides the date by which they believe they will have the noncompliance corrected, which is usually between 30-45 days or less.“

“They resigned basically because of the moral and ethical issues being asked to do something - change documentation or the actual happenings to basically say something different that did not occur,” the former employee said.

KRIS 6 investigates reached out to Pelican Pointe regarding the most recent elopement:

“Pelican Pointe serves its residents and community. We respect residents’ time and freedom to live fulfilling lives. Pelican Pointe strongly disagrees with the recent citation and will appeal it. The recent sharp increase in citations for nursing homes interrupts resident care, and leads to facility closures resulting in loss of jobs and forced relocation of innocent residents as seen from Focused Care at Corpus Christi this year.”

KRIS 6, reached out to Baker and Baker Elder Law – which is the legal guardian for the elderly man in a wheelchair and they did not respond to an update on their client.

According to the former employee, the administrator sent the man to another facility in San Antonio to prevent him from getting interviewed by the state.

On top of this incident and the three immediate jeopardy citations, there are still conditions that are not sanitary or livable according to the former employee.

“They have staff that does not have the credentials to be working there - and not certified as required by the state the administrator starts to cover up for the filthiness in that kitchen. Rodents in the kitchen, raw food being served. Inappropriate diets being served, the texture of the food not being appropriate for the patient's diet which can cause aspiration on death and he consistently keeps covering for these individuals in charge of the kitchen and they just got cited,” the former employee stated.

To see nursing home ratings head to the and enter the name of your nursing home. There you can see the overall ratings for each nursing home in your area.

Full Article & Source:
6 Investigates: Dementia wheelchair-bound resident escapes Pelican Pointe nursing home

Madison County lawyer permanently disbarred after 13 complaints, previous violations

by Sarah Best 

Madison County lawyer Angela Joy Hopson, 45, was disbarred permanently on Friday on 13 separate complaints concerning several professional conduct violations.

Hopson was ordered to pay $35,234 to eight individuals in restitution, according to a report from the Supreme Court of Tennessee's Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR).

Per the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), Hopson was found guilty of multiple of the following offenses:

  • failing to prosecute cases diligently
  • failing to refund unearned fees
  • failing to appear
  • failing to communicate with clients
  • misappropriating client money
  • misleading clients and failing to notify clients of their case status
  • charging an unreasonable fee
  • engaging in unauthorized practice of law while suspended
  • failing to respond to the Board [of Professional Responsibility]

Licensed in the state to practice law since 2003, Hopson has had a checkered past with RPC violations, resulting in public censures and suspensions from practicing law in 2014, 2018 and 2021 ranging from 30 days to one year.

Hopson routinely disregarded complaints of ethical violations brought before her by the Board. Of the 13 complaints, Hopson was ultimately disbarred permanently for, she failed to respond to 12, according to an Oct. 2 report from the BPR.

By Order of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Hopson was issued a temporary suspension on July 28, 2021 for failing to respond to an unrelated complaint. Per her disbarring, the Board dissolved the prior temporary suspension.

With a BOPR status code of "Disbarred Permanently," Hopson's status as a lawyer is terminated, and she will not have the opportunity to be reinstated after five years like a "Disbarred" coded lawyer would.

She has ninety days to pay the restitution and must comply with the responsibilities of a disbarred attorney under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 2.

Full Article & Source:
Madison County lawyer permanently disbarred after 13 complaints, previous violations

Woman charged for the financial exploitation of elderly person

by Erin Thompson

LEWISTOWN — A Milroy woman is facing felony charges after police said she took more than $26,000 from an elderly person while they were under her care.

Debbie Lynn Rickabaugh, 58, was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Kent Smith Monday on charges of theft by deception, receiving stolen property and financial exploitation of an older adult or care dependent person.

According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause, a family contacted Lewistown Borough Police Department, stating that Rickabaugh had been taking advantage of an elderly person who she had been caring for since August.

Police said Rickabaugh was hired by the family of the elderly in August to work 20 hours per week and that Rickabaugh began cashing checks for the family in early September.

The report states that the elderly person’s checking account had been declining in November and that several checks had been made out to Rickabaugh. The family noticed that several of the checks stated large amounts of hours worked in the memo line.

Police said the family again checked the account in January and found large discrepancies in the account.

During 21 weeks of employment, police said Rickabaugh made out about $26,443 in checks to herself and the elderly person had signed them in good faith that the amount was correct.

Rickabaugh was held in Mifflin County Correctional Facility on $25,000 unsecured bail. She is awaiting a preliminary hearing set for 9 a.m. Feb. 21 in Smith’s office.

Full Article & Source:
Woman charged for the financial exploitation of elderly person

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

NBA star Tristan Thompson seeks sole custody of disabled brother, cannot locate their father

NBA Champion Tristan Thompson poses with his little brother Amari Thompson at The Amari Thompson Soiree 2019 in support of Epilepsy Toronto held at The Globe and Mail Centre on August 1, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

By Karu F. Daniels

Tristan Thompson wants to be appointed conservator of his disabled teenage brother after their father went missing.

According to recently filed court documents, the NBA star is seeking to become the sole legal guardian and conservator for his 17-year-old brother, Amari — who is confined to a wheelchair due to a severe neurological disorder.

Tristan, who has two children with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian, has served as the primary caregiver of his younger sibling since their mother, Andrea Brooks, died last year.

 He claimed in his legal filing, obtained by ET, that their father, Trevor Douglas Thompson, “abandoned” his brother and “failed to pay any child support despite the court order” issued in 2014.

“I have not had any contact with him since his separation from our late mother in 2014, and contact was minimal prior to that date,” the Cleveland Cavaliers center claimed.

“My only contact with Trevor Thompson in the past nine years was a brief interaction when he appeared at my mother’s funeral. I have no knowledge of his current or recent whereabouts.”

Tristan, 32, noted that the legal experts he hired to locate his father were unable to track him down.

Both brothers began living with Kardashian in her California home after their mother’s unexpected 2023 death of a heart attack. Tristan is seeking legal guardianship so he can better manage Amiri’s finances and healthcare with less difficulty.

Full Article & Source:
NBA star Tristan Thompson seeks sole custody of disabled brother, cannot locate their father

Elowski tells court the money is gone

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Michelle Elowski, present at her hearing via Zoom, is questioned about her ability to comply with court orders at the Probate Court on Monday.

by Mike Gonzalez

ALPENA — Alpena Attorney Michelle Elowski testified in Alpena’s Probate Court on Monday that over $550,000 she managed on behalf of two Alpena families is no longer in her possession and that she cannot purge the contempts.

Elowski faced back-to-back hearings starting at 8:15 a.m. Monday in court after being ordered to hand over $287,794 to the estate of Kenneth Mausolf and $270,908 to the Trueman Harrison and Modesta Harrison Trust, according to court records.

The original amount that was ordered by the court for the estate of Kenneth Mausolf was $502,969, but after reviewing accounting information from Elowski, the court found that some properties of the estate have not been sold yet and updated the order to $287,794 that should have been in Elowski’s control.

However, Elowski, in both hearings, testified that the money is no longer available as she no longer possesses the amount needed.

“Sometimes, in order to get your life back, you have to face the death of the life that you thought you were going to have and I’m at that point,” Elowski said before telling the court of her inability to purge the contempts. “I’m prepared to say today what needs to be said in order to handle this particular order.”

Judge Alan Curtis ordered extra hearings to understand how the money is no longer in Elowski’s possession, but could not say when that will be.

The most that Curtis could say was that hearings would likely happen on another Monday within a few weeks.

He also could not hold her in jail anymore, as Elowski directly answered whether she could comply with the court orders, so she will be released soon.

Elowski’s attorney with the Northeast Michigan Regional Defender Office declined to comment for this story. Attorneys for the Mausolf and Harrison families couldn’t be reached for comment on this story.

Tracie Schaedig, a family member involved in the Harrison Trust case, said she hoped to see Elowski stay in custody until she purged the contempts.

“We have several outstanding orders regarding our cases and to see Ms. Elowski released from custody is a huge disservice to our community,” Schaedig said. “We sometimes find ourselves asking when the justice system will crack down on crimes such as these, but we are trying to keep our faith. We will continue to stand up, speak out, and encourage others to do the same.”

Elowski, while soon to be out of jail, does not have her driver’s license or passport and must wear a tether due to her bond requirements from an arraignment on Feb. 2 in Oscoda County on two counts of common law fraud, one count of check fraud with non-sufficient funds of $500 or more, one count of embezzlement by a trustee of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, and one count of embezzlement by a trustee of $50,000 or more but less than $100,000.

Elowski posted bond in Oscoda County but was then immediately transferred and booked in the Alpena County Jail on Feb. 3 because of two bench warrants she faced for contempt of court in the Mausolf and Harrison cases.

A preliminary examination, at which a judge will decide if the prosecution has enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial, was originally set for Feb. 12 but was recently adjourned to April 2.

State Police Specialist Lt. Derrick Carroll, a public information officer, said police expect to seek more charges and to identify more victims, but at the moment no arrest warrants are out for Elowski.

Full Article & Source:
Elowski tells court the money is gone

Navigating Disputes in Probate Court

When someone passes away, the probate process ensures that the deceased’s estate fulfills its debts and that the heirs receive their assets. The deceased’s will dictates how to settle and distribute their assets and debts. (If no will exists, state intestacy laws apply.) When a legal dispute arises during the process of probate, probate litigation may ensue.

Most matters the probate courts handle, like admitting wills and assigning executors, are standard operating procedures and go uncontested. However, legal contests arising from a person’s death or mental capacity may lead to probate litigation over powers of attorney, will and trust contests, guardianships, and living wills.

Common Legal Concerns in Probate Court

Some common problems leading to probate litigations include the following:

Will Contests

Questions sometimes surface about the validity of a will. Interested parties may dispute the deceased person’s will or allege undue influence or fraud. Or they might argue that the person who made the will (testator) lacked the mental capacity to create a valid will. (Read more about how a no-contest clause in your estate plan can help prevent challenges to your will or trust.)

Estate Administration Disputes

Likewise, disagreements may arise among heirs, executors, or administrators regarding the management and distribution of estate assets. These arguments can include allegations of mismanagement or conflicts over the interpretation of the will or trust provisions.

Claims Against the Estate

Creditors or individuals may believe they have a rightful claim to the deceased person’s assets. They then may seek to file claims against the estate. Claims can include outstanding debts, unresolved contracts, or disputed property ownership.

Guardianship Disputes

In disputes over appointing a guardian for a minor or a disabled adult, probate litigation can also result. Concerns about the actions of an appointed guardian or conservator may lead to probate litigation, too.

Breach of Trust

By law, executors, administrators, and trustees must act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Allegations of misconduct, self-dealing, or failure to fulfill these obligations may lead to litigation.

Document Interpretation

Disputes may arise over the interpretation of a will, trust, or other estate planning documents. These conflicts can involve disagreements about:

  • the intended meaning of certain provisions,

  • the scope of powers granted to trustees or executors, or

  • the distribution of assets among beneficiaries.

Family Disputes

Family dynamics can often lead to probate litigation, especially with strained relationships, blended families, or unequal distributions of assets. Sibling rivalry, disputes with former spouses, or decisions to cut off certain heirs can result in legal challenges.

Individuals marrying multiple times without a prenuptial agreement are also likely to incite probate litigation upon their death. Life insurance trusts can be a valuable way to separate the interests of the decedent’s spouses and children.

Probate, Estate, and Trust Litigation Attorneys

If you anticipate probate litigation, an experienced estate administration attorney can provide you with guidance. They will be able to explain your rights and options to prevent future problems. If you are involved in a dispute, a probate litigation attorney can help you navigate the legal system and resolve it. Some attorneys specialize specifically in conflicts with trust administration and litigation.

Consider your legal situation as well as an attorney’s experience, reputation, and track record when handling similar matters. Feeling comfortable working with them is essential.

Early Steps in Probate Litigation

In probate litigation, your attorney plays a key role in representing your interests while navigating the legal process. All things begin with an initial lawyer consultation to discuss your case’s details, goals, and concerns.

Your attorney will evaluate the strength of your claims or defenses. They also can explain the legal process, potential outcomes, and available strategies to achieve your objectives. Most states have strict statutes of limitations, so the earlier you contact a probate litigation lawyer, the better.

An experienced attorney can thoroughly research your case’s relevant laws, precedents, and regulations. They will analyze the facts and circumstances to develop a legal strategy tailored to your situation. They’ll also review all relevant documents, including wills, financial records, trusts, and other evidence relating to the dispute. Your attorney will then prepare and draft such legal documents as complaints, petitions, answers, motions, and discovery requests.

Probate Court Processes

Probate litigation hearings and trials usually take place in the county probate court where the decedent died. The attorney you choose to work with should be familiar with the county probate court where the case is being tried.

Your attorney will engage in the discovery process by gathering evidence, documents, and depositions from other parties. They will also respond to discovery requests from the opposing party. Each side will advocate for their client’s interests and work to reach a favorable settlement if possible. They will also advise them on the merits of accepting or rejecting settlement offers.

Trial preparation and representation will occur if the settlement phase fails. In this situation, your lawyer would prepare you for trial, make legal arguments, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and present your case to the court. Throughout the process, they are responsible for helping you make informed decisions regarding the direction of your case.

Find an Estate Planning Attorney

Probate court can elicit high emotions and tense interactions. You may, for instance, see significant disruption to family relationships. These sorts of disputes could open the estate to creditor lawsuits as well.

Estate administration and probate litigation attorneys assist in preventing these kinds of estate-related contests. With a qualified professional, you can execute a proper estate plan. This can reduce the likelihood of probate litigation happening in the first place. Search for an estate planning attorney near you today.

Full Article & Source:
Navigating Disputes in Probate Court

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

OPINION: Continued crisis in NM's guardianship system not helped by disinterested officials

By Lorraine Mendiola

As a New Mexican born and raised in this state, it is my right to contact New Mexico legislators with concerns that affect many vulnerable New Mexicans and their families.

As an advocate for all vulnerable New Mexicans — children, the elderly, and the disabled — it is my duty to educate legislators on my experiences and knowledge of the continued crisis in the guardianship system as well as the deficiencies in how the protected person’s health and welfare is being protected.

However, my attempts to contact my legislators have been unsuccessful. On June 29, 2023, I emailed Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, regarding my concerns with the licensure of boarding homes by the Department of Health. I have testified before the House Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2017 on this topic.

Because I received no response from either legislator, I sent a follow-up email on July 10, 2023. I also sent a letter to their home addresses in August and left a voicemail message on their home phones in September. All contact information was obtained from the New Mexico legislative website and other public domain websites. I have not heard from either Sen. Rodriguez or Rep. Serrato.

This issue has been an ongoing one since 2010 despite the fact that individuals have died in boarding homes across the state. Disability Rights New Mexico filed a Writ of Mandamus to force the DOH to create a Rules and Regulations Policy to include boarding homes for licensure.

The DOH finally created their policy in 2020. It took this agency 10 years to create this Rules and Regulations Policy. This policy is so rigid that it would take tens of thousands of dollars for boarding home owners to become compliant with it. As a result of the monetary strain placed on these boarding home owners, only three boarding homes in the state have been licensed by the DOH. This is unacceptable.

At the Oct. 18, 2023, LHHS Interim Committee meeting DOH Cabinet Secretary Patrick Allen and Chris Burmeister, director of Division of Health Improvement, gave a very quick presentation regarding the difficulties with the licensure of boarding homes. However, after announcing that only three boarding homes have been licensed, they provided no concrete solution to solving the problem. These are the individuals who are in charge of the DOH.

There is no accountability and oversight of these very vulnerable New Mexicans — the mentally ill. Many of these individuals are in a court-appointed guardianship/conservatorship. Why has this population been overlooked for the last 10 years or more? This is a human and civil rights issue.

When will the governor, Legislature, the DOH and the courts take responsibility for these individuals?

Full Article & Source:
OPINION: Continued crisis in NM's guardianship system not helped by disinterested officials

Tristan Thompson Slams Estranged Father Trevor For ‘Abandoning’ Disabled Brother as NBA Star Fights for Guardianship of 17-Year-Old

By:Ryan Naumann

NBA star Tristan Thompson was back in court as part of his effort to become the permanent guardian of his 17-year-old disabled brother Amari.  

According to court documents obtained by, this week, Thompson and his legal team presented more details in court after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge requested additional information. 

Last year, Thompson was appointed temporary guardian of his brother months after their mother Andrea died.  

Amari was diagnosed with epilepsy and other medical conditions that require around-the-clock support. Since Andrea’s passing, Tristan said he has been taking care of his brother.

Tristan has been attempting to be named permanent guardian of Amari but the court has yet to grant his petition – due to the judge asking for more information.

In his paperwork, Tristan explained “Amari is a minor and has medical conditions that render him unable to take care of himself or seek gainful employment. Appointing a guardian for Amari would be in his best interest because it would ensure that someone would be responsible for providing and fulfilling his basic needs.”

Tristan said Amari is set to inherit $114k from their mother and he wants to invest it for his brother. In addition, Tristan said as guardian he would enroll his sibling in school, ensure he had the proper healthcare, and it would allow him to travel internationally with him. 

“Tristan has been taking care of Amari since their mother died in January of 2023. Tristan has ensured that Amari has made of all his medical appointments, has had all of his basic needs met, and has provided him with a quality of life that none of Amari's other living relatives can meet,” the petition added.

In the new filing, Tristan provided more details of the relationship with his estranged father Trevor Thompson. Previously, the NBA star said he had no contact with Trevor and did not have an address for him to serve him with notice of the hearing for guardianship.

Full Article & Source:
Tristan Thompson Slams Estranged Father Trevor For ‘Abandoning’ Disabled Brother as NBA Star Fights for Guardianship of 17-Year-Old

Monday, February 12, 2024

Floridians with disabilities are getting closer to a legal pathway to make their own decisions

By: Jackie Llanos

Michael Lincoln-McCreight (second from the left) has been advocating for Florida’s recognition of supportive decison-making for more than four years. Photo taken on Feb. 8, 2024, by Jackie Llanos/Florida Phoenix

For four years, Michael Lincoln-McCreight has tried to convince Florida lawmakers to grant people with disabilities a legal path to make their own choices. That could come true this session because the proposal he’s been advocating for is headed to the Senate and House floors.

When a court deems a person with a disability unable to make decisions for themselves, it places them under a guardianship. Lincoln-McCreight was in that situation for two years — during which, he says, his guardian was abusive and even kept him from leaving the house. He found a way out of the guardianship through an arrangement called supportive decision-making, which restored his ability to make his own choices.

That’s allowed under existing law, but the bill would codify these arrangements as a legal standard.

“Back in 2016, I won my rights back and I became the first person in Florida to get supported decision-making recognized. I started working with Disability Rights Florida. I chaired a campaign called ‘I decide,’ which is basically … trying to get a law passed,” Lincoln-McCreight told Florida Phoenix.

“Florida would be part of other states that actually already have a supported decision-making law, so it’s going to just add to how good of a product that supported decision-making is.”

Supportive decision-making agreements could provide Floridians with disabilities an alternative before they are placed under a guardianship. Courts would have to explain why they want to place a person in guardianship over the less restrictive method of supportive decision-making.

Although the arrangements vary depending on the person’s ability, the proposal would keep intact the person’s autonomy to have a final say over what happens in their life while allowing “supporters” to obtain information on the person’s behalf and communicate their wishes.

Eighteen states and D.C. have enacted laws recognizing supportive decision-making agreements, according to the Center for Public Representation, a national legal advocacy center for people with disabilities.

Reps. Allison Tant, a Democrat representing Jefferson and Leon counties, and Traci Koster, a Republican from Hillsborough, co-sponsored the House proposal, HB 73. The topic is personal for Tant because she has a son with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic condiction with symptoms including developmental delays. She believes the bill could finally become law this session. So far, neither the Senate nor House proposals have drawn any opponents.

“This is going to help so many families. Not only will it help families, it’s going to help people like Michael and my son. … When we first started this four years ago, there was no traction between Disability Rights Florida and the legal side of this. I could not get the sides to work together,” Tant said Thursday during a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Second year, we had a bill that we really worked hard on but just couldn’t get it to the finish line. We finally have this work product.”

This is the furthest the supportive decision-making measures have made it in the House. Lincoln-McCreight hopes to be there if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the bill into law.

“My mission: Get this in front of the governor and have him sign it into law because this is going to open doors for people to make outstanding decisions. I went from being in a guardianship to working in my dream job at Universal Orlando Resort as a food and beverage associate,” Lincoln-McCreight said.

Full Article & Source:
Floridians with disabilities are getting closer to a legal pathway to make their own decisions

Houston Texans owner Janice McNair's son testifies she couldn't remember names of grandchildren

By Nicole Hensley

Robert Cary McNair Jr. listens during a hearing about a Janice McNair guardianship request Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in probate court at the Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston. Robert, who goes by Cary, is a son of Janice McNair and the late Bob McNair. On Nov. 27 he submitted an application of guardianship of an adult person and estate, according to court records. His 87-year-old mother is opposing the application, as is Cal McNair her son who serves as the chairman and CEO of the Houston Texans.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

Members of a generational wealth trust’s board for the family of Texans founder Bob McNair questioned the cognitive ability of his widow and the football team’s principal owner, Janice McNair, in the months after her 2022 stroke, her son testified in court Friday.

Cary McNair, 64, who is seeking a guardianship be appointed over her, testified the Palmetto Trust Company board later removed her as a trustee and that her cognitive decline continued.

Janice McNair, 87, who is fighting the guardianship, was not present for the bench hearing over whether she would be ordered to undergo an independent medical examination. Her son has requested the third-party examination because he believes two prior exams were not independent.

The hearing is expected to continue Monday.

Cary McNair’s testimony in Harris County probate court heralded waves of objection as dozens of attorneys for family stakeholders protested the questioning by his lawyer, Jeremy Fielding, for skirting close to disclosing personal medical records and coveted business minutiae. A lawyer for the NFL team expressed their “vested interest” in the proceedings and worried about the range of information that could be disclosed.

Judge Jerry Simoneaux said disclosures of “embarrassing facts” are part of the guardianship process. Some details that fall under the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act could be discussed in a closed courtroom setting, he said.

Judge Jerry Simoneaux accepts a document from Paul Dobrowski during a hearing about a Janice McNair guardianship request Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in probate court at the Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

The son contends Janice McNair began having “progressive memory problems” after the 2018 death of his father but that her cognitive health declined after the stroke that left her partially paralyzed.

A lawyer for his brother, Cal McNair, 63, the Texans’ CEO since 2019, voiced the bulk of the objections as the hearing stretched on for most of the day. The sibling has protested the guardianship attempt, contending their mother does not have any significant mental health problems.

The judge filtered out most of Fielding’s proposed evidence, including records containing the board’s minutes, and tried steering his questions toward determining whether the McNair matriarch needs another medical examination.

During his testimony, Cary McNair cited an instance where she was unable to remember the names of his children. She also made unsound decisions, the son alleged. 

She sold the family ranch to his brother, Cal, at a lower value than the property’s worth to the surprise to several family members. Cary McNair confronted her. She said she wanted her children treated equally but the sale showed otherwise, he testified.

“It was an important asset to family,” he said. “We were livid.”

He made clear during the last Thanksgiving holiday that he planned to have her undergo an exam to her objection. He sought the guardianship days later.

“I’d be having the same conversation with my father if he was here,” he testified.

Cal McNair’s lawyer, Paul Dobrowski, defended Janice McNair’s decision to refuse the exams. The court’s suggestion that he appoint an outside doctor was also rebuffed. 

“She wants to be left alone and, in her advanced years, enjoy life,” Dobrowski said. “Instead she’s got her son at her door.”

Paul Dobrowski, who represents Cal McNair, listens during a hearing about a Janice McNair guardianship request Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in probate court at the Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston. Robert Cary McNair Jr., a son of Janice McNair and the late Bob McNair, on Nov. 27 submitted an application of guardianship of an adult person and estate, according to court records. Janice McNair, 87, is opposing the application, as is Cal McNair, her son who serves as the chairman and CEO of the Houston Texans.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

Both sides questioned Dr. Chris Merkl, a Houston physician with expertise in geriatric psychiatry whom Janice McNair hired and allowed to interview her for about a half hour at her home. During the interview, Janice McNair said several family members had raised questions about her mental capacity.

Merkl found no sign of cognitive issues during the interview, he testified.

“She was witty and interesting and extremely gracious,” Merkl said.

Fielding argued that Merkl’s exam was not independent and that another review was needed.

Dr. James Pool, Janice McNair’s longtime physician, also testified that he did not believe her to be incapacitated. 

Janice McNair discussed the guardianship proceedings during a recent meeting with her doctor. She simply said, “I’m sad,” and did not elaborate, Pool testified.

“It’s enough for a great Southern lady to express an emotion that’s adverse in her life,” Pool said in court. “It’s not my place to begin to dwell on that subject with her.”

Jeremy Fielding, who represents Robert Cary McNair Jr., listens to an objection during a hearing about a Janice McNair guardianship request Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in probate court at the Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston. Fielding represents Robert, who goes by Cary.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

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Houston Texans owner Janice McNair's son testifies she couldn't remember names of grandchildren