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NASGA is a public interest civil rights organization founded by several victims and for victims of unlawful and abusive guardianship and conservatorship cases. Please visit our website at www.StopGuardianAbuse.org for more information on how you can help stop guardian abuse.

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Government and the city's Hospital Authority dropped the ball, that's according to a just-released audit of the former Autumn Hills Assisted Living Facility.

    Last year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed problems at the city-owned home for the elderly, and a new audit by Metro auditors found a lack of oversight by the city led to plenty of problems.

    First, a bit of history. We're talking about the old J.B. Knowles Home in Bordeaux. Three years ago, Metro made a deal with Autumn Hills Assisted Living and Vision Real Estate to run the facility, develop the land around it and save taxpayer money.

    But as the audit found, things didn't go as they were supposed to.

    Metro auditors said it was impossible to do a full-scale audit of Autumn Hills because the managers failed to keep accurate records of how the money was being spent.  

    But what they did find, according to the just-released audit, is the folks running Autumn Hills "mismanaged" the finances, still owe creditors more than three quarters of a million dollars, did not prepare required financial reports or file tax returns.
     
    According to the audit, out of $4.5 million withdrawn from Autumn Hills' accounts, more than a million of that had no documentation - including nearly half of which was paid out in cash, plus another $99,000 in ATM withdrawals.

    The audit also found managers raided the residents' trust funds. Many residents set aside money each month from their Social Security checks. But auditors found Autumn Hills used the residents' money for operational expenses.

    The audit also mentions our reporting late last year and confirmed problems we exposed at the facility, how it failed to pay its bills on time, let required insurance policies lapse, and failed to make capital improvements as required under its contract with Metro.
     
    Auditors found no records of any work being done. Managers had claimed to have put in a new chiller and accounting system. But the audit found that was never done. When Metro sent its own team into the facility earlier this year, they found it in "dire need"of major maintenance.

    Despite all of the problems, the audit said Autumn Hills still provided food, shelter, and personal and medical care to its residents, though we heard from a lot of them who were not happy with it.

    The city did cut ties with Autumn Hills back in January and brought in a new management company on an interim basis. They are still searching for a permanent manager.

    Full Article & Source:
    Metro Audit Finds Lack Of Oversight Led To Problems At Autumn Hills Assisted Living

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    An elderly woman was tied in her wheelchair to a fence outside a Ramat Gan shopping mall
    Reports of neglect and abuse of the elderly by family and caregivers went up by 17 percent last year, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services reported Tuesday, including a 20% rise in reports of sexual abuse.

    “The figures are worrying,” Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz said.

    “My office is taking action, but only by joining forces can we eradicate the abuse and neglect of the senior citizens. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us,” he said.

    Fanny Hughes, the national inspector for treatment of elderly people at risk, said the rise in reports could be explained by the Welfare Ministry’s efforts to raise awareness about the phenomenon through an increase in the number of teams established to identify and educate about abuse.

    The report comes following several high-profile reports of abuse in the last year, including at a home for the elderly.

    In August last year, when temperatures were high, police arrested a foreign caregiver who had tied her elderly wheelchair-bound charge to a fence outside a mall in Bnei Brak while she shopped inside.

    In December, Israel Radio reported on a Health Ministry study which found that more than 20 old age homes in the country were routinely tying down residents in violation of established procedures.

    Employees of a nursing home in Haifa
    In March, four employees of a nursing home in the northern city of Haifa were indicted for assault, a month after the broadcast of footage that appeared to show them subjecting elderly residents to extreme mistreatment.

    Of all reports of abuse analyzed by the ministry for 2016, 33% related to psychological abuse, 21% to physical abuse and 18% to economic exploitation.

    Of the 5,876 reports received in total, 102 related to sexual abuse, a rise of 20% compared with 2015, the report said.

    The complaints came via caregivers, hospitals, old age homes and from victims themselves.

    During 2016, in the wake of complaints about abuse, the welfare services heard 2,645 cases aimed at protecting the rights of those under care.

    The welfare services made 580 complaints to police and 174 court orders were issued ordering the removal of elderly people from their families to external facilities.

    Last year, the ministry opened an additional 15 local authority-run units for the elderly bringing the total to 78 units countrywide.

    The units house teams which identify and advise on situations of elderly neglect and abuse.

    An elderly man crosses the street in Tel Aviv
    Part of the teams’ work is to raise awareness about abuse among professionals and members of the public and to show them how to identify abuse. They also provide psycho-social counseling to victims to enable them to report abuse, and to overcome fears of the consequences of reporting, as well as group counseling for those who have harmed elderly individuals.

    Full Article & Source:
    Reports of family, caregivers abusing elderly up by 17 percent

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    Suzette Lucero & picture of her father Robert Pineda
    One morning in October, a resident of the Casa Real nursing home in Santa Fe called his sister, saying he was in pain and couldn’t get anyone at the facility to respond, according to a state inspection report.

    The sister contacted a hospice nurse outside Casa Real, who went to the nursing home and found the resident’s stomach swollen and his urine bag empty, the report said. The hospice nurse changed the man’s urinary catheter, which was blocked, and drained about 85 ounces, well more than half a gallon, of urine.

    “I believe that no one had monitored [the resident] for 12 hours,” an inspector wrote. “The dangers are that his bladder could rupture and he could get a bladder infection. [Certified nursing assistants] are nonexistent or are overworked and sometimes you can’t find a nurse so the response time is slow.”

    The report on that incident and results of other inspections at Casa Real during the past year paint a troubling picture of life at the nursing home: medication errors, expired food and drugs on shelves, unreported injuries and assault, poor care of wounds, inadequate safeguards against spread of antibiotic-resistant infection, nurse understaffing and more.

    “I just pray to God I never have to go into a facility like that,” said Noel Valencia, whose elderly mother, Antonia Tanuz, died in 2010 about 2½ months after being admitted to Casa Real. A wrongful death lawsuit, settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, said Tanuz developed a bedsore at the nursing home and died of an infection.

    Problems also have occurred at the Santa Fe Care Center, a sister facility of Casa Real, according to inspection reports.

    A resident at the Santa Fe Care Center was threatened with eviction last year because his family complained about his care, an inspection found. The inspector also reported seeing staff ignore a woman’s repeated pleas for help as she sat in a wheelchair near a nursing station.

    The troubles at Casa Real and the Santa Fe Care Center aren’t new. State inspectors in at least the past 15 years have cited serious deficiencies in resident care. Ownership of the homes, now operated by Preferred Care Partners Management Group of Plano, Texas, has changed several times.

    State and federal regulators have allowed the homes to continue to operate and accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, although the facilities have faced substantial fines. Casa Real was recently placed under increased supervision by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and faces a threat of decertification from the insurance programs if it doesn’t improve quality of care.

    The state Department of Health, which licenses and inspects Casa Real and the Santa Fe Care Center, declined to comment.

    The for-profit facilities are the only skilled-nursing homes in Santa Fe that take Medicare and Medicaid payments, meaning area residents must accept conditions at the homes if they cannot afford private-pay nursing and want to stay in Santa Fe.

    Conditions at the nursing homes are becoming more critical, given the rise in the average age of Santa Fe residents in recent years.

    Casa Real and the Santa Fe Care Center, whose residents are largely Medicare and Medicaid recipients, each have an overall rating of one star out of five possible stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. One star means “much below average,” according to the agency.

    The office of the state long-term care ombudsman, which serves as an advocate for nursing home residents, reported 428 complaints against Casa Real and 105 complaints against the Santa Fe Care Center in the past two years. The top complaints dealt with discharge, administration of medications, staff attitudes and failure to deliver ordered care.

    More than 62 percent of the complaints against Casa Real and nearly 45 percent of the complaints against the Santa Fe Care Center were substantiated, according to the ombudsman office.

    Casa Real was recently named a “special focus facility” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because of the nursing home’s history of problems over several years. The focus status is given to the nation’s poorest-performing homes, and Casa Real will be subject to more frequent inspections as a result of the designation.

    Casa Real has been assessed nearly $203,000 in federal fines in the past three years, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Santa Fe Care Center was fined a total of more than $204,000 in 2015 and 2016.

    Conditions at both nursing homes are the subject of a lawsuit filed against their operators by the state Attorney General’s Office, which alleges the homes received hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare, Medicaid and private payers without delivering even basic care.

    Also, since 2003, Casa Real has been sued at least 13 times for wrongful death in caring for residents, according to court records. It denied the allegations. Ten of the 12 cases were settled or otherwise dismissed prior to trial. It isn’t clear from court records whether some cases were dismissed because of settlements or other reasons. Three cases are pending.

    The Santa Fe Care Center has been sued at least twice for wrongful death and twice for negligence since 2010, court records show. It also denied the allegations, and those cases never made it to trial because of dismissal due to settlement or other reasons.

    The nursing homes and Preferred Care, their operator since 2012, didn’t respond to requests for interviews to discuss conditions at Casa Real and the Santa Fe Care Center and to provide tours of the homes. Preferred Care has denied the allegations in the lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

    Unexplained injuries


    Suzette Lucero said her father, Robert Piñeda, a former Santa Fe city manager and a former Santa Fe County manager, was admitted to Casa Real in August 2012 for rehabilitation after falling and breaking a kneecap.

    “We figured four weeks, in and out,” Lucero said in a recent interview. He was dead four months later, the result of a bedsore developed while at the nursing home, she said.

    “He got thrown into a house of horrors and had an agonizing and horrific death,” Lucero said.

    Piñeda was 69. A wrongful death lawsuit against Casa Real was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

    The 118-bed Casa Real, open since 1984, is located on Galisteo Street near Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. It’s a nondescript brown stucco building. The lobby has a Santa Fe-style feel with brown tiles and wood posts and beams.

    “Casa Real offers the convenience of location in Santa Fe, NM combined with our excellent skilled and caring clinical and rehabilitation staff,” the home’s website says. “At Casa Real, you’ll enjoy our warm and compassionate services …”

    Inspectors of the state Department of Health have found something different.

    The department conducted its last standard health inspection of the nursing home in April and reported 37 deficiencies, more than three times the average number of health deficiencies found in all New Mexico nursing homes. Among the reported problems:

    • Medications were not administered at proper doses or on time. One resident was supposed to be given a medication daily but didn’t receive it on 13 days in March. Also, residents didn’t receive medications because the home didn’t have them available. Expired medications were found in drug storage.

    • A female resident who was supposed to receive a shower three times a week hadn’t had a shower for a week. “I got a shower cause I was begging for it,” the resident told an inspector.

    • Bathroom pull cords for call lights were unreachable if a resident fell.

    • Residents were not receiving the number of physical therapy sessions ordered by physicians. “This deficient practice … is likely to increase falls resulting in bruises, lacerations, broken bones, head trauma and death,” the inspector’s report said.

    • Food was not served at the proper temperature, and food in refrigerators was older than its expiration date.

    The Department of Health also conducted limited inspections of Casa Real in September and November after it received complaints.

    The November inspection was the result of a complaint over the care provided to the resident whose blocked urinary catheter was discovered by the hospice nurse.

    “During further investigation, the [inspection] team discovered that another resident … had also recently had an obstructed urinary catheter that went unnoticed by staff, until family alerted staff that the urinary catheter bag was empty,” the inspection report said.

    The report said some of the home’s residents were in immediate jeopardy as a result of improper care of urinary catheters.

    An inspector also reported hearing a Casa Real nurse say she was glad a male resident had been transferred to a hospital because he was a “pain in the ass.”

    The September complaint inspection found that Casa Real failed to report resident injuries of unknown origin to the Department of Health and submit required followup investigations.

    In addition, the nursing home failed to promptly report that a male resident had been found by an aide in a female resident’s room with his hands on the woman’s chest as she slept, according to the inspection report. The aide escorted the man out of the room. Casa Real didn’t have a plan to address the man’s “inappropriate sexual behavior, wandering and resident-to-resident abuse,” the report said.

    The investigation report also noted deficiencies in caring for a wound to a woman’s knee, insufficient nurse staffing and inadequate controls in preventing spread of a resident’s methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. The illness, also known as an MRSA infection, can be life-threatening because the bacteria that causes it has become resistant to many antibiotics.

    The website for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows all the deficiencies listed in the inspections of Casa Real over the past year have been corrected, but that doesn’t mean inspectors won’t find the same, similar or new problems in their next inspection.

    The 2016 standard health inspection of Casa Real found 39 deficiencies, and the 2015 inspection found 25. All those problems also were reported as being corrected.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services designated Casa Real a special focus facility in May. It will be subject to about two standard inspections a year instead of one.

    The agency said it created the special focus facility initiative because nursing homes with a “ ‘yo-yo’ or ‘in and out’ compliance history rarely addressed underlying systemic problems that were giving rise to repeated cycles of serious deficiencies.”

    One other special focus facility is in New Mexico. It is the Sagecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Las Cruces, which is operated by the same group that runs Casa Real. The home has been in focus status for nearly two years.

    Dusty McDaniel, a chaplain who serves Casa Real residents, said in a recent interview in the home’s parking lot that he has seen improvements at the facility in the past 18 or so months.

    “You’ve got doctors that care, for one,” McDaniel said. The residents were previously treated by one physician who also was responsible for residents of at least two other nursing homes, one in Albuquerque, he said.

    The chaplain also said Casa Real is cleaner now and has more concerned staff.

    While the home has an overall one-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it has a three-star, or average, rating for staffing and a four-star, or above-average, rating for registered nurse staffing.

    Casa Real also was given a three-star rating for two dozen quality measures, reflecting a mix of good and bad. For example, its percentage of long-stay residents experiencing falls with major injuries was below the state average. But it ranked poorly when it came to short-stay residents who made improvements.

    Threatened discharge

    John “Jack” Conant, a retired Sandia National Laboratories chemist, was admitted to the Santa Fe Care Center in December 2010 for nursing care and rehabilitation following partial hip replacement surgery.

    “He was OK when he went in,” said his wife of more than 50 years, Georgianne Conant.

    Jack Conant’s stay was a brief one. About two weeks after being admitted to the Santa Fe Care Center, he fell, according to a lawsuit. Despite intense pain, he wasn’t transferred to a hospital until three days after the fall, the lawsuit said, adding that hospital doctors found he had a dislocated hip, as well as an advanced bedsore.

    Jack Conant died in March 2011 because of complications of a hip fracture, sepsis from bedsore infections, and a lung infection, according to the lawsuit, which alleged the Santa Fe Care Center and Cathedral Rock, then owner of the nursing home, were negligent.

    The Conant family, the Santa Fe Care Center and Cathedral Rock settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum.

    “That care center is terrible,” Georgianne Conant said in a recent interview. “The people that are there need help. They just don’t get it.”

    The 120-bed Santa Fe Care Center, open since at least 1999, is located on Harkle Road near its sister facility. There’s a rose garden out front.

    Like Casa Real, the Santa Fe Care Center promises quality care. The listed amenities for both homes include social outings and gatherings, beauty and barber services, complimentary Wi-Fi and a monthly “Chef’s Selection Dinner, which showcases gourmet cuisine from around the world.”

    The Health Department conducted its last standard inspection of the home in September and reported 14 health deficiencies.

    A relative of a female resident said he had numerous concerns about the woman’s care, including inadequate responses to the resident’s inhalation of fluid or solids, inappropriate positioning of the woman’s neck, late medications and the woman’s foot dragging on the floor while she was being taken for a shower, the inspection report said.

    After filing a complaint with the Department of Health, the family was served by the Santa Fe Care Center with a notice of involuntary transfer or discharge of the woman in 30 days, the report said.

    “The [home’s administrator] verified that the reason why the family was given the notice of discharge was due to the constant and numerous unreasonable requests, allegations and complaints made by the family,” the report said.

    The report said the Santa Fe Care Center was deficient in allowing residents to “voice a complaint or grievance without being treated differently or badly.”

    The report doesn’t say whether the woman was allowed to stay at the nursing home.

    The inspection also found some residents weren’t getting prescribed medications and that the nursing home failed to record, prevent and deal with dramatic weight loss by some residents.

    A complaint inspection of the Santa Fe Care Center was conducted in July 2016. It found the home had waited at least 48 hours to advise a physician about a new resident’s significant deterioration in mental and physical function.

    A urinary tract infection went undetected and led to a life-threatening infection, insufficient blood flow to the organs and acute kidney injury, the inspection report said.

    The female resident was taken to a hospital four days after being admitted to the Santa Fe Care Center, the report said. During her short stay at the nursing home, according to a family member, she had to sit in fecal matter while waiting for help for incontinence.

    Like its sister facility, the Santa Fe Care Center has a history of poor performance in standard inspections. Inspectors reported 22 deficiencies in 2015 and 13 in 2014.

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has given the nursing home a four-star, or above average, rating for staffing and registered nurse staffing, but it gave the Santa Fe Care Center one star when it came to quality measures. For example, the nursing home performs poorly when it comes to short-stay residents who make improvements, short-stay residents with new or worsened bedsores and long-stay residents whose ability to move independently worsened.

    On a recent morning, a woman who identified herself only as Theresa was visiting her mother at the Santa Fe Care Center. She said she has found the staff and therapists attentive to residents but the home is small, with double rooms and a garden for residents.

    “I’m OK with the care,” she said. “I want a better facility.”

    “The problem is that there are not many options” in Santa Fe for Medicare and Medicaid patients, the woman said. “People who don’t have a lot of money end up here. I think more options would make these places better.”

    State lawsuit

    The Attorney General’s Office filed its lawsuit in 2014 against Preferred Care Partners Management Group, the operator of Casa Real and the Santa Fe Care Center.

    The lawsuit alleges that Preferred Care defrauded Medicaid by having insufficient staff to meet the needs of residents at its Santa Fe nursing homes, as well as at facilities in Gallup, Las Cruces, Bloomfield, Española and Lordsburg. Also named as a defendant is Cathedral Rock, former owner of the homes.

    The lawsuit has been controversial because of the political connections of the outside lawyers assisting the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the novel premise of the case: that based upon thin staffing, the homes were incapable of delivering basic care to residents, including assistance with bathing, meals and toileting.

    Preferred Care has called the lawsuit “a textbook case for these lawyers who put money in the campaign coffers of attorneys general across the country and then push them to file questionable claims.”

    The lawsuit says the state has witnesses, including family members and nursing home staff, who will support the claims of inadequate care.

    Lucero, whose wrongful death lawsuit against Casa Real was settled, said she is prepared to testify for the state.

    “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through and what my father went through,” she said.

    The attorney general’s lawsuit is scheduled for trial in the spring in state District Court in Santa Fe.

    Full Article & Source:
    Pair of for-profit nursing homes have long history of neglect

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    A Hawaiian law awaiting the governor’s signature could influence eldercare legislation for the rest of the United States after local leaders push for a bill that aims to aid family caregivers. If passed, the law would be the first of its kind in the U.S. to provide funds to family members who hold down jobs and act as caregivers — promising up to $70 a day in help from home aids.

    With trained caregiver hourly rates teetering between roughly $10 and $12, this kind of assistance would give caregivers time to pick up overtime at work, take care of children, run errands, and provide care while they’re not around.

    Families Who Need the Help Most Can’t Afford It


    This funding is also important because many times families who need the most help cannot afford it. “In Hawaii, we’ve heard time and again that it’s not wealthy people that are hiring domestic workers — it’s people who need some support here and there,” Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, explained to Slate. “It’s working families who are … working part-time or temporary [jobs], or they’re self-employed and they’re trying to piece together work.”

    Bill Doesn’t Interfere With Cultural Norms


    This bill will not only be a potential lifeline for families who need it, it will also reinforce culture. Kevin Simowitz, Caring Across Generations political director, told Slate that as they looked for ways to help Hawaii’s aging population, they saw an unexpected pushback from locals. “I was surprised at how often, early in the conversation, people would say some version of, ‘I don’t think this is somebody else’s responsibility. I think care is my responsibility. My parents are getting older — I should take care of them.’”

    In Hawaii, the job of a caregiver is revered with respect and dignity. The elderly are lovingly referred to as Kupuna, and the responsibility of a child to care for their parents is one that is not second-guessed. So, when local leaders and advocacy groups started poking around and learning more about Hawaii’s elderly and those who care for them, they were surprised to find that family caregivers shied away and generally refused outside help, even if it was needed.

    It’s the balance between family eldercare and specialized help that has aided in this bill’s support. The legislation doesn’t replace the tradition of eldercare in the Hawaiian community, but rather reinforces it by providing vital resources to families in need.

    Other States May Follow


    The bill is also timely. The U.S. census projected that by 2030, more than one-fifth of the population will be 65 or older. On the island state of Hawaii, that number is expected to reach 30 percent by the same year.

    Right now, Washington State is considering a similar bill, and other states with rapidly aging populations like Maine, Michigan, and Minnesota are also taking note. As the rest of the country ages, we assume other states will look to Hawaii’s program for inspiration — if it gets Gov. David Ige’s expected signature, that is.

    Full Article & Source:
    Hawaii Eldercare Law Could Set Future Precedent

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    Academy will educate financial institutions and service agencies to combat elder financial exploitation

    The Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders announced today that it has awarded a $30,000 grant to fund the launch of an Elder Justice Advocates Academy. A project of the California Elder Justice Coalition, the Advocates Academy will support state and national efforts to combat elder financial abuse and provide relief to its victims. This includes engaging financial institutions and educating stakeholders about the Victims of Crime Act and other programs and resources for victims.

    Commenting on the grant, Ian Clark Devine, an advisor to the Fund, said: “Educating advocates, financial institutions and social services agencies about policy needs is essential to combating the problem of elder financial abuse. The California Elder Justice Coalition (CEJC) has extensive experience in this area and is well positioned to take the lead in developing strategies that can be applied nationwide.” 

    “The Elder Justice Advocates Academy is an important first step in promoting exchange among state elder justice programs about how they’re being affected by federal developments and how they’re responding,” said Lisa Nerenberg, executive director of the CEJC. “It will build upon our state program by sharing the information, strategies, and materials CEJC has produced and providing technical assistance to help other communities implement promising practices. We also plan to alert federal policy makers and advocates about states’ needs.”

    The grant to launch the Elder Justice Academy is the Fund’s fifth since its inception in 2013. Its earlier grants provided financial support for programs to train Adult Protective Service workers; help banks implement federal guidelines for sharing customer information with investigatory agencies in cases of suspected financial exploitation of the elderly; convene a roundtable of national specialists to formulate specific proposals to prevent elder abuse; and develop model civil statutes to help victims of financial exploitation seek justice, recover assets and rebuild their lives. 

    About the California Elder Justice Coalition

    The CEJC was formed in 2008 to provide a voice from the field in elder justice policy. It emerged in response to gaps in services, coordination, and leadership that led to a fragmented and poorly coordinated response to elder abuse, neglect, and the violation of older adults’ rights. Today the CEJC has 72 members, including state organizations, coalitions, prosecutors’ offices, departments of aging and adult services, local agencies, researchers, and individuals.

    About the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders

    Established in 2013, the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders is a donor-advised fund created by members of the Clark family to honor their late aunt, Huguette Clark, who was victimized by her caregivers and advisors for more than two decades. The Fund supports innovative organizations and programs to fight the financial abuse of elders, addressing immediate needs overlooked by traditional programs as well as innovative models that can be replicated nationwide.

    The family’s strategy has been to make targeted grants to develop pilot programs that could be scaled or replicated later for broader impact. Grants are related to the abuse that Huguette Clark herself suffered, specifically the prevention of undue influence, manipulation and financial abuse by institutions, professionals and caregivers.

    Grants made by the Fund have supported programs in three general areas: developing better tools and training for those who are fighting elder abuse; encouraging meaningful collaboration of experts to make their work more effective; and providing services for victims. 

    1.    The Fund’s first grant in December 2013 developed online training modules for Adult Protective Service (APS) workers to help them recognize and report financial exploitation and undue influence. While APS workers are on the front lines of fighting elder abuse, standards for these positions vary dramatically by state and are often inadequate to today’s challenges. The grant to San Diego State University created two one-hour, online training modules that are available nationally.

    2.    The Fund’s second grant responded to the reluctance of banks to share information when they suspect financial abuse. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 permits financial institutions to disclose customer information to authorities in cases of suspected elder financial abuse. But unclear about their legal liability, banks routinely ignored requests for this information. The Fund’s grant helped the Philadelphia Corporation on Aging and the National Adult Protective Services Association develop a standardized form and protocols for financial institutions and APS agencies to facilitate the sharing of information. The form has been credited with getting several banks to release records to APS workers for the first time. The program received a 2016 Aging Achievement Award in the Elder Abuse Prevention category from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

    3.    Many specialists in aging have devoted their lives to the fight against elder abuse. To improve communication and coordination among them, the Fund sponsored a roundtable of experts in Washington, DC. Hosted by the National Center for Victims of Crime, the roundtable identified and prioritized unmet needs in the realm of elder financial exploitation, and produced a white paper with five practical recommendations for action.

    4.    A significant and fundamental gap in the justice system is the lack of effective civil remedies for preventing elder abuse and recovering losses. Civil attorneys lack incentives to take cases as recoveries are low and cases are labor intensive. The National Center for Victims of Crime and the American Bar Association (ABA) shared the Fund’s fourth grant to develop model civil statute provisions that allow for attorneys’ fees and treble damages, as well as provisions for burden shifting, extending the statute of limitations, and other victim-centered and protective mechanisms. The model civil provisions were presented at a plenary session of the ABA’s National Conference on Aging and Law in October 2016.

    Full Article & Source:
    Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders to Support New Elder Justice Advocates Academy

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    NORRISTOWN, Pa. - Five more people have come forward, claiming to have been victimized by a disbarred attorney who was originally arrested last spring for allegedly misusing money meant for a woman in Berks County.

    Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced Friday additional felony charges against Patrick Bradley. Those charges include dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities, theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property.

    Bradley, 45, of Collegeville, was arrested on April 10 for the alleged theft and misappropriation of $146,917.01 in client funds. Publicity surrounding the case led to the discovery of five additional victims, with losses totaling $13,954.19, Steele said.

    Bradley was authorized to use the money to pay the living expenses of a woman in a facility in Berks County, however, he instead used it to pay for his utility and cell phone bills, restaurant meals, gas, and retail purchases, Steele said.

    "These victims believed they were paying for legal work by a reputable attorney who was in good standing and licensed," Steele said. "Instead, the defendant took money for work he was not authorized to perform, never fully performed or that he stole funds he was to safeguard for the benefit of an individual. He took advantage of good people for his own gain."

    Bradley is free on $50,000 bail. He's due in court for a preliminary hearing on August 22.

    In the meantime, Steele said there may be more than the 17 victims located, so far. Anyone with information concerning questionable legal interactions or use of their funds by Bradley is asked to call the Montgomery County detectives at 610-278-3368.

    Full Article & Source:
    More felony charges filed against disbarred attorney

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    Las Vegas Metro Police Department Lt. Tom Melton was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday following an internal criminal investigation.

    Melton is the commanding officer for the department's SWAT team.

    Contact 13 has information about how this could be connected to elder abuse in our guardianship system.

    We found court records showing Melton is the guardian and trustee for a now-deceased elderly couple -- Jerome and Beverly Flaherty.

    April Parks was the couple's co-guardian. Parks sits in Clark County jail facing over 200 felony counts of theft and exploitation.

    Law enforcement sources confirm Melton is being investigated for financial exploitation of the elderly.

    But Melton's attorney says his client did nothing wrong. He points to Parks and attorney Noel Palmer Simpson who Melton hired for help on the Flaherty's guardianship case.

    Simpson was also charged back in March with theft and filing false documents with the court.

    Las Vegas police said results from the criminal investigation will be turned over to the District Attorney.

    The Nevada Attorney General's office says, "Protecting Nevadans against financial fraud remains a priority" for their office, but they "cannot comment on any pending investigations."

    Full Article & Source:
    LVMPD Lt. Tom Melton placed on leave due to criminal investigation

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    An Indian American man involved in a complicated IRS phone scam scheme that bilked more than $360,000 from elderly U.S. residents made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts, July 7 and was released without bail, on his own recognizance.

    Ashokkumar ‘Andy’ Patel, believed to be a “runner” in a scheme possibly involving call centers in India, was arrested in Schaumburg, Illinois, after a criminal complaint compiled by FBI Special Agent Andrew Nambu was unsealed June 28. He appeared in court in Worcester, where he formerly resided while allegedly participating in the fraud.

    Patel is charged with three felony counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering.

    Reached at his office, Nambu told India-West he could not comment on a pending investigation.

    According to the criminal complaint, Patel was involved in scamming at least three elderly residents of Massachusetts in a 10-month period, beginning in December 2013. In one instance, a caller posing as an attorney from the Central Investigation Bureau, and the Central Investigation Division, left several calls on the landline of a retired and disabled internal medicine physician in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

    When the victim answered one of the calls, the caller identified himself as an attorney with the U.S. government, and stated there was a warrant for her arrest because she owed taxes.

    The victim – identified only as V.A. – believed that the caller was legitimately from the U.S. government, because he correctly stated her maiden name, social security number, date of birth, and other identifying information, according to the complaint.

    The caller spoke to V.A. in Hindi, which she understood. She was told to purchase several “MoneyPak” cards, and initially sent $20,000.

    Between Dec. 20, 2013 and Feb. 7, 2014, the victim transferred approximately $85,000 to the bogus operation. The elderly woman stated she was in pain from her medical condition and had difficulty driving her car, but the calls nevertheless persisted.

    In a second case, a victim residing in Lexington, Massachusetts, received a voicemail from (800) 829-1040, asking him to call back the Internal Revenue Service at (202) 754-8639.

    The following day, the victim – identified as K.N. – received a call from a Kevin, who identified himself as an IRS agent. K.N. was told there was a warrant for his arrest because of back taxes, and that he immediately had to pay $10,500.

    According to the criminal complaint, K.N. told investigators that he heard voices in the background during the call speaking Hindi or Gujarati.

    Patel allegedly transferred K.N.’s preloaded MoneyPak cards into Green Dot debit cards, then used the cards to obtain MoneyGram money orders. The funds were then deposited into Bank of America accounts, which constitutes wire fraud, according to the complaint.

    In a third instance, a 65-year-old resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, was bilked of more than $44,000 in July 2014, in the same scheme.

    Patel is believed to be the “runner” in all three scams, transferring the victims’ pre-loaded debit cards into MoneyGram and Western Union money orders, which he then deposited into bank accounts.

     Between the period of November 2013 and September 2015, Patel deposited more than $145,000 into his Bank of America account from unknown sources.

    Thomas Dahdouh, Western region director of the Federal Trade Commission, told India-West that in IRS scams, “we have a sense that they are getting leads from payday loan Web sites.”

    “They are getting folks who are in their last dollar situations,” he said, noting that this was only one of several ways that fraudsters identify their targets.

    He explained that “money mules” – like Patel – are people who transfer funds collected in the U.S. to offshore agencies, whom the FTC has been attempting to go after.

    A significant number of “IRS scam boiler rooms” are based in India, said Dahdouh. He noted that the Indian government had raided several boiler rooms last fall, and the number of complaints about scam calls significantly dropped.

    But the drop reversed this spring, he said, noting that fraudsters have re-organized themselves after the raids.

    Dahdouh noted that – in the past – the IRS would never call a person who owed taxes and would communicate only by written letters. That has changed however: IRS agents have been hired in recent months to call people to collect back taxes, leaving consumers confused about legitimate callers, he told India-West.

    Full Article & Source:
    ‘Runner’ in IRS Phone Scam Arrested for Bilking $360K from Elderly U.S. Residents

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    District of Trumbull Probate Judge T.R. Rowe announced that Connecticut passed a new conservatorship law that affects a common probate court matter on May 24.


    District of Trumbull Probate Judge T.R. Rowe

    The law, Public Act No. 17-7, is called An Act Concerning Conservator Accountability. A conservator is someone appointed by the probate court to supervise the affairs of a person who cannot manage his or her personal care or finances without assistance. According to the Trumbull Probate Court, it oversees hundreds of such conservatorships throughout the towns of Trumbull, Easton and Monroe.

    The new law will change conservator accountability in two key ways, Rowe said. The new law requires the Probate Court Administrator to develop standard, statewide policies for conservators to follow and to educate conservators about the standards and came into effect on July 1. These standardized policies will both guide conservators through their duties and also assist the court in evaluating whether the conservator has been managing the conservatorship properly. 

    The law also creates permits the Probate Court Administrator to audit an account managed by a conservator to ensure he or she manages it according to the court’s policies and standards of conduct. The Probate Court Administrator will have the authority to conduct these audits randomly to deter financial misconduct and it will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

    “Our current conservatorship system runs quite well, but this new law will be a nice improvement. Conservators play a vital role in the lives of thousands of needy folks in our state every day,” Rowe said. “We will now have a mechanism in place for greater uniformity in the care given to conserved people.”

    Rowe added, “The discretion the legislation gives to the Probate Court Administrator to randomly audit conservatorship accounts will provide additional safeguards as well.”

    Full Article & Source:
    New state conservatorship law to take effect next year

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    Guarding the Guardians: The Challenge of Protecting the Incapacitated New Mexico’s Guardianship System provides the statutory framework for guardianship and care to be provided to incapacitated adults deemed to not possess the mental ability to care for themselves and their assets any longer.

    Due to the expense of Guardianship proceedings these adults must have sufficient financial resources in order to afford the court proceedings necessary for the appointment of a guardian. They also must have no other form of intervention, such as a power of attorney or designated decision maker (usually a trustee), set in place.

    When one is declared incompetent they become a ward and are appointed a guardian who then acts as their surrogate decision-maker concerning their place of residence and health care decisions. A visitor (generally a social worker who reports to the court on the person’s situation) and a guardian ad litem (an attorney who represents the alleged incompetent person and reports what their best interests are to the court) are appointed by a judge to act only for the alleged incompetent person.

    A conservator, who makes decisions about and deals with their financial matters, also is usually appointed by the court. The powers of these appointees can be limited by the court depending on the alleged incompetent person’s capabilities and needs. The Guardianship procedure is statutory, and is the only method available under New Mexico law for appointment of a guardian or conservator. Those who most commonly qualify for appointment of a guardian or conservator include adults with a significant brain trauma injury, developmental disability, behavioral health disorder, Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other conditions that produce similar effects.

    In these situations when the person is unable to make or communicate their decisions, a Guardian is appointed by the courts. In cases of mental illness, a trained Mental Health Treatment Guardian is appointed.

    In cases where there are significant conflicted family disputes, or when there is no family to step in for the incapacitated person, the Guardianship System is a viable option that provides care, decision making, and legal services through contracts with attorneys, guardians ad litem, and court visitors. The System does not come without its drawbacks and risks, however.

    Across the nation, and particularly in New Mexico, there have been cases of fraud in Guardianship proceedings. Some families have come forward claiming that their family member has been wrongfully entered into guardian or conservatorship proceedings against their will, and both the member and their assets have been significantly mismanaged. While there does seem to be a rise in such cases of fraud, it has not yet become a major issue in Los Alamos. So far, Los Alamos has only dealt with two or three cases of alleged abuse in attempts to have a guardian or conservator appointed in court.

    A Los Alamos Police Department Officer commented that he feels fraudulent cases are not as big of an issue in Los Alamos. He said, “Los Alamos County is unique, in that most of the elderly have been able to either have a solid base of money or that someone in their family does.

    We, as a county, take pride in being a county that has the education that we do, so that helps in regards to people being very careful in picking either a guardian or an assisted living situation.

    The addition to that is that there are only three places in Los Alamos County that are assisted living. I believe that helps keep the people honest, as it is a small community.”

    While our small community may not have major problems with the Guardianship System, the potential for finding oneself in an undesirable situation certainly exists. The best way to avoid any such situation is by remaining informed and prepared.

    Many of the reported problems with the guardianship system stem from neglect or purposeful fraud by appointed guardians and conservators; including fraudulent billing, exploitation, moving the ward to different, unnecessary living arrangements and selling their property and assets, unnecessary charging of expenses, and false filings and records. This generally arises when someone other than a family member is appointed as a guardian; however, it is not unheard of among family members as well.

    An article about cases of guardianship mismanagement was published in the Albuquerque Journal in November 2016. “Who guards the guardians: A Series by Diane Dimond,” is a five-part series highlighting the risks and caveats of the Guardianship System. The article contains cases of several Albuquerqueans who felt they were taken advantage of in the Guardianship System. In one such case Albuquerque native Mary Darnell was serving as her mother’s caretaker when Darnell’s sister filed a petition requesting the courts to declare their mother as incapacitated and appoint outsiders to manage her affairs. The petition was granted.

    Darnell’s mother was entered as a “ward of the state,” appointed a guardian, her civil rights were removed, and she was referred to as “an adult incapacitated person” without even appearing before the Court. Darnell and her other siblings, who had not initiated the proceeding, felt helpless in the case and found themselves separated and isolated from their mother.

    Over the next few years, Darnell found her mother’s estate being sold off, drained of its assets, and mismanaged. By the time her mother died seven years later, her estate, which had an estimated value of $5 million when the court first took possession of it, had dwindled to less than $750,000. In addition, the 17-acre estate had been divided and sold off without the children’s consent by the appointed conservator. More cases, as well as an in-depth look and analysis into the Guardianship System, can be read in the full series – found at:
    https://www.abqjournal.com/898385/who-guards-the-guardians-a-5-part-series-by-diane-dimond.html.

    Common complaints concerning the New Mexico Guardianship System cite the fact that New Mexico’s poor financial situation and consequent lack of funding are the reasons that there are no in depth audits or reviews of the performance of the conservator of the ward’s assets.

    Many who are involved in the Guardianship System feel that there is no accountability between the judges who oversee the cases and the guardians who are supposed to report to them.

    When asked what he felt the key to raising accountability between guardians and judges was, a Los Alamos Police Department Officer stated, “The largest obstacle that is in the way of the judges is poorly written and undefined legislation. Not only that, but with the state being overall a poor state, many of the people within the state cannot afford to have their attorneys work all the way up to the Supreme Court where case law could set precedent for future problems.”

    Currently, in Albuquerque there are ten judges that handle guardianship cases, eight of whom handle a load of more than 1,000 cases each. While this has led many to feel that this reduces accountability between judges and guardians because the size of their caseload prevents in-depth attention, this is not yet as much of an issue in Los Alamos. As a result of guardianship cases being handled at the District Court level, there are three judges in the First Judicial District in Santa Fe that handle these cases.

    Because the Guardianship System comes with inherent risks of fraud, there are several measures that should be taken to minimize the risks. The first is for persons to be very careful when selecting their future designated decision maker, and use Guardianship as a last resort.

    Guardianship removes many rights of an alleged incompetent person; including the right to manage money, vote, marry, sign contracts, determine medical care, and monitor domestic visitors. In addition, the alleged incompetent person does not have the power to choose their guardian in court proceedings. In the event that an alleged incompetent person has not selected anyone to manage their estate through a Power of Attorney or trust prior to being declared incapacitated, they can be entered into the Guardianship System if deemed necessary, and the courts appoint the guardian and or conservator.

    One way to avoid the risks that come with the Guardianship System is for a person to utilize written Powers of Attorney for health care and financial issues, and to choose wisely when deciding upon their designated Attorney-in-Fact (A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which a person can authorize a surrogate – known as an Attorney-in-Fact – to act for them).

    An intervivos or living trust is another way to avoid the expense of court initiated by guardian or conservatorship proceedings.

    An Attorney-in-Fact is designated and appointed before a person becomes incapacitated. Often, a person will appoint a springing power of attorney, in which they can specify that the Attorney-in-Fact will only come, or “spring”, into effect when two separate doctors have diagnosed them as unable to care for themselves and manage their assets. Some choose to have their Attorney-in-Fact come into effect immediately upon signing, while they are still capable of managing themselves, but wish someone else to have the power to act immediately.

    By appointing an Attorney-in-Fact, persons have control over who will manage their affairs, and it is a much surer option that is associated with less risks. Even when appointing an Attorney-in-Fact one must be extremely careful. There remains the potential risk for the designee to mismanage the person’s assets and health. An additional measure that can be taken to combat this risk is to appoint multiple Attorneys-in-Fact. There are several ways to do this. The first is to appoint each Attorney-in-Fact with independent authority.

    This results in them having the responsibility to manage any task that is authorized by the Power of Attorney document. In this case, they do not need to consult the other before making a decision; as their responsibilities are separate. The other, perhaps safest way, is to appoint more than one Attorney-in-Fact and stipulate that they must reach an agreement before making any decisions concerning the person’s assets or health.

    A Power of Attorney can be revoked at any time before the person becomes incapacitated. After the person becomes incapacitated, however, the legal battle to revoke a Power of Attorney becomes more difficult.

    Another way to avoid the risks of court initiated by guardian or conservatorship proceedings is for a person to create a living trust before becoming incapacitated.

    If they choose to do so, they usually name themselves as trustee, but name a family member, friend, or trust company as their successor trustee. A successor trustee manages their financial affairs should they become incapacitated. This eliminates the need for conservatorship court action. In order to eliminate the necessity of guardianship court action, however, a Power of Attorney for Health Care (Advanced Health Care Directive) is still necessary.

    As a result of the considerable loss of civil rights when entering into, and the inherent risks involved, the Guardianship System should be considered only after these alternative options are shown not to exist for the individual. If one finds themselves in an undesirable Guardianship situation however, their recourse may be limited. The Guardianship System requires intense secrecy and privacy concerning the cases, thus making it hard for family members to obtain information and be involved in the alleged incompetent person’s life.

    Despite this, there is still action that can be taken. A Los Alamos Police Department Officer advised, “A report to law enforcement could mean that police are able to determine that there is a criminal aspect to the situation, which would then be able to remove the elderly from the poor situation.”

    In addition to this, if one has a grievance against the Guardianship System, their complaints can be filed by sending a written complaint into the Secretary of Human Services Department and the Manager of Guardianship System at 625 Silver Av. SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102.

    As with most legal systems, New Mexico’s Guardianship System possesses both virtues and flaws. In order to navigate these issues, one should be educated about the system and explore their options carefully before committing to any such surrogate program; Guardianship or otherwise.

    Full Article & Source:
    Johnson: Guarding The Guardians

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    Although the American system of justice is the most-respected worldwide, it is still a system designed, and operated, by humans, which means it's not perfect. Lamont, Cliff, and Lisa will highlight ongoing struggles against "the system" and what happens when justice miscarries against our American citizens.

    Tonight, our Hosts will be discussing the Abuse of the Elderly in America's Rest Homes. Please feel free to dial in and share your thoughts on tonight's topic. We would love to hear from you!

    8:00 EST

    LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later

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    Beverly Joyce Kegley
    After a Johnstown woman was sentenced to jail time, community service and probation for stealing nearly $50,000 from an 87-year-old woman over a 13-month period, the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging is urging the public to keep an eye out for and report suspicions of elder abuse and exploitation.

    Beverly Joyce Kegley, 49, was working as an independent home health care provider when the thefts occurred, according to West Hills Regional police.

    In a criminal complaint, police said Kegley was caring for a senior citizen in Southmont when she allegedly made unauthorized purchases on credit cards, unauthorized ATM withdrawals and overcharged for her services.

    After the thefts were discovered by the victim’s tax preparer, the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging conducted a forensic audit, which revealed:

    • Overpayment for services from April 2015 to April 2016 totaling $21,552.

    • Unauthorized ATM withdrawals totaling $10,285.

    • Unauthorized charges at Wal-Mart for $2,822.

    • Unauthorized charges on a Chase credit card totaling $4,092.

    • Unauthorized purchases on a Citi credit card for $10,730.

    • Unauthorized transactions on a Sheetz Chase card for $446.

     On May 30, Kegley entered a guilty plea to two felony theft charges.

    On July 11, Judge Tamara Bernstein sentenced Kegley to 45 days to two years in the Cambria County Prison, followed by 48 months of county probation.

    In addition, Kegley was ordered to complete 160 hours of community service, have no contact with the victim and repay $38,928 in restitution, along with court fines and costs.

    M. Veil Griffith, administrator of Cambria County Agency on Aging, said the department has a protective services unit whose purpose is to protect the elderly against abuse, self-neglect and financial exploitation.

    Investigators are trained to handle these types of cases, she said, which are becoming more frequent as the region’s drug problem makes targets of elderly people who typically have their own homes and savings accounts.

    An interest in the mail, specifically credit card statements, is often the biggest tell-tale sign that an elderly person is being taken advantage of financially, she said.

    “That’s always the first red flag,” she said.

    “They want to get to the mail first.”

    Usually, an elderly victim who is being financially exploited by a caregiver is probably not being taken care of properly, Griffith added.

    They may be isolated or miss regular doctor appointments, for example.

    Although family members often are the most frequent perpetrators against the elderly, Griffith said other caregivers – as in Kegley’s case – are possible suspects.

    It’s often safer to hire caregivers who are employed through personal care agencies that must follow state guidelines and require background checks for employees rather than independent caregivers, she said.

    Aside from being careful in who you trust, Griffith added that it’s important for the elderly to balance their finances and keep a close eye on their bank statements.

    “The sooner something like this can be detected, the less loss there is,” she said.

    To make a report of suspected elderly abuse or financial exploitation, which can be done anonymously, contact the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging at 535-5595.

    Full Article & Source:
    Caregiver sentenced for theft from 87-year-old

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    MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Terry Graham is bed ridden. Doctors say a brain tumor started growing three months ago, but her family just found out. They’re also just finding out that she’s been the victim of elder abuse. Unfortunately, they believe one of her close friends is the suspect and has taken money out Graham’s account.

    “There was $10,000 taken from Regions. Then that Monday she wrote a $3,000 check, then July 12 she went to the credit union and got $72,572,” says Graham’s daughter, Terry Lynch.

    The bank told her it was a friend of her mother’s who had recently been added to the bank account.

    They are telling me that she’s the one signing the checks but that’s all they’ll tell me at this point,” says Ginger Lynch.

    This all happened while Graham was in the hospital. She added her friend to her bank account so that she could get help paying medical bills.

    She got another shock after she got home. The keys to her house were gone, so they had to change the locks to get in. A filing cabinet was also missing—and with it her social security card, driver’s license, birth certificate and her will. Cash was missing as well as her prescription medications.

    Graham’s daughter, Ginger says her mom’s mailing address had also been changed because they haven’t gotten mail in over a week. She now believes her mother’s friend had help from a family member.

    “Unfortunately, what we see most frequently are family members taking advantage of other family members,” says Sgt. Keith Miller with Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.

    Sgt. Keith Miller with Mobile County Sheriff’s Office says in cases like these, a family member should gain power of attorney.

    “If they’re to the level, either physically or mentally that they need a full-time caregiver chances are you would want to accept that responsibility to handle their daily affairs, particularly where there’s a large amount of money or bank accounts, things of that nature,” says Miller.

    And if you’re hiring someone to take care of your relative, you’ll want to screen them and their agency closely. Meanwhile, Ginger Lynch has filed reports and is working with the police on this case.

    Full Article & Source:
    Scambuster: Elderly Woman Victim of Financial Exploitation

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    Ayudando Guardians Inc. opened its doors with two nurses and a medical records expert in 2004. It was formed, according to its website, “due to the enormous need for guardians and conservators in the State of New Mexico.”

    The nonprofit Albuquerque-based guardian and conservator firm – now accused along with its principal owners of looting millions of dollars from client accounts – grew over the years.

    And, the company increasingly became a family affair.

     Newly unsealed federal search warrant affidavits describe how Ayudando – described in one federal document as “permeated by criminal activity” – began hiring more and more relatives of its two principals, Susan Harris and Sharon Moore.

    Three family members, in addition to Harris and Moore, had their own Ayudando credit cards and over a four-year period racked up more than $1 million in personal purchases, court records allege.

    Two of the three family members serve on Ayudando’s board of directors, drawing salaries of at least $56,000 a year, a 2015 IRS tax form shows. Each of the three relatives racked up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card charges from 2013 to March 2017, one affidavit states.

    The purchases “do not appear to be related to Ayudando clients,” said one affidavit stated. “The credit charges appear to be personal expenses such as cruises, hotels, casinos, automobiles, furniture and other personal expenses.”

    The affidavits identify the three relatives as: Harris’ husband, William Harris, Craig Young and Cody Harris. They have not been charged.

    Susan Harris and Moore were arrested after a 28-count federal criminal indictment was unsealed July 19. The company was also indicted.

    Several Ayudando employees who became confidential witnesses in the case told investigators that Ayudando appeared to be putting “more and more family members” on the payroll and “the business owners and their families appear to be living lavish lifestyles with expensive vehicles and expensive vacations,” one affidavit states.

    The organization was tightly run by the family insiders. Affidavits allege that some non-family employees had their access to client accounts cut off – meaning they lost their ability to monitor transactions and balances.

    There was even a file room at the company’s Central Avenue offices that non-family members were barred from entering, an affidavit alleges.

    Mission gone awry

    Ayudando’s web site sets out a lofty mission statement.

    “As a provider for the State of New Mexico,Veterans and private individuals, Ayudando employs an experienced team of licensed social workers and rehabilitation specialists.”

    “This diverse group is able to assist our clients with their everyday needs as well as providing assistance in managing their financial needs.”

    Details emerging from the yearlong federal investigation describe a different kind of operation.

    Federal agents made detailed allegations in affidavits seeking search warrants to obtain company records and, more recently, sought permission to seize a 2018 K-Z RV Durango Gold 5th wheel RV purchased in late June of this year by Harris and her husband of 27 years, William Harris. They allegedly bought the RV using proceeds from an illegal scheme to embezzle funds from clients, some with special needs, according to an affidavit filed July 24.

    Harris, 70, and Moore, 62, have pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, mail fraud, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft that allegedly dates back to 2006. Both women were ordered released from federal custody under certain conditions and after posting property bonds Friday.

    Both have homes in the Tanoan Country Club area in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. An attorney for Moore didn’t return a Journal phone call. Robert Gorence, who represented Susan Harris at her detention hearing, had no comment. Efforts to reach lawyers who have represented the firm in the past were unsuccessful last week.

    A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque declined to comment on whether the family members named in the affidavits or anyone else will be charged in the case.

    The arrests of the two women coincided with a federal restraining order against them and 11 others, barring their entry into Ayudando offices at 1400 Central SE without prior approval from the U.S. Marshals Service. Several of those are believed to be family members of Sharon Moore or Susan Harris.

    “Based on the widespread indications of criminal activity, centered around Ayudando’s core bank accounts and affecting all categories of its clients, it appears Ayudando is permeated by criminal activity,” said one IRS agent in seeking a July 12 search of Ayudando offices. “Efforts to restrict the search to certain client files would be futile and could result in substantial under-collection of evidence of criminal activity.”

    Federal agents who executed the search removed more than 476 boxes of documents along with computer hard drives from the business.

    Accidental discoveries

    The affidavits chronicle how over the past year at least four employees, referred to as confidential witnesses, came forward with information about the alleged embezzlement. The affidavit refers to them as “walk-ins.”

    They told federal investigators how they discovered that Ayudando client funds were disappearing. At least twice, according to one affidavit, the employees found out by happenstance while company owners appeared to take steps to keep their activities hidden.

    For instance, the affidavits say:

    ⋄ One employee accidentally wrote a check for client services from a client’s Veterans Affairs money market account. The check bounced, and, when she called the bank, she was told the money market account had been closed due to insufficient funds. According to the bank, there had been about $100,000 in transfers from the client’s VA money market account into other Ayudando bank accounts.

    ⋄ Employees who work as representative payees – managing monthly client pension or benefits checks from the VA or Social Security – didn’t normally have access to Ayudando petty cash account. But several months ago, an employee accidentally got access to that account “and saw that there were lots of payments from the petty cash account to the Ayudando owners and their family members. There was also a $75,000 payment to an American Express card from the petty cash.”

    ⋄ At least two confidential witnesses reported that their prior access to VA clients’ savings or money market accounts had been taken away several years ago. That kept them from seeing the balances. They had access only to a client’s checking accounts.

    ⋄ One employee alleged that she had a client who died about four or five years ago and who was missing about $30,000 from his account. The confidential witness told investigators the deceased client had money “that should have been returned to Social Security.” After she asked defendant Moore if the funds had been returned, the employee “lost access to that client’s account, and doesn’t know if the money was ever returned.”

    ⋄ One relative of Ayudando president Susan Harris who works as a guardian is alleged to have taken about $22,000 in client funds from two different clients and failed to provide receipts to show where the money went. Such client advances require that guardians submit receipts. When informed about the issue, Moore told the employee in charge of the accounts that she would “take care of it.”
    Stealing from veterans

    The indictment singles out the cases of 10 veterans the government contends were victims of the alleged embezzlement scheme. Information in the affidavits suggests there could be several dozen more clients whose accounts were illegally tapped.

    For instance, one employee told federal agents that one developmentally disabled client was missing about $30,000 from his account.

    Another employee discovered on Jan. 24 of this year that 25 clients were missing a total of about $70,000 from their accounts.

    Still another employee told investigators “that she deals with mostly Social Security income clients who have limited income and financial resources. She stated that “she has some clients who are children that are missing money.”

    The indictment alleged that the defendants diverted more than $4 million from petty cash and client reimbursement accounts to pay off credit cards used to pay for luxury vacations, vehicles and more.

    The July 12 search warrant affidavit also stated, “Additional large, unusual and questionable checks were written to pay for additional items that do not appear to be related to client accounts.”

    Missing private cash

    “Guardianship/Conservatorship services may be needed when someone is incompetent to manage his or her own financial affairs and/or personal care, and has no viable alternative method of delegating these duties to another,” the company web site states.

    About 166 of Ayudando’s clients in New Mexico receive such state-funded services, because they were deemed indigent or met other eligibility requirements. The company also had dozens of “private pay” accounts, according to court records.

    The affidavits allege that more than $1 million was missing from at least eight “private pay” client accounts. An employee, referred to as confidential witness #2, was responsible for managing Ayudando’s client bank accounts, paying client bills, selling client assets such as real property and automobiles, and attending court as part of the conservatorship process.

    That employee alleged that Moore, the chief financial officer, allegedly took about $700,000 from one client’s estate. The estate was supposed to be settled in February 2017 and the employee became concerned that “it wouldn’t be possible to close the estate if there was money missing.” She said Moore recently returned about $220,000 to the estate, but the money came from four other client bank accounts. Another $500,000 was still missing, the employee reported to federal agents.

    Full Article & Source:
    Who guards the guardians? Ayudando was a family affair

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    A Greeley man could face a felony charge after police say he abused his power of attorney to steal two houses, worth about $353,000 in total, from his 85-year-old father.

    Albert Ortega was arrested Thursday on suspicion of theft from an at-risk adult. According to the affidavit for his arrest, Greeley police believe Ortega completed quit claim deeds for two houses his father owned, 302 13th St. and 304 13th St., signing them over to his own name. He did this by using the power of attorney he had because his father, David Ortega, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to the report.

    Police learned about the situation earlier this month, when Albert Ortega's sister, Abigail Nickerson, called them with concerns about her brother's intentions toward their father. Over the years, she told police, things of value disappeared from her father's home. She also said Albert Ortega withdrew $23,000 from their father's bank account, and she didn't know where that money went. Nickerson was so concerned about her father, she applied to be his legal guardian.

    When police spoke with Albert Ortega, he told them he took possession of the houses at his father's request. When police pointed out he filled out the quit claim deeds about the same time Nickerson applied to be their father's guardian, Albert Ortega told them he didn't think that was true.

    Albert Ortega told police his siblings wanted to put his father in a nursing home and that they wanted to sell the two houses to pay for it. He said he'd promised his mother he'd never let that happen. He added putting his father's properties in his name was a way of protecting his father from his greedy siblings.

    Police arrested him and he was booked into the Weld County Jail the same day.

    Full Article & Source:
    Police believe Greeley man used power of attorney to steal two houses from elderly father

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    Teenager Pattarada "Nong Beam" Kaewpong (right) and her mother at Bang Yi Khan
    Police have arrested a lawyer accused of cheating a young girl of 5 million baht in compensation after a 2005 road accident that left her confined to a wheelchair.

    Pisit Sammalert is in police custody, along with his wife, and being questioned over the allegation he stole most of the compensation money due to his crippled client Pattarada "Nong Beam" Kaewpong, who is now 14 years old.

    It was reported they were apprehended in the parking lot of a condominium in Soi Ram-Indra 125, in Bangkok's Min Buri district.

    Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn, chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said the Anti Money Laundering Office (Amlo) will be asked to examine the lawyer’s finances and see if any of his assets can be seized.

    He said the suspect claimed to have received 4 million baht from the insurance firm, deducted 500,000 baht for legal fees, and handed the remainder to his wife, Pornpavee Chukaew.

    Pol Lt Gen Sanit said police have evidence supporting the allegation against Mr Pisit and were not bothered by the suspect's knowledge of the law. The city police chief enouraged people who are mistreated by their lawyers to file complaints.

    He said police were investigating who provided aid and shelter to the suspects, and would take action against them.

    "Nong Beam" was left with a crippling spinal injury after a 2005 road accident in Surat Thani in which her father was killed. The family's pickup was hit by an 18-wheel truck.

    According to the girl’s mother, Pornthip Chantharat, Mr Pisit contacted the family and offered pro bono legal help. He was authorized to represent the family and get compensation from the truck operator.

    In 2014, the lawyer told her the truck operator had agreed to pay 1 million baht in compensation in monthly instalments. The family received 40,000 baht a month for seven months, and then Mr Pisit disappeared.

    Ms Pornthip later contacted the truck operator and learned that his company had paid 5 million baht in compensation, which it believed was going to the family.

    A complaint was filed against Mr Pisit with Bang Yi Khan district police in Bangkok in 2015.

    After the arrest of the lawyer and his wife, Mrs Pornthip said she was still worried whether she would get any of the money they were owed, or not.

    “If I get a chance to talk to him, I’d really want to ask him if this was the help he once promised,” she said.

    Mr Pisit has been charged with collaboration in falsifying documents and using falsified documents to defraud and embezzle money from a client.

    Full Article & Source:
    Absconding lawyer of wheelchair-bound girl arrested

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    by Marti Oakley

    First, we would like to thank all of those who came from far away places to attend the summit in support of our panel. We had seventeen states represented and 73 supporters in attendance that we connected with and now have as firm contacts. We were also able to socialize outside of the Summit to a great extent and formed many new partnerships and supporters which included many from the DC area who may be able to help in bringing attention to the issues we addressed.

    Our panel was well received and I personally was proud of each of my panel guests who represented not only guardianship abuses, but also:

    Danny Tate spoke to the conservator abuses, using his own experience as a backdrop.

    The audience was stunned listening to this articulate, talented and highly successful musician and songwriter, describe how an ex parte hearing that he had no notice of, had in actuality declared him to be insane. The result is that ten years later, even though the conservatorship supposedly ended, the attorney’s from both sides are still collecting the royalties from all of his music, while Danny has been left with virtually nothing.

    Brian Kinter from the Judicial Accountability Movement (JAM) gave one of the most impassioned talks about the corruption of family/divorce courts, and most especially spoke to the damage caused to his children as a result of being subjected to this system predicated upon the destruction of families for profit. Brian’s young son Zach had accompanied him to the Summit. This young man made such an impression on attendee’s that he now has his own fan club!

    Michael Volpe, one of the few nationally known reporters who has diligently reported on the abuses of families, individuals and children caught in the trap of family and probate courts revealed the end results of these tribunals that have destroyed so many lives. Michael is known most for his factual, documented reporting on many of these cases.

    The Result?


    The result of our first ever panel on this destructive system was more than I could have hoped for. Invaluable contacts were made and we gained many supporters for our combined causes. The networking after the panel ended was most important to us. To know that so many people drove from across the country to attend the Summit was inspiring.

    In spite of the onslaught of threatening texts, emails and phone calls to not only panel members but also to the organizers of the Summit, we prevailed. We were also commended for not participating and responding to these attacks which were described as “appalling, horrific and unprofessional behavior” by those who had witnessed the online attacks as well as those committed through personal communications.

    With this in mind, I wish to thank all of you on behalf of our panel who supported us, those who commented civilly and positively to our efforts and who recognized that this was an opportunity for all of you to have your voices heard. Although the length of the panel was only one hour, the rest of the day and evening was spent networking, meeting new contacts and meeting face to face with people who had previously only been a voice on the phone or in an email. For me personally, This was an overwhelming experience as I know it was for our panel overall.

    In the end

    We wish to thank Marcel Reid, Michael McCray and the MISC committee for giving us this opportunity to have the first ever panel on the abuses of guardianship, conservatorship and family court abuses. This was an important first step in recognizing nationally this corrupt system that is destroying so many lives. Please visit the Whistleblower’s website for more information on the Whistleblower’s community and all the activities there. Also remember that this Summit is free, open to the public and anyone may attend. It has been presented as a free to the public event to make sure that those who make the trip to attend are allowed to attend without the additional expense of admission fees.

    We will keep you all informed of future updates on these issues.

    Full Article & Source:
    Marti Oakley: Report on the Whistleblower’s Summit

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    With Host Marti Oakley and Co-host Danny Tate:   It is with great pleasure that we have Marcel Reid and Michael McCray joining us this evening. We will be discussing the recent Whistleblower's Summit which we were honored to be a part of, directly as a result of efforts on their part on our behalf.

    As our regular listeners know, TS Radio has been hosting the Whistleblower's radio show almost every Thursday evening for approximately two years in order to give those individuals who have stepped up and spoken out about the corruption, fraud, waste and abuses within Federal agencies, a voice. These individuals have been targeted, harassed, threatened, and retaliated against for doing what they knew to be the right thing. They need our support and our gratitude.

    To find out more about the annual Whistleblower's Summit and all events and information please visit the Whistleblower's website.

    LISTEN to the show live or listen to the archive later!

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    Looking for a place for your elderly parent(s) to live? If you don’t have enough space in your home and don’t want them to go into a nursing home, MEDCottages, also known as “Granny Pods,” are the latest rage.

    Well, they could be. Though it seems like the MEDCottage is meant to prevent loneliness, I fear it may promote it.

    In the next 10 years, America’s elderly population is said to double. According to AARP surveys, many older people would rather live at home or with family versus elsewhere. I know, in people’s final years, the quality of their lives is key, and MEDCottages do appear to have many pluses.

    The look of a MEDCottage reminds me of a guest house—only, with nursing home amenities inside. But, instead of renting it to just anyone, you purchase the MEDCottage for your loved one. Prices vary, from $85,000 to $125,000.

    Source:
    Granny Pods Now Allow Your Aging Parents to Comfortably Live in Your Back Yard


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  • 08/03/17--22:30: The Scourge of Elder Abuse
  • Dr. David Lipschitz
    Recently, I saw a 78-year-old woman who was brought to the clinic with Alzheimer's disease. She had bruises on both of her arms and refused to speak in the presence of her husband.

    He said she just didn't listen and to move her from one place to another required force on his part.

    He refused to believe that what he was doing was elder abuse that is defined as a “knowing, intentional, or a negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” The abuse may be verbal, physical, sexual, neglect or financial.

    Sadly, caregivers can take advantage of an older parent. Often one family member reports that sibling is taking advantage of their parent and stealing them blind.

    Not infrequently, family keep and use a parent's resources for their own purpose, manipulate the will or frankly steal funds from their parent.

    Difficult and fractious litigation is often needed to resolve the problem and often the concerned family cannot afford or don't feel the effort is worth it. This form of abuse that is clearly motivated by greed.

    Criminal abuse occurs from neglect where the patient is not fed, bathed or given medications, from violence and on occasion sexual assault that, just like child abuse by a parent, is a well-recognized concern amongst dependent older women.

    The stereotypic view of an abusive caregiver is incorrect. Abuse does not discriminate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, economic status or level of education.

    Although caregiver stress may contribute to abuse, it's not the only cause. Even in the most loving families, the risk of some form of abuse remains high.

    A recent research study published in the British Medical Journal indicated that over half of all caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients admitted that they had behaved abusively toward the patient.

    Although physical abuse was rare, 26 percent admitted to screaming or yelling at the patient, insults and swearing occurred in 18 percent and in 4 percent, the caregiver threatened to send the patient to a nursing home.

    All admitted guilt and wished it didn't happen and admit that stress contributed to the problem.

    Not uncommonly, the caregiver will state that he or she was provoked and were responding to an act of aggression by the patient or another difficult situation, such as an unwillingness on the part of the patient to cooperate.

    While we must do what we can to prevent elder abuse, it's imperative that healthcare providers be aware of the warning signs of abuse.

    The patient may show obvious bruises, there may be evidence of old fractures or he may be unkempt and undernourished. Emotional abuse is more difficult to recognize.

    The patient is usually agitated, very quiet around the caregiver and may be clinically depressed and withdrawn.

    An abusive caregiver will often refuse to bring the patient to see the doctor, refuses to allow the family to visit and has no explanations for the patient's physical findings and demeanor.

    We must also be aware of the characteristics of caregivers most likely to abuse. No matter how loving and well adjusted the caregiver, potential that abusive behaviors always exist.

    However, there are certain characteristics that are common in caregivers who are more likely to abuse. Abuse is more common in males, in those who have themselves be abused, have low self-esteem and are usually the primary caregiver who lives with the patient.

    Often abuse occurs because the caregiver reaches a breaking point and has nowhere to turn.

    It's important therefore that close attention is paid to the caregiver, making sure his or her needs are met, encourage respite and joining a support group.

    But if there is a high level of suspicion the health care provider is required to ask for an evaluation by "Adult Protective Services."

    Abuse is a fact of life, by paying close attention, listening hard and being aware the problem abuse can be identified or if the risk is high steps can be initiated to avoid the problem.

    Vulnerability to abuse occurs in those who are dependent at the extremes of life and sadly abuse of our elders is as common as abuse in children.

    Dr. David Lipschitz is the medical director for the Mruk Family Education Center on Aging and the Fairlamb Senior Health Clinic. Contact him at askdrdavid@gmail.com.

    Full Article & Source:
    The Scourge of Elder Abuse

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