Saturday, May 25, 2024

Pennsylvania's New Guardianship Law: Strengthening Protections, Diminishing Elder Abuse, And Shaping The Future Of Guardianship Work

In 2008, Britney Spears was appointed two legal guardians: her father, Jamie Spears, and attorney Andre Wallet. The conservatorship was allegedly born out of Spears’ public deterioration, which included the assault of a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella, inpatient rehabilitation, psychiatric hospitalizations, and the loss of custody of her children. Thirteen years later, and following years of suspected and alleged abuse perpetrated by her father under the guise of guardianship, the viral #FreeBritney movement achieved its goal. In November of 2021, Britney Spears’ conservatorship was officially terminated.

High profile cases like Spears’ have pushed guardianship matters — and the potential for abuse of guardianship arrangements — to the forefront. States like New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and California changed their legal guardianship laws, aiming to reduce the number of people under these arrangements, while simultaneously increasing protection.

Pennsylvania, too, has a new guardianship law that fortifies protections for vulnerable individuals. On December 14, 2023, Governor Josh Shapiro signed into law Act 61 of 2023, sponsored by Senators Lisa Baker (R-20) and Art Haywood (D-4). Act 61 will become effective in June 2024. The law amends Title 20 Decedents, Estates and Fiduciaries of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, and  includes three main provisions: (1) requiring the appointment of counsel for alleged incapacitated individuals subject to a guardianship petition; (2) mandating the certification of professional guardians; and (3) requiring that petitions for guardianships show there are no alternative, less restrictive options for alleged incapacitated individuals besides guardianship. The law also includes measures to prevent long-term guardianship for individuals if their circumstances change.

Guardianship appointments are designed to serve crucial purposes, including assistance to incapacitated individuals in making financial, health, and personal decisions. A plenary guardianship enables the guardian to make all decisions for the incapacitated individual. There are currently over 19,000 active guardianships in Pennsylvania managing over $1.6 billion in assets. Most of these guardianships are plenary. However, an unsettling trend has emerged in the Commonwealth: a rise in the number of guardianships being implemented and an increase in the incidence of abuse and exploitation associated within these arrangements. This guardianship legislation aims to curb this trend.

Before Act 61 of 2023, the guardianship law in Pennsylvania provided alleged incapacitated individuals “the right ... to have counsel appointed if the court deems it appropriate,” but failed to define an appropriate case. Pennsylvania has been one of a few states that has not mandated the appointment of counsel in guardianship proceedings. Now, and regardless of the ability to pay, the court “shall appoint counsel to present the alleged incapacitated person in any matter for which counsel has not been retained by the alleged incapacitated person ....” The new law ensures that alleged incapacitated individuals have zealous advocates by their side throughout the legal process. This provision explicitly distinguishes appointed counsel from a guardian ad litem, whose role focuses on determining the best interests of the individual. Rule 1.14 of the Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct (“Client with Diminished Capacity”) reinforces this distinction, emphasizing that the attorney should maintain a “normal client-lawyer relationship” with an alleged incapacitated individual. The Act’s clarification on this point underscores the importance of providing independent legal representation to safeguard individuals’ rights and autonomy, rather than merely promoting the “best interests” of alleged incapacitated persons.

The mandatory appointment of counsel and the emphasis on less restrictive alternatives will make guardianship proceedings more complex. These measures will lead to the involvement of additional attorneys. Furthermore, guardianship matters are likely to undergo closer scrutiny by judges, potentially leading to an increased number of witnesses being called during hearings. As a result, petitioners may experience more resource-intensive and costly proceedings.

The new guardianship law in Pennsylvania marks a significant milestone in protecting the rights and interests of individuals facing guardianship petitions. The mandatory appointment of counsel ensures that alleged incapacitated individuals have dedicated legal advocates, separate from the role of a guardian ad litem. While this new provision strengthens the guardianship process to ensure that alleged incapacitated persons are protected, it also has introduced a complexity and need for experienced counsel.

Full Article & Source:
Pennsylvania's New Guardianship Law: Strengthening Protections, Diminishing Elder Abuse, And Shaping The Future Of Guardianship Work

Casey Holds Hearing on Local Impact of the Older Americans Act

May 23, 2024

Pennsylvanians testified at hearing about the importance of programs like Meals on Wheels, senior community centers, and home- and community-based services, which are funded by the Older Americans Act

At hearing, Casey committed to fighting to keep these programs authorized and fully funded

Watch full hearing video here

Washington, D.C. - Today, at a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) highlighted how programs funded by the Older Americans Act (OAA), such as Meals On Wheels, senior community centers, and home- and community-based services, play a critical role in keeping American seniors active, healthy, and connected to their communities. Older Americans experience disproportionate levels of loneliness, isolation, and difficulty accessing meals and health care services, and OAA-funded programs provide a lifeline for seniors struggling to meet these needs. The hearing, entitled The Older Americans Act: The Local Impact of the Law and the Upcoming Reauthorization,” featured testimony from experts and Pennsylvanian beneficiaries about the importance of ensuring full funding for these vital programs. At the hearing, which comes as the Senate prepares to reauthorize the OAA, Chairman Casey laid out his top priorities for reauthorization, which include supporting states in long-term planning for senior services, substantially increasing funding for long-term care ombudsmen, who ensure the safety of nursing home residents, and increasing investments in nutrition programs.

“Since its passage, the Older Americans Act has served as the foundation for community social services for older adults—from funding Meals on Wheels to local senior centers to home and community-based caregiving,” said Chairman Casey. “These programs are vital for older adults across Pennsylvania and the Nation, and as we prepare to reauthorize the OAA, I am going to fight to ensure they get the full amount of funding that our seniors need and deserve. Our Nation’s older adults have fought in our wars, raised our children and grandchildren, and built our communities—they deserve our support as they age.”

Chairman Casey invited Janet Billotte, a resident of West Decatur, PA, and a recipient of home-delivered meals and other services from her county Area Agency on Aging. She testified about how the services provided to her by OAA-funded programs have improved her life, saying, “Last year, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and I was also caring for my husband who had been sick with many issues for a long time…Many days, I didn’t feel well and it was very helpful to have these meals delivered to us…I’m very grateful to be receiving these services, and…I know many older adults who receive Meals on Wheels are thankful like I am. I also understand that there are many more older adults on the waiting list for these services. I ask you to please help more people get into the program and be able to receive these great services.”

Watch the full hearing here.

Casey Holds Hearing on Local Impact of the Older Americans Act

Friday, May 24, 2024

'Just want this to be over' | Woman fights to prevent Arlington County from acquiring family's home

Arlington County offered to buy a property in a historically Black community, but since the family refuses to accept, a resolution will trigger eminent domain.

by Matthew Torres

A Maryland woman is preparing to challenge Arlington County in court in order to prevent officials from acquiring property that has belonged to her family for decades. But county officials say they have the right to take the property in order to build safety improvements to nearby roads. 

Sandra Fortson was offered $627,000 by Arlington County to purchase land at 1802 Columbia Pike in the Arlington View community. Fortson is the guardian of the homeowner, her cousin Karen Newman, who is currently at a nursing home after she suffered a medical emergency in 2021.

In a March meeting, the county staff told supervisors that acquiring the land would make way for much-needed traffic and pedestrian safety improvements at Rolfe Street and Columbia Pike, which includes adding a traffic light and realigning the road into a four-leg intersection.

The county recommended the board adopt a resolution that would allow Fortson to accept the offer on the property. If the offer is denied, the resolution would authorize the county attorney to take the property by eminent domain.

Maxine Cholmondeley, a real estate specialist with the Arlington County government, said conversations with Fortson began in late 2022 but discussions “have not been successful.”

Fortson is refusing to sell the house, built in the 1920s, because it’s important to her to keep it within the family.  

“I’m tired and I’m frustrated, and I just want this to be over,” Fortson said. “I think it’s very important the fact that this house has been in the family somewhere between 70 and 80 years. My aunt was adamant about keeping that home in the family, and it’s also generational wealth. We know a lot of African Americans have lost generational wealth because their property has been taken away.”

Credit: WUSA9
Sandra Fortson said she spent tens of thousands of dollars to renovate her cousins' home, which was built in the 1920s.

Fortson argued staff members failed to tell supervisors that she intended to renovate the home so she could bring back her cousin from a nursing home with a caregiver. She has already spent up to $80,000 on renovations within the last few weeks.

She pushed back on Cholmondeley's statement in the board meeting when she said, “the house is currently not in habitable condition.”

“The interior, the walls are in very poor condition, there’s no working bathroom, there’s no working kitchen,” Cholmondeley told supervisors. “It’s basically a gut rehab, you’d have to take it down to the studs.”

Earlier this month, Arlington County Attorney MinChau Corr sent a Notice of Intent to File Certificate of Take, meaning they plan to transfer the lease to the county in June.

“I have dedicated myself to fighting this until it’s over,” Fortson said.

Attorney fights for alternate option

Fortson was open to discussing granting an easement on her property instead.

Original plans show acquiring a piece of the land instead of the whole property. That has since changed.

Fortson’s eminent domain attorney Michael Coughlin said if the county pursues the plan, they’ll take them to court.

“Our point is that the purpose of the Columbia Pike improvements can be fulfilled while retaining ownership of this property in the family which they’ve owned for generations,” Coughlin said. “It’s not necessary to acquire the entire property to accomplish their goals.”

The proposed project is part of one section of a larger initiative to improve roads and sidewalks along Columbia Pike in the county. Staff said if approved, the safety changes would improve access for the adjacent neighborhoods and provide safer connectivity for people walking and biking.

“If we continue to consider these options, then we will miss the window of making a design change and construction change without affecting the schedule,” Transportation Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Hui Wong said. “The schedule delay can not only further inconvenience the Pike neighborhood and residents, but it can also raise the price because every day it passes, there’s inflation and unpredictable cost increase.”

Credit: Arlington County Board

In a statement, Chair Libby Garvey said, “Unfortunately, an easement alone is not enough to build this new intersection in a way that would provide the entire community with these increased safety benefits. Currently, no one is living in the home, and no one has lived in it for years. The county has been attempting to engage in discussions with the property owner’s conservator since January 2023 and has provided a bona fide offer to purchase the home above appraised value, based on two separate appraisals. The county has communicated a willingness to consider other appraisals to resolve any dispute as to value, but to date, it has not received a counter appraisal or any other objective basis upon which it can offer a higher price.”

Eminent domain in an historically Black neighborhood

Garvey acknowledged that juggling safety improvements means having to take a home away from a Black family in an historically Black community.

“I want to recognize the hard spot it puts us all in,” she said.

Arlington View, formerly known as Johnson’s Hill, was a community where land was purchased by former ex-slaves and other enslaved people who escaped to Virginia, according to Dr. Scott Taylor of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.

Taylor said the community, which was once the majority Black population, has dwindled to just about 8%.

“The county needs to slow down a little bit,” Taylor told WUSA9. “We need to all sit down and talk about this because there’s always a plan B.”

For now it seems both parties are firm on their arguments, meaning for Fortson, the foundation to fight this remains steadfast. 

"This could happen to you," she said. "If you think this is just a single case cause it is not. If I can help it, I'm going to fight that history is retained."

Full Article & Source:
'Just want this to be over' | Woman fights to prevent Arlington County from acquiring family's home

WP man charged with beating elderly relative

A West Plains man with a decades-long criminal history has been charged after allegedly striking an elderly family member with a baseball bat and preventing in-home healthcare workers from visiting the man's home.

Timmy L. Frazier, 43, is charged with first-degree domestic assault resulting in serious physical injury, a Class A felony, and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action. Court records show the charges were filed May 1 by Howell County Assistant Prosecutor Rizwan Ahad, and a warrant with a $50,000 cash or corporate surety bond issued the day prior was served May 7.

Frazier, who remains in custody, pleaded not guilty during arraignment held May 10 in the courtroom of Associate 37th Circuit Judge R. David Ray and is next set to appear in court on Friday for a preliminary hearing with Public Defender Jack Paisley as his representation, the records show.

According to documents filed with the court, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Investigator Richard Rhoads said an investigation into Frazier began after three hotline calls were placed regarding the victim's well-being between March 20 and April 10, alleging physical abuse, financial exploitation and medical neglect.

Frazier was reportedly living with the victim at the time of the incidents, who has since been placed in a nursing home out of concern for lack of proper care.

On April 4, Rhoads stated, he assisted an adult protective services specialist with a visit to the victim's home and Frazier reportedly admitted he prevented in-home healthcare workers from visiting and had written a check on the victim's account to pay for having the victim's vehicle towed.

During the investigation, the reportedly victim said Frazier was not given permission to write checks on his account or drive his vehicle. On April 10, Rhoads spoke with another family member of the victim who said he had bruises "all over" from Frazier striking him with a baseball bat, his head had been shaved, and Frazier had written several checks on his account.

A week later, Rhoads interviewed the victim at the nursing home and was advised by him that Frazier and some of his friends had shaved his head against his will while laughing and "going on" the whole time, and he wanted to fight back but knew he couldn't because of his age and physical condition.

He was reportedly reluctant to talk about how he came to be bruised but stated Frazier had put the bruises on him while he was mad at him, the investigator said.

Medical records reviewed as part of the investigation showed the victim had told staff at a local clinic Frazier caused the bruising by striking him with a bat, and that, for about a month, he hadn't taken medications he’d been prescribed for the prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and heart damage because they were withheld by Frazier.

The victim had open heart surgery about 20 years ago and his health showed an overall decline, memory problems and periods of confusion, Rhoads noted in his report.

The investigator further stated he learned through interviews and financial records Frazier had written checks, used the victim's charge card to make purchases, and taken coins, with a combined value of about $99, adding future charge card statements were expected to show other unauthorized purchases by Frazier.


In 2000, Frazier pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree assault and a count of possession of a controlled substance in two separate cases, the imposition of his sentence was suspended, and he was handed a three-year sentence in 2003 with both cases to run concurrently.

In 2006, he was handed a two-year suspended sentence and required to participate in a drug treatment program on an unlawful use of drug paraphernalia conviction. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge and paid a $400 fine and in 2010 entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. An Alford plea allows a defendant to avoid admitting guilt while conceding the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.

In 2011, Frazier was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2013, he was convicted of third-degree assault and resisting arrest in separate cases, both misdemeanors, and sentenced to 183 days in jail for each, to run concurrently with the 2011 sentence. In 2015, he was convicted of felony resisting arrest while creating a substantial risk of serious injury or death, with a suspended imposition of sentence that was later upgraded to a three-year suspended sentence that was not executed because he successfully completed probation.

In 2017, he was again handed a suspended sentence, five years, after pleading guilty to the felony of stealing a vehicle, but again avoided prison after completing a five-year probation. In 2020, he entered Alford pleas to two charges of second-degree burglary in separate cases and was first handed a suspended sentence on one case that was changed to three years on both after a 2021 conviction of possession of methamphetamine precursors. The sentences for all three cases were to run concurrently.

Last year, he pleaded guilty to a 2021 misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Full Article & Source:
WP man charged with beating elderly relative

Healthcare aide accused of stealing credit card from elderly patient at Telford assisted living facility facing new charges

by Tony Di Domizio

A healthcare aide working for Lutheran Community at Telford in Telford Borough who was arraigned in January on felony charges related to the alleged use of a stolen elderly patient’s credit card for personal purchases is now facing even more felony charges with police identifying two more victims.

Crystal Brito, 29, of Macungie, was charged in April by Telford Borough Police with felony financial exploitation, 17 felony counts of access device fraud, seven misdemeanor charges of access device fraud, and a misdemeanor charge each of receiving stolen property and possession of a counterfeit access device, per court documents.

Then, Brito was charged separately for a third time last month, with police adding 71 counts of felony access device fraud, a felony charge of financial exploitation of an older adult or care-dependent person, and misdemeanor charges of theft, receiving stolen property, and possession of a counterfeit access device, per court documents.

In January, Brito was charged with 37 felony counts of access device fraud, as well as misdemeanor counts of theft by unlawful taking, financial exploitation of an older adult or care-dependent person, receiving stolen property, and related offenses.  

Brito is free on $50,000 unsecured bail.

On Dec. 21, 2023, police responded to the community for a second report of a stolen debit card, where a friend of a dementia patient told police of the unauthorized use of the patient’s card, police said.

Police said the illegal activity began Dec. 9, 2023 and continued through Dec. 14, in which $248.19 was spent across seven transactions, and a total of $4,023.49 in 17 declined charges from unsuccessful online purchases.

According to court documents, the card was eventually closed on Dec. 20, 2023, and most of the transactions occurred in Macungie and Allentown.

Two of the seven transactions, police said, occurred at the Wawa in Hilltown and the Starbucks inside Giant Market in Hilltown, and surveillance video shows Brito using the card at both locations.

In the third case, police said they were informed of a third victim in January, and officers spoke to Univest Bank and Trust officials, who told police there were multiple unauthorized transactions on a 90-year-old customers account, originating in Allentown.

All in all, police said there were 71 transactions totaling $4,676.11, and they found Brito on surveillance at the Giant Market in Trexlertown using the stolen card.

Police said they learned of the first theft in November, after the daughter of a care-dependent woman reported that her mother’s debit card had been stolen and 37 unauthorized transactions had been made between Nov. 7, 2023 and Nov. 20, 2023, totaling $1,254.72. Investigators were provided with a list of 12 visiting aides that had assisted the woman in the days leading up to the alleged theft, and police said the majority of unauthorized purchases were made in the greater Allentown area.

By comparing the locations of the purchases to the home addresses of the aides, investigators said the unauthorized purchases essentially painted a path from Lutheran Community at Telford and the home of Brito in Macungie. Additionally, police said Brito was the only aide residing in the area where the majority of purchases were made, with five of the purchases being made within one mile of Brito’s home.

Further investigation revealed surveillance footage of Brito using the stolen card to purchase groceries, lottery tickets, and gasoline, the report states. She also signed her own name on several receipts and used the card to make online purchases through Walmart, which were shipped to her home, police said.

A representative from Grace Inspired Living, which includes the Lutheran Community at Telford, said in February that Brito was not an employee and was instead an aide sent from another agency to fill in at the Telford facility. The representative added they are cooperating with police as the investigation continues.

Court records show Brito’s next court appearance is a preliminary hearing on June 11 at 2 p.m. in front of Magisterial District Judge Regina Armitage.

All suspects and defendants are innocent until proven guilty. This story was compiled using public court records.

Full Article & Source:
Healthcare aide accused of stealing credit card from elderly patient at Telford assisted living facility facing new charges

Thursday, May 23, 2024

$27B Reported in Elder Financial Exploitation

From Washington Gorge Action Programs:

By Tammy Kaufman

Bingen/Goldendale, Washington (May 22, 2024) - The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently released an analysis based on Bank Secrecy Act reports that indicate in a one-year period, from 2022 to 2023, financial institutions reported roughly $27 billion in suspicious activity related to elder financial exploitation. The April 18, 2024 article from the American Bankers Association (ABA) Banking Journal noted that 80% of all suspicious activity reported by banks involved elder scams.

Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized annually worldwide on June 15, bringing attention to issues affecting this vulnerable population. Financial exploitation is one of many concerns surrounding elder abuse. Other common types include physical abuse, neglect, and abandonment. 

Over the past few years, financial exploitation has drawn a lot of attention as scammers target the senior population with telephone and computer scams that include using fear strategies, investment promises, IRS cons, and many other tactics. The day of awareness is an important reminder of the crucial role families and communities play in helping safeguard elders against physical, emotional, and financial abuse. 

Elder financial exploitation is illegal and considered to be the unauthorized or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets. This common crime deprives many seniors of their lifelong hard-earned assets. Perpetrators are not only strangers but also can be family members, friends, neighbors, or caregivers.

The National Institute on Aging’s webpage has a current list of common scams that are targeting the elderly population, including:

It is important to watch for red flags in order to prevent a loved one from being burdened by financial exploitation. The American Bankers Association webpage shares the following as tips to help prevent financial exploitation:

  •  Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

  •  Lock up your checkbook, account statements, and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.

  •  Regularly review your credit report. Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number, or other financial information, to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the other party.

  •  Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”

  •  Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.

  •  Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.

  •  Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.

  •  Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.

  •  Pay with credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.

  •  You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services and tell someone at your bank.

  •  Trust your instincts. Exploiters are often very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their efforts to convince you to give up control of your finances. Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you or someone you know is suffering from any form of Elder abuse, don’t hesitate to make a report to the Washington State Adult Protective Services intake line at 1-877-734-6277 or call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–372–8311. 

To contact a local advocate, please reach out to Programs for Peaceful Living at 509-493-2662 or go to to learn more about assistance available throughout Klickitat County to support seniors and vulnerable populations.

More details on the FinCEN analysis can be found at releases/fincen-issues-analysis-elder-financial-exploitation.

Full Article & Source:
$27B Reported in Elder Financial Exploitation

Bainbridge woman charged with Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults; what GBI says happened

  • A Bainbridge woman is charged with ten counts of Financial Transaction Fraud and two counts of Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults.
  • Bainbridge Public Safety requested the GBI to assist with an investigation concerning multiple complaints
  • Read the GBI news release below to learn what happened.


On March 21, 2024, Bainbridge Public Safety requested the GBI to assist with an investigation concerning multiple complaints received at “Johnson’s Personal Care Home” and “Johnson’s Private Care Home” located at 1007 and 1009 Hall Street in Bainbridge, Georgia.

During the investigation, it was determined that LaShanda Johnson of a Monroe Street, Bainbridge, Georgia address was associated with the homes. Agents and Bainbridge Public Safety Investigators interviewed current and past residents and other witnesses in this case as well as collected documents and other evidence of the alleged crimes.

The investigation has revealed and alleges that Johnson was using the finances of some of the residents staying in her homes on Hall Street illegally. Johnson (46 years old) has been charged with ten counts of Financial Transaction Fraud and two counts of Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults. She was in the Decatur County Jail on unrelated charges when she was served with and booked on these warrants.

This case is active and ongoing and anyone with information on this case is asked to call the GBI Thomasville Office at 229-225-4090 or Bainbridge Public Safety at 229-248-2038. Once complete, this case file will be turned over to the South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

Full Article & Source:
Bainbridge woman charged with Exploitation and Intimidation of Disabled Adults; what GBI says happened

In-home healthcare worker sentenced to prison for theft

Britney Hostrander
LOCK HAVEN — A Williamsport woman was sentenced for access device fraud after an investigation by the Clinton County District Attorney’s office.

District Attorney Dave Strouse announced this week that Britney Hostrander, 28, was sentenced on Tuesday morning to a maximum term of 84 months of supervision, with the first 9 months in Clinton County Correctional Facility, and an additional 6 months on house arrest.

According to a press release via Crimewatch, Hostrander was sentenced by Clinton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael F. Salisbury on one count of Access Device Fraud, a third degree felony; two counts of identity theft, third degree felonies; and two counts of financial exploitation of an older adult, a first degree misdemeanor.

Hostrander was charged by Pine Creek Sgt. Denny Gill after a 76-year-old McElhatten woman and her 80-year-old husband discovered a series of unusual purchases on their credit cards, the release said.

Sgt. Gill was able to track the card to Hostrander, who used the credit cards to purchase items for her vehicle and to pay off her costs and fines in a separate criminal case in Mifflin County, according to the release.

Prior to sentencing, Hostrander provided a written apology letter to the victims and paid full restitution.

Despite her efforts, and her plea for a probation sentence, Judge Salisbury imposed a period of incarceration and a lengthy period of supervision, the release said.

As a special condition, Hostrander is prohibited from any form of employment which involves providing services to older individuals, the release said.

Pre-sentence investigation revealed that Hostrander had obtained new employment with another in-home care company while her criminal charges were pending, the release said.

Full Article & Source:
In-home healthcare worker sentenced to prison for theft

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Singer Cher Agrees to 'Pause' Fight to Place Troubled Son Elijah Allman Under Conservatorship After He Demands Sanctions Over Subpoenas

The family battle is close to being over

By:Ryan Naumann

Singer Cher and her son Elijah Blue Allman have agreed to pump the brakes on their nasty court battle — only weeks after he asked a court to shut down his famous mother from obtaining his medical records.

According to court documents obtained by, the legendary pop star and her son, who she had with late musician Gregg Allman, participated in private mediation with a retired judge on May 7.

They explained, "At the conclusion of the mediation, the Parties agreed to pause all legal proceedings and related activities, including all discovery and motion practice, to allow the Parties to continue working together to privately and confidentially resolve this matter."

The next hearing in Cher's fight to be named conservator for Elijah was scheduled for June 11. Cher and Elijah agreed to continue the hearing to a later date to allow them time to resolve their issues.

As we previously reported, Cher filed her petition to take over control of Elijah's life and finances in December 2023.

“Elijah is substantially unable to manage his financial resources due to severe mental health and substance abuse issues,” Cher’s petition read. “Elijah is entitled to regular distributions from a trust established by his father for his benefit, but given his ongoing mental health and substance abuse issues, Petitioner is concerned that any funds distributed to Elijah will immediately be spent on drugs, leaving Elijah with no assets to provide for himself, and putting Elijah’s life at risk.”

In court documents, Cher said her son did not have savings despite being paid out over $1 million from Allman's estate. She said he wasted it on drugs and fancy hotel rooms.

Cher called out her son's wife Marieangela King in court documents. She claimed her son's wife, “is not supportive of Elijah’s recovery and that Angela actively works to keep Elijah from getting clean and sober or receiving mental health treatment that he desperately needs. Most recently, Petitioner is informed and believes that Angela took steps to check Elijah out of the treatment center where he was receiving much-needed medical care.”

Marieangela denied the claims and said she supported Elijah's recovery.

She told the court, “We live together as a married couple and I see the irrefutable daily effort he is making to stay sober. He attends AA meetings 5-6 times a week, he is free of drugs, and -now that we have reclaimed our stolen vehicle from his mother's property- he can and does attend daily AA meetings affordably. He is tending to his finances, getting his bills paid, and ensuring that his property is under his control.”

Recently, Elijah claimed in court he was several months sober. He opposed his mother's request and asked that it be denied. 

Allman said his mom was “unfit” to serve as conservator over his life.

He added, “Further, my mom is seventy-seven years old and will be seventy-eight when this matter is heard. I have seen her suffer from depression in the past and I do not believe that she is capable of making appropriate decisions for my estate.”

The move to attempt to settle the matter privately comes after Elijah demanded sanctions for his mother sending subpoenas to various hospitals seeking his medical records.  

Full Article & Source:
Singer Cher Agrees to 'Pause' Fight to Place Troubled Son Elijah Allman Under Conservatorship After He Demands Sanctions Over Subpoenas

See Also:
Cher’s Son Argues She’s ‘Unfit to Serve’ as His Conservator

Cher dealt another blow in her request for temporary conservatorship over her son

Look, I Don't Need Conservatorship ... Plenty Reasons Why!!!

Cher Files for Conservatorship of Son Elijah Blue Allman

Elijah Blue Allman Contests Cher's Request for Conservatorship

Cher's Son Elijah Blue Allman Looks Clean-cut in First Sighting Since Conservatorship Victory

Lehigh County woman stole $6K+ from elderly residents at healthcare center, cops say

A 29-year-old Lehigh County woman is accused of stealing more than $6,000 from elderly victims while taking care of them at a Montgomery County healthcare center, police said.

Crystal Bianca Brito, of the 200 block of West Chestnut Street in Macungie, is charged with 126 felony counts.

The charges include: felony access of a device issued to another who did not authorize use; one count of felony financial exploitation of an older adult; seven misdemeanor counts of access of a device issued to another who did not authorize use; four counts of misdemeanor theft; two counts of misdemeanor possession of access device knowing it’s altered; three counts of misdemeanor receiving stolen property; and one of count misdemeanor financial exploitation of an older adult.

Steven Richard Mills, the defense attorney representing Brito, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

The charges are in connection with incidents between November and late February that involved three alleged victims. Initial charges were filed against Brito on Nov. 21 and additional charges were filed Dec. 21 and Feb. 27, court records state.

Police in Telford Borough, Montgomery County responded to the Lutheran Community of Telford, a personal care facility at 12 Lutheran Home Drive, for a reported theft just before 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 21. An elderly female victim reported a stolen debit card with 37 fraudulent transactions. Charges in that incident totaled $1,254 for transactions from Nov. 7 to Nov. 20, court records state.

Investigators were provided with a list of a dozen visiting aides who assisted the victim during that time, court records state. Police said the majority of the transactions were made in the Allentown area and Brito was the other aide living there. Additionally, a receipt came back signed with her first name, “Crystal,” according to police.

Investigators obtained copies of receipts used at the establishments that matched Brito as the customer and the debit card used belonging to the victim, police said. Brito allegedly used the card three times at an Upper Macungie supermarket for gas and lottery tickets, as well as at a big box chain in Allentown for an online order.

Investigators obtained store surveillance footage of Brito fueling her Jeep at the supermarket and shipping records showed the big box store sending goods to her home address in Macungie, police said.

Brito was arrested in January. She allegedly claimed to investigators that the woman was her only victim and she planned to repay the stolen cash, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

A second alleged elderly victim came forward to police about a month later. The victim’s friend on Dec. 21 reported 24 unauthorized charges on that woman’s debit card. However, just $248 worth of charges were approved with another $4,023 in charges declined, police said.

The majority of those charges allegedly also happened in the Macungie and Allentown areas. Approved purchases were made at a convenience store — a mile from the Lutheran home — and at a coffee shop inside a Montgomery County supermarket, police said.

Investigators obtained surveillance video footage of the customer using the stolen card at both establishments and each incident matched Brito, police said. Brito was assigned to the second victim at the care facility just prior to the fraudulent activity happening, according to police.

A third elderly female victim reported in early January that there were 71 unauthorized transactions on her stolen debit card. The transactions were made between Dec. 9 and Dec. 14 and totaled $4,676, court records state. The purchases were made in the Allentown and Macungie areas, police said.

Brito allegedly was assigned to help that victim at the healthcare facility just prior to the fraudulent purchases. Surveillance footage at the same Upper Macungie supermarket showed Brito making one of the unauthorized purchases on the third victim’s card, according to court records.

Brito was arraigned before District Judge Regina Armitage on about 43 felony and misdemeanor charges in January. The judge set bail at $50,000 unsecured in that case.

Brito was arraigned May 7 on the additional felony and misdemeanor charges before District Judge Jean Seaman. That judge also set bail at $50,000 unsecured.

Full Article & Source:
Lehigh County woman stole $6K+ from elderly residents at healthcare center, cops say

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

I-Team: The guardianship home grab

by Danielle DaRos

Jan Garwood is just one ward in Florida's guardianship system who lost her home while incapacitated (WPEC).

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Three years ago, the CBS12 News I-Team reported on Jan Garwood's guardianship nightmare: a Florida senior was declared "incapacitated" by a judge, and put under the control of a professional guardian, who quickly moved her into a memory care facility. Garwood was there for three years, until she finally fought her way out of the restrictive guardianship.

But while she won her rights and freedom back, she lost almost everything else.

"I said I wanted to go home, and they said, 'You don't have a home anymore,'" Garwood said.

Her home was sold not long after she was institutionalized.

The guardian did not have her property appraised, and didn't list it in a public database to find a buyer. Instead, Garwood's home was sold to an employee at the very assisted living facility where the guardian had placed her. 

Florida Deputy Inspector General Anthony Palmieri investigates misconduct in the state guardianship system, and he calls Garwood's case one of the worst in an increasingly common trend: questionable real estate transactions in the guardianship system.

"Real estate is definitely something that has ticked up for our investigations," Palmieri said.

When a guardian is suspected of a crime, his Palm Beach County team is able to investigate and refer a case for criminal prosecution. In some cases, he has uncovered real estate sales that seem to enrich a whole network of other people -- leaving the ward without their most valuable asset -- and the security of their home.

Often, guardians petition the court to sell a ward's home, claiming that extra money is needed to pay for their ward's care. But when the sale price falls short of the home's estimated value -- and if the buyer goes on to quickly flip that home for a profit -- then the ward is the one getting ripped off.

"In my book, that's a problem," he said. "The guardianship is to serve the person that needs this intervention and this protection. So anything that's not giving them the fair value [of their asset] is problematic. I want to look at it."

Recently, Palmieri's team looked at a case involving a former real estate agent, turned professional guardian in Seminole County named Dina Carlson. An investigative report mentioned three real estate sales she initiated on behalf of her wards.

For one ward's property in Lake Mary, Carlson hired real estate agents Mark and Kimberly Adams: Mark was the listing agent, and Kimberly completed a "competitive market analysis" instead of getting the property appraised. Investigators wrote that they considered the CMA to be "fraudulent" because it undervalued the home. The Lake Mary property was never offered to the public, but was sold to a buyer for $215,000. Three months later, the new owner flipped it for $347,000.

"Is it a red flag if you see a home is sold and flipped for a much higher price?" The I-Team asked Palmieri.

"Definitely something that I would take notice of," he said. "I would want to understand the relationship, if any, between the guardian, the real estate agent, and subsequent buyers. I would look at those and connect the dots, to see if there are relationships that are improper and should have been reported to the court."

His report highlighted two other real estate sales that seem to include conflicts of interest.

For a ward's home in Apopka, Carlson used real estate agents Mark and Kimberly Adams to sell a home for $120,000. It was sold the very day it was listed. Five months later, that buyer transferred the title of the home to Mark and Kimberly Adams, who then, one month later, sold the house for $298,000.

In a third case, Carlson sold a ward's home in the desirable Orlando suburb of Winter Springs. She again used Mark and Kimberly Adams to sell the three-bed, three-bath property. It went for just $195,000. The buyer who got such a good deal? Realtor Kimberly Adams' brother.

The I-Team reached out to Dina Carlson, Mark Adams and Kimberly Adams multiple times to ask them about these real estate sales, but they never responded to our messages.

Palmieri's report concluded that there was probable cause to suspect the trio had committed multiple crimes, including exploitation of the elderly, grand theft and scheme to defraud, and she sent a referral to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Without explanation, the FDLE declined to pursue those charges, writing in a memo that "no evidence was developed to substantiate a criminal predicate."

In a settlement agreement with the Office of Public and Professional Guardians, Carlson accepted a "reprimand" from the state, and agreed to take eight hours of continuing education courses, including a "Guardian Refresher" class.

"No one is holding anyone accountable," victim-advocate Hillary Hogue said.

After serving on Florida's Guardianship Improvement Task Force, Hogue believes more regulation and oversight must be required before a guardian is allowed to sell a ward's home. She believes requiring a certified appraisal is a start.

Full Article & Source:
I-Team: The guardianship home grab

Many families take patients off life support too soon after traumatic brain injuries: study

By Melissa Rudy

Many patients who died after traumatic brain injuries may have survived and recovered if their families had waited to take them off life support, a new study has found. (iStock)

Many patients who died after traumatic brain injuries may have survived and recovered if their families had waited to take them off life support, a new study found.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and other universities analyzed "potential clinical outcomes" for patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who were removed from life support, according to a press release.

The study included 1,392 patients who were treated in 18 trauma centers across the U.S. over a 7½-year period.

Using a mathematical model, the researchers compared patients for whom life support was withdrawn to similar patients who were kept on life support.

Among the group for whom life support was not withdrawn, more than 40% recovered at least some independence, according to a press release.

The researchers also discovered that the notion of remaining in a vegetative state was an "unlikely outcome" six months after injury.

When designing the study, the team didn’t know what to expect, according to study author Yelena Bodien, PhD, of the Department of Neurology’s Center for neurotechnology and neurorecovery at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

"Our anecdotal experience was that some families are told their loved ones had no chance for recovery, they would never walk, talk, work or have a meaningful relationship again — yet they chose not to discontinue life support and their loved one made a remarkable recovery," she told Fox News Digital.

"On the other hand, clinicians are under a lot of pressure to make early prognoses and do not want to commit someone to a life that would never be acceptable to them, so it could be that those patients who died after life support was withdrawn would have had very significant impairments otherwise."

"I think there are two stories here," said Bodien. 

"One is that some patients with traumatic brain injury who died because life support was withdrawn may have recovered, but the other is that many would have died even if life support was continued."

A patient’s prognosis after severe traumatic brain injury is highly uncertain, she noted. "Sometimes patients with the most devastating injuries survive and make meaningful recoveries."

"Families can advocate for delaying a decision to discontinue life support if this is aligned with what they believe their loved one would want."

The problem, Bodien said, is that health care providers lack the tools required to determine which patients with devastating injuries will recover, to what extent they will recover — and how long that will take.

‘Very important’ study

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, was not involved in the research but said it was a "very important" study.

"Previous research shows a high-level recovery from mild TBI and a significant recovery percentage even with moderate to severe injury," Siegel told Fox News Digital.

"After head trauma, the brain may swell, and the use of mannitol and steroids and even sometimes surgery — where the top of the skull is removed — can be used to decrease pressure on the brain and increase chance of a full recovery," he continued. 

Rehabilitation is also crucial, Siegel added.

"All of these tools should be given a chance to work in most cases."

Based on the study findings, Bodien recommended that clinicians should be "very cautious" with "irreversible decisions" like withdrawing life support in the days following traumatic brain injury

"Families should also be aware of our results so that they can advocate for delaying a decision to discontinue life support if this is aligned with what they believe their loved one would want," she added. 

Limitations of the research

There were some limitations to the study, Bodien said.

"The sample size of the study was small, which made it difficult to find an adequate number of participants who did not have life support discontinued and were clinically similar, or ‘matched,’ to those who had life support discontinued," she told Fox News Digital.

Among the participants who did not have life support discontinued, the researchers were not able to follow all of them for a six-month period.

 Another limitation is that the researchers used clinical variables that were available on the day of, or the day after, hospitalization — but sometimes decisions to discontinue life support are made several days later.

"There are many considerations that may lead to a decision to discontinue life support after traumatic brain injury that we were unable to factor into our analyses," she continued. 

"For example, personal beliefs, religion and advanced directives could all affect decision-making but were not captured in our study."

Bodien also noted that the Harvard study was focused on traumatic brain injury and cannot be generalized to other injuries and illnesses.

Full Article & Source:
Many families take patients off life support too soon after traumatic brain injuries: study

Monday, May 20, 2024

Pillowcase Murders: Suspected Texas serial killer smothered elderly women in upscale nursing homes

Billy Chemirmir posed as a handyman to get into elderly women's upscale assisted living homes, smother them to death and steal their valuables

Accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir looks back during his retrial on April 25, 2022, at Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

By Christina Coulter

Billy Chemirmir was convicted in the slayings of two elderly women at high-end Texas retirement homes and indicted for the killings of 20 more, but if one woman had not survived his attempt at smothering her, he may have never been caught.

Less than a year after he was killed by his cellmate, suspected serial killer Billy Chemirmir is the subject of a just-released Paramount+ docuseries "Pillowcase Murders." He was killed in a Texas prison by a cellmate in 2023, officials said.

Over a two-year span, authorities said Chemirmir used his work as a caregiver to prey on elderly women in the Dallas area, posing as a maintenance person or medical professional to get into their homes before asphyxiating them and stealing their valuables, including $30,000 worth of jewelry in one instance.

Smothering leaves little evidence of foul play, and due to the women's advanced ages, their deaths were repeatedly attributed to natural causes. 

The daughter of Marilyn Cardillo Bixler, who was found dead on the floor of her apartment in September 2017, previously told Fox News Digital that she did not suspect her mother had been murdered when she found her dead. 

"I thought it was strange where her body was. I thought it was strange that her glasses were across the room with the frames bent and the lens popped out, so much so that I set them on the console of my car and took a picture. The back of her hair, which she had done every Friday, was an absolute mess and that just didn’t make sense to me," Cheryl Pangburn said in 2022. 

Shannon Dion told that she found it suspicious that her mother's jewelry, including the gold guardian angel necklace she always wore around her neck, and wallet were missing when her mother died in 2016. Dallas Police Department officers allegedly told her that they believed someone had robbed her after she died of natural causes. 

M.J. Jennings looks at a photo of her mother, Leah Corken, while sitting at her home in Dallas, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Corken was one of 22 women in the Dallas area who Billy Chemirmir was charged with killing. Officials say Chemirmir was killed by his cellmate on Sept. 19, 2023 in a Texas prison. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

"It flat out didn’t make any sense," Dion told the outlet. "But I grew up to trust police. I had nothing else to go on. What else do I do?"

Dion would later learn that her mother, Doris Gleason, was the seventh resident of Tradition-Prestwood to die in under four months, the outlet reported.

In March 2018, a 91-year-old Mary Bartel told police that Chemirmir had forced his way into her apartment at an assisted living community, tried to smother her with a pillow and stole her jewelry. 

Police quickly identified Chemirmir as a suspect, according to the documentary. The next day, they arrested the Kenyan national in the parking lot of his apartment complex while he held jewelry and cash, having just thrown a large red jewelry box into a dumpster. 

Billy Chemirmir, 50, was reportedly murdered in prison by cellmate Wyatt Busby, who was serving a 50-year sentence for a fatal stabbing. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

Documents inside the box led them to Lu Thi Harris, 81, who was found dead in her bedroom, Fox News Digital previously reported. The elderly woman had red lipstick smeared on her mouth, and a matching red stain on the pillow beside her indicated that she had been smothered, Fox News Digital previously reported. 

Detectives looking at unexplained or suspicious deaths of elderly women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began to connect more deaths to Chemirmir. As details of the suspected killer's crimes became public, more family members came forward. 

The strange details surrounding her mother's death came back to Pangburn when she received a Facebook message from a high school friend. 

"She sent me a message that said, 'My mom was also a victim of Billy Chemirmir. My condolences. If you would ever feel comfortable talking, here's my number,'" Pangburn previously told Fox News Digital. 

Sitting among photos of her late mother, Doris Gleason, Shanon Dion talks about her in Carrolton, Texas, on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

"As I'm sitting in this appointment, I have no idea what she's talking about. I Google search the name Billy Chemirmir, and it just pulls up this serial killer's story," she said. "I'm horrified, but things are starting to make sense." 

During her deposition at Chemirmir's murder trial, survivor Bartel told jurors that the man smothered her until she lost consciousness. However, she survived, came to and went to a hospital. Her gold wedding band, a diamond gold ring, a gold locket with a picture of her late husband, two gold crucifixes and a silver bracelet were missing when she returned home, she said. 

That capital murder trial ended in mistrial after a jury was left deadlocked in an 11-1 vote after 11 hours of deliberation, NBCDFW reported. 

However, in April 2022, Chemirmir was convicted of murder in Harris' death, then was convicted in a separate case in the death of 87-year-old Mary Brooks. 

"I am not a killer," Chemirmir told The Dallas Morning News before his conviction. "I’m not at all what they’re saying I am. I am a very innocent person. I was not brought (up) that way. I was brought (up) in a good family. I didn’t have any problems all my life… I am 100 percent sure I will not go to prison."

Defendant Billy Chemirmir listens to motions and language being discussed and sent to the jury after one juror is hanging up the deliberations in his capital murder trial at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Rather, Chemirmir told the newspaper he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and noted that he had family members who operated nursing homes in the area. 

"If I was a killer, I could’ve killed all those ladies," he said. "Nobody has been killed there."

In her victim impact statement after his conviction, Ellen French House told Chemirmir that she wanted him to see two photos of her mother Norma French, one when she was still alive and the next after he had allegedly killed her. 

"This is my beautiful mother," House said as she displayed the first photo, according to KHOU 11. "This is my mother after you pried her wedding ring off of her finger that she couldn’t even get off."

Chemirmir was sentenced to life in prison and sent to Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, located about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, Fox News Digital previously reported.

After he was sentenced to life, prosecutors dismissed 20 more capital murder charges against Chemirmir, prompting his alleged victims' families to hold a demonstration. 

"Not only was it another horrible feeling, but the paperwork doesn’t even have her name on it," House told Fox News Digital at the time. "Just a number now I guess." 

Although he was spared the death penalty in Dallas County, families were hopeful that Collin County would pursue capital punishment. 

"She was a joy and she was absolutely thriving where she was, she absolutely loved living where she lived, and it just ended tragically," Pangburn told Fox News Digital. "It's the ultimate crime, it deserves the ultimate punishment." 

However, in September 2023, Chemirmir was beaten and stabbed to death by his cellmate Wyatt Busby, who was serving a 50-year sentence for killing a Houston man in 2016, according to WFAA. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot told the outlet that Chemirmir had apparently made inappropriate sexual comments about the man's children.

Full Article & Source:
Pillowcase Murders: Suspected Texas serial killer smothered elderly women in upscale nursing homes